Monthly Archives: September 2014

Tri-ing Out in Deadwood: The Mountain Lion Triathlon

deadwoodOur staff’s recent trip to the Wildlife Loop half-ironman led us to discover how the west side of the state has been helping to grow the sport of triathlon and keep the west-river folks moving.

Specifically, the Deadwood Recreation & Aquatics Center hosted the Mountain Lion Triathlon on September 13. This event works well to keep the Deadwood community members active with a fun event, and it also benefits the Deadwood Swim Team, which runs the event.

This triathlon has some fun spins that might make it worth considering, especially as a fun warm up before the Wildlife Loop Tri in the future. This race could also serve to give family members of those racing the Wildlife Loop (not to mention just the race-loving wayward Black Hills camper) something fun to do the day before the big event.

Instead of jumping into a lake, participants bike first. All racers start the race by meeting out on the Mickelson Trail for a 16-mile bike ride that includes a half-mile climb at 17 percent grade. We’re guessing nary a tri-bike was to be found at this particular event.

Participants then transitioned into a 5K run and ended with a 6-lap swim in the Deadwood Community Center indoor pool.

Clearly this event caters to those who just want to have a good time.

And with that said, it also proves that triathlon can come about in many different ways, from the official half-iron distance just a day later to the fun free-spirited event that gives locals one more reason to keep on moving.

Deadwood has been hosting this race since 2006 with a one-year hiatus due to a construction project at the Community Center. So, in short, this type of event works. It has the potential to give someone who would otherwise not even think about triathlon a taste of what an event feels like.

We suspect that more than just the Deadwood Community Center has dabbled in triathlon in the past few years. In fact, we know of at least two different community centers that have hosted mini-triathlons indoors prior to the inception of larger, outdoor events in the summer.

It just proves that our sport indeed helps keep people moving. Good work, Deadwood.


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As Promised: Beautiful but Challenging–the Wildlife Loop Half

Kathy Grady won the women's division of the inaugural Wildlife Loop Triathlon this past Saturday.

Kathy Grady won the women’s division of the inaugural Wildlife Loop Triathlon this past Sunday.

Rugged beauty takes some effort to see.

The few brave souls who endured the challenging conditions of the inaugural Wildlife Loop Triathlon, and incidentally the first half-ironman in South Dakota, received such a reward, along with the genuine sense of satisfaction that comes from completing what we believe is South Dakota’s most arduous race venue.

Eighteen individuals and three teams dared mother nature to get the best of them on Sunday, September 14. Four days earlier the venue at Stockade Lake in Custer State Park was covered with snow. But on race morning participants found nary a snowflake nearby. Still, temperatures which ranged from 29 degrees at race start to low 40s at the end of the day gave participants something none have experienced since the beginning of the season. Additionally, a combination of slick roads and fog delayed the race start. This race was not for the faint of heart.

South Dakota’s own accomplished veteran triathlete Kathy Grady brought home the $800 women’s purse, and Lakeville, Minnesota resident Kyle Serreyn took first overall.

Accomplished triathlete Kyle Serreyn crossed the Minnesota border (and traversed the state) to capture the win at the Wildlife Loop Triathlon this past Saturday.

Accomplished triathlete Kyle Serreyn crossed the Minnesota border (and traversed the state) to capture the win at the Wildlife Loop Triathlon this past Sunday.

Grady has had an outstanding season this year with a second-place finish in the SDTA race series and a world-qualifying place at the USAT age-group nationals. With that said, this race took a little bit of steam out of everyone. “It was definitely the most challenging Half Iron man race I’ve ever done due to the cold temperatures and hills,” stated Grady after the race.

