News & Stories

Rain Holds Off – Hundreds Enjoy the 2012 UCare Tri-Loppet

Threatening storm clouds gave way to a pleasant overcast day for the 2012 UCare Tri-Loppet. More than 500 participants and some 300 boats lined up on Lake Calhoun for the 9 a.m. start. While the fastest boat belonged to Ryan Peterson, who eventually finished in third place, and his paddling partner, Andy Gilbertson, the story of the day was women’s champion Kelly Brinkman. Brinkman finished in third place in 2011, but returned in 2012 determined to do better after improving in the paddle (45:41 this year compared to 59:48 last year). Even with her improved paddling performance, Brinkman came out of the water more than six minutes behind perpetual powerhouse Jan Guenther of Long Lake. But Brinkman made up ground quickly, clocking a blistering 20:52 in the run – the fastest time of the day – for men or women! By the time she finished the run Brinkman was just behind Guenther – and then she passed Guenther in the transition area – spending only 46 seconds in transition to Guenther’s 1:16. She finished with a 32:38 bike ride, more than three minutes faster than her closest rival. Wow!

On the men’s side, perennial contender Justin Bakken finally took the last step to the top spot on the podium. Bakken used a solid paddling time and excellent run and bike times to put himself in contention. But it was not until all the dust settled that Bakken was declared the champion. Peterson had maintained his paddle lead throuout the race but realized later that he had inadvertently missed a piece of the run course. When officials added a 2.5 minute penalty to his run time, Bakken moved up from second to first and emerged with his first Tri-Loppet victory.

“This was a class race by all the athletes, but especiallly Ryan Peterson,” said Loppet Foundation executive director John Munger. “Ryan could have walked away with the victory but instead came forward of his own accord and made it right. Its great to be associated with athletes like this . . .”

Race Director Mike Erickson notes that both the Tri- and Trail Loppet events will feature check points in the future. Volunteers will note the bib numbers of all the top athletes. Athletes that do not pass through all the checkpoints will be disqualified and will not be eligible for prizes. Each athlete will be responsible for staying on course – forcing the athletes to balance speed and awareness – a nod to the adventure elements of these events.

“Races in the woods and on trails require that the athletes stay focused – part of the event is staying on course and we are going to make that more official,” says Erickson. “The way these events are laid out going off course usually means cutting time. Adding mandatory checkpoints (whose locations will not be revealed to the athletes prior to the race) will force all the athletes to take staying on the course very seriously.”

There were a number of great stories up and down the results sheet. 11-year-old Leah Rudd finished in 17th place – a harbinger of future success! Dozens of other young athletes completed the course with big smiles – many accompanied by moms and dads or mentors, who often struggled to keep up with the younger generation. All the younger athletes received a medal and a trip to the podium for a photo opportunity after the race.

Maybe most inspiring on the day, 76 year old Karl Peters and his 72 year old wife Karen completed the event together in 3:18:24. Karl won the prestigious oldest athlete award but both Karl and Karen were champions on this day. Karen commented that she loved the event but had not been “expecting” some of the narrower trails on the bike course. She rode the event on a hybrid bike and Karl told the story of the woodchip bog that Karen became caught up in towards the end of the race:

“Karen’s skinny tire got sucked into the bog and she had to put her foot down. Her foot sunk into the muck and I had to literally pull her out . . .” Quite an adventure for a couple with a combined 146 years on this planet!

So were Karl and Karen tired out after the event? Not even close . . . They were spotted helping much younger paddlers put their boat on top of their car after the race.

“People like the Peters are what this event is all about,” said Race Director Mike Erickson. “Giving a couple of 70 plus year olds a chance to enjoy an adventure like this makes it all worth while . . .”

For more complete coverage visit And watch the Tri-Loppet site for photos, videos and more in the days to come.