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Ironman 70.3 Steelhead - Triathlon

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Benton Harbor, Michigan
United States
World Triathlon Corporation
72F / 22C
Total Time = 5h 14m 41s
Overall Rank = 258/1569
Age Group = 35-39
Age Group Rank = 42/171
Pre-race routine:

Steelhead is kind of a home town race for me as I grew up in the area as a child. However, I've lived in AZ for the past 13 years so I found myself staying at my father's house once again for the race. Also, my brother from Cleveland decided to come up and stay with us as well so he could spectate. I mention this only because they kept me up all night long with the movie they were watching. Not that I would have slept anyway, I never do. Remember last seeing the clock at 1am, up at 3am.

Breakfast consisted of three pancakes, two cups of coffee and an English muffin. I had set aside a couple bananas the day prior but somehow they mysteriously vanished. Hit the road for the 1:15 drive at 4:45am, dropped the bike and gear into transition and then started the 1.2 mile walk to the swim start.
Event warmup:

Best warm up to date. Thirty minutes prior to my wave start (8:04am) I zipped up the wet suit and hopped in the water. The lake was throwing some fairly big swells (at least 2-3' if not more) and having never swam in anything like that I knew I'd better spent a fair amount of time in the water prior to the race acclimating. Spent all thirty minutes splashing around and finally felt comfortable and confident that I could swim this.
  • 48m 19s
  • 2112 yards
  • 02m 17s / 100 yards

Yeehaw! Now that was an interesting swim. Let me preface this by saying I am not used to adverse swim conditions and living in AZ have never had the opportunity to swim in anything like this.

At the horn I just took my time walking into the surf until finally reaching the point that it was time to swim. Dove in and started fighting my way through the swells to get the short distance to the turn buoy. Normally I need to start in back as I'm just not a fast swimmer but I was amazed at the number of people I was running into or having to navigate around because they were pulled up trying to figure out what to even do. Made the right turn at the buoy and tried to find something to sight down the shore.

Sighting was, for me, difficult at the least. I simply could not find anything tall enough down the shore to fix on that wouldn't become completely obstructed by the swells. Buoys and boats were absolutely useless and I was relegated to just trying to get a glimpse of something whenever I ended up on the top of one of those swells. This left me constantly correcting my direction and fighting those swells every step of the way to figure out where I was going. I'm sure a more experienced swimmer in similar circumstances is able to adjust a lot easier and I will say that once I got a little bit of a sense of timing of the swells it was a little bit easier. Too bad that was halfway through the swim.

I need to pause and mention one thing, I actually enjoyed the swim. Sure it was hard as heck for me, I swallowed more than enough water, it was the most fitting race sponsor ever (Whirlpool) and I was SLOW. However, I never panicked for a single moment, my breathing was great, and every time I peaked up at the crest of one of those swells only to get face planted into the ensuing trough I smiled. Who needs an amusement park?

Also, as I've documented on here I managed to dislocate my shoulder again two weeks prior on an adventure course. Stupid move by me to go do something like that so close to a race, especially knowing that this is a previous injury that is now more susceptible to re injury. Going into that adventure course it was a worry yet I still did it, I can own that. By race time it was feeling pretty decent, not 100% but ok, and in practice swims so long as I didn't really try and hammer it it was fine. It held up pretty well during the swim but about halfway through I made the mistake of really trying to grab some water to get a view of a landmark and out it came again. Ouch! The good thing about it is it goes back in on its own now and I was able to keep going albeit a little more slow now.

That last turn buoy signalling swim out was a very welcome sight and I was ready to move on. Unfortunately I was pretty gassed coming out of the water, much more so than a calm swim would have left me, and I failed to adjust for that. More on that later.

Reflecting back though I am actually very satisfied with that swim and my ability to make it through it without panic or issue. I was figuring around a 36-38 minute swim in good conditions so while it really slowed me down and cost me much more energy I am still proud at getting through it.
What would you do differently?:

More swimming? More practice in similar conditions? Unfortunately I'm not sure that more swimming would help although with a more advanced level of fitness I probably wouldn't have been as beat up once I finished the swim. As far as practice in similar conditions, that's difficult in AZ. Maybe it's time I make more road trips to San Diego and take the wetsuit along for the ride.
Transition 1
  • 03m 50s

Steelhead has a LONG transition so times are always going to be a bit high. Exited the water, cap and goggles off first and left them in my sleeve as I pulled the wetsuit down. For the first time ever the suit got stuck around my right ankle but it only cost a couple seconds. There was a lot of talk before about WTC no longer allowing shoes on pedals and while I never heard a definitive answer I just opted to put them on and run in them rather than leave them clipped in. Didn't matter as transition is so narrow I was stuck behind a ton of people walking to their bikes or walking out of transition. That cost more time than anything.
What would you do differently?:

  • 2h 36m 48s
  • 56 miles
  • 21.46 mile/hr

Given the amount of energy I left in the swim I should have backed off my bike pacing a little bit. I didn't and it cost me.

