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Sunday: 10am - 5pm

2014 Birkie Trail Marathon Recap

For many of us, the Birkie trail is one of the great local destinations.  I've spent so much time out there skiing, biking and running that I'm just overwhelmed by a good and positive feeling even on the drive up to Hayward.  Saturday the 27th was the Birkie trail marathon, a very difficult trail marathon that takes place right as the colors are starting to turn.  These autumn marathons are a blast.  It's good for the soul to get out there and spend your whole day in the forest watching the sunlight illuminate the vibrant falling leaves.  There's no better way to enjoy our beautiful Midwest Fall season than to run a marathon during the peak colors, and if you do The Birkie Trail Marathon, The Twin Cities Marathon, and the Gandy Dancer Marathon, you're guaranteed to be running peak colors in at least one of them.

I've been planning on doing this marathon all summer, but on Friday I had a quick look at the Birkie web page to see if there was anything new I should know.  I quickly noticed a sign saying that there were no race day registrations.  "That's OK," I thought, "I registered a long time ago."  I proceeded to look through my emails to find a confirmation email, and darn it if all of my searches didn't turn up blank. Annoyed, I eventually called up the Birkie office to find that I hadn't, in fact, registered.  Fortunately I caught the oversight and got signed up, otherwise it would have been embarrassing to show up a the start with my friends and not be able to go.

I do always try to pre-register for events because it eases a significant burden for race directors, and it's always significantly cheaper.  Having participated in the organization of several events, I can attest that any funds coming in are greatly appreciated, and honestly early bird fees are often offered for less than it costs to put on the event.  Even if you don't end up doing the event, you'll save a significant amount of money over time by adopting the policy of pre-registering (and if you don't end up participating, just consider your entry fee a donation to the maintenance of all the great trails we have to enjoy).

This year's Birkie Trail marathon started at Birkie Ridge.  I'd never been to this location before, but it's an awesome spot.  It's pretty clear that the Birkie Office is planning on moving the Birkie start to this location at some point due to the fact that the availability of Telemark is a big question mark every year, and starting at Telemark also requires a series of easements to be able to secure the course.  I fully support the idea of eventually starting the race at Birkie Ridge.  The trails connect to the Birkie trail very quickly, and it's a more convenient location logistically.

We set off on a nice, cool morning with an expected high around 75 (it got a little warmer).  Eric Olson and I were running this one at a moderate pace because there are a couple other big marathons coming up.  This was to be Eric's 60th marathon, which is quite a remarkable achievement.  He didn't mention it until after he had already finished, however, because he's a humble guy and he didn't want to jinx the effort.  I was honored to snap his photo at the end when number 60 was in the books.  Congratulations Eric!
This year, the race ended up being a mile short.  My GPS read 25.03 at the finish, which was fine by me since this event is so hilly and difficult.    We ran on quite a bit of singletrack, so it is possible that the course registered short on the GPS because of lost signal interference (the GPS measures straight lines from signal points, so if signal points are missed the overall course is registered as shorter than reality).  However, there was no mile 16 marker out on the trail, so I'm inclined to believe the course was short.  Still, that's fine, I was shot at the end.

It got pretty hot as we ran towards the finish, and the water stations were fairly sparse on this race.  This is definitely one to carry a bottle or a hydration pack.  At one point I was running along with Jason and Eric on a bit of singletrack when I saw our trail approached the Birkie trail.  In the distance I could hear a vehicle approaching, so I crawled through some bush and waved them down to get some water.  I filled up my bottle twice from this mobile water station, and it ended up being perfect.  Had I not run into those guys, the water situation would have gotten ugly.

But hey, you can't complain.  The trail was in awesome shape with almost zero wet spots, and the scenery was stunning.  At various points my other Cyclova buds spread out over the course, but we reunited on the trail close to the end and finished together (way behind Ben and Starr who crushed us).  Starr was running her first marathon, an awesome achievement on a difficult course!  Congratulations Starr!
As always, the Birkie trail marathon has a great spread of food and beer at the finish.  Bring a couple extra bucks since only the first beer is free and one beer isn't enough.

There is no better way to enjoy a fall day than to go out and run a marathon.  The Birkie trail is such a challenging course that I have no intention of ever attempting a fast time up there.  The three of us finished in around 6 hrs, which was fine by me.  Enjoy the day, enjoy the colors, and come in with enough energy left over to enjoy the beer!  Hey, if I can send some cash to the Birkie office, support the trails, and have a day like this, I'm a happy man.

To make things even better, when I got home, my kids had made this congratulatory sign for me out of chalk (they also used chalk to turn my car into a "race car"...but that's a different story).  Having kids is awesome:
I'll be back for this in 2015.  If you want to read about the 2013 event, click here!

Gandy Marathon Course Record Certificate

Hey Everybody!

The Gandy Marathon is rapidly approaching and things are getting hectic with the final preparations.  We LOVE it!  We're dedicated to making this the kind of event people plan their whole autumn around. 

Because this is an inaugural event, course records are going to be set in every division and we intend to honor our record holders with the above certificate.  The fact that this is a small race doesn't diminish the value of the achievement.  Even if your record only lasts for one year, you'll always be able to say that you held the fastest time in a division of the Gandy Dancer Marathon.  That's pretty cool!  And you'll also have the certificate to prove it!

Awards will be offered in the following divisions for both the full and the half and for both men and women:

15 & Under

Remember our course has been USATF certified, reference # WI14032DM.  This means we are a Boston Qualifier!

There's still time to register.  Click here to sign up for the full, half or 5k!  Remember that proceeds go to the Luck Fire Department!

Also, I'd like to thank a late round of sponsors.  Putting on an event like this incurs a lot of expenses, and we wouldn't be able to do it without help:

Thanks again, and see you all on October 11th!

My Seasonal Epitaph

I have seen a great many things this year.  Brand new race venues, results of going gluten free...
Goodbye hip chub!

...and the predictable results of going not-so-gluten free.  
Hello hip chub...

It’s been an extraordinary summer to say the least, chockablock full of sensational highs and sometimes disappointing lows.  However, I am incredibly grateful to my 2014 Sponsors for their support, and am anxiously looking forward to the 2015 season!

I made a pact with myself that I would try new things this year.  I would stop shying away from races that I felt “were kinda far away”.  I would accept invitations to ride with more people and break outside my comfortable and established ride posse.  I would continue to work on my technical ability and truly hone it in.  You see, it’s all part of my grand scheme to get back to expert women level within the next couple years.  I know it is possible, it’s just a matter of training and getting my lungs and hill-climbing legs back.  Oh and that post-baby hip chub.  That needs to go as well.  Granted, that’s easier said than done when you work full-time, have a toddler, and have a husband who is equally addicted to riding and competing.    Time management is huge – and frankly, I suck at it. 

