Category Archives: Race Review

03172019 – Winter Triathlon

Officially 6k ski, 18k bike, and 5k run in 2:18:22. USAT Winter Triathlon National Championship

I got there early so that I could get all checked in and setup. I was expecting that they would close transition at some point, but it didn’t happen. So I got there early and got a good spot and had plenty of time to relax until the race briefing!

Ready to Go!

I had really struggled with making decisions about what to wear/bring and how to plan for nutrition etc. I also felt pretty nervous about the whole thing as I hadn’t trained as much as I wanted/needed to and just lacked confidence in my skiing abilities! I hadn’t actually biked that far yet either this year. The weather was pretty much perfect. It was in mid to high 20’s at the start of the race and the course was in pretty decent shape considering all the rain and melt we’ve experienced this week. I ended up making two last minute changes for my biking gear and that was a good decision! I was never really cold, but I would have been if I’d worn my running shoes and the gloves I wore for skiing.

I wore 3/4 length tights over a pair of tri shorts and Cirq knee length socks. Up top I wore a light Icebreakerz long sleeve under a Twin Six thermal bike jersey with the Loppet bib over top! I switched out my gloves and hat for each discipline so that I wouldn’t get too cold. For skiing I wore a pair of SealSkinz mid-weight gloves and my Loopet Loppet buff. For the bike I wore a nice pair of Dakine mittens and a ear band from the Twin Cities Marathon. For the run I just wore my Saucony Utili-mitt gloves – no hat!

This was not only my first winter triathlon, but also my first ski race ever! Fortunately we were able to self-seed, so I pretty much started in the back. We had to double pole for the first 100m or so and by the time I got there the pack was getting spread out pretty quickly. I know the trails fairly well so I knew where I would struggle and what was coming! The Meadow loop went pretty much as I expected. The nice corduroy trail was pretty much gone by the time I went by, but the sugary snow wasn’t too bad for most of it. I fell three different times which was annoying as they were all places I haven’t fallen before! Two of them were in turns and the third was downhill. The first time was on the way down the Northern Finger. I just had trouble shifting weight and making the turn at the speed I was going and got too far off into the edge and I think a ski just caught. I didn’t realize it but my watch got paused, so I missed about 10 minutes of the ski. I felt pretty good going back up the Finger hill and flew down and around the LaSquandra loop. The uphill back to the Upper Stadium wasn’t too bad today! The second time I fell was on the big downhill right before Coach’s Corner and I haven’t fall there since early in the year. I think that I had trouble with the speed and the looser snow and my ski got caught in a little bit of a rut and caught an edge. That was pretty bad, I think I rolled! I checked and re-started my watch this time! A few more hills and I was moving! I fell right in from of my family! Same thing, taking a turn a little tight going a little too fast and I lost my balance. Ugh. Checked the watch and off I went into the transition area! The results said my ski was 29:46 which is definitely the fastest I’ve ever skied the full loop!

Transitioned to the bike. As I was leaving transition the leader came flying by after finishing his first bike loop. The bike was three loops of the bike course. Lots of hills. I think I had a good setting for PSI in the tires about 5-6lbs. I’m still trying to figure that out, but I flew by a guy who was running a lot lower PSI and he was struggling. That really makes a big difference. I didn’t fall at all! I decided based on the weather to switch my tires for studded tires. I probably didn’t need them after all but it was at least one less thing to be nervous about! The trail was almost all loose snow by that point on the main part of the trail. I didn’t need to walk up any of the hills for the first two laps and only one hill on the third lap. I was a little worried about burning out my quads early, but that didn’t seem to matter too much. The looser snow made it a little bit harder in a few places. Since the bike was 3 loops it was hard to know what lap the people passing you were on, but I just kept pedaling away! There wasn’t a lot of people on the course, but there were a few volunteers and medical team members cheering us on as we went through. The one hill I ended up walking up was on the last lap on the Twin Lakes Trail and it was a quick downhill into an uphill. I couldn’t shift gears down fast enough and there was someone behind me so I couldn’t zigzag at all in the loose snow. Oh well. I’ve not ridden this far yet this season on the snow with my new bike so I was quite happy with it and it was almost twice as fast as when I’d been riding. Official bike time was 1:16:24 averaging 8.8mph.

