Snow mountain biking. Wall crawling. Exotic marathoning. Night-time canoe paddling. There’s a lot to keep curious triathletes stoked this winter. Pick your challenge, then get ready for your most action-packed winter yet.
For 25 years, La Ruta De Los Conquistadores has been one of the world’s hardest mountain bike races crossing five mountain ranges, sweltering jungles, thigh-deep mud lakes, endless rivers, and frigid summits as it traverses Costa Rica’s narrow waistline from Pacific to Atlantic in 200 miles over four days each November.
And—surprise!—it’s full of triathletes.
While this may come as a shock, it makes sense: Triathlon’s got a bike; so does this. Triathlon gives you bragging rights; so does this. And most of all, triathlon’s an adventure and a challenge; La Ruta definitely is too.
With this in mind, here are some other globe-spanning, non-tri winter events that triathletes will love this December, January, and February. Since they’re in the off-season, they won’t wreck your tri calendar. And the break from tri will do your body and brain good.
Chilly Cheeks Winter Duathlon #2
What: 1.25-mi. trail-and-road run / 10.8-mi road bike/ 2.75-mi run
Location: Cherry Creek State Park, Denver, Colo.
Date: Jan 13
Difficulty rating: 2
Why it’s awesome: Pretty lakeside and grassland venue with a mysterious weather factor. One year it’ll be 70 degrees and dry, another it’s 12 below zero with two feet of snow. Last year’s race had 10 inches of fresh powder.
Triathlete advantage: You bike and run in your sleep.
Insider tips: “If it’s really snowy, bring a cyclocross bike. But we’ve had people on full- disc aerobikes in the snow,” says the organizer.
$35, or $95 for the entire three-race series (Dec., Jan., Feb.), Racingunderground.com
Bermuda Triangle Challenge
What: Three races in three straight days: mile, 10k, marathon/half-marathon
Date: Jan 12-14
Difficulty rating: 7
Why it’s awesome: The three-days-in-a-row format is entirely unique. Half and full marathons have breathtaking vistas of Bermuda’s lush south and north coasts, with its crystal-clear Gulf Stream-warmed waters, caves, an aquarium, and museums.
Triathlete advantage: You dominate things in threes.
Insider tips: Get a massage after the mile and 10k—the staff at the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Southampton will prep your body right for the final race.
$160 (10K-only is $40; marathon only is $85), Bermudaraceweekend.com
Snow Bike Festival
What: A four-day mountain bike stage race at a famed Swiss resort covering 62 miles and 8,200 feet of climbing
Location: Gstaad, Switzerland
Date: Jan 18-21
Difficulty rating: 9
Why it’s awesome: You’re in snow! In the Swiss Alps! If you fall on the packed-down trail, you won’t get hurt. Day one is a short time trial followed by three days of about 19 to 22 miles. Julie Andrews once called Gstaad, “The last paradise in a crazy world.” No car needed as trains connect Gstaad to the closest airports.
Triathlete advantage: You know how to hydrate and eat on the bike.
Insider tips: Get fat tires. The fatter, the better.
690 Swiss francs (~$675), Snowbikefestival.com
Location: Fort McDowell, Phoenix, Ariz.
Date: Feb. 10 and 11
Difficulty rating: 4
Why it’s awesome: You get to cross obstacle races off your bucket list, but you won’t get off easy, with 40 to 50 minutes of fun, clearing 20 obstacles like mud, fire, walls, and barbed wire.
Triathlete advantage: You’re killer at transitioning from one thing to the next.
Insider tips: Don’t wear anything that you don’t want wrecked—especially sunglasses.
Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon
What: 12-mile bike/5-mile run/2- mile ski/2-mile snowshoe/4-mile ski/5-mile run/13-mile bike
Location: Grants, NM Date: Feb. 18 Difficulty rating: 10
Why it’s awesome: Spectacular variety: road biking up an 1,800-foot climb through cactus-studded desert hills, running up 1,200 feet on gravel to snow-covered ponderosa pines, then cross country skiing, and finally snowshoeing 600 feet up “Heartbreak Hill” to the summit of 11,301-foot Mt. Taylor. You’ll gain 4,900 feet of elevation in 43 miles—then turn around.
Triathlete advantage: You know pain.
Insider tips: “Be proficient in the snow,” says decades-long podium finisher Steve Ilg. In other words, don’t make this the first time you strap on snowshoes or skis.
$90+ (2-man teams are $220), Mttaylorquad.org
American Birkebeiner Ski Tour
What: 3- to 5-mile race with numerous obstacles
Location: Hayward, Wisc.
Date: Feb. 23-24
Difficulty rating: 7 if you ski, 10 if you don’t
Why it’s awesome: Group fun in beautiful, remote, hilly, old-growth forest in northern Wisconsin. Six thousand skiers do the 50K skate-ski race or 55K classic cross-country ski race point-to-point from Cable to Hayward. Grueling climbs and nippy headwinds when you cross Like Hayward. Nine thousand more athletes do shorter events.
Triathlete advantage: This is pure endurance. You got that.
Insider tips: Practice at least once or twice. Don’t make this your first day of cross-country skiing.
$100 for the Birkebeiner, Birkie.com