Jun 11

Race Report: Grand Rapids Triathlon

First off, this race report is crap compared to this woman. Seriously, go read this first: http://www.mlive.com/sports/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2012/06/young_and_old_battle_the_heat.html.

Alright, now that I can’t compete with that…

Yesterday was my first triathlon of the season (finally), the Grand Rapids Triathlon half Ironman.  It was a whirlwind of emotions throughout the day with lots of highs and lows.

The race site is only about 15 minutes away so we headed out at 5:45, found great parking, and I headed over to transition.

2012-06-10 06.10.00

Transition setup has turned into an automatic response for me. In no time, I had everything laid out and ready to go. I actually setup too much of my transition. Without thinking, I rubber-banded my bike shoes in place on the bike forgetting that I wanted to do a warm up. Oh well, it gave me one more chance to practice getting in my shoes on the bike before I had to re-set them back up.

With a quick warmup on the bike done, I Trislided up and pulled on the wetsuit (first race ever with absolutely no neck chafing). I recently cut off the legs and arms of my wetsuit about 5” up from the bottom. I mainly did this to remove the hole I accidentally tore in the calf of one of the legs last year. Turned out to one of the best moves ever. It made getting my wetsuit on and off a ton easier without really sacrificing the wetsuit.


The swim start was sort of a cluster. There was a tiny boat launch area and everyone was crammed in it. Last year, they prevented the spectators from entering the area, but this year it was packed. I was in wave 1, and lined up just outside of the starting corral.  However, a bunch of wave 2, wave 3, and even swimmers whose race didn’t start for 30 minutes started gathering inside the corral. When it came time to get them out of the corral, they were directed out of the opening which in turn just pushed all of the people in wave 1 to the back. When the starter made the call for wave 1 there was a group of about 10 of us stuck behind a crowd that wouldn’t budge. We eventually just had to lower our heads and push our way through. I had just enough time to get in the water and to a good start spot before the countdown began.

Looking pensive. Probably trying to figure out how I was going to get through the crowd.

There was roughly 50 people in my swim wave which made for a manageable size. I started on the far right-hand side of the course knowing it was the best spot for this course. The swim is rectangular-ish with a dogleg right. If you start right, you can cut the dogleg corner sharp and end up with a better line.

2012-06-10 07.17.29

The first half of the course went great. I had almost no contact the entire way out except for chunk of seaweed and a floating stick. The stick freaked me out for a second because I caught it at a funny angle. The water was in the low 70’s, so much warmer than last year. However, it seemed to taste/smell exhausty like there had been a lot of boats on the water. I didn’t notice it the whole time, but there were patches were it was evident.

The second half of the swim was less fun. I had some asshat on my heals the entire time.  Which is fine except for the fact that this asshat kept hitting my feet. Over and over and over again. It seemed like every 15-20 seconds he was running into my feet. I tried moving left and right to shake him, but he stuck on my heals. I had half a mind to slow down and dunk him under the water a bit.

2012-06-10 07.47.40

I ended up going shore to shore in 29:45 – a distance PR! Woohoo! My official swim time was 30:32 which included the run up the ramp and to the timing mat.  They had wet suit strippers available but I passed them up and ran into transition with my wetsuit pulled down. I used the wetsuit strippers at IMWI and having to carry a wet wetsuit felt like carrying a ton of bricks – not something I wanted to do again.


Transitions were absolutely flawless. Setup a camera and use them as a tutorial. I started with my shoes on the bike so it was a matter of stepping out of my wetsuit, helmet on, sunglasses on, race belt on, shove nutrition in back pocket, grab bike and go.  In and out in 2:14. The only reason the time was long was because of how long transition was. I measured it at roughly 1/4 mile long. It was a narrow stretch of road with one bike rack on either side for 1200 athletes.


2012-06-10 07.50.16

I hopped on the bike at the mount line and quickly slipped into my shoes without issue. However, almost immediately, my legs tightened up. My quads were absolutely screaming. Unfortunately, my legs never loosened up the entire ride.


