Category Archives: Course Comments

Race Review: Square Lake Triathlon – Short Course

I am a triathlete!


I finished my first swim, bike, and run event ever.  A half mile swim, 16.5 mile bike, and 5 mile run were served up on a pretty near perfect weather day on Saturday.  Square Lake Short Course got started with a day in the mid-50’s as I drove to the race and it warmed up as the day went on.  The water was smooth and a perfect temperature and there was no wind on the course to affect bike or running times.  The only obstacle – having been sick all week.

As I thought about my goals for the race during the last month I had decided on two:

  1. Finish – always a good goal for any first time event especially one like a triathlon or marathon.
  2. Break 2 hours – I figured about 15-20 minute swim, about an hour bike, and 45 minute run (all seemed reasonable) would give me a good chance of getting under two hours.


Square Lake Swag

Image by crossn81 via Flickr

I was feeling confident in my training and then on Tuesday I started getting that flu/aching feeling in my back.  I took Wednesday and the morning of Thursday off work and was feeling pretty good.  By the end of a full work day on Friday I was feeling worse.  I wrote to some friends on Facebook that I was 95% sure I wasn’t going to race.   I set my alarm for 5am Saturday hoping and praying for that 5%.  After hitting snooze once (who really wants to get up at 5am) I decided that I would pack my gear and see how I felt.  I wasn’t feeling perfect but I decided to go for it and see what would happen.  I walked into the race with no expectations, just hoping to finish.

I picked up my number, shirt, and swim cap; got my race number markings and setup my transition area.  And waited.  I finally decided it was time to get ready, figured out the borrowed wetsuit.  I had planned on trying it out once during my last swim, but getting sick didn’t allow for that.  I had to ask for help in zipping it, because the zipper started at the top.  Once on it was very snug.  After the final instructions, we watched the elite wave go off.  Wait for 3 more minutes.

Square Lake Tri

I positioned myself at the back of the wave, my calves barely wet (knee deep was where most people were).  After he shouted go I waded and then jumped in.  What a weird feeling wearing a swim cap and wet suit.  I’ve never actually worn either!  I had some problems with my goggles sealing on my face.  But did finally get them settled on properly.  I wasn’t pushing super hard, I knew the swim would be the hardest and most punishing for my sick body.  I felt almost like I was floating through the water (not quite like a torpedo).  Some guy went back and forth in front of me a few times which was annoying and I slowly made my way to the first turn.  The course was pretty much a square.   I don’t think I swam the most direct route possible, but did a fairly good job of sighting.   The short top part and then turning to shore.  My friend Mike and warned me that the sun would make it hard to sight on the way back to shore, but to keep using the buoy to sight instead of the beach.  At some point some guy tried to swim over top of me, probably from the wave behind.  I started seeing swim caps from the wave before and the wave behind me.  As I started being able to see the floor of the lake again a guy from the wave behind me started passing on my left (my breathing side) so I watched to see when he would stand up and did about the same thing.  Jogged out of the water, hit the mat (about 16:45 on my watch), and started taking my wet suit off.

I had planned on using my Ironman timex to at least roughly get my splits throughout the morning.  But it appears I didn’t actually hit the “split” button until the end of my bike leg.  So that was a little frustrating to realize afterwards.

I hadn’t planned on super quick transitions so I took my time climbing the steps to the transition area.  Switched into my bike gear and headed out!

I didn’t use my Garmin, but created course maps using Dailymile.  The race distances seemed pretty accurate.

I didn’t do any fancy mount or dismount for the bike, I just wanted to make sure I got on and off! I did blow a nice snot rocket full of snot and lake water shortly after starting the ride.  I felt surprisingly good on the bike as we went up and down the hills.  I shifted gears a lot and caught people on the uphills, some would pass me back on the downhills.  The course was pretty straightforward.  It was fun to watch the faster people go past and check out their bikes and also to see how the rode as they got into groups and rode several wide.  Most of the ride was on county back roads, but the section along MN-95 was awesome.  Newer pavement means faster riding! Except for the big hill at about mile 14.   The scenery could have been beautiful, but was mostly unexciting (its been a little dry) and you couldn’t see the St. Croix River through the trees.  At a couple of points volunteers were stationed to specifically tell us to slow down.  One was a big hill with turns at the bottom and the second was a smaller hill that ended with some turns going under a train trestle.

I stayed hydrated drinking most of 2 bottles (water and Nuun-filled water).  And I took one gu while on the bike.  I probably didn’t need that much nutrition/hydration but I wanted to stay on top of things since I was still sick.  I was quite pleased with how I felt overall.  The road from 95 back to the transition area was a beat up old road with lots of cracks, dips, and crevices.  It made for a little more work coming back.