I love how scenic this route is, absolutely gorgeous. I didn't love all the traffic starting in the second to last swim wave leaves you with. The number of unaware, inattentive, and dangerous people on the course can be frustrating. People riding two and three abreast, swerving an entire lane to get drinks, etc. But we all know we will encounter it and you just have to do your best to get through it.

Maybe it's the AZ in me, maybe my memory fails me from this race last year but wow, I thought the roads absolutely sucked and I was happy to get off my bike. A few smooth, fast areas but some of the expansion cracks that a winter climate brings on and the rough, patchy chip seal rattled me to death and I was constantly having to grab hold of my BTA bottle to keep it from being lost.

Other than that the ride was uneventful. Great volunteers at bottle exchange, no issues there, and I brought it in looking forward to the run.
What would you do differently?:

Bike a bit easier given the swim. Five to ten minutes less on the bike could have netted me 15+ minutes on the run.
Transition 2
  • 01m 53s

Pretty good transition. Coming in to dismount can be frustrating as it's pretty much a very long one lane road so you're stuck following the pace of those in front of you...and that pace was crawling. Hopped off at dismount and thankfully had a fairly clean path to my transition spot. Threw on the NB 1600s, grabbed my visor and race number and headed out. A little traffic on the way out but nothing that I wasn't able to get around in a few seconds.
What would you do differently?:

  • 1h 43m 51s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 07m 55s  min/mile

Over swam, over biked, tanked the run. Bryan said it best, "And you are such a strong runner, you need to solve the bike part of the equation so you can run more to your potential." and he is 100% right. Biking by feel just wasn't the best way to go about this race, especially after the start but I can't control that now. I either need to learn some restraint or put the money into a power meter and then BIKE MORE. It was a 20+ minute bike PR over last year and I ran a minute faster so I apparently over bike the same amount. I find the humor in that.

Nutrition was fine, 2.5 Hammer gels on the bike per hour and then coke on the run as coke, coke, water at each aid station. I had plenty in the tank but nothing left in the legs and every little uphill just killed my quads. I tried adjusting my run pacing before even starting the run (what I should have done on the bike) as in training I was able to run sub 7s off the bike quite comfortably. Knowing I was biking a bit hard and already fairly gassed from that swim I decided to go out around 7:15 and just try and hold that.
7:38 (with a pee stop)
and then it slowly started coming undone. By mile 7 I was approaching 8 min miles and the reality that my goals were pretty much over at this point was enough for me to just slow it down and concede a bit.
What would you do differently?:

It all started two disciplines ago.
Post race
Warm down:

I was tanked. Sat at the side of the finish line and tried to recover with some water and gatorade.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Swim and more so bike pacing

Event comments:

I really love this race and the RD puts on a great show. Awesome volunteers, plenty of stuff, but I really hope there is some road resurfacing in the near future. Looking forward to getting back at it for October's HIM and finding some strong redemption.

Last updated: 2013-03-07 12:00 AM
00:48:19 | 2112 yards | 02m 17s / 100yards
Age Group: 96/171
Overall: 774/1569
Performance: Below average
Course: 1.2 mile point to point along the short of Lake Michigan. South to North direction which they will change so you are with the current but I don't think that made any difference today. Matter of fact, I think North to South probably would have been better given the swells all seemed to come out of the Northwest.
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 69F / 21C Current: High
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Good Drafting:
Waves: Navigation: Bad
Time: 03:50
Performance: Good
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Yes Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed:
02:36:48 | 56 miles | 21.46 mile/hr
Age Group: 49/171
Overall: 343/1569
Performance: Average
Wind: Some
Course: Single loop course through the orchards of Western Michigan.
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks: Just right
Time: 01:53
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes Good
Jumping off bike Good
Running with bike Good
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal Good
01:43:51 | 13.1 miles | 07m 55s  min/mile
Age Group: 42/171
Overall: 258/1569
Performance: Bad
Course: Run out, two loop route through the Whirlpool complex and then turn to home. Decent hill 3/4 mile after run out and then coming out of the Whirlpool complex is a short but steep enough hill that the two loop format means you'll hit twice.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Below average
Mental exertion [1-5] 2
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? Ok
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 3

2013-08-05 9:50 AM

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Scottsdale, AZ
Subject: Ironman 70.3 Steelhead

2013-08-05 11:15 AM
in reply to: #4821277

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Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 Steelhead
Nice job! As a fellow Arizonan, I hear you about the swim (not that I've experienced conditions like that myself). It's great that you enjoyed the bumpy ride, though.
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