This weekend was St. Cloud.  Typically the finale of the Minnesota series, “The Cloud”, as I call it, is my perfect course.  As an aside, Red Wing was rescheduled to October 19th, but I have a prior commitment and cannot attend.   So this was my series farewell.  The Jail Trail is tight, twisty, and requires some negotiating skill.  I've got skill all day long in that department.  Plus, it’s relatively flat, so it’s quite possibly my dream course come true. 

After the long haul there, I managed to get a pristine parking spot.  As I was getting settled, this super friendly-yet-quiet mountain bike man got out of his truck and greeted me with aplomb.  He had the quietest, most peaceful voice I've ever heard.  I wondered if he might start whispering to his bike.  Then he shook my hand and nearly crushed it.  I decided this man was incredibly confusing to my radar, and slowly started backing away.  In his faint, melodic voice, he told me how his rear tire was losing pressure.  I did the proper racer move of offering a tube and after his gracious denial, we parted ways.  Yeah, that guy ended up doing incredibly well.  Maybe he truly was a bike whisperer? 

Before heading to the line, I pre-rode the course with some of the fiercest Sport ladies Lori Belz and Tina Olson.  Gary Simon, a strong rider in his own right, also came along for the ride.  Along the way, we also gained some random Sport rider who grabbed the back of the line and just seemed happy flying through the trees with us.  I am fairly confident that little pre-ride loosened up my legs and kept me focused.  It also didn't hurt that I finally, FOR ONCE, was able to keep up with the Belz/Olson train.  My confidence was flicked into high gear just in time for the start.

After the short prologue, the lap dove right into pristine singletrack.  I had some serious time on my two direct competitors in my age after the first lap, and started to feel like this was my day.  This was the day I was going to get 1st in my age with a full podium.  This was the day that all those tough girls I race with every weekend finally saw me as real competition.  This was the day I showed them who I used to be and give them a glimpse into who I will become! 

Then I heard something.  I thought I hit something.  Or I thought I something got caught in my wheel.  It’s funny how in that moment, once you hear something grind – you immediately hop off and think of the dollar signs.  “How much are XO derailleurs?  Nah, you’d get XTR because they’re just as good and more affordable.  Man, I just got this chain!  Oh no, Chad’s going to be pissed.  He got me this chain as a romantic present because it was diamond-like coated from KMC. Aww, remember that?  That was such a sweet gesture.  He really loves me.  WAIT! Focus!  Get your chain unjammed.” 

So I futzed with it, realizing that the more I tried to work it, the more it seemed to jam.  

Midway through my epic swear-session, elite racer Ryan Fitzgerald and Comp racer Rob Belz mozied by on their warm-up.  Like true gentlemen, they offered to do what they could to get me back in the race.  Right then, one of the girls I was competing against rode by me.  Of course, she was an absolute sweetheart and asked if I was alright.  Right away in my head, I thought – DANGIT!  It’s going to take some work to catch her.  About a minute later, along came Kelci, my direct competition in the points race for the series.  Without thinking, I shook my fist in the air and shouted “KELCI NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”.  
Kirk felt my pain.

She sort of giggled (she's probably one the cutest racers in the world) and sped on by.  That’s when I knew I was screwed.  Goodbye points race.  Goodbye showing all the ladies I’m fierce.  Goodbye top of the podium.  It was a heartbreaking realization knowing that they’d all finish and I wouldn't.  It was like being invited to the cool kid’s sleepover party, peeing your pants and having to have your parents come pick you up in the middle of the night because you just couldn't handle it.  I was absolutely gutted.

After that moment, I was pretty sure my race day was done.  However, I have a no DNF rule with very minimal exceptions. I've only DNF’d four races in the 5 years I've been racing.  In my opinion, that’s four too many.  I was told after my concussion at Red Wing in 2011 that I demanded to finish the race as long as Chad promised to clear up the velociraptors I saw in the field section.  Needless to say, I do not like to quit. 

Ryan, in his attempt to get going again on his pre-ride, patted my shoulder sympathetically and left me with these immortal words:  “I once ran 5 miles to finish the Ore to Shore ya know”.  Well, crap.  What am I supposed to do with that information?  If I start walking out of the course to the finish (which was 500 ft. away) – people would understand of course, but there would be this giant failure over my head for my last race of the season.  I’d have to drive home all teary-eyed and explain how I just didn't finish.  I’d be forever haunted by “Ryan ran 5 miles to finish!” 

So, Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Belz pedaled on, and I kicked a rock pretty dang hard…just so the world knew I was mad.  Then, I loosened up my middle Velcro on my shoes, and started running. 

I was about six miles from the finish, give or take a few hundred yards.  Granted, there was a fair amount of walking; as my inner depression would run rampant and I would just sort of push my bike in protest and disgust.  Every time a marathon racer would pass me, they’d ask if I was okay and I’d mumble “it’s just the bike”.  Tear.  Sniffle.  Anger. 

My favorite comp racer, (I call him Lifetime Guy, because I know he wears a Lifetime jersey but I can never remember his name), asked what I was doing as he passed me on his warm-up.  “I’m finishing!” I said, like a snotty eleven year-old.  “You've got a long ways to go, kiddo!” he shouted back. 

All in all, I approached the finish line just as they were announcing elite call-ups.  My feet were in so much pain that I could barely hobble.  The blisters on my ankles from my stiff shoes had ripped open and were bleeding.  (Next year, I won’t be getting white shoes).  I had also stumbled into some sort of sticker bush when I hopped out of the way for a passing racer.  Those stickers had dug themselves into my shorts and created friction blisters on the tops of my quads on both legs.  My no-DNF mantra was upheld for one more day, but at what cost?  I was all bloody like a True Blood extra.

But at the end of the day, it was a race story worth telling.  That’s why we all do this crazy silent sport business, isn't it?   Of course, there’s the fitness and the nature and all that jazz.  But really, we all love telling our adventure stories.  We love captivating someone momentarily with our brevity, our determination, and our passion.  We ride to feel alive. 

There are still plenty of fun races ahead for the fall, but St. Cloud marks the completion of my required competition for my sponsorships, so I tend to see it as the completion of the season.  2nd in my age for the entire season isn't a terrible way to end the year, so I feel pretty content.  How is your XC season winding up? Or are you one of those hybrid hummingbirds with the 180 bpm heart rate out there ripping it up as a CX racer all autumn long?  Or are you begging for snow?  Regardless, keep calm and pedal on.

Reminder: Skull-n-Bones Gravel Challenge Tomorrow!

Hey Folks!

Just a quick reminder that Chris Locke's Skull-n-Bones Gravel Challenge is happening tomorrow (Saturday, September 20th) in Bruce Wisconsin.  This is the culmination of a year's worth of preparation (check out the pre-ride we did a couple months ago), and from what I've seen this is going to be a stellar event!

