Review: 2012 Litchfield TriathLou (Olympic)

Lithium Man goes Carbon!


Sunday, September 16, 2012, 7:30 AM (Two waves of Sprint, one wave of Olympic, roughly 3 minutes apart)


Lake Lou Yaeger, east of Litchfield, IL

Address: 4313 CR-1350 N, Litchfield, IL 62056 (Note that this address is up a hill from the lake itself. It may not be obvious, but you want to go on past this address, go down the hill towards the lake, and the parking is on the right.)

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Official (per website): 0.9 mile open water swim / 24.8 mile bike / 6.2 mile run

Measured (my GPS): 0.88 mile open water swim / 24.67 mile bike / 6.07 mile run

Also run that day was a Sprint (0.25 open water swim / 13 mile bike / 3.1 mile run, per website).

Put on by

RaceMaker Productions (Disclaimer: RaceMaker Productions is a sponsor of the St. Louis Triathlon Club, of which I am a member).


Bike Surgeon



Sprint: $60 individual, $100 team

Olympic: $80 individual, $135 team

USAT Sanctioned



Very nice swag indeed.

image of hoodie.

Very nice, warm logo’ed hoodie.

Beer glass

Matching glass. For those of age, a tab on the running bib was good for one filling of beer.

It’s all on the event website, dude

Race Day Weather

Race day weather was very pleasant, being an early fall day. Clouds were broken overcast early on, eventually becoming sunny. Temperatures were in the 60’s throughout the race, was about 72 after the awards ceremonies. Winds were light, gradually increasing through the day. Water temperature was about 76 degrees.


As noted above, there is ample parking on the lot on the right side, at the bottom of the hill that leads down to the lake.

About the Race

This was the third year for the TriathLou. The race is run in conjunction with the city of Litchfield’s Do the Lou Festival. The festival and the race are named after the location, Lake Lou Yaeger, which is located to the east of Litchfield. The Sprint had about 120 racers and the Olympic had about 60, and overall there were about five teams.

Updates prior to the race were generally available through e-mail and the organizer’s Facebook page. The organizer made arrangements for discounts at two Litchfield motels, and I availed myself of that given the distance I would need to travel and the fact I was going up one level in distance (wanted to be rested up enough to get home!)

The swim course was available the afternoon before the race (coinciding with pre-race-day packet pickup onsite). RaceMaker does a good job of having maps on their website for their events, in this case interactive. It would be a nice addition to have hardcopy available at the race site for those of us who like to drive the bike course and (when possible) the run course. But I was able to get by with the interactive electronic maps.

All courses were well marked with volunteers and police at all of the appropriate locations.

Post race discussion of the event was positive, and it sounds like many intend to repeat attend the race again next year.

The Swim

The Olympic course consisted of a more-or-less triangle, while the Sprint course took a shortcut partway through the course. The course was swam clockwise. The start and finish are from a very nice sand beach. The lake is shallow so we had a fairly decent run through the water to get to the deep water. Footing while in the water was good. The end was through an inflatable arch on the beach, although it appears that the timing mat was actually at the entrance to the transition area, some distance away.

Lake Lou Yaeger is a relatively narrow, mud bottom lake, so the water was fairly murky, although you’re not really looking at anything anyway, of course! The visibility of the buoys was quite good. Since it was overcast, I can’t really report on whether the Sun would have been an issue. The course seemed to head more north and south than east and west, and the lake is in a bit of a valley, so I suspect it would have been fine.

Note: If you are concerned about the swim time shown here, be aware that I am simply a slow swimmer.

View of swim course.

Swim course on afternoon before the race. Yellow buoys are for Olympic only; the orange buoys are common to the Olympic and the Sprint. There are five yellow buoys. The barely visible third yellow buoy from the left is the furthest point on the course.

Transition 1

The path to transition ran up the beach, across a road which had a carpet path, and then a set of stairs up to the parking lot that comprises the transition area. The timing map is actually at the Swim In entrance, so the posted swim times include the time to get from the beach to the transition area.

Racks were assigned by age group. The Bike Out/Bike In was on the opposite end of Swim In.

View of transition area

Pre-race view of the transition area. The transition zone is elevated above the beach. Image by David Scally of the St. Louis Triathlon Club.


The Cycling

(Update: as of 2015, the Olympic cycling course follows the Sprint course and does two loops. The description here is of the pre-2015 cycling course.)

The cycling route begins with a quick uphill, then is essentially flat for about 10 miles of travel up towards the north and east. At that point there are some hills for the next 2.5 miles until the turnaround at 12.5 miles, then revisit the hills in the opposite direction, then 10 flat miles on the return.

The hills are generally rolling. The most notable hill on the return is after crossing over the bridge (the only one) at about 15 miles. This hill (at the intersection of Painter Trail and East 5th Street) is preceded by a right hand turn, so you would like to have some speed coming out of the previous downhill if you can safely do so. Fortunately, you see this on the outbound so you know it is coming when you come back the other direction.

Wind on the day of the race seemed to be generally from the southeast, so times were quicker heading out than heading back. There is not a lot of wind blockage on the course.

As was discussed in the pre-race meeting, one needs to exercise some caution on these roads. Some are relatively narrow and have rough patches, have a significant crown, and loose gravel can be found along the edges of the turns. Vehicular traffic was very minimal. There are no railroad crossings.

Transition 2

The bike route ends on a downhill, then a left turn and brief uphill to the dismount line. Bike In is same as Bike Out; and Run Out is the same as Bike Out as well. (If looking at the times above in the graphic, I missed hitting the advance button on my GPS watch; the transition should be about 45 seconds or so longer than shown.)

The Run

The run begins by going up the same hill as the cycling, but then immediately going to a long downhill. There is a briefer up/down at the 1.5 mile mark, then a more significant climb at the 2 mile mark. The hills are generally rolling, so every uphill is soon rewarded with a downhill.

The turnaround is at the 3 mile mark, after which you unwind the first part of the course. This means that there is a significant climb from 4.5 to 5.5 miles. After that, though, it is all downhill until a left turn up a loop for the finish.

Water and electrolyte drink were available at about 1 mile, 3 mile, and 5 mile. The Sprint course followed the same route, with a turnaround at about 1.5 miles.

Newbie Lessons Learned

This is what a newly minted Olympic distance triathlete looks like! Photo by David Scally of St. Louis Triathlon Club.

  • This was my first Olympic distance race. I had done a time trial two weeks prior to look for any surprises relative to hydration, etc. That exercise went very well. On race day, the weather was very pleasant and I didn’t consume as much electrolyte as I planned. This was fine until my right hamstring cramped at 3 miles into the run and my left at 5 miles. I both cases I had to stop (not walk, stop) and massage the hamstring in question until I could walk and then run again. Once again, follow the plan!
  • I noted that my pulse rate ran about 10 bpm lower throughout the bike and run than it did for the sprints I have been doing. It was pointed out to me that, at the Olympic distance, the bike is getting long enough that you need to think a little bit about what you are doing, especially for one who is building up on the distances. For a Sprint race, you generally put everything you have into the bike and then do the relatively short 5k run with whatever is left; the Olympic requires a bit more strategic use of your energy.

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