Monthly Archives: August 2015

To Nebraska and Back: A Recap of Yankton’s Best Tri

PhotoGrid_1440983584572Despite a thick fog that delayed race start, Yankton’s Best Tri went off without a hitch or significant injury on Saturday, August 29 at Lewis and Clark Lake.

A dense fog that made the bike route visibility sketchy forced race organizers to delay the start of the race, but no participants seemed to mind hanging out with some of the nicest people in spandex for a few more minutes before getting down to business. Once the fog lifted sufficiently, teams, men, and women dove into the water with mass starts two minutes apart and continued to race in the eerie fog that hung above the area.

Once all was said and done, Justin Schweitzer, the current SDTA series points leader, emerged from the murky haze on the run route and solidified his win after a smoking fast run (with a consistent 5:22 pace). Kevin Bjerke, the northern South Dakota sensation and Northern State University track & field and cross country coach set a stellar example for his own athletes with a fantastic performance and second place finish. Kevin Mitchell, one of the fastest 40-something studs in the state, finished third,PhotoGrid_1440983540725 and bested pro Morgan Chaffin by 10 seconds. Chaffin brought her A-game north from Nebraska, and she made her presence known with her uber-fast swim. Ethan Marquardt, who has consistently surprised us all with his vast improvement over the 2014 season, rounded out the top five overall.

Pro Morgan Chaffin won the women’s division, stating she enjoyed the course and riding over the Gavin’s Point Dam and rolling her wheels through her home state for a few minutes before speeding her way back to South Dakota. SDTA women’s points leader Kathy Grady finished second by using her overall excellence in all three disciplines to keep an eight-second distance between herself and third-place finisher Nikki Reinsbach. Kimber Pierzchalski once again put on the afterburners on the run and finished fourth place, less than a minute behind Reinsbach. Teresa VanHyfte pushed through the discomfort that can come with the last race as well and rounded out the top five women.

Overall, this race capped off a great season of SDTA races. SD triathlon pioneers Frank Farrar and Howard Bich continued to show us that age is not a factor in the world of triathlon. We also had the pleasure of seeing talent from Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Missouri, as well as from our favorite state in the nation. We saw the gifted young talent of athletes like 15-year-old Ike Mendel (who placed 6th overall) and 14-year-old Sydney Huber (who nearly cracked the top ten women’s field), who have the potential to carry the sport on their shoulders in years to come.

This particular race also successfully showcased the best scenery southeastern South Dakota has to offer with a beautiful run beside the river and a great trek across the dam. Furthermore, the murmurings among athletes post-race revealed that not only did organizers have clear markings on the course, but they had living, breathing, and vocal volunteers to direct participants on where to go. Newbies and veterans alike had no issues with navigation as a result.

More than anything, though, we had the pleasure of seeing the camaraderie among what has to be South Dakota’s friendliest sport. This race welcomed newbies as well as triathletes trying to find their groove once again, as made obvious by the cheers for everyone either emerging from the water or crossing the finish line. The pizza at the finish line made from a great reason to hang out and visit as well. Yankton’s Best Tri solidified the belief that this is a sport worth investing time in.

Those athletes wishing to stretch themselves just a wee bit further have a couple of chances to do so still. The Southern Hills Triathlon will take place at Angostura next weekend, and the Wildlife Loop Half, the longest race with the fattest purse in the state, takes place the weekend after that.

Leave a comment

Filed under Features

Yankton’s Best Tri: the Tri-State Extravaganza

yankton's best tri logo (2)Yankton’s Best Tri will take place this coming Saturday morning, bright and early, featuring a beautiful view of the Missouri River.

