a German on Team USA

Liberty Olympic – Hot And Muggy

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Liberty Olympic – Hot And Muggy

June 11, 2016 – Liberty Olympic Triathlon, Lake Rebecca Park Reserve, MN

OK, I am not a writer, so it always takes me a while to get those reports done, but I still like writing them. Just do not expect a masterpiece :-).

Leading up to the race

I decided to race Liberty Olympic about two months ago when I received the sad message from Trudy Marshall that Capitol City Sprint Triathlon was cancelled due to the low number of registrants. So, looking for a replacement triathlon, for that weekend, it came down to Trinona or Liberty. I did not feel like driving all the way from Bemidji to Winona, so Liberty it was. However, that also meant that I started my triathlon season with the Olympic distance right away instead of a sprint distance which I would have preferred.

IMG_0514 (2)

ACSM 2016 – Click on image for readable copy.

On the way south on Friday, I stopped at Revolution Cycle & Ski in St. Cloud to chat with Mike Schroden about the availability of cranksets with really short crank arms that are compatible with TT bike bottom brackets. As I already suspected from my initial internet search, not an easy undertaking. But, why was I interested in short crank arms? For my job, I had been at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Boston, MA a week earlier. During one of the sessions, I came across a poster presentation entitled “Cycling with Shorter Crank Lengths at Same VO2 Leads to Increased Power Output” by B. Moscicki, B. Burrus, T. Matthews, and V. Paolone (see image) that had really intrigued me. So, here is a little science for you: In a nutshell, they found that for 10 min high intensity efforts (95% of ventilator threshold), subjects could generate more power with shorter crank lengths. The power generated for the 145 mm crank was significantly higher than the power generated for the 175 mm crank. Subjects achieved the increased power not by increasing their cadence, so it seems that they were able to generate more torque, i.e. apply more force to the pedals. There are several hypotheses why this might be the case, that I do not want to get into right here, but considering that the standard crank lengths for most bikes is 170 mm or 172.5 mm, these findings were really interesting. Without going too much into detail, other studies I found seem to indicate that at least for short, high intensity efforts, shorter crank arms did not seem to have a negative impact on power production and even might increase it. In addition, riders seem to report less of a dead spot at the top of the cycle stroke, increased perceived comfort in the time trial position, and even an easier time running off the bike. None of which seemed to have been investigated yet. So, many questions still remain open: What about the effects on longer efforts? What about the effects on cycling uphill? Does running off the bike really become easier? In short, enough to peak my professional and athletic curiosity. I decided to look into this further. Maybe I will write more about this topic in a future post.

(photo: Craig Peterson)

(photo: Craig Peterson)

But back to Liberty. This was my first time racing the Liberty triathlon. And like it is my habit, especially for racing a triathlon for the first time, I had driven the bike course and cycled at least part of the run course the afternoon before the race. Craig Peterson had joined me for this reconnaissance mission. So, we knew we needed to be prepared for the following:

  • * The bike course would test us with many rolling hills.
  • * The run course would be challenging with all its ups and downs.
  • * The weather would be hot and humid.
Morning of the race

It was already warm and muggy at 5:00 a.m. when I was leaving my hotel in Maple Grove to head to Lake Rebecca Park Reserve for the race. Transition opened at 5:30 a.m. and as I arrived at the park, already a long line of cars made its way into the park. People were eager to compete. But so were the mosquitos. In these weather conditions they came out in swarms. Boy, was I glad that I had brought insect repellent.

Swim > 28:43; 1:45/100 yds; 5th female; 3rd age group

Can anybody tell me why for most triathlons the women have to start after the men? And why the women 50+ tend to have to start last? Whatever the reason, it gives us more time to get nervous and to wonder “Why am I doing this?” To be honest, I am not a fan of this nervous tension in my stomach, but it is all part of the game, isn’t it?

As Cheryl Zitur and I were standing next to each other waiting for our wave to start, she was complaining about leaking goggles. Was this my chance to actually keep up with her on the swim? I wish.

The gun went off … oh wait, there was no gun … the start signal was given, and I started running into the water. Lifting my knees as high as possible, so I could run as long as possible, I found myself at the front of the wave when I finally dove into the water. I swam, and I swam, and I swam, and I still was in the front of the pack. Wait a moment that is not how it is supposed to be. Where is Cheryl? Where is Cheryl? She finally came from the side, passed me, and left me in her wake. She showed me “wie der Hase läuft” (how the wind blows, how the cat jumps). Where were the leaking goggles now? 😛

As I was on my way back to shore, my swim cap started slipping of my head. Luckily, I had my goggle straps underneath the cap, and so I finally, when it had irritated me long enough, pulled it off my head and stuck it into the top of my wetsuit. Only now, my hair started slipping out of my pony tail and tickled my face. Not my most favorite feeling either while swimming.

