A weekend in Copper Harbor never ever disappoints. This weekend was no exception. Copper Harbor is a magical place with about 3 small hotels/cabins, 2 restaurants, zero cell phone service and countless mountain bike trails.

 Copper Harbor's entire economy exists on mountain biking. It is all about mountain biking except for one weekend a summer when it is all about triathlon...Ok, it's all about triathlon for about 4 hours. Then it is once again all about mountain biking.

I suggest bringing some skills, some pads, some suspension or riding on the kiddy trails.

In years past I gave a little thought to the Copperman Triathlon but did not secure accommodations in time. They fill fast unless you have gear to camp. (Airstream renovations underway).
I scored us a rustic hotel room at the Lake Fanny Hoe resort. It was on Lake Fanny Hoe, a stones throw from "Squirrel Park" and a 4 minute pedal from the race start.
.It was perfect except... did not guarantee a good night of sleep. The crooked lamp shade says it all. 
But on race day or any day... who needs sleep to ride a bike? Certainly not Isaac!

This was my first triathlon in four years. 800 M swim, 23 mile bike, 5 mile run.  This distance was manageable. I knew the event would be fun.  I log hours of endurance training between what my is offered in my basement and out my backdoor. Attempting to coordinate minimal swim opportunities with childcare is a big fat joke though. So I just decided that a few swims would be good enough and I wouldn't stress out about it.
I heard a lot of nervous chattering race day morning. Talking of hyperventilating, holding kayaks, constrictive wetsuits.  I was nervous.... Nervous that Isaac would get bit by the otherwise friendly dog whose tail he couldn't resist pulling.  I left Tim outnumbered by irrational and impulsive little people and breathed a sigh of relief as I got in the water.   I'm the one with my hands together in prayer. I'm not praying that I have a great swim. I would need 10,000 hours of swim training to have a great swim.  I'm praying my children behave so my husband can tolerate me participating in an event like this again.
Where's waldo?  The hand attached to the arm with Xterra written in red. I used to think my swimming was hopeless. I feel differently now. I actually like to swim and would be interested in logging hours of training and taking lessons to  master the craft. It just it a scheduling nightmare right now. So I'm saving that for life next chapter....
Out of the water I felt a little spent but my swim was fine  for me. As Tim said it was "irrelevant" I was the 9th women out of the water and left transition in 5th...despite my wetsuit getting stuck on both ankles and flopping around like fish out of water to get it off.

