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Steelhead 70.3, er 69.1 - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Benton Harbor, Michigan
United States
CAPRI Events
Total Time = 3h 58m
Overall Rank = 64/1108
Age Group = 30-34
Age Group Rank = 16/189
Pre-race routine:

I found my race mojo at this local 5k race a few weeks ago, so I was ready to knock Steelhead out the box and get my revenge on the double-Musselman Sprint and HIM. You know in all those boxing movies how the contender takes the easy rounds to build confidence for the main event? Or how the ‘92 Dream Team (Barkley was a stud!) got to play Angola and Spain early on? The 5k was like that. Heh, except I'm no Sir Charles AND I got my ass kicked in the big ring but whatever you get the point.
Event warmup:

Looking at the weather report and its small craft advisory, rip current warning, and 20-30mph winds, Alaina and I were damn sure this was going to be a du, especially since she did the race in ‘08 when the swim was also canceled under similar conditions. Sure enough, as we biked from the parking lot to transition and saw Lake Michigan looking like an episode of Deadliest Catch, the swim was called off. Instead we did a TT start on the bike in bib # order. That’s a lot of waiting around. There was more anxious boredom than a high school chemistry class.

In transition, we met a couple who lives around the corner from us in Ann Arbor because my nutso wife who talks to EVERYONE recognized them from the bus she takes to work. For such a big race (2000+ registered) it was cool to get a little of the local feel too.

Nutrition wise I’ve had good luck eating less before training/racing, so I went with just a bowl of cereal and an Ensure -- if it works for grampa it’ll work for me. My stomach was felt super smashing, no firecrackers at all, and soon enough we were off.
  • 00m
  • 2112 yards
  • / 100 yards

Yeah, not so much. Canceled.
Transition 1
  • 00m
  • 2h 21m 35s
  • 56 miles
  • 23.73 mile/hr

As we were sent off 2-by-2 there was some crowding right at the start with the Guns of Navarone dudes cranking out some brownout type wattage up the first and only hill on the course. I tried to keep my instinct to chase in check and race my race. I targeted 210w as a steady goal, but my wheels were ready for takeoff and I kept looking down to see 220-230 and reminded myself to save it for the run.

The streets were jammed with riders all over the road as is typical for a WTC event, with some people riding all the way left when they should’ve been hugging the white line. Kept my head on a swivel and got on my bullhorn ‘on your left’ when making a close pass and it was all good. Winds were 10-15mph headwind and crosswind for the first half of the course, so I took advantage of legal drafting by riding up behind riders, checking left, then passing them within 20 seconds. As long as you were on the gas the entire time, you could ride this course legally, but you had to make an effort to do so, and many did not.

Around mile 25 this one guy from my AG passed me and I was all, ‘heck yeah, nice ride’ in my head until the guy on his wheel passed me right after, and the guy on his wheel passed me, and I realized that all these guys I’d passed about five miles ago from my AG were riding a 25mph paceline so streamlined that it made Garmin-Cervelo look like a sloppy pack of Cat-4 riders. And for one second, I thought, WTF, if all these guys are going to be on the run with fresh legs and I haven’t seen a single race official, then what’s the point in riding hard by myself, losing time to these guys and running on tired legs? Do I have to cheat to place well in a WTC race? Oh hell no, I’m not doing that. But sure enough, all the names I recognized from the paceline were in the top-10 in my AG. Cheaters suck.

The rest of the ride was a laugh and a half. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having on solid legs and no stomach issues. Take that, Musselman disasterace! And when we finally started heading south on Blue Star Highway with its wide shoulder and glassy roads, not to mention a huge tailwind, I watched my average speed rise like mercury in Death Valley from 23.2 up to 23.8 all in a matter of <10 miles. WEEEEEEEEEEEE!

1st half avg = 209w
2nd half avg = 208w
Nice and smooth
Transition 2
  • 01m 25s

Came into transition and galloped to my supa simple T2. Long run out but stayed on the gas.
What would you do differently?:

  • 1h 35m 6s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 07m 16s  min/mile

Started out too hard on the run trying to chase down some people right away rather than being patient and reeling them in slowly. D. U. M. But at least I knew better and settled into a pace that didn’t feel like my quads were doing clean and jerks for 20 minutes straight. On the first hill into the loop section my legs were extra stiff like mile 18 of the marathon bad and I got a little nervous.

Coming into this race knowing it would be the last tri of the year before solely training for the Chicago marathon, I wanted to lay it all out on the line. Blow up, cramp, bonk, collapse in a heap of doughy smoosh, I didn’t care. I wanted to finish knowing I’d left it all out there. And in that regard, I really did.

Miles 3-5 were stellar. I was hitting sub-7s steadily and felt like the runner I knew I could be. My form was right on and had the energy I needed. But come the first hill at 5, some muscle near my quad/groin cramped up like a nazty beotch. I clenched my leg in agony and couldn’t even walk. I was dead in the water. All the people I’d passed were back in front of me. I was helpless and saw my race die there. So I started walking on it in excruciating pain because it wasn’t going away with stretching. Gradually it loosened up after over a minute of lost time. I’d gone from 6:55/mi on the first 4 miles to 10:00/mi for that mile.

But I was determined to right the ship. I was able to run steadily again after another mile and drank a lot of gatorade at each aid station for the electrolytes. The more I ran the better I started to feel, with the next few miles at around 7:20 or below. I thought about something freckle face said to me about when I started racing and had no time expectations and just had FUN. I looked around at all the other crazies running on tired legs. I was part of this cool fun thing. I was going to do this.