Here is a useful map of the starting area:
Here's some starting instructions from Chris:
Quick rundown of map for tomorrow morning. There are 3 places in town to park hi-lighted on the map. No parking in front of the fire hall. If there is a call we need to keep the aria clear for fire trucks to get out. There will be a sign in and cue sheet pick up starting at 6:00 in the meeting room located on the east side of the fire hall. You may leave any time after you sign in or wait for the start of your individual event. 100 at 8:00 / 50 at 8:30 and 25 at 9:00. Thank you and safe travels.
Also check out the Facebook Event page here, and the fan page here and the group here.

Have a great ride tomorrow!

Interested In A Ski Camp in January (in the Czech Republic)?

Most of you probably know that a few years ago I did the Inca trail with World Champion cross-country skier Martin Koukal.  Martin is still an active skier and has participated in the last two American Birkebeiners finishing 5th and 8th.  He's very prominently featured in this video (which is awesome if you haven't seen it):
I just received a message from Martin about a cross-country ski camp he is offering in the Czech Republic in January.  The dates are January 4 to the 12th and the price is US $1,100.  You'd also have to pay the price of a ticket to the Czech Republic.  Lodging is included in the quoted price, so it doesn't seem that bad for an 8 day trip.

Martin said something about having a group cancel, so I think he's looking to fill a void in his schedule.  The downside is that he needs to decide in two weeks.

This is one of those cases where I'd be absolutely all in if I didn't have a wife and kids to take care of, but as it is, it's tough to get away.  Still, I thought I'd throw this notice on here in case any of you were looking for an excuse to do an awesome skiing adventure in the Czech Republic in January.  Here is the .pdf he sent me with all the details:

If any of you are curious about this or want to discuss it further, just let me know.  My email is  We'd have to get a fair number of people to make this happen...gosh it would be cool, but it's going to be tough!  Still, let me know!

Sasquatch Finale Results and Final Scores

The second Sasquatch Dash series is in the books.  We had another really good year, it went by a little too fast for my tastes.  Maybe that is because I personally missed the middle two races.  I thoroughly enjoyed the four I was there for and the great group of people we had come out.  This has been a great staple of my last two summers and I am already looking forward to it again next year.

But, you aren't here to read my blathering about how much I like the series, you are probably here to find the results.  So enough text, how about some tables?

Race Results

First up, the men's results.

Out for his first run with this rowdy Squatchin' group, Mark Swiontek put in a dominating performance with a nearly ten minute gapping of the field.  Alex took the relaxed approach of setting out a chair and a change of shoes at the end of the first single track at which point he sat down and changed his shoes, and then proceeded to take a wrong turn entering BRC.  He still mowed me down on the north side of BRC like I wasn't moving.  He was on his way to catching and passing Steve before Steve let oxygen deprivation tunnel his vision and he missed a turn.  I'm using director's discretion and giving him third to round out the podium.

On the women's side the race was pretty small.

Both women decided that 15.5 miles wasn't enough they both decided to make this a 17.5 mile run.  I personally thought the course was challenging enough as it was, but that was just me apparently.

Great racing by everyone on an extremely challenging course.  I have to say it is a really nice course though.  Kudos to Ben Jonjak for laying it out.  It was excellent.

Series Results

The table, then the commentary.

On the men's side, as expected, Alex ran away with the overall title, but the rest of the podium came down to the final race.  Had Tom Kelby been able to make the finale, at worst, he would have tied for second.  As it was, I barely eeked out a second place by a mere two points over Tom.  Just a few points back was Sean.  In the end it was a very exciting race to the finish.  I think the pursuit race threw an interesting twist to make it more exciting.  During the off season we will review the scoring, formats, bonus points, etc to see if there are any changes to be made.  Feel free to fire suggestions our way if you have any.

Tammi put in a dominating performance on the women's side winning every race she started plus ten points for the City of Trails.  So she walks away with the women's title with a perfect score of 100 (110 is the max with the shirt bonus).  Congratulations to Tammi for consistently killing it.  Also on the consistency note, while not winning every race, Starr takes a convincing second by scoring solid points in all four races she ran.  Emma rounds out the podium with strong results in four races.  Excellent work ladies.

Overall Commentary

As I said this was another really good year.  We had 63 participants compared to only 40 last year.  Of those 63, 18 were women.  This is great to see the women come out and participate too.  Maybe next year we can shoot for 80 participants and have an even split.

Again, if you have suggestions on improvements for next year let us know.

In the interest of getting these results out, I'll save my personal race report for another post later.  I know you are all dying to read it.

The Only Chequamegon Recap You'll Ever Want To Read

Business in the front. Party in the back.

For those a kin to the nature of the Chequamegon 40 – you fully understand that this cliché tag is spot on.  After all, a race that utilizes a lottery system to whittle the entrants down to 3,100 must have some room for competitors of all abilities.  It’s your classic sandwich situation – pros in the front, the meat is made up of semi-serious competitors, and then there’s the rest of us.  Don’t get me wrong – I can be serious, at times even aggressive, but this year I was happily nestled in the back.  More on that later…

In 2009, I was a top 20 overall women finisher in the Short & Fat.  Ask my husband – I will obnoxiously bring that fact up and show off my clay award whenever possible.  Ever since, my training has wavered. My first experience in the 40 mile race was shortly after a severe concussion.  I was still on narcotics for post-concussive effects, and the entire race was a seamless picture show of glowing trees, cartoon pirates with rum, and a distinct memory of a gaggle of females complaining that Martel’s Pothole was too dangerous and shouldn't be in the race.  The following year, I opted for the Short & Fat just because race day would be 6 weeks post-partum after the birth of my daughter.  Those 16 miles were a stretch, much like me fitting into any of my pre-baby jerseys.  This year marked my first real return to being fairly competitive.  (I use that term loosely).  I put in for the 40, and low and behold – September arrived far quicker than it seemed to in previous years.  Funny how that happens.

This past month, our little family has been riddled with illness. My training bestie, Alicia Fisk, and I seem to enjoy passing colds to one another on an equitably frequent basis.  All in all, the entire Olson family has had maybe 3-4 RIDES let alone road rides (which is what you really need for the Chequamegon).  All the Mucinex in the world wouldn't get this girl out of bed for anything other than work.  Riding?  Phbbt.  Whateva.  Pass the Nyquil.

Of course, come the week of the Chequamegon – I’m thinking to myself, “You can wing a Chequamegon.  Hell, if you can wing a marathon, you can wing a Chequamegon”.  

After this initial back and forth, the Hayward area got nailed with severe weather and flash flooding.  Photos from pre-rides started making their way into people’s blogs, text messages, and MORC.  I was just fine with beating myself up, but the idea of beating my bike up in the sludge and water of Birkie trail was too much to bear.  When the amount of the replacement part outweighs the cost of the race entry, it’s time to do some serious soul-searching.  Luckily, my husband is a pro at soul searching.  

“You break your bike doing this…I’m not working on it.”  We toyed with the idea of me using the Burley bike (rigid Raleigh mountain bike) for a while, then even thought to pick up my bib, take my free t-shirt and go home.  But everyone knows that t-shirt becomes the tell-tale heart eventually.  You’ll never wear it because it whispers to you “You’re a pansy and you do not deserve to wear me.”