It was on to the bike to continue making up ground and recover from my swim. I reviewed the times from last years race the day I signed up. There were some "ringers" from far off lands like Duluth, Chicago, Twin Cities but to be honest none of them looked like they were triple threat ringers who could blow my doors off in all three disciplines.  I thought I had a legitimate shot to go top 5 and had a rough time predicted for each event.
Tim told me to roll the disc for old times sake but not to expect myself to go as fast as I used to  past because "you don't train like that anymore." This is where our race plans/expectations differed. I just was physically unable to roll a Zipp disk (restickered in custom pink that even says  wear an aero helmet and waste my time out there on the course believing I couldn't be as fast as I once was.  I just  believed "as fast or faster." I know you can't "not do the work" and be fast....but what if maybe you did do the work and then you marinated in it? Trust me when you spend as much time in the kitchen as I've got to think of the chicken ...not like a chicken... The best chicken is marinated . You do the work and then you let it soak in. The keeping it cool in the fridge is the smaller daily efforts you've made over the last 4 years. This was likely to be a 2 hour event not a 5 -12 hour event.
I finished the bike 1:04:30 which is 21.6 mph. It was faster than I projected but probably a little soft vs myself prior to 2010. It's defiantly something I could easily clean up if I focused on the specifics of it. The bike was beautiful and I had a lot of fun riding hard and fast.  Onto the run I didn't know what place I was in. Judging by the two bike turn arounds I thought I had passed every woman in the race. I sort of thought if I was leading somebody would tell me. I'll confess I felt a little out of sorts coming off the bike and moving onto the run.  I didn't hurt at all or feel over fatigued. I really felt a little spinny. Apparently I wasn't used to moving on a bike at 20 plus  mph and then running. The disk is classic and it makes a cool sound but it is a stiff ride and I felt a little like I jumped off a merry go round and started running.  I guess that is what one deserves if they really have only done brick runs off a trainer or mountain bike that end with a slow uphill grind before running.
I made a last minute race ecision not to wear my Garmin for a couple of reasons. My heart rate monitor battery always dies when I wear it in water so the HR would be useless. It's a Garmin 630 which has advanced run metrics which are cool, but is not a triathlon specific watch. The ability to switch from swim to bike to run option with wet fingers and seemed like a lot of futzing. I had a strong feeling that I would end up looking at at average pace that would reflect my swim, bike,  and run and be totally useless. It just seemed silly to think about messing with a watch when you have decided that embracing the day was your biggest priority. In future, I would just use a low end gps or even a standard watch for mile splits vs having no metric.  The "merry go round running" feel had me wondering if I was running  6:00 min/mile or 16 min/mile. I couldn't get a great gauge on my efforts. I tired to evaluate my breathing and determine if I was slacking or going to implode. I wanted to go as fast as I could but not blow up and waste a good overall finish.  A women  doing the relay whose race resume I know well for holding running race course records   blew by me. I thought I must be moving slow and need to get a move on but then I realized I could still see her. I knew her well enough to know she was probably running 6:40 -6:50 pace per mile.  I was probably running at a decent pace. The run course was an out and back with variable surfaces and terrain. It's a great run course. Hilly but not hilatious. Eventually I saw a leading male headed back who informed me that I was in second place and 1:30 down...  Just because I had not expected the win when I sat in front of the computer screen signing up doesn't mean I wouldn't have enjoyed it ;) I sort of waddled in denial that really I wasn't in second. How could I not have seen her? How does he know I am 1:30 down when I didn't know she existed? He's thinking of my friend who is running the relay. He must be. I couldn't really find it in my heart or head to think I could make up 1:30 on somebody who already swam and biked faster than me. I figured if that was the case she could run faster than me too. Good on her.  I did gain confidence though that I would not implode before the finish and was a little ( or a lot ) worried about who might be behind me. I tried to pick up the pace. I spied the 3rd place female after the turn around. She looked like she was flying. All I could think is "She's coming for me. I can't let her get me"

Turns out I was right and I was wrong. I was right I couldn't make up 1 minute 30 over the course of the 3 miles left. I was also wrong about thinking if somebody was good enough to swim and bike faster than me they could out run me too. It turns out that over the course of a 5 mile run I took 3 minutes out of a 4 minute lead. Comments like "just believe in yourself "or "never get up do not motivate me". They are just magical thinking.  Mathematical story problems extrapolated from real race scenarios do. If the course had been 10 k vs 5 miles it may have been a sprint finish.

The 3rd place woman. The one who was "coming to get me" and looked like she was flying on the run. It turns out I was right. She was coming to get me but she only ran at a pace of 2sec/mile faster than me. If I thought she looked like she was flying, I must have looked like I was flying too. Not that  life is all about appearances but in my book looking fast and having fun are often as rewarding as podium finishes.
Ironic that so much of my time is spent managing dwaddling children. Teaching them to efficiently remain on schedule and task.  After nearly 2 hours of racing I showed up to the finish 1 minute late. A bit of a shame as I'm certain I could have shaved off a minute from somewhere. I'm sort of hoping the same could be said of my competitors. 
I really was over joyed with my day because the race just seemed to capture everything I have always loved about the sport and I got to share the day with my family. Onward with the weekend of mountian biking, swimming, playing at parks and eating ice cream. It really was a banner weekend.

As Isaac would call it "King King." Don't be fooled by his offer to share.  He'll hold out his cone as if to share and then say "No!" and take it away.  2 year old pride!

Blueberry Festival!

Every year we go to blueberry festival. 
 Annika gets her face painted. She rides a horse...ok she rides a pony . This has happened since before Isaac was born.

 This year things were different.
Isaac rode that horse. Ok..he rode the pony.

Summer Festivals And Races

Summer in the Marquette area is filled with a great mix of artistry and athletics.

A local alley was decorated with umbrellas for art week. It was so popular it was decided they stay for the rest of summer.
Isaac and I enjoyed them immensely. 

