Race Coverage

Deep Woods Off & Crazy Ivans...


By David Leard

 Chisago Lakes Half Ironman Race Report – 1.2-mile Swim, 56-mile Bike, 13.1-mile Run. When I went Paradise Park in Chisago City on Saturday for packet pick-up, cars were parked all over the place. My first thought was “I need to get here at about 4:30 tomorrow for any hope of finding a decent parking spot.” I made my hotel reservation late in the spring and had to stay about 20 minutes away, just across the state line in Wisconsin, in a spot with almost no cell phone signal. Set my alarm clock for 3:15 AM – and pretty much didn’t sleep during the night. Kept dozing off, waking up, checking the time, realized I forgot to bring a banana for breakfast and would that throw my whole race off, wondering if you bred spiders in low gravity in outer space in 100% oxygen atmosphere and relatively cool environment could they grow huge in size? Has NASA already tried this in the ISS?

Finally, at 3AM I just decided to get up and get moving. I could always take a nap in the car after securing a parking space. Double dose of oatmeal with blueberries, a slice of bread with peanut butter, coffee, and no banana, for breakfast. Loaded the bike. Headed to the race site. Arrived at just about 4:30, only two other cars in the parking lot. Perfect. Now that I’m back in Minnesota, I have cell phone coverage, so I checked the news and weather until the Transition Area opened at 4:45. The weather forecast was looking good. Temps in the 60’s and 70’s, partly cloudy, storms and rain supposed to hold off until the early evening.

Who comes to an event at a lake in Minnesota in pre-dawn hours and DOESN’T bring Bug Spray? Pretty much everyone but me, I guess. The Mosquito is the State Bird, for crying out loud. I became the most popular person in the transition area once it became known I had a can of Deep Woods Off. HAD being the nominal word. It’s empty now....


After setting up my gear, I got in a short warm-up run. Then put on my wet suit and headed to the beach. After swimming an easy couple of hundred yards I was thinking “I could swim really fast today if I wanted. But remember this is 1.2 miles, so stick to the race plan.” The race plan was “Go steady for the whole race and don’t do anything stupid so you make it to the end.”

bikerack.jpgThe swim start corral was only about 10 yards wide, and we were going off in waves of 100 people. I was several people back when the start horn sounded. Into the water. “Frog in a Washing Machine” for the first 100 yards. Felt like Ironman Wisconsin all over again. Except it did eventually start to clear out.

Most of the swim went well. I just hit a steady pace and kept going. After making the final turn towards shore on the triangle-shaped course, a swallowed a big mouthful of water and started gagging. Fought off that momentary panic by reminding myself I’m not going to drown. You float chest deep in your wetsuit, remember? Quickly back in rhythm. Checked my watch when my first foot hit the beach – 36:05. Dang, one of my fastest swims ever.

So, feeling pretty good about the start, I rolled out onto the bike. Just kept to the plan of keeping a steady pace. That plan was interrupted occasionally by all the slower riders who were doing the Sprint race. Their swim was considerably shorter, and we were all starting the bike at the same time. I was glad for the reduced traffic after they turned off and headed back to the park.

At about the 20-mile mark I see a racer down over an embankment laying next to his bike. He obviously isn’t changing a flat tire. I yell out “Are you OK” and got no response. I stopped and went over to him. He’s conscious and alert. Doesn’t have any noticeable injuries. “I think I broke my clavicle. I blew a tire and crashed.” “Well, just stay down and I’ll try to get help.” A moment later another guy stopped. He had a cell phone on him. “Is there an emergency number for the race or should I call 911.” Me “He thinks he broke his collar bone. Just call 911.” A minute or two later a Sheriff Vehicle pulled up. Turns out we were only about half a mile from a major intersection where they were monitoring traffic. By then the guy was up and walking around talking about getting back on his bike. Emergency personnel on site. My work here is through. Back to the race.

benrain.pngThe only other excitement on the bike was when I dropped a Gatorade bottle at about mile 40. It was one of those skinny ones that don’t fit in your bottle cage real well. Slipped out the side as I was putting it back. I was going to turn around and retrieve it but 1) I was going pretty fast at the time and more importantly 2) There’s a bunch of people directly behind me so pulling a Crazy Ivan maneuver (from The Hunt for Red October) runs the risk of causing a big crash. Just hope they don’t penalize me for littering.

I’ve either got to get a refit on my bike, adjust the saddle, spend more time doing upper body work in the weight room, or all the above. In this race you REALLY spend most of the time out over the Aero Bars. I kept sliding forward on the saddle which increases the weight on your arms with a net result that my arms and shoulders started giving out long before my legs started feeling tired. But I made it back to transition.

Out onto the run. 13.1-miles of the Airborne Shuffle, or is it the Curly Shuffle? Keep your heart rate between 145 and 150 and just keep moving forward. Gatorade at the aid stations until Mile 10 when you switch to water only. Pop a Gu Shot at the turn-around. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT A KICK until Mile 11 when you see how you feel. Pretty simple race strategy.

It started raining at the 5-mile mark with a little thunder. So much for holding off until the evening. Well, at least I don’t have to dump any more water over my head to keep cool. I remember this course as being flat. Where did all these little hills suddenly come from? Made the turn around and headed back to the finish. I sure hope it DOESN’T quit raining and the Sun DOESN’T come out or it is going to get muggy as hell.

I checked my watch and realized I could still come in under 5:30 if a did a couple relatively fast miles at the end. The kick at Mile 11 lasted almost to Mile 12, when I talked myself into remembering if I subtract the 5 minutes I lost helping the guy who crashed his bike, I would finish well under 5:30. Works for me. Let’s just take this one home.

Crossed the Finish Line at 5:30:07. After a 4-year hiatus from racing a Long Course, a couple nagging injuries and that bike crash (exactly two years ago today), my time was right there with my other 6 Half Iron races (Fastest Half 5:15, Slowest 5:31). Experience and Muscle Memory must count for something because I haven’t put in nearly the miles or laps this year as I have in the past because my main goal was just to get to the start line to give myself a shot at finishing. Finished right in the middle of the pack for my age group. Surprisingly, my swim and bike splits were actually faster than when I did the race in 2011.

No pancakes like they did back in 2011. I guess they don’t do that anymore. Bummer. I was looking forward to those. Chicken sandwich (or pork, I’m not sure, I ate before all cognitive functions had completely rebooted), chips, watermelon and Coke for the post-race meal. You could go to the local bar for a free post-race beer. But it was about 100-yards from the car, which at the time seemed like a really long way to go for just one beer. And having been up since 3AM, and now having to drive straight to the Penn State Alumni Association Student Send-Off Picnic, which I was already going to be late for, I didn’t think a beer would be a good idea. (But don’t worry. I had a fresh 12-pack of Summit EPA waiting at home).

Next Race: 24 August – Maple Grove Olympic – this year’s USA Triathlon (USAT) Regional Championship.

ED. The guy running in the rain is Ben Harding. Awesome shot. We had to post it.

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