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Triathlon Across the USA: State #38-Tennessee

Triathlon Across the USA: State #38-Tennessee

Huntingdon, Tennessee, September 15, 2018 – Dixie Triathlon, Carroll County 1000 Acre Recreation Area


Travel to the Tennessee Triathlon

Joy and I used the week between the Hocking Hills Sprint Triathlon (Logan, Ohio) and the Tennessee triathlon to visit the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter and to camp at Big Bone Lick State Park, all in northern Kentucky.

Meanwhile, my search for a hotel near the location of the Dixie Triathlon the next weekend had turned up nothing.  The few hotels in the communities around Huntingdon were full on Friday night.

As we entered Tennessee on Thursday afternoon, we stopped at one of the first visitor’s centers.  The goal was to gather information about camping sites near the race venue.  One of the closest options near Huntingdon was Natchez Trace State Park, around 45 minutes drive from the Carroll County Recreation Area.

While checking out campgrounds within Natchez Trace State Park, we stumbled upon Pin Oak Lodge.  The lodge provided a clean and comfortable air-conditioned room (it was hot and humid outside), a restaurant, and a swimming pool, all among pine trees and with the view of a lake in the background.


Inaugural Dixie Triathlon

This was the first time for the Dixie Triathlon.  The event had been the dream of a local triathlete, Dr. Volker Winkler.  Unfortunately, Dr. Winkler was not able to see his dream come true as he died unexpectedly earlier in the year.

However, in his honor, Carroll County officials and residents poured their hearts into making this event a success.  McKenzie Medical Center, the clinic that Dr. Winkler helped found, served as the title sponsor of the race.  The Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center in Huntingdon was the presenting sponsor.


Filled to Capacity

The number and enthusiasm of volunteers supporting the athletes spoke volumes about the commitment of the community to the triathlon.  The personal notes from Huntingdon Middle School students in the race packets and the hand-made signs along the race course added to the welcoming feeling.

On top of this, all participants received handcrafted ceramic finisher medals produced in the Dixie Performing Art Center’s Mudslingers Pottery Studio awards.

Every one of the 300 spots in the race was filled, despite this being the Dixie Triathlon’s first year.


Carroll County, Tennessee residents put their hearts into welcoming triathletes to the inaugural Dixie Triathlon. Clockwise from the upper left: Note from Bella S. in my race packet (upper left); Pre-race meeting of volunteers (upper right); One of many signs around the transition area and along the race course (lower right); Handcrafted age group award and finisher medal (lower left).


The Dixie Triathlon, managed by Above The Fold Events & Sport Promotions, Franklin, Tennessee, included both sprint and Olympic distances.  There was also an option to compete in the sprint distance as a relay team.

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 0.31 mile (500 m)
  • Bike: 16 mile (25.7 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)


Transition Area Setup

The transition area was set up in a grassy area in front of the lake and next to the boat ramp and dock.  Positions were selected on a ‘first come, first served’ basis with all sprint racers on the side of the main aisle closest to the lake.

Since I was among the first people to arrive at the race (we arrived before the opening of the transition area at 5:45 am, though were not the first), I had a good position, one bike position off the main aisle.

In setting up my transition area, I did what I have always done for a quick transition – set my helmet upside down centered on the aerobars.  Clear safety glasses were set inside the helmet, lenses facing downward and bows standing upward.

Checking back sometime later, I found the helmet lying on the ground.  Now, however, my glasses were in two pieces – the lenses and the frame.

I could not see anything to suggest that the glasses were broken.  However, without my reading glasses (‘cheaters’), I couldn’t see any possibility of putting the two pieces back together.  Fortunately, Joy found the solution and reassembled the two pieces.

I returned the glasses to the helmet still in the transition area.  However, this time, I left the helmet and glasses sitting on the ground next to the front bike tire.  Just before the beginning of the race, when the transition area was ready to be closed, I put the helmet with glasses back onto the aero-bars.


Triathlon tip: During the setup of transition, plan for items in your personal space to be moved.  Just before the close of transition, reinspect the area and reposition any of the items that have been moved.


Pre-race Ceremony

After race director Joe Fleenor reviewed key points of the race course, we all joined Carroll County mayor, Joseph Butler, in a prayer thanking God for the beauty of His creation and asking for the safety of the participants.  Katie Hodges, Miss Dixie Performing Arts Center, concluded the pre-race ceremony with the singing of the national anthem.



