2023 Square Lake Sprint Triathlon RACE REPORT!

>> Monday, September 11, 2023

The day before the race, we spent the afternoon at "Farming of Yesteryear" which is an old-fashioned farming experience that my in-laws are a big part of. All the grandkids were there:

Lots of old tractors!

And an ornery chicken.

We got back home late the night before the race with the boys sleeping in the backseat. (Actually, Mama was passed out in the front seat next to me for the final hour of the drive as well.) I got up early the next morning while everyone was sleeping and "took care of business" in the basement bathroom:

Dark clouds as the sky started to lighten up on the way to the race. Please don't rain!

The mount/dismount line was VERY CLOSE to transition.
I planned on using all that pavement to come rolling up hard!

And doing my thing again at the race...

ALMOST a mini heart attack! But there were 2 rolls behind the toilet seat. Whew.

The swim course!

My transition spot: my bike with the wetsuit on it near the right.

My mantra for this race was going to be "No... FASTER!" Normally, I would’ve looked at the results for the last 2 years I did this race (2021 and 2022) and probably would have memorized them. But I purposefully did NOT do that before this race. I didn’t want any reason to think “oh, that’s the pace I was at last year, so I should just hold it here.” I didn’t want to settle into a pace. I wanted to always try to go faster! (And this is partially because I had the feeling that I could be in slightly better shape this year.)

I lined up with Erin and I was about 30 people or so back for the "time trial" start. Perfect. I wanted to be near the front, but I wanted people to chase (and usually the fastest people start in the top 15 or so). I was grateful for being there, and I pulled down my goggles as I got up to the timing/starting mat.

• SWIM: 1/2 mile:

I felt like I was starting the swim easy, but I became short of breath relatively quickly. I tried to ease up and keep taking extra breaths, but I couldn’t really get it under control. I was swimming a nice line to the outside, but I was getting nervous about my breathing.

I got around the first buoy decently, but then actually had to tread water on the back stretch while catching my breath for maybe 10 seconds. I don’t recall the last time I had to do that! And unfortunately, it was right in front of the sheriff’s boat, so I was taking deep breaths of Evinrude exhaust.

My swim route, kinda wavy on the way back.

Close up of the back stretch. Here's where I treaded water for a minute to help catch my breath.

I rounded the final buoy to shore, and bumped into a few people. My sighting got worse. But I was feeling a little more in control of my breathing. And it was great that the sun went behind a cloud so I wasn't sighting DIRECTLY into the sun. I was happy to see weeds below me, and then the sand appeared a few strokes later. That felt like a shitty swim. But I had no idea yet as I hadn’t looked at the last two years of results before this race.

• T1:

Transition was decent! I out-transitioned a few guys around me, and Erin came running past as I was putting on my shoes, so we had similar swim times. I am not a fast transitioner, but I felt like I got in and out in a decent time.

• BIKE: 18.5 miles:

I was ready to go pretty hard on the bike. I biked past a guy on the hill out of transition, and passed two more just outside of the park. I passed one more before starting the long climb, and then passed another one near the top of the climb. That was all in the first 2 miles. I would catch another cyclist around mile 10, and a final recognizable face around mile 15. But the rest of the ride was lonely! I was on my own, just trying to push the effort.

(In fact, once I finally tracked down the guy at mile 15 that I was slowly catching up to since mile 4 [but NOT drafting! Honest!], I passed him saying “It’s been a lonely ride!” He smirked and replied “No kidding!”)

The breeze was mostly out of the north, so that kept our first miles slower, but would give us some speedy miles between mile 12 and 16. I watched my average pace climb into the 21s, and then bob around between 20.6 mph and 21.4 mph (depending on the hills and breeze).

I was excited to turn south just after mile 12, and then I kicked it in gear and caught that last guy. Between turning to have the breeze at my back, trying to catch up and pass him, and nearing the end of the bike, I was hammering hard! My overall average hit 22.0 mph for a bit, but then dropped back down on some hills. I was happy with my bike speed, but thinking about my mantra! "No... FASTER!"

Here’s my overall bike speed about every quarter of the ride:

- 21.0 mph at mile 4.5
- 21.3 mph at mile 9
- 21.3 mph at mile 13.5
- 22.0 mph at mile 18
- 21.9 mph rolling into transition

Coming into transition, there were some guys *way* ahead of me running out. I knew I wasn’t in a position to win the race, but I would have good rabbits to chase!

20 seconds from transition! Photo by Erin's hubby Nick!

Oh, and you know how I said I'd "use all that pavement to come rolling up hard" into T2? I got yelled at for coming in hot because someone thought I wouldn't be able to stop. But I stopped! Race director Judi teased as I ran into T2 that I got scolded - but she said I was looking fast!!

• T2:

This felt a little sloppier than my first transition, but still not bad! Someone from the race crew (I think it was Judi’s wife) shouted at me from around the finish line: “STEVE!! What are you doing STILL in transition?!?” People laughed. I shouted back “I’m WORKING ON IT!” and everyone laughed more. I ran out putting my race number on.

• RUN: 3.1 miles:

Running up that hill out of transition did NOT feel good. I did NOT feel fast, graceful, powerful, attractive to the opposite sex, etc. It was rough. I checked my Garmin for my heartrate a minute later, and it was at 200. OUCH! I was ready to have a fast run, but this was looking like a bad start. I just focused on getting through it.