The course is an out and back mainly in the east/west direction with a little bit of north/south. The little bit of wind was out of the south and wasn’t bad at all. Overall, the course is in great shape with the worst of the roads being chip seal. The chip seal is tough but at least it is smooth and not full of potholes.

I passed a couple guys in the first stretch of road, however by mile 15 or so, I got caught by a couple others. One of those was Ben from Team Type 1. I was actually surprised to have beaten him out of the water and held him off for so long on the bike. He flew past me though and into a top 10 finish overall.  By the halfway point, I was in 11th place on the bike (not counting the swim waves that started after me).

The second half of the bike was a sufferfest. I had really hoped my legs would have loosened up but it just wasn’t happening. I could stand up and they felt good, but as soon as I sat back down, they were screaming. I tried slowing down but my legs felt just as bad at 18mph as they did at 22mph so I continued to push it.

Nutrition seemed to be spot good on the bike with 2 bottles of EFS, a bottle of Gatorade from an aid station as well as 2 bottles of water, half of each went down my back. Even though it felt good on the bike, I later realized that I probably wasn’t taking enough to account for the heat.

2012-06-10 10.22.07-2

At mile 55, I sat up and started to try and spin my legs out a bit in preparation for the run. I slipped my feet out of my shoes and successfully dismounted without incident.

I rolled in 2:33:11, a bit slower than I would have liked.


Again, transition went great. I was in and out in 2:15. My transition times were almost exactly the same which goes to show you how long the transition area actually was – most of my time was spent running from one end to the other.

2012-06-10 10.30.06
One of the first bikes back to transition! Woohoo!


This is where the wheels completely flew off. As soon as I tried running, I knew I was in for a world of hurt. My knees were absolutely killing me. Because my quads never seemed to loosen up on me during the bike, my knees took the brunt of the work. Couple that with the heat and I was done for.

The heat was tough. It peaked at 94* yesterday. I don’t think we have had a single 90* day yet this year, so there was no possible way to be entirely ready for that kind of weather.

I walked the entire first mile trying to get my quad to loosen up and my knee to stop bugging me without much luck. I eventually sat down in the grass and tried to stretch it out. It helped a little, but laying in the grass was getting me nowhere and I started to move again.

I eventually started running at a modest pace and while the pain was there, it didn’t seem to be getting any worse from running so I kept pushing through.

In no time, my buddy Andy came up behind me and encouraged me to run with him. I managed to hang with him for a mile or so before walking through an aid station and letting him go.  It is people like Andy that got me through this run. There was a crazy amount of fan support out there and I really felt like the fans and fellow racers carried me to the finish line. It seemed like every time I wanted to slow down, I’d see someone I knew cheering for the sideline or see a fellow racer that I knew.  I went back and tried to think of all the people I knew out on the course and got to around 20 – most of whom I saw multiple times. I even met a guy from BT who found me on the course. It took me a minute (or 5) to place him because my brain wasn’t quite working. Great to meet you out there Ryan – I’m sure we’ll see each other at future races!

2012-06-10 11.29.19-1 333407_10151032677741514_64584296_o 

At the run turn around, I got to stop and see Jennie. I slowed down and we walked together for a 100 yards or so.


I saw Katie and Dan multiple times on the course as they were volunteering and Katie got this great picture of me.

At the beginning of the run, I was really struggling mentally. I was pissed, disappointed, and simply not having fun. I wanted to just stop running and be done. My “justification” was that it was early in the season and I didn’t want to end up injured. It took nearly the entire first loop to get these thoughts out of my head. 

I talked with The Three Jusketeers (Jeff, Jason, and Jon – get it?) after the race and I realized that a few things happened. First, my nutrition was probably off even though it felt good on the bike. With the hot weather, I was probably behind a bit from the very start and it caught up to me on the run. I made sure to walk through each aid station and get 3-4 cups of Gatorade and water which eventually helped get my nutrition back on track. As I rehydrated, my mental capacities seemed to return and brighten. Also, I never readjusted my goals for the weather forecast and once I saw my goal time slipping away, I got frustrated. The truth is that my goals for that particular day were a pipe dream.  Last year I did a 4:58 and came in 4th in my AG. This year, that 4:58 would have take 2nd in my AG and there was twice as many participants this year. Everyone was slower. But in the heat of the race, I felt that it was just me that was slow and I was failing to meet my goals.