Finish Chute

I had hoped to not get passed again by the leader, as he was in transition when I started on a bike loop. Evidently that didn’t happen! I didn’t see him go by so it must have been while I was enjoying the two loops that were cut off the run loop! I high-fived the family as I set out on the run. I had one thick beard-cicle that kind of flopped around while I ran! This was the only time that it felt lonely out on the course. There were two guys in front of me and one behind me but after seeing them in the Meadow I never really saw them again until the finger. The course was deceiving because it would look like you were catching people while you were going downhill, but they’d be gone when you started on the uphill and slowed way down! After passing the run cutoff 4x’s it felt great to finally get to take it! And to cut out the hardest hill and a couple of short steep ones! I didn’t fall on the run at all!! The pictures definitely show me heel striking something I’ve been trying to work on. Honestly, though I haven’t been running much. I knew that the run would be ok though. My quads burned and climbing the hills wasn’t easy, but the hardest part was finding firm snow to run on. So much of it was loose that sometimes it felt more like running on sand! I saw someone on Jim’s hill that I might have been able to catch, but it wasn’t going to happen so I just finished my race! The run split was 27:35 8:55 pace.

See the extra thick long icicle?

My overall time was 2:18:22 which was good for 42/53 overall, 34/39 in the males and 5/5 in the 35-39 age group. The winner of course was in my age group! My ski and bike were both good enough for 41 overall, but my run was 33rd!! Obviously my strength!

My watch showed that I skied 2.58 miles in 22:25 (plus 10 minutes for and about a 1 mile when it was accidentally off, this also included transition). Biked 11.12 miles in 1:18 and ran 2.85 miles in 28 minutes.

This was a fun race!! I think as I continue to improve in my skiing it would get easier! The winner skied the loop in almost half my time!

06022018 – Solcana Anniversary Day ‘O Fun

Happy 4th Anniversary to Solcana Wellness!! It has been a great 4 years.  My anniversary date is quickly approaching too. In 4 years Hannah has built not only a gym, but a huge community of people who are passionate about being “healthy” and supporting each other towards that end.  It has been fun to watch the gym grow and continue to be an amazing place where ALL are truly welcome!

The celebration included a set of 8 workouts completed on teams of 2 followed by lunch and a party!  The 8 workouts were:

  1. 1 Min Max Effort Burpees
  2. 400m Medicine Ball Carry
  3. Max Effort Strict Pullups or Arms Only Row
  4. Partner Carry
  5. Max Effort Back Squat
  6. Sack Race
  7. Snatch Ladder
  8. Max Effort Handstand or Weighted Plank Hold

My partner had to bail at the last minute, fortunately someone else was in the same situation so Daphne and I partnered up and hit it.  I think we each had to adjust our game plan, but we were able to come up with a workable plan pretty quickly.  We were a Gold division (scaled) team.

I did the Med Ball Carry, Arm Rowing, Sack Race and Snatch Ladder.  It was a cool morning with a chance of rain.  It was actually sprinkling during the med ball carry but stopped for the partner carry.  And was boring during the sack race so that got moved inside!

The 400m Med Ball Carry is pretty self-explanatory. Run down the alley and back with a 10# med ball anyway you can.  It felt really weird to only be able to run with one arm, so I switched arms halfway and got one of the fastest times for the day 1:28 (I also don’t think this is a true 400m.)

Next was the Arm Rowing.  This was the scaled version of strict pullups. It was a max effort arms only pulling on the rower for 30 seconds. It was for the most calories at a 5 on the damper.  I tied for 3rd with 9 calories.

