Triathlon Across the USA: State #2 – South Dakota

Yankton, South Dakota; September 4, 2011—Triple V Triathlon, Lewis & Clark Recreation Area.

Historians have recorded Julius Caesar proclaiming “Veni, Vidi, Vici” following his swift and decisive victory at the Battle of Zela in 47 BC. This same Latin phrase, which literally means “I came, I saw, I conquered”, was the theme for the Triple V Triathlon.

What does this have to do with triathlon? 

You’ll see as you read the story of the triathlon in the second state in the Triathlon Across the USA adventure.

Planning the South Dakota Triathlon

Having set the goal of completing triathlons in all 50 states by the time I reached age 70. I was 58.

I knew I needed to get on with it and complete races in other states. Fifty states in 12 years meant I needed to complete triathlons in over three states per year. Said another way, I needed to complete triathlons in at least three states this year.

South Dakota is one state bordering my home state of Minnesota. It also sits between Minnesota and Nebraska, home of our son, Ben.

Joy has family in Rapid City, South Dakota, near Mt. Rushmore.  However, I could not find any triathlons in Rapid City scheduled for this year on an open weekend.

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

Travel to the South Dakota Triathlon

Our trip to South Dakota started with a detour to take our granddaughter Valerie to her home in Hutchinson, MN. She had spent the previous week with us. Her school was resuming the next Tuesday, the day after Labor Day.

After dropping off Valerie, we wound our way through the flat, green, and just-plain-beautiful southwestern Minnesota countryside. We passed through an area where hundreds of wind turbines captured energy from the wind as it passed unhindered by any hills.  We were certain that we had never been to this area before.

By mid-afternoon, we were in Yankton and checked into our hotel, the Best Western Kelly Inn. Our son, Ben arrived shortly thereafter.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Yankton and the race venue, eventually picking up the race packet. We ate an early dinner and headed to bed, knowing that 4:30 am would come quickly.

Map showing the route from Minneapolis to Yankton and back
Map showing the 713-mile route traveled to take part in the Triple V Triathlon in southeastern South Dakota (and spend time with family).

Race Day

The Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, ground-zero for the South Dakota triathlon, was six miles west of Yankton. The lake, created by Gavins Point Dam, is actually on the Missouri River, the longest river in the USA. 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 comprised the standard distances of a sprint triathlon

  • 0.25 mile (400 m) swim
  • 14.3 miles (23 km) bike
  • 3.1 miles (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.

The bottom of most Minnesota lakes is a mixture of mud and sand, with the occasional weed. Traction is never a problem.  

In contrast, the bottom of the Missouri River, at least in this area, was clay. The bottom was slippery like glare-ice, making it difficult to walk in the water without falling. The answer was to swim in to shore as far as possible, a practice I have adopted for all open water swims.

This was also the first triathlon in which I wore a wetsuit, one I had purchased two weeks earlier. My swim cap slipped off my head about the 3/4ths of the way through the swim.  I carried the cap in my right hand through the rest of the swim; it is important to never leave garbage or gear along the course. (In future races when my swim cap came off, I would tuck it into my wetsuit or triathlon suit rather than hold it in a clenched fist while I swam the rest of the distance.

Missouri River at the Lewis & Clark Recreation Center
The open water swim in the South Dakota triathlon was in the Missouri River at Lewis & Clark Recreation Area.


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 a residential area of Yankton, past the hospital, and back onto Highway 52 westward toward the marina and transition area.

While there were a few hills on Highway 52, the course was generally quite flat. It was also fast with an average speed of nearly 21 miles per hour (33 km per hour).

During the last half of the course, I repeatedly traded positions with a guy bearing the number 40 (his age) written in black marker on his left calf. He passed me, then I passed him. This went on for several miles. In the end, he beat me into the transition area.

After the triathlon, the 40-year-old guy 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 was flattered to have been viewed as serious competition by a person nearly 20 years my junior.

road from South Dakota to Nebraska at Yankton
The bike course took us from South Dakota into Nebraska over the Missouri River.


