Aug 31

Race Report: Breakwater Triathlon Half Ironman

Standard Race Report Warning: This, like all race reports, is very long.  Grab a drink, sit back and enjoy!

First off, a huge “Thank you!” to all my blog/Facebook buddies and family out there cheering me on along the way!  It was so exciting to see all of your comments on Facebook after I finished.  I owe it all to Jennifer.  She did a tri of her own – cheering, photographing, and Facebook updating. 

I know that I am a little late getting this posted.  But we decided to stay Up North for an extra day to celebrate Jennifer’s birthday.  If you know anything about Northern Michigan, you’ll know that cell reception is shoddy at best and free Wi-Fi was non existent.

Pre Race

Race weekend started up by driving up to Petoskey on Saturday afternoon.  Not long after we got on the road, we settled in behind his car.


Always good to start off the day with a laugh.

We got to Petoskey without incident and headed straight to packet pickup.  It was a very low-key setup with a single table for registration and no other booths.  The schwag for this race included a nice cotton t-shirt and a Headsweats visor.  Generally, I prefer a tech shirt, but I have horrible luck with sizing on tech shirts.  If I pick medium, it ends up being too small.  If I pick large, it ends up being too big.  And I’ve gotten hosed too many times because I wasn’t allowed to switch sizes.  So now I have shirts I can’t ever really wear.  Anyways, the shirt is nice, but the visor is AWESOME.  Jennie even ended up buying me a second visor for $5.  I think it is technically last year’s visor, but it doesn’t have a date on it.


After packet pickup, I headed down to check out the swim course.  The course changed since I last posted.  Instead of an L shaped course, it was two rectangular loops in the harbor.  This would be my first time doing a looped swim course.

I could tell right away that this was going to be a great swim course.  It was surrounded on three sides by either a breakwall or dock leaving the water as calm as a pool.  On top of that, it was crystal clear and clean. 


To give you an idea of how clear the water was, the above picture was taken from the dock.  You can see the bottom and it was about 15 feet deep at that point!  Obviously, the down side with clear water is that you can see EVERYTHING.  So, if you don’t like seeing seaweed at the bottom, it’s not the course for you.  As Jennie said, “It’s just like grass.” So no need to worry about it.

After checking out the course, we went to check into our hotel.  After seeing the room, we knew that we weren’t going to want to spend a minute longer there than we had to.  Needless to say, the pictures on Expedia were horribly inaccurate.  Two thumbs WAY down.  The only positive of the hotel is that neither of us ended up with bed bugs – which seemed like it could have been a distinct possibility.


So, not wanting to hang out at the hotel, we headed to the City Park Grill for dinner.  We both got the lasagna and it was absolutely delicious!  The restaurant has quite the history too.  In the early 1900’s, it served as an underground house of beer during the prohibition era.  The actual bar in the restaurant dates back to the late 1800’s and is one of the coolest bars I’ve seen.  Ernest Hemmingway must have agreed with me because he spent a good portion of time sitting at the end of the bar penning some of his classics.

(photo courtesy of www.cityparkgrill.com)

After dinner, we headed to a small park to walk around and watch the sunset.

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Leave it to Jennie to find a place to wash her hands.  I was getting into race mode and practicing my dolphin dives.

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Against my better judgment, I decided that I wanted to walk out to a small offshore sand bar.  This meant climbing over a large pile of rocks any of which could have thrown me off balance and caused me to twist an ankle.  Then it was a walk over some really sharp rocks.  Thankfully there were no twisted ankles or cut feet and I made to the sandbar (and back) victorious.

After the sunset, we headed back to the hotel for a restless night of sleep.  I learned that I don’t fit on a double bed – my feet hang off the end a good foot or so.

Race Day

Before I knew it, it was 5:30 and time to get moving.  I had a quick breakfast; blueberry bagel, banana, yogurt and OJ.  And then we were off.


I ran into Becky, a high school friend doing her first HIM, as soon as I got to the transition area.  Bikes were racked alphabetically (what is this, kindergarten?).  I’m an “N”, she is a “P”, so we were practically next to each other.  I was actually happy with the assigned bike position and it has nothing to do with the fact that I moseyed into the transition area 30 minutes before the race meeting and still had an end spot on the rack.  Oh wait, it has EVERYTHING to do with that.  So freaking sweet to get assigned an end spot.

