Michelle and Tyson Molitor prepare for a triathlon in Minnesota. The couple trains for the three-sport race throughout the year and then competes from June until September.
Michelle and Tyson Molitor prepare for a triathlon in Minnesota. The couple trains for the three-sport race throughout the year and then competes from June until September.

BELGRADE, Minn. – Al and Tyson Molitor are dairy farmers by trade, but their interests go beyond the barn.

For the past five years, the father-son duo has made time to excel in biking, running and swimming to participate in regional triathlons. 

“We do our farming thing and then we do our sports thing,” Al said. “If you’re around the farm, our conversations move from one second talking about trading a tractor, then the next second talking about trading a bike.”

Al and his son, Tyson, milk 85 cows and run 320 acres on their farm in Stearns County near Belgrade. Throughout the days – after chores and other on-farm tasks are complete – the Molitors train in one of the three sports and then compete in area races when the season is in full force from June until September.

Their next race is Saturday, July 18. 

“With the farming schedule, I only have so much time. Fitness comes pretty easy to do,” Al said. “Then, we try to plan races around harvest. When we’re cutting hay in July, we make sure there are no races around that time.”

Tyson agreed. 

“If something comes up with farming, you can cancel your workout really quickly,” he said. “It’s easy to work in the day.”

The Molitors, a naturally-athletic duo, dabbled with the tri-sport activity after their daughter and sister, Tiana, participated in many of her own races as an individual and part of a relay. In one instance, Tiana went up against Al and his wife, Kathleen, and Tyson as a relay unit. 

“Mom swam, Dad ran and I bike, and we all went against Tiana,” Tyson said. “She blew us out of the water. I couldn’t believe she beat us all by herself. I remember saying, ‘What is this sport called again? I’m going to do it.’”

It was not long before Tyson and Al started training and participating in triathlon events nearby. Tyson’s wife, Michelle, also became a devoted triathlete. 

The novice group began racing with mountain bikes. As their interest in the sport became more serious, they invested time in a bike club to improve their skills and then eventually purchased bikes designed for triathlons. 

“Dad and I went in on a bike together because we’re the same height,” Tyson said. “We both live on the farm, so whoever wanted to ride would grab it.”

The Molitors shared a bike for two years.

“We found out this is super fun,” said Tyson of the three-sport activity. “We kept getting more involved. Then, in 2020, (Michelle and I) put up our own home gym to train.”

There is an assortment of triathlons athletes can participate in. The Molitors prefer sprint races where they swim for a half mile, bike for 12.4 miles and run for 3.1 miles. They have competed in two half Ironman races, which include a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run.

“Triathlons are like golf courses,” Al said. “Every course is different. The hills are in different spots; you swim in different lakes with waves in all directions. That is what makes it fun.”

In all the races, everyone competes in a gender and age category.  

“You get such a variety of people,” Michelle said. “People of different sizes, different ages. Everyone has a specialization.”

Tyson agreed. 

“All the people are super nice and friendly. They’re all willing to give their advice,” he said. “You see a lot of people look healthy and young for their age; that’s kind of cool to see.”

The Molitors enjoy the shorter races because it fits well with their commitments on the farm. 

“We plan who goes to the triathlons and who stays home on the farm,” Al said. “The nice thing about it is that we train whenever we have time, and then the day of the race, we’ll swap all the chores until we’re all back at it for the evening.”

Most of the races begin at 8 a.m. On average, Tyson and Michelle can complete a triathlon in less than two hours. Once finished, the couple likes to enjoy breakfast together and go over race results. 

“We’re done with everything by noon and can go take a nap before heading back out to work,” Tyson said.

When Michelle first started races, she competed in seven triathlons over the course of the season. Now, the family strives for one race a month. 

“The triathlons aren’t the reason we do this. They’re the icing on the cake,” Tyson said. “You just have to enjoy working out, like want to go on a bike ride and keep your fitness up. That’s what is a lot of fun.”

  The Molitors have enjoyed investing their time and energy into sports that will stick with them for a lifetime. For instance, Tyson hopes to one day participate in a triathlon with his daughter, Thea, who will be 3 years old in August.  

And Al only picked up swimming a few years ago. 

“I’m 60 now. I didn’t start swimming until I was 56,” Al said. “I literally knew how to swim but now I’m swimming. It feels good and it’s fun to do. I’ve always liked sports and want to continue as long as I’m healthy and can do it.”

Just as dairy farming has helped define who the Molitors are, so has fitness for these central Minnesota triathletes.