The Wildlife Loop Half: South Dakota’s Toughest Tri

photogrid_1473994415227As if moving one’s body 70.3 miles isn’t hard enough, the founder of the Wildlife Loop Triathlon has found a way to make it tougher: put together a course in South Dakota’s beautiful Black Hills.

The Wildlife Loop Triathlon took place Saturday, September 10th. Race start began shortly after 8 am when the fog had lifted from Stockade Lake and the sun had crested the horizon, giving racers hope that they wouldn’t face the bone-chilling temps with which the early morning had greeted them.

Two (that we know of) sub-9-hour Ironman finishers toed the line for the race with the biggest purse in the state. Josh Terwoord of Fort Collins, Colorado pulled off a victory with a tactical race. Terwoord clearly understands hills. He came out of the water fifth and then made up some serious ground on two wheels, finishing the bike neck-and-neck with the Wisconsin Ironman course record holder Daniel Bretscher. Terwoord then took a comfortable lead on the run, entering the finisher chute ahead of Bretscher. Daniel Arlandson came in off the bike in third and held on to bring home his chunk of the winnings as well.

Writer, blogger, and triathlete extraordinaire Kirsten McCay-Smith won the women’s photogrid_1473994332259division (and chicked the majority of the men). McCay-Smith recently posted a sub-12 hour finish at Ironman Boulder. Clearly, she’s the real deal. Carrie Egging brought home the second-place money, and local superstar Jonette Murphy came in third.

This race continues to improve each year we see it. It showcases the rugged beauty of the Black Hills, giving racers the added excitement of potentially seeing buffalo and other wildlife on the bike ride. Furthermore, it has the biggest payout of any race in the state, with a total of $3,000 in prize money divided amongst the first three finishers in each division (men and women). Despite the fact that this year’s event wasn’t chip timed, it still provided a quality feel with the stiff competition and the ample aid stations. Out-and-back loops on the run allowed the race to have just a few aid stations and yet the necessary support every few miles.  Early September provides that sweet spot of great weather as well for this event, with a cool start but a comfortably warm finish.

Race director Brandon Zelfer showed particular attention to detail as he personally took a kayak into the water to lead in the lead swimmer and then hopped on a bike to check on aid stations and racers. Zelfer continues to work hard to make this race even better with each passing year. We look forward to seeing continual improvements in the 2017 race. If you’re looking for a bucket-list race, put the Wildlife Loop Tri on it. The venue is gorgeous with constant rolling hills not to mention fantastic ascents and descents on the bike. Dig out a 70.3 training plan this winter, and prepare yourself for a great race next summer.

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Southern Hills: Beauty and Hospitality


Olympic men’s winner Brandon Zelfer

The Southern Hills Triathlon took place on a beautiful Saturday morning, September 4. Participants took advantage of the cool early morning weather of the rural Hot Springs by pushing their way through a fairly challenging and course. (results can be found HERE)

The twenty-year olds reigned in the men’s Olympic distance as local triathlete (and Wildlife Loop race director) Brandon Zelfer won the Olympic division in a commanding fashion while Xterra juggernaut Erik Sykora took second and


Olympic women’s winner Jenny Mosley

John Enos took third.  Jenny Mosley won the women’s Olympic division while Jessica Barrientos took second and Stacy Nelson rounded out the podium.


East River speedster Lance Bergeson literally ran down 19-year-old Jeffrey Loftus on the run to win the sprint title, while Mike Welu showed his experience and mettle by bringing in third place. Wyoming resident Emily Cook crossed the border to win the women’s sprint race, while Black Hills State University’s Sage Riss came in second and Felicia King came in third.


Sprint women’s winner Emily Cook

We’ve been wanting to check out this triathlon for quite a while, and the folks near Hot Springs know how to roll out the red carpet for their guests. The white-sand beach of Breakers Beach at Angostura is definitely the prettiest beach of all the race we’ve seen this season. The bike course offered long stretches of hills, with the evergreens of the Black Hills on one side and the prairie on the other. The run took participants on a smooth, serene blacktop bike path which wound its way around Angostura and, according to our sources, offered no respite from the rollers of the Hills. Every finisher received a pretty cool medal, and the ladies of the Friends of the Library provided plenty of homemade goodies for door prizes.


Sprint men’s winner Lance Bergeson

If you’re looking for a great way to end the season next year, put this race on your calendar. It’s a good deal if you sign up before the late deadline, and no only do the folks near Hot Springs have smiles galore for visitors, but they also have some pretty stiff competition.

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The Wildlife Loop Tri: The Best Half Iron in SD

wildlife loopThe Third Annual Wildlife Loop Triathlon will take place at Stockade Lake at 8am on Saturday, September 10. Every year has produced improvements for this fledgling race, which is the only half-iron distance in South Dakota. This year’s race promises the same stunning views which rewards those who dare to take on the challenge of climbing the hills at Custer State Park.

The race begins with two loops in Stockade Lake. Currently the lake is hovering around the 75-degree mark, so with the continuing cool weather that the Black Hills typically has this year, the race will most likely continue to be wetsuit legal. Racers transition into a two-loop bike route as well with what people west of the river call “rollers” and people east of the river call “hills.” As race director Brandon Zelfer puts it, athletes get twenty-two miles of downhill coasting. Loops are the theme for this race, as racers then get to run two loops to complete the best half-iron distance triathlon in the state.

All racers will receive a unique, custom-made finisher medal along with the traditional t-shirt like none other. The view and bragging rights come with finishing the race as well. If you’re itching for one last race and want a real challenge, consider checking out the last triathlon of the year in South Dakota.

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

southern hills

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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