I got my area setup and then headed over to get my chip and body marked.  This has to be biggest race chip I have ever worn.  It felt like I was Lindsey Lohan on house arrest.  It was the biggest pain because you couldn’t wear it under your wetsuit.  Not only would the wet suit cause it to dig into your leg, but the race director said that the timing mats wouldn’t read it if it was under the wetsuit.


This picture is for you Jon.  Proof that I properly applied sunscreen before the race.  I actually reapplied sunscreen after the bike and am happy to report that there was no unfortunate accidents like last time.


I was actually a little bit hurried getting all my gear setup.  I’m glad that I have done this enough times now that I have to down to a science though.  No sooner was I finishing up that we were getting called down to the boat launch for the athlete meeting and National Anthem.

The Swim

After the athlete meeting, I jumped in the water to warm up a bit and make sure my goggles were adjusted.  I was wearing a new pair of goggles for the first time in a race (been wearing them in the pool for a couple weeks) and wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to have any leaks.  I’m going to do a full product review shortly, but so far this is the best pair of goggles I have ever worn.  They are Aqua Sphere Kayenne’s and they are amazing.

I was in the 3rd swim wave of the morning; the first two waves were the men and women Olympic distance athletes.  After they started, we got lined up.  I positioned myself fairly aggressively, but because it was an in-water start there wasn’t as much elbowing as there is during a beach start.

The course headed straight out the boat launch.  At the end of the dock, we turned right, did two rectangular loops and then headed back to the boat launch.


And we’re off!  Strategy-wise, this was one of my best swims ever.  I drafted for over 50% of the course.  On the first loop, I realized I was swimming next to the same guy and neither of us was gaining on the other.  So, I fell back and started swimming behind him.  Because the water was so clear (and my new goggles are freaking awesome), I could actually see feet rather than just bubbles.  I stayed behind him until he took a bad turn at one of the buoys and headed off in the wrong direction (he did eventually correct himself, but not until he was about 25 yards off course).  I was on my own for a little bit before I found a new set of feet to latch on to.  My only fear in drafting was that I was “settling” for the pace the leader was setting and not pushing myself.  So, at a couple of points, I would move to the side and swim on my own before realizing that we really were swimming the same speed.


Now, here is the absolutely coolest thing about the swim.  Because of the layout of the course, there were spectators lining part of the course.  On the swim!  How cool is that?  Generally, there is nothing but water and wetsuits on the swim.  In the picture above, I am waving to Jennie.  I could actually see her standing on the dock as I went by.

There was only one downside to the swim course.  With the Olympic athletes doing a slightly shorter course some of the leaders were turning back into the dock as the HIM athletes were starting their second lap.  I ran full speed into an Olympic swimmer (see yellow circle below).  It completely took me by surprise because I hadn’t realized the potential for the collision.  I actually shouted “Sorry!”, but I doubt he heard me.


In no time, I was headed back to the boat launch.  I ended up with a 33:55 shore-to-shore time; 34:27 including the run to T1.  My goal was 35 minutes, so doing great so far!



T1 was horrible.  I try and not sit down in transition because it makes it harder to get going again.  However, with the ankle bracelet we had to wear, it was impossible to get my wetsuit off without sitting.  Regardless, I threw on my socks, shoes, and helmet, grabbed my bike and I was off.  I gave myself 3 minutes for T1 and actually made it in and out in 1:40.  Despite having a horrible transition, because the transition area was so small, I really didn’t have to run much to my bike or to the bike out.



Yes, this course had a T1.5 – at least that is what I am calling it.  After leaving the transition area, it was a long run to and then UP 4 (yes, four), sets of stairs.

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Here I am checking out the stairs before the race.  I wouldn’t have even know about the stairs had I not read a few race reports from previous years.  On the way out, you had the option of using the ramps or the stairs with the stairs being a much shorter distance.