Thankfully, I turned things around – both physically and mentally – in the second half of the run. My nutrition was back on track and best of all, I was running from aid station to aid station with no additional walk breaks. In fact, with 3.5 miles to go, I felt the best I had felt all day.  It was crazy to feel the 180* turn I had done mentally. I felt like a different person. I started to get into the race and remembered why I love this sport.  Around 11.5 miles, I spotted Ben again. He had finished and walked back on the course. He ran with me for about a 1/2 mile.

In the final 1/4 mile, I was actually able to pass a guy from my age group to pick up a spot. I tried getting him to pick it up and come with me, but he didn’t have anything left.

2012-06-10 12.24.38
Coming into the finish strong.

High fiving my teammates on the final stretch.

While still not the run I was hoping for, I finished stronger than I started and I am glad that I stuck it out to the finish. I actually felt great at the finish line and could have easily kept going at the point. Crazy, I know, considering the first half of the run I had. I actually ran the final 2 miles at 7:51 and 7:08 pace! Where was that earlier in the day???

Overall, it was a whirlwind of a day and despite my early frustrations, the more I look back on the race, the happier I am with it. Of course, when I look at the results and see how close some of the guys in my age group were, I wish I would have pushed harder, but hindsight is 20/20.  Gotta look forward to the next race and work from there.

Post Race

I got my medal and finishers and found some shade. They had subs at the finish which tasted amazing after the long run.

2012-06-10 12.48.30 Image634750018318359124
Enjoying the shade post race and my awesome finisher shwag.

I stuck around to see a bunch of friends and teammates finish. It was awesome seeing everyone come across the line.  My Striders Team ended up cleaning up with teammates taking 1, 2, and 3 in the women’s sprint race, 2nd female in the half IM, as well as a slew of other AG finishes. Great job everyone!

On the way home, we stopped to pick up a pizza for recovery food.  At home, we filled up the doggie pool and hopped in. Pizza, Coke, chocolate milk shake, and a cold soak in the pool is optimal recovery.

2012-06-10 14.54.11

2012-06-10 14.47.30

And then we spent some time in the hammock with the pup. Recovery is awesome!



Finally, file this one under the WTF category. Zero calorie pop at the finish line. 0 calories, 0g sugar, 0 ability to provide any recovery whatsoever. Nevertheless I tried it and it tasted like crap. I had some real Coca Cola when I got home.

2012-06-10 13.11.53

Official Results

Total Time: 5:08:15
Overall Place: 52/298
Gender Place:  
Age Group Place: 6/17
Swim Rank: 29 (5/17 AG)
Swim Time: 30:32 (29:45 shore to shore)
T1 Time: 2:14
Bike Rank: 34 (3/17 AG)
Bike Time: 2:33:11
Bike Pace: 21.9mph
T2 Time: 2:15
Run Rank: 86 (8/17 AG)
Run Time: 2:00:01
Run Pace: 9:10

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2012/06/11/race-report-grand-rapids-triathlon


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  1. Colleen

    The heat will always get you… especially with no training it in yet this year.

    I think you did amazing. 🙂 You got stronger out there yesterday. You didn’t give up when things got bad. You figured out what might have gone a little bad in the nutrition department and will make adjustments in the future. Knowing that your A race is still two full months out… this was a good day for you. And dude… you still finished in 5:08. That’s pretty badass.

    So glad that you got to see Ben and that he ran with you for a little bit. He’s a great guy.

  2. Carolina John

    Great race Kevin! We get those really hot half irons down here in September. They always just destroy my quads on the run. You still pulled out a really good time.
    Carolina John recently posted..New Baby

  3. Matthew Smith

    Good race, man! I know that it didn’t feel like it for most the day, but you powered through mentally and physically, and for that, I give you a “Nice work, buddy!” The heat is merciless, and it’s so hard to judge what to take in as far as nutrition on days where there is no way you could have prepared. It was a good race, and I think you did awesome. Jenn and I were reading your report together, and I asked her why you encouraged the guy in your AG to come with you as you passed him. She said, “It’s because he’s such a nice guy!” Yup, that was it, and that you are! 🙂
    Matthew Smith recently posted..It’s rough being homeless!

