By Ashley Lauretta


If you’re in the Twin Cities and are looking for a rural race, Toughman Minnesota—formerly the Chisago Lakes Triathlon—is the race for you. It is about a 35-minute drive from Minneapolis and brings a taste of Sweden to athletes, as you race the half-iron through the friendly Swedish communities of the Chisago Lakes area.

The race begins in Paradise Park where athletes swim in Chisago Lake before taking to residential streets for both the bike and run. This is unique in that you’ll see spectators along almost the entire course—there isn’t much in the way of seclusion. With 10 opportunities for fluids on the half-Ironman- distance run course, you’ll also have plenty of volunteers cheering you on along the way.

In July, temperatures average about 83 degrees for the high and 60 degrees for the low, but past racers point out that there is a lot of shade on the course. This means you are not likely to overheat— and that even spectators can get some respite from the 80-degree temperatures. Athletes often stick around after the race to take advantage of massage therapists on hand, though depending on where you finish, you might have to wait for that bit of relief for your muscles.

Though parking can be tricky, with most finding spots on side streets or a few blocks from Paradise Park at Fairview Chisago Lakes Clinic, if you are doing the half-Ironman distance instead of the sprint, you can take advantage of closer parking at the Chuckie Lundquist Park across the street from Paradise Park.

You’ll see various organizations and teams racing the event, including Team RWB—which stands for “red, white and blue”—a national organization that enriches veterans’ lives through community participation.

“Team RWB works with everyone from active military and disabled veterans to those leaving the service and going into civilian life,” explains Dallas Britt, a Toughman ambassador and civilian director for Team RWB. “Because they tend to lose structure and group orientation outside the service, we provide community support and get out and do things together. Toughman is a big supporter of Team RWB, and there will be racers at every event this year, including the Toughman National Championship.”

If you see Team RWB out at Toughman Minnesota, feel free to give them an extra cheer and even ask about getting involved. It is a free organization with no charge to be a member and no fundraising required.

We talked to two past athletes—Dallas Britt and Travis Rassat—as well as Ben West of DuTriRun who serves as race director, to get a breakdown the course and find out exactly what you can expect—and how you should train—for a successful and competitive race day.

SWIM—1.2 MILES. Like other Toughman races, this race divides the swim into waves, meaning you are never too crowded, which is great for beginners. The one-loop, clockwise swim takes place in Chisago Lake. “Last year the weather actually came in and warmed it up, so rules did not require you to wear a wetsuit,” notes Britt. The weather can affect the lake that much. You can expect smooth conditions because that area of the lake is protected. Rassat doesn’t recall the sun being an issue for sighting, “But being able to breathe on both sides is always worth practicing for any race.” Because there are no rough water or crowding, it is a great swim for first-timers or newbies to flex their muscles and find their groove in the discipline that is often the hardest of the three.

BIKE—56 MILES. Britt notes that coming out of the swim you have an uphill run to get the transition area. Going from transition onto the course, past athletes say that while the course has a few rolling hills, it is relatively fl at and very shaded. “It’s great for the diesel rider who is looking to put down some consistent power for a half-Ironman-distance PR,” shares Rassat. “I tend to be the last person out of the water who hammers the bike and I really enjoyed the course and the Minnesota countryside.” The course runs through residential areas, meaning you’ll see plenty of spectators along the way as well as volunteers at the two aid stations. “I would say the course tends to favor the technical or stronger rider,” adds Britt. “There are some rolling hills, but it isn’t a massively hilly course. This one you’ve got just enough uphill as you do downhill, but it is a course that really favors the strong, all-around rider.” No need to practice drilling up hills or maintaining a solid speed on downhills when training for this race.

RUN—13.1 MILES. Like the bike course, the run course takes place in well-shaded residential areas. Last year there was a new run route because of construction in the area, but this year there is a return to the new course. “It is an out-and-back course and athletes run down Main Street in Chisago and around the lake,” notes West. “Last year they widened the sidewalk and bike lanes, so it makes for a better race this year.”

If you’re nervous about racing your first half- Ironman-distance race solo, Toughman Minnesota offers male, female and relay divisions. The races are chip timed, and don’t be surprised if the transition area feels a bit tight—it’s because the race will sell out. “DuTriRun puts on excellent events; I have never been to one that does not sell out,” notes Britt. “This is because of how nice an event they put on. From the people there watching, to the announcing, to the crew and volunteers: everything is wonderful.”