Race Coverage

Back to Normal Feels Good...


By Mitchell Clayton

TIMBERMAN - “Minnesota’s premier destination triathlon” did not disappoint the 25 super sprint-distance, 134 sprint-distance, and 75 international-distance triathletes challenging themselves at the 36th Timberman Triathlon this past Saturday. Nestled among towering pines and situated on the picturesque shore of “Sugar” Lake, it’s almost as if Sugar Lake Lodge was designed with hosting a triathlon in mind. After a year’s hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, race morning felt… normal. Temperatures in the Northland were in the mid-60’s and skies were clear as athletes set up their transition spot while chatting with friendly volunteers and race buddies that haven’t been seen in over a year.

The swim course took racers on a rectangular route, with the international course nearly stretching across “Sugar” Lake. Instead of a mass start, competitors lined up on the shore and started every 5 seconds in a self-seeded time trial format. After crossing the timing mat, the start of the course is sandy and shallow, allowing athletes to run a good distance in shin-deep water before diving into the crystal clear lake. Flat waters made it easy to spot turn buoys and to keep up the pace while heading out, over, and back to shore....

If you looked up the definition of a “rolling course” in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Timberman’s bike course. Winding roads leave the lodge, taking competitors out on smooth roads. After roughly 8 miles of cycling through dense forests, sprint-distance racers turned right to complete their looping course. Meanwhile, international-distance athletes made a left, making a larger loop before biking past the lodge to begin a second, shorter lap. The final half mile of each course passed Sugar Lake Lodge’s pristine golf course before returning to transition.

After swimming, cycling, and transitioning twice, racers headed out on the run course. Temperatures were rising slightly, but considering the heat and humidity that a Minnesota summer is capable of producing, the day was still ideal as time ticked by. Each run course is a simple out and back on a quiet, rolling, residential road. Upon passing the lodge, the final 100 yards to the finish line were all downhill, returning athletes to their friends and family.

This year’s Timberman Triathlon showcased the best of triathlon in Minnesota. Sure, the course rocked, and the weather was miraculous, but triathlon is about the athletes, volunteers, and spectators that make it worth getting up too early on weekend mornings. After crossing the finish line, racers chatted with each other and reunited with their supporters, and volunteers made the whole experience simple, streamlined, and enjoyable.

It’s fair to say that triathlon is back to normal, and it feels really, really good.