Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Wildlife Loop Tri: Sweat, Tears, and the Occasional Curse Word


Jared Miliam of Superior, Colorado, took home the men’s $800 purse at the 2015 Wildlife Loop Tri.

Thick steam rose off Stockade Lake early Saturday morning as stocking-cap and hoodie clad athletes began to wheel their bikes toward the bike racks and meticulously set up their transition areas. The outer gear of spectators, athletes, and volunteers alike mimicked the gear of those who dared to take on the only 70.3 distance in South Dakota last year. This time around, though, once the sun crested the bank of trees that surrounded the lake and the athletes had donned their wetsuits, temperatures began to rise quickly, and athletes mentally prepared for ideal racing weather. Before participants knew it, the race director had given them the short countdown along with a loud, punctuated, “Go,” and the 2nd Annual Wildlife Loop Triathlon was underway.

The Wildlife Loop Triathlon has features like none other in the Great Faces, Great Places state. Nearly the entire race took place in Custer State Park and featured the combination of rolling hills, steep rock faces, and thick evergreens that photographers use to showcase in tourist brochures and websites. As one Coloradan stated, “It’s beautiful!” The breath-taking scenery worked well to mitigate the pain caused by a tough and long course.

Ironically, many a racer included the phrases “hardest bike course I’ve ever ridden” in the same sentence with “I’ll do it again.” Our photographer, who stationed himself at the end of the bike course, also reported that he heard a litany of choice words regarding the difficulty of the bike course from many an athlete at that point in the race.

The fittest of the fit showed up for this event. A great deal of the field donned their spandex with confidence thanks to the serious lack of body fat and immense amount of muscle on each participant. This was no slacker’s race. Jared Milam of Superior, Colorado took home the fattest prize purse with a time of 4:07:45. We’re guessing his bike split of 2:33 had something to do with this incredible time. Kosuke Amano of Fort Collins, Colorado took second in 4:16:55, and Josh Terwoord also of Fort Collins, Colorado took third with a time of 4:19:00.


Wendy Mader of Fort Collins, Colorado took home the women’s first place prize.

The women’s race was equally as competitive. Amanda Hunter of Billings, Montana was the first woman out of water and onto her bike and first on the run. We’re pretty sure there’s titanium somewhere under Hunter’s skin. She had one cyclist go down in front of her, and then she went head-over-handlebars in the process of avoiding him. She dusted herself off, checked her bike, and then pedaled on to transition. (Incidentally, our sources tell us that after the race Hunter received a ride to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a concussion and received three stitches). Unfortunately, Hunter’s mettle only lasted so long. On the run Wendy Mader of Fort Collins overtook her and ultimately took home the women’s prize purse with a time of 4:59:20. (Mader has a pretty vivid account of the event at her blog.) Hunter came in second at 5:12:46, and Jennifer Reiter also of Billings came in third at 5:18:57.

Have we mentioned how strong these athletes were? Seven athletes kept their bike times under three hours on the toughest bike course for hundreds of miles.

This year’s race did have a couple of small hiccups. About a week before the event, race director Brandon Zelfer received word that the chip timing company he contracted with had double booked themselves for the weekend and would be backing out of his event. Zelfer scrambled to find another company. In the end, volunteers with stop watches served as a substitute for chips and timing mats. Additionally, due to some miscommunication with volunteers, participants ended up cutting a couple miles off the run, so participants consistently ended up running around 11.3 miles versus the traditional 13.1. However, no one complained too much. The bike course takes that much out of the legs.

We look to see small tweaks in the 2016 Wildlife Loop that will only make this 70.3 even better. A great deal of out-of-staters took on the 2015 challenge. We see no reason why South Dakotans can’t amp it up a bit and show up for 2016. With such a fat purse, we expect to continue to see great competition in the coming years. Beauty and bucks will keep the athletes coming.

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Winner winner WINNER! : the 2015 SDTA series champs

PhotoGrid_1441165603946The 2015 SDTA season had both the predictable and surprising outcomes–something that makes it worth paying attention to and also something that gives hope to those aspiring to rise above the middle of the pack.

The 2014 Newcomer of the year, Justin Schweitzer, is the 2015 Series Champ. Schweitzer used his much-improved swim along with his already uber-quick feet to start near the top of the field and then literally run down any competition that he hadn’t already overtaken. Here are Schweitzer’s accomplishments for the season: 2nd in Brookings; 1st in Aberdeen, 1st at Kampeska; 1st at Ravine Lake; 1st in Yankton. Additionally, Schweitzer often earned bonus points by having the fastest run of the day.

