Sunday, July 26, 2009


(File Photo: Marnie Walth & Kortney Haag at The Apple. These girls made their half IM debuts on Sunday. And the results were stunning!)

(Chisago City, MN - July 26, 2009) The day was perfect for fast racing. The field quality was extraordinary. And the highlights were too numerous to, well, enumerate.

But we'll try.


David Thompson came into the race as the favorite. Good weather and a push from a talented supporting cast promised to get him to the finish line in record time; certainly under 4 hours.

How far under that magic mark? That was the question. 3:55, perhaps? 3:50? David's PR at the distance is 3:49:38. Was this the day he went even faster?


Separating himself from co-leader Tim Hola (Highlands Ranch, CO) in T1, David hit the time trial trail. The end result was a 3:47:17, which lowered Jonathan Balabuck's Chisago race record, --this event's course has been tweaked annually--by 18:31. For DKT, it was his 55 career victory and 7th W and 6th course record of the 2009 season.

Ultimately, the story of the race up front was not about supporting characters pushing the leader to an amazing time. More likely, it was about the leader pulling others to the performances of their lives. Three more men dipped under 4 hours, and five others dipped under the old CR. One of those guys was Thunder Bay, Ontario's Balabuck, who finished 5th in a totally satisfying 4:00:22.

Second place went to 1st-year pro Justin Henkel of Madison, WI. A USAT Athlete of the Year Honorable Mention in 2008, Justin's previous best at 70.3 was 4:00:43, a 30-34M gold medal effort at Clearwater '08. At Chisago, the lanky Henkel, who placed an impressive 4th at Ironman Coeur D'Alene five weeks earlier, popped a 3:52:35.

Third went to relative newcomer Jeff Tartowski of Green Bay. In only his 3rd year in the sport, he has raced only a handful of times, two of which produced victories at the High Cliff Half (2009, 2008). The humble, soft-spoken Tartowski owned a previous PR was 4:01:58. On Sunday he went 3:54:14.

The other sub-4 was turned in by 2005 Triathlete Magazine Amateur Athlete of the Year Tim Hola. The former US Half Champ and 4-time amateur winner at Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3. His previous best at the distance was in the 4:01-4:02 range. At Chisago, his time was a triumphant 3:54:32.

Sixth through 10th went to St. Paul's Jeremy Sartain (6th - 4:02:11-lowered PR by 4:48), Mayer's Brook Grossinger (7th - 4:03:47 - lowered PR--according to MTN's records--by 24:28!), Edina's Josh Riff (8th - 4:05:14 - PR?), Rochester's Alex Hooke (9th - 4:06:16 -lowered PR by 8:08) and Madison, Wisconsin's affable Mike Lavery (10th - 4:08:40). Lavery placed 3rd (4:03:51) at Spirit of Racine the previous weekend.

* 21 GIRLS BREAK 5!...

Madison, Wisconsin's 23-year-old Jackie Arendt is an amazing triathlete who excels at the long stuff. Seventeenth (including pros) at Ironman Wisconsin last year (10:47), Jackie has been ripping the region's half scene this year. Her wins at Door County and High Cliff featured fast times (4:41:34 and 4:42:15) and huge margins of victory (8:06 and 11:18). She was also top amateur (2nd overall) at Illinois' Rockman (4:44:16).

Jackie turned in her fastest half of the season, perhaps of her career, at Chisago on Sunday. She posted the fastest women's swim and run splits of the day en route to a brilliant 4:26:05, which was 11:08 better than the race record.

And Jackie Arendt finished 4th.

That's how talented the women's field was. In fact, 21 girls broke the 5-hour mark. In the first three years of this event, only a dozen women were able to accomplish this feat.

Here are the top girls:

1. Heather Haviland, 36, Waukesha, WI - Course Record: 4:23:25

The long-time pro and former Pigman Half champ was ecstatic with her performance. For the last several seasons her coaching has taken precedence over her racing.

2. Marnie Walth, 40, Bismarck, ND - 4:23:46

Marnie's amazing long course debut should earn her a 2009 Minnesota Performance of the Year nomination. Walth turned in the fast bike split of the day (2:22:58 ).

3. Kortney Haag, 30, New Hope - 4:25:54

This was Kortney's maiden voyage at this distance. Like Walth's, it was astonishing. We invite you to read her race report at

4. Jackie Arendt, 23, Madison, WI - 4:26:05

5. Jolene Wilkinson, 36, Park City, UT - 4:29:31

This pro is a two-time 20-24W AG World Champion. Like Haviland, her coaching often overrides her racing. Also like Haviland, she was very pleased with her performance at Chisago.

6. Julie Hull, 36, Farmington - 4:30:52

For Julie, Chisago Lakes 2007 champ (4:37:13), her PR effort came on the heels of a 7th place finish (4:31:41) at Spirit of Racine the previous weekend.

