Each of the last three years I have competed in the Younglife Triathlon that takes place in August in Detroit Lakes. It is an amazing value at $60 with early registration for a fully featured and supported Olympic distance Tri. Each year they seem to tweak the formula just a bit to make it a better event, but for 2018 they made a couple of weird decisions that makes 2019 a make or break year for me.
The swim is fine, with extremely large buoys that I feel are spaced out quite a bit. My first year I had real issues with siting and and swam about 300 extra yards, which was probably an even mix of being my fault as a weak open water swimmer and the buoy spacing. The second year I worked much more on my open water swimming, but they are still spaced out significantly. I would say that if you have anxiety in the open water than perhaps finding a TRI with a loop or one with more defined swimming areas would be beneficial. You can really swim out to the middle of the lake here, and it can be quite a distance back on your return.
The bike is also pretty interesting for what it is – two loops around the lake. There is a surprising amount of elevation change despite that and while none of the climbs or descents are very long they do shake up the ride quite a bit and allow for opportunities to make more dramatic moves in overtaking. The last third or so of each loop is very flat and this comparatively boring ride underscores the value of the hill changes that come before. Being that it is in a city setting there are some very low speed 90 degree turns which scrub a lot of speed and can get you up and out of the saddle.
That said, what I think is the biggest drawback to this race is the amount of traffic that is on these roads. These is where the low cost of the TRI is most evident. Given very little traffic control there are frequently vehicles sharing the road with you, driving on the wrong side of the road around blind curves, trying to turn across the flow of riders, etc. There appears to be very little signage on the route for vehicles to know what is going on and with bike speeds approaching 30 mph on some stretches of the route it becomes hard for everyone to operate both safely and competitively.
For 2018, the big change they made came on the section that is shared with cyclists and runners and it is scary (circled in orange in the route map.) There is about a one mile stretch where there is a two lane road. This road is open to traffic – and traffic is heavy. Bikers have to stay to the right on this road, and formerly runners were able to run back on the left side. Now, runners go out *and* back on the same side of the road as the cyclist are coming in on, on a narrow road that is shared with cars. I fear that it is only a matter of time before a cyclist, runner, or car become entangled and it really negatively impacts the viability of the race, which is a great fundraiser.
I touched on the run just before, which is a out and back for the Olympic that goes down a path for about ~3 miles of blessed shade. The road crossing is a dedicated underpass so outside of the stretch that is shared with the cyclists and cars it is relatively easy with a minimum of elevation change. Don’t expect to run a full 10K on this route, however, as it clocks in just at six miles.