The extremely flat, 3.1 miles (5 km) out and back course followed a running path along the Missouri River.  

Results of the South Dakota Triathlon

I was happy with my time for this course (1:19:45).  However, I was not so pleased with my place within my age group of 50-59.  I ended up in 7th place of 14 within my age group, compared to 3rd place in the Maple Grove Triathlon two weekends earlier.  Among all men, I finished 38th of 85.

This was a fast race. I had raced with other 50-year-olds who were much faster than me.

This was not the last time that I would be humbled.

Race Firsts

  • First triathlon outside Minnesota
  • First triathlon attended by our son, Ben
  • Initiation of a wetsuit purchased 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.
  • The bike course was split between South Dakota and Nebraska making it my first triathlon in which I crossed state lines.  To be clear, this race did NOT count as the Nebraska triathlon, which would be state #29.
Tshirt from the South Dakota triathlon
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, Minnesota, also known as “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.


At the beginning of this post, I asked what the phrase “Veni, Vidi, Vici” has to do with triathlon.

The Triple V Triathlon was a quick and definitive personal victory.  First, it was an important step toward Joy’s and my goal of completing a triathlon in each state by age 70.  Secondly, I finished a sprint triathlon in a time I never imagined one year earlier, before starting the training for my first race.

Two states down – 48 to go.

Have You Done a Triathlon in South Dakota?

While not being large, South Dakota has incredibly diverse geography. The area of the triathlon is dominated by the wetlands of the Missouri River. Further west, you will find the Black Hills and the iconic Mount Rushmore. Travel north and you will find almost unbelievably large corn fields.

Let us know about any triathlons you have done in South Dakota.

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Triathlon Across the USA: State #28 – Missouri

Columbia, Missouri; May 1, 2016 – University of Missouri at Columbia; TriZou Triathlon

The TriZou Triathlon, held at the University of Missouri at Columbia, was my Missouri triathlon and 28th state in our ‘Triathlon Across the USA’ adventure.

Planning the Missouri Triathlon

I started planning the Missouri triathlon during the summer of 2015. While sitting on our patio one summer afternoon, our daughter-in-law, Lindsey, informed me that she and our youngest son, Ben, wanted to do a second triathlon with me. Since Ben and Lindsey live in Nebraska, one option was to find a triathlon in Nebraska.

Another possibility was to find a triathlon in Missouri where Lindsey’s mother and husband live. Joy and I had been talking about visiting them for awhile, so we also looked for races near their home.

Through a search on Running in the USA, I learned about the TriZou Triathlon. This race was to be held at the University of Missouri at Columbia, also known as ‘Mizzou’, on May 1st of the next year. 

Lindsey’s mom lives near Freeburg, Missouri, about one and one-half hours south of Columbia. Also, my uncle lives in Columbia about 20 minutes from Mizzou. Seemed like a good opportunity to combine a triathlon with family time.

Since I was looking for two spring and two fall triathlons for 2016, we agreed on TriZou. On November 7, 2015, I registered the three of us – Ben, Lindsey, and me – for the Missouri triathlon.

Travel to the ‘Show-Me’ State

Joy and I left our Minnesota home for Missouri around 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 28th. About 9-1/2 hours later, we arrived at Lindsey’s mother’s home south of Jefferson City, Missouri.

Map between Minnesota and Missouri for the TriZou Triathlon.
Map showing the roughly 1,200 miles traveled roundtrip between Minnesota and Missouri for the TriZou Triathlon.

I have traveled for business and pleasure to Kansas City and St. Louis but do not recall having been in central Missouri before.  I swear that if I ever knew that Jefferson City was the capital of Missouri, I had forgotten it.

We were treated to real southern hospitality in a gorgeous area of the country. Their home, nestled in the hills of central Missouri, provided relaxation that is hard to beat.

However, almost immediately, I felt the effects of my allergies to tree pollen (itchy eyes, running nose).  I have since been careful to avoid scheduling triathlons in states with high tree pollen counts during race days.