Up I went.  By the top of the stairs, my legs were killing me.  Not a great way to start off the bike.  As I was getting on my bike, there was a fellow cyclist standing next to his bike holding a broken chain in his hands.  It sounded like the volunteers were seeing if they could get it fixed, and judging by the online results, they must have because I didn’t see any DNFs after the swim.  I felt bad for the guy though.

I didn’t get my time for T1.5 but it appears to have been included as part of the bike time.

The Bike

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  This bike course SUCKS! Plain and simple.  In case you missed it last time, here is the elevation profile for the course.  I don’t think there was a single flat portion on the whole course; ascending and descending the whole time.


The course starts off with a nice 150ft climb in the first half mile of the course.  I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it to the top.  I was granny gearing it for the first time all season – in the first mile nonetheless! 

As much as I’ll complain about all the climbs, I really did love them.  They were a challenge and that is what this is all about right? Pushing yourself to your absolute limit and then going a bit further.

Obviously, what goes up must go down and the descents were awesome.  There were a couple that I coasted down to give my legs a rest, but for the most part, I pushed it on the downhill as well.  Being comfortable on the descents was a huge plus.  I have no problem going 40mph downhill, but I could see them being pretty nerve wracking if you weren’t used to it.

Going into the race, I knew that the aid stations would only have cups of water/Gatorade and no bottles, so I made sure to carry my own.  I had my Aerodrink with Gatorade as well as an extra bottle of Gatorade and one of water.  I also had two tri-berry Gu’s and a Nature’s Valley Sweet & Salty Peanut bar.  I spent first half nursing the Aerodrink bottle.  I had a Gu at about mile 20 as well.  I tried to eat the Nature’s Valley bar at mile 35, but it really wasn’t easy to chew and just seemed to dry out my mouth.

The course was a modified out and back – we headed south of the main road first before rejoining the main road until the turnaround.  Then we took the main road all the way back into town.  The course was on country roads that were open to traffic, but I saw maybe 20 cars the entire time.  It really made for a beautiful ride.  It was one of those rides were I wished I would have had a camera (and time to stop). 

The turnaround was at about the 30 mile mark.  Until that point, I really had no idea how I was doing against the field.  I started counting riders as I approached the turnaround and estimated that I was in 15th place or so.  That was a huge boost of moral.  The second half of the course felt easier than the first and I actually negative split the bike course by about 5 minutes.


I rolled back from the bike course in 3:00:23 for an average of 18.6mph.  My goal was to average 18mph which would have been 3:07, so I was ahead of schedule.


Remember those stairs in T1.5?  You guessed it, they were back for T2.5.  Thankfully though, on the way back in, everyone had to use the ramps.  My guess is that it was a safety issue and I was not going to argue one bit.


I walked/jogged my bike down the ramp, but it was pretty windy and it was better to just rest my legs a bit.

I timed myself for T2.5 and it took me 2:09 which was again added to the bike time.  Because both T1.5 and T2.5 were added to the bike time, if I subtract the time spent running my bike, my bike average was closer to 19mph – which may explain (along with the hills) why the bike times appeared much slower for this race.

(And yes, I know that 2.5 is greater than 2 which screws up my numbering of the “extra transitions”, but it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want)


Other than the long run down the ramp, T2 went very smoothly.  I was in and out in 1:32 and even took time to reapply sunscreen and body glide (to avoid nipple chafing) before heading out on the run.

The Run

I started out on the run feeling great.  However, it wasn’t long before the hills on the bike started to catch up to me.  My first two miles were right were I wanted them to be and then I started to fall apart.


Mile 1: 7:49
Mile 2: 8:09
Mile 3: 8:51
Mile 4: 8:47
Mile 5: 8:52
Mile 6: 8:55
Mile 7: 10:01
Mile 8: 9:15
Mile 9: 9:47
Mile 10: 10:19
Mile 11: 10:57
Mile 12: 9:33
Mile 13: 10:08 (including final .1)

Despite slowing down, I really didn’t get passed by ro many people so I guess everyone was in the same boat that I was.

At the turnaround, I caught up with a guy who had been just ahead of me for a mile or so.  We started to run together for the next few miles.  We’d run to each aid station, walk through while we had water and Gatorade and then start running again.  We really didn’t talk at all on the course – I think we were both hurting too much to hold a conversation.  After mile 9, I fell back and let him go.  After a hard mile 11, I picked it back up.  I could tell that the next guy in front of my had started walking and decided to try and catch him. 

