Once again, youth and experience ruled the day at Riverman at Farm Island, just outside of Pierre. High school student Daniel Burkhalter from the metropolis of Prairie City came, saw, and conquered his competitors not to mention the course in Pierre. Burkhalter managed to squeak in a win before cross country season steals his eligibility for a sport in which he’s quickly beginning to make his name. He came out of the swim well past the first ten swimmers. However, he quickly made up time on the bike, passing the regular triathlon power houses in the state and coming in second on the bike, second only to the off-road juggernaut Craig Harrison. Burkhalter overtook Harrison on the run and then never looked back. Brad Lowery used the same lightening-fast running skills he showcased at the Outland Challenge to sprint his way to second place, and Harrison held onto third.
Kathy Grady whose injuries are only dissipating showed the area that she’s ready to tackle the best of the best at age-group nationals in Omaha next weekend by putting forth a solid effort and winning the women’s race. Jonette Murphy, who happened to be on this side of the state celebrating a birthday came in a solid second, and young racer Sallie Doty came in third.
Nostalgia rules in Pierre, with the minimalist’s dream of a triathlon. Athletes don’t need to worry about race belts because bibs do not exist in Pierre. Instead, one of the Boy Scout volunteers or State Parker employees scrawls a number on each participant’s lower arm. The transition area is just that: a general area where participants transition. Athletes find a spot on one of the back-in bike racks, set up their race gear, and then go swim once the air horn goes off. They don’t need to worry about mount and dismount lines because those also do not exist.
Do not mistake simplicity, though, for lack of care. Race organizers mark the course carefully, putting volunteers at the turn arounds for both the bike and run out-and-back courses. They also strategically place volunteers on any ambiguous corners where a participant may be tempted to go down an off-course road. The run has two water stops, and the finish line has what participants need: cold water bottles and bananas and apples donated by the local grocery store, not to mention the loud cheers of all the athletes who finish first. Pierre participants know how to bring in the finishers.
The God-made venue in Pierre is pretty sweet too. The swim runs out and back along a fairly calm Hipple Lake thanks to the bay created by Farm Island. The ride is simple and straight with some decently long inclines here and there, and the run is hands down cool. The first mile takes participants along an asphalt train to Farm Island, and then the next mile and a half runs into and then out of Farm Island. While on the Island, participants run on a gravel trail flanked by thick trees. Then participants end the same way they started, with the asphalt trail and waving, prairie grass on both sides.
So then, with no splits, no chip timing, no big post-race meal, and basically all of the fluff that so many race organizers include to draw in participants, why do people race in Pierre? Two words: simplicity and nostalgia. And even with that, young faces, drawn to the purity of this multi-discipline sport show up along with weathered visages that seek to remember triathlon as it began, when people got together to just see what they could do with a swim, bike, and run.
Well done, Pierre. You put on a nice race.
Triathlon is taking a couple of weeks off here in South Dakota, with the next race not until August 26 in Yankton. Stay tuned here for updates on this and other great events in the state.