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Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Benton Harbor, Michigan
United States
CAPRI Events
Total Time = 5h 54m 5s
Overall Rank = 1093/2282
Age Group = 45-49
Age Group Rank = 100/193
Pre-race routine:

10 day weather forecast: Sunny and 80 wind NE 5mph. Beautiful, perfect for racing. Not sure how these guys figure out the wind direction, but its gotta be something scientific.

9 day weather forecast: Sunny and 80 wind SE 8mph. Ok, still real good I can handle a headwind of 8mph.

8 day weather forecast: Sunny to partly sunny 79 degrees, wind from the East at 10mph. Still real good.

7 day weather forecast: partly sunny 78 degrees, wind from the west at 11mph. Clearly the forecasters use a coin to determine wind direction.

4 day weather forecast: 77 and chance of rain 20%, wind from the SW at 12mph. Still not bad, can live with it.

2 day weather forecast: 77 and thunderstorms, chance of rain 50%, wind from all directions at 15 mph. Ok, I need to stop checking the weather.

Day of: 100% chance of precipitation with winds from who knows where. Rain will stay for the morning then clear and become hot and muggy in the late morning, early afternoon.


Sue, Sarah and I drove up to Benton Harbor on Friday. We went straight to the Expo to pick up the race packet and listen to one of the pre-race meetings to see if anything had changed from last year. We walked into the building and immediately saw this huge line....not sure what's up with that, so I have Sue stand there and I walk to the head of it, which was a good 200 yards, only to find that they've changed the check-in procedure. That was the line to check in. Gotta say that I wasn't too impressed. Took about 45 minutes before I got to the first table where they simply checked to see if you have your USAT card and write your bib number on a small sheet of paper and send you to the next table where you stand in line again and wait to pick up your medical release forms. Fill those out, then stand in another line to drop them off and then head to yet another table to pickup the race packet. 15 minutes later I've got the packet and head over to the last table to activate the timing chip.

This whole routine reminded me a lot of the procedures that the Soviets used to use in department stores. Get in line to pick out an item, then get in another line to pay for an item, then get back in the first line to pick it up. The Ironman group took this concept to the extreme and made it about as inefficient as anyone could possibly make it.

Anyway, got checked in and listened to the race meeting. First bit of good news was that it was going to be wetsuit legal as the water temp was a cool 76 degrees...just 2 degrees shy of the cutoff.

After the Expo we headed over to the hotel and checked in there, then took my bike to the transition area to rack it. We got to the park and the lot was packed, so we headed down the street only to find that the city had put up no parking signs everywhere and the shopping center had blocked off their entrances with huge signs saying "for patrons only". Keep in mind that the lots were empty. I said the hell with it and squeezed by the barricade and parked there anyway.

So, bike was now racked and we can go find something to eat and wait for my parents to show up. Went into St. Joseph and met up with them there and had a very nice dinner.

The next morning I got up at 4:30, took a quick shower, had some coffee and a breakfast bar - wasn't too hungry at that point. Filled up my water bottles and headed downstairs to meet my Dad who was going to drop me off at the park.

At that point it wasn't raining, but by the time we got there it was starting to sprinkle lightly....not a big deal, just a light rain I thought. Well, as I'm walking up into the park its coming down a little heavier and by the time I get to my bike its a nice steady heavy rain....beautiful! Luckily I had the foresight to pack a plastic garbage bag. I put my running shoes, bike shoes, and socks in it. Ya, they'd get wet once I got going, but at least when I put them on they'd be dry. I was really feeling bad for the spectators as it rained last year too and was also miserable. But I figured it'd give me good incentive to go faster and get done sooner so the family wasn't stuck out there so long.

Anyway, I pumped up my tires, helped several other people with their tires, got all of my stuff together and put my wetsuit on. I also must have made 5 trips back to the bike remembering different things. On the final trip I ran into Nathan, and he and I headed up to the pavilion to get out of the rain. By that point both of us were soaked and it was cold. I was actually glad at that point that I had the full wetsuit to keep me warm...that would later come back to be a bad decision.