As I got closer, I noticed his calf said “29” – my age group.  I couldn’t let him get away now.  We played the world’s slowest moving game of leap frog for a while.  At mile 12 he started walking, looked back at me and said, “I’m trying as hard as I can to hold you off, but my legs are cooked.”  I laughed and said I was trying to do the same and offered him some encouraging words.  As I passed by, he yelled to me, “You’ve got 2nd in the age group now.”  I was shocked.  I knew that there weren’t a lot of people in front of me, but I assumed that most of them (or at least 3 of them) were in our age group.  That was the motivation I needed.  I picked up the pace as much as I could.  I even caught up to the guy I had been running with after the half way point.  We ran most of the last mile together and even chatted a bit as we finished up.  He was three time IMWI finisher and really helped me get through the last mile.


Finally, the finish in sight!


Here I am getting medal-ed.  I was so happy to be done!

I ended up finishing the run in 2:01:30 – not the 1:47 I had hoped for.  Oh well, I really didn’t feel like I totally bonked.  Even though my splits slowed down over the course of the run, I really never had that, “This really sucks, I am blowing a good race” feeling that I had at Steelhead.

Post Race


The guy I had been running with finished about 20 seconds after me and ended up with first in his age group.  I ended up jumping in the lake to cool off and started talking with him a bit more.  He offered some great advice of IMWI and IM and in general.  I’ve yet to meet an unfriendly triathlete – one of the reasons I love this sport.


Next across the line was the 3rd place in my age group – they guy I had been battling with.  He too had done IMWI.  He said, and I quote, “Wisconsin was a breeze compared to this.”  I think at this point, he was depressed because he thought he lost out on a podium spot. Another athlete in our age group actually finished before him, but I think it must have been a relay team.

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My support crew and fans!  My Aunt Anne, who lives near Petoskey, came out to cheer me on.  This was her first time seeing a triathlon and I think she enjoyed the experience.  (Not pictured is Hannah, the dog, who was very eager to swim in the lake).  Thanks for coming out to cheer Aunt Anne!

One of the cool things this race had was a results tent with 4 computers setup where you could do instance race result lookups.  I headed over and checked the age group ranking.  I really did take 2nd in my age group!!!


I had a bit of the post race food, but we needed to find Jennie some food too.  So, we headed out to remedy that.  The first stop was a campground next to the park where I bought a pass to use the shower for $1.  It was so nice to be able to get cleaned up (and stink-free) right away.  After that, we headed to Jet’s Pizza for some fresh slices of pizza and then to the liquor store across the street for a 6-pack of Corona.  Pizza and beer – is there really any other better recovery food?


After finishing lunch, it was time to head back over for the award’s ceremony.  Age group winner’s each got a bottle of wine with a custom label that had the race name and award print on it.  I felt bad for the 17 and 19 year old guys who placed in their age groups (the 19 year old was actually 2nd overall – 4:56:15).  Because the award was wine, all they got was a pair of socks.

This was my first ever podium finish, I was so excited!

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Finally, I got to see Becky after she finished her first ever HIM.  She did awesome on such a tough course.  I gave her a hug after she finished and she was smiling from ear to ear.  You can read her report here if you are interested.


Overall, this was a great race.  It was tough, I won’t argue there.  But I knew that going in.  Knowing that IMWI has a hilly bike course even helps me justify this as good practice for the future.  Obviously, I missed my goal time of 5:34:00 by 5 and a half minutes, but I am really happy with my results.  I did better on the bike than I had anticipated and like I said, I really never felt bonked on the run.  My legs were tired, but I never got mentally down which is a big accomplishment.

I would definitely recommend this race to anyone looking to challenge themselves.  I would never consider this a PR course though.  The winning time was 4:47:24 with a top speed on the bike of 20.8mph. I am really starting to like smaller events like this (versus Ironman sanctioned races).  The total number of athletes in the HIM was less than the number of athletes in my wave (there were 20 or so waves) at Steelhead.  I have a couple of constructive criticisms that I am hoping to share the race director (namely poor aid stations on the bike), but overall, you could tell that the event was organized by someone with intimate knowledge of the sport.

