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Mullin's St. Croix Fat Cat Triathlon Report


I'll blame this one on Adam Lushanko.  Prior to him inviting me to be the biker on Team Orange Crush I thought the non-traditional triathlons looked interesting (particularly for someone who doesn't swim), but I had not yet put it on my priority list of so many good events to try.  Then after getting a taste as a part of a relay the juices started flowing.  Adam reminded me that the St. Croix Fat Cat was up for its second edition in July.  I didn't actually sign up until just a few weeks ago, but I was pretty sure I was going to race not too long after finishing the Stower Seven Lakes Triathlon.

As far as specific prep for this race, let's run through each leg one at a time.


Prior to Tuesday I had been in a kayak exactly once in my life.  It was probably two years ago and I probably paddled one of my parents new kayak's around Square Lake for 15 minutes.  That probably wouldn't be enough.  Tuesday, Starr and I took my parent's kayaks out again and this time we paddled around for an hour and a half.  This was mostly just touring exploring some back bays of Big Marine, but also getting a feel for paddling.

Loon family while cruising Big Marine
Adam had offered to let me borrow his kayak and I was going to take him up on it.  His is longer and sleeker than the very stable kayaks my parents have.  So Friday evening (race eve), I met up with Adam to go for a short spin in his kayak and make sure I wasn't going to give up the time gained from a faster craft by rolling it over in the river.  All was well though.  A huge thank you to Adam for letting me borrow the kayak, meeting up with me the night before, and helping with drop off and pickup during race day.

So with 3 whole times in a kayak, probably totaling 2 hours, and maybe 20 minutes of watching YouTube videos on how to paddle I was all set.


I've been running occasionally.  After the Chippewa 50k, it has only been probably twice a week or so.  I'm up to all of 356 miles for the year.  So my run fitness is less than it has been historically, but I'm not super far off either.  I did a nice cruise interval workout on Monday and it went well so I felt set.

Good cruise workout on Monday.


Here is where things look a little different than historically.  I already have more miles on my bike this year than I did in all of last year.  I attribute this to having a bike I love to ride.  I picked up a 2015 Warbird 2 the week of the Birkie and I'm pretty sure I've ridden it at least once a week, and frequently more often than that since.

Loving this bike.  The aerobars were an addition just for this race.  They aren't normal equipment.


Specific time goals were going to be hard to come by in this event.  I really had no idea how to predict the paddle.  My dunks in the lake were about 4mph which would be close to an hour, but most of the paddle is current aided and last years results showed very few people around an hour.  The run is all up hill.  The bike seemed the most stable thing with just rolling paved roads.

Overall place can be a sketchy thing to guess at a race like this as well.  With low numbers it is all about who shows up.  Also, this race was looking like it was going to grow considerably from the year before which doesn't help predictions either.

But, maybe you saw this on Facebook in the week leading into the race.

Forget specific time goals (though we will get to those) and overall placing, let's throw down with all around good guy Cory Pratt.  I thought the race would be really interesting with our different strengths.

In the end I concluded the following:

So I was calling it me, by a minute, with both of our times right around 1:58.

Right off the bat Adam weighed in with his prediction:

After a little initial ribbing to show him the spreadsheets that broke down our splits, corrected for heat and humidity, and factoring in the phase of the moon, Cory took the bait and stepped up with his own prediction and we settled on a Blizzard for the eventual winner.

I didn't see any other public predictions, but there was definitely some good-natured chatter from our St. Croix Valley endurance friends.



The race starts at the Old Log Landing north of Copas.  The space is limited there so this is a rolling start.  Basically about two water craft at a time get to start and this happens for 20 to 30 minutes.  Starr and I met my parents and Adam at Hay Lake to wrangle kayaks before getting a ride over to drop us and the kayaks off.  When we got there Cory wasn't there yet.  The shuttle was running a bit behind with the larger numbers of participants this year.  I wanted to race heads up with Cory so I waited.  I got Starr in the water and then watched as more people started.

Cory eventually arrived and we got in line and probably started in the back 20% of the field.  I got in the water just a little ahead of Cory.  I think I was probably approaching half a mile down the river before he caught me from behind.  I was feeling pretty good about that.  That feeling faded slowly as he put some time and distance on me and I kept seeing that we weren't getting as close to the finish as I thought we should.  Going past the north end of Greenburg Island he was 2 minutes ahead plus whatever time he started behind me.  By the time we went around the south end I couldn't see him any more.

The turn around the south end was a rude awakening.  We had been paddling down stream up until then and I was averaging 6 mph.  By the time we finished I was back to 5.3 mph in the final 0.7 miles.

Find the point where we turned up river.
Ultimately I got out of the river after 42:13.  So this was 3 minutes better than my prediction.  This was positive, but I wasn't sure how far I was actually down to Cory and thought he had probably improved on his time from last year.

Making the final push for the landing.  Photo Credit: Roberta Mullin

Kayak->Run Transition:

My parents were taking care of picking up the kayaks for me and Starr.  I am really grateful they were willing to lend us one of their kayaks and the support and photography.  They also put out my run gear for me.  I had a water bottle to wash my feet, towel to dry them off, socks, a gu, and my shoes tied but ready for slipping on.  In hind sight I could probably have gone without the need to change shoes.  I was able to get in and out of the kayak with minimal foot wetting.  In any case I made the transition run, change, slammed a gu and some water in 1:26


Now was my time to shine.  I took off down the trail knowing I had my work cut out for me, but needing to balance that with the increasing heat and humidity and knowing I had to save something for the bike.

I caught Starr at the top of the road hill.  She was running strong and looked good at that point.  She told me that Cory got out of the water at the same time as her and took off quick.  I figured Cory had a good several minutes on me with that information.  There wasn't anything to do but keep motoring on.