Fast forward to Saturday.  Chequamegon officials announced the reroutes under their wet weather contingency plan– and the changes seemed positive.  I brought my good bike.

Since my preferred start offer expired many moons ago, I didn't even pay attention to what gate was adorned on my number plate.  After the first few gates, I looked down and saw the number seven.  Kept walking…and walking…and walking.  Finally, after turning a corner well-off the actual race course, I saw tiny, little gate seven.  

I felt like I was seated at the wedding table where you throw all of the guests who aren't family or maybe they are family but they act eccentric and might embarrass the newlyweds or fall on the cake.  I looked around and saw the girl with all the bells on her handlebar.  There were like six bells on this girl’s handlebar.  Are you going to really need those bells today?  Who are you going to be alerting today in the form of bell ringing?  I looked the other direction and saw a guy in jean shorts and a puffy winter coat eating a banana with far too much ferocity for a man in jean shorts at a mountain bike race.  It took a few moments to shake out of my snotty Sam attitude and remember that THIS SCENE is the beauty of the Chequamegon.  How impressive is it that an event can cater to riders of all levels and that so many people of all backgrounds want to enter?  How cool is it that the Sam Olson’s of the scene can share a course with the Brian Matter’s of the world?  Regardless of what you wear or how you ride, we’re all out there doing something that we love.

Suddenly, we heard a noise.  Being so far away from the start, it was hard to tell what was happening.  Turned out it was just the race starting.  After what felt like 20 minutes, the gate seveners finally passed over the start line.  Shortly before Rosie’s Field, we were slowed up as a caution for a rider who was being put into a neck brace as I passed.  Without missing a beat, I looked up and saw a few riders trying to snap selfies with their cell phones.  This sight was infuriating.  You wonder why accidents happen?  Because we're crammed into a thick pack of riders and you're taking pictures with one hand on the bar!  

After Rosie’s, the Birkie trail was decent.  Wet leaves clung to my tires, and the entire trail seemed quieter and damp.  The first descent, I was kicking myself for foregoing the glasses.  Riders were sending rocks, wet leaves, and mud clumps right at me.  Twas heinous.

It’s funny who you run into while you traverse.  My first conversation of the day was with Nicole Penman, wife of veteran racer Jeff Penman.  She was giddy and nervous – and her compliments made me feel like much stronger of a competitor.  Shortly after Rosie’s, Richard Woodbury (of the Travelin’ Woodburys) struck up a conversation with me about the day thus far.  He is just the most pleasant man – always kind and supportive.  We shared battle stories about the demise of our climbing fitness, and conversed about the balance of family and biking.  A little later, a gentleman by the name of Charlie Strantz, all dudded up in Cyclova XC, blew by me.  We had a few moments to talk about Chad, and then poof!!! as if by some sort of bike necromancy, he left me behind.  I also made single-serving friendship (see Fight Club for explanation) with Pat Ptacek out of Prescott, WI.  Out on the trail, he was just this super friendly singlespeeder who kept mysteriously turning up by my side.  I thought, “How does someone pass me, then come up behind me?”  -  Turns out he was riding back and forth, checking in on his wife as she rode.  How romantic!  I don’t know many guys that would put their race aside and ride the extra distance just to encourage and support their significant other.  Also, it turns out he’s the owner of some grocery store in Prescott that is super famous and broke some world record involving the largest brat.  You never know who you’re riding next to!

There were several incredibly wet sections.  The first was the infamous Bitch Hill.  We were all stopped, off our bikes, while the bottleneck of riders slowly dissipated.  People towards the back were really taking that descent very cautiously.  I found a hole-shot and flew threw it.  I may not have a lot of wind in my lungs for the climbs, but I know how to fly down a hill.  Even a wet one.  I trust my bike, and I trust my reactions.  I took a skills clinic put on by the Woolly with retired pro Kyia Anderson. She taught me some positioning tactics for descending.  I had always prided myself on my lines when I descend, but her new perspective into my riding really gave me an edge on the hills.  I would pass everyone on the downhills.  Of course, they would be right back in front of me on the climbs, but for those downhill moments – I was their queen. 

Another really wet area was on the Birkie trail somewhere.  I can’t remember, but I know it was well before Fire Tower.  There was this long stretch of singletrack that course officials put in to divert riders away from this giant lake formed in the trail.  It was a long, slow moving line of single file riders making their way through the track.  It took about 15 minutes of stop and go traffic to get through.  Riders were absolutely hilarious though – yelling their commentary for the captive audience around them.  “Bet there’s some roadie trying to update his STRAVA up there, holding us all up!”  “Well this surely takes away my sub 2 hour time!”  “Will you hold my bike? I have to use the restroom!”  I was a variable line of guys off to the side relieving themselves, and everyone else taking the break as a time to eat gel or a Clif Bar.

My riding from Hayward to 00 was pretty good, considering my lack of fitness this go around.  I was holding just shy of an 11mph average.  Not too shabby for Sammy considering how torturous the Seeley PreFat was.  However, after 00, I apparently just stopped caring.  Which is true – I started to feel the beginnings of dehydration and cramping.  Hills got tougher.  My attitude started to take a turn for the worse.  Before 00, I was all “Hey, this is fun! This isn't as bad as you thought! Hey, you’re dressed super appropriate and everyone loves you!”

After 00, it was “See what you get for sloughing off for a whole month?  Oh, ya chilly?  Maybe you should have thought about that when you saw the weather report, Miss Had-To-Wear-Shorts.”
There’s this somewhat steep climb a bit before Fire Tower.  Chad calls it “The Qualifier”.  I call it “that hill that every first-timer thinks is Fire Tower”.  Sure enough, a pair of jovial fellas come grinding up the hill next to me “Man! This Fire Tower ain't that bad!  Didn't Chuck say it was real bad?”  Snotty attitude Sam was just waiting in the wings to set them straight.  But I was out of breath because Fake Fire Tower is still a pretty lofty hill. 

Real Fire Tower comes at you without warning.  Just a sharp right hander and a pretty little sign with an up arrow.  And up goes on forever. 

I rode to the first plateau and then it was walk city.  Walk City is almost worse, because I am pretty sure it is harder on your body to push your bike up that climb versus ride it. 

The last three miles were the worst.  My calves were on the verge of Charlie-horsing.  My right quad had such a bad cramp I could barely stand up out of the saddle.  And worst of all, I had to pee.  Really bad.  I had overcompensated the pre-cramping by drinking everything I had on me.  And now I was paying for it.  Every bump was agony.  Every climb was a one-two punch of exhaustion and depression. 

By the time I reached the finish line at Telemark, I just wanted to be off the bike.  All the fist bumps and high fives from my gate group were just keeping me from the bathroom.  I was annoyed and cranky.  I was that sort of hangry that makes people say things they wished they’d never said.  So I smiled, kept my mouth shut, and went hunting for my man and my toddler.  They were there somewhere in the sea of spectators.  I just had to find them.