The water temperature was over 81°F so, according to USAT rules, wetsuits were not allowed.


Beach and three buoys on the rectangular swim course of the sprint distance of the Tennessee Triathlon.  The dock from which the swim began and which is next to the exit is located to the left of the picture.


I have learned the hard way to always check the bottom of the lake before the race.  Lake bottoms vary considerably – some are rocky, some are muddy, and some are slippery.  Today, we were swimming in a lake with an uneven, clay bottom that made walking into and out of the water tricky.


Wave Starts

Participants started in waves by distance, age groups, and gender.  All of the Olympic distance groups started first.   As the first of the Olympic triathletes completed their swim, the male sprint distance racers started according to their age groups.  I started in the group of males aged 50 and over.  The group included twenty-six (26) participants.

About a minute and a half before the start of our wave, we walked onto the dock and jumped into the water facing the first yellow buoy.  The water was deep enough that I never touched bottom upon jumping in.

The rectangular shape of the sprint distance swim course involved three left turns.  The first two turns were around yellow buoys shown in the picture above. About 75 yards after making the last left turn, the one around the lone orange buoy, we reached the exit.

The steep drop-off of the bottom meant that we could swim within a few feet of shore before touching bottom, one already determined to be uneven and slippery.  Thankfully, volunteers stationed at the exit helped racers with their footing as they left the water.


Triathlon tip: In open water swims, it is helpful to swim as close to the exit as possible, especially when the bottom is difficult to walk on.



The mount location for the bike was also unique in that it sloped downward in two directions at the same time – away from the transition area and downward toward the lake.   After riding out of the mount area, there was a short flat section of road during which I slipped my feet into the bike shoes.

The bike course continued out of the Carroll County 1000 Acre Recreation Area through a small hill onto the road leading into the area.  The continuous series of hills took us along country roads past wooded areas and fields of soybeans and cotton (pictured).  We passed through the center of Huntingdon, past the Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center and the Carroll County Courthouse.   From there we were back on another series of paved country roads.


The ‘Surprise’

The ‘surprise’ for the sprint competitors mentioned by race director Joe Fleenor during the opening announcements was as feared – a hill of the grade and length that required walking the bike up the last portion of the hill.

During the walk, I commiserated with a man of similar age who walked along with me.  He informed me that he had known what was coming because he had had the opportunity to ride the course during training.

We reminded each other that triathlon is, at least for us, a hobby.


Time Wasters

Two events made my time on the bike course longer than necessary.  The first was my chain coming off the gears as I downshifted in advance of a steep hill.

Reinstalling the chain required first flipping the bike upside down.  In this position, I could free the chain that had become wedged between the frame and gear.  With the chain loose, it was a simple matter of flipping the bike right side up and resetting the chain on both sets of gears.

It seemed too risky re-clipping my shoes into the pedals while going uphill.  I turned the bike around, coasting downhill while clipping my shoes into the pedals. I made a U-turn to rejoin the race during a break in the flow of bikers.

The second cause of wasted time was misreading a sign containing an arrow marking the bike course.  Thinking that I had continued onto the course for the Olympic distance, I turned around.  Immediately, a volunteer yelled out for me to turn back around and make a right turn at the next intersection.


A rare flat section of the bike course passed fields of soybeans and cotton.



The temperature at the start of the race was 72°F with a relative humidity of 89%.  By the time I hit the run course, the temperature was in the high 80s°F.

The combination of temperature, humidity, and hills made this also one of the toughest runs.  Senior triathlete and personal trainer, Jeanne Minder, told me that I had not trained enough in these conditions of heat, humidity, hills, etc.   Another lesson to take from this race.


After the Race

Eavesdropping on conversations while re-hydrating after the race, I was comforted to hear from other seasoned triathletes from the southeast part of the USA say that this was ‘the’ or ‘one of the’ hilliest bike courses of a triathlon.  Of course, I also overheard one guy say that people from ‘eastern Tennessee would not even consider this course to be hilly’.

The race committee provided a generous and diverse table of foods – pizza, donuts, bananas, oranges, and chips – and soft drinks and water for participants to re-hydrate and recover.


Elvis, one of the triathlon participants, with the Giraffe.


