Race Report: 2021 Square Lake Sprint Triathlon

>> Monday, September 13, 2021

Well, after my first swim in 18 months last week, I figured it was time to race! (Sheesh.) I headed out to Square Lake early Sunday morning.

Nearing Square Lake around 6:15 a.m.

I got my bike all cleaned and re-lubed the night before.

Registering on race day as it opened at 6:30 a.m.


Because I was a late registrant, my rack was near the back of transition (all spots were assigned). But the great thing was that the final 3 racks in the background were unlabeled in case anyone wanted to sneak off and have more space. That was a nice touch.

A wider shot of transition as people started to fill in.

Pre-race tradition!

First time just sitting on the "hole" because the seat was broken. Obviously.

More people filling in. My bike's on the edge of where the people are.

There's a NASTY little hill up to the parking lot to start the bike and the run!

Starting mat with the green circle half way out and the yellow triangle at the turn around.

Wide angle shot showing it's pretty much an "out and back."
We get out of the water 50' from where we get in.

Transition filling up with more than 200 people.

Ready to head to the swim start! With a long-sleeve shirt laid
out in case I wanted to put it on because IT WAS IN THE 50s!

During my swim last week, my Garmin gave up and died. So I wasn't going to have any pace info during this race. Yikes! But I knew it'd be a good mental test to just keep the effort up.

The swim start was a "time trial" where we could get into line wherever saw fit. I've done that before at one of Judi's races, and it's nice. I did NOT want to start too close to the front, so I took off around 40th or 50th maybe. I gave Judi my number and ran past Randy to start!

SWIM: 0.5 miles:

I didn't take any practice strokes. Not a one. My last time doing an open water swim was 25 months ago at my last triathlon. I just ran into the lake and started swimming. I told myself to "ease up" a few times as a 1/2 mile swim is just far enough that I can't just bomb through it.

My sighting wasn't great, but not horrible either. I popped up twice to make sure I was on track, and I wasn't swerving too much. I hit the turn around in 6:29 and figured it be great if I could make it back under 13:00. I sighted (poorly) a lot on the first part back because of the fear of crossing over into on-coming swimmers, but I put my head down and "just swam" more in the final 1/4 as there was less fear of collisions. I was starting to get a little more out of breath, but my 18 month absence in the pool wasn't too much of a problem! I hit the beach around 13:10 and cross over the transition mat around 13:20.


This was slow. SO FREAKIN' SLOW. My ankles were caught in my wetsuit for a bit, and then I got all covered in wet dirt trying to get it off. I decided not to grab any sunglasses as it was pretty overcast (and it looked like it could actually start raining at any moment). I ran off with my bike with my forearms and hands all covered in dirt and leaves.

BIKE: 18.5 miles:

Here was the big "question mark" as I wasn't racing with a Garmin or a bike computer. Would I go out too slow? Too fast? I shot up that little hill right out of transition and caught 3 people. I caught 2 more right outside of the park. We started that big climb and I found myself passing people behind this woman with strong legs and a friendly-yet-forceful "On your left!" She was a good person to climb with! I passed her a bit after the top of the hill.

I wondered if could keep from being passed on the bike. That strong-legged woman passed me a few mintues later (on another rolling hill), but I caught her right back 2 minutes later. And I kept holding people off while slowly catching more!

I knew how hilly it is out there, and the course is NEVER flat and RARELY straight. Miles 10-12 were straight, but everything else meandered:

No Garmin, so I used MapMyRun the night before the race to make sure it was around
the "advertised" 18.5 miles. I didn't start it far enough into the park, so it's right on!

Elevation. Never flat! The climb at mile 1 felt like the "big" climb,
but it doesn't stop. And the little steep fella at mile 13 was a surpise!

There were mile markers every 2 miles, and I noted that I was keeping it above 20 mph: I hit mile 4 at 11:50, and that included the big climb! (12:00 flat would be 20.0 mph.) Miles 4-8 was 11:20, and 8-12 was 11:23. I was working decently, and feeling pretty good about my effort. (I wasn't feeling "fast," just that I was giving the appropriate effort while not being able to actually see my mph.)

At mile 12 we turned back south, and things felt faster. And my mile 12-16 split was the fastest at 10:19! (I couldn't do this math in my head, but it turns out that's 23.3 mph. And the first 2 miles of that split was 5:05, which is over 23.6 mph.) The final 2.5 miles were down the big hill, but they also felt into the wind. When we weren't going steep downhill, it felt like we were working hard. I bombed down the hill as fast as I could and hoped my legs weren't too fried for the run. I finished with a split (on my watch) of 52:14 for 18.5 miles, which is an average of 21.25 mph. I felt decent about that on those hills.


I'm always faster in T2. I can't wait to get out there and run. I fumbled a bit getting a drink and with my race belt, but it wasn't bad.

RUN: 3.1 miles:

Ugh. Straight up that short/steep hill. That was a brutal start to the run.

From later in the race as I watched other people come down to finish.

I knew there were a few people in front of me (and again it was a "time trial" start, so where we all were in relation to each other meant nothing), and I was hoping to catch a few.

After not allowing anyone to catch me on the bike (which is good and rare for me), someone flew by me at the edge of the park about a 1/2 mile into the run! That doesn't happen to me! I worked hard on the bike and my run split was ready to suffer. The person who passed me was a young guy in a "Team USA" kit, and he was ready to leave me in the dust. I tried to keep him within 20 feet for a while.