About 6:50 we both he and I walked up to the start - man that 1.2 miles seems like a long ways!

And thus begins the race.
Event warmup:

No warmup other than the walk.
  • 39m 52s
  • 2112 yards
  • 01m 53s / 100 yards

Ran into 2 guys from the MAC swim group, Ken and Mike. That was the last I saw of both of them. Ken ended up actually crushing the course, coming in with a sub 5hr time. Not sure how Mike did.

As soon as I got into the water I regretted having the full wetsuit - it was really warm. I knew that I'd be overheating, but obviously not much I could do at that point but suck it up.

I positioned myself near the front this time - maybe about 30-40 guys were ahead of me...amazing how many of them were slow and I had a hard time working my way through them - lots of heads up swimming to pick my way around and avoid getting kicked in the head.

There really was very little to no current. The water was dead flat so I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a bit more chop to be able to take advantage of the current like we had last year. Oh well, guess I'd have to do it on my own this year!

So I swear that the race director said "1 green buoy" at the end before we hit the last buoy to turn. As I'm swimming its going pretty well. Took me several hundred yards to get into a rhythm - much longer than normal. Eventually I got some open water, but made sure that I was staying as close as possible to the buoys - I was able to draft off of a couple of guys before they either veered off or pulled ahead of me...I noticed that there were a lot of guys who had gone further out which only means they swam farther. I was doing fairly well, though, bilateral breathing was good and I only had a few times where I got a little off course but corrected right away. Then the green buoy appeared. Awesome!! So I started pulling harder wanting to get a little more speed going to the orange one....I sight a few times and what the hell? There's another green buoy. What is going on?? Damn...ok, well I get past that one and wouldn't you know it, another green buoy. Ahhh hell. So now I just quit anticipating and just keep swimming figuring the orange one will show up sometime.

Finally I get to the end and rounded real close to the buoy and headed into the beach. Gunnie would have been proud that I swam right up to the shore with only about a foot and a half of water left. Jumped up and started stripping the wet suit as I ran. Man was I glad to get that thing off - I was really hot at that point.

Ran about half way up the hill and saw Sue, Sarah and my Dad and stepmom there - was glad the rain had ended for them!
What would you do differently?:

First, I would have brought something to eat or should have at least ate a Cliff bar before the walk up the beach. I was pretty hungry by the time the race started. My wave didn't go off till 7:46, so it'd been over 2:30 since I'd last eaten.

Second, I should have taken a look at the buoys on the walk out so I knew what to expect. I was busy talking to Nathan and didn't pay any attention at all.

Next I should have worn the sleeveless wetsuit. While it was nice for keeping warm during the rain, it was way too much for the warm water.

Lastly, I should have stripped the wetsuit off completely while I was in the water rather than waiting to do that in T1.

Overall the swim was average, maybe a bit below in terms of speed - probably gave it about 75% effort which is my endurance pace. It always takes me a bit to get into a rhythm and find some open water, which takes several minutes off my time. However, I was happy that I only got passed by a couple of guys in the wave behind me. Last year, I was passed by a lot!

Speedwise, though, its obvious I need more work. I'd like to get to the point where a 1:45 pace is my 75% effort. Course, I did improve on last years effort and last year I had the benefit of a current.
Transition 1
  • 03m 44s

This is a long transition. First you have that long-ass run uphill up the beach before you hit the timing mats then my bike was at the far end, so I had 100-150 yds to run to get there. Started stripping the wetsuit and immediately regretted not doing it in the water. Both legs got stuck on my heals and it probably cost me 30-45 seconds fumbling with that.

What would you do differently?:

Strip off the wetsuit completely in the water.
  • 2h 49m 5s
  • 56 miles
  • 19.87 mile/hr

This was a great ride for me and actually I probably could have pushed it more than I did, but I was afraid there might be wind on that return stretch so I was saving my legs for that.