The sack race was down and back in the gym.  No clue of the distance. I was either first or second in my mixed group heat and got  first in the grouping in 13.85 seconds.

The snatch ladder was the last event of the day. We got 4 lifts and we had 20 seconds to lift followed by 40 seconds of rest.  This meant it was important to start at the right weight.  When I looked in Wodify my max Snatch was 110, so I started at 65, did 75, 95, and finished at 115. It felt good all the way through and I wished I had one more attempt.  So I was quite pleased with a PR!  This also tied me for 2nd in the group.   It was a lot of fun to watch the snatches and several people got PR’s.

My partner had to leave early.  When our team name wasn’t announced for the 3rd place awards I figured we hadn’t won anything.  I was shocked when we got called for 2nd place!! I got a little plastic trophy!  My first CrossFit hardware!!

When I brought my trophy home Caleb was really proud of me and talked about it for like 20 minutes!

It was a lot of fun and throughout it was a fun competitive atmosphere.  Everyone cheering each athlete and celebrating accomplishments throughout.

05262018 – Le Grand du Nord

While it was 90+ degrees at home some buddies and I were enjoying the cool (cold) start of Le Grand du Nord right on Lake Superior.  At the start we were discussing how we might have been under dressed.  We started in the parking lot at the Coast Guard Station in Grand Marais.  We had a nice cool 4 mile roll-out right along the lake shore with a nice cool breeze blowing off the lake.  Once we turned onto County Road 60 we were going uphill and got warm really quick!

This is a Category 3 hill that climbed 766ft in 2.3 miles.  This really separated out the climbers from the rest of us! It only took me 24 minutes to go those 2 miles, but this would be the only major climb for awhile. At the top of the hill the 20 mile route people went left and we went right. There was a group of us that went back and forth on the up and downhills for awhile here.

At some point I decided not to stop and re-fuel according to my typical schedule.  I think I under-estimated the distance and thought I’d be okay. I did my water plan – water every 5 miles and electrolytes every 10.   Somewhere between 15-20 miles I bonked and finally stopped to get some fuel in my body.  Up until then I had been feeling pretty good maintaining a steady pace on the uphills and flats. At one point I thought I would just bail.  It didn’t help that my knee started hurting around mile 15 as well.  Ugh.

Once I got some food I started feeling a little better.  We hit some pavement for the 5 miles leading up to the checkpoint and I hit 32 miles per hour on one of the downhills! The checkpoint/aid station was supported by HED Cycling and they had a crepe station so I had a PBJ and Nutella crepe and a few of my bars.  Walking around also helped loosen up my knee too.  I decided that I needed to add some stretching to my 10 mile snack break.

Leaving the aid station was another long uphill climb. This was only 346 feet over 2.75 miles. At the top we were treated to a lounge on the Chaise provided by Salsa Cycling (see the picture). This was a comfy break for a second and an excellent marketing idea! Up until this point the roads had been great and beautiful! Even the paved sections seemed great!

I think the sun came out for awhile as we hit Devil Track Road and then the first part of Bally Creek Road both of which were pretty exposed and it got pretty warm for awhile. This was a section that felt like it just kept going and when you stopped the bugs got you pretty good.  Turning onto The Grade seemed a little daunting especially as there were signs for Eagle Mountain that we kept riding to. I was glad when we got to the Eagle Mountain parking lot and turned away from it!

After turning off The Grade back onto Bally Creek Road the roads got better.  Around mile 50 it started getting cloudy and we heard some thunder in the distance.  At that point it became a race to beat the storm to the finish.  It sprinkled for a minute, but that actually felt good.  I thought that we had beat the storm, but would be proven wrong.  I thought I made a wrong turn at one point because there was a sign that said Grand Marais 12 miles and we went the other direction. This was right next to a beautiful looking Superior National Forest campground.

