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Jun 07

Race Report: Racing for Recovery Half Ironman

Well, you had the short version yesterday, time for the full report today.

Pre Race

We drove over to Monroe on Saturday afternoon so that I could do packet pickup and check out the course a day ahead of time.  When we got to the park, we found out that admission to park cost $6 per day.  I should have realized that there would be a charge because it took place at a state park, but I thought that the fee might have been waived for triathletes.  Or at least waived for only doing packet pickup.  We ended up just buying a season pass for $24, so now we just have to make sure to hit up the Grand Haven State Park or Yankee Springs a few times before the end of the year to  make it worth while.

After getting my number and T-shirt, we headed down to the water to check out the swim course.  The Lake Erie water was very calm and was a very warm 75*F.  I talked to a few swimmers doing a warmup to see if they were too warm in their wetsuits.  They all said that it was borderline too warm with a full suit, but that they would probably still wear one.  Meanwhile, the race director was giving a course overview as part of the Multisport 101 meeting to introduce beginners to the sport.  I talked a bit with a newbie who was doing the sprint; his first.  I wished I would have gotten his name.  It felt good to be able to give someone pointers and tips for racing.

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The pre-race day water was nice and calm, but the sky was not!

After checking out the race, we drove part of the bike course so that Jennie could scope out viewing locations.  It also gave me a chance to strategize for the following day.  They weren’t lying when they said it was a flat course.  I could tell it was going to be a fast ride.

We didn’t spend too much time on the course because it was getting late and we were getting hungry.  We quickly checked in to the hotel and then headed off to downtown Monroe for dinner.  We planned ahead and brought a cooler with salads and drinks.  All we had to add was a Hot N Ready Little Caesars pizza and we had a delicious, cheap and easy dinner in the park.

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Mmmmmm… Pizza…

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Here is a picture of the lovely Jennie after doing a soft shoe routine in the park’s band shell.  And then one of her embarrassed after she realized that I took a video of her while she danced around.  However, I promised not to post it :)

Back at the hotel, we were surprised to find a Nuclear Emergency Preparedness booklet.  Apparently the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant was right down the road.  I’m still not sure if the booklet was reassuring or worrying.  Nevertheless, I found the booklet fascinating and swiped a copy of it.  You never know when you are going to need a guide to surviving a nuclear emergency.

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Jennie reacting to the Nuclear Emergency Preparedness booklet

We hit the hay early as it was going to be an early morning.

Very Early Race Morning

At about midnight, we were awakened by the tornado siren going off.  By the time I headed downstairs, it went off, but I was wide awake at that point.   

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Monroe is at the red pin.  This was shortly after the tornado warning, so a bulk of the storm was already passed us.  However, that large storm on the west side of the state was eventually going to make it to Monroe.

The second batch of storms hit at about 3:00 AM at which point the race director posted this on Facebook:

“Well everything is basically gone, all the tents, bike racks, structures, all history. We were out trying to save stuff but it is all over the park. Everyone else’s tents are gone, not sure if we still have swim buoys yet, I doubt it. Window on the RV broke, Crazy. All the crew is on site trying to pick up the pieces to have a race by 7:30am."

In the end, Michigan had 8 confirmed tornados with one touching down a mere 15 miles away from the race site.

Race Morning

We got up at 5:30 AM.  At this point, I had read the updates on Facebook and wasn’t quite sure what to expect for the race.  I had a bagel, banana, and some toast for breakfast and talked with a few other racers who were hanging out in the lobby.

After breakfast, we packed up the car.  I was disappointed that the hotel wouldn’t allow us do late checkout.  Well, technically they would – at the rate of $25 per hour.  No thank you!  With the car loaded we headed to the race site.

When we got to the park, the transition area was in quite a state of disarray.  It looked totally different than the previous day.  The transition area no longer had any fencing, all of the signs, banners, tents, balloons, inflatable arches at the transition entrances/exits were gone.  Even the swim buoys had disappeared!

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The remainder of the finishers’ chute and transition area.  All the fencing and signage was gone – never to be seen again.

Despite the disarray, the bike racks had been reassembled, so I proceeded to setup my transition area.  There was plenty of room on the racks and I ended up with only 5 bikes on my rack.

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Setting up my transition area.  I like this picture because the reflective strip on my
shirt makes it look like I am smoking a cigarette. Ha!

At about 7:30 AM (the original start time), the race director made an announcement that the race was still on, just slightly delayed.  They were working on getting new buoys out, clearing fallen trees from the bike course, and rerouting the run course.  The run course had to be rerouted because the fallen trees were too large to get moved in time and the narrow paths made it impossible to run around them.