The first hour I averaged 20mph - I was pretty surprised cuz my legs were feeling really good and I didn't feel I was anywhere near my lactate threshold.

During that first hour I had a Gu and a packet of the Gu Chomps and drank a bottle of water and a bottle of Accelerade.

The second hour was going well too. Light wind which didn't really affect me much - the road conditions during this time were pretty bumpy, but all the time I've been spending at Kensington prepared me for that. I forced myself to eat a Cliff bar - really had to choke it down - didn't really feel like eating but knew that I had to or it'd come back to haunt me during the run. Drank another bottle of water and some Gatorade.

The last 40 minutes was smooth sailing. Blue Star Highway, my nemesis from last year was nothing. All of those hills, pshaw! I hit them all hard and kept up a good pace - there was only 1 hill near the end that had me standing up. At the last aid station I grabbed a Powerbar gel packet and ate that and had some more water and Gatorade.

For much of the race I played leap frog with another guy in my age group, but finally in the end I picked up the pace and didn't see him again.

At mile 53 there was a girl who had a flat - man did I feel sorry for her...There were probably 6-7 people out there that had flats and one guy who was walking his bike back - I think he busted his chain.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened on this ride - definitely not like last year. It was blissfully uneventful.
What would you do differently?:

Probably could have gone a bit faster, but I was trying to pace myself in case of windy conditions on the return leg. My conditioning is better this year, though, so I should have trusted that I could handle it regardless.
Transition 2
  • 03m 48s

No flying dismounts for this cowboy. And even though I've been practicing sliding my feet out of my shoes and riding on top of them, I decided one to play it safe and two, I've got 100 yds to run with my bike so I wanted to protect my feet.

Because of the rain I decided to not wear my good socks for the bike ride, so I had to take time to take off the socks I had on and put on the dry running ones.

For some reason, Ironman decided not to put porta-potties in the transition area. At that point I had to go pretty bad having drank as much as I did on the bike.
What would you do differently?:

Should have opened the bottle of suntan lotion I bought before this point. I got some spray on stuff in order to make it quicker - ya, well, the bottle has a child proof lock on it that I had to fumble with...smooth!
  • 2h 17m 8s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 10m 28s  min/mile

Started out great. Got my shoes on and ran out of T2 in good shape. I decided this time I was going to wear my fuel belt with 4 bottles of Accelerade. I figure that this is how I train so this is how I'm going to race. I didn't know how well that was going to go because initially there is a bit of weight there, but I was glad I did. I was able to drink when I wanted to and that really helped.

Anyway, my legs at first felt great. They weren't heavy at all, which told me that I'd never hit lactate threshold on the bike. Now my mission is to find some place to relieve myself. I thought maybe they have porta-potties outside of joy. I keep on until I hit a woodsy area and a few pieces of heavy equipment - there's where I'm headed. I veer off the road and immediately hit something and trip and almost do a face plant. Ahh, much better and as I'm heading out I see that there are about 20 other guys doing the same thing. Not necessarily the tripping part.

Getting back on the road, I get a good pace going. I didn't bother to put my Garmin on, though, which in hindsight I should have done. I was probably on a 8:30-9:00 min pace for the first few miles. I walked the aid station and started up right after it again. I got behind a couple of nice pace setters and kept up for the next 6 miles or so. Then at around mile 9 the IT bands in both knees started to act up. Damn. I tried to just put it out of my mind and play a few songs in my head...all I could come up with was Billy Joel's Piano Man and then a few snippets of Eminem. My right knee started feeling better, but the left knee got progressively worse.

I saw Jon while on my second loop of the Whirlpool campus and also saw a couple of other guys there who knew me, but unfortunately I had no idea who they were. I greatly appreciated the shout outs though!!