There are several reasons why triathletes should consider this race (and why it attracts individuals from more than three different states):

  • Participants swim in Lewis and Clark Lake, an impoundment on the Missouri River. Basically, the water flows in and out, and unlike many of the lake swims in South Dakota, athletes do not have to wade their way through murky, stagnant waters.
  • The bike route crosses state lines. How cool is that. In no other tri in the state can participants challenge the speed limit of two different states. Many will attempt to do just that with this particular race.
  • The run route takes participants along the beautiful (and most likely cooler) trails near Lewis & Clark Lake. That means no road traffic but just the occasional casual cyclist to contend with.
  • It offers a myriad of camping options NOT on Labor Day weekend this year. That means participants may still be able to find a place to pitch a tent.
  • Fresh meat. This race offers competitors from at least three different states because of its tucked-in-the-corner-of-South-Dakota location. Iowegians and Nebraskans alike come to this race, not to mention the occasional wanderer from Illinois.

All in all, this race has much to offer participants. Race organizers have promised a quality event. Considering the fact that they presented one last year with ample volunteers, a carpeted transition area, and a well-marked route along with the promise to improve even more, we anticipate a fun event well worth the $60 entry fee.

Participants will walk away not only with a t-shirt, a finisher medal, and some end-of-the-race nutrition, but also a bit of pride in knowing that their race fees go toward some great causes: youth sports and devices for the hearing impaired. The Sertoma Club members, the impetus behind this race, have made it their mission to make sure all local schools have sound systems specifically for the hearing impaired. The funds made from this race will continue to make this project possible.

With their goal of making the race even better, race organizers have modified a few select elements of the race. In particular, they narrowed down the age groups. Last year’s race awarded participants within a 20-year bracket, whereas this year’s event has categories for individuals in 10-year age brackets, beginning with the 18 and under and ending with the 70 and over.

Additionally, organizers have put together a schnazzy new logo, unlike any other race in the state and one that certainly embodies the unique elements of this event. These kind of details indicate the quality of this event.

All in all, this quality event is worth the drive. The flat and thus fast course will not disappoint, and participants who like to mosey are rewarded with some spectacular views. Plus, we’ll be there with our cameras in hand.

Leave a comment

Filed under Features

Advice from a Pro–Training, Nutrition, and Keeping the Sport Alive

IMG_8591At the ripe of age 37, Minnesota elite David Thompson sounds like an old pro. And in the world of triathlon, while he isn’t ancient, he does have the experience that makes him worth listening to.

Thompson took time out of his schedule to return to the Outland Challenge this past July, and so we snagged him to see exactly what his thoughts were on triathlon in general as well as to dispel some of the rumors we’ve heard about his race nutrition habits.

This laidback pro’s racing career started in 1998 when he and a buddy decided to take up cycling to get a jump start on fitness for track season. They made the snap decision to try a triathlon. Note that Thompson had not had any swim training at that time, and his cycling consisted of the miles he and his equally ambitious friend had done to prep for track season. Like most rural Minnesotans, Thompson had learned to swim just enough to not drown. So they drove down to Waconia, slept in a minivan, and signed up on race day. Thompson was 18 or 19 years old at the time, and his buddy was young enough that Thompson had to sign his waiver. Regardless of his lack of training, Thompson managed to squeak out something like fifth or sixth in his age group and 36th overall. (We did our best to research for this little bit of information, but alas  chip timing and online results did not exist, and quite frankly, Thompson’s lack of a fat ego does not give him a reason to fib. The guy really is humble.)

Clearly Thompson enjoyed the sport, so he persisted. He knew he needed to learn to swim better, so he did this through a team, which, according to Thompson, is a must if you’re going to be competitive in the sport. Group swims will give IMG_0097newbies the best opportunity to see how hard the great swimmers really do swim.

Thompson also recognized the need to have a quality bike. So he took all $900 of his graduation and lawn mowing money and asked the local bike shop for their most expensive bike (which at that time was a bunch of BMX’s). So Thompson pulled out the store catalog, thumbed to the back, and found a Schwinn road bike for around the amount of cash he had. Yes, we said Schwinn.