After getting out of the park and onto the 2nd road where we ran most of our run, I spotted 2 guys a ways in front of me. "Yay!... Rabbits!!" I told myself I could get them by the turn around (about mile 1.55 when I was about 0.4 miles into the race so far). I didn't really close the gap, but I kept them in my sights.

My first half mile split was depressingly fair at 3:13. Now I had an uphill followed by a downhill to the first mile marker, and I was pleasantly faster coming up to mile 1 with a 3:04 half-mile split.

- Mile 1: 6:18.0 (3:13 + 3:04)

Oh, and the winner had already ran past me in the other direction. He was at mile 2.2 of the run when I was at mile 0.8. BEAST. I learned that I was 6th out there, which didn't really mean anything as it was a time trial start, so I just needed to get CLOSE to some of the guys in front of me in order to actually beat them. But I seemed to only have a shot at 2 guys in front of me, which AT BEST put me at 4th overall. Off the podium. "Oh well... still go for broke!!"

I didn't actually catch EITHER of the rabbits in front of me before the turn-around, but they made me go hard after them once I hit the turn-around. I was really happy with my mile 2 split and I was hoping I wasn't going to "blow up."

- Mile 2: 5:57.4 (3:03 + 2:53)

I seemed to really keep the pace heading up that hill with a mile left, and I was feeling OK even though I was working hard! I had moved into 4th (not ACTUAL place, but 4th headed to the line) and was really pulling away from anyone behind me. I posted ANOTHER 2:53 split to start mile 2 which was amazing, and then just before the finish line, I posted a 2:43!! YESSSS!!!

- Mile 3: 5:37.0 (2:53 + 2:43)

I booked it (awkwardly) down the steep hill to the finishline, and was happy with this effort. "Where's my phone... how does this finish compare to the last 2 years?!?..."

A just-across-the-finish-line shot from Nick!
GASPING for air and realizing I still needed to stop my watch.


Steve Stenzel, 42, M, St. Paul

- 0.5 MILE SWIM: 13:18,
7th in AG, 21st overall
- T1: 1:15, 5th in AG, 9th overall
- 18.5 MILE BIKE: 50:28, 22.0 mph, 2nd in AG, 3rd overall
- T2: 0:43, 3rd in AG, 5th overall
- 5K RUN: 18:08, 1st in AG, 1st overall

1:23:50 total
1st out of 14 in age group
3rd out of 178 overall

[Garmin: 13:16 for 814 yards swimming (1:38/100 yd), 1:14 T1, 50:28 for 18.46 miles biked (22.0 mph), 0:34 T2, 18:16 for 3.08 mile ran (5:55.84/mile) = 1:23:49 total]


• You know how I finished 4th and figured that'd be the best possible overall finish for me because of the time trial start? Well one of the guys in front of me was on a team! I finished 3rd overall!! I didn't learn this until maybe 45 minutes after I finished when Nick mentioned that one of the guys in front of me was on a team and that I should check the results. So I did, and I found myself in 3rd! Second place was just 0:14 in front of me, so I really closed that gap! And then the winner was nearly 8 mins in front of me!

• So the first thing I wondered: how did this compare to 2021 and 2022?? In 2021, I was slower in ALL disciplines, and therefore I was 2:48 faster this year overall. And in 2022, I was faster on the bike compared to the 2021, but slower in the swim and run, and I was 3:08 faster this year overall! So I CRUSHED it this year! I was faster in all FIVE disciplines this year than compared to any split in the last 2 years!

• That descending run really felt good. I mean, I was hurting right away, but I was able to keep nibbling away at the pace. Here's my pace chart, and you can see the the uphill and downhill coming to mile 1 (downhill is the gentle downward slope in my pace as the hill leveled out), and you can also see my HR was over 200 bpm for MOST of the run:


Steep uphill to start, the same hill at mile 1 and 2,
and a sharp downhill to the finish for the last block.

• And my Garmin showed where I essentially stopped for a moment on the backstretch of the swim. I thought I was in for a rough race at this point, but I'm super happy I took a moment to pop up and take it easy for a few seconds! It paid off:

The arrows appear to be where I stopped for a sec.

• In my Garmin bike map, you can see the wind direction and where I passed the final guy. It was slower heading north into the wind, and then fast coming south. And I think I passed the guy that I talked to right around mile 15, and that is partially responsible for the burst in speed around the 3rd split:

Bike map.

Close-up of mile 15. Lots of speed there!

• Judi puts on a good race! She's a good mix of "casual" but also runs a tight ship. And I love this last line in her pre-race communications about the bike:

I walked around a bit post-race to loosen up my legs, and I spotted Hannah heading out of T2 just up from the big climb:

Not enjoying the climb.

Erin heading back down to the finish!

Down the hill and around the corner (to a steeper hill) to a 2nd place female finish!

Lots of runners headed out, and a cyclist on the far left coming in.

Finishing up the bike.

Down that steep little hill to the finish.

A post-race selfie! (It feels weird not taking a selfie in a bathroom...)

Eiffel had a little derailleur cage issue that caused it to rub a bit on my
crank arm. The guy from Now Bikes made it a little better post-race.

Burgers and hot dogs post-race!

Time for a rest day today, and maybe I'll see if I can get in a speed workout on Friday. As I posted over the weekend, I'm trying to make a strong final push for the TC 10 Mile, but I'm obviously NOT wanting to injure myself, so I have to walk a fine line!

Back with more photos shortly! (Once they post race photos on Facebook.)

Race medal with my first place age group ribbon.


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