Not wanting to cramp again, I couldn’t push it the way I wanted to, knowing that the same hill at mile 10 was going to be another moment of truth. And there it was before me, the hill of doom. It wasn’t even that big, but it was powerful enough to bite the meat off my bone like a tiger shark, silently ascending toward its prey. The focker won again. I made it all the way up to the end before it gripped me in the same spot. And I couldn’t move. It was even more painful than before. Another runner offered my some salt tabs and I thanked him and could’ve hugged the guy. I found a way to put pressure on it and walk, then jog, then run.

Miles 11-13 were long and terrible but like before the more I ran the better I felt. I caught a few more people and gained confidence. The last mile I put everything I had left into my legs and finished it in 6:51/mi, which is the pace I wanted to run the whole time but today it just wasn’t happening. I have ZERO REGRETS about how I executed this race, despite the fact it wasn’t perfect. I learned to love racing again, had a blast and went as hard as I could.

Oh yeah, and I beat Alaina by 4 minutes to reclaim to Case house tri title! Sure she won her AG and took 6th OA amateur woman, but at least I've got bragging rights :D
What would you do differently?:

Biked too hard, but took a calculated gamble.
Post race
Warm down:

I’ll paste what I said in the Steelhead Swim Cancelled thread.

Should WTC pull the plug on Steelhead?

The race still rakes in plenty of money with 2000+ people registering every year, but as is evident by the frustrations of people (in '08 and '11) who paid for race entry and didn't get what they expected, customer satisfaction can be pretty low. Plus the bike is a notorious draft fest, and the run basically goes from parking lot to parking lot of the all but defunct Whirlpool corporate campus, so the course is nothing to get excited about. At least it's well organized and the volunteers are awesome. But there are many negatives to think about for anyone considering this race, IMO.

I had fun on Sunday, given what it was. But I won't do this race again and won't recommend it because of the huge swim question mark, the drafting, and the boring run course.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2011-02-27 12:00 AM
00:00:00 | 2112 yards | / 100yards
Age Group: 0/189
Overall: 0/1108
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current:
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 00:00
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
02:21:35 | 56 miles | 23.73 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/189
Overall: 0/1108
Performance: Good
Course: One big loop on sometimes great sometimes awful country roads.
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 01:25
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
01:35:06 | 13.1 miles | 07m 16s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/189
Overall: 0/1108
Performance: Average
Course: Mostly boring 2 loops through Whirlpool Corporate Campus. Lotsa parking lots and one pretty park area that I liked a lot.
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2011-08-17 7:12 AM

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Ann Arbor, MI
Subject: Steelhead 70.3, er 69.1

2011-08-17 12:04 PM
in reply to: #3646867

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Subject: RE: Steelhead 70.3, er 69.1

Bummer about the swim cancel, the draft fest and the biotch of cramps on the run, but I am SO glad you are a Type F(un) triathlete again!  Working your way through the cramps is very  inspiring friend.  Very inspiring indeed.  I may need that inspriation this weekend when I attempt a sprint just four weeks after IMLP.  My legs are being very sassy, but I'm gonna make um GO!

As always your report is a great read, and makes me feel like I'm right there with you! Now you get to get your run groove cooking!  Chicago has no idea what your gonna do to that course!

And congrats on Case bragging rights again!

2011-08-17 1:21 PM
in reply to: #3646867

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Norton Shores, MI
Subject: RE: Steelhead 70.3, er 69.1
Great job...smokin fast bike split and a 1:35 half mary battling cramps is sweetness!  Glad you earned such a great result for the last tri of the year.

I tend to agree with your final race comments...I really enjoy swimming in Lake Michigan and it is so much more fun than racing in an inland lake where you cannot see your hand in front of you.  The lake is so unpredictable though that the swim going off is a roll of the dice.  The bike course seems nice but the run does not get many good reviews.

The only thing that makes it attractive, for me anyway, is that it is the only half distance race in Michigan that is really really competitive with big participation and lots of really good athletes.  But even that probably is not enough to make me want to do it in the future.
2011-08-17 4:35 PM
in reply to: #3646867

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Fountain Hills, AZ
Subject: RE: Steelhead 70.3, er 69.1
Great work on the run Ryan! It's tough to come good sometimes but way to hang in there. And big props for not joining the cheats.
2011-08-17 7:14 PM
in reply to: #3646867

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Subject: RE: Steelhead 70.3, er 69.1
Cheaters do SUCK!  Dude at Lake Placid on mile 25 of the bike a PELOTON passed me!! Forget about a 5-person paceline.  This was about 24 people grouped together and angled due to the crosswind!!  I don't know how drafters live with themselves?!  I Mean Seriously.  Like you, I like to do a legal, sling-shot draft -- getting in behind people and then going around them, then getting behind the next person for 10 to 15 seconds before passing them.  But the blatant pacelines and pelotons (mostly at WTC races) are pathetic.  But the universe has a way of balancing itself out.  And I hope if any of those cheaters took a Vegas spot, they won't be able to draft on the hilly Nevada course, and they end blowing up and walking the run. 

But enough negativity.  CONGRATS ON WINNING BACK YOUR MANHOOD... errr I mean,   winning back the Case House Tri Award. 

Next Stop:  CHICAGO!!! 

Edited by Dream Chaser 2011-08-17 7:18 PM
2011-08-18 3:07 PM
in reply to: #3646867

New user

Subject: RE: Steelhead 70.3, er 69.1

Nice splits/race report!

Looks like we had a similar experience!  

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