Maple Grove Triathlon RACE REPORT

>> Monday, August 27, 2018

Saturday was the Maple Grove Triathlon. It was my first time at this race, and I had heard good things from previous years. The boys and I headed up to get my race packet on Friday afternoon:

My first look at Weaver Lake. Nice size for a race! Buoys being set in this photo.

The boys playing at the park even though there was a light drizzle.

I don't remember the last time that I had spaghetti pre-race (ALLLL the time in
high school), but I had a few plates of spaghetti and meatballs on Friday night.

The WEIRDEST thing happened to me early Saturday morning in bed. The short version is that my right quad/groin started hurting OUT OF NOWHERE like it did back in 2013 when I it ruled a sacrum issue shooting pain down my leg. I didn't know if I'd be able to race. In the end, I WAS able to race fine (spoiler alert), but I'm still not out of the woods. Here's a longer version with more details (mainly so I don't forget them if this flares up bad again), but feel free to skip over this part:

On race morning, I woke up around 2 a.m. with a tight-feeling lower inner quad in my “good” knee (my right).  I tried to massage it a moment, but that really didn’t help.  If I slept naturally on my side with a bent knee, it was uncomfortable - it would slowly start to feel tight like it needed to “shift” or “pop” a bit.  So I tried to sleep on my back with my legs straight.  When I got up around 3 (because I couldn't sleep through the pain), I could do 1-legged squats normally on either side, but it was sore to push my leg through my calf sleeve as I tried to put that on.  I stepped outside and walked for 4 blocks at 3:30, and tried running twice.  To my surprise, running felt OK - no issues.  Changing direction on my knee/quad was sore.  Stairs were OK.  I came in to stretch and it was sore when doing a butterfly type stretch.  I held a quad stretch for a while, and it got better over those few minutes.  Still NOTICEABLY sore though.

After sitting down to eat, the pain went more into my groin/inner quad, and I realized my sacrum felt tight on the right side too. "Great, this is the issue from 2013 back again." Out of NOWHERE. (Seriously, I didn't do anything weird earlier that day/week, and I had NO reason for this pain.) If this was the case, I'd have pain at the race and have to drop out. In 2013, my leg randomly started to get sore, and then I had to drop out of a half marathon just 3 miles in because it was SOOO sore. Then I took MONTHS off from running and biking to rehab it. And there was a lot of pain back then. I HOPED it wasn't that all over again.

I got ready for the race and tried not to think about it too much. I stretched ALL I could at home and pre-race.

Race tattoo numbers put on in the basement bathroom at 4 a.m.

FLASHBACK: that last photo is very reminiscent of THIS photo from my 2014
Israman Triathlon race report
where I raced in the Red Sea in Israel!
Pic from my hotel room in Eilat, Israel pre-race. (Classier than my basement shitter.)

Parked in the lot at 5:15 a.m. It's still QUITE DARK at that time in late Aug.
(That's my car with the hatch open on the left.)

Thick air from a heavy mist over transition.

Maple Grove does NOT have the same street lighting as St. Paul.
This was what my eyes saw on a warm up ride.

A dark pre-race poo. No on needs to see what's happening in those things anyway. #ItsGrossDownThere

Mist across the lake.

On the edge of transition, looking back over a hill towards some lights by the beach.

Getting lighter. This is the long "bike in/out" stretch along transition.

Just after that last photo, we have this narrow road for 2 blocks. There was a
quick steep hill just around that curve that I warned a lot of my friends about.

I didn't know if I'd take the time in T2 to hold my pad for my bone spurs on top of my foot as I got
my shoe on or just leave it. I ended up taking the time to get it in place during the race.

I did a little warm up swim (just to test my pace - not to *actually* warm up), and then I got back to the far side of the beach to await my wave start. I ran into race director Kris S and super volunteer Kelly D, and Kris wanted a selfie:

Some International Distance athletes leaving the water, getting ready for
us sprinters to start shortly. Thanks for the great race guys!!

It was a "time trial" start, which meant we didn't start in big groups, but 2 at a time every few seconds instead. I was near the front of my age group wave (maybe about 10-12 back), so I knew I had to beat some people in my age group by a minute or so if I were to TRULY beat them and post a better time. I was right behind Michael, the guy who entertainingly introduced himself to me during the final run of the Falls Duathlon nearly 3 months ago. I beat him by a bit at that race, but he's been racing a lot and is preparing for World's in Australia shortly!

Kelly lined us up, and sent us off 2-by-2!

