Triathlon Across the USA: State #2 – South Dakota

Triathlon Across the USA: State #2 – South Dakota

The Latin phrase “Veni, vidi, vici”, translated literally as “I came, I saw, I conquered”, is attributed to Julius Caesar to describe his swift and decisive victory at the Battle of Zela in 47 BC.  What does this have to do with triathlon?  Read the full post for my thoughts and for more information about the Triple V Triathlon in State #2 of the ‘Triathlon Across the USA’ adventure.


Having set the goal of completing triathlons in all 50 states by the time I reached age 70 – I was 58 at the time, I knew that I needed to get on with it and complete races in other states.  Fifty (50) states in 12 years meant that I needed to complete triathlons in more than three states per year.    I mean, I had to complete triathlons in at least three states ‘this’ year (2011).

South Dakota (SD) is one of the states next to my home state of Minnesota.  It is also between Minnesota and Nebraska, home of our son, Ben.  Joy has family in Rapid City, SD, near Mt. Rushmore.  However, I could not find any triathlons in Rapid City scheduled for this year on a weekend that we had open.

As luck would have it, I received an e-mail from All Sports Central that showed the Triple V Triathlon being held in Yankton, SD on Sunday of the Labor Day weekend in 2011.  We had no plans for that weekend so on June 27, 2011, I registered for the triathlon for State #2.


Travel to the triathlon

Since our granddaughter, Valerie, had spent time with us the previous week and school was resuming after Labor Day (the next Monday), we decided to make a short detour to take her to her home in Hutchinson, MN.  We left our home at around 9 am on Saturday, September 3rd.

After dropping off Valerie, we wound our way through the southwestern Minnesota countryside to places we had either never before been or had not been for decades.  This is some flat, but beautiful country.  By the way, if you have never seen a wind turbine farm, you can see them in this area.

By mid-afternoon we were in Yankton and checked into our hotel, the Best Western Kelly Inn.  Our son arrived at about the same time.

After a bit of exploring of Yankton, checking out the race venue, and picking up the race packet, we had dinner and made an early night knowing that 4:30am would come soon.


Map showing the 713 mile route traveled to participate in the Triple V Triathlon (and spend time with family).


Race Day – September 4, 2011

The triathlon was held in Lewis and Clark Recreation Area six miles west of Yankton.  The lake, created by Gavins Point Dam, is actually on the Missouri River.  The dividing line between the states of South Dakota and Nebraska more or less follows the center of the river.


Triple V Triathlon

The course essentially consisted of the standard distances of each leg – 0.25 mile (400 m) swim, 14.3 mile (23 km) bike, and 3.1 mile (5 km) run.  Weather was perfect for a triathlon – sunny and around 60ºF (16ºC) with a light breeze.



The 0.25 mile (400 m) swim started at the boat launch of the marina.  The course was simple – straight out to an orange buoy, around the buoy, and back.

In contrast to Minnesota lakes where the bottom is typically a mix of mud and sand, the bottom of the Missouri River, at least in this area, is clay and incredibly slippery.   When I say ‘slippery’, I mean icy-like in that it was difficult to walk without falling.  The answer was to swim in as far as possible – good practice for all open water swims.

This was my first triathlon in which I wore a wetsuit, the one I had purchased within the past few weeks.  My swim cap managed to come off at about the 3/4ths point of the course.  Having been instructed to never leave garbage or gear along the race course, I carried the cap in my right hand through the rest of the swim.



The transition area was a short distance from the boat launch.  The 14.3 mile bike course left the marina through a parking lot and onto South Dakota Highway 52 eastward toward Yankton.  After a short distance on Highway 52, the course took a right turn over Gavins Point Dam and into Nebraska.

The course followed the river into the south end of Yankton, crossing back over the Missouri River, winding through the residential area of Yankton, past the hospital, and back onto Highway 52 westward toward the marina and transition area.

The course was generally quite flat though there were a few hills on Highway 52.  During the last half of the course, I found myself trading places – he passed me, then I passed him, repeated several times – with a guy having the number 40 (his age) written in black marker on his left calf.   See ‘Takeaways’ section below for more about this.

In the end, he beat me into the transition area.  However, at an average speed of nearly 21 miles per hour (33 km per hour), this was a fast course.



The 3.1 mile (5 km) was incredibly flat, out and back.  Again, being quite flat, the course was fast.



My total time for this course was 1:19:45.  I was certainly pleased with this time.

However, I was not so pleased with my place.  For this race, my age group was defined as Age 50-59, of which I was the oldest at 58.  The closest racer in age to me within my age group was 53.

Not that I am using age as an excuse – well maybe a little.  However, I ended up in 7th place of 14 within my age group, 38th of 85 for all men, and 46th of 140 for all participants.

I have often heard it said the triathlon is primarily an individual competition, at least for us age groupers.  Our place within our age group depends primarily upon who shows up for the particular race.

Clearly, this was a fast race and I had raced with a bunch 50-somethings who were really fast.


Race First’s

First time experiences or observations associated with this triathlon were:

  • First triathlon outside Minnesota
  • First triathlon attended by our son, Ben
  • First triathlon with wetsuit for the open water swim
  • First triathlon open water swim in a river (Missouri River)
  • First triathlon in which my swim cap came off during the swim.
  • First triathlon that crossed state lines (the bike course was in both SD and NE).  So that we are clear, I am not counting this triathlon as the Nebraska one.  The Nebraska triathlon had not yet been planned.

T-shirt from the 2011 Triple V Triathlon, Lewis & Clark Recreation Area, Yankton, South Dakota

Return trip

The return trip provided the ideal opportunity to visit Joy’s cousin, Tom, in Watson, MN.  I cannot say or write Watson, MN (near Laq Qui Parle, MN) without acknowledging it to be “The Goose Capital of the World”.

After a dinner of New York strip steak, spinach salad with bleu cheese, and mashed potatoes – the typical meal with cousin Tom – we returned home.



After the triathlon, the young, 40 year old guy with whom I had traded places during the bike leg, came up to me and confessed: “When I saw your age, I told myself that there was no way that I was going to let you beat me.”

I must say that I was flattered to have been seen as serious competition by a person nearly 20 years my junior.

At the beginning of this post, the question “what does the phrase ‘veni, vidi, vici’ have to do with triathlon?” was asked.

In reflection, this flat, fast triathlon was a quick and definitive personal victory.  First, it was an important step toward Joy’s and my goal of a triathlon in each state by age 70.  Secondly, the time to complete the triathlon was one that I could not have even imagined one year earlier, that is, before I had begun training for my first triathlon.

Two states done – 48 to go.

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