Toughman Minnesota Race Report

toughman minnesota eric engel 6-time IRONMAN, first time TOUGHMAN. Yesterday was an awesome day at Toughman Minnesota (formerly Chisago Lakes Half Ironman), taking home my 2nd career win.

Coming into the race I didn’t know what to expect. Race week I was dealing with some respiratory and dehydration issues. Luckily, a good amount of Pedialyte, Gatorade and AirBorne seemed to do the trick to get me feeling ready to race on Sunday.

I had raced the Chisago Lakes course last year, so I knew what to expect. Thankfully this year, we had cloud cover for most of the day so the extreme heat wasn’t a factor. The biggest challenge was dealing with the humidity.

Pre-Race: After getting my transition area set up and completing my mandatory pre-race Porto-John stop, I headed down to the water. I had my girlfriend and her family as my race support and sherpa crew for the day. I decided to wear my sleeveless wetsuit as the water and air were quite warm and sticky already.

As I got into the water to warm-up, I realized I had dropped my TYR Tracer goggles in the lake. The race was beginning in about 5 minutes so I had no time to look, I ran back up to transition to find my back-up pair of goggles. Luckily, I found my girlfriend and she handed off my goggles. As we were waiting for the start of the race, I saw my goggles floating near the shore, grabbed them, strapped them on, and off we went!


toughman minnesota eric engel swimSwim: My goal for the race was to try my best to stick with the lead pack of swimmers. Well, I stayed with them for the first 300 yds before being dropped by 2-3 guys. As we made our way around the clock-wise rectangle course, one or 2 other guys went passed me as well. Its been so frustrating for me this year because in the pool I can swim with those guys, but once I get into Open Water I just can’t compete. I came out of the water in 6th place, about 4-5 minutes back of the leader. (Swim: 29:59, 1:26 min/100yd, 10th fastest)

T1: The transition run was through the beach and up a short steep hill. I stripped off my TYR wetsuit and goggles and ran through the huge transition area to my bike. (T1: 58:96, 6th fastest)


toughman minnesota eric engel bikeBike: Have I mentioned how much I love riding my bike. The swim is always a little nerve racking and anxious for me, but once I get on the bike, I feel like I’m finally in my element.

With the hot and humid conditions, my coach recommend dropping my goal wattage from 270 watts to 260 watts, at least for the first half. Problem was my Garmin 510 wasn’t pulling in my power data. I struggled with it for the first 5-10 minutes before it finally synced up.

I felt really good on the bike in the first 10-15 miles. A few sprint guys came up behind me, but it was good to have someone to pace off of for a bit. Once we got to the Sprint/Half Iron split, I knew I was in 3rd place overall. I passed the 2nd place guy, EMJ athlete Sean Cooley, shortly after and we both could see the flashing lights of the lead car in the distance. The leader was about .5-.75 miles ahead of us. I stuck to my wattage goals and Sean and I passed the leader around mile 24.

At that point Sean took over the lead for a few miles. I knew a little bit about Sean and knew he threw down a pretty solid run split at the race last year. If I was going to win this race, I had to be the first one off the bike. After the first 28 miles, I was back in the lead. I finished off my first bottle of INFINIT Nutrition and picked up some water at the first aid station.

My nutrition plan for the race was simple, like always, 2 bottles of INFINIT on the bike. In the 2nd half of the race, the 2nd place rider was still hanging with me. I thought if I could keep my wattage at 260 watts I might be able to open up a little gap before the run.

The last few miles, I added to my lead, making it around 1:30-2 minutes heading into T2. (Bike: 2:11:27, 25.4 mph avg, fastest bike split)


T2: Transition was short and sweet. Threw on my Feetures socks (I won’t forget to wear these again after the bloody mess at my last race), Brooks Pureflows, INFINIT Visor, race belt and took off. (T2: 45:15, fastest T2)


toughman minnesota eric engel runRun: The run at this course was flat with some pretty solid rollers. There was little shade, but the cloud cover would help. Before the race, my coach and decided to start the run at about 6:15-630 pace and see how it felt. As usual, I didn’t listen. I was in the lead and feeling good. My first four miles were 6:06, 6:04, 6:11 and 6:04. The lead biker did a great job communicating to the aid stations what I needed.

At the turn-around point, a section turned to gravel and that’s where I started to fade a bit. When I was passing mile 7, I saw the 2nd place runner at mile 6. I knew that if I could hold onto 6:30 min/miles that I would be home safe. My body hurt coming home, but I wanted the win. My last few miles drifted closer and closer to 6:30, with mile 12 and 13 being 6:35 min/mile.

The other athletes just beginning their run were so encouraging and positive. I ran through the park and up the last hill to the sounds of Jerry MacNeil (he’s the absolute best race announcer out there. So educated about the athletes and such a great guy). (Run: 1:21:58, 6:16 min/mile, 2nd fastest run split)


toughman minnesota eric engel Overall: I crossed the tape with a time of 4:05:09,12 minutes ahead of 2nd place (new 70.3 PR and 6 minutes faster than my time last year).

I had a blast seeing so many people out on the course cheering and racing; especially my girlfriend and her family, Les, April, Tim, the Moyer family, Steve H. and complete strangers. Thank you to Gloria and the DuTriRun race staff and all the volunteers.

Thank you to my coach and amazing sponsors, Endurance House, TYR Sport, Superfeet, Feetures, Brooks Running, Zipp, Tifosi Optics, INFINIT Nutrition, Mt Borah Teamwear, Rudy Project and Team BBMC!

Up Next: Quick recovery from this race and get some good IMWI training in. I’ll be racing Pigman 70.3 in August before IRONMAN Wisconsin and Kona later this fall.

Thanks for all the support, it truly means a lot. The random messages, texts and people coming up to me before and after races keeps my spirits and motivation at an all time high. Thanks for keeping me company on the this journey

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