Now that it is all said and done, I am glad I made it through.  Given the circumstances, I had convinced myself there was a chance I might not finish.  But it’s the Chequamegon.  You’re packed in with thousands of riders - creating this living, breathing, organic mass of people all out there to experience the event.  It’s hard to give up when everyone is cheering you on.  Granted, I know there were plenty of DNFs, injuries, etc.  But when everything is said and done, you still find yourself watching the calendar – waiting for the lottery to open for the following year.  Waiting for the email that confirms you got in.

Handing The Water Hazard at the Sasquatch 25k

First off, let me say congratulations to everyone who competed in the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival on Saturday!  That's one of the big events of our area and I hope some of you have stores to tell after another great adventure (please send them to with some pics and I'll happily post them).

Saturday the 13th was also the finale for our 2014 Sasquatch Dash series.  Last year we had a bigger crowd of supporters, and I think that was mainly due to the fact that we were a week after Chequamegon instead of sharing the date.  However, as you can see from the above image, we had a nice turnout for our semi-formal/mostly fun race series.  I do have to say though that our pot luck at the end of the event was FANTASTIC!  You can tell a lot from a group from the quality pot luck you can get them to generate, and these guys did awesome--seriously folks...great work on the food!

We were scrambling a little bit to get a course organized this year because BRC was hosting a wedding and we had to stay out of the farm area.  Eventually we decided to use Lion's park as the staging area because there was good parking, electricity, picnic tables, etc.  However, there were two issues with Lion's park: 1. we had to cross 87 and run on some pavement (which turned out not to be a big issue) 2. there was a water hazard about a mile in on the Ice Age trail section of the course (which turned out to be kind of funny).

Those of you who do a lot of trail running know that crossing water is pretty common.  Our water hazard was about a five yard river crossing that was around knee deep.  The water was clear, so it wasn't so bad, but honestly, I didn't want to subject our runners to water (and only did so because it couldn't be avoided).  I tried to be fair about announcing that there would be some water.  Everybody was informed, and the water wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it was still pretty funny to see the logjam that occurred when the runners came up on the water and started glancing around for a non-existent alternative path.  In the end, everybody had a solution for crossing, with varying degrees of effectiveness.  The secret was to just accept you had to take a plunge and proceed--which everyone figured out.

  • I was in a group with Eddy, and when he saw the water he started mumbling, ""  Then he started looking left and right for an alternate path (there wasn't one), before reluctantly stepping across.
  • Both Tammi and Ben attempted to shuffle across an old dead log that was sitting next to the water, and I believe they both nearly made it only to slip and soak one foot right at the end.
  • Cory decided to "sprint" through the water, as if submerging his feet really quickly and then pulling them out again would keep them from getting "super" wet.
  • Alex went so far as to put a camp chair and a dry pair of shoes at the end of the Ice Age trail section, then he stopped and changed his shoes in the middle of the race!  (that was actually pretty clever)
  • Sean has been running the whole year in running sandals, so he had no problem with the water at all.
  • I did what I always do and coated my feet with vaseline at the race start.  This provides lubrication even when your feet are wet so you don't get blisters.
The rest of the race went well, including a section at BRC of long grass that soaked your feet just as thoroughly as the river did.  The course was tough, and we had a few people take some wrong turns (which is kind of part of the deal for this series), but nobody added more than a mile to their race.

Ben will have a more formal write up in the next day or two including results and the final standings.  I just wanted to shout out a quick THANK YOU to everyone who participated.  We're having a lot of fun with this series and plan to keep it going next year.  I'll miss seeing all our regular Sasquatch runners throughout the winter, so hopefully some of you will swing by Cyclova or BRC for some cross-country skiing lessons (just send me an email if you're interested, I do free lessons in the morning before work most Saturdays). 

Oh, and believe me that if you were capable of finishing the Sasquatch 25k course, you will have no problem whatsoever with the Gandy Dancer Marathon (which is flat as a pancake).  Today (9/15) is the last day to register before the next price hike, so click here and sign up!

Keep your eyes peeled for Ben's Sasquatch 2014 final series wrap-up!  Thanks again, and we'll look forward to seeing you next year!  

Call for Mt. Bike Support for Sasquatch 25k!

Hey Folks!

This Saturday is the finale for our Sasquatch Dash 2014 trail running series.  We'll be doing a 25 km race including a loop around Big Rock Creek retreat.  If anyone is interested in riding support, either write me at, or just show up with your Mt. Bike at Lion's Park at 9 AM on Saturday (Lion's Park is just north of St. Croix Falls on 87).

We'd like to have people who can carry some water and gel packets for runners who happen to bonk, also we'd like for you to have a cell phone if you encounter somebody in difficulty.  This is advertised as an unsupported event, but we'd prefer to have some people making sure everyone gets in OK.

The course details are listed here.

You won't be able to ride the first part of the trail since it's on the Ice Age trail where bicycles are prohibited.  It is possible to join up with the race course off 160th st, but the access to Big Rock Creek retreat at that point, although mowed, is pretty rough.  The best thing might just be to park at BRC itself and take the outer loop.  However, please do not go into the farm area of BRC under any circumstances since they are hosting a wedding that day (we want to keep out of sight as much as possible).

After the event, we'll be doing a pot luck at Lion's, so come on out.  This is a great way to experience BRC.  Please shoot me an email if you're able to assist!

Thanks in advance!

Sasquatch Dash #6: 25k and PARTY!

Hey Folks!

Well, it's that time of year again, the BIG race to end our fabulous 2014 Sasquatch Dash series.  We've been scrambling a little bit to get the course laid out.  As always, this is an unsupported, free event so we want to make sure everybody is prepared.  25km is almost 16 miles, so take this one seriously.  We'd prefer that all of you are carrying enough water to finish--please do not try to start this race without carrying some water.  I'll try to get out there and put some jugs out on the course, for emergencies, but this is unsupported!  I'll also try to get some Mt. Biker friends to ride the loop and make sure everyone is OK, but it's best when everyone is committed to taking care of themselves.

Last year we were able to do the event entirely at Big Rock Creek Retreat, which worked out great, but this year they are hosting a wedding later in the day so we are just allowed access to their outer perimeter.  Still, the course we put together is pretty cool.  We'll be running from Lions Park up the Ice Age Trail (we were on that trail in the City of Trails 10k), then from River Road to 87 (for .2 miles), then up 160th.  We turn off 160th to a access road that takes us to Big Rock Creek.  This access road was pretty grown over, so I borrowed a lawn mower and cut a trail along it.  Once you get to Big Rock Creek you do a complete lap of the outer perimeter.  I marked the course assuming we'd go East along the Southern border.  For the most part in Big Rock Creek, you'll have a fence to your left which will indicate you're in the right place.  I also marked the trail by tying strands of orange marking tape periodically throughout the course.

