Wildlife Loop Tri Race Recap

wl-loopBy Kirsten McCay-Smith

Race Summary for the Wildlife Loop Triathlon in Custer, SD

The 2016 Wildlife Loop Triathlon was one of my favorite races of the season. It was held on September 10th in Custer, SD. Personally I had a blast. It’s my type of course (hard and hilly) and the low-key, small town feel is exactly what I love when I race. I parked 50 feet from the transition area and hung out in my car (it was 31 degrees when I arrived) until 10 minutes before the race start. And since Custer is a beautiful destination for the entire family, my dog, Joey, and husband, Rick, came along to cheer me on (this is a very rare occurrence).

The race is GREAT for beginners because of the low-key environment. However, since the race is so small, there were several times on the bike course where I wouldn’t see a single person for 45 minutes. I never got lost as the course was marked, but if I was less experienced or less confident about racing, I could see how I would doubt myself. As the race grows, hopefully this won’t be an issue!

wildlifeloopRace morning was cold and I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t bring long pants, so I chose to put my wetsuit on before leaving the hotel. This kept me super warm (other than feet) until race start. So I’m glad I did it! The lake was warm so there was a lot of fog due to the temp difference of the air/water. But magically about 10 minutes before the race start, the fog cleared and it was smooth swimming from there.

The race started at 8am which I loved since I am not a morning person. The course was 2 loops and the buoys were easy to spot (other than the sun shining brightly coming back in to the shore). It was a smooth, easy swim since there weren’t a lot of swimmers. There was a LOT of tall grass that got stuck in my hands and feet, but I’m not TOO freaked out by lakes anymore, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Transition was easy and close so we only had to run a few yards from the swim (yay). I was debating what to wear on the bike since the morning was cold but forecast said it would warm up to the 70s within a couple hours. My plan was to wear my jacket and gloves (they said we could drop any clothing at the first aid station and it would be brought back to the finish…another great thing about small races as most races wouldn’t offer this option). I got really warm during the swim so decided to forgo the jacket and just use gloves. They took too long to put on wet hands, so I tossed them aside and left out on the bike. I never got cold at all (other than my feet which were still cold from standing on the grass before the race) so I was happy with my decision.

kirstenThe bike course is GORGEOUS and on some of the smoothest roads I have ever ridden. There is a long downhill about 10 miles before climbing (not sustained, more ups and downs with a gradual up) for the next 18 miles of each loop. I didn’t know anything about the bike course so I took it easy the first loop to scout it out and then pushed a little harder the second loop. I remember there being an uphill immediately out of transition, in my mind it was about 3 miles, so I knew when I got up the last hill, I would have a nice downhill into transition. That didn’t exactly happen! The uphill out of transition was more like a mile so the climb back to transition went much longer (and harder) than I had imagined. I hadn’t trained on a lot of hills so this last part was challenging, but again, beautiful and smooth so it wasn’t horrible!

Transition, again, was super easy with the race being so small.

I hadn’t looked at the run course in detail and it was pretty darn hilly. It was 2 out-and-backs 2 climbs and 2 descents each way. It was nice to see more people on the run than the bike, and the aid stations and volunteers did a great job of making sure we had everything we needed. They even offered full bottles of water and Gatorade to run with. The temps got higher and the winds picked up as my run went on. By the last “out” in a serious head wind, I was struggling. I knew once I got to the turnaround, I had a little over 3 miles left, and even though it included 2 climbs, I would have a hard core tail wind the entire way home! YES!!!

The finish line was a sign that said FINISH taped to the race director’s car…AWESOME!!

Post-race food was plentiful including sandwiches, wine, and lots of homemade treats made by the race director’s mom…MORE AWESOMENESS!!!

The top 3 male and female winners won money at this race. I won $800 which is an athlete’s dream come true. We race because we love it…we would do it anyway…but the fact that we are rewarded…with cash…is such a bonus!

The race director and his family/friends helping were AMAZING! Even my husband (who is not an athlete, nor does he like coming to races, and has never volunteered at a race in my 17 years of racing) said “if we do this next year, I will volunteer for sure”. Well I will definitely do this race next year!!

If you have any other specific questions about this race, I would love to answer them for you. I would love to see this race grow as it’s such an easy and fun destination for Colorado peeps!!


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