T1 > 1:02; 2nd female, 1st age group
(photo: Brandi Backmann)

(photo: Brandi Backmann)

T1 went pretty smoothly. The wetsuit came off quickly, sunglasses and helmet on, … wait a moment, too much loose hair in my face and eyes. Tug, tug, trying to get it underneath the helmet. Grabbed my bike and I was ready to go again. As I approached the bike out, I heard Jerry MacNeil announce “Cheryl, is that you?” Alright! I must have had a good swim if I am this close behind Cheryl. Turns out, she had gained about one minute on me in the swim, but I had made up about 30 seconds on her during T1.

After mounting the bike and slipping into my shoes, I finally checked my watch. What? 35 minutes? This swim must have been really LOOOONG. At least that’s what I was hoping.

Post-race analysis of the swim indicated that the actual swim distance was at least 1.8K (instead of 1.5K). This means my actual swim pace was closer to 1:26/100 yds instead of the posted 1:45/100 yds. Much better!

Bike > 1:06:31; 21.9 mph; 9th female; 3rd age group
ckick on image for more information

ckick on image for more information

I really liked the bike course, despite all its rolling hills. Don’t have too many chances of practicing those in the Bemidji area :-). I had fun out there.

The course was pretty straight forward, at least so I thought after driving it the evening before. At the intersection, where I thought the Olympic course athletes turn right while the long course athletes go straight, I confidently took the right-hand turn, only to find that I was totally alone going in this direction, nobody ahead of me, nobody behind me, just quite a few cyclists coming towards me. But those were the long course athletes, right? They had to go twice through a loop out here, right? I started doubting myself, so I turned around and back tracked for a short distance when I saw some triathletes coming towards me. I turned again and continued in my original direction. What a relieve when at the next intersection I saw the sign pointing Olympic course athletes to the right, and the next mile marker indicating mile 15 right when my bike computer also indicated 15 miles.

Having fun with a photographer as I pass another athlete (photo:

Having fun with a photographer as I pass another athlete (photo:

According to my speed reported on the results webpage (21.9 mph), we biked about 39 km (24.3 mi). According to my bike computer is was closer to 37 km (~23 mi) which means my speed would have been closer to 20.7 mph. Obviously the organizers distance is the correct one, right? And I stick to that 😉

20160611 Liberty 009 (2)

(photo: Brandi Backmann)

I could tell it was hot. I emptied my whole 24 oz bottle of fluids on the course. This is quite unusual for me. I almost always come back with some liquid still left in the bottle. Not this time!

Coming out of T2. (photo: Brandi Backmann)

Coming out of T2. (photo: Brandi Backmann)

T2 > 0:57; 7th female; 1st age group

Coming off the bike, the humidity hit me right away. It almost felt like running into a wall of ‘muggyness’. I took the time in T2 to squirt the extra water that I had left at my transition spot all over me, especially my head and cap. Leaving T2, I heard my friend Lisa yell “Go Christel! Go get Craig!”


Run > 50:10; 8:05 min/mi > 6th female; 3rd age group
click on image for more detail

click on image for more detail

The run was a killer. Not only is it really hilly, but the heat and humidity were relentless. Whenever it was going downhill on the way out, I could only think that I had to run up those hills on the way back. I started jogging/walking thought the water stations towards the end. I felt like I was cooking on the inside and wanted to make sure that I had enough to drink and also poured water over myself to cool down, after all temps supposedly rose into the low 90s, and dew points into the low 70s. It was one of those runs when I was really, really glad to see the finish line.

Well, it was not my best run, but I survived. Needless to say, I did not catch Craig 🙂

Overall > 2:27:20; 5th female; 3rd age group

I had a lot of fun at this race. I had fun racing but also catching up with my friends, especially Cheryl Zitur and Julia Weisbecker. I love competing against those women, even if I currently cannot keep up with them. At least I won the transition race against them :-). Unfortunately, fast transitions don’t tend to win races. However, we rocked this race. Cheryl was 1st overall, Julia was 3rd overall, and I ended up in 5th place. So, three of the Top 5 women were 50+ years old. Like Julia said, “We’re the rockin’ 50-year-olds!”

The Rockin' 50-year-olds: Cheryl Zitur, Christel Kippenhan, Julia Weisbecker (photo:

The Rockin’ 50-year-olds: Cheryl Zitur, Christel Kippenhan, Julia Weisbecker (photo:

What’s coming up next?

On July 9, I will be racing Timberman Olympic in Grand Rapids, MN. Another one of those fun races with a hilly bike course.

Great video about the 2016 Liberty Triathlon by

Author: seecktri

an Exercise Science professor at Bemidji State University who spends most of her time working, swimming, cycling, and running; a German on Team USA Triathlon who nevertheless cheers for Team Germany for anything sport

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