SWIM: 0.47 miles

In my warm up swim, I learned I went out a bit hard, so I tried to keep it easier here. I was relaxed and swimming easy enough that I was able to pee a little. (Always a good sign early in the race.) The course was a triangle swam clockwise (buoys to the right), and I seem to always veer a little to the left. So that's good in this case - I was just fine veering slightly into the open water.

There's nothing drastic to report about the swim, which IS ALWAYS GOOD NEWS. I went out at about the perfect pace. When I remember to kick more, I swam a BIT faster, but it wasn't too dramatic. I rounded the buoys a bit wide, but not bad. I never glanced at my Garmin - I just swam. When my hand hit sand, I popped up and saw 13:xx on my watch and was thrilled.


After running up the short beach, it was a decent run up the path over to the parking lot where transition was:

As you can probably tell by the disruption in the line, my spot was right near the middle of the lot.

I didn't put on my sunglasses because it was still nicely overcast. I tend to not wear them much anyway. I was a BIT dizzy getting on my socks, but otherwise it was pretty normal. Out as quick as I could be.

BIKE: 11.16 miles

This was probably the biggest "question mark" for the day. It had been 3.5 months since my last multisport race, so I didn't know how my bike fitness would hold up. I had no real goals: I HOPED to be around 22 mph, but I figured I could be lower than that. I just went hard.

Michael passed me around the 1/2 way mark, and slowed up to ask about my knee. "I'm doing fine!" I shouted. And then he was gone. Speedy guy!

I was being passed more than I was passing people. I think nearing the end, I'd passed around 8 people, and been passed by 12. THEN I DROPPED MY CHAIN on an aggressive shift. Damn it. I coasted a bit farther up to the top of a small hill (because I didn't want to be starting on the "up" side of the hill), and unclipped my right foot, bent down, and got it back on quick. However, I was passed by 3 guys while doing that. I caught 2 of them before transition.

Here were my overall averages every 1/4 of the way through the race:

- 20.6 mph at mile 2.75
- 20.8 mph at mile 5.5
- 20.6 mph at mile 8.25 (slow down partially because of dropped chain)
- 21.0 mph before transition

I was hoping to do a little better (I'd told Henry I would have loved to have hit 22 mph), but I was OK with that.


Nothing special here. I ran in my bike shoes. I took an extra swig of water. And I took an extra few seconds to put that pad below the tongue in my shoes. Then I was out as quickly as I could be.

RUN: 3.1 miles

The run was small hills around the lake. The BIGGEST hill was RIGHT away. Here's a pic from post-race where I'm standing on a hill. The run starts down low to the left, then heads up that hill and into the trees where you see 2 people climbing in the distance:


I started picking people off right away. At the half-mile mark, I'd caught 8 or 9 people. Over the next half mile, I caught 12 more! I was BURNING it up. I felt pretty good! And my leg/sacrum was still holding up!

MILE 1: 3:16 + 2:57 = 6:13. "SOOO happy with that 3:16 up that hill out of transition! Keep 'er going!"

Because I knew Michael was racing well, my goal was to catch him. I kept thinking "Oh, that next guy up there is Michael..." but it never was. He was pulling me without knowing it. I caught fewer runners from mile 1 - 1.5, but it was still like 5-7 guys.

MILE 2: 3:01 + 3:02 = 6:03. "Still feeling good about these splits! GO FOR AN AGE GROUP SPOT!"

I think I've mentioned this before, but as I've gotten faster over the years, I don't care as much for TT starts. It's hard to know where you are with relation to your competition. I had NO idea how many people were still in front of me. (And being EVERY part of this race was a loop, there was no out-and-back to gauge numbers.)

Either around mile 2 or mile 2.5, I FINALLY came up to Michael. He turned and saw me coming. I encouraged him, and he said the hills were killing him. He matched my pace and ran with me for a while, which was a boost for BOTH of us! Thanks Michael! But then I ran off. We hit the base of the 2nd nastiest hill out there, and there were 5 guys near the top. "Get these guys before the finish" I thought. The first guy I caught had a green bib (relay), but then I started getting the rest.

MILE 3: 3:00 + 2:56 = 5:56. "Sub-6. This feels good! It's the stroller running, I swear!"

There's a downhill stretch into the park:

Pic of mine from after I finished: down the hill above the grass left-to-right,
then a hairpin turn towards the finish with less than 0.1 to go!

Fellow dathlete (Dad-Athlete) Brian stopped by on his ride and snapped a photo of me finishing:

Solid sweat. And FINALLY a shot of the pink plaid shorts.

