Race Previews

Great Choices...


WEEKEND MINI-PREVIEWS - There are four multisport races on Minnesota soil next weekend. Five, if you count western Wisconsin's SHELL LAKE TRIATHLON, which historically draws it's share of participants from the west side  of the St. Croix River. In fact, Minnesota athletes have won three of the first five editions of the race, and placed as many in the overall top five as their cheesehead (meant affectionately!) counterparts.

The races were  are previewing in this post are Saturday's HOOT LAKE TRI and TURTLEMAN, plus Sunday's CHISAGO LAKES HALF & SPRINT.

The inaugural IGNITE SWIM RUN (at Cuyuna State Park) will also be contested on Saturday, and we hope that the event draws satisfying numbers and is a great experience for all involved. Since we don't know who's racing, nor what to expect; plus we will not be on hand to witness and report on the event, we implore participants to write race reports and send them our way, hopefully with photos. We will be happy to post those stories.


HOOT LAKE TRIATHLON - This Fergus Falls event is about to celebrate its landmark 25th anniversary. One hundred and seventy-nine athletes finished last year's sprint course race, and the early list that we saw (registration is still open) showed that 178 had already signed up. Like race management, we would love to see more than 200 participants this year, and there is a good chance the race will get that many....


So, who will win Hoot XXV? The men's choice is a no-brainer. Defending champ / rookie pro KEEGHAN HURLEY is returning, and we think he'll rock a CR. The 2017 bike course was shortened by two miles, but will return to it's 15.7 mile route this year. Typical times here for male winners is in the 1:07 range, with Fergus' DAVID JENSEN's 1:04:48 standing as either the course record, or at least the fastest men's clocking in the last seven-or-eight years. Based on his current training and his performance here last season, we expect KH to rock a 1:02 or faster on Saturday, weather permitting.

The list we examined did not have defending women's champion KIERANN TOTH (or her similarly talented husband, JASON) on it. If she returns, we pick her to repeat. If not, expect KRISTINA SWENSON and JOELLEN KOHLMAN-PETRICK (photo R) to battle for the top spot. Swenson, 21, is racing well this season, on pace to receive a Most Improved nomination, but she hasn't won a 2018 race yet. And though Kohlman-Petrick's  2017 scorecard features a win and three 2nds, we believe that Swenson's will prevail. Not only that, we think she'll lower ANGIE HOP's 1:18:22, set in 2011, which is the fastest women's time here since 2010.


A great event is expected, with many talented recidivists--JENNIFER FOSTER (MIll Valley, CA) and COREY NYGAARD to name two--as well as first time Hooters like Kristina Swenson and her teen brother KYLE, who just might lower the junior course record on Saturday. RACE WEBSITE

TURTLEMAN - Let us repeat what MTN sent out in an Eblast yesterday: 

Minnesota's original triathlon, the legendary TURTLEMAN, was cancelled in 2013 due to low water levels in Turtle Lake. In 2015, Tri Fitness Events resurrected the event, intending to build on its iconic reputation, one that resulted in its being a perennial "Race of the Year" nominee, an award it won three times.

The new Turtleman boasts the same awesome venue in Shoreview, one that appears to have been created with triathlon in mind, while adding lots of new perks, like locally brewed craft beer and a festive post-race barbecue.

So, where will you be next Saturday morning (July 28)? RACE WEBSITE


CHISAGO LAKES HALF & SPRINT - The largest (800ish) and most competitive event of the weekend will be Sunday's iconic Chisago races at bucolic Paradise Park in Chisago City.  Remember, because it's a highly competitve race at the front and in the AGs, that should not frighten away casual or recreational athletes. This event is a party from start to finish, and it's amenities are among the best in the sport. So come and have a great social and athletic experience.

Because it is what we do here at MTN, let's make some prognostications.

Predicted Sprint Podium: Men

MATTHEW PAYNE - Defending champ with 51 career multisports wins to his credit. Clear favorite here.

JOSH BLANKENHEIM  - He won here in 2016 and placed 2nd here in 2010 and 2008. Likely podium on Sunday? Yes.

KEVIN O'CONNOR - KO won this race in 2011, and placed 2nd here in 2015. His 3rd against a great field at Lake Waconia last month tells us that a podium spot is waiting for him this weekend. However, he'll have to create some space between himself and guys like Wisconsin transplant / UM grad BRAD WOODFORD, and South Dakotan KEVIN MITCHELL.


Predicted Sprint Podium: Women


CHERYL ZITUR - She may be 53, but she just keeps winning. In fact, since her first W in 2013, at age 47, the three-time Minnesota Master of the Year has amassed a dozen career multisport victories. She's racing well right now, and we aren't about to bet against her.

JENNIFER FITZHARRIS-FUNK - She's coming off a win at Minneapolis Sprint. She placed 2nd here in 2017, and we see her placing 2nd again this time, too.

MACY IYER - We're going out on a long limb here, but this 14-year-old is a phenom. Yes, we think there is a podium spot waiting for her.


Predicted Half IM Poodium: Men

SEAN COOLEY - Winner of six halves, three in sub-4:10. His PR is 4:04 and his awesome cycling skills have gotten even awesomer this year. Is he capable of a sub-4? Yes, but let's hope for a wetsuit-legal swim. The favorite? Absolutely.

WADE CRUSER - Wade has yet to show what he's capable of at this distance, and we think he has a 4:05 in his near future. Will that happen of Sunday? We hope so.

JOE ADRIAENS - PR - 4:13:26 set here last year. Is Joe ready for a sub-4:10? We think so.


Predicted Half IM Podium:  Women

HANNA GRINAKER - She proved at the abbreviated Liberty Half that she's got sub-4:30s in her. Yes, we think she'll chalk up her  first true 70.3 victory, and do so in spectacular fashion. Why? This woman is consummately fit, and voraciously hungry for wins and pro-level times.

KORTNEY HAAG - Of Kort's 18 career wins, eight have been at this distance. Her PR is 4:34:23, set here in a winning effort (1st amateur/ 2nd overall woman) in 2014. If Hanna falters, Kort will pounce.

BECKY YOUNGBERG - Former Pigman Half and Racine winner, Becky is racing lights-out this season. Will she grab the final podium spot? (Or the silver spot?) She will if she can keep herself in front of past Chisago champs DIANE HANKEE and  KELLY TROM (photo above L).

The women's race at the front here is always epic. Sunday's race may even be eric-er than usual.

We can't wait to get to Paradise Park. RACE WEBSITE