The Spudnic: The Ultimate Idaho Adventure Triathlon

The Spudnic: The Ultimate Idaho Adventure Triathlon

BY GEORGIA DANIELSON, MUIR CONTENT EDITOR

If you’re familiar with triathlons at all, or ultra-running, or Jackson Hole, or just outlandish feats of human endurance in general, then you may have heard of The Picnic: an ultra-endurance style adventure triathlon.

To complete The Picnic, you must bike from Jackson Town Square to Jenny Lake 23 miles away, then swim 1.3 miles across the lake, then hike and climb 10 miles to the summit of the iconic Grand Teton, and finally, return the same way you came, ending in Jackson Town Square.

Photo by David Gonzales

The Picnic was conceptualized and completed by Jackson local David Gonzales. The first time took him just under 24 hours, and it’s since been completed in as little as 11 hours and 12 minutes by Adam Wirth.

Photo by David Gonzales

But the focus of Picnics is not speed. Nor is it fancy watches or Strava or posing for the ‘gram. They’re about unplugging from the bustle of the man-made world. They’re about spending enough time in a wild place to unearth your own resilience, to disconnect with the arbitrary to-do lists of your everyday life, and to dissolve into the natural world. Picnics are meant to be savored.

Exploring the unfamiliar territory of the human spirit brought about by picnicking is seductive, and so, David has completed The Picnic eight times now since the first one in 2012.  Word is spreading quickly, and the popularity of The Picnic grows considerably each year among adventurers and even professional athletes looking for something less...conventional.

As the volume of adventure seekers grows, so too does David’s appetite for wild, multi-day excursions into the backcountry and where next to picnic. 

June started with The Spudnic.

Photo by David Gonzales

The Spudnic starts North of Mackay, Idaho with a 2.5 mile swim across the Mackay Reservoir, followed by a 19-mile bike ride to the trailhead leading to the highest peak in Idaho, Mount Borah, then summiting Mount Borah at 12,667 feet, and then retracing your tracks to finish where you started at the North end of the Mackay Reservoir.

I’ve been curious about my friend’s adventures, so I was delighted to accept David’s invitation to join in on the Spudnic and see for myself what this whole picnic business is about. From the crack of 4:20pm until a hair past 3pm, David completed the first ever Spudnic in less than 24 hours.  

The sheer length of time David asked his body to perform was inspiring alone, but what stuck with me was his style. I never heard the click of a watch, nor any inquiry about what his time was for any of the legs of the Spudnic. He didn’t fuss over the weight of his bike or pack. He didn’t pose for photos or update his Insta-story. He didn’t even mention it. He was perfectly content to be fully present in the moment.  It was refreshing. Although I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical the whole way through, anticipating a blow-out. 

But the blow-out never came. Quite the opposite, actually, as I watched my friend move through the water, pedal into the horizon, and ascend to the mountain top, he seemed to absorb more tranquility from the landscape. He grew even more content, despite being awake for over 24 hours and pushing his body for more than 20 of them.  

I learned that you do not need to rigorously control every logistic of an adventure for it to be a success. Rather, you can take care of the essentials, relax, and sink into the whole point of why you’re going on an adventure in the first place. David didn’t fuss; he relaxed and let himself sync into the natural world.

Following my friend in his natural habitat showed me that the essence of what he calls a ‘Picnic’ is about total immersion and love for the beautiful world around us. Picnics are an ultimate basking in the glory of what it means to be a part of our universe. It’s about dissolving your ego into the Earth, and coming out the other side a little more connected, a little more centered. (It’s also about Topo Chico and potato chips, but I’ll save that for my unabridged trip report.)

So if you’re growing tired of the race scene and pine for adventure, you might think about packing lunch - and dinner - and going for a picnic.

The Spudnic

Distance

Start

End

Swim

2.5 miles

North Terminus, Mackay Reservoir, Mackay, Idaho

South Terminous, Mackay Reservoir

Bike

19 miles

Mt. Borah Trailhead

Hike/Climb

5 miles

Mt. Borah Summit, 12,667 ft

Hike/Climb

5 miles

Mt. Borah Trailhead

Bike

19 miles

South Terminous, Mackay Reservoir, Mackay, Idaho

Swim

2.5 miles

North Terminus, Mackay Reservoir

 

David A. Gonzales is a writer, photographer, and picnic enthusiast based in Jackson, Wyoming.

You can learn more about picnics at davidgonzales.com and follow his adventures on Instagram @treefighter.