Here is a map:

Also, here is a link to the Garmin Connect file.  Note this file does not show the complete course since I didn't repeat the path leading from Big Rock Creek back to Lion's park.  This file says the distance is just under 12 miles, but with the return path the total distance is more in the 15.8 mile's going to be tough.

There is a 1.3 mile section of pavement from the Ice Age trail section to the turn off on 160th street.  I was a little concerned about the .2 miles we have to run on 87, but there is a big shoulder there and as long as all the runners are cautious, I don't anticipate problems.  Here's a highlight of that section:

Please be VERY careful on 87.  I don't even like crossing that road, but it couldn't be avoided this year.

You'll also notice on the above map that we have to cross Big Rock Creek.  That river crossing is passable without getting your feet wet, but a little further down the Ice Age trail there is a section with a lot of water.  St. Croix got hit by a major storm last week and the river is high.  With any luck, it will be down by Saturday, but when I marked the course on Sunday there was an extended section where your shoes are submerged.  Again, maybe we'll get lucky and it will dry out by next week...but I'd recommend planning on getting your feet wet and your shoes dirty (it's actually kind of awesome, but I wanted to give you all fair warning).  The rest of the trail is in great shape, it's spectacular running out at Big Rock Creek.

There is a big picnic area at Lions Park, so bring some food to share just like last year!  We had an awesome time.  I'll be bringing along all the additional Sasquatch 2014 T-shirts to sell (ones that were pre-ordered but never picked up) so if you want one bring $15.

As always, you are welcome to start the run and then bail out whenever you want (just sign in please).  There should be quite a few spectators, friends, and family at Lions enjoying the festivities.  This is going to be a fun, casual, but also intense workout.  Oh, and if you have a friend who wants to Mt. Bike Big Rock Creek for free, please bring them so they can act as a support crew.  I'll do more work organizing that throughout the week (last year we had 5 or 6 I believe).  If anyone needs anymore information, write me at:

Be sure to sign in to the Event page so we know how many people to expect.  Also, I'm sure there will be a few more announcements on this throughout the week, so stay tuned! This is going to be really fun!

Race Report: Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2014

by Jim Kelley

This race report begins just over a year ago at Ironman Mont-Tremblant, August 2013. For those that don’t know, an Ironman is comprised of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. Last year, I was pulled off the run course by the medical staff with just 7 miles left to go before the finish line. I had been puking my guts out and couldn’t even hold down water. I’d “been there” before in this situation with stomach shutdown (3 previous DNFs) and didn’t want to go through another death march to the finish line. I took the free ambulance ride back to the start area. A week or so later I started discussing my race with our E3 Head Coach Jorge Martinez. Being a USAT certified coach I was embarrassed to notch another DNF because of nutrition issues. I had paid for a race nutrition plan from another source and when Jorge took a look at it he basically said, “this plan is insane!” Waaaaay too many calories per hour and my stomach couldn’t handle it and shut down. DNF #4. Never again. I swallowed some pride and asked Jorge to be my official coach. He used my previous sweat test results and developed a very simple race nutrition plan that worked out perfectly in my next race at Ironman Arizona just a couple months later in November 2013. I had no GI issues and notched an Ironman PR with a 10:20, missing Kona qualification by just 2 spots. I didn’t care about missing out on Kona as much as I was pleased that I finally got rid of my race nutrition demons. Fast forward to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, 2014…
We flew into Montreal and rented a car for the drive up to Mont-Tremblant. M-T is a world-class ski area/village and has quickly become a highly-rated Ironman venue. This year the race is the North American Championship (2nd year in a row) and in September they are hosting the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. This was my 3rd year racing M-T (inaugural race in 2012) and I fell in love with the venue at first site. The village has a very European feel to it and the surrounding area is the Laurentian Mountains (no I don’t work for their tourism bureau  ). We arrived fairly late Thurs. evening so the first order of business was getting to athlete check-in on Friday morning. The line was already starting to get long an hour before check-in opened. After check-in it was time to get ready for the kids 1 km race at 11 a.m. There were thousands of families at the venue and they held a 1 and 5 km race for kids to help the families get more involved. There were several start corrals based on age and Payden got right up front for his group. They did a loop around the village and finished at the Ironman race finish arch just like the parents would be doing on Sunday.

After the race we headed over to the Tribiketransport tent to pick up my bike, and wheel and gear bags (highly recommend this method of getting your bike to an Ironman venue) and then went back to the condo. Next on the chore list was organizing my gear, which for an Ironman race is just a notch below the logistical intricacy of preparing for conventional warfare. This was my 12th Ironman race and long ago I had developed a spreadsheet to help organize everything (geeky I know). You are given 5 bags: Morning clothes bag, swim to bike bag, bike to run bag, bike special needs bag, and run special needs bag. In an Ironman you don’t put all your gear next to your bike such as in a local triathlon, so you access the swim to bike and bike to run bags in the transition tent between disciplines. The bike and run special needs bag are accessed at roughly the halfway points of the bike and run courses and contain any nutrition items or bike mechanical items (spare tire, spare CO2 cartridge, etc).

I had to switch out my 808 wheel that I had to put on for transport and then put on my wheel that has my Powertap and disk cover on it. I noticed that the brake pads were not touching the rim at all which didn’t make sense because I had been training on that wheel most of the summer. Regardless of how it got out of the proper setting, I adjusted the brake cable and realized how lucky I was that I noticed it on Friday instead of during Sunday’s race. After finishing organizing I went for a quick run down to the village and back.

One of the pre-race activities at an Ironman is the Athletes’ Banquet. The huge tent at M-T accommodates all the athletes and their families and they usually have a great group of performers for entertainment. I always recommend the banquet for first-time racers but I still like going to them even after so many previous races…the food tends to be the same. We went early this year because we got stuck waaaay back in line last year. The highlight of the banquet is listening to presentation by “the voice of Ironman” Mike Reilly. If you’ve ever watched coverage of the Ironman World Championship on television Mike is the guy that announces every finisher’s name and hometown and yells the iconic phrase, “YOU are an Ironman!” and he is present at most of the Ironman races in North America. They had a live band on the stage near the finish line so we listened…and some danced….for a bit. On the walk home we stopped to watch the huge fireworks display that the race does on Friday night and after the finish on Sunday at midnight.


I got up a little early and headed down to the lake for a quick 20 minute swim. The water seemed a little colder than last year but it was still fairly nice. One of the “must do” things at M-T is to stop at the floating coffee bar near the swim start. Just swim up to the pontoon and they hand you a nice cup of hot coffee.