My “split” for this part of the race was under an hour.  My watch says 1:15 for the combined swim, T1, and bike legs.  (as of this moment results haven’t been posted).  The only time besides coming out of the water that I looked at my watch was for  mile splits during the run.  I did use my bike computer, but that just showed speed and distance.

The run was going to be interesting. I took a pull of water from my bottle before throwing back on my transition towel and jogged to the exit. Crossed the line – grabbed a cup of water and left the park onto the roads.  The first mile was on a paved road before turning off onto a gravel road.  It was gravel for a little bit and then was pavement the rest of the way.  There were water stations setup near miles 1, 2, and 3 and mile markers setup for those miles as well.  Mile marker 4 seemed to be missing.  The run had a couple of hills, nothing super hard but enough to make you change your stride and focus on the hill.

I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d be able to finish the run.  I started out slow letting the blood move around and the muscles to get used to the idea of running again.  I also had some weird pains in my side and back that hung around for most of the run.  I came through the first mile at 8:43 and felt really comfortable.  I took water at every aid station, took a sip and threw the rest on my head to cool off – it wasn’t super hot, but warm enough.  At the second aid station, the kids were filling the cups all the way to the top.  This made it a little messy, but you can’t complain about cool water splashing around!  I came through mile 2 at 8:26.  I still felt pretty comfortable and started thinking about trying to average 8:30 pace for the run.  There was one hill on  a nice shaded part that hurt a little more and slowed my third mile down to 8:41.  From here we turned back onto the main road.  It wasn’t really shaded but I didn’t feel super hot or like I was baking.  At about mile 4 I caught up to my friend Mike.

I caught up to him and said “good job Mike.”  He looked at me for a second and said, “Damn you caught me.”  I apologized and continued running.  Some where in here a lady’s Garmin beeped the 4 mile mark though it wasn’t marked.  My watch said 8:43 or something like that!  I don’t really remember picking up the pace but steadily continuing towards the finish.  Mike passed me back and we kind of ran together-ish for the rest of the race.  As we turned back into the transition area we had a little hill to go up and then downhill to the finish.  I passed Mike on the up-hill and opened up the legs for the down-hill finish.  The last 50-75 yards were fairly steep and I was gaining on a guy so I kicked it down another notch and passed the guy with like 10 yards to go.  I heard my name announced, heard the finish line beep, and I was a triathlete.

TransitionI saw 2:01:19 when I crossed the finish line and thought, crap so close to the 2 hour goal.  Then I looked at my watch 1:58:21.  Oh yea, 3 minute difference from the clock for the wave start.  Awesome!! That made me feel even better!

I ended Saturday still feeling under the weather, but being a triathlete makes it ok!  My support crew was also sick so there aren’t any pictures of me from the race.  Just the few I snapped before hand (and my transition area afterwards).  I’ll see about the race photos!  Nadia even had a cute “triathlete” shirt that she was ready to wear.

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Diaper Dash Training

We are in full swing getting Nadia trained for her first race.  Watch out world, on October 1 Nadia Marie Cross will be making her racing debut!


Diaper Dash

Presented by Pioneer Press

Participants in the Diaper Dash crawl from an inner circle to an outer circle. This event is for the little ones requiring the assistance of their hands and knees! It takes place on the lawn of the State Capitol Grounds near the intersection of John Ireland Boulevard and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Twin Cities Marathon Pictoral Preview

The Twin Cities Marathon course has been quite busy this summer, just like every summer (actually year round).  This is because the course takes in some of the coolest recreation spots in the metro – or at least Minneapolis.  Beginning in downtown Minneapolis the 26.2 mile course  makes a big circle before ending up in downtown St Paul.  Leaving the sports capital of Minnesota (the Metrodome) runners take in some amazing views before arriving at the state capital of Minnesota.  What a course.   Here’s last year’s course preview.

Below are 26 pictures from the course itself (though they don’t come from all 26 miles of the course).

