Liberty Triathlon

>> Monday, June 14, 2010

Saturday was the Liberty Olympic Triathlon. This was THEE race for the year for me. Lots of pressure. Hoping to kill it. Historically, when I put a lot of pressure on myself, I either end up crumbling, or I walk away with a better finish than I could have ever hoped.

Both of those happened at this race. Sort of.

Pharmie and I got to the race and got set up. We saw lots of the same ole racing buddies left and right. (I LOVE that about local races!) We racked up next to Rich. I hit the porta-johns to change into my “onesie”:

We also planned a meeting of anyone who uses to log their miles. I’d only met a few of these people before:

It was fun meeting all you guys!

Pharmie and I snapped one last photo before heading towards the water:

Walking down to the water

Pre-race meeting. Note the swim buoys to the left.

I gave Pharmie and smooch, and she was ready to start. She was doing the half iron distance, so she started in the first set of waves:

“GO PHARMIE!!” (She’s the 4th swim cap from the left.)

I walked back up to put my camera and bag back on the edge of transition. I had about a half hour before the start of the olympic waves. I kept bumping into people that knew me from my blog or my Examiner page. I LOVE saying hi to everyone!! (And this was the first race where 2 guys specifically said something like “I really enjoy your Examiner articles!” Aww shucks! Thanks guys!)

I hung out with Chris H before the start. We were in the same wave: the last wave of the day. I admitted my race goals to him: “I’ve only told this to Pharmie, and that was only 2 days ago, but I’d REALLY like to be in the teens. Sub-2:20 sounds GREAT.” My current PR is 2:23:00, and I did a 2:23:06 last year at this race. I was ready to go hard and see if I could take 3:30 or so off my personal best.

I stood in the water, warmed myself up with some pee, and did a few practice strokes. The water was chilly but fine. Standing around, the air was cold! Just before the start, I reminded myself “You’re here to RACE. Go hard.”

Mark Bongers shouted “ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET, GGOOOOO!!”


I positioned myself far to the outside for some clean water. I started strong, but not too fast. I crashed into a few small waves that were popping up out there from a slight breeze coming across the lake. After a few minutes, I realized I needed to ease up a bit. Something wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t able to catch my breath. I rolled to my back for 10 seconds and tried to calm down. I started swimming again, but my rhythm was all off. I did the doggy paddle for a bit to see where I was. I rolled to my back for a second time for some more air. As I was on my back, I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Why was I running out of air? Why could I not take 3 strokes before needing my face out of the water? I had done a few open water swims this year already, and they went fine. What was going on?

About 7 minutes into the swim, I had nearly given up on the race. (I wasn't going to quit, just give up on my goals.) I was actually thinking about the next race to do to make up for this shitty performance: “OK, St. Croix Valley Oly is a long ways off. Lifetime might be sold out. Does the St. Paul Triathlon have an Oly? I think so...” That’s NOT how your thinking should be 7 minutes into a race.

I started getting more comfortable nearing the short back-stretch of the swim. I still wasn’t as comfortable as I should have been, but I was getting better. I hit the buoy in the middle of the short back-stretch and hit my watch. 13:56. That was a minute slower than last year, and I’m a WAY better swimmer this year! At that point, I told myself “You WILL negative split this swim!” I’ve NEVER negative split any swim (workout or race), but because that first 1/3 sucked so hard, I knew I could be faster on the homestretch. (Not to mention we’d be slightly closer to the side shore-line and going with the breeze so the tiny waves wouldn’t be an issue.)

As sure as my d*ck rises with the sun, I made it back to shore in 13:10, and up to the timing mat in another 27 seconds, for a 13:37 on the second half of the swim. First negative split ever. Oh, and even though it was so shitty in the first 1/3, I had an Oly swim PR by over 30 seconds. “Let’s get back to racing!!!” (Later, I’d learn that my swim was the second slowest in my AG.)


Fumbled with my wetsuit, put my sunglasses on, put my helmet on, realized it was pretty cloudy and took my sunglasses back off, etc, etc.

