Over the River and through the Hills: The Southern Hills Triathlon

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photo credit: Rapid City Journal

The 19th Annual Southern Hills Triathlon will take place on Saturday, September 3 with the Olympic distance beginning at 7:30 am, the Sprint and Duathlon following at 8am, and the youth event rounding out the morning at 10:00am.

Overall this event oozes down-home hospitality. The pre-race welcome begins with packet pickup, registration, and pasta dinner (which is part of the registration fee) on Friday night at the Masonic Temple in Hot Springs. It continues with a well-run race that has the perfunctory distances for each particular event:

  • 1-mile swim, 24-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run for the Oly participants; and a 1/2 mile swim, 12-mile bike, and 3.1 mile run for the Sprint participants
  • 3.1 mile run, 12-mile bike, and 3.1 mile run for the duathletes.
  • The organizers of the event have really set up the situation for a place for everyone, and word on the street has it that they offer a spectacular view of western South Dakota.

All participants are promised the typical schwag of a long-sleeve, technical t-shirt and what not, but we’ve also heard rumor that the door prizes involve some of the finest baking on the western side of the Missouri River. When an event funds the library society, we imagine the best of the best come out to support it. Participants can walk away feeling good about how their registration was used as it goes to continue to provide books and computers for the Hot Springs Library.

Southern Hills alum will remember this as a non-chip-timed event. That has changed in recent years as the Black Hills Multi-Sport will be providing chip timing. Furthermore, lest any one think this is a teeny race, it typically has had between 120 and 140 participants, and current registrants make this year’s race look like a typical race.

On paper, this looks like a great race. We intend to find out first hand as we will be there with the bright yellow shirts, big-nose cameras, and our favorite bearded photographer to capture all that the Southern Hills Tri has to offer. If you’re not busy and looking for a getaway for Labor Day Weekend, venture out to Hot Springs to check out the southwestern part of the state.

 

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Yankton’s Best Tri: Climbing & Cruising

1I9A8599Yankton’s Best Tri (results are HERE) took place Saturday, August 27 with the most perfect conditions any triathlete could ask for. The Missouri River spread out placidly with nary a wave, and a nice early morning rain shower and cooler temps created that perfect zone where the competitive athlete could push his limits without even considering environmental distress.

The 2016 standouts Ethan Marquardt and Kathy Grady used their strengths to break the finish line tape first. Marquardt had a solid swim, exiting the water ahead of his peers. A modified bike course thanks to road construction meant some monster hills, and this played into the uber-biker Kevin Mitchell’s favor. Mitchell came in first into T2 first but with noted concern that his lead wouldn’t hold. When Marquardt hit the trail for the run, he turned on the afterburners and smoked the competition ahead of him, passing Mitchell around mile two. Danny Jacobson stretched out his long, lean legs to reign in third place. Hometown boy Luke Serck came in fourth, and Ryan Remmers came in fifth.

Grady used her shark-like skills to build a sizable lead against the female competition (and the men as well), and she  maintained the lead with a strong bike and run. Kimber Pierzchalski continues to improve with each race, and she came in on the run, nipping at Grady’s heels. The super-fit Sandy Lieferman came in third amongst a competitive female field.  Theresa Van Hyfte and Jayna Silvernail came in fourth and fifth respectively. 1I9A8495

Kudos go to the folks down in Yankton for putting on a great race overall. When road construction forced them to modify the bike route, they came up with a challenging route that showcased some of the best hills, valleys, and the views that bring visitors to their fine city. In short, the Sertoma Club, who runs this race, used their venue well. They also catered well to the hungry athlete and their support crews by having piping hot pizza delivered by one of their sponsors, Pizza Ranch, at the end of the race. Great work, Yankton. Thanks for the hospitality and fun race.

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The Traveling Triathlete: Steve Scott

SIMG_0145-2teve Scott has many reasons for not working out–around 125 to be exact. That’s how many nights on average he’s gone from home. His job as the General Manager Renewals for Duke Energy takes him away from home for nearly a third of his nights in a year. And yet he has still found a way to be a competitive force in the South Dakota triathlon scene not to mention a founder and general boss of one of the best triathlons in the state.

Scott grew up in Howard, South Dakota and in his words, wasn’t a real gifted athlete at all. He wrestled and played a little bit of baseball. In college he put on the typical freshman 20 and kept putting it on. In his 30s, he dabbled a little in running, even finishing a marathon in 1998. Like most individuals, as he entered his 40s, he began to notice IMG_0454-2something a little disturbing: a sluggish metabolism made weight maintenance nearly impossible. “I went to the doctor every year, and when I ticked past 200 pounds, I said, ‘Something’s got to give,'” he states.

So he hopped on a bike and began pedaling. He continued running as he explored the terrain around his home on Lake Cochrane with two wheels. Then he figured that since he lived near a lake, maybe he should start swimming. “You couldn’t call it swimming,” he states when remembering his first swims. “I got into Lake Cochrane and thrashed around. It was pretty sick,” he states. The three activities in his life led to a pretty logical conclusion for a guy who is fairly competitive by nature: why not try a triathlon.

