Scheels High Cliff Half Iron/Sprint Triathlon

by Rick Carlo
(Schaumburg, IL)

Location & Country:
Sherwood, Wisconsin, USA


About The Race:
The Scheels High Cliff Half Iron/Sprint Triathlon takes place in the Northern part of Wisconsin in the High Cliff State Park on the edge of Lake Winnebago. It is a well run event from packet pick-up through the finish line. Volunteers are ample, fun, and friendly. The Half Iron is a good value for the money. The High Cliff State Park charged $7 for parking within the park confines, but there was ample parking outside the park not too far from the transition area.

Race Course:

The 1.2 mile swim portion of the High Cliff Half Iron Triathlon is done in Lake Winnebago. Lake Winnebago is of significant size and can be choppy at times. The water temperature allowed for the use of wetsuits. My understanding is that wetsuits are typically worn. The water was very clean and comfortable, however, on the day of my triathlon there was enough algae in the water to make it a little cloudy. The bottom of the lake was a fine sand and felt nice on the feet. The course was set up as a large triangle with each leg close in distance. Starting waves went off at 2 min intervals.

The 56 mile bike portion of the race started with a significant hill then moved onto rural roads with rolling hills. The bike course was a single loop and the countryside was pleasant. The wind was constant and significant at times. Considering we went past a wind farm I would expect winds on a regular basis. There were police at major intersections and plenty of water stations to refill bottles.

The 13.1 mile run began by going up the same hill as done at the beginning of the bike course. At the top of the hill runners went onto trails and were able to experience the beauty of the High Cliff State Park. Runners did 2 loops on the trails before heading back down the big hill to the race finish. The trails went through wooded areas and fields, were in good shape, and allowed for good footing. Running the fields exposed athletes to the sun. Tree portions provided ample shade, but limited the movement of wind at times. There was plenty of room to pass other runners while on the trails and enough water stops on the course.

The transition area was well organized and set up in a nicely paved parking lot. Entrances and exits were easy to find and navigate to. The bike racks were clearly labelled with wave information and had pre-marked spots for each bib number and were not over-crowded. The transition area was set up so as not to provide significant advantage to racks on one side or the other.

Each finisher received a medal. There was plenty of water, but no sports drink, however, they did have chocolate milk. There was food for participants. Additionally, they had massage tables and a couple medium size pools with cool water for relaxing the legs (I liked that detail a lot). Participants also had access to shower facilities, however, I just chose to jump into the lake again.

Overall Organisation And Atmosphere Of Race:
The High Cliff Half Iron had a relaxed atmosphere which I liked. I found the Half Iron participants to be friendly and down to earth. I would say the competition was very good and most of the Half Iron athletes being fairly serious triathletes.

Top Tips:

  • If you don't want to pay the State Park parking fee, park on the local roads and walk/ride your bike to the transition area. It isn't that far.

  • Gain some experience running trails.

  • Don't burn yourself out on the first hill of the bike and run course.

Overall Would You Recommend This Race?
Definitely. I would love to do this race again. I wish it was closer to my house.

How Did You Get On?
The venue for the High Cliff Half Iron Triathlon in Northern Wisconsin is 3 and a half hours from my house, so I decided to drive up the night before. The trip took longer than expected due to construction detours and traffic. I was able to find a hotel about 15 miles away from the venue for $55.

On the day of the race, I checked in and went through the normal process of setting up transition. It seemed like everyone in my wave (wave 10) had a better bike than me (mostly tri-bikes).

At 6:45am - 15 min before the start of the race, I grabbed my wetsuit and headed down to the water to warm up. I got into my wetsuit and tested out the water. It felt good. Not too cold and calm near the start.

The waves started going off at 2 min intervals. My wave moved into the water and I got right up to the front. I was never on a swim team, but I have become a fairly decent "triathlon" swimmer. My wave started off and I tried to move through the water at a relaxed but decent pace. The first leg of the triangle we were swimming went fine. The tail end of the second leg you could feel the up and down of waves.

As soon as I made the turn onto the final leg I realized we were going straight into waves. I gulped in water a number of times. I finally decided to just barrel through the last leg. I felt like I was punching into the waves. I flew past other swimmers and finally was able to get my feet on the bottom.

1.2 mile swim time = 36:04. 60th place.

I got on my bike and started the ride which went immediately up a big hill. I just took it easy. Things leveled off and I settled in for what I knew would be the next 3 hours. My stomach was cramping from drinking too much lake water and it was hard to eat.

After an hour my stomach felt better and I was able to eat regularly. I passed very few people. As people zipped by me I would check out their bikes. Most were triathlon bikes or at least a much nicer road bike. I just kept plugging on.

The countryside was beautiful, but the wind was pretty significant (we passed a wind farm so I assume the wind is fairly strong on a regular basis around there).

Time for the 56 mile bike = 3:11:22. 306th place.

My bike to run transition went well.

The run started by going up that same hill we biked up. I walk/ran it, figuring I wasn't going to kill myself in the first 5 min. At the top of the hill we turned onto trails.

I felt like I was moving well in comparison to the other runners. I walked the steeper hills.
At mile 4 the sky got really dark and the trees started to whip. Rain came down in buckets and I started to worry that they would call the race because of lightning. But boy did that rain feel good!

By mile 5 the rain stopped and I was thoroughly refreshed. I enjoyed being under the trees and I felt like I was picking up speed. Around mile 9 I started to doubt myself a little. Then I noticed that the other runners looked much more worn down than me and I got a little pick-up. Maybe my slow bike was really paying off now.

I stayed strong on the last 4 miles , passing a lot of runners. The run ended going down the big hill. I kicked it hard over the last stretch and passed the finish line well spent.

13.1 mile run time = 1:59:41. 118th place.

My total time was 5:52:34. Overall, I came in 181 out of 340 finishers - there were 20 DNFs.

Comments for Scheels High Cliff Half Iron/Sprint Triathlon

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Sep 23, 2014
Great Write-Up
by: Andy J.

Thanks for the write-up. You make me want to try this race out next year!

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