Jul 13

Race Report: Grand Haven Olympic Tri

Yesterday was the Grand Haven Triathlon, my first Olympic distance tri.  Although it was more difficult than I thought it would be, it was good practice for Steelhead.  It was an early morning to get out to Grand Haven on time.  I had to do packet pickup the morning of the race, which sort of makes things a pain because it feels like you are running all over the place.  I was actually earlier than I had to be, but I wasn’t sure how well organized it would be.  I am used to having to fight for rack space for my bike, and getting there early makes all the difference.  However, it was organized that you had an assigned spot for your bike, which made things a lot less hectic.  After getting everything situated, we headed down to the waterfront for the start.

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The swim was the worst part of the whole event.  The swim course involved walking from the transition area about 3/4 of a mile to the beach and then a mile down the beach to the actual swim start.  The water was 65 degrees and fairly choppy with roughly 3 foot rolling waves.  The beginning of the swim was very rough… and that is putting it mildly.  It was my first time swimming in the big lake, and I was quickly overwhelmed by the waves.  By the time I turned at the first buoy, I was starting to panic.  I was really getting worried about whether I was going to make it.  Then I put my feet down and realized that I could still touch the bottom in some places.  Just having the ability to put my feet down for a couple seconds let me catch my breath, collect my thoughts, and continue on.  Logistically, swimming with the waves took some getting used to.  I had to make sure I did all my breathing on the shore side and had to account for the mouthfuls of lake water I was taking in.  It took until about the halfway point to really be comfortable in the swim.  Even though I was comfortable, I still wasn’t fully used to swimming with the waves.  They kept sweeping me towards the shore, and then I would have to angle back left to make it around the buoys.

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When I exited the water, I was beat.  From the swim exit, it was about a 50 yard run across the beach sand, which is more difficult than it sounds when your legs feel wobbly already.  After that, there was a 3/4 mile run back to the transition area.  The run between the swim area and the transition area alone, not including actual transition time, took almost 7 minutes.  I was not expecting this coming into the race.  It seems sort of insane that the swim and transition areas were so far apart.  Some people even lined up shoes at the swim exit so they didn’t have to run barefoot.

Shockingly, I ranked fairly well in my age group after the swim – 7th out of 14.  Usually the swim is my worst event.  Officially, my swim time was 42:32, but that includes the 7 minute run.  According to my watch, I exited the water after 35:35.  Not a great time for 1.5km, but I was happy with it because of the trouble I had with the water conditions.


The first transition went fairly smoothly.  I took my time to put get the sand off my feet, although most of it was gone already from the long run back.  I threw on my shirt, socks, shoes, helmet and took off.  I was in and out in 2:16.


The bike went very well.  The course was an out and back with a couple of big hills at the beginning and end of the course.  Other than that, it was small rolling hills up and down Lakeshore Drive.  Despite feeling good physically and mentally on the bike, I didn’t do as well as I would have liked in my age group.  I ended up 12th out of 14 with a time of 1:16:44 (19.5mph average).  I really didn’t feel like I was getting passed by that many people and actually even passed some people.  So, I am very surprised that I dropped 5 places.

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Toward the end of the bike, my hamstrings were starting to bug me quite a bit.  I am thinking that I am going to make a couple adjustments to the height of my saddle this week to see if lowering it helps alleviate the pain.


When I got off the bike, my hamstrings were killing me.  I ended up walking my bike from the dismount line to the bike rack rather than jogging because they were so tight.  Also, my bike jersey was starting to chafe my arm pits, so I decided to forego it for the run.  In and out in 1:25.

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Getting started on the run was extremely difficult.  My hamstrings hadn’t quite loosened up, and I had to pee.  Luckily, I could take care of the latter at a port-a-jon a half mile into the run.  And thankfully, my hamstrings started to loosen up after about a mile or two.  I really need to get in the habit of just trying to run through the pain without it affecting my speed too much.  When my legs hurt, I get this feeling like I am injured rather than just sore, and I immediately slow down to preserve my legs.  However, it is usually just that the muscles are tight and need to be stretched out, so if I push it a bit, I could get over the pain a bit quicker without losing as much time.

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The run course was well organized with plenty of aid stations.  While I appreciated the abundant volunteers on the course, they really should think about what they are saying.  At one point of the course, there was a whole group of volunteers cheering on the runners telling us, “Over halfway done! All down hill from here!”  What’s the problem, you may ask?  The problem is that over a half mile after running past them, we hit the 3 mile mark – the actual halfway point.

Despite the misinformation, I had pretty much completely loosened up by this point and was feeling pretty good.  I passed a couple people in the second half of the run.  Not including the people who passed me while I was answering nature’s call, I was only passed by 2 people on the run.  Unfortunately, of the people I passed, none of them must have been in my age group because I remained 12th at the end of the race.  I finished the run in 51:48 (8:22 min/mile).


In the end, I finished with a time of 2:54:31.  I was under my goal of 3 hours, but I would have been happier had I been closer to 2:45 or 2:50. I was 84th out of 177 finishers and 12th in my age group.

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At the finish, they had a very good food selection.  Pizza Hut actually catered the food, and they have a buffet with pizza, salad, burgers, and pasta for finishers.  I wolfed down the food before heading down to Holland to shower and spend some time with the in-laws.

Next up is a rough week of training; my last really hard week before I start to taper for Steelhead.  Saturday is the Tri Del Sol in Middleville, which I am using as my brick workout for the weekend.  It is a shorter course (.5 mi/18 mi/4mi), so it should provide a good workout.


Overall: 84/177
Age Group: 12/14
Swim Rank: 7/14
Swim Time: 42:32
T1: 2:16
Bike Rank: 12/14
Bike Time: 1:16:44
Bike Average: 19.5mph
T2: 1:25
Run Rank: 12/14
Run Time: 51:48
Run Pace: 8:22 min/mile
Total Time: 2:54:31


Edited by the lovely Jennifer Neumann.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2009/07/13/race-report-grand-haven-olympic-tri


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  1. carol

    wow, you had a great race. keep up the good work!

  2. Erik

    Congrats. I gave myself my 1st marathon for turning 30. Next year my first half-ironman and reading your posts was helpful. Exciting but nervous too so reading about others experiences helps. Keep on Tri-ing.

  3. Matt Smith

    I just re-read this race report since Rachel Keele from Berrien Springs is doing it this year. Man, it’s crazy to see where you’ve come from. You look totally different, and you race completely different too. Can you see yourself biking 19.5mph and running 8:22’s? That would be good for me, but you’re in a totally different league now. It’s neat to see the progress you’ve made. You’re the man!
    Matt Smith recently posted..Missing In Action (Emphasis on Action)

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