Serreyn’s performance also validated the toughness of the course and conditions. Serreyn’s half ironman times usually hover around the sub-4:30 mark, and this winning effort took him 5:12.34 (a solid 38 minutes ahead of second place). Serreyn is no stranger to the half-iron course and long-distance racing overall. He’s a consistent top-ten finisher in Minnesota which often has a stacked field of entries. Furthermore, Serreyn comes from a sort of triathlete dynasty. Both parents are accomplished triathletes in Minnesota. In fact, Serreyn’s dad raced on Sunday in Custer and plans on competing at Ironman Florida in November with Kyle. His mom’s no hack either: she won her age group at Ironman Wisconsin two weeks ago.

The course for the Wildlife Loop Half proved to be just as challenging as the cold, damp conditions. The swim temps in the unexpectedly green waters rose just above 60 degrees. The two-loop bike course treated participants to steep ascents and descents and hairpin turns. Every participant most likely felt these hills. Furthermore, the run course, while not as treacherous as the bike course, still took place in the Black Hills and thus gave the gentle climbs found on the Mickelson Trail.

With only about two months to plan the race, Brandon Zelfer, the race director, put together an admirable effort. “Brandon did an excellent job putting this race together in less than two months so he deserves a HUGE pat on the back and thank you,” states Grady.

With such a challenging course, a unique and beautiful venue for South Dakota, and a big fat purse,Wildlife Loop Triathlon has a bright future. Our staff predicts that we’ll continue to see some big talent toe the line at this event. Some triathletes just can’t resist the allure of a seemingly wicked course.

Congratulations to all those who finished this race. The accomplishment certainly had to be worth the pain. Check out the pictures for the event on our Facebook page.


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The WildLife Loop Triathlon: a Beautiful Challenge

Custer State ParkSouth Dakota will host its first-ever half-iron distance triathlon this weekend.

And it’s not too late to enter.

With 30 current participants, the Wildlife Loop Triathlon at Stockade Lake in Custer State Park will accept race-day registrations up until the race start on Sunday, September 14.

And the race purse is definitely worth the effort.

First place in each division (male and female) will bring home a fat check of $800. Second place will receive $400, and third place $300. So if you’re fast and willing to endure the pain that the Black Hills of South Dakota can dish out, consider taking a trip out west this weekend.

Currently 18 men, 9 women, and 3 teams have signed up for the race. Registration often tends to balloon during the final week of registration for triathlon in South Dakota.

But those are the sprints. The half iron distance presents a challenge not for the faint of heart.

The race will begin at 7:30 at Stockade Lake. Participants will swim a two-loop course and then hop on their bikes for a  bike course that will take them on a technical and hilly course (if you haven’t experienced a hairpin turn before, you’ll get one here, along with some wicked ascents and descents). The run course serves participants well with two loops that offer athletes ample aid stations (Powerade, water, bananas, oranges, and salt pills make up the aid buffet) as well as park-designated restrooms (no porta potties at this race).

Participants also should note that packet pick up will occur the day of the race at the race site.

This race will most certainly be wetsuit legal. As of Monday night, water temps hovered around 77, and the Custer area has a rain/snow mix forecasted for Wednesday and Thursday this week. Time to break out the neoprene swim bonnets, boys and girls.

So, if you’re ambitious and haven’t signed up yet, you may want to consider making history and being a part of South Dakota’s first half-ironman distance (at least the first that we know of). It should offer some beautiful scenery and a challenge like none other in the state.

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Two Ironmen, One Great Couple

PhotoGrid_1409714336130Laura and John Zumhofe aren’t average triathletes.

We found John and Laura when the SDTA series began back in April. Laura’s face kept popping up on our race pictures. Then, when we began our coverage of the South Dakotans competing in Ironman Boulder, we found John. We erroneously thought maybe this was his first Ironman.

Boy, were we wrong.

John has a long history of fitness and triathlon. His journey began in the late seventies when he caught the running bug and joined hundreds of thousands of Americans in tackling road races and building their fitness. When overuse injuries began to stunt his hobby and tv networks finally thought Ironman was worth broadcasting, John considered triathlon as a way to avoid the same injuries. He figured he could swim and bike, so he gave it a try.

