Tuesday, September 15, 2009


(Minnefota Moments Photo: Rhett Bonner finishing at Brewhouse '09.)

Duluth's Rhett Bonner, 45, won the 9th edition of the Square Lake Half last Sunday. His 4:13 blew away the event's Masters Course Record. Results.

Via e-mail, Rhett shared his experience:

"The 2009 edition of the Square Lake Half I.M. started with absolutely

perfect weather conditions. 65 degrees, perfectly calm, and the sun

just rising over the treetops that surround beautiful Square Lake.

I had done 2 prior Square Lake short course races, both under similar

conditions, in 2003 and 2004. The lake and the countryside that the

bike and run take place in are really amazing. With the cloudless sky

and high humidity, I was a little worried about how hot it might get

for the run later in the day.

"Randy Fulton, the tireless and eternally optimistic race director

started us off in waist deep water with an old fashioned "On your

mark, get set, Go!!! ", and we were off. I started wide left and

then moved gradually right as the crowd cleared out in the first 20

meters, and found myself in 3rd position, about 6-8 meters behind the

2nd position and about 10-12 meters behind first. We were swimming a

2-lap clockwise triangle (staying in the water the whole time). As we

got closer to the first turn buoy I pushed hard to get on to the feet

of the 2nd place guy and was able to draft until we got around to the

start of the second lap. One of the later waves had just started, so

for the second lap I was fighting to stay on the feet of the unknown

guy in second, as we both navigated in and around many other

competitors. As we neared the shore and the finish of the second lap

I could see the first place guy exiting the water about 30-40 seconds

ahead, later identified as Oscar Godoi, who ended up finishing 13th

overall, after starting off with the fastest swim of the day.

(CORRECTION: "Just a correction on Rhett Bonner's Square Lake 1/2 IM article. The first swimmer out of the water was actually a young MSU swimmer named Jose Rosales-Yepez, who wasn't posted in the results because he got sick on the bike portion." - Cris Crocker)

"Heading up the steep steps from the lake toward the transition area I

was feeling pretty good and told myself to relax, that there was a lot

racing left to do. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself the

first out of transition and riding behind the leaders car. The first

few hills are tough, and I tried to go hard, but stay aerobic. As I

was going up the longest of these first climbs, a road rider ( Non

race participant) pulled out from the left and hammered up the incline

about 50 meters ahead of me, it was all I could do to keep him from

pulling away from me. As the road leveled out, and my legs got some

more blood in them, I was able to make a definitive pass, which felt

good, even though he wasn't in the race. I looked back several times

during the first miles of the bike, and could see a few people but as

I got about half way through the first lap I wasn't able to see

anybody behind me. I finished the first lap in 1:06 and change on my

watch and was still feeling pretty good. Coming through the start /

finish area it felt great to hear the cheers of the spectators and

realize I was still in first place! As I made my way through the

second loop of the bike I began passing a few of the other athletes

that were doing their first lap. This made it hard to gauge if anyone

was catching up with me, So I stopped looking back and tried to stay

focused. The first half of the loop is on really smooth pavement but

the second half is very bumpy. As I raced along the bumpy, rolling

last 12 miles of the bike leg I was starting to stand up more

frequently to loosen up my quads, and to give some relief to my

saddle-worn nether regions. I soon realized that my second loop was

going to be 3-4 minutes slower than my first, which was okay since I

wanted to save a little snap for the 13.1 mile run which was going to

be hotter than expected. As I rolled into transition I had this idea in

my head that I had a lead of several minutes (?bike course record?)

over whoever was in second place. My imagined "big lead" was

quickly erased as I watched Steve Sander ride into transition less than

30 seconds behind me. He had ridden the 2 lap course in an amazing

2:13:27, besting my 2:16:37 by over 3 minutes. I had sort of a sick

feeling in my stomach as I started off on the run knowing that I would

have to outrun the 2009 men's overall champion of the Tri-Minnesota

race series if I was going to claim first place at Square Lake.

"In the first mile of the run there is a big downhill and then a couple

of uphills. I felt amazingly good approaching the one mile marker,

and could hear Steve's footsteps approaching gradually from behind.

By some where near the end of mile one we were running together,

pretty much stride for stride. Steve seemed to be feeling strong, but

his breathing was a little more labored than mine, and I hoped that

he had used up some energy catching me that he would need later in

the race. We cruised through the next 4 miles or so together, doing

about 6:40 miles, and it felt comfortable to me, so on a slight downhill

section between mile 5 and 6, I went just a little faster. I think we

had gone through an aid station , and I had gotten a little gap, so I

just kept going at a pace that was now starting to feel a little

uncomfortable, but I could hear Steve's footsteps getting more

distant. As I rounded the turnaround at the halfway point of the out

and back course, I started my watch and as I passed Steve going the

other way I had a gap of about 40 seconds or so. The next 6.6 miles

was increasingly painful as anyone who has ever done a half IM

distance knows. I had a mix positive and negative thoughts going

through my head, like " Is this twinging feeling in my calf going to

turn into a debilitating, run stopping cramp? or maybe it will go away

if I eat another couple of endurolyte tablets." followed by " it is

really getting hot out here" and by mile 10, " I wonder if Steve is

creeping up on me now that my mile pace has dropped from 6:40 to

7:40? I was buoyed by the stream of racers coming in the opposite

direction cheering me on. As they would pass, I would wait anxiously

to hear if they were cheering Steve on as he was catching me from

behind, but thankfully, I never heard those cheers. As a triathlete

who has been passed from behind hundreds of times on the run, the

last 2 miles were particularly nerve racking, especially since I was

really struggling to keep running. As I hit the 12 mile mark, one of the

great volunteers told me I had about a quarter mile lead. As I used

the last of my leg power to get me up the last, somewhat cruel hill,

I knew I had the race won. For a triathlete like me who can count the

number of overall career race victories on the fingers of one hand, It

was truly a moment to savor, as I cruised through the last half mile

of downhill to the finish line. With the crowd cheering me on, my

legs no longer felt the pain that had been present over the last 5


"I want to thank all of the organizers, volunteers and racers who made

the 2009 Square Lake Half IM such a great event. I encourage any

triathlete who appreciates a beautiful course, fun, and safe event

event to try this great event next year."