A picture of the map…
The Hurbert H Humphrey Metrodome – aka staging area and starting line.
A random wall downtown along Hennepin Ave.  I know some of the symbols are Adrinka symbols of West Africa, but I don’t know their history here.
The Basillica of St Mary is on Hennepin as well. Don’t let the old architecture fool you, they are on Twitter.
This is WAC, the Walker Art Center.  On the right is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.  I’ve heard tell that some people use it as a quick potty stop. (I don’t recommend it) Watch this hill.  If we ran on the sidewalks we’d actually get to run under the Walker.
TCM isn’t called “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in American” for nothing.  This is Lake of the Isles, the first among several lakes we’ll travel around.  We won’t run by the most expensive house in Minneapolis, but it is located on the Isles.
Here’s another shot of the Isles.
Dean Parkway going underneath the Midtown Greenway.
Lake #2 Lake Calhoun.  On the south end there will be a cool view of the downtown skyline with the lake in the foreground.
The third lake is Lake Harriet which has a cool band shell and yacht club.
Running under the Niollet Ave bridge (I think).   A local marching band stands under one of these bridges and plays.
The 7ft bronze rabbit at the intersection of Portland and Minnehaha Parkway.  I can’t figure out where it came from.
We run a long ways on this parkway. Here is wikipedia’s take on who Minnehaha was…
The Grand Rounds is a great way to see the major sites in the city. A road, trail system, and scenic destination itself, much of the marathon is actually run along the Grand Rounds.
West River Parkway has been under construction all summer, but it won’t affect the race.  This is where I started to fall apart during the 2008 marathon.
The Mississippi River is a national park.  This is crossing the Franklin Ave bridge.
A bad shot of the river!
This is now on East River Road getting ready to go under a rail bridge which will one day connect to the Greenway.
University of St Thomas sits atop a nice hill and is around the 21 mile mark!
A nice long look up Summit Ave. A nice long uphill. And is the longest remaining stretch of residential Victorian architecture in the United States.
Bridge crossing Ayd Mill Rd.
A cool church on the corner of Lexington Parkway and Summit Ave.
One of many cool houses. If you aren’t in complete agony, be sure to check them out! They are on both sides.
This is a great sign!! You are atop the hill and getting ready to turn left into the final stretch.  I always felt a little let down that we turn here instead of just going down the hill!
The Cathedral of St Paul. When you see the steeple it is almost over!
The Minnesota State Capital building and the finish line!!!  Congratulations you’ve finished.

[tags] Twin Cities Marathon, TCM, Marathon, Twin Cities [/tags]

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2009 Marathon Class #1

The first “class” session of this year’s Fall Marathon Training program focused on three areas

1) Places to run in the Twin Cities Metro

2) Training Philosophy

3) Goal Setting

Where to Run in the Twin Cities Metro?

Of course I’ve written about great places to run, some of which Nathan included in his presentation:

Here are some links to the places he talked about:

Listen to the audio of Nathan’s presentation here. [audio:NathansRunningRoutes.mp3]

Marty and Mike talked about the training philosophy of this year’s class (I guess it varies slightly with each year’s coaches) and what we might expect.  Marty mentions that he isn’t a huge proponent of using lots of fancy terminology or wasting money on expensive tests for things like VO2 Max or Lactic Threshold.  He subscribes to  a more “old school” mentality of getting the miles in and alternating between hard and easy runs.  With a diverse group of athletes in the room, he said that we won’t work much on specific speed workouts but getting the long runs in and doing some hill training.  We are hitting the hills much earlier this year than last and knowing these guys we’ll be doing some long runs on hills as well.  Their goal, as stated later by Mike is to make sure we have fun and cross the finish line.

Feel free to listen to their sometimes humorous discussion here.

[audio:marty&miketrainingphilosophy.mp3]  For some reason I can’t get this to work.  Any suggestions? It is the same exact link as the one above…  You can scroll to the bottom and listen to the full audio – this section begins about 16 minutes in.

Mike continued the evening’s discussion with a talk about goal setting.  He used a simple pyramid diagram to show what the most important goals are.  The three main goals of a training program are to

1) Have fun/good experience in the training program

2) Get to the starting line healthy

3) Finish (this is then split into 3 subcategories)

a) Finish

b) Target Pace – Double your 1/2 marathon time and add 10 minutes (similar to McMillian Calculator)

c) Dream time – This is a stretch goal that you shouldn’t even think about on race day until after the 1/2 way point and really start going for it after 20 miles.

Listen the audio of Mike’s presentation here. [audio:mikegoalsetting.mp3]

You can listen the complete audio (about an hour long from this first session here)  [audio:July7MarathonTalk.mp3]

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Minneapolis: Best in the World

Yes, I am a little biased, but I do think that Minneapolis is one of the greatest places in the United States.  I would say it ranks pretty high on the world stage too, but there might be some other places I’d rather live.   Nonetheless Travel and Leisure Magazine recently named Minneapolis one of the best biking cities in the world.

Minneapolis actually ranks number 2 in the US falling behind Portland as far as bike commuting goes.  One of the reasons Minneapolis was ranked so high is the

infrastructure that promotes bicycling on many fronts. From bike lockers and designated street lanes to recreational trails and snowplows dedicated to clearing off-street paths, a system exists to make transportation on a bike efficient, safe, and hassle-free.

This same infrastructure makes Minneapolis a great place to run.  Many of my runs use existing bike infrastructure.  The Midtown Greenway is a biking thorough-fare.  Running on downtown’s Riverfront uses part of the Grand Rounds Trail.  Of course all of the lakes have bike and running trails.

Minneapolis has a ton of paved trails, I wish it had more dirt trails within the city that I could easily use from my house.  But I will take the ease of off-road running and the mostly suburb job of plowing that occurs in winter.

HT Mayor’s Blog

[tags] Minneapolis, Biking, Trails, Travel [/tags]

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