Our Next Destination

Before the Georgia triathlon the next weekend, we headed toward The Villages, Florida for a week with friends, Don & Sue.  This would also be the end of the trip for the stuffed giraffe which had hitchhiked a ride in the back of our van.  The giraffe would take up residence in central Florida with her owner, Debby P.


Race First’s

  • First time participating in an inaugural triathlon.
  • First time riding past cotton fields.
  • First time losing time on the bike course because of misreading a course marker.

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Triathlon Across the USA: State #37-Ohio

Triathlon Across the USA: State #37-Ohio

Logan, Ohio, September 8, 2018 – Hocking Hills Sprint Triathlon, Lake Logan State Park/Lake Logan Beach

Logan, Ohio, about an hour drive southeast of Columbus, was the venue for the first of five sprint triathlons to be completed in the same number of states on successive weekends of September and the first weekend in October.   

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Making Fitness a Lifestyle – Jeanne Minder’s Story

Making Fitness a Lifestyle – Jeanne Minder’s Story

From her earliest memories of growing up in South St. Paul, Minnesota, Jeanne Minder has been active.  Her love for moving, whether through biking, running, swimming, walking, skiing, or you-name-it, has led to impressive accomplishments in triathlon.

Following is Jeanne’s triathlon story and information about triathlon training for seniors that she shared with Joy and me over coffee.


Accomplishments On and Off the Course

I was first introduced to Jeanne through an article in an online newspaper covering the northern suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota.  However, when Joy and I met with Jeanne over coffee and tea at the Caribou Coffee in Arden Hills, Minnesota, we learned a whole lot more about her.

A sampling of her accomplishments tells part of the story:

  • Over 400 triathlons including three at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
  • Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame inductee
  • Gold medalist in triathlon at the 2015 National Senior Games
  • Mother of an active son and daughter
  • Leader of the County Cycles Triathlon Club for 24 years
  • Personal trainer for 28 years, including 23 years with the New Brighton Community Center
  • University of Minnesota graduate
  • High school track & field and cross country skiing coach
  • And, an on-going participant in endurance events involving running, skiing, and biking.

But that’s not all.  In talking with Jeanne, we were able to see her personal side – her passion for endurance sports and her love for helping people, especially seniors, “make fitness a lifestyle”.

“Anybody who does triathlon or any sport is doing good.  As a personal trainer, I try to get people to work out three times per week and make it a lifestyle.”  Jeanne Minder


Getting Started in Triathlon

Jeanne did her first triathlon, the Turtleman Triathlon in Shoreview, Minnesota, in 1982.

“I had been training with local athletes Mary Lou Schmidt and Roy Carlsted and they encouraged me to do a triathlon.”

Like so many of us, she caught the ‘triathlon bug’ after completing her first.  There was no turning back.


A Mother’s Example

But the seed for her triathlon excursion started years earlier.  Jeanne credits much of her love for being active to her mother.  Growing up in South St. Paul, Minnesota, Jeanne’s mother taught her and her three sisters how to manage without a second car.

“We walked or biked everywhere that we needed to go.”

During the summer, they made the daily bike ride to the pool where they spent their afternoons.  Swimming, biking, and running were a natural part of her lifestyle as a child.

“When we were at home, my mom would tell us to ‘Go outside and play’.  So we would go outside, ride bike, swim or play kick the can in the summer, and go tobogganing in the winter.   We were literally outside whenever possible.”

Even though she did not participate in organized sports in high school, the foundation for future activities had been built.


Triathlon and More

Since 1982, Jeanne has done over 400 triathlons.  These have included six Ironman distance races of which three have been at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.   Qualifying for Ironman Championships in Hawaii meant that she won her age group at qualifying Ironman triathlons in Lake Placid, New York; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Along the way, she has amassed a large number of interesting stories.  The first one which she shared during our conversation was from the Ironman Cape Cod.

“Cape Cod was tough with 40 miles per hour winds in every direction.  Oh, yes, and they forgot to tell us until the next day during the awards ceremony about the sharks that had been around the swim course.”

She has also completed 26 marathons.  These have included the iconic Boston Marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota.

On top of this, she has finished countless long distance bike rides across her home state of Minnesota (TRAM, Bike Across Minnesota, MS150), the Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, and bike rides across long stretches of the USA and Canada.

And then, there was her 2015 first-place finish in women’s triathlon at the National Senior Games.