Then I rode the bike for a quick check up on the road that goes up to Lac Superior. Mandatory bike check in is by 3 PM the day before the race so we walked my bike and bags down to the transition area. I tried to meet up with Dan Arnett from Atlanta to say hello but we didn’t cross paths. While waiting I met a guy who was riding a bike all decked out with panniers for a long distance ride that had taken him from British Columbia to Mont-Tremblant on his way home to Montreal. He said his bike and gear weighed over 220 lbs and I could barely lift the rear wheel. He said he was heading home to Montreal to rest for 2 days before heading to Spain for several weeks to ride the coastline there….as Ben Jonjak commented later….”that’s a man who has his priorities straight!”
Once I check in my bike and bags I go into race mode and start to focus on the next 12 hours before race time. I prefer to use a different energy drink than what is offered on the course so I prepared all my bike water bottles and run Fuel Belt bottles to put in the ‘frige overnight so I wouldn’t have to bother mixing drinks in the morning.
Race morning

Race morning began at 3:30 a.m. since I like to have breakfast at least 3.5 hours before the race starts at 7 a.m. I had half a bagel, one instant oatmeal pack prepared, banana, 2 cups of coffee, and a bottle of pineapple Skratch energy drink. The transition area opens at 5 a.m. so we started walking down at 4:45. The first task was checking tire pressure and there was no need for the air pump so Lindsay and Payden made the hike back to the condo to return the pump – I really appreciated it! They offer tire pumping in the transition area but I hate waiting in line so I always bring my own pump. Next up was getting body-marked with race number and age. Then I made the trek to the transition tent to put 3 bottles of Skratch drink in my bike special needs bag and a couple of fuel belt bottles in my run special needs bag. I drank another bottle of Skratch with an hour to go before the race start and then we made the ¼ mile walk down to the swim start area. The lines for the porta-johns were long and I was glad I took care of business earlier in the morning. 15 minutes before the start I downed a packet of GU and water and then we headed down to the beach. They have wave starts at M-T and I was in wave 5 so I had time to get in a quick warmup swim. I kissed and hugged Lindsay and Payden and made my way to the water.

Most of the time I tend to start on the far left for Ironman swim starts so I can stay away from the crowds. But with a wave start and fewer swimmers to contend with I decided to stay to the inside right and swim inside the buoys…which is legal as long as you swim to the outside of the buoys at the far corners of the rectangular swim course. I felt like I had a good start and my warmup served me well as I got into a good rhythm right off the bat. My goal was to swim as straight as I could between buoys and taking advantage of any drafts off other swimmers if the opportunity presented itself. There was one guy in particular that seemed to be swimming faster than me and I drafted off of him a couple of times for the first leg of the course. I was passing racers from earlier waves which made me think I was on a good pace--for me anyway. From looking at my GPS file of the swim it seemed like I did a good job of sighting well and didn’t waste time getting off-course. I came out of the water in 70th place in my age group.  My goal for the swim was 1:10 or better (my PR is 1:09) so I was a little disappointed with a 1:13 but it could have been worse…I swam 1:19 last year. Those 13 minutes over an hour would come back to haunt me on Monday morning…more on that later.

As I jogged out of the water I got out of the upper part of my wetsuit and then ran to the wetsuit strippers past the timing mat to get the rest of the suit off. As I grabbed my suit and started to run to the transition tent I heard Lindsay yell my name just as I had already gone past her. I yelled a quick “hey” and headed out. We had a ¼ mile run from the swim exit to the transition tent. The past 2 years they had the entire ¼ mile covered with a red carpet but this year we had to run on bare asphalt…it wasn’t too bad though. My swim to bike (T1) transition time was 6:56 which was a little better than last year’s 8:24 T1 time. The temperature was a little chilly so I made the last minute decision to put on my E3 windbreaker vest that I could ditch at bike special needs if I needed to. Then it was off to the bike rack and exit T1.
Swim stats: 1:13:41 (1:54/100m) 70/232 Age group rank


The bike course at M-T is 2 loops with the first part of the loop being on bigger highways with some long gradual rollers. Then you head back towards the ski area village taking a small out and back to the town of St. Jovite before reaching the village. Then the second part of the bike loop is a 4-5 mile out and back on Chemin Duplessis with some fairly steep climbs where you need to watch your power output as best as you can. The good part is, there are some nice downhills on the return where you can coast at high speed if you don’t shy away from speed.
Based on my bike Critical Power prior to the race, Jorge had set up a goal of riding at an average power/NP of around 190-195 watts and an intensity factor (IF) of 0.69-0.70. I set up screens on my Joule to display the following variables on the screen: average watts for the entire ride, 3 second average watts, normalized power (NP), IF, average speed and distance. Monitoring this information allowed me to stay within my power goals as closely as possible. I knew going into the race that any time spent over 285 watts was a big no-no as it would affect my run later on. Although I wasn’t going terribly fast I started passing other racers from the start. From 70th place in my age group coming out of the water I had moved to 41st after just 4 miles on the bike. With my crappy swim time this made sense as I had some catching up to do. The wind was not a factor on the first loop but it picked up noticeably on the second loop. Since I was using my own energy drink and did not want to take a risk with using a super-concentrated energy bottle (diluted with a sip of water) I carried 3 water bottles of energy drink with me. I realize some people criticize carrying that much weight but I really did not want to use the product offered on the course so that was my only alternative. Besides, I’ve seen plenty of race footage from Kona with pros carrying 3 fuel bottles on their bike. In addition, I had an XLab Torpedo between my arms mounted on the aerobars for plain water. I wish I had discovered the Torpedo before this race because I really like how it functions, it’s easy to refill, and you can tuck the straw out of the way when not in use. It also has a mount on the front that I put my Joule computer on which made reading my power output very easy without having to move my head (or my arm) around to look at the Garmin on my wrist.

The Ironman bike is all about patience. It is tempting to hammer the bike, especially on the first loop when you are feeling fresh. But you’ll pay a price for it later in the bike and even more on the run. All Ironman run courses are littered with athletes that had a fast bike split but are walking on the run. At the bike special needs station I stopped to get 3 fresh energy drink bottles and I dropped off the vest I was wearing as it was warming up. I had now moved up to 26th in my age group. The wind picked up on the second lap so you had to make sure you were not pushing too hard to keep the same watts you were pushing on the first lap. I think I managed the climbs on Chemin Duplessis fairly well, but on the second time around I wasn’t paying attention and left my chain on the big ring and dropped my chain when I tried to change gears on a steep climb…stupid. Lindsay had been tracking me on the Ironman app on her phone and told me on the first ascent of Chemin Duplessis that I was 33rd in my age group. My nutrition plan for the bike was fairly simple, for each hour I took in one bottle of Skratch (2.75 scoops/bottle), one bottle of water, a GU (vanilla and strawberry-banana), ¼ to 1/5 of a Powerbar, and a Saltstick pill for electrolytes. I stuck to that plan almost perfectly and felt strong during the entire bike leg. The final numbers for the bike were: average power 184 watts, NP 200 watts, IF 0.70, and average speed 20 mph. I quickly entered the transition tent and tried to get out of my bike shoes and put on socks and running shoes as quickly as possible. I grabbed my E3 visor and race number bib and jogged out of the tent. My bike to run (T2) transition time was 3:29 which was much faster than last year’s time of 5:23. By the end of the bike I had moved up to 23rd in my age group.