24.85 MILE BIKE:

So I immediately stopped thinking about the first part of the swim, and set my sights on one of my biggest goals for the day: to push like a mother on the bike. I’ve been talking about it for a while on my blog - I really wanted to test myself here and go harder than I'm normally used to. I headed out and pushed the pace. After a few turns, I tried to keep the tempo up, because I knew there was a breeze out there, and I knew it’d suck once I turned into the wind.

I passed Jill, I passed Jen, and I kept “leap-frogging” with these 2 bigger guys. I can climb hills faster than heavier guys, so I passed them on the uphills. But those guys have more weight then me, so they can go faster on the downhills. We’d always say hi each time we passed.

The course is CONSTANT rolling hills, and I think I’ve been getting better at riding hills like that. I’d push down the hill to get some steam to help carry me up the next hill. I kept checking in on my average, and it was always in the 21s. Good. Keep it there!

Finally, around mile 20, we turned into the wind. But I knew the course, and I knew we only had about 3 miles before we turned to head back towards the park. So I was pretty thrilled to only have a few miles that felt like they were into the wind! And on that stretched of road, I saw that I was gaining on my wife. I shouted “HI HUN!” from 50 feet back. We wished each other luck and kept plugging along.

Here’s my average MPH at certain points out there:

- Mile 5: 21.2 mph
- Mile 10: 21.5 mph
- Mile 12.5 (half-way): 21.6 mph
- Mile 15: 21.6 mph
- Mile 20: 21.7 mph
- Nearing transition: 21.5 mph

I’ve found that checking my average at certain intervals really helps me push the pace. At my first ever TT last year (11 miles), I checked my average every 1/4 of the way through. At my TT 3 weeks ago, I only checked it at the half way-point, and that made it tougher to want to go hard. If I check it often, I’m always thinking something like “Oh, I’ve got to keep it strong here... cause I’ll be checking my average in another 2 miles and I don’t want it to be shitty!” If I wait to the end to see what my pace was, it gets hard to stay strong / fast with lots of miles to go. It’s totally MY mental game that works for me. Some of you probably understand this right now, while some of you probably think I’m nuts.

I looked at my watch nearing T2. I had a big ole bike PR in the works! I was thrilled! Now, after working so hard on the bike, what would the run have in store...


Nothing new here. Ran my bike in, changed shoes, thought about taking a minute to rub one out (decided against it), and hit the run.


Starting the run, I kept looking at my watch and doing math in my head. I realized (but didn’t quite believe) that I had a major Oly PR in the works. The run starts with a nice climb on a wood-chip covered trail. Super duper. Here’s a photo of Pharmie from later in the day as she’s getting ready to start that climb:

I tried to not go nuts up that hill. After cresting the top of the hill, I slowly tried to pick up the pace.

Mile 1: 6:23
Mile 2: 6:14
Mile 3: 6:10
5K Turn-Around: 19:03

Those are numbers I wanted to see!! The problem was I was really hurting. I was pooped. After the turn-around, the run seemed like a little of a death march. It was fun to see those people who I knew, but I was hurting. And, for having passed a TON of people in the first 3 miles, I still hadn’t seen anyone in my age group. I was having a good performance, and I REALLY wanted to pass some people in my AG!

After the fact, I’m quite proud of myself for not stopping to walk anywhere from mile 3-5. I REALLY wanted to, but I held off. Mile 4 showed how much I was hurting, as my split dropped to 6:45. Ouch. I just tried to keep it strong, and I tried to push through the pain.

Nearing the final downhill, I STILL hadn’t seen anyone in my AG. I was a little annoyed that I wasn’t passing anyone in my AG because I thought I’d have a chance at placing in my AG with how this race was shaping up for me.