From that point forward until he went pro in 2004, Thompson continued to trade up in bikes. He’d find older triathletes who were upgrading or getting out of the sport altogether, and he’d buy their used bikes. Then in 2004, he was presented with a great opportunity: the chance to work part-time for Gear West Bike & Triathlon and to race as their pro full time. This was his end game: to see how far he could go in the sport and if he could make a living at it. The opportunity wasn’t even a question, and Thompson has been racing as a pro ever since.

So, what exactly does life look like as a pro? At his peak of training, Thompson would log up to 50 hours a week, but that was an extraordinary week. In season he averaged 15-20 hours, and out of season he’d average 10-15 hours. He notes that training runs in periodization, just like it does for us average triathletes. At this point in his career, Thompson is recognizing the value of minimal training and working smarter and harder rather than longer. He notes the value of the “hard 20-minute” trainer ride that works into a schedule versus bemoaning a schedule that doesn’t allow for uber long rides.

IMG_1176As for right now, Thompson favors swimming over the other two disciplines, mostly because he can do it no matter what the injury he is battling. Cycling is his strength, and he’d enjoy running more if he didn’t have a nagging injury this season. Thompson’s run training, believe it or not, has consisted primarily of the few races that he’s competed in. His fitness is that great. Additionally, Thompson has transitioned more out of the pro-circuit of racing and has taken on the role of (as he puts it) daddy daycare for his two small children.

Thompson’s success certainly comes from his own athletic giftedness but also his genuine laid back attitude towards many aspects that individuals overthink. Take nutrition, for example. We’d heard a rumor that Thompson solidified–McDonald’s plays a part in keeping him fueled. “I use whatever is easy,” states Thompson. He leans towards Gatorade for his short-course hydration, and then he peruses whatever gels are available in the race packet, squirts them into his bottle, gives it a couple of good shakes, and calls himself prepared. For long training rides when he needs some food, he’s been known to swing into a McDonald’s and get whatever calories he can find for four bucks. “If I’m doing Ironman type of rides, you’re working out at a low pace and you have to work out at a threshold where your body can process food, “states Thompson. “I’d much rather eat regular food,” he states with a grin.

Thompson’s wisdom is pretty evident as he begins to wax eloquent about the sport. He has some pretty sage advice for the average age-grouper. Number one on the list: keep the sport fun. And in order to do this, a triathlete needs to simply do the training–“So it doesn’t feel like you’re going to die on race day,” states Thompson. Additionally, Thompson advises those athletes who are going to compete in longer distances to try to find a nice bike. “You can get by on almost anything in a sprint race,” states the uber athlete. Thompson also advocates the concept of training groups. If an athlete really wants to improve, according to this pro, he or she needs to train with a group to see how fast others are and to push himself or herself.

As for now, Thompson seems pretty content in his slowing pace of racing–not that Thompson himself has slowed down, but his racing career certainly has. At his peak he was competing in around 25 events a year, and now he’s looking at 5 or 6. According to Thompson, the pro race simply doesn’t exist like it did back in 2004 when he started, but Thompson also says that he believes the sport runs in cycles. He just had the fortune of succeeding in it during a particularly long cycle. Thompson continues to advocate the need for more individuals to take the mantle for the veteran race directors who want so badly to pass on the passion of the sport to another generation. “The sport is a race, so there will always be someone who wants to see who can go the fastest,” states Thompson. Which simply means that triathlon will need individuals willing to organize events that will bring those fast people together and give them a reason (like a pretty nice purse) to compete.

Thompson praised the Outland Challenge for being such an event. He noted the difficulty of the course, the size of the prize, and the quality of the event. Now, according to Thompson, we need to just figure out how to get South Dakota triathletes to the event.

