If you’re looking to go long without the hoopla that goes along with an Ironman-branded race, Musselman is a good choice.
Named for the zebra mussels that have invaded the lakes, Musselman takes place in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, in the town of Geneva. It takes just under four hours to drive from the Orangeville area (assuming there’s no lineup at the border). A long list of local wineries and small breweries make the Finger Lakes region a good spot for an extended visit.
We stayed at the Microtel® Inn & Suites, which was a good choice: the well-designed room included a fridge, microwave and bar sink, and best of all, lots of light (for the first time ever, I was not complaining about the lack of light in a hotel room). And the hotel is about ten minutes’ drive from the race site.
Race kit pickup was on Saturday, and the kits included pretty good swag: hat, bottle opener, local cheese (yup, cheese), t-shirt and a Colorado blue spruce seedling (we left ourswith a friend who didn’t have to cross the border).
Racking your bike overnight is optional, and we opted to just take everything on race morning. The rack positions were designated, so there was no strategic advantage to racking early.
The swim had a wave start, with relatively small waves starting five minutes apart. The lake is shallow for a while, so the start was in waist-deep water. There was some chop on the lake, which resulted in my inhaling some water, but it wasn’t bad. At about half-way you enter a channel for a marina. I was expecting some fuel smells, but there weren’t any that I noticed. There’s a slight current going in, so my swim was fast.
The bike course is largely flat. The roads had been well swept and are mostly quite good. Mostly! There is one section that goes through a park: it starts with a bit of gravel surface and continues with fairly rough pavement for a couple of kilometres. It’s also quite narrow through there, but it comes late in the race and bikes are fairly spread out by that point. One of the good and bad points of doing a smaller race is that the bikes get quite spread out on the road. It’s nice to have space, but it is a bit harder to stay focused on racing.
I’m still dealing with the knee injury I had going into the Mt. Tremblant 70.3, so I had opted for the aqua/bike. My race was nearly done once I had racked my bike. But race organizers had decided that aqua/bike participants should have the finish line experience too, so from transition I had to run out the way the runners were going and then around to the finish line, where they gave me my finisher’s medal. Their medals are old bike cogs that they spend the winter cleaning and polishing for the race.
The day was hot for those who had to run, and the run course is hilly and tough on a hot day.
Overall winners and I think age group winners took home some cool-looking metal trophies. And age group podium finishers received a bottle of local wine and a jar of nut butter. Not bad!
Team Running Free was well represented at the race; I saw at least three others in team outfits, including one who had snagged one of the aforementioned trophies.
I have only three complaints about the race. The first is that their timing company had chosen to use some one-use timing straps that were very stiff, and I have a big blister over my Achilles tendon. Others, who ran, complained of pain in their ankle that stopped the minute the strap was removed. The second complaint is that they closed the finish line eight hours after the first wave started, meaning that the last wave had twenty-five minutes less to complete the course. The last grumble is minor, but they had a chicken dinner as the postrace food. Half a chicken and boiled potatoes! Not really what you want to eat on a hot day, especially when the chicken was lukewarm and had been sitting for who knows how long.
All in all though it’s a good race that’s easy to get to and is focused on the competitors.