Mile 4: 6:45
Mile 5: 6:20
Mile 6 and last 0.2 (with big downhill): 6:18
Last 5K: 19:11

So I hit the finish line with a 7:23 Olympic PR!! I was thrilled!! I headed up to the transition area and bumped into Chris. We got a shot by the porta-potties:

I saw Chris a few minutes later as I was heading back down towards the finish. He said something like “I just saw the results - nice work Steve!!” That got my hopes up. (As “up” as my previously mentioned d*ck in the morning.) I looked at the results posted near the finish, and I had to keep looking higher and higher!! I finally saw my name. I was 8th overall, and FIRST IN MY AGE GROUP!!! It was my first AG win in a triathlon!!!

Official Results:

Swim: 27:34, 55th fastest
T1: 1:45
Bike: 1:07:07, 18th fastest (23.2 mph official[?], 21.5 mph computer)
T2: 0:59
Run: 38:14, 4th fastest (6:10 pace)

Total: 2:15:37

Overall Place: 8 out of 164
Age Group Place: 1 out of 6

- 0:33 swim PR
- 5:02 bike PR (breaking my best from last year on this same course)
- 0:02 run PR (that still counts as a PR, right?)
- Oly PR by 7:23
- Nearly 6 minutes faster than the next person in my AG

I grabbed some grub, and sat down with Rich. They had grilled chicken, pork, and beef:

Chicken, Cheez-Its, and a banana

There is nothing better that Cheez-Its after a hard race! I. Swear. To. God. If you think otherwise, you’re wrong. Don’t fight me on this. (Peanut butter M&Ms and Chocolate Milk are close behind...)

Soon, Pharmie came biking into T2 after her 56 mile ride.

Putting on socks

Running out of T2

Starting her 13.1 mile run

Then I went into the bathroom and found a turd-like granola bar sitting on top of the urinal:

Gross. It tasted alright, though.

I chatted with Jen, the Hulls, CY, Katie, Mark, and anyone else around near the finisher’s chute. We all cheered Jen L and Suzie F to the finish in the half iron distance in the pouring rain:

Jen taking second place. That’s Julie cheering in her wetsuit behind her (after a short swim). Yes, she IS wearing a top under that towel.

Suzie taking third place (only by about a minute) in her first 70.3! 5:04!

I loaded up the car because as soon as Pharmie finished, we had to get to my cousin’s wedding! So I filled the car with tons of soaking wet tri gear:

Soon, the rain let up a little, and Pharmie came running to the line with a 70.3 run PR and her second fastest 70.3 of the 8 that she’s done!!

We grabbed some food for her, hopped in the car, and drove to the showers at the campgrounds just up the hill from transition. They were SWEET showers!

My “wedding clothes” to change into after the shower

A steamy shower after a cold, wet race

Pharmie and I both got some funny looks walking out of a campgrounds in super-dressy clothes. It was pretty funny. What a great day for both of us! Congrats to the other racers! And it was great seeing everyone else out there!

And to see more photos from the race, make sure to click here to check out my Examiner article (along with slideshow) about the race. Thanks everyone!


kristen 6:36 AM, June 14, 2010  

Congratulations Steve! Glad you were able to re-group in the water.

Pahla 6:37 AM, June 14, 2010  

WOW, congratulations on your huge PR!! What a great day! Love all the photos, but I think the one of you in the porta-potty is my favorite. :-)

Matty O 7:01 AM, June 14, 2010  

That is an awesome race man! Both you and Pharmie!!!

Suzy 7:37 AM, June 14, 2010  

Congrats on both of your PR's!!

Molly 8:44 AM, June 14, 2010  

Congratulations on the PR!!! Sounds like a fun day out there!!!

CyborgQueen,  8:55 AM, June 14, 2010  

SWEEEET Time Steve!! WTG!!! :-)

-Cyborg Queen

GoBigGreen 9:32 AM, June 14, 2010  

Good job to both of you!!! in tough conditions.LAst year it was cold but not raining! hmm....did you warm up in the water at all race morning? that is my only thought, maybe you needed to just get your face in there and get your body used to it. Sounds like it workd out just fine:) GOOD JOB!!!