  IMG_6150 Getting pre race updates and instructions from the race director

The Swim

At 8:00, it was finally time to get this show started.  We headed down to the beach to find that the storm had completed changed the beach.  The water was almost 30 feet further out than it had been on Saturday.  This meant that where the buoys were originally placed was now only knee deep.  So, the buoys had to be moved a bit further out.  Even still, the swim was ridiculously shallow – probably 5 feet at the deepest areas.  One positive of the storm was that the rain cooled off the water a bit which meant that it was more comfortable in a full wetsuit.

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At long last, ready to go.

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And we’re off!

Because the water was so shallow, it was a long run in the water before we could actually start swimming.  And even when we were able to start swimming, we would hit a sand bar and have to run again because it was too shallow.

The course itself was an odd shape.  It started with and out, across, and back.  Then we had to turn again, swim parallel to the shore, around a buoy and then back.  The odd shape of the course resulted in swimmers swimming in opposite directions with very little distance between them – a ready made collision course.  Also, because of the shallowness of the course, I noticed lots of people walking or stopping and standing to catch their breath.  This was sort of a pain because someone would be swimming front of you and then all of a sudden stop and stand up.  I ran into a couple swimmers before I realized that this wasn’t going to be a good race to try drafting on the swim.

Overall, I felt very good on the swim.  I finished with a time of 37:19 (62 out of 192, 5 out 10 AG).  I was hoping for closer to 36 minutes, but with the amount of running that was required before we could start swimming and then at the end of the swim, it wasn’t a great course for a fast swim.

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As I finished the swim, I was running along in ankle deep water with a fellow triathlete.  All of a sudden the water turned back into knee deep water.  We both started laughing as we trudged through it. 


T1

Both of my transitions went surprisingly well.  T1 took 2:49 which included a 59 second run from the swim to the transition area.  I used body glide for the first time before the swim and it really aided in removing my wetsuit.  In fact, I finished the race with absolutely no chafage!

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Putting on my bike shoes.  Despite how it looks, this guy wasn’t actually sitting on my head.

The Bike

My legs felt a bit odd after getting on the bike.  Usually I transition pretty well from the swim to the bike, but for some reason my legs felt really heavy.  I attribute this to two things.  First, it was a still a bit chilly when I started, so my legs were cold.  Second, after a couple miles, I looked down and realized I was averaging 20+mph.  Yikes!  A little to fast to start.  I eventually warmed up and settled in though.

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The bike started off with a head wind.  This was actually preferential because it meant there would be a tail wind on the return.  The course wound around some side roads for about 13 miles before getting to the loop portion of the course.  The course included 3, 10 mile loops before heading back.

For the most part, the course was nice and smooth.  However, there were two rough sections.  One section was about a mile long and had cracks in the pavement every 10 yards.  And we had to do it on each of the loops.  It was brutal.  I think it broke my butt.  In fact, now it is cracked. Haha.  The other rough patch was a mile section of chip and seal.  This wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous section, but it was a bit slower going because of the loose gravel and constant rumble. 

The wind was out of the west, and was miserable when we had to ride into it.  I just tucked into an aero position and did my best to keep spinning.  When I got a tailwind, I made up for it and was even cruising at 25mph for a mile stretch.

In the end, I ended up averaging 19.5mph (2:52:29) which was very surprising.  I had hoped to be around 18mph, so I was very pleased with my results.  I ended up with 39:48 on the bike out, 31:31 on the first loop, 30:23 on the second loop, 31:33 on the third loop and 39:10 on the bike in.  Overall, I remained fairly consistent over the entire ride.  88 out of 192 overall and 7 out of 10 AG.

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Flying through my loops

T2

I was the first bike back to my rack.  Yay! Granted, there were only 4 other bikes in the rack, but still a good feeling.  My glutes were killing me at this point. I was worried how this would affect me on the run.  Again, I had another quick transition – 1:13.

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The Run

Because of the last minute changes to the run course, I had no idea what to expect.  As I started the run, they had a volunteer directing runners.  As I went by, she yelled, “Runners do 4 loops”.  What?!?! Four loops of the same thing?  This was going to be mentally tough.

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Just headed out on the run and plugging away at the laps

The first loop was the toughest because I didn’t know what to expect.  However, after the first loop, I got into a groove.  Despite the repetitiveness of the course, it turned out to be fairly decent.  Because of the short loops, there were lots of aid stations.  Also, there were lots of people to run with because everyone was starting loops at different times.  Except for walking through a couple of aid stations, I managed to run the entire way.