I was able to keep up running regardless and the only times I walked besides the aid stations where the last big uphill and then I had to walk the last downhill. My knee couldn't stand the braking action on that downhill, but once I got to the end I started up again. Near the end I could hear the crowd and said the hell with it and forced myself to run without limping. I got a high five from a little boy at the start of the boardwalk and then a bunch of people on the way in. I crossed the line running so in the end, even though it was slower than what I was hoping for, it was a huge improvement over last year and thus a good race.
What would you do differently?:

Not much I could have done differently - my knee dictated that race.
Post race
Warm down:

Grabbed a plum and waited in line for the finisher's shirt and medal.

Event comments:

There were 2 aspects of this race I'llcomment on. First, the race itself was great. The weather ended up being great, if not a bit hot/muggy for the run, at least it was good for the spectators. And the fact that I shaved an hour and 10 minutes off of last year's time, I'd say that that makes it a success.

Now, regarding the other stuff. The coordination of the race I thought was bad. I believe that they had good intentions, but the changes they made from last year were a complete bust. The Expo setup with the different tables was horrible. It took forever to get through the line. Last year it was all at one table and seemed to go so much smoother - I don't think I waited more than 10 minutes. This year they also ran out of large socks, so I got ripped on that, but I decided to grab a small pair for Sue, so at least she got something out of it.

Waiting till the finish to hand out the shirts was also horrible. After finishing I had to stand there in line for a good 15 minutes. Ya, there's nothing like being in a good deal of pain, ready to grab something to drink and go jump in the lake but have to stand there in the hot sun waiting for what turned out to be a pretty shitty shirt that I'll never wear. The gunmetal gray seems to be their stock shirt - same color as last year and the design is nothing special. Plus its a long sleeved shirt - chance are I'll never wear it. Plus I asked for a large thinking it'd be ok, but got home and really needed an XL. So Sue will get a shirt out of the deal too. However, considering she had a very challenging day with Sarah, she deserves it.

She told me later that she overheard an older gentleman who made the comment: I'm not sure who has it more difficult, the spouse who's running the race or the one who has to manage the kids. I think I got the better end of that deal :)

The last thing that was bad was parking. Ya, they do a good job for setting up parking and shuttles for the athletes, but they completely neglect the spectators. They make sure there is no place anywhere near the park for them - everything is blocked off and they shut down shuttle service after T1 closes. I really don't understand what the deal is with not allowing parking on the streets - its only 1 day, hell not even a full day.

For the race itself, though, I'm very pleased with how it went. Ya, I could have pushed it more on the bike, but then I might have had a slower run than I had and I knew that the run is where I could make the most time. So I'm going to consider this to be a success and can check this off the bucket list. No need to do Steelhead anymore. Next year it'll be something different.

Last updated: 2010-01-26 12:00 AM
00:39:52 | 2112 yards | 01m 53s / 100yards
Age Group: 109/193
Overall: 1326/2282
Performance: Average
Suit: Xterra Full
Course: The course was point to point, which is nice - just follow the buoys. Right before the start, the race director announced the layout. He said that there are several orange buoys followed by several red ones, then 1 green buoy followed by the last orange one where you turn into the beach.
Start type: Run Plus:
Water temp: 76F / 24C Current: Low
200M Perf. Below average Remainder: Average
Breathing: Good Drafting: Average
Waves: Good Navigation: Average
Rounding: Good
Time: 03:44
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Yes Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Good
02:49:05 | 56 miles | 19.87 mile/hr
Age Group: 94/193
Overall: 918/2282
Performance: Good
Wind: Little
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 03:48
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike Good
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal Good
02:17:08 | 13.1 miles | 10m 28s  min/mile
Age Group: 113/193
Overall: 1260/2282
Performance: Average
Keeping cool Average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge Just right
Organized? No
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 3

2010-08-01 7:24 PM

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Extreme Veteran
Milford, MI
Subject: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon

2010-08-01 7:51 PM
in reply to: #3017172

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Small Town
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
Nicely done Coop - those two, maybe slightly annoying, cowbell slinging guys were me and Craig Weaver.  We were there to spectate, but we didn't get to the race site early enough to meet up with anyone.  So we timed a few peoples swim starts and watched for you guys to come into T1.  Then later headed out to the run course to find ya'll again.

