Sunday, June 27, 2010

Undaunted by debris: North Mankato Tri still a success

In a sense, it was both a good and a bad day for the North Mankato Triathlon Sunday at Hiniker Pond.

On the one hand, the rain of the last few days has brought down the humidity to a reasonable level, making the weather pleasant for competitors and spectators. On the other hand, the severity of the storms left debris littered on most of the streets in the Mankato area, creating the potential for a tree branch-filled obstacle course for cyclists.

Fortunately, volunteers for the triathlon and city workers put in some extra time before (and even during) the race to clean debris off the course and keep it safe for riders.

"They did a great job cleaning up the course for us," said Mankato resident Chris Crocker, who competed in the triathlon and came in with a time of 1:08:22. "There was a little sand here and there on Judson Bottom Road, but they did the best they could."

The diligence of volunteers shouldn't come as a surprise. In its 13th year of existence, the North Mankato Triathlon has traditionally been a first-class event with first-class organization. There's a reason why registration for the race fills well before race day every year.

Out of all the area races I've competed in during my time in Mankato, the North Mankato is among my favorites. It draws the most participants, the most volunteers and the most spectators. The parking lot at Hiniker might get crowded by race time, but the mass amount of people help create a great racing atmosphere that truly puts the community's fingerprint on the event.

Also, it's just a great all-around race. The course is tough enough to challenge seasoned triathletes, yet the distances are moderate enough not to scare off first-timers. Hiniker Pond is a great venue for a transition area (ample parking, good beach, warm water), Judson Bottom Road is low-traffic enough to keep cyclists safe, and the run through the streets of North Mankato has spectators at every turn.

Despite my love for the race, I didn't compete in the triathlon this year. It wasn't by choice. My legs are still pretty banged up from Grandma's Marathon last weekend, as anyone who saw me limping around at Thursday night softball can attest. Had there have been a wheel chair or segway division, I would've considered it.

As it is, I've been doing more biking lately in anticipation for RAGBRAI next month. But I haven't even attempted to run since last Saturday.

Oh well, there's always next year. Judging by how well the North Mankato race is ran and how popular it's become, I don't foresee it going downhill anytime soon.

To view Monday's Free Press story about the triathlon, click here.

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