by Pro Triathlete Alex
Life Time Tri Minneapolis has been a high national level triathlon since 2001, and for its twelfth edition I was going to be a part of the professional ranks at this prestigious event. I had done this race two years before as an amateur, and I was stoked to be able to compare my times from then and now. I’d have a great chance to really see how much I’ve grown in the last two years.
The men’s race only had 17 competitors but it was a stacked field: four Olympians and some top non-drafting specialists had all shown up to give themselves a shot at winning the Toyota Triple Crown $50,000 prize! The women would start first with the men starting an equalized time behind, so the cash prize would go to whomever, male or female, had the fastest cumulative time of three races from the Life Time series, beginning with this race.
There was a lot on the line for everyone, and this was one of the greatest venues to put it all to the test. Life Time Tri Minneapolis has one of the most technical bike courses around. It’s constantly twisting and winding its way through some very scenic roads, big houses, old trees, and massive potholes. This makes for what feels like a really fast bike because you’re always doing something and always need to stay focused.
I had a great time staying in downtown Minneapolis the days before the race. I’ve only been there a few times, but it seems like an awesome place and there’s always some fun to be had. Kelli was able to make the five-hour drive with me and we stayed in a hotel with some friends. It was great to see some cool stuff and eat some amazing food. But I was here for business, not pleasure. I got some good rest before the race and my only major issue was trying to drive the course the day before the race. Lots of stop signs, traffic, and slow speed limits make a technical course more of a headache to drive than ride.
Life Time Tri Minneapolis Race Morning
I awoke race morning around 3:00 a.m. to the sounds of thunder and pounding rain. Seeing what time it was, I rolled back over, convinced that the storm would be gone by the time the race would start. My alarm went off at 4:30 and it was still coming down hard outside. A quick glance at the weather app told me that the storms would be leaving the area around 5:30. So by the time we’d start loading the car, the rain would be done, perfect.
But it wasn’t perfect. We walked out of the hotel into a flooded street as the road gutters could no longer handle all the water coming down. Before we even left for the race site, both of us had our shoes and clothes completely soaked through.
There isn’t much for parking at this race and everyone just tries to find something in the nearby suburban streets. We found a pretty good spot and could see some athletes braving the elements to get to transition early. Not wanting to get wet again, we both maneuvered around in the van to try and get things ready. After lots of struggling we began to see people heading back to their cars with their bicycles… because it turns out transition wouldn’t be open until 6:30 a.m. I figured that meant that the 7:00 a.m. start time was no longer going to happen.
The rain began to let up some so I made my way to the race site to see what was going on. What used to be a simple ride on the bike path now involved forging two raging rivers and navigating the lagoon that had formed at the race expo. I found all the other pros huddled under a little pop-up tent trying to stay warm. Some were wrapped in towels and some had donned their wetsuits. We all waited together until around 7:30 and then were allowed to go set up our transition. Afterwards we waited back in the tent for more instruction. It turns out that the Olympic bike course would no longer be possible due to some roads being impassable. So began a long debate on what we should do. An Olympic distance swim and run with a sprint distance bike? A swim and run? Everything at a sprint distance? And what about the triple cup prize? How could they set up a fair equalizer time if there were no previous times to base it from?
After some democratic deliberations, and a full clarification on what impassable really meant, we had all agreed to do the sprint course. But to make up for the short swim planned for the age groupers, we would do two of the 400 m laps. So the new race was an 800 m swim, a 28 k bike and a 5 k run. We would have a 9:00 a.m. start, a delay of two hours.
Finally it was time to get warmed up. During all this time I had been munching on some Clif blocks with caffeine to keep my energy levels up and to not get super hungry before the start. Energy management is key in a situation like this to get the most from yourself. It’s tough both mentally and physically to be able to stay amped for an extra two hours during race morning. So I was really happy with how well I relaxed and saved my energy during the confusion and rain until it was time to unleash it at the race start.
The race start area was packed with all the age groupers itching to finally start and spectators eager to actually see something after standing in the rain for hours. Everyone was packed onto a crowded beach with a little fence to hold them back, it made for a great starting atmosphere. Unfortunately, I let myself get a little distracted at the start. Right before the horn went off, a remote control drone with a go pro camera floated over us. I looked up and thought, “How cool is that!?” BOOM! Horn goes off and I’m the last guy to get across the start line.
Everyone dove in early and I was able to keep running, trying to not step on people but at the same time trying to make a move to get out front. I’m still lacking a little top end speed at the start of the swim and the leaders broke away as I was stuck back in the second group.
Not content with being stuck behind everyone, I made a huge surge when we ran out onto the beach to pass three guys and started the second lap leading the second group. I knew this was a major moment so I ignored the pounding in my head and refused to thrash and gasp for the air I desperately needed. This was my moment to break away from the group and not let anyone catch my draft. I continued on hard, focusing on my stroke mechanics, and it worked! I was the 8th guy out of the water. I was still 60 seconds down on the leader but only 30 seconds away from my next target.
I managed to pass one guy in transition because he was busy taking off his swim skin. I got out onto the bike with only thoughts of hammering it going through my head. The wind was strong and complex. It seemed to always be blowing me around the road, never making up its mind on what direction it would come from. The wet road conditions demanded my full attention at all times. I got passed by two guys around the four mile mark of the bike. I tried to push on with them, but simply didn’t have the power. My bike focus has been a little on the back burner as I focused on ITU draft-legal racing the last couple of months. I kept the pace high and spent most of the bike going back and forth with another guy. The bike course ended up a little long at 17 miles, and even though I was conservative in the corners, I was still super happy with being able to push a 25.5 mph average. Rubber side down is faster after all!
I tore through T2 and onto the run. With this being only a 5K run I really wanted to push it hard from the start and not care if I ended up blowing up. I ran by someone within the first 800 m of the run and then began to lose some motivation as I realized the next closest target was 90+ seconds ahead of me. I was still being pushed some from behind, but I really wish I had someone to race with shoulder to shoulder. I ended up with a 16:04 5K run split, which was super awesome! But I really wish I could’ve found those five extra seconds to break that 16 min mark.
Overall I had put together a really solid day across the board on my way to a 9th place finish. Full results can be found at RaceResults360. I was really happy with my performance and ecstatic to have placed well at such a high level race. What’s even better is that with a smaller pro field, I felt like I got a good chance to talk to everyone. I no longer had that feeling that I was the new kid in class and didn’t know anyone. This race was exactly what I needed, finally some validation that doing the pro thing could work out for me.
I still have a long way to go, but it’s always great to get a little reassurance that you’re on the right track. For now Kelli and I are off to Colorado Springs to find a new place to live. Moving is going to be a little crazy but I’m really excited to be in a new area. It’s time to really enjoy this life adventure!
Soon it will be back to training as I get myself ready for the next race in the series, Life Time Tri Chicago Chicago.
Special thanks to the Life Time Tri Minneapolis race coordinators and photographers. Check out www.tr-iag.com using search code “MN13” to see all the race photos.