  4. BDD

    Way to stick it through and finish. The heat will always get you, especially up north when we havent had any hot days yet and then BOOM, its unseasonably hot, I did an oly on Saturday and felt the same way once I started the run, the run was a complete disaster, felt the heat the whole time, but I finished.
    BDD recently posted..Deer Creek Olympic Aquabike Race Report

  5. Matt Oravec

    If you are doing muncie prepare for that heat, it was the same temp for us. BRUTAL!

    Great job man. You pushed hard the last couple weeks and your legs probably were begging for a weekend off. Sucks on the quads, I know the feeling, I was punching mine at Wildflower from the same thing, and you honestly can’t really do anything at that point, you have already committed to the sufferfest when they start hurting.

    Way to turn that around though and get it done. Long day at the office (not really, you still had a great freaking time!) and you fought off a few demons in the process.

    Matt Oravec recently posted..Weekend wrap up

  6. Ann Vidro

    Awesome job out there Kevin – you are an inspiration! Cool to read from your perspective that day.

  7. Chris George

    Way to push through, brotha. Like you said, everybody’s times were slower, not great racing conditions at all. The run had to have been brutal. Being out there during the hottest part of the day, exposed to the sun the most out of the three disciplines…you did great. I’d love to turn in a 5:08 in optimal conditions! haha. Solid performance, Kevin!

  8. sarah

    Way to push through on the run. I struggled with my long run yesterday and I didn’t even swim/bike before it, so I can only image. Great job on your race.
    sarah recently posted..IM Training – Week 13

  9. Heather O

    Way to fight through a tough day and come out on top!
    Heather O recently posted..National Running Day

  10. Jeff

    The Three Jusketeers

    uuughhhh …

    I got nothing.
    Jeff recently posted..2,160

  11. lindsay

    i had to go back and re-read the old lady’s article because i thought for awhile there that the old lady and the little kid beat you. then i realized they did the oly and you did the half. so i’ll let it slide.

    i like your style with the kiddie pool. maybe i’ll put one in my front yard so i can fit in better with my neighbors! 😉
    lindsay recently posted..reader request: running in a bikin

  12. Brent

    Don’t fret about the heat getting to you. it gets everyone. It got me Saturday and all I was doing was lawn work and attending my nephew’s birthday party.
    Brent recently posted..Diplo-Dash Retread 3

  13. katie

    I think it’s actually really difficult to adjust on the bike for a hot as balls run. Sounds like you did what you could to pull it back together!
    katie recently posted..believe it or not

  14. DR

    Great race
    what a a turnaround
    amazing what you can analyze after a race but during it in the moment you can feel totally lost and clueless as to what the F is happening. been there many a time now!
    anyway excellent swim and transitions…..congrats on another half iron tri!

  15. elizabeth

    Congratulations!!!! I tell ya, running (or biking or doing anything) in the heat is about double the work it would be if it were cool out. I am always amazed by those speedy pushes we are able to elicit at the end of a race when just a few miles before feeling like just putting one foot in front of the other was the hardest thing in the world. Says something about adrenaline. Great job!!
    elizabeth recently posted..I need a freezer pack on my fuel belt for popsicles

  16. Ryan McEnhill

    Congrats on finishing strong on a very tough day to race. Great to meet you on the course just wish your legs were feeling better on that run course. Good luck to you at IMMT and the rest of your season. I will likely see you at Titanium. Maybe next year we can both get to that sub 4:45 on this course!

  17. Lorri

    Great job! The heat at the end killed me. Didn’t notice the Diet Soda. What in the world is up with that indeed.

  18. John Downey

    Good job on the race report. Tough day but I love how you hung in there and really turned it around at the end. Those are some sick splits for the last 2 miles! Nice work, very impressive. I’m looking to do this as my first half IM next year. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

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