John’s first triathlon was a tri at Wall Lake at the time, which, in 1985, boasted of a longer course than the current Wall Lake tri with an 800 yard swim, 20-mile bike, and 6.5 mile run. These days were the beginning of triathlon and certainly events not for the faint of heart. Clip in shoes did not exist. Shoot, tri bikes didn’t exist. People swam, biked, and ran in their speedos or whatever they deemed appropriate.

Since that time, John has completed over 70 triathlons, including four Ironmans. He’s that strong. He took on Wisconsin in 2002, 2005, and 2007, and then Boulder this past year. Word on the street tells us that an injury stopped him from completing IM Arizona a while back, and he’s still chewing on the possibility of signing up for that one in the future as well. Unfinished business can make a person do this.

Laura met John in 2000. She too had been running, and when she saw John complete a triathlon in Minnesota, she felt empowered by the vast variety of people at the event. Anyone who has even just watched a triathlon knows that no two triathletes look alike. Just about anyone who trains–young, old, big, small, tall, short–can complete a triathlon. So, Laura joined the Y, and like any good man who would love to see his girlfriend join him in his hobby, John helped her learn how to swim. John’s patient help must have made a difference because in 2003 they got married. Then, in 2005, just five months after she gave her mom a kidney, Laura completed her first triathlon at Lake Pohoja near Inwood, Iowa.

As already stated, these two are no ordinary triathletes.PhotoGrid_1409715002984

With John as her coach, in 2010 Laura completed Ironman Arizona, and then in 2012 she took on the cold waters of Ironman Coer d’Alene.

Each of their events has given John and Laura a wealth of memories and experiences, which we believe make them the tough triathletes they are. Laura recalls the 57 degree temperature of the swim in Couer d’Alene, and how many women coming out of the water were shivering uncontrollably. She just sat on her (very white) hands so the gal helping her didn’t see her own coldness and so she could warm up on the bike rather than in transition. John recounts the year that Ironman Champ Paula Newby Frasier came to the Lake Alvin triathlon, spoke at a banquet the night before the race, and then smoked the entire field the next day at the event.

“That’s the cool thing about triathlon—you race with the pros,” states, John.

Both Laura and John have had many a brush with the pros during triathlons. In particular, when Laura raced her first 70.3 in Kansas, Chrissie Wellington also raced. Wellington, known as a great ambassador of the sport, stayed at the finish line and took pictures with whomever wanted a picture with her.  John ended up visiting with her in a food tent, and, in his one “epic fail” according to both Laura and John, missed his opportunity to buy Wellington a sandwich. “John got more pictures of Chrissie than he did of me,” states Laura with a laugh.

This sport has given much to the Zumhofes. In particular, they both note the friendships sparked as a result of this common interest. “I have friends I met in triathlon that are as close as some of my college friends,” states Laura. Furthermore, this sport has made their relationship stronger, as they celebrate with each other and empathize when one is injured or sick and unable to complete an event or workout.

With such a strong pedigree in triathlon, the two have great advice. In the midst of particular long and challenging races like Ironman, both have found themselves praying, thinking about those who are thinking of them, and just moving forward with those thoughts in mind.  “The people, when you have lots of friends thinking of you and praying for you–I try to think of that. I think of that positive energy,” states Laura.

Laura and John Zumhofe sparked our interest, and we have a feeling that as they continue to compete, they will inspire those around them with their upbeat can-do attitudes and tenacity.

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Anatomy of a Champ

Strong legs. Strong heart. Strong everything. Dedication to training. The ability to with stand discomfort  for a given period of time. And speed, to boot.

When we think of a champion in the world of triathlon, these elements come to mind. And certainly the South Dakota Triathlon Association‘s season champs, Brigitte Setness and Matt Decker have all of these things. But they also have one more element critical to success in any venture: balance.