I caught Ana just after the tunnel.  She thought Cory was a mile up the trail.  This was a bit discouraging because we were about half way into the run and if he still had a mile on me that was a LONG ways.  Shortly after that some guy in cut-off jorts blew by me.  Dang!

Thankfully as we were on the trail exiting the park I caught sight of a bright orange sleeveless jersey up ahead.  Yes, I was gaining on Cory.  I finally caught him on Oxboro just before the turn onto Old Marine with just over a mile to go.  We exchanged pleasantries and I kept on trucking knowing that even though we were now side by side he started the kayak after me and was technically still leading by elapsed time.  I was feeling pretty good despite the heat and hills.

I rolled into the transition where we had a pretty good cheering section going.  My parents, Starr's son, the Sotis family, Jody Fissgus, and maybe a few more I didn't notice.  It was awesome!  My run time was 41:19.  Pretty much spot on from my prediction of 41.

Nearing transition, Jody of the CyclovaXC cheer section right behind me.  Photo Credit: Barry Mullin

Cory not far behind.  Photo Credit: Barry Mullin
Run->Bike Transition:

I slipped out of my running shoes and slipped on my bike shoes, dropped the hat, slipped my helmet on, and slammed another gu and was out of transition in 1:04.


Here is where I wasn't sure what was going to happen.  I've been biking a lot, but Cory is a beast on a bike.  While I had put my aerobars on which was going to help, I'm still running my Clement USH 35mm tires on Stans Ironcross rims slightly overpressured at about 50-55psi.  Not the ideal road tire.

I got going and dropped into the aerobars right away.  I was immediately grateful for them as we headed south into the wind.  I took a quick peak over my shoulder at the turn onto 185th St about a mile in.  I didn't see Cory but that didn't mean anything.

From there on I pretty much kept my head down and hammered.  It is a really nice course with mostly just rolling hills.  There are only maybe two that I got out of the aerobars to really crank on.  I was a little disappointed to get blown away by a few bikers.  They were on full aerobikes complete with aero wheels so I can't feel too bad about that.

Hammering for the finish.
Coming into the finish I was still ahead of Cory so I dropped my bike with the volunteers and tried to run for the finish.  This is one little oddity of the triathlon with the final 50m run after the bike.  I just about biffed it as my legs still wanted to pedal circles instead of running.  Total bike plus short run of 33:52.  So a couple of minutes slower than predicted.

All told my final time was 1:59:51 officially.  So while my individual splits were right on, my estimates didn't account for my transition times.  Overall pretty good for some a SWAG (scientific wild ass guess).

All I could do at this point is wait for Cory to finish and see what happened.  He rolled in and we congratulated each other on a great race.


And that is all there is to say.

What, you want to know how it actually ended after all of that?


First up was comparing our watches.  Cory had 1:59:30 on his watch.  Me?  I had 1:59:29.  How about that for a close race?!

I knew my watch wasn't going to exactly match the official timing because I didn't start and stop it right at the timing mats.  This was definitely going to come down to the official results so we had to wait.

Jamey Sotis got a picture of us immediately after the finish.  I think this was after we had already determined it was going to be a "photo finish" by the official timer.
After a short suspenseful wait for more results to be posted this is what we found.

That is right folks.  8 seconds.  This whole thing came down to 8 seconds.  When I predicted it would be a good race I was hopeful it would be good, but sometimes you never know on any given day.  This was incredible.  I couldn't have asked for a better race with a better competitor.

That said, 8 seconds is going to cost Cory a blizzard.

I'd also like you to go back up and look at Adam Lushanko's prediction.  He is either very good or very lucky.  Eitherway, huge kudos to him for an eerily accurate prediction.  And again thanks for letting me borrow the kayak and the support to help make this happen.

Thanks for the great race Cory!  We will see you July 9th 2016 for a rematch.

A few quick notes about some other notable finishes.

Jeff Wolf signed up Friday night and rolled in Saturday to lay the smack down on the M40-49 age group winning with a time of 2:06:26.

Ana Pratt took the F30-39 and overall women's individual title with a 2:19:10.

Starr took a back third paddle, before mid pack run, and a FIRST individual female bike to place a phenomenal 56 overall for combined individual/tandem.

Smiling on her way to killing it on the bike.  Photo Credit: Roberta Mullin

I won't go too hog wild here, but we should break this down by official splits.

I actually found this really surprising.  Cory outsplit me for the kayak obviously, but also by quite a bit on T1 and by a little on T2.  Turns out my initial shoe change was almost my down fall.  Our kayak/run differential was almost identical and not as much as I thought they would be.  We both appeared to mitigate our weaknesses well.

When you run the cumulative time Cory got on the bike course with a 48 second advantage.  I didn't think it was that big if anything at the time during the race.  I really left it all on the bike course.  I've never seen my average HR that high on a bike ride before (177bpm/92%maxHR).  Turns out it was a good thing I did.

In the end I think Cory and I both know where we can make some gains for 2016.  I'm thinking sub 1:55 for both of us.  What do you say Cory?

Mullin's What's Next

There are a steady selection of events on the calendar for the rest of July and August.

First up is the fourth installment of the 2015 Sasquatch Dash series this coming Saturday 7/18.  Stay tuned for the course by late Monday night.

Then a few days of riding in Copper Harbor, no racing, just riding.  Hopefully lots of riding.

Then there are plans forming to ride 100k of Woolly on a single day in August.

Potentially the Lester River MTB race.

Sasquatch Dash #5.

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up Ben and Good racing! Nice job Jeff Wolf.

    Enjoy Copper Harbor.