“Maybe the next Olympian will come from South Dakota,” states Thompson. He notes that in order for this particular feat to happen, though, we need to keep the sport alive, and the best way to do that is to keep competing. Thompson noted that talented and moderate triathletes alike have the potential to inspire young spectators to train and compete as well. Quite simply, to grow the sport, we need to do the sport. “Even if you’re not going to win,” states Thompson, “you can do the race for your health, and you taking part of it keeps it around for the younger people.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Features

Perfect August Weather + Fast Course = Ravineman 2015

PhotoGrid_1438466362462Beautiful days at the peak of triathlon season tend to make endurance athletes feel like they’re limitless. They push hard with nary a thought of heat or wind. Add a flat course to that equation, and times will drop.

That’s what happened this past Saturday in Huron at the 8th SDTA race– Ravineman, the Ravine Lake Triathlon.

As predicted, we saw some phenomenal racing. What we could not predict was the incredible August weather. Temps hovered in the low seventies early in the race, assisted by the 7:30am start. Huron has an historically fast course anyway with a significantly flat bike and run course. Additionally, Huron is a bonus race for all SDTA members, which means any SDTA member who participates and finishes receives double the normal points.

The field was stacked.

Justin Schweitzer displayed his stealth running abilities once again to literally sprint away with the top prize overall. PhotoGrid_1438466668593Schweitzer, while not the fastest swimmer and biker in the field, consistently has posted the fastest run times. The man has a set of wheels for sure. Schweitzer’s overall win and top run time earned him enough points to boost him to the top of the SDTA standings. Ethan Marquardt took advantage of the hometown territory and crowd (and most likely the extra sleep) and came in second overall with the second fastest swim and run. Brandon Zelfer once again eschewed a full night of zzz’s by driving across the prairie from Rapid City during most of the wee hours and still managed a solid third place finish in the men’s field and the fastest swim time. (We plan on checking him for gills at the next event.) The 45-plus group of men rule the latter part of the top ten overall with Kevin Mitchell, Lance Bergeson, and Joel Greve taking fourth, fifth, and sixth place in the men’s field. Despite racing the day before, Jadon Johnson once again posted some impressive times and brought in a seventh place finish for the men while veteran and pioneer triathlete Ken Winter managed to ignore a nagging hip injury and come in eighth. Tony Schwan and Jory Wipf rounded out the top ten for the men.

The women’s race also posted some nice times with two women finishing in the top ten overall. Pro Morgan Chaffin crossed the Nebraska border and came in third overall and first in the women’s field. Chaffin gave the men a run for their money, posting the third fastest swim and bike times and the fourth fastest run time. She may be an Ironman, but she can also still put out some impressive short course performances. Current SDTA women’s leader Kathy Grady came in ninth overall, giving herself a nice boost in the points race. Kimber Pierzchalski sprinted her way past her foes in the run and came in third for the women. Teresa VanHyfte, one of the three fastest females in her forties in the state came in fourth, while Nebraskan Renee Spencer rounded out the top five. The final five of the top ten looked all too familiar for this race: Hanna Wahl represented the teens well with her sixth-place finish, and Lisa Murphy, Laura Zumhofe, and Emily Satter, all Sanford Wellness team members, came in seventh, eighth, and ninth, proving that training as a group definitely makes triathletes stronger. Hannah Carlson, who’s been making her presence slowly known throughout the season, finished tenth in the women’s field.

For those who have never raced Ravineman, it’s a race worth checking out in our opinion. It has one of the most spectator friendly venues of all the races in South Dakota, with a small enough swimming area that family and friends can keep an eye on their athletes easily. The lake sits low beneath a grassy hill where spectators set up small camps of chairs and blankets between the transition area and the swim. A spectator only has to rotate his head to see his favorite athlete transition to the bike and then out to the run.

Great job both to the participants and organizers at Ravineman. It surpassed expectations once again.

The next race in South Dakota will take place August 15th, the Xterra Iron Creek Triathlon, an off-road experience near Spearfish. This venue would give the pavement-softened triathlete a whole new experience of mountain biking and running on dirt trails. It’s worth checking out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Race Reports