Decker and Setness actually wandered into the world of triathlon two very different but still common ways.

Matt Decker

Matt - champ picsDecker grew up near Beresford where he attended high school. He tried a couple of sports, but nothing really stuck.  He went on to attend and graduate from SDSU and went to work near Alcester, his current hometown, as a mechanical engineer.  And he hunted and fished, like he’s always loved to do.

When a friend at work began to compete in triathlon, Decker took note. His friend invited him to join him, and Decker complied. After all, it would help prepare him for some spot-and-stalk hunting west of the river.

So with his hybrid bike (like all legends ride in their first tri) he took on Siouxperman and found himself well and smiling at the end.

The seed was planted.

After replacing his hybrid with a road bike, Decker continued to dabble in sprints. Two years later, the same ambitious buddy from work convinced Decker to sign up for the Twin Cities triathlon. “We did it once, and that was it,” states Decker. Enough said.

This year Decker proved to be a jack-of-all trades in the sport, placing in the top ten in Madison, taking time off to battle a bug, and then winning the last three events of the season. His mantra of, “It could always be worse,” certainly pushed him through some of his more uncomfortable moments in the season. He hopes to tackle more SDTA events in the future.

Meanwhile, Decker will settle back into life which includes his other favorite hobbies: hanging out with his family (wife, Larissa; four-year-old daughter Laney; and soon-to-be-born baby boy); and hunting and fishing. He aims to just enjoy the ride that triathlon has given him so far. His laid-back demeanor coupled with his overall physical strength tells us he will do this quite well.

Decker’s short career in triathlon still has given him some great race experiences. His best experience so far took place in Watertown, the final race of the SDTA season. “I’ve never been so nervous before a race,” he states. When we spoke with him a few days later, he was clearly still riding on cloud nine.

Brigitte Setness

Setness’s beginning with triathlon started on the sofa of her parent’s couch in Stickney, South Dakota when she saw a triathlon on tv (most likely the World Championships in Kona). brigitte - champ pics

And again, a seed was planted.

Setness went on to attend school in Stickney and, like most small-town kids in South Dakota, participate in every extra-curricular event possible from track and field to yearbook staff. Setness started running cross-country in college and shortly thereafter ran her first marathon. The love of running captured her, and she aimed to run a marathon in every state (so far she’s ran over 30 marathons).

Setness went on to try a sprint triathlon and give it a rest for a while before she signed up for and completed a full-on Ironman (yes, she’s that ambitious). She’s completed two Ironmans to date.

This year the SDTA series gave Setness just one more way to mix up her training and enjoy this sport she loves. Plus she earned a nice pocketful of cash.

Despite her youth, Setness has a handful of race experiences that stick out in her mind and have helped shape her as a triathlete. In particular, the Sioux Falls marathon a few years back, leaves a mark in her memory, when she began the race not feeling well and ending feeling even worse. Most likely she’d been victimized by a stomach bug, and she spent some time in the med tent shortly after crossing the finish line. Still, she continues to lace up and run (or bike and swim as the deed may call for the day).

Triathletes and nontriathletes alike often wonder what gets accomplished athletes through the most difficult parts of training or a race. What makes a person keep going? For Setness, her faith plays a major role in continuing forward. In long races–marathons and Ironmans–Setness will write the simple reference “Phil 4:13” on her hand, reminding her that her strength does not come from herself. “When I feel like I can’t go any further, I know I’m not alone,” she states.

Sounds like the advice of a champ.

When Setness isn’t working towards her goals or teaching elementary school students about fitness at her P.E. job for the Tea school district, she prefers to hang out with her (uber supportive) husband Cale.

Both of these athletes have proven to have what a champ needs to rise to the top. They put together solid races in all three disciplines, and while both train hard, they also enjoy life outside of triathlon. We sure enjoyed watching them race and look forward to seeing who else  can rise to the top of the SDTA series next year.

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