By Roy Nilsen, Special to OMC   Published Aug 04, 2006 at 8:35 PM
The Nissan Xterra Midwest Championship Triathlon is slated for Sunday at Milwaukee's Lakefront. The second annual event features a 1.5-kilometer swime, a 30k mountain bike ride and a 10k trail run. Pros in the race compete for a $20,000 purse, while top age-group finishers at this race are awarded slots to the Nissan Xterra World Championship Oct. 29 in Makena, Maui. Top amateur finishers earn points toward their standings in the Nissan Xterra USA Championship Series.

In advance of the event, welcomes a series of guest correnspondents. Our first is Roy Nilsen, who lives in Waukesha. Take it away, Roy:

My buddy Greg called me last night and said a group was getting together this morning for a quick swim and then to ride the XTERRA course.
We met down at the beach at 6:30 a.m.  I put my wetsuit on and stepped into the water.  It was REALLY COLD!  Sometimes, the water temperature just takes a little getting used to, so I dove in and started swimming.  The water took my breath away, but I fought through it. My arms adjusted to the cold (I have a sleeveless wetsuit) but my face was killing me so I cut the swim really short. A planned 15-minute swim lasted three minutes. A couple of us decided to "race out of the water." Running out of the water and getting your wetsuit off is always a trick.  So we lined up and went at it. My competitive edge kicked in and I bounded out of the water and started talking off my wetsuit.  Trying to go too fast and being out of practice combined to dump me over into the sand. I was wet and now covered in sand. The only option I had was to go back in the COLD water and rinse off.
Then we got out on the bike course.  It was Greg, our friend Cathy and me. Greg has been riding these trails a lot and Cathy is a very proficient mountain biker.  So it was great to follow them through the trails and find the best lines and build confidence. Confidence is critical for mountain biking. You can get through just about anything, as long as you are not tentative.  Riding smooth at the right speed is critical.  Too slow and to get stuck, too fast and you miss a turn.  You also have to look where you want to go, not at what you don't want to hit.  Your body follows your eyes.  When you are following somebody, you just go; you don't over-think it. Then, once you have gone through, you have the confidence to go yourself.
I made it through a couple areas that I had not been able to navigate before. I also know the line through the ravine. And, I know the spots that I cannot make it and practiced my dismount / re-mount.
I am really looking forward to Sunday. It should be a blast!  I am just praying that the wind shifts out of the east and blows the warm water back in for the swim.


Today I got out for about an hour on my road bike.  I hit the Glacial Drumlin trail about two miles from my house. The trail is great, because it is relatively flat and you can tightly control your effort. I wanted to get my heart rate up, but not push into a zone that I couldn't recover from by Sunday.  I felt flat at the start, but pretty good by the end.
I was hoping to get down to ride the Xterra course one more time, but I am not sure that I am going to be able to sneak that in.  I rode two loops on the trails in June to refresh my memory from last year.  One section I have to keep in mind is the deep ravine. It is a blind entry as you approach.  It is so deep and steep that you cannot see the bottom.  But, if you don't come in fast enough and confident enough, you won't have enough momentum to get out the other side.


Last night I squeezed in a quick lake swim in my wetsuit. Luckily, it still fits well and everything went well. For the race, I just need to stay focused on technique -- reach and roll..

This morning my schedule called for a 30-minute CATski workout. These simulate classic cross-country skiing and can be used on any terrain. I went to some trails near my home early to beat the heat. CAT skiing is very low stress on your body (no pounding) and you can make the cardio workout as hard (or easy) as you like. 

It was a beautiful morning to be outside.
This is my 21st season competing in triathlons.  I got started in college, because it seemed like something different to do. I got real serious for a couple years after college (1989-'97) with a very competetive local team. Then I became a father and things slowed down a little, but I have done at least one triathlon every year starting in 1986. I have also dabbled in bike racing along the way, and picked cross-country ski racing in the middle.  I have skiied every Birkie (Birkebeiner) since 1991, with a highest finish of 66th in 2001.  My triathlon highlights include three Ironmans ( Kona '95 10:25, Lake Placid '01 10:20 and Wisconsin '02 11:30). My kids are now doing triathlons and it is neat to see it come full circle.  I got into Xterra because it was something different.
On Saturday, my wife and I took our two sons, ages 6 and 9, to a kids triathlon in Menomonee Falls.  It was cool to see as many of friends from my high point of competition, early 1990s, were there with their kids.  One of my best training and racing buddies was there with his two sons.  It was neat to be on the other side, cheering for each other's kids.  We have been training together lately for the Xterra.  Last year, I got him back into racing with the Xterra.
My training this year has been a little hit-or-miss as we just built a house, but starting in June I was able to get more consistent.  This last Sunday I put in a brick workout, bike ride followed by a run. I did 45 minutes on the bike then thre loops around our subdvision ( 0.7 mile loop).  My goal was to push the bike a little, then negative split the loops on the run.  Negative splitting a run workout is key both mentally and physically.  Mentally, you need to have the control to start at the right pace and accelerate throughout.  Physically, you need to switch modes smoothly from the bike to run, and keep an even effort.  This went well and is giving me some confidence for the race next Sunday.
This week, I will just try keep my daily workouts consistent, nothing long, and focus on race day.  I also need to make sure I get in the water and swim.  The last time I really swam was last year's Xterra.  I am not too worried about finishing the swim, but more that my wetsuit may not fit anymore!