Once again Summer is here and the Finger Lakes Region is shining brightly. The small towns that sit mostly dormant during the 9 months that are not June, July and August are flourishing. Pungent farm smells fill the air as cyclist traverse the beautiful terrain and wino’s make their way around the Wine Trail. Summer is truly beautiful here in Upstate New York. With no shortage of amazing lakes to be on it is a one of a kind type of place. Having spent a bit of time out in Portland, Oregon this past winter I have an even deeper appreciation for this area. Don’t get me wrong Portland was AMAZING. It’s just that you can’t beat the Finger Lakes in the summer. The opportunities for cyclists to explore the area are tremendous! I’ve been around the United States now and I can honestly say that we have something special. It is my hope that someday we (cyclists/triathletes) can get together and start working with our government and DOT’s to establish bike lanes that circle our beautiful Finger Lakes not only making it safer to ride but bringing even more people to the area to share in our treasures. I really believe that we have an immense amount of untapped opportunity!
Pardon the tangent above. What I really want to talk about today is one of my favorite events of the summer. It comes but once a year, usually when the weather is really hitting its stride. Subtle reminders are usually strewn about your email inbox’s all throughout the year but the excitement and anticipation really reaches a fever pitch when the calendar page turns to July. Nope, its not the Tour de France although you get some bonus points in my mind if you were thinking that even with the huge picture I put at the start of this article. Never mind the TITLE OF IT! What I am talking about is the Musselman Triathlon held in Upstate New York’s very own Geneva, NY. This race is an absolute GEM. Jeff Henderson (Race Director) with the help of his family and COUNTLESS volunteers around the area have been putting this race on since 2004 and have created in my opinion one of the best triathlon weekends there is. They simply know how to put on a race, get the community involved and make the athletes experience truly unique and special. Races like the Musselman are links to the past, they are what Triathlon is all about and how it started. They celebrate all their athletes competing and create an environment conducive to great times, a ton of laughs and stories that will last a lifetime or at least the 12 months in between races.
I myself have taken part in the Musselman weekend since 2009 when I got into the sport. The first year I naively jumped into the 70.3 and had a rude awakening. Although that didn’t deter me from signing up the next week for Ironman Lake Placid 2010. Then in 2011 I used the mini-mussel as a tune-up for IMLP and finally last year I had my best performance at the Mussel with an Overall win of the Double Mussel Classification which combines the time of both the Mini and the Half over the weekend. So even though I’ve only been in the sport a few years I have history at this race and I really hope I can continue having special moments here for years to come. Special moments like the seasoned veteran Mary Eggers has had. Mary has competed in the Mussel weekend since its birth in 2004 where she took the overall women’s title and earned a lifetime pass to participate in the event. She’s back this year and doing the Mini-Mussel. So all athletes racing on Saturday better take note.
It takes a lot of hard work and effort by the race director and his staff of loyal minions to put this race and I feel they deserve a lot of thanks. These types of weekends and races are special and offer something totally different than the typical M-Dot races. We need to support them and really make them a show.
Now, with that said. Let me explain why this year could really be a show. This years race could really be something. A strong field has been assembled on the shores of Seneca Lake. Leading of the list of challenges for the coveted title of “Musselman” is Chad Holderbaum. Last year (2011) Chad took the overall win with a time of 4:27. Chad is a seasoned veteran who annually makes a trip to Kona for the Ironman World Championships. Just recently (like 3 weeks ago) he was the 2nd Amateur Finisher at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. This finish was a huge accomplishment for him and one that he has been working very hard towards, so a big congrats for him. However, with the quick turnaround from the Ironman and many miles logged even this week from training his task of defending the title won’t be easy. Especially since the Man from Massachusetts is making his 2nd appearance at the Musselman. Yes, Pat Wheeler of QT2 Systems, another mainstay at the Big Island in October is making the journey down to Geneva. Pat raced her win 2010 and he is eager to challenge for the “W”. It should be mentioned that on top of Pat being a mainstay at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii he just recently race Ironman Texas this past May where he set a Personal Record at the 140.6 distance with a 9:10. Pat is known for running his competition down and with a course like the Musselman’s run he could really make some noise.
Also racing the Musselman this year is Pro Triathlete Kevin Taddonio. What you need to know about Kevin is that he just came off a huge performance at Couer d’Alene where he finished 4th in the Pro Field where he out split the likes of Tim O’Donnell (and MANY others) on the bike and finished the race with a sub 3 hour marathon. Which is absolute amazing considering the difficulty of the race course in Idaho. The inside scoop is that Kevin’s parents recently purchased a house on Seneca Lake and once the Musselman was made known to Kevin and his Dad they both hurried to sign up before registration closed. Just goes to show you what kind of appeal the race has. Based on Kevin’s recent performances he looks to be the one to beat on Sunday. However, with racing an Ironman just a few weeks ago it will come down to how well rested his legs are as the run course with its 7 miles of climbing to start are anything but “LEG FRIENDLY”. Kevin we local here in the Finger Lakes are happy to have you.
I can’t forget the Double Mussel competition either. A new Double Mussel Champion will be crowned this year as yours truly took the win in 2011. The Double rewards the athlete who can string together two races back to back. This year Mike Corona, from Syracuse will be throwing his hat into the ring. Mike has raced IMLP the past two July’s and this year with Ironman Louisville on his schedule in August he has targeted the Mussel in July as his mid-summer race of choice. Mike is a strong cyclist who has been putting in some serious running miles this year. He will be one that anyone challenging for the Double Overall Title will need to keep an eye on. However, I must make note that Geneva resident Alvah Aldrich has really been logging the training hours this year and with his extensive knowledge of the course he is not someone to be taken lightly. Alvah is hungry, so watch out people!
Of course there are many others racing this year who will be gunning for the top spots, myself included. However, I do not know enough about their stories to them justice so please do forgive me if I have excluded you. By no means do I mean a discredit to someone not named in here who kicks all out butts.
It’s really shaping up to be a great race weekend as long as the weather holds out for us. I am really excited to have a lot of friends coming to the race this year and since they are all fast I am equally excited about he level of competition. It will be a great race and I think I speak for all the athletes that we are going to put on a show! So tell your friends and family and come on out to the races this weekend (Mini on Saturday and the Full Musselman 70.3 on Sunday 7AM sharp..but we’ll be racing until close to noon so you have plenty of time to eat breakfast, read the paper and all that good stuff).
As always thanks for reading and have a great day!