7. Jan Guenther, 50, Mound - 4:36:05

Only 2008 US Master of the Year Ellen Hart, 51, of Denver, CO has a faster 50+ half finish, a 4:35:29 at Clearwater 70.3 '08. These two girls need to race each other!

8. Jenny Wilcox, 34, Cottage Grove - 4:38:41

Apparently Jenny's prep for her Ironman debut at Wisconsin in October is going well. At CLH she lowered her half PR by an elephantine 38:52

9. Marlo McGaver, 38, Duluth - 4:41:05

A former winner (2006) and runner-up (2008) here, Marlo's '09 time is a 12 second improvement on her PR at this race. McGaver has won four halves in her illustrious career.

10. Nicole Cueno, 29, Minneapolis - 4:49:13

A decorated runner (2:42:03-marathon, 16:54-5K, 34:52-10K), we were only able to locate one prior multi experience for Nicole, a 6th place finish at Iron Girl-Bloomington last fall. If this was her tri debut, it is nothing less than astounding. We hope you stick with this, Ms. Cueno.

Here are the non-open-class* records that were set at CLH IV:

* 00-19W - Gabby Keller (Maple Grove, MN) - 5:38:15
* 40-44W - Marnie Walth (Bismarck, ND) - 4:23:46 (Old Record: 5:04:21 - 2006)
* 45-49W - Tracey Lamers (Ridgeway, WI) - 4:57:08 (Old record: 5:07:13 - 2008)
* 50-54W - Jan Guenther (Mound, MN) - 4:36:05 (Old Record: 5:15:40 -2006)
* 55-59W - Pam Stevens (Sartell, MN) - 5:38:42 (Old Record: 6:15:44 - 2008)
* 50-54M - Charlie Roach (Lakeville) - 4:33:37 (Old Record: 4:42:39 - 2008)
* 55-59M - Greg Taylor (Mankato) - 4:21:04 (Old Record: 4:48:56 - 2008)

* Open Class athletes are those between the ages of 20 and 39.

Chisago Results:

MTN encourages athletes to submit brief race reports or commentary. Via email, Jeremy Sartain discussed his inspiring effort at Chisago:

"Chisago Half was a true breakthrough race for me this year. My major goal for 2009 is Ironman Wisconsin with the intent of qualifying for Hawaii, and yesterday I proved that this is truly a realistic goal. My run has been struggling but a couple weeks ago I finally began to sort it out. It turns out that there is a ton of scar tissue in my left lower leg and foot left over from my accident last year. Although I had huge gains in rehab that allowed me to complete Hawaii 10 weeks post crutches last year, my PT, Mike Mancini, moved home to Canada last October so I haven't really been doing much on the rehab end since. Fortunately I began to work with Dr. Josh Sandell at Spine and Sports Institute. Josh is much like Mike in that he does a ton of soft tissue mobilizations and is amazing at biomechanical analysis. In less than two weeks I was able to run a half in the same pace as I was running 10k's. My main goal at Chisago was to run sub 1:30. I ran a 1:26 and had a solid swim (for me) and bike. I couldn't be happier with how the race went! At every race I hear spectators and other competitors cheering me on, many of whom I don't personally know. Thanks for all the cheers and well wishes - it really is motivating!" - JS

MTN thanks triathlete Dan Hawkins for sending in this wonderful report:

"Just thought I'd share a quick story from this Chisago this weekend. I was going the 1/2 (and having one of my worst bikes ever) when I passed someone with a flat at mile 45. Normally I make sure they have what they need, etc, but I was generally too miserable to say anything and figured other athletes would help if necessary. I was feeling guilty about riding by and looked back to see that she was walking--i.e. race over. My race was over long ago, so with nothing to lose I turned around and rode back to offer my help.

"As it turned out, the woman with the flat was completely deaf and most likely unaware of any offers for aid. I happen to know some sign language and was able to communicate with her enough to help her get her tire fixed and back on the road. So what otherwise would have been a pretty awful day for me turned out to be very rewarding.

"So to the deaf lady with the flat tire--great job on finishing the race and I hope to see you on the road again!" -

(UPDATE: The deaf triathlete was #389, Beckie Perkins.)

Chisago runner-up Marnie Walth emailed this report:

"After getting out of the lake in about 10th place (great swim for me), I started catching the others on the bike--approx. one rider every 4-5 miles.

"On the run, Heather (Haviland) caught me quickly and I was able to tuck in behind her, letting her set the pace while I caught a little draft. She upped the pace with two miles to go and pulled away from me. Heather had a great finish and I simply couldn't go any faster.

"I am very happy with the finish. I had no expectations and so to get through that long race feeling strong and finishing second was a great experience.

"What a wonderful event--beautiful race course, awesome volunteers and outstanding organization." -Marnie