Monday, August 3, 2009

Steelhead 1/2 IM Race Report

Pictured Above: Gwen and I post race

Sat. was my 2nd 1/2 IM of the year and yet another great experience.  I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed participating in Michigan's only Ironman sanctioned (and my first Ironman branded) event.  Read below for the race report and check back over the next week to take a look at some of the "official" photos from the event.  So, for those who aren't interested in reading the long report here is the info that "matters" :

bib number:2098
location:Holland, MI
overall place:943 out of 1660
division place:100 out of 144
gender place:751 out of 1181
trans 1:5:36
trans 2:5:10

On Friday, Gwen and I drove down to Benton Harbor to attend the expo and to pick up my race packet.  The expo wasn't nearly as big as I thought it would be but there was certainly anything one could want there.  I resisted the urge to get carried away and ended up only buying a Steelhead Cycling Jersey and T-shirt.  They had a ton of sweet loot there but I decided not to get too crazy as IMKY is coming up and I definitely want to hook myself up while down there.  After picking up my packet and everything we were on our way back home and I was mentally preparing for the race in the morning.  My plan going into this race was to take it really easy and use it as a long training day.  I spent the rest of Fri. night getting ready for the morning and packing up.  

Sat. morning Gwen and I woke up at 4:30 a.m.  I grabbed a couple of slices of bread, a glass of OJ, and hit the road by 4:50 a.m.  During the hour drive to Benton Harbor I listened to my usual pre-race mix of "This American Life," and Wilco/Band of Horses/Bob Dylan/Grateful Dead.  Lately I've been listening to this kind of mix a lot as I find it helps to get me pretty relaxed.  Once I got into Benton Harbor I had about 40 minutes before the transition area closed down.  I parked, put some air in my tires, and was on my way.  Right before I hopped on my bike to ride down a woman rode up and asked if she could use my pump... long story short, she blew her tube, needed help changing it, and based on all of this I got to transition with about 5 minutes to spare.  I was able to get set up pretty quick and then grabbed my wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap and headed out towards the start line.  The way that the swim start/finish was set up was really neat.  

First off, the swim was in Lake Michigan which both scared me and made me really excited.  To get to the swim start you had to walk 1.2 miles down the beach from transition.  The walk was nice because it helped to get the blood flowing and also it was neat to take a stroll down the beach.  The swim start area was awesome!  Totally unlike any of the events that I have done before.  It was a big party atmosphere with music playing, a huge inflatable start arch, an MC, etc. etc.  I was the 2nd to last swim wave and by the time my wave got lined up in the start area we were all ready to go.  Probably my favorite part of any triathlon (or one of my favorite parts) is that few moments before you actually hit the water.  The nervous energy that comes out in the form of shaking arms, slapping of thighs, blowing into clenched fists, hands pumping in the air, and so on is beautiful!  Once the horn sounded and we hit the water I was feeling great.  We were swimming with the current towards transition and I was making my way around a lot of weaker swimmers.  Once again, the buoys were lined up to the right of me (which makes it difficult for me as I sight/breathe to the left normally) but again, I was able to pace myself off someone else who I kept to the left of me.  I exited the water feeling great and as I ran up to the transition area I spotted Gwen and my Mom (and Hannah) standing along the barriers cheering for me.  I stopped to say hey and then made my way to my bike.  I definitely took my time in transition (throughout the day) and Gwen was able to snap a couple pictures.

Pictured Above:  Me coming into T1

Pictured Above:  Taking a moment to say hi before hopping on the bike

Heading out of T1 I was feeling great and felt like I was going to try to put the hammer down on the bike.  The first 33 miles were money.  I was cruising at a really easy 23.9 MPH and was feeling like there was no way I would drop below 23.5 MPH overall.  And then the proverbial "poop" hit the fan.  My first problem of the day hit EXACTLY at mile 33.  I heard a hiss coming from my back tire and realized right away that I blew a tube.  Once I pulled over and hopped off the bike I realized that there was a knick in my tire that would potentially expose any tube I used to puncture.  Luckily I was able to get inventive and threw in a $20 bill that I always keep in my bike bag between the tube and the tire.  This added another layer of protection and would keep me on the road.  Even though I thought I was moving quickly it took me around 7 or 8 minutes to complete this whole process.  I hopped back on the bike and hit the roads again.  Maybe now is a good time to explain that the roads for this bike course were terrible.  Honestly, I can't believe that they used some of the roads... it would have been better to ride on the gravel shoulder half the time.  Anyway, about 5 miles up the road I punctured another tube.  I was freaking out because I had only brought one tube with me.  As I stood on the side of the road I started asking everyone who was going by if they had an extra tube.  Finally some incredibly compassionate, awesome, unselfish guy stopped and threw me a tube.  I had to rip the $20 in half (I know... most expensive flats ever...) to "patch" the second hole in my tire.  This was like another 10 minutes before I was back on the road.  At this point I was just incredibly pissed.  I honestly was thinking about calling it quits.  And then I hit the headwind.  The headwinds for the last 18 miles was R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S.  People were literally moving at less than 10 MPH and I have heard that a ton of people actually missed the cut-off time based on this.  Anyway, with all the above my bike time was ripped to shreds.  I came in averaging an official 18 and some change MPH.  Here's a pic that Gwen snapped of me coming into T2... I look thrilled aye?

T2 was a chance for me to cool off (literally and figuratively...).  The rain started shortly before I got there and added another wrinkle to the day.  By the time I left transition I was just ready to be done.  Luckily the run was a welcome relief after all my drama on the bike.  Normally I get bored with the run but it was a good chance for me to get into my own head and remember why I love this sport.  The run course was set up with a couple of loops.  It was neat because the run course was always full of people.  By the time I was on the course a lot of people were on their second loop and this gave me a lot of motivation to keep on pushing.  By the time I was crossing mile 13, and the finish line was in sight... I was feeling great.  No big issues nutrition or otherwise on the run.  Here I am coming into the finish line:

So, overall I had a great time.  In the end, I was able to push through some less than ideal circumstances and remind myself why I'm doing this.  Also, I had a great time preparing for IMKY which is now right around the corner.  I was so happy that Gwen and my Mom stuck out the rain and cheered for me and that all the great volunteers and people cheering the athletes on stayed around.  A great event through and through.  Well... I guess that's it.  I'm feeling great today and will be back to my training plan this week.  Thanks for taking the time to read through all this!


  1. Whats with you and doing HIM's in the rain. 70.3 just not enough, you want to make it more challenging? Just make sure when I do my first HIM, you dont bring that rain and head winds.

    I saw your BT question about the TTT, I had a friend who did that race, if you want I can try to arrange the two of you to talk on the phone or email about it.

  2. I glad you were able to look on the bright side considering all of the adversity. I am sure that this skill will prove valuable in KY.