On Friday, Ben, Lindsey, and our two granddaughters, Mari Lyn and Anna Joy, joined us.  We spent a lazy day chatting and exploring the farmyard and surrounding pasture. Later that day, we took advantage of being in the country to practice our shooting skills.

Garden with poison ivy in central Missouri
Leading up to the triathlon, we enjoyed the very real hospitality of the Neuner family near Jefferson City, Missouri (left). One takeaway – I finally learned to identify poison ivy – ‘leaves of three, let them be’ (right).

Visiting Columbia and Mizzou

On Saturday afternoon, Ben, Joy, and I traveled to Mizzou for the pre-race triathlon ritual of ‘packet pickup’.  Here we received our race t-shirts and race numbers.

Due to ear infections that had been keeping Anna Joy (our youngest granddaughter) and Lindsey from sleeping over the past few days, Lindsey decided against taking part in the triathlon, choosing instead to stay with Anna. Of course, we agreed that this was the correct decision.

After picking up our race packets, we set out to drive the bike course. After a short while, we gave up as I realized that my map reading skills were lacking. I confirmed this on race day, when I learned we had been on the course for only a short distance.

Having given up on driving the course, we made our way to my uncle’s house. Here we enjoyed another evening of Missouri hospitality with homemade crispy, thin crust pizza (Joy’s and my favorite) and Missouri wines all while laughing and solving many of the country’s problems with Wayne, Anita, and Ethan.

An Early Morning for the Missouri Triathlon

On race morning, Ben, Joy, and I rose at 4:30 a.m. Why this horrendous wake-up time? To stake out a favorable location in the transition area.

Even though triathlon is a supposed hobby, I often catch myself acting as if the decisions associated with it are life-altering.  True to form, I tossed and turned throughout the night analyzing various options for the optimal position of my transition area.  Where should I rack my bike on the Mizzou Track & Field track?

The transition area for TriZou was described as ‘open rack’. This meant that transition spaces were available on a first-come, first-served basis, rather than pre-assigned by race number.  To get an ideal space (near the Bike Out area for this race), I wanted to be at the race site when the transition area opened at 5 a.m.

After packing the car and stopping for coffee, we arrived at about 5:10 a.m. to find many people already having racked their bikes.

To put this in perspective, there have been many races for which I have been among the first to rack my bike even when arriving 15 minutes after the transition area has opened.  That there were so many participants in the transition area this early told me that this was going to be a serious race.

Ben and I racked our bikes next to each other.  Lindsey’s cousin, Jeff, also from Omaha, Nebraska, arrived a few minutes later.

While were setting up our transition areas, checking out the pool, and killing time before the race, the ever faithful supporter of this triathlon obsession, Joy, waited for us in the van. She didn’t complain, however, since I’m pretty sure she got in some of the sleep I had deprived her of earlier.

hanging out in the transition area before the triathlon
Downtime with Ben and Jeff between transition setup and the start of the triathlon.

8th Annual TriZou Triathlon

The event included options for sprint (Jeff’s and my choice) and supersprint (Ben’s choice) triathlon distances and a duathlon. The sprint and duathlon races also included an option for a relay.

The advertised distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 400 meters (0.25 miles)
  • Bike: 14 miles (22.4 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)

Pool Swim

TriZou is advertised as “The Largest Pool Swim Triathlon in the Midwest”. I guess it has earned this because of the number of participants in the sprint and supersprint triathlon distances.

The swim distance was 400 meter (8 lengths of the 50-meter long pool) for the sprint distance and 100 meters for the supersprint. Swimmers followed what I have called a ‘zig-zag’ pattern but what the race director called a ‘snake-style’.  In any case, we entered at one end, swam the length of the pool, ducked under the lane divider to the next lane, swam back to the starting end, and repeated the process for the eight lengths.  The swim leg of the supersprint race involved two lengths of the pool.