Enter the Triple V Triathlon in Yankton (now known as Yankton’s Best Tri). So six years ago, Scott swam the river, sped across the dam on two wheels, and then ran the bike path in Yankton. And he fell in love. “It was great. I got such a rush from it,” he states. So he signed up for the LeMars Tri two weeks later, and the endorphin addiction stuck.

Over the next two years, Scott continued to train and compete diligently. And he slowly shed 30 pounds and noticed the added benefits of training religiously: “I feel better than when I was in college,” he states.

IMG_3063-2As he was melting off the fat with each event he completed, Scott felt a genuine sense of dissatisfaction. He recognized that while race directors did what they could with what they had, his training ground of the crystal clear Lake Cochrane and the rolling hills around it were far more pleasant than what other races could offer. “It just kept gnawing on me,” he states. So he posed the idea to his wife: what would she think if they hosted a triathlon right there at Cochrane. “She jumped right on it,” states Scott. Their neighbors also saw great value in it. Enter Luke Jessen, the youngest race director South Dakota races have ever seen that we know of and someone that could match Scott’s need for orderliness and details.

The Outland Challenge, Scott’s brainchild,  has become more than just a race. It’s clearly a passion for Scott. “We’re trying to provide the best race experience for the athletes,” he states. The penchant for details does not without planning. The OC committee meets year round, planning and preparing for the one event that showcases the beauty of the prairie around Lake Cochrane as well as the hospitality of its residents.

So, how does Scott do what he does? His full-time job leads him to places all over the country for a third of the year, and yet he continues to be competitive (striving to finish in the 90th percentile of each race he competes in). One word: the YMCA. Scott has purposed himself to stay in cities with a Y, and as a result of his travels, he can tell you where some of the best (and worst) facilities are. Scott’s persistence comes through in his work ethic, accomplishments, and training. He recalls one time when he was training for a 70.3, and he visited one particular facility with an exercise bike that still had the felt pads on it. He laughs about it now. “I did my workout on a 30-year-old bike in one of the worst YMCAs in the country,” he states. Tenacity wins every time.

Scott has learned some valuable lessons along the way as he entered the sport in his 40s and feels the aging process as he continues to train. His best lesson is the one he learned this season: patience. “If you’re sore and stiff, chill. Don’t keep pushing and get more injured than you should be,” he states when looking over this summer. (He also notes that Kari, his wife will call him a hypocrite for this advice since he’s a fairly impatient person by nature.) Scott tested this theory when he suffered a handful of injuries that led to a non-competitive summer–the first one where he didn’t get to compete in his own race.

As a triathlete who simply dove into the sport without a formal plan, he also recognizes the value of help. “Work with the resources needed to build upon those weaknesses. Don’t do it alone,” he advises those considering triathlon for the first time. Scott recognized his swim weakness pretty early on, so he hired a swim instructor to help improve his stroke. In the end, he notes, when you get the help you need, you’ll enjoy triathlon more and be safer too.

Scott exemplifies what we love seeing in our South Dakota triathletes: tenacity, wisdom, and a love for the sport. He and his crew up at Cochrane continue to grow the sport and improve the competitive environment. Visions and follow through like Scott’s will only continue to grow the sport.

 

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Come Down to the River: Yankton’s Best Tri

yankton's best tri

photocredit: yanktontriathlon.com

Yankton’s Best Tri will take place Saturday, August 27 at 8am at the Lewis & Clark Lake. This particular race has proven to be a great place to race against some out-of-state talent with it attracting athletes from Iowa and Nebraska thanks to its tri-state location. Plus, it’s a premium vacation destination at the end of the summer months for those triathletes who want to bring their families along for an extended weekend stay after the race.

Athletes swim 1/4 mile in Lewis & Clark Lake, bike 14 miles across the Gavin’s Point Dam into Nebraska and back (how cool is that!), and then run a 5K on the smooth Yankton bike trail that follows the river. The race features some of southeast South Dakota’s most beautiful terrain while offering a fairly flat race course for those athletes who prefer to see the scenery as a blur.

The race will begin at 8am with packet pickup taking place Friday night from 6-8pm and then on race morning from 7-7:30am. Last year’s event offered one of the best post-race spreads we’ve seen on this side of the state with pizza at 10 am, so who knows what the folks in Yankton have cooked up for this year.

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The Rugged and Filthy Beauty of Xterra in the Black Hills

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The Xterra Iron Creek Triathlon took place on August 20th at Iron Creek near Spearfish. Without even trying, this event showcased some of the most beautiful terrain in western South Dakota.

IMG_4893After some choice adult words about the technical aspects of the course, our inside sources deemed the venue “good,” with clear water at the perfect temperature for a wetsuit legal race; a beach run that lead to transition; a great bike course with the promised technical turns, three massive climbs, a handful of cowpies, and a herd of cattle that ended up pacing some riders; and a run that featured either a double track or gravel-quality road. Overall, the race scene provided just what the relaxed culture west of the Missouri often boasts of: a laid-back atmosphere with strong people. IMG_4944

With that thought in mind, we will link results for this event as soon as the powers that be release them. Word on the trail has it that a 12-year-old girl chicked a great deal of the male competitors and that the Aberdeen off-road bike star Craig Harrison won the long course. Considering the quality of athletes out west, none of this surprises us. Stay tuned for results.

 

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