The main downside to the course is that it ended up being only 12.2 miles instead of the full 13.1.  Oh well.  With the hand Mother Nature dealt the race director, it was amazing we had a race in the first place.  I ended up finishing the run in 1:41:32 (24:09, 24:47, 26:03, 26:04 laps).  74 out of 192 overall and 5 out of 10 AG.

The Finish

On my last lap, I made sure to thank as many volunteers as I could at the aid stations.  As I finished up the 4th run loop I was feeling great.  However, I had absolutely no idea how I was doing time-wise.  I refused to look at my watch and there hadn’t been any clocks on the course.  I picked it up as much as I could for the final stretch down the finishers chute which they had miraculously been able to repair after the storm’s damage.

After I crossed the finish line, I finally looked down at my watch and saw 5:15:24!!!! I couldn’t believe it.  I had been thinking I was going to be around 5:40-5:45, so I was super happy.

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Crossing the finish lie and shocked to learn my time.

Post Race

The post race spread was pretty decent.  Burgers, hot dogs, chips, fruit, and cookies.  The only thing missing was beverages; all they had was water.  We hung around for a bit, but I was anxious to get on the road and back home.  Because we couldn’t get late check out, I didn’t have anywhere to shower up before getting into the car.  Poor Jennie had to plug her noise the whole way home – haha.

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After a couple hours in the car, I was glad to be home.  I stiffened up a bit in the car, but after I got out to walk around, I loosened right back up.  When we got home, I found that my mom had already been by the house and left me some congratulatory balloons!

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Overall

Overall, I am very happy with how I did.  Moreover, I can’t thank the race director and volunteers enough for putting together such a great race and then having to put it all back together in the span of a couple hours on race morning.  They showed their commitment to the sport by busting their butts rather than simply cancelling the race which they had every right to do.

Going into this race, I really only had two goals.  Number one was to have fun and enjoy my first race of the season.  Number two was to avoid bonking on the run.  At Steelhead last year, I completely fell apart on the run and ended up with a 2:13 run split.  So, I really wanted to avoid killing myself on the bike and not having anything left for the run.  Mission accomplished!  I figured that by simply improving my run time, I would PR, I just didn’t think it would be such a big PR. 

Besides doing well, I really enjoyed this race.  It was a good course, and had a big race feel to it despite there being less than 200 triathletes.  It was also a very spectator friendly course.  Because of the laps on the bike portion, Jennie was able to drive out and see me on each lap.  Also, with the 4 loops on the run course, she was able to see me twice each loop.  It really kept her on her toes and cheering.

Now, it is time for a week a relative rest.  I’ll still get out and log a few miles, but this will be the first week in over 6 months where I don’t have a structured training schedule.  I’m going to work on getting a schedule put together for the following weeks, but for now I’m just going to enjoy the freedom.

Race Results

Total Time: 5:15:20
Overall Place: 70/192
Gender Place: 30/139
Age Group Place: 4/10
Swim Rank: 62 (5 in AG)
Swim Time: 37:19
T1 Time: 1:52
Bike Rank: 88 (7 in AG)
Bike Time: 2:52:29
Bike Pace: 19.5mph
T2 Time: 1:13
Run Rank: 74 (5 in AG)
Run Time: 1:41:32 (12.2 miles)
Run Pace: 8:20 min/mile

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2010/06/07/race-report-racing-for-recovery-half-ironman

6 comments

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  1. Morgan

    Great job out there and in such crazy weather!!! Thanks for weighing in on G.R., I can’t wait!!!

  2. Jon

    Awesome race report. Your picture captions are hilarious!

    Thankfully they didn’t have you all rack your bikes the night before. That would have been an even bigger disaster!!!

    Again, nice job on the race. Bit of a confidence boost knowing now you can get through a HIM without bonking, right? How long till the next one?

  3. Maria

    I mean this in the nicest possible way: you suck. Between you and Jon and everyone else that totally rocked this weekend, I’m going to look like a freakin’ turtle when my half iron comes around! Not to mention you made this look easy!
    Congrats on your hard work paying off!

  4. Krista@CommitmentisLiberating

    Congrats! You really blew your goal out of the water!!

  5. Mark

    is that hot n ready pizza square??? I didn’t know they made them that way….

  6. lindsay

    that’s too cool how the crew worked so hard to pull the race together even with a delayed start. i’m sure they were cramming to get it all re-done!

    congrats on a great race and i’m glad it went well :) funny about the “swim” changes. very cute of your mom and her balloons.

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