Fort Michilimackinac is very close to Grandma and Grandpa's house.
It's a great place to learn about Michigan and American history.
And have a little fun.
It's a great place for imaginative and energetic children.
Hurry up Isaac! Follow me!
Now do as I say!

"I'm ready to fire the cannon"

Believe it or not they really do still fire the cannon. In fact while growing up I heard the cannon fired daily over Lake Michigan.
After many attempts to get Isaac to stick his face in the photo prop from the other side we settled for this shot. The end result is iconic. Imagine an 8x10 in black and white of this shot.
Soon it was time to close out the weekend with a sunset drive back to Marquette.
Lake Superior really isn't a bad place to call home.
Beach days followed. Beach days are on par with Christmas.

Every so often you go to the beach pretty much all day... and into the night! Dad is working late and has a meeting through dinner. Mom says...Tonight is backwards night .You drive from the beach to the ice cream shop that shares a parking lot with a pizzeria and eat ice cream while your  pizza bakes.
After that you take the pizza home and eat it on the front porch. For an extra special treat Mom let's you skip a bath a sprays you down from head to toe with a hose. You may or may not run naked in the yard for a bit.
Arts and crafts...Love/hate relationship . I'm good with finger paint...but no glitter. No glitter!

Red Earth Race Report

Next up was the Ishpeming/Negaunee (RAMBA) area trails festival and Hiawatha Music Festival. The trails festival consisted of a bunch of different distance mtn biking and trail running races called The Red Earth Classic. I did the longest one called the beast because I wanted to get my moneys worth in terms of ride time and there was a prize purse,  The Ishpeming trails are a great place to race because they are super challenging technically and directionally. The trails cloverleaf in direction and one can spend a fair amount of time getting lost. They aren't a place I would ride solo and bike dates don't happen all that often so the race seemed like a smart choice. Promises were made that the course had been changed to not be as painfully hard as past years and more flowy. There are sections of Ishpeming (Bacon Strip, Flannel Shirt, Section 16, Sissy Pants, New York Street) that I think rival sections of trail anywhere in the country (think Tahoe, St. George, Moab, Malibu, San Diego) I would travel from outside the area to ride or race these trails. They really are that good. 

I told my gang I was a little nervous about racing post my experience with cramping in Boston. Cramping with miles to go is a physical and psychological beat down. I'd be negotiating technical granite cliffs and slippery roots. If I wanted to call it a day I'd still have logistics of getting out of the woods. I was nervous I'd do something stupid and crash my bike.

Annika told me to give it a shot. Seriously she said "C'mon Mom just give it a shot. Just give it your best effort." Five year olds says the darndest things. I know she wasn't the sole author of that pep talk. I did exactly as she said and gave it a shot.

The first 10 miles were a bit of a shocker with heat and hard climbs. Not going to lie I heard another racer tell his buddy that the first 10 miles were demoralizing and spirit breaking and then things got a little easier. Hearing that helped a lot because I felt I was flirting with hear rate max. I did this race in 2014 it was about 3.5 hrs of heart rate max (which is a bit miserable). The fact that others struggle too and that it would get easier made me smile. Then we settled in to more of the shaded technical climbing and descending. I realized that I was on my game from a technical stand point which sadly isn't always the case. I was having fun. I heard a guitar playing. I smiled thinking about meeting Tim and the kids at Hiawatha later in the day. I emerged on a two track to find Tim playing the guitar and Annika dancing along side Isaac remained chained in his car seat for safe keeping. If you've never seen a 5 year old dancing in the dirt...well you are missing out.  We've been told the guitar playing made the local news that evening. I'm not sure about the dancing. Tim reported that there were two girls a few minutes up. I knew who they were. I knew couldn't catch them. Both race or have raced pro. I do not race or train at that level. It is not the world I live in. However the world I live in has required me to read The Berenstein Bears book "The Big Road Race" at least 1,000 times. In the event of any other riders misfortune I wanted to be positioned to capitalize. Competition aside I still wanted to use my personal talents to the very best of my ability. Every rider owes the Ishpeming trails their very best.