MILE 1: 6:20. "Well, can you speed that up and still go sub-19:00?"

Then I actually started to catch the young guy that passed me. Then I PASSED him and said "stick with me!" He jumped in my draft and I pulled him for a bit. He really pulled me in the second half mile, and now I could return the favor. Before the turn-around on this out-and-back course, I suddenly stopped hearing him breathing behind me. No, he didn't die... he just stopped to walk. But with his inital speed, I hadn't ruled out him catching me, so he was still pushing me back there.

I cheered on Jennifer M and Diane H as they were heading out before I hit mile 2.

MILE 2: 6:03. "Hammer it home!"

There was an older guy in front of me, and I was gaining on him up that hill around the 2.2 mile mark. I flew past and set my sights on another runner in front of him (as it turns out, that 2nd runner wasn't part of the race - just a guy out for a hard training run). I never looked back and just ran hard into the park, up the hill between the parking lots, and then tried not to wipe out coming down the hill to the finish.

LAST 1.1 MILES: 6:34. (So maybe 5:59 for mile 3 and 0:35 for the 0.1 to the finish?) "I kept speeding it up, so that mile 3 was right around 6:00 which felt good!"

I hadn't realized it, but I saw a guy WAY ahead of everyone heading to the finish around 2.5 miles into his run when I was only 0.5 miles into mine, but then I caught EVERYONE else. I was the 2nd person to finish (which again, means nothing because of the individual "time trial" start), but that guy's time would have WASTED mine.


Steve Stenzel, 40, M, St. Paul

- SWIM 0.5 MILES: 13:21, 1:30 pace, 16th overall, 4th in AG
- T1: 1:19, 11th overall, 1st in AG
- BIKE 18.5 MILES: 52:16, 21.2 mph, 3rd overall, 1st in AG
- T2: 0:46, 10th overall*, 2nd in AG
- RUN 3.1 MILES: 18:59, 6:04 pace, 3rd overall, 1st in AG

TOTAL: 1:26:38
2nd out of 191 overall
1st out of 18 in the 40-44 age group

*I was 14th overall in T2 according to the results, but 4 of them had impossibly short transitions, especially for how far down the results they were. So REALISTICALLY, I'm saying I was 10th in T2.



• ONE: regarding my lack of swimming, I think I can thank my strength work for pulling me. I've done probably 5-8x more pull-ups these last 18 months than in my previous 38 years of life combined. Really. I'm NOT a "natural" swimmer as I taught myself to swim via DVD when I was 25. So I've never been so happy to have still placed 16th overall in that division!

• TWO: the swim was a little short. HAD to be. There's no way I swam 1:30 pace on NO swim training. But the bike was right on, and the run was good too.

• THREE: for noting a crappy T1 and a better T2, they are ranked similarly. So maybe everyone feels that way about their transitions?

• FOUR: the winner KILLED it. I had people not far behind me, but look at the distance between 1st place and me in 2nd:

I mean, just a few more minutes of training each day
would let me catch him... right?... RIGHT???

• FIVE: the 18-year-old who caught me and then faded on the run still did well. His run time ended up being 2.5 minutes slower than mine, so he was never a worry after he had to stop and walk. But he was still 6th overall!

• SIX: overall, I have to say I felt pretty good out there! The swim didn't SUCK (surprising as I haven't been swimming), I pushed "appropriately" on the bike which felt OK after a summer spent mostly on the trainer, and I didn't die on the run!

• SEVEN: I love triathlons because I don't get as sore. Nothing "acted up" during or after the race. My legs feel fine. Even though I was out there for 90 minutes, I'm WAY less sore than I'd be for a 63 minute 10 mile race. Breaking up the time with different sports is great!

• EIGHT: Judi put on another fine race! I had to get a selfie with her shortly after finishing:

Me, Judi, my right nipple, and probably some snot on my shirt. (I blew a lot
of rockets off the road during the ride, and apparently I missed with one...)

Afterwards, there were burgers and hot dogs!

Wide shot of cheering in the finishers as I ate my turkey burger.

Connor coming down the hill to finish his 2nd tri as a high schooler!

I reconized Connor's Mom as someone I've ran with during YWCA Endurance Sports events, so we all chatted for a while. Super nice family! Connor wants to get a better bike to be more competitive. And I got in some nice conversation with Jennifer M afterwards as well. Oh, and this guy:

Ian's not TRYING to point at my snot... I don't think...

That's our local channel 9 weatherman, Ian Leonard. He was coaching 2 athletes out there that finished their first triathlons! He was super fun to talk to, and he's ready to don his wacky pants in a charity golf tournament shortly. (He has the "golf pants" version of my "tutti frutti" shorts - EXACT same pattern.)

Transition was kind of a mess. I tried to avoid these wetsuits when I walked through.

While stretching later, I pulled out the used GU that I crammed up in my shorts. #DontLitter

This is why I was so dirty starting the bike! I had to scrub some of this off my wetsuit at home.

To be clear: the lake is BEAUTIFUL! I just was stuck in my wetsuit in T1 fumbling around to get it off, and I ended up covered in mud and leaves from the ground.

No awards for 2nd overall, but here's my medal for 1st in my age group!

There was a photographer out there, and I'll post a lot of photos when they come in. Because there's just a brief glimpse of my "Pinky and the Brain" shorts in this post (3 pics up), but they were out in full display! :)


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