Mizzou Aquatic Center before the TriZou Triathlon
Mizzou Aquatic Center at University of Missouri, Columbia, location of the swim leg of the TriZou Triathlon.


The temperature (according to my bike computer) was perfect at 64°F (18°C).  The bike segment consisted of a 7-mile course, all on the streets of Columbia.  We covered the course twice for the sprint distance (14 miles).  Supersprint participants rode it once.

The race director described the course as ‘technical’ because of the many turns. With its long hills and sharp turns, the course reminded me of the course on which I had trained in Minnesota.   My average speed logged by the bike computer supported this idea.


During the transition from bike to run, I experienced something never before, even in training. I nearly passed out while putting on my running shoes. The feeling quickly passed. I thought this to be an isolated incident.

However, about a half mile into the run, the feeling returned. I found it necessary to walk for a while. I completed the 5k run through intermittent walking and jogging.  After the race, I felt fine.

Thinking About the Missouri Triathlon

I have thought that the dizziness was related to my allergies (body producing histamines) or to the antihistamine I had taken during the night before the race to quell allergy related symptoms.   My daughter, a registered nurse, agreed that the light-headedness likely resulted from the antihistamine.

Any thoughts about this experience are welcome.

TriZou was as predicted during transition setup a competitive race.  While the problems during the run cost some time, I still would have ended near the middle of my age group (60-64).  I ended 5th of 9 in my age group and 311th of 483 participants.  On a positive note, my times were 1st in T1, 2nd in T2, 3rd in the swim, and 4th in the bike within my age group.

Race Firsts

My first time experiences from this triathlon were:

  • First triathlon swim in a Division 1 college pool.
  • This triathlon was the first with the transition area on the track around a track & field facility.
  • First triathlon where Ben and I racked our bikes next to each other in the transition area.
transition area for TriZou
The transition area was located on the track of Stankowski Field, which is adjacent to the Mizzou Aquatic Center, location of the pool swim. The ‘Bike In’ and ‘Bike Out’ were on one end of the track (to the right of the area in the picture), while the ‘Swim In’ and ‘Run Out’ were at the other end (to the left of the area in the picture).

Lessons From the Missouri Triathlon

  1. The first lesson from this race came from the video of my swim stroke taken by Lindsey. While my right arm extended properly, my left arm did not fully extend. I am not certain if this was unique to this race or a feature of my stroke since I had not seen video of my swim stroke before. Since then, I have been conscious to extend both arms during the reach portion of the stroke.
  2. I also learned to be more aware of the types and amount of pollen in the area and for the dates of a triathlon I am considering.

Returning Home from the Missouri Triathlon

After lunch with Ben and his family, Joy and I headed home. While it rained most of the eight hours, traffic was light and the roads were good.

Our route took us by Pella, Iowa, host of an annual Tulip Time tulip festival. We had always thought of attending Tulip Time in Pella so looked into it while enroute. Sadly, we learned that we were one weekend too early.

However, since we were so close, we made a quick detour through town. Sure enough, there were thousands of tulips in bloom and plenty of evidence of preparation for celebrations the next weekend.

One More Thing

The swimming, biking, and running are important parts of this journey. There is so much to learn about triathlon and my body and its reactions or responses to different environments and situations.

However, the enjoyment around seeing the USA and sharing time with family, friends, and others we are fortunate enough to meet along the way makes me never want to stop this adventure.

Have You Experienced Dizziness During A Triathlon?

I would appreciate hearing about any experiences you have had with dizziness during a triathlon? What did you learn about its cause? How to prevent it?

Triathlon Across The USA: State #27 – Nevada

Boulder City, Nevada; April 16, 2016 – Lake Mead Recreation Area, Rage Triathlon

Traveling 3,659 miles through 12 states in six days, all to participate in a sprint triathlon in Nevada lasting about one and a half hours. 

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Triathlon and Visits With Family

During November 2015, Joy and I decided on Nevada as the location for the next triathlon in our 50 state adventure. I used the approach described in How to Choose Your Next Triathlon.