At mile 57 the storm finally pounded us and we got soaked.  At the time it felt great and it didn’t last very long.  One guy in front of me stopped to put his jacket on, but I kept going. Around mile 60 there was some confusion as the cue cards said to keep going straight, but there was someone down a side road waving an orange flag.  A group of us waited around for like 5 minutes while someone rode down to check it out.  Once he started back up, we all took off!

At mile 61 we hit the pavement again and it was all downhill to the finish! The rain and the cooler temps from the Lake created some awesome steam/fog off the road.  I tried at 23mph to take a picture and it didn’t really come out.  I also wasn’t trying too hard as I didn’t want to slip on the wet pavement at those speeds and so close to the finish line! The route takes a right turn with 1/4 mile to go and then is a steep downhill.  We were told to take it easy down that part and the last mile was well monitored by volunteers to help with car traffic.  After crossing the finish line I shook hands with the race director and thanked him for a great event.  Even with the rain it was a lot of fun!

I don’t know when I’ll learn my lesson about keep fueled throughout the longer rides, but that was the only hiccup.  Well and not really having a bike setup for so much climbing!

According to my watch here are the final stats:

64.5 miles in 5:52 with 3,250ft of climbing!  This put me in 159th place and my official time was 5:58:24.

The location and weather for this race makes it an excellent gravel grinder!

05192018 – Race

Race completed! The Superior Trail Series 12.5K is in the bag and it was a fun event! The weather ended up being perfect – about 50’s.  It was cloudy and windy which wasn’t super ideal but the temp meant that it didn’t get overly hot while running.  It may have sprinkled a little bit, or it could have been water falling off leaves from the overnight rain.

The quick details:

12.5K – 1:23:49  40/228 overall

  1. 10:07
  2. 11:54
  3. 10:29
  4. 9:48
  5. 10:57
  6. 13:56
  7. 11:35
  8. (7:36 pace) for the last .75 miles

My race plan had essentially been to take it easy until around mile 6 and then start pushing the pace.  I executed that fairly well, except that in mile 5 we hit our first (and really only) major climb! That explains the sudden drop in my pacing.  One thing I had forgotten was how rooty and rocky the trail is. There were quite a few sections where the group slowed down to make it through a section of roots, especially on the downhills.  The Superior Hiking Trail Association has done a great job of putting bridges or planks over the worst marshy areas, but given that it is spring there are still some muddy sections throughout!  The section of trail was amazing! If I wasn’t running the race I would have taken a ton of pictures.

Starting at Cathedral of the Pines was beautiful, running along Agnes Lake and the Poplar River were spectacular and of course some of the views from the peaks were amazing! I didn’t stop or really get to look at them – so I will be coming back to hike this section still.  There was still snow on the ground – but only where Lusten Mountains had created man-made snow for the ski hills.  We never got close to it, but I did see it once and think – yay we are getting close to the finish!

My only complaint – and it was already addressed by the race director – was that it wasn’t super clear that we could bring sweats to the starting line and it was chilly standing around for 30 minutes waiting.  This was a point to point race unlike the other two that were out and backs.  We got taken by bus to the starting line.  Otherwise it was a well produced event!  I got some video of the 50k and 25k starts that I might get around to smashing together!  Part of me regrets not taking my phone or a camera on the run, but it was also nice to just focus on running and racing again!

Given that the race was almost 4 hours from home, I went up the night before and camped at Lamb’s Resort.  They have some nice campsites right on the lake if you want to pay a little extra. I opted for my little backpacking tent and I to stay at nice site where you could still here the waves crashing even in the woods! This is the first time I ever remember camping the night before a race.  I will definitely do some things differently next time, but I think that camping added to the overall experience of a trail run.  I can’t imagine being one of the many who stayed in the Caribou Highlands – such a pampered experience!

That’s a quick recap.  Maybe more thoughts later! All in all it was an excellent race and a great experience!