One of the things I have learned to appreciate most about racing mountain bikes is that you don't have to beat the fastest women to beat the majority of men :) This is an extremely important concept for female mtn bike racers to embrace because the harder the race the smaller the turnout. I went back and forth with a couple guys from lower Michigan. They were faster than me on flat fire roads. I could edge them on climbs. I was resting behind them on single track.  At one point we talked about who should take the lead entering a single track decent. I didn't want to be cocky but I did not want to  descend slower than I would on a Sunday spin. " I'm not a world champion but I am from Marquette and I have a seat dropper." I think "lead please" was the response to that statement and it still makes me smile. 

Yes...I  have a seat dropper on an xc bike. I could do a technical blog about it, but it has already been done. It adds weight. However at 5'3 and riding a 29 er it allows me so much speed, safety, and fun cornering and descending. I have a great trail bike too with 27.5 in wheels and a seat dropper which is great for this terrain  and for learning lines. For an xc race that has enduro sections thrown in I will always choose to ride an xc bike. I learned the hard slow way not to ride an enduro bike for an xc race. It just climbs and maneuvers faster especially for a smaller rider. People think seat droppers are all about can corner so much faster. I'm a fan! 

My friendship with the downstate folk was short lived. I made a choice to accelerate on the approach to the Bacon Strip and Section 16  switchback and climbs. I knew there was a chance I could clear the section but not if anybody bobbled or spun very slowly in front of me. I had an open approach and cleaned the sections. It was fun! In truth it was probably better than any award. If only I could send it on the technical sections and pull big watts on the flat fire roads....then I'd be top tier. I just generally seem to lack sustained power and apparently don't have the time or interest in addressing this problem. There was some more technical riding. I paced myself wisely for a 5 mile section the has an extremely hard climb followed by a techy techy descent. I practiced this section with Tim when my in-laws were here. I mentally budgeted that the section would be at least 30 minutes of high intensity riding. Pretty much I found myself following the arrows and crossing the finish line with 27 miles on my watch vs the 32 advertised on the website and course map. I quickly confirmed that I did not miss anything. The section had been removed from the race because of spring rains and last years whining. I'm not sure why this decision wasn't shared. It would have changed my pacing but not my overall placing. I felt a little guilty that I hadn't given more in the final miles of the course.  Maybe a handful of women would have bumped up from the middle distance race. Maybe more men would have had the courage to race :)  I don't do the work of putting on races so I will leave it at that. It's a lot of hard work for which I am thankful. In truth, I wasn't all that sad to be done racing with gas in the tank  to ride 10 miles home and headed to Hiawatha Music Festival. 

Before I departed I checked in with the race director to see if I was eligible for the 3rd place prize money without staying for awards. I was planning to donate the money back to the trails network and my not so humble ego will admit I was kind of proud of that. I was informed that I did not qualify for the money because in order to be eligible I needed to submit a resume. After submitting my resume it would have to be approved. I was informed that if I applied for an elite start at a larger tier local race and was granted it...I then would likely be approved to be eligible for the prize money. The prize money from this particular race was intended to help out those racing pro. I'm not sure how I feel about prize money at small local races in general. Ok,  maybe I am sure. Maybe I think it is silly. This is an extremely interesting and deep topic with a lot of different and valid opinions. I do believe our nations top athletes who compete at a world class level could and should be better financially supported. I know that I am fortunate to be in a life that allows me to ride and race (expensive) bikes and to have a  family. I do not know how deeply my heart bleeds for people who financially depend on prize money  for gas to drive a rusty Subaru to the next race. I respect that people often take the time to put on races to support the cause they believe in. So if a race director  really felt passionate about supporting pro racers with a prize purse then I am all for it. I just think it should be clear on the entry form who is eligible to receive the money. Politics aside it was a great morning of riding Ishpeming. I am thankful for the marked and weed wacked trails and chance to race again. I would recommend this race to many.  I rolled 10 miles downhill to home on the bike path. Showered and hopped back on my bike to meet up with my gang at Hiawatha Music Festival. 

Annika thought Hiawatha was the best day ever. Face painting, painting, singing and dancing, swimming in the lake, and making a tie dyed t-shirt.Isaac's favorite part was riding a plastic tricycle round and round the camp ground. I think I chased him at least 5 miles.
 Paints! Not on my front porch or in my kitchen! What a bonus.
 Legos under the big tent.
 When you run out of space on your face to paint...throw in your arms.
 Magic crystal rocks
 Rock painting!
Best summer day ever!