“You were made for this”

Last Saturday, on a hot, humid and calm morning in beautiful Detroit Lakes, MN, I completed my first Olympic-distance triathlon. It was definitely one of the more challenging events I’ve raced but also one of the most fun! I truly enjoyed it all – even when I thought I would melt into the pavement during the run. Heat and humidity really mess with this North Dakota, winter-loving gal.

I did it!

I did it!

Beyond the feeling of accomplishment, the event was a great experience thanks to the team behind it. From setup to friendly course volunteers to the finish line hospitality, it was a top-notch event all the way through. I’d like to share my review of the Young Life Triathlon, broken down into each very important piece.

Packet pickup – which, as any racer knows, can be a nightmarish clusterf*ck – was very well-organized. It took me less than 30 seconds to locate my check-in line and have my packet in-hand.

The transition area was in a good spot and allowed plenty of room for all racers. My only complaint? The distance between the bike dismount and the actual transition area was a bit long – my jell-o legs would have enjoyed less running with my bike.

The Swim
This honestly may have been my favorite part of the course – I don’t think most triathletes would cite the swim as their favorite! Big Detroit Lake is a beautiful setting; there was a sizeable beach area with plenty of room for all the runners to gather, the water was a comfortable temperature and there weren’t too many weeds to get caught up in. And all swimmers went out in heats – Olympic men first, followed by the women, then the Sprint men and women about 20 minutes later. My heat had only about 25 people in it so I never got kicked. Plus, splashing and waves were minimal, as each swimmer had plenty of room for themselves.

As for the course, we received clear instruction (and even a jet-ski demo) of the route prior to the race so I knew exactly where to go. Also, the course had a few turns, marked off with buoys. It was an out-and-back, yet with a few side-to-side, zigzags. I loved that. Rather than one long, seemingly endless, out-and-back path, each turn gave me “check point” to look forward to; a mini goal within the long swim to help break it up and keep me feeling positive about how well I was doing. There were several lifeguards on paddle boards, jet-skis and pontoons, so I always felt safe. The lifeguards on paddle boards took care to get close enough to swimmers to make sure we were okay, as well as provide us with encouragement.

The Bike
Going into it, I knew this would be my least favorite part of the race – and it was. It had nothing to do with the course, biking just isn’t my thing.

But the course was actually pretty good. It went around the lake, there were lots of hills and plenty of nice scenery. I wasn’t a fan of the fact that Olympic athletes had to do two laps (it would have been nice to have one, long route). Also, I had a couple minutes of panic, as I wasn’t sure I was on the right course during the transition into the second lap. There wasn’t much course marking or volunteers to let me know I was going in the correct direction. I was able to stop and ask a volunteer at one point – thankfully, I was still on course!

My time to shine - the run

My time to shine – the run

The Run
Although I was exhausted, I was ready and excited for the run. After all, running is kind of my thing! The course took advantage of a lot of trees and shaded areas, as well as the public beach along Big Detroit Lake.

The first and last mile went along the shoreline, while the bulk of the middle was along a wooded bike trail. While it was nice and shaded on the trail, it was very secluded – it could have been a bit lonely, especially for those who struggle with running. Luckily for me, running is my strongest area, plus I had Chris biking alongside me the whole way.

The advantage of doing the women’s Olympic course was that, by the time we finished, the Sprint runners were long gone and the finish line was all about us. I had about 10 volunteers waiting for me at the finish line, ready to take my ankle chip, hand me cold water and present me with my medal. I also had a lot of people cheering for me – both my family members and a few complete strangers who were waiting for their racer.

The finisher’s chute was long, with plenty of space for fans to line up. There was a big archway and large timing clock, a staple of big races. Food and water were right there at the finish, which was huge – I had to walk and search for a bottle of water after the last marathon I ran, not fun at all. The race finished in the adjacent park, giving plenty of room for runners and spectators to hang out, with the transition area close by to gather all belongings.

Gotta love the race swag!

Gotta love the race swag!

Overall, the organizers took advantage of the best parts of Detroit Lakes for the athlete/spectator village and the course itself. The volunteers were helpful and enthusiastic. And, of course, no great race would be complete without a sweet finisher’s shirt and medal – check and check! If you’re in the Minnesota area next summer, I highly recommend this race. I plan to do it every summer I’m able to!

Have you raced a really great event this year? What made it great? Post a comment or tweet to me, @runlikeagirl311.


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