Grand Rapids Half-Ironman - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Grand Rapids, Michigan
United States
Grand Rapids Triathlon
Total Time = 4h 35m 54s
Overall Rank = 7/210
Age Group = 30-34
Age Group Rank = 1/12
Pre-race routine:

Two weekends ago, my wife and I raced (and won!) the Co-ed Division of the American Triple-T Ohio, a 4-race, 3-day event on some of the most brutal roads and trails I’ve ever bowed down before. So we must’ve been sipping some of that 120 proof Yousocrazy! cognac to sign up for this one the Thursday before the race. Alaina was stoked by the prize money for overall winners, and I hadn’t done a stand-alone HIM since Austin in ‘09, so it would be a good litmus test for fitness this season.
Event warmup:

My body was taking its sweet ol’ time recovering during the two weeks between races, probably because I wasn’t doing enough active recovery to help it along. The temptation to cut workouts short and get to drinking on a giant raft in the middle of the Trout Lake on our first 80+ degree days of summer...well, how can you turn that down?
  • 32m 28s
  • 2112 yards
  • 01m 32s / 100 yards

I like watching people's behavior in groups. It calms me. And the swim start is a good time for this. I’ll float around like an unflushable turd and listen in on nervous chatter and see what people do with themselves while they’re waiting for someone to tell them what to do. And I’ve decided that it’s mostly crotch adjusting. These men must either have very poorly fitting wetsuits, or else their junk just needs to pick a side and be done with it.

Just before the start, the majority of the first wave stood on the ramp looking around for where others were seeding themselves. And then, crazily, they started migrating toward where everyone else was going to swim, which was as far to the outside of the buoy line as they could stand without falling off the ramp. So I sculled to the left, started in the water while everyone else had to run down the slimy ramp, and swam like I had the place all to myself. Oh Brer Fox, don’t throw me in that buoy line, anywhere but there!

In sum: just because everyone else is doing it don’t make it a good idea.
What would you do differently?:

I’d like to be faster in the water, and I really did try on this part, but wishing don’t make it so.
Transition 1
  • 01m 59s

Transition area is the one place where this first year race really needs some changes. 1000 athletes. One rack on each side of a closed off two lane road, with a narrow space to run down the middle. 3 different races: Sprint/Oly/HIM using it.

In sum: this was the John Holmes transition area. Best known for its incredible length and duration.
  • 2h 26m 34s
  • 56 miles
  • 22.92 mile/hr

We have this set of supalight tubular race wheels that Alaina won at Kansas 70.3, and I wanted to use a front race wheel but still use my rear clincher wheel with powertap and disc cover. So I had the ultracool distinction of carrying a spare tubie and a spare tube on my bike behind the x-lab. That’s right, I go both ways.

Going into the race, I wanted to hurt myself on the bike. For once, to not be conservative. To get to that place Springsteen imagines: “where dreams are found and lost / I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost / For wanting things that can only be found / In the darkness on the edge of town.“ And this time, I came very close.

The best part about not being a great swimmer is you get to cruise by a bunch of people at the start of the bike, which is great for the ego, but not so much for the watts. I settled into an effort that I clearly couldn’t sustain for 56 miles, dreaming of a sub-2:30 bike split with all the fairytale gloss of Ralphie’s delusional adventures with his Red Ryder bb gun. I was going to shoot my legs off.

Miles 2-10 feature a chip seal segment so trashy that John Waters could direct a feature film about it, but I was ready with my extra low 105 psi to smooth things out a bit. Good news is that right after this little zigzag in the course the roads get downright creamy. If you’re looking for a dead flat half-Ironman course with only a couple tame rollers that you don’t even have to get into the granny gear for, Grand Rapids has the course for you.

I passed about 10 people in the first few miles before Michigan countryside called up the ghost of Kerouac and it was just me and the road, thinking

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'

For stretches of time I put my head down on my forearms and watched the white fog line zip along below me, pushing that bubbling poison in my legs just past levels of comfort without spiking it to OD zone. Keeping the watts between 220-230 to see if I could hold it, I knew from pain what Joy Division calls the Unknown Pleasures.