Very well done, congrats on a huge PR!

Edited by JHagerman 2010-08-01 7:56 PM
2010-08-01 8:12 PM
in reply to: #3017172

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Southern Ontario
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
Nice job on the PR!!!! WOW!

I agree on the buoys - I should have paid attention and not chatted so much - I kept thinking to myself "Holy crap! Another green one?"

The registration was a disaster. 
2010-08-01 8:15 PM
in reply to: #3017172

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Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
great job and report coop.  
2010-08-01 9:09 PM
in reply to: #3017172

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Rochester Hills, Michigan
Gold member
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
Nice work, Coop. Sounded like you paced it perfectly through all 3, plus dealt with a whole buncha swim crap in a row. Outstanding.

That said, you're happy, healthy, and rubber side-up. Let's call it good.
2010-08-01 10:50 PM
in reply to: #3017172

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Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
SUPER COOP!!!!  I knew you'd have a great race!  I was thinking of you all out there yesterday riding all by my lonesome in low winds  looking at the flat calm waters of Lake Huron...I was hoping for the same for you guys and sending the mojo!!!   

I'm so glad you had a great race...spectacular pr dude!  An hour and 10 minutes!  YOWSA!  

You will do great at did a great job of holding back on the bike to get you to your run goal!!! 

Congratulations Coop!!!   (((HUGS)))

2010-08-02 5:26 AM
in reply to: #3017172

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Ann Arbor, Michigan
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
Great job, Coop!  And nice report, very informative!  Wow and hour ten off last year, impressive!!!
2010-08-02 10:36 AM
in reply to: #3017172

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Ferndale, MI
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
AWESOME job, Coop!  Sounds like you took Steelhead by the horns and beat it down this year!
2010-08-02 11:24 AM
in reply to: #3017172

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New user
Birmingham MI
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
Great Job Coop!  Especially drop 70mins from last year.  Next year you could be sun 5hours!  I smiled instantly when I saw you on the run, and I made sure you would get the same enjoyment!  As far a a port-a-potty outside T2, I had my eye on one just outside the run out, next to a house under construction, but luckily I didnt need it.

I agree, logistically, the race was a nightmare, especially parking. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve for next year.  Cool
2010-08-02 2:48 PM
in reply to: #3017172


Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon


Good Show... all your hard work and planning paid the dividend...

You could write this stuff for a living!  Reading it, I felt almost like I was there following you, looking through your eyes and hearing your thoughts, all without feeling the pain

Kindest Regards,

Dave Vadas

VP Professional Services & Solutions

2010-08-02 3:17 PM
in reply to: #3017172

Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon

Year friggen rock!  Great work dude.

2010-08-02 5:20 PM
in reply to: #3017172

Madison, WI
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon

congrats on the pr !  also, a classic race report  - i could relate to a lot of it.

2010-08-03 7:30 AM
in reply to: #3017172

New user
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
Great results and great writeup! Definitely felt like I was there. Even though there were things that could have been done better on the organization side, you've sold me. I plan on doing this race in 2011.
2010-08-03 8:43 AM
in reply to: #3017172

Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
Great report Coop! Great job! I hope I can do a half-Iron someday!
2010-08-05 8:20 AM
in reply to: #3017172

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Ft Campbell, Kentucky
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
Good race man, sorry we didn't get to meet up. The day prior was just crazy for me.
2010-08-05 11:02 AM
in reply to: #3017172

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Ann Arbor, MI
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
Great race Coop! Way to crush your PR and get your vengeance on last year's Steelhead.

For next year, may I recommend Breakwater HIM in Petoskey, MI at the end of August. It's gorgeous!

2010-08-06 2:12 PM
in reply to: #3017172

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Canton, Michigan
Subject: RE: Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon

Nice work on that PR!  And like Yeats says do Breakwater next year, I hope to put that on my calendar for 2011.

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