A sampling of Jeanne Minder’s awards and recognition. Clockwise from the upper left: 2018 ‘Breaking Barriers Award’ (upper left), finisher medal from the 2015 National Senior Games (upper right), the award from the 1995 Turtleman Triathlon (lower right), and the award from the 2004 Lake Minnetonka Triathlon.


Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame

Despite this fantastic list of accomplishments, Jeanne told us that she was surprised to receive a call from a representative of the Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame one day in early 2016.  The caller informed Jeanne that her accomplishments had been noticed and that she had been nominated to the Hall of Fame.

“When the caller told me that I had been nominated for the Senior Sports Hall of Fame, I asked ‘For what?’. ‘For triathlon’ was his answer.”

On May 13, 2016, Jeanne received the award recognizing her accomplishments in a ceremony at Jimmy’s Food & Drink in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota.


Jeanne Minder was inducted to the Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame on May 13, 2016.


The Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Minnesota Senior Sports Association.  According to their website, the Association is “dedicated to encouraging and supporting men and women from Minnesota in their pursuit of competitive athletics.”


Triathlon Training for Seniors

There are several approaches to training for a triathlon.  These include self-training (developing a training plan on your own), training as part of a triathlon club, and training under either a virtual or live coach.

While I have used self-training based on research and reading from a select group of books and websites, I have never been sure that this is the best approach or that it has helped me to be the most competitive.

Since Jeanne has been a personal trainer for 28 years and is an accomplished triathlete, I decided to get her thoughts.

Frankly, I expected that she would recommend hiring a trainer or triathlon coach.   However, this has not been her approach nor one she recommended.  In fact, I left feeling hopeful since she has followed a self-training approach with 2-3 group workouts per week.


Group Training Options

“There are plenty of options for group training.  Most running stores offer group runs.  Masters swimming clubs (such as U.S. Master Swimming) provide group swim training.  And many bike shops put together group rides.”

“Or, you can do what I did this morning.  When I got to the community center pool at 6 o’clock, there were already eight people in the pool.  I asked them if they wanted to do a workout, which they did.  So we ended up swimming 3,000 meters using a workout that I quickly put together.”

“As you get to know people in each of these, you will inevitably find those interested in triathlon.  You can put together triathlon specific sessions such as brick (e.g. bike followed by a run) workouts with these new found friends.”

“For example, we would bring our bikes to White Bear Beach (in White Bear Lake, Minnesota).  After a swim (in White Bear Lake), we would bike from the beach to Somerset, Wisconsin; eat lunch; and return home, having biked roughly 70 miles round trip.”

While triathlon is an individual sport, triathlon training provides plenty of opportunity for being social.

There can be no question that one factor in Jeanne’s success is her love for being with people.  She told us repeatedly of the thrills that have come from meeting and spending time with people, whether training together or camping at a multi-day biking event.

“Triathlon has allowed me to meet some really neat people.” Jeanne Minder


It’s Not About the Competition

If we are truthful, we all want to be competitive and even win some races, or at least finish in first place in our age group once in a while.

However, most seniors who do triathlon or are active with other sports – Jeanne Minder included – mostly want to see others share in the benefits of being active.  Not just as validation for their sports activities but because they (we) have seen the benefits of it.

“Anybody who does a triathlon or any sport is doing good.  As a personal trainer, I try to get people to work out three times per week and make it a lifestyle.


Let’s Not Forget the Volunteers and Race Directors

On several occasions, Jeanne stopped to point out the importance of volunteers and race directors to triathlon.

“Triathlons wouldn’t even be around were it not for the volunteers.  And, as for the race directors, most people do not realize the amount of work that goes into a triathlon.  There is not only the race but the work to organize the volunteers and all of the pre-race and post-race activities.”

Jeanne singled out Randy Fulton for his support of triathlon:

“For a while, Randy was running every triathlon around here (Minneapolis-St. Paul area).  He was really great for promoting the sport and giving us great races to do.  He was a great person.”

By the way, next time you are at a triathlon, thank the volunteers.


What’ Next?

Jeanne loves being with people.  She has high energy and loves to be active.

She also loves her dogs.

“Today, my inspiration for running comes from my three Golden Retrievers.  Goldens are runners.  They love to run.”

“After coming home from a hard day, these guys give me a look that tells me ‘You need to take me for a run’.  How can I say ‘No’?”



Please send any questions or comments through the comment box below or by emailing seniortriathletes@gmail.com.


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