At the turn around of this out-n-back course, I was able to count the number of riders ahead of me: 5. I’ve never been that high overall. Could I hold it? Could I run off it? Was this plan to attach balls (fig. A) to wall (fig. B) going to work, or am I just not the top-10 kind of finisher after all?

Around 1:50 into the bike I approached a 4 way intersection with two green shirted volunteers who were clearly disinterested in directing traffic. Luckily, there was a guy ahead of me who yelled to them and told him to turn left. Just before I made my turn, I saw this dude blazing straight ahead, clearly going the wrong way. At the time I didn’t know this was the eventual HIM male winner, who went 2 miles off course and still smoked it. I figure he was the guy who passed me about 15 minutes later asking me what place I was in. I shrugged thinking, 'uh, one place worse than I was before you came by.' :D

As expected, my power dropped the last 20 minutes of the bike and I bled speed as the HIM course merged with the Olympic distance racers and I ran out of juice. Not sure in the end if the bike was .5 - 1 mile long or if I rode terrible tangents, because I had 56.77 miles with accurate time. Either way, it was a PR HIM bike split for me and the best bike split in my AG.
Transition 2
  • 01m 29s

Sprint finishers were bringing their stuff out of transition against bikers coming in and I was trying to run down transition area to start the run. Yeah, this area needs to change.
  • 1h 33m 21s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 07m 08s  min/mile

I saw with such clarity. I felt with hypercolor skin sense. Every pence of strength I spent on the bike was rewarded by an angry creditor clanging on my skull for payment. I’m not going to blame nutrition, the heat, or the salt sticks I fumbled to the tarmac on the bike. This suffering was because I overcooked the bike. And I can’t hide from myself on the run.

The run is a pure, beautiful thing. It doesn’t lie to you or pretend it’s something it’s not. Sure as shit, it doesn’t sugar coat the distance. If you stop pushing forward or turning over your feet, you don’t get any closer to the finish line. Your race dies there in a pool of sweat that congeals into a mirror with an line of purified truth serum.

At mile 2, when I felt my first twang of cramping in my quads, I actually laughed at myself. Who are you? Do you think you can run sub-1:30 after that bike? Do you even think you can finish this race? Oh hell yes. I’m going to finish if I need to drag my bloody carcass over the finish line. Run if you can. Walk if you have to. Crawl if you must. I’m going to finish.

Just before the end of the first lap I heard that crisp pitter patter of a true runner’s pace clipping me from behind. Dude was cruising at probably 6:30 m/m with no sign of letting up. He was out of sight within minutes. As he passed, I told him, ‘go get ‘em’ and he said, “we’ll see” and chuckled. The last bit told it all.

My strategy became hitting lap on the Garmin, working to get my minute per mile pace down under 7:10 and holding until I hit the one mile mark, then hitting it again, letting the pace slip north of 7:20 then trying to get it back down again. It was all I could do to hang on.

After the last turn around I could see that no one from my wave was closing in and I tried one more time on the last 5k to push it, but cramping in my quads and groin gave me electric shocks every time I tried to go any faster. As I crossed the finish line I thought my time was between 4:40-4:45, which was a season long goal (4:35 still seemed impossible). My legs and lungs and soul were beaten to a dirty pulp and all I cared about was for it all to end.
Post race
Warm down:

I waited by the finish line with all the (bored, sun baked) spectators, stretching out. I spotted Alaina coming down the road as the 1st place female and I was even more excited for her than finishing the race myself. She won another race and this time I was there to cheer her through the finish line!

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Need to work on the swim of course, but also pushing hard for 2+ hours on the bike and not dying on the back end. When the bike is ready, the run will appear.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2011-06-03 12:00 AM
00:32:28 | 2112 yards | 01m 32s / 100yards
Age Group: 1/12
Overall: 32/210
Course: Triangle loop
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current:
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting: Below average
Waves: Navigation:
Rounding: Average
Time: 01:59
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
02:26:34 | 56 miles | 22.92 mile/hr
Age Group: 1/12
Overall: 11/210
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 01:29
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
01:33:21 | 13.1 miles | 07m 08s  min/mile
Age Group: 1/12
Overall: 11/210
Course: The course is a 2x out-n-back with aid stations at every ¾ of a mile. Amazing support here.
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race? Yes
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]