Bike stats: 5:35:37 age group rank=22/232 mph=20 AP= 184 watts NP= 200 watts IF=0.70 VI=1.09


My run goal was fairly simple…after easing into a good run pace for the first few miles I wanted to run 7:50 to 8:00 minute/mile pace. For nutrition, the plan per hour was one GU, a Saltstick pill, one Fuel Belt bottle of Skratch (less concentrated than on bike), and water from aid stations. The run course is also 2 loops with some fairly steep but short hills in the beginning and then you run on a long out and back on a paved bike path for quite a while. On the return you pass the halfway point in the ski village and you get to run by the turnoff that goes to the finish line which you can clearly see just a few dozen yards away, but you have to run another 13.1 miles before you can cross it! So cruel. Some spectators were cheering on racers at one point a couple miles before the halfway point and one yelled out my bib number 2417. Then I heard someone that sounded like Lindsay shouting “2417?.....2417??” She and Payden had walked backwards on the course trying to find me and they didn’t notice that I had gone by them. Luckily the spectator yelling my bib number got her attention and when she tried taking a picture I told her I wasn’t slowing down for a photo op so she tried to run ahead of me to snap one.

There was a brief soaking shower just before the halfway point and I was glad it stopped and did not make the second lap miserable. I had now moved to 15th in my age group at the halfway point of the run. I was feeling very confident, and even though I was a competitive runner for 30 years prior to starting racing triathlons, this was the first time in my Ironman career I felt like I was finally putting my running skills to use and “racing” an Ironman run. My mile splits for the first 20 miles were as follows: 8:10, 8:44, 7:36, 7:53, 7:48, 8:18, 8:03, 7:53, 7:40, 7:56, 8:11, 7:49, 8:18, 8:00, 8:24, 7:37, 7:53, 7:50, 8:04, and 8:18. However, unlike my bike nutrition execution my run nutrition started to fall apart. I did OK for the first hour but my brain simply did not want to consume another GU. I did manage to continue sipping Skratch from my water bottle and I made sure to take in plenty of water at aid station. On the second loop I grabbed one small cup of Coke and I still kept sipping Skratch, but I stopped taking in all of the other planned nutrition because I still have a lingering fear of stomach shutdown when racing an Ironman. After mile 20 that decision started affecting my run. After the final time on the paved bike path my legs starting feeling heavy. There is a long gradual uphill after leaving the bike path as you head back to the village and I looked to the guy to my right and said “I’m not looking forward to this hill”…he laughed and agreed. I just tried to keep putting one foot in front of the other and resisted any fleeting thoughts of stopping to walk part of any hill on the course. My mile splits for the final 6 miles were as follows: 8:47, 9:13, 9:30, 9:55, 9:59, 9:14. Not good. This is another place where I “lost Kona”….more on that later.

The final miles ticked off and I could hear Mike Reilly at the finish line in the village cheering on the finishers ahead of me. As my splits above indicate, I was able to pick up the pace a bit the last mile and then entered the narrow pedestrian path that goes through the village to the finish line. It was lined with screaming people 4-5 deep and it sent tingles up my spine. I usually get a little choked up right before an Ironman finish and this time was no exception. I could hear Mike yell “Jim Kelley from Centuria, Wisconsin….YOU are an Ironman.” I held up 8 fingers over my head for 8 finishes and I think Mike mentioned that on the PA system after he saw me raise my fingers. I hadn’t seen any other men in my AG on the same second lap as me on the run so I pretty much knew I didn’t pass enough runners in my AG to qualify for Kona. I saw Lindsay and Payden after the finish and she said she thought I was 15th in my AG…not even close…or was it? I managed to grab a couple bites to eat but quickly lost my appetite so we walked back to the condo. I laid on the bed for a minute to let my stomach settle but that turned into an hour nap. After I woke up I ate the food we had brought back from the finish line and then watched the live finish line video feed on the web. Another Ironman was in the books.

Run stats: 3:37:37,  age group rank= 11/232, avg pace= 8:18 min/mi
Overall in the event I finished 200th out of 2317, finish time 10:37:40


Ironman racing is all about waiting in lines…waiting in line on the race registration website a full year prior when the race entry opens up the day after the previous year’s race (some races literally fill up within minutes after registration opens…Arizona filled up in about 30 seconds last year when I got in!)...waiting in line at athlete check-in on Friday…waiting in line for the athlete banquet on Friday night…waiting in line to get into the transition area on Sunday morning at 5 a.m…waiting in line for a portajohn…waiting in line at the swim start corral….then a little racing for a few hours…then waiting in line on Monday morning at the finisher’s merchandise tent to buy a finisher’s jacket or shirt. I got to the merchandise tent an hour early and there was already a line formed. I managed to control my wallet and passed on a jacket and bought only a finishers polo shirt. Then it was waiting for the ceremony where slots for entry to the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii are awarded. I knew going into the race that my age group probably only had 7 “Kona slots” allocated to it based on the number of entrants in each age group. So, based on my finish placing I knew I didn’t have an automatic slot. For each age group they start with finisher #1 and ask them if they want to accept their Kona slot. If they accept it they immediately get in another line and pay their $750 entry fee for the World Championship to be held in October. Then finisher #2’s name is called and so on until all the slots are awarded. If a person declines their slot for whatever reason (e.g. scheduling issues at work/family or they already qualified for the WC at a race earlier in the year) that slot “rolls down” to the next finisher. Once 6 of the slots had been awarded they started the rolldown (some had declined) and read off names one after another. Amazingly, there was no response from anyone in the crowd for a bunch of names. I lost track of how far down the list they had gotten. Then a name was called which was followed by a loud cheer from the crowd. Some lucky guy had gotten the last slot in my age group. As I said, I had lost track of which finisher number they were on, so I went up to him and asked him his AG placing. When he said “14th” I couldn’t believe it….I had missed a rolldown slot by one place. Later that day I found out that the 14th place finisher had beaten me by about 4 minutes overall….but he crushed me by 10 minutes on the swim alone…that is one reason I “lost Kona”…but when I consider that I had slowed down by 1.5 to 2 minutes per mile in my last 6 miles that is another place where I “lost Kona” and couldn’t get the finish time I needed to qualify. I had missed qualifying at Ironman Arizona last November by 2 spots and now I had missed by one spot (albeit a rolldown). That leaves only one other outcome for my next race, right?!?!

Ironman racing is a very selfish endeavor that requires a lot of time and scheduling hassles. I owe Lindsay and Payden a huge thanks for putting up with all of my 6 hour rides on Saturday mornings. It meant a lot to me to have them cheer me on during race day. As I finish writing this up in the 3rd week after the race I’m already itching to get back to training for the Birkie this winter and next year’s Ironman….likely in Couer D’Alene, Idaho in June. Thanks for reading!!

Thanks for the great write up Jim!  Anyone interested in having Jim work out a training program for you can contact him here:

Jim Kelley
Associate Coach - E3 Training Solutions