Brandon Zelfer, the west-river sensation, earned second place. Zelfer has a strong game overall, with a balanced attack at the swim, bike, and run. In particular, Zelfer showed off his swimming skills at the Outland Challenge, where he went around the Olympic-distance buoys so fast he finished just as the sprint women were starting. Here are Zelfer’s accomplishments in the series: 1st at I’m Ready for Summer Tri; 1st in Madison; 1st in Dakotaman; 2nd at Kampeska; 1st in Oly at Outland; 4th overall (3rd Male) at Ravine Lake;

Kevin Mitchell earned third place in the series. Word on the street is Mitchell put in a great deal of time in the strength and plyometrics department in the off season. His work clearly paid off, as he bested competitors decades younger than him consistently. Here are Mitchell’s accomplishments: 3rd in Brookings; 2nd in Aberdeen; 2nd in Madison; 4th at Kampeska; 2nd in sprint at Outland; 5th overall at Ravine Lake (4th male); 3rd in Yankton. Additionally, we most enjoyed watching Mitchell transition from the bike to the run. He consistently posted the best T2 time, literally taking seconds to move smoothly from one discipline to the next. And in sprints, we all know that seconds matter lots.

Ethan Marquardt, the 2015 Most-Improved Winner, can also add fourth place overall to his tri resume. Marquardt consistently placed at least in the top ten if not the top five of the races, and he podiumed at nearly every event in his age group. Here are Marquardt’s accomplishments: 6th in Aberdeen; 3rd in Madison; 6th at Dakotaman; 3rd at Wall Lake; 2nd at Ravine Lake; 4th in Yankton.

Michael Martin, future Ironman (we’ll be watching him compete from afar at Wisconsin this weekend), podiumed at every race he competed in, proving that a person doesn’t need to complete every race, but he just needs to do great in the ones he toes. Here are Martin’s accomplishments: 3rd in Aberdeen; 3rd at Dakotaman; 2nd at Wall Lake; 3rd at Kampeska. Good luck this weekend, Michael!

The women’s race aptly showcased the most athletic women we PhotoGrid_1441166733195know in this state. Triathlon Legend Kathy Grady brought home countless wins throughout the season, placing either first or second in each race in which she competed. In fact, the few times that Kathy found herself on the second place slots occurred only when those out-of-state pros showed up. Here’s Grady’s accomplishments: 1st at I’m ready for Summer in Brookings; 1st in Aberdeen; 1st in Madison; 1st at Dakotaman; 1st at Kampeska; 2nd in Outland; 2nd at Ravine Lake; 2nd in Yankton.

The 2014 Most Improved Woman, Kimber Pierzchalski, earned second place in the women’s division of the series. Pierzchalski’s increasingly faster performances earned her increasingly more points and allowed her to rise to this podium spot. Here are Pierzchalski’s accomplishments: 4th in Brookings ; 5th in Aberdeen; 3rd in Madison; 2nd at Dakotaman; 2nd at Wall Lake; 3rd at Kampeska; 3rd in Outland; 3rd at Ravine Lake; 4th in Yankton.

Teresa Van Hyfte earned third place in the series, also often earning a podium spot at her chosen races and certainly earning podium spots in her age group. Here are Van Hyfte’s accomplishments in the series: 2nd in Brookings; 2nd in Aberdeen; 2nd in Madison; 4th at Dakotaman; 3rd at Wall Lake; 2nd at Kampeska; 4th at Ravine Lake; 5th in Yankton.

The freakishly fit Nikki Reinsbach racked up enough points in the three races in which she competed to earn fourth place in the series. Reinsbach kept the upper three athletes running faster as she often found herself literally nipping at their heels at races. Reinsbach not only completed but also won her first Olympic-distance triathlon at the Outland Challenge. Here are Reinsbach’s season accomplishments: 3rd at Dakotaman; 1st in Oly at Outland; 3rd in Yankton.

Hannah Carlson, a relative newcomer to the series, made her presence known as well. Carlson took time out of a busy summer camp schedule (she and her triathlete husband Josh run a camp near Aberdeen in the summer) to compete successfully in four different races this series. Here are Carlson’s accomplishments: 3rd in Brookings; 5th at Dakotaman; 3rd in Oly at Outland; 10th at Ravine Lake.

The most surprising part of this year’s top-five athletes are that they are not the same names we saw last year. In fact, in both the women’s and the men’s race, three of the top five athletes are different than the 2014 top five. This makes us believe that our sport is indeed continuing to grow. Competition continues to make triathletes stronger for sure, and we look forward to seeing who will rise to the top in the coming years.

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Faster: The SDTA’s Most-Improved Athletes

PhotoGrid_1441565470674Consistency matters. In fact, in sports in general, repeated positive training efforts will ultimately trump giftedness nearly every time. Because a gift only lasts a while. But the habits of discipline last forever.

This year’s Most Improved athletes clearly found some discipline in the off season. Both performed well but not exceptionally in the 2014 season. However, in 2015 both of these athletes repeatedly podiumed not only in their age brackets but also overall.

The SDTA’s 2015 Most Improved awards go to Kimber Pierzchalski and Ethan Marquardt.