Since my mother’s passing last June, my father has been living alone in his home in the Denver, Colorado area.  My parents were six months short of having been married 65 years when my mother died.  My father was lonely. I wanted to see him.

Nevada was our first choice.  I had already completed a triathlon in Colorado. Nevada was one (and the closest) of the last two western USA states in which I had yet to complete a triathlon. California was the other.

A search on Running in the USA led me to the Rage Triathlon.  After reviewing the race website, we decided to register for it.

Travel to the Nevada Triathlon

My dad had planned to join us on the trip from his home to Nevada.  However, even before beginning the trip, I knew that he would not make the trip with us.  He had fallen in March and injured one of his legs.  While he was steadily recovering, he had decided it best to not make the trip.

Joy and I left our Minnesota home at noon on Tuesday, April 12 for our first stop, an overnight stay at our son’s home in Bennington, Nebraska.  The weather was perfect for time outdoors with our two grandaughters. After a good night’s rest, we headed toward my dad’s house in Parker, Colorado.

A Second Overnight Stop

We arrived at my dad’s late Wednesday afternoon. During an early dinner at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant near his home, my dad told us about the forecast of snow on I-70 west of Denver during the weekend in which we were to return from Nevada to Denver. We had planned to return home through Denver for a second night’s stay at my dad’s. Now, this seemed unlikely.

The next morning following a leisurely breakfast and wonderful conversation, we started the drive to Nevada.

family members
Travel to the Rage Triathlon in Boulder City, Nevada included visits with our son and his family (left) and with my dad (right).

It was not long after leaving my dad’s house that I read of a winter storm warning for a major part of Utah, including the area into which we were traveling.  We managed to get through the area affected by the storm seeing only a few snowflakes.  However, this was the leading edge of the storm that eventually dumped 3 to 5 feet (90 to 150 cm) of snow on the road that we had used to travel from Denver to Boulder City.

Triathlon in the Lake Mead Recreation Area

The Rage Triathlon was held in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, minutes from Boulder City, Nevada and from Hoover Dam.

After picking up the race packet and t-shirt in Henderson, we checked into our hotel in Boulder City. Next, it was time to start preparing for the triathlon. This included checking tire pressure, adding race numbers to the bike and race belt, and filling water bottles.

While I was taking care of these, Joy was searching for a restaurant for dinner.  A list of restaurants in the hotel room contained a handwritten note made by a previous guest with a glowing endorsement of Evan’s Old Town Grille.

We decided to follow the recommendation having an early dinner at Evan’s in the historic section of Boulder City (nice area). The referral turned out to be a good one.  Evan’s is a small restaurant with an extensive, economically priced menu.    We recommend Evan’s too.  We also recommend that you make reservations – it is a busy place with a good mix of locals and visitors.

Evan's Old Town Grille
The service and food at Evan’s Old Time Grille in the historic district of Boulder City, Nevada was excellent.

Race Day

I am not sure if the wind was related to the winter snowstorm to the north. Nevertheless, it caused a restless night as I listened to it howling, at times wondering if the race would be canceled. As the wind seemed to become louder, I started to imagine being blown off the road during the bike leg if the race were held.

Upon rising in the morning, I checked the weather report on my phone. It confirmed what I had been hearing from the bed – high winds, including a ‘Wind Advisory’.

wind advisory
The weather report for the Rage Triathlon race day included a Wind Advisory.

16th Annual Rage Triathlon

The race, first held in 2001 and managed by BBSC Endurance Sports, included Sprint (my choice) and Olympic distances, including relays of these.  While the wind was still a factor in the race, it had calmed with daybreak.

triathlon transition area
The transition area for the Rage Triathlon was a corridor with bikes racked on each side. The ‘Bike Out’ was on one end of the area, while the ‘Run Out’ was at the Lake Mead end.

The advertised distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 750 m (820 yards)
  • Bike: 12.4 miles (20 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)


There were small waves on Lake Mead.  Just before the start of the triathlon, the race director announced a change to the swim course motivated by the wind.