Thanks for reading.  And thanks even more for your support and encouragement along the way!

Official Results

Total Time: 5:39:30
Overall Place: 14/72
Gender Place: 13/
Age Group Place: 2/8
Swim Rank: 19 (2 in AG)
Swim Time: 34:27
T1 Time: 1:40
Bike Rank: 17 (4 in AG)
Bike Time: 3:00:23
Bike Pace: 18.6mph
T2 Time: 1:33
Run Rank: 17 (3 in AG)
Run Time: 2:01:30
Run Pace: 9:17 min/mile

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2010/08/31/race-report-breakwater-triathlon-half-ironman


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  1. Jon

    Awesome Job, Kevin! What a way to end your season with a podium finish!….(or do you have another tri up your sleave?)

    Those stairs @ T1.5. YIKES! That is new! haha! Glad you used some sunscreen because with that incredible weather you had, you woulda needed it. Your pictures make the weather so crisp and dry!

    So now the march towards IMWI begins?

  2. Mandy

    Congrats!! That is so awesome!! Podium!! I have never seen one of those before! 🙂 Congrats, that is awesome. Awesome weather, great pictures, and I love your RR.

    That chip is freaking ridiculous BTW! Holy crap.

  3. lisa

    Awesome! Congrats on the AG placing. But what is up with that “chip”? Freaking huge!

  4. Matt Oravec

    Stairs with your bike… are you frickin kidding me?!?! Now you have a story to go along with your podium finish man haha! I had to bike up four flights of stairs!!!

    Great job, the training has paid off for sure.

    We both gotta figure out that damn run!!!

    Bike course = Scary. Way to go, strong biking!

  5. Jeff

    Congrats Kevin! Great race and awesome race report — the stairs is new twist to the race. Heck I can barely walk up and down stairs after a workout — doing it during a race would not be fun!

    congrats, and boobies make me smile too!

  6. Bret

    Awesom job Kevin! I love the post-race picture of you, a pizza, and two Corona beers!

  7. lindsay

    non-IM branded ones are also a good bit cheaper, no? congrats on a great race. those stairs, yikes. no thanks. and seaweed is not “just like grass”! gross!! 🙂

    oh and keep it classy, michigan.

  8. Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)

    Woohoo! Congrats on your race and your AG award! yay! I cannot believe they made you climb up 3 flights of stairs with your bikes…that is just crazy!

  9. Krista@CommitmentisLiberating

    Great RR! I can’t believe those stairs and then an uphill?! They were trying to kill you!

    Great race and a solid finish – your work paid off!

  10. Jennifer

    I have issues with race tech shirts too…we have one race company around here who has the worst shirts…I would gladly take a visor!

    Congrats again on your podium finish…totally jealous you won wine!!

  11. Rebecca

    I’m glad to hear that you also thought the bike course was hard. I can’t wait to do another one to have something to compare it to. Have you ever done a triathlon that small before? It was a little sad on the bike until I found someone to ride with. And yes, we did go to Pleasantview winery and the guy was quite over the top. He wanted to tell us everything about the wine- too much information actually. 🙂 Ok now I just read your blog. I loved it! I love the pictures! I need to figure out how to add some more panache to my blog. Will you be at the beer run on Tuesday? We can catch up. I’ll be there. Hope to see you.

  12. Kristin

    Congrats on the podium! Love the Lindsey Lohan comment 🙂

  13. regina

    Congrats on the AG finish!! awesome! I think my favorite part is the pic of the pizza and cervezas!!

    The Lindsey Lohan comment was funny.

  14. Maria

    I know I’m really late, but congrats on the awesome race. I’m so happy for you! You worked really hard throughout the season and I’m glad to see it paid off!

  15. Mark

    I was the old guy that you ran with; you help me out too! Good luck with training and IMW. Some friends from the Sault will be racing with you.

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Wow! Thanks for the comment! Must be a small world for you find my blog.

      Take care! I hope you have a full race schedule planned for yourself this year.

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