My Garmin had my final stretch from mile 3 to the finish at 4:48 pace, topping out at 4:40 pace. I was super happy with my run effort, but had no idea how I placed overall.


Steve Stenzel, Sprint, 37, M, St. Paul

- SWIM 0.47 MILES: 14:13 (1:53 pace),
5th in AG, 33rd overall
- T1: 2:20, 4th in AG, 21 overall
- BIKE 11.16 MILES: 31:58 (20.65 mph), 9th in AG, 43 overall
- T2: 1:05, 4th in AG, 19 overall
- RUN 3.1 MILES: 18:32 (5:59 pace), 2nd in AG, 3rd overall

1:08:06 total
11th out of 322 overall
10th out of 186 males
3rd out of 28 in the 35-39 age group

[Garmin: 11.16 miles for the bike (21.0 mph), and 3:06 miles for the run (6:03 pace).]

Runners heading into the chute with LOTS of spectators.

These guys had an impressive sprint to the finish!


• This was a decent race all around for me. A solid swim (nothing special, but very consistent), an OK bike (not a ton of good bike workouts this year), and then a great run. I felt good about it.

• I'm super happy with my run split! The race had a collegiate division, so lots of U of M and U of Iowa athletes were at the top of the results. But only ONE college athlete posted a better split than mine, and that was only by ONE second. And then someone in my age group who finished 51st overall posted an 18:00 run. Proud of that run split on those little rolling hills!

• And feeling good on the run was 100% due to all my stroller running lately! I've been talking about this a LOT (including in my last post), but it's been very true for me. Over 50% of all summer miles have been pushing the stroller. I FELT it help me here!

• I WISH I had better bike fitness right now, but I just didn't put in the proper time or effort this summer. Had I taken 90 seconds off my bike split (which I could have done easily last year), I would have been 7th overall, and easily 1st in my age group. But with the year it's been, that wasn't in the works, and I couldn't have caught the 2 guys in front of me. No biggie. It is what it is.

Bike speed. Easy to see where I dropped my chain.

• My sacrum/knee/quad/groin held up FINE for the race! Seriously. It was weird. My right quad MAYBE felt a bit tight near the end of the bike, but there was no issue while racing! I'd spent all of my pre-race energy worrying about it. Yes, it got achier that evening, and was sore again that night, but it wasn't like when I first had pain like this in 2013. It was quite a bit better the next morning. I'm taking it easy for a few days while figuring out what to do next.

• My bike had a little "rubbing" going on. It was a little noisy on the ride. It's not an excuse (because I don't think it held me up at all), but I need to figure it out. Here was my disc post-race, and I THINK that white circle is new (and would indicate my derailleur rubbing):

But I don't think the noise was all from this. This needs a closer look.

• And finally, I had 2 "race buddies" of my wife's that were at this race. Megan is a training buddy with my wife, and you might remember her from the SUPER muddy 50K they did together this fall:

Post race with Megan. Nice race!

And during awards, I recognized someone. I realized it was "Dr. Joe" who did the run with my wife during Liberty Half Iron WAAAAAY back in 2009:

Dr. Joe remembered me and said "Yeah, your wife's the pharmacist, right?" We chatted for a moment and he asked me to give her a warm hug from him. So sweet.

I had a bagel, loaded up my bike, and chatting with friends post-race. Michael didn't stick around, but he ended up about 90 seconds behind me (5 places back, and 5th in our age group). He had told me pre-race that I bumped him out of an AG medal a few times before he'd introduced himself, and I was kinda happy that this time I wasn't the reason he didn't place! Good luck at World's, Michael!

My gym buddy Leah got called up for 3rd in her AG:

And I got called up for 3rd in mine:

Recognize the winner in my age group? We remembered each other on the podium. I was 1st in our AG and he was 3rd last year at Trinona Tri:

First and 3rd then. Flip-flopped for this race. Nice work Noah!

At home with the race t-shirt and the medal (which doubles as a drink coaster if you take the ribbon off!).

Thanks for a fun race, Maple Grove Tri! Back with more photos shortly. Now, time for some rest on my back and leg.


Harsh Potlapalli,  12:15 PM, July 21, 2022  

Hi. My daughter and I are looking to sign up for our first ever tri at the Maple Grove Tri this August-2022. We would be in the "super-sprint" category. Would you be willing to chat with us to provide some guidance, advice and tips?

Thank you
Harsh Potlapalli

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