The open water swim involved groups based on gender and age group – I was in the group of men, 40 and over plus  Clydesdales.  The post-race results showed that the swim group numbered slightly more than 90.

Lake Mead triathlon
The swim leg of the Rage Triathlon was in Lake Mead. The wind on race day made the swim a bit more challenging.

The water was clear with a bottom containing sharp rocks and small shells. After the race, I found three small cuts on my feet. 

There were also the typical triathlon open water swim challenges. First, there was the person who determined to pass me at all cost, including swimming over top of me. Then, there was the guy who could not swim in a straight line. Instead, this guy followed a ‘zig-zag’ path, repeatedly swimming in front of me. I finally got in front of him.


The bike course was hilly and windy. My average speed was a little over 15 miles per hour (24 km per hour). However, I also reached a top speed of 36 miles per hour (58 km per hour) going downhill, probably with the wind at my back. 

The wind gusts made me skiddish about getting into the aero (short for ‘aerodynamic’) position for fear of being blown off the road.

After I returned home, I spoke with a person at my local bike shop (Maple Grove Cycling)  about this experience and my concern about riding in the aero position with gusty side winds.  His suggestion was that confidence would come with experience riding in similar conditions during training rides.  I guess that I need more time in the saddle.


The out-and-back run course was relatively flat and unaffected by the windy conditions.  I started out more slowly until my legs had adjusted to running. I was then able to end strong and finish with a time good for me.


The result was a first place finish in the Men’s 60-64 age group and 67th place finish among 157 men of all ages.

Avoiding Snow on the Way Home from the Nevada Triathlon

In November, while I was beginning to plan the 2016 triathlon season, I assumed that it would be safe to travel through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in April.  Little did I know that April is actually the month with the second highest snowfall in Colorado.

Road trip Nevada
Map showing route traveled to and from Minnesota to participate in the Rage Triathlon in Boulder City, Nevada. Dots indicate locations of overnight stops.

The winter snowstorm that occurred while we were in Nevada produced enough snow to close Interstate 70 for several hours on at least two days.  This made a return trip using the same route we had used to travel to Nevada impossible. That is, unless we would have had delayed our return by two days.

Delaying the return was not possible because of commitments at home.  Therefore, we returned using a southern route taking us across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.

Another Fascinating Road Trip

Once again, a triathlon provided multiple, enjoyable experiences – a road trip during which Joy and I enjoyed conversation and several audio books (“The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough, “How to Win Friends & Influence People in the Digital Age” with Brent Cole to name our favorites) and time with family members. We also saw new parts of this great country while enjoying the opportunity to race with others who enjoy triathlon.

Race Firsts

First time experiences or observations associated with this triathlon were:

  • First race in a national park.
  • The Rage Triathlon was the first race in which the transition area was setup as a long corridor with bikes lined up along the edges.  This approach did make it more challenging to find my transition space since I could not simply count the number of rows from the entrance to my transition area.
  • First race in which an age-group podium finisher had only one arm. Inspiring.

Share Your Questions and Comments

Have you done a triathlon in Nevada? Which one?

Have you done a triathlon in high wind? What was your experience? Any problems?

My First Triathlon – Is This How George Plimpton Felt?

Buffalo, Minnesota; June 5, 2011 – Buffalo Triathlon, Sturges Park.

Why would I do a triathlon, my first, at age 59? The answer begins with the need for better health. I continue with triathlon today for many more reasons.

Why Triathlon?

April 2010 was the launching point for what has become a significant life adventure for my wife, Joy, and me.

I was 57 years old. During my annual physical exam, my doctor shared his concern about the trends in my blood sugar and cholesterol. I was already on medication for blood pressure.

However, the doctor also encouraged me when he said, “This is nothing that losing 20 pounds won’t fix.”

I knew I had become a little more full in my face. My pants were also a little tighter. However, this was not enough motivation for me to exercise regularly. It was also not an incentive for me to give up burgers for salads.