Marquardt debuted his skills in Madison where he ran such a fast time, we wondered if he had maybe mis-navigated the course. But Marquardt proved us wrong by consistently rolling out some super-fast run splits not to mention some solid bike and swims. As mentioned in previous articles, we found ourselves especially inspired by Marquardt at the Lake Kampeska Tri. He did not podium in his age bracket or overall. But he did do something no one else did: he carried his bike with its flat tire four miles and then put on the afterburners, finishing with a run just 35 seconds shy of the top run of the day.

Pierzchalski competed in the inaugural SDTA series last year as well in a couple of races. However, this year she put some serious time into the off season, joining the Sanford Tri Team and clearly benefiting from the group swims and PhotoGrid_1441565511438bikes. We saw Pierzchalski at nearly every SDTA race. Most impressively, though, was her fifth place finish at the Wolves Tri in Aberdeen just one day after she finished eighth in the women’s division at the Brookings Half Marathon. Kimber has some wheels for sure, and she just continued to surprise her competitors (and us) with her increasing speed throughout the season.

Congratulations to both Kimber Pierzchalski and Ethan Marquardt for their stellar seasons, grit, and outstanding discipline. You make us all want to improve.

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Not for the Faint of Heart: the Wildlife Loop Half

wildlife loop water

The 2014 swim looked much different than the current view of Stockade Lake.

September often means the downswing for most triathletes, with nothing but a couple of fun runs scheduled for the fall but in general the relaxation that accompanies the off season. But cooler temps and changing colors do not have to mean all bikes find themselves plopped on a trainer. In fact, many a triathlete in the state actually have trained for September. Enter the Wildlife Loop Tri, the only half-ironman distance triathlon in South Dakota.

The Wildlife Loop Tri is entering its second year of existence after a successful inaugural year in 2014 and will take place on Saturday, September 12. Those who completed the Tri last year will most likely never forget the challenge they overcame. One athlete even claimed it was harder than an Ironman completed earlier in the summer. Thankfully this year’s forecast does not call for snow the weak before the event.

The swim in Stockade Lake takes athletes on a two-loop, counter-clockwise route around the perfunctory, massive orange buoys. Again, forecasts indicate no one will be breaking their way through ice this year. Water temps typically hover in the mid-60s this time of year, so participants should familiarize themselves with their wetsuits before toeing the line on Saturday.

custer awesome moustache

You never know what kind of awesome facial hair you’ll find on those tris west of the Missouri.

Race organizers promise great markings and easy navigation on the bike course, which is good considering the difficulty of the course. Not only do participants bike 56 miles, but they bike 56 Black-Hills-style miles. In fact, word on the street has it that road bikes work just as well if not better than the speedy tri bikes. Those risk takers haven’t experienced a hairpin turn before will navigate one here, along with some wicked ascents and descents. Participants who enjoy shifting gears will love this course.

The two loop run course skirts the lake and includes the lauded Mickelson Trail. The course has two aid stations set up, but because of the out-and-back nature of the course, participants will see these great volunteers multiple times. While participants won’t be climbing Harney Peak, they need to prepare themselves for the rigors that the Black Hills offers anyone brave enough to tackle its trails.

If this particular race sounds hard and you’re wondering exactly why anyone would put his body through such punishment, one thing may answer our question: cha-ching. The purse for this race is significant. The male and female winners each will receive $800. Second place will win $400, and third place $300, for both the men and the women.

We also suspect that as this race continues on in the years to come, individuals may simply look at the Wildlife Loop Tri as a badge of toughness to add to their race belts. We certainly would.

If you’re an endurance junkie and can cover the distance, it’s not too late to test your mettle and join the forty-some odd athletes that have already agree to challenge themselves.

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60-above: the Strong Seniors

60 and over menWhile the world around us calls the 60+ age group “seniors,” triathlon prefers the term “grand masters.” After all, in the world of triathlon, even World Triathlon Corporation has made a category for individuals above 80. Our 60+ group are really just a bunch of kids.

John Zumhofe won the men’s 60+ division with his consistent effort. Zumhofe, a four-time Ironman finisher, raced in a decent handful of races, and when he did, he consistently found himself standing on the top spot of the podium for his age bracket.

Greg Taylor, the multiple-time Ironman Age-Group champ, took time out of his busy schedule of training for the 2015 World Championship to race in a few different sprints. Those who haven’t met Greg need to. This guy’s energy is contagious, and he has more war stories from triathlon than cyclist have water bottles. Each one reveals not only his personal mettle, but the strength required in triathlon overall. And quite frankly, it’s inspiring.

Rex Keller brought home third-place honors in the men’s 60+ division. Keller often toed the line with his daughter, Kimberly and represented the Sanford Wellness Center’s program with dignity and strength.

The women’s 60+ division found a handful of women competing in the local sprints, but unfortunately none were SDTA members. So if you’re a grandmaster female and want to earn some money and notariety for your accomplishment, join the Association. You’ll find yourself encouraged by the group and inspiring those around you.

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