Rachel 10:11 AM, June 14, 2010  

Great race report! Congrats on taking 1st in your age group!! Awesome!

drdave 10:56 AM, June 14, 2010  

No wonder you couldn't find anyone in your age group! You animal you!

Great race report, very entertaining!

Anonymous,  10:56 AM, June 14, 2010  

Congratulations on your awesome PR! Great work.

SteveQ 11:21 AM, June 14, 2010  

Congrats on the PR! Can't believe you can go that fast and still take pictures. And you beat me to the "it tasted okay" joke - darn.

Christopher Hawes 12:49 PM, June 14, 2010  

Congratulations to both of you. Nice job on the AG first place.

RFalkenrath 1:03 PM, June 14, 2010  

Nice job killing the old PR... but you set the bar kinda high for next year! You should have walked the last 100 yards to get that 3:30 savings to give you room to work with next year. =)

Kim 1:10 PM, June 14, 2010  

the stenzels are turning out to be quite the speedy couple! congrats to both of you on fantastic races!

Anonymous,  3:21 PM, June 14, 2010  

Dude, I've been reading your blog for a long time now. I don't mind the porta potty shots, or even the post race shower shots. But what's with the comments this time?

2 mentions about your d*ck, talking about rubbing one out, and some random profanity sprinkled in the article too. If winning your age group means a blog of potty mouth comments then I hope I never win my age group.

Cancel my subscription to your blog.

FinnyKnits 3:38 PM, June 14, 2010  

Holy congrats, man! A PR in every leg and a #1 place in your AG!

Seriously amazing work. I can see why you were inspired in T2 for a little self-lovin', though I'm glad you resisted - being arrested would have impacted your 2:TEENS time.

For anonymous up there: relax, already.

Congrats to both of you - you're inspiring :)

Steve Stenzel 3:45 PM, June 14, 2010  

Dear Anonymous, you must be new here. I've always had a potty mouth on my blog. When I have blog tags with such labels as "Sweaty Boobs" and "Tighty-Whities," it's gonna be a little weird at times. In fact, in my first race report 4 years ago, I not-so-slyly talk about staying close to a woman on the bike so I could enjoy the sights of her great legs (said in different words). I'm like that at times. Sorry if I offended you.

Julie 7:42 PM, June 14, 2010  

Woo hoo! Congrats to you and Pharmie! You two kicked some big time ass!! I love your race reports and all of the fantastic pictures that you post:)

Steve, you are kind of a big deal here in Minnesota Blogland:) You are a celebrity blogger....everyone knows about Steve Stenzel and his awesome Tri wife:) Take care!

Cap'n Tan Lines 9:32 PM, June 14, 2010  

Way to go stick with it after the swim and take away the AG win! It was nice to 'meet you again - for the 1st time' before the race.

As far as the profanity goes, I'm usually not a fan either - unless it either A. Enhances the point you're trying to make or B. Is really, really funny. So, I guess that means you're still A-OK in my book.

X-Country2 9:51 AM, June 15, 2010  

Woo hoo! Great job to you both!

KK 1:04 PM, June 15, 2010  

Congrats on killing it! And good job to all your peeps, too.

B. Kramer 1:37 PM, June 15, 2010  

Congrats to the both of you! Nice job out there. Cheers!

Aimee 2:56 PM, June 15, 2010  

Yay! Congrats on an AG win! And congrats to Pharmie for an awesome race too! :)

The Triathlon Rx 4:19 PM, June 15, 2010  

Awesome job on your race!! I'm commenting // reading for the first time... don't know what took me so long, since I've seen your name linked quite a few times on Julia's GoBigGreen blog. I'm also definitely sure we've been at a few of the same races before.

A few of my UMN teammates were at Liberty too and had great races! David Preston came in 1st, and Claire Chandler took 3rd in her age group. :)

Again, awesome job, and congrats on your PR and win! I'm going to check out your examiner articles. P.S. St. Croix DOES have an Oly. You going to be there?!

Mario 8:48 AM, June 16, 2010  

Nice work! We had similar results! But you had a faster time. And I was at Trinona. And I am old. :)

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