My doctor’s remarks did, however, get me to think about losing weight. I was sure this would come with exercise. After all, I had been semi-active with some swimming, biking, running, basketball, and racquetball. I had also become a Minnesota State High School League certified basketball referee, knowing that I wanted to stay active.

However, months later, nothing had changed except my weight. It was still slowly increasing.

Making the Commitment

In late September, my friend Jim, along with his oldest son and my youngest son, were on the patio of our house in Chicopee, Massachusetts, where I was spending half my time working.

During our conversation, I mentioned the doctor’s concerns and my struggle to lose weight. Jim, who had completed a few triathlons, suggested that we sign up for the Buffalo Triathlon in Buffalo, Minnesota.

When I mentioned this to our daughter, Liza, a few days later, she promptly said that a triathlon would be a good father-daughter adventure.

Then, around the middle of December, Joy registered both of us for membership at LA Fitness. LA Fitness had facilities near our houses in Minnesota and Massachusetts.

I had run out of excuses. With my daughter, I had a training partner. I also had access to facilities in which to train. On December 31, 2010, my daughter and I registered for the Buffalo Triathlon.

Getting Ready

I quickly learned how little I knew about preparing for a triathlon. However, I took this as a new challenge. I read whatever I had time to consume. I swam, biked, ran, and did various body weight and core strengthening exercises six days each week.

Following six months of training in swimming, biking, and running, I was still not sure if I could finish the triathlon. However, after Liza and I completed a practice triathlon near our home on Fish Lake in Maple Grove, Minnesota, two weeks before the Buffalo Triathlon, we were confident that we could at least finish our first sprint triathlon.

While my daughter insisted on setting a time goal for the race, I had been content to set ‘finishing the race’ as my goal. Eventually, we agreed to the goal of 1 hour 45 minutes. This seemed reasonable after our practice triathlon.

8th Annual Buffalo Triathlon

Beginning in 2004, the Buffalo Triathlon quickly became the most popular early season triathlon in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Minnesotans were ready to get outside after the long winter and often dreary spring with its ‘April showers’. And, 883 of us showed to do a triathlon.

The advertised distances for the individual legs of this sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 0.25 mile (400 yards)
  • Bike: 13.3 miles (21.3 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)

Race Morning

Joy, Liza, and I left home at 5 am for the one-hour drive to Sturges Park. Liza’s family would come a little later, before the triathlon’s start.

After checking in, picking up our race packets, and getting our body markings, we found our respective assigned places in the transition area. It was then time to soak in the anticipation, excitement, conversation – including some occasional boastings – and equipment leading up to the race. The number of expensive looking bicycles especially struck me.

Buffalo, Minnesota, is 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
Buffalo, Minnesota, is 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis. My first triathlon, the Buffalo Triathlon, was held at Sturges Park.

Fifteen minutes before the race meeting that led up to the race’s start, I went into the lake for a short practice swim to become acclimated to the water.

Being early June in central Minnesota meant that the water was cold, in the upper 60s °F.

The water temperature was not a surprise. I also knew that the water temperature was bearable with my triathlon suit and a rash guard swimming shirt since I had been in the lake on the previous Tuesday.

My daughter, friend and his son and me before the start of the 2011 Buffalo Triathlon
Daughter Elizabeth (Liza), friend Jim and his son Jeff, and me before the start of the 2011 Buffalo Triathlon


Before we knew it, the race was underway. I watched as wave after wave of swimmers took off.

The internet had told of the chaos accompanying fifty swimmers starting together. There had been a small taste of this at the practice swim in Buffalo Lake a few days earlier.

What I saw was like what I expected. I was ready for swimming as a contact sport, even though it was not something I relished.

The contact finally came. Unfortunately, I was the one who made contact.

As I swam, I came upon two females who had left in an earlier wave than mine treading water beside each other. I accidentally hit one of them with my hand. The tongue lashing began immediately as she told me I should have watched out where I was going.

The damage was done. All I could do was say ‘Sorry’ and keep swimming.

Triathlon tip: Having now completed tens of triathlons with open water swims, I have one piece of advice. If you are going to stop and rest along the swim course, please move away from the main traffic lane.

My First Transition

I took my sweet time getting from the swim exit to the transition area. By the time I reached the transition area, I saw my friend, now very serious, already heading out of transition with his bicycle.

In what I later learned was a long transition time, I sat down, washed the grass and dirt off my feet, put on my socks and shoes, and grabbed a few gummy snacks before taking my bike to the mounting area.

I realized other racers were proceeding to the mount line with a much greater sense of urgency than me. I felt as if I were blocking some of them.

Eventually, I got on my bicycle and faced a steep hill. Having not thought this part through, I had left my bike in a high gear.

Oops. Another lesson.


The bicycle ride was fantastic.

My Giant hybrid bicycle sped along the course as it never had on the rides in Maple Grove over the past couple of years. After the race, I learned I had ridden the 13.3 miles at an average speed of 17.7 miles per hour. Before today, averaging 15 miles per hour would have made me happy.

What struck me was the way those on triathlon bikes passed me. Despite my legs pedaling as fast as they could, I felt as if I were on a casual stroll with my wife. I was sure the gearing of their bikes differed from mine. (Within a month, I had purchased my first triathlon bike, a Trek SpeedConcept 7.5).


The effort to maintain the average speed during the bike leg had apparently taxed my running muscles. Despite having trained many times to run after biking, both at LA Fitness and around my home, I found the run today to be incredibly difficult.

After about one mile, I simply had to stop and walk. It humiliated me to have to walk during the run. Of course, this would not be the only time I would mix a little walking in the run.

From this point through the end of the race, including within the last quarter mile, I found it necessary to mix running and walking.

Somewhere near the middle of the run course, I met my daughter. Her smiling face and ‘Go Dad!’ encouragement were much appreciated.

I pushed myself to run through the section where my wife, son-in-law, and grandchildren were sitting. As I passed them, I gave my grandson a ‘high five’. I remember him shouting to his grandmother ‘Boy, is he sweaty’. I couldn’t help but smile despite a tough run.

running to the finish line of my first triathlon.
Near the finish line of my first triathlon in 2011. While I don’t recall the feeling at this moment, the look on my face says, ‘You made it. Thank you, Lord!’

We Finished!

Not only did Liza and I finish the race, but we both finished it in well under the 1 hour 45 minutes goal. Astounding!

I returned to earth when I saw the times of others in my age group, including that of my friend. My place was 16th of the 20 within my age group.

I had finished my first triathlon. It was an accomplishment that I will always share with my daughter. And, I had learned a lot.

In some ways, I felt a lot like how I imagine George Plimpton would have felt. Plimpton was a journalist who took part in various professional sports so that he could more effectively write about the athlete’s life.

I had a sense of the triathlon but was not as much an athlete as I thought.

Yet, by now I had lost about 40 pounds. My last physical exam, the one in 2011, had already shown marked improvement in my health metrics.

Expanding the Triathlon Journey

Even before the Buffalo Triathlon, Joy had convinced me to register for the Maple Grove, Minnesota triathlon in August near our home.

Joy and I wondered where this first triathlon would lead us. We started talking about this even while sitting on the grassy hill while waiting for the awards ceremony for the Buffalo Triathlon to begin.

Days after the race, we were still talking about triathlon, training, racing, and traveling to the many race locations. What if we combined triathlon with road trips that we had always enjoyed with our children?

It was then that we set the goal of me completing a triathlon in each state of the United States by the time I was 70 years old.

You can find links to stories about the triathlons in each of the 50 states in which I have completed one in a post titled Exploring the USA Through Triathlon.

What About Your First Triathlon?

After preparing for your first triathlon, what was the biggest surprise during the race? Let us know in the Comments.

I originally published this post on February 28, 2016. I rewrote and republished it on September 23, 2022.


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