Breakwater Triathlon: Race Report

Breakwater Triathlon Race Report.

Maybe a little bit stale by now, but my editor and creative director have been on vacation.

I was delighted when I found there would be a half ironman an hour from my parents home in Northern Michingan. Tim and I love to visit and a race would be make the trip even more fun. Family vacations typically equal training camp so why not racing camp. I was really excited because the race was in Petoskey, MI. It is beautiful there and I lived there for the first few years after college. It was great (not the pay so much) but the lifestyle. Biking, running, and sailing in the summer, skiing in the winter. I wasn't very good at the sailing part but I brought food aboard the vessel so nobody complained.

I was also excited becuase it was a half IM distance. This might be my favorite distance. Actually I would like the bike ride to be 112 miles, the swim to be 1 mile, and the run 15 miles but it is not up to me. I knew when I read the ad exactly where the swim and run would be. I wasn't so sure about the bike course. I could think of several options. One being very hilly. When the course was announced it was the very hilly one. Some people think Michigan is flat. Some parts are flat. It is missing a few mountains ranges but it definately has hills. I thought about Ironman Wisconsin and how it has the highest DNF rate. In places like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northern Michigan you're just expected to be tough. So harden up buttercup. There is no complaining and no Starbucks.

The race started and finished in Petoskey's Bayfront park. I love this park so much that I practically lived there. The place I rented bordered the park. The park was actually like my yard. My huge yard. The one I didn't even have to mow. It had a view of the bay. It seems to be my M-O to find cheap rent with good views.

So at 4:00 a.m. on race day morning I sprung out of bed without even hitting the snooze once. Yeah, yeah. I know you are all saying you get up every morning to train at 4:00 a.m. Good for you. I wait until 5:00 a.m. and it is PST. This was Eastern Standard Time. I am very proud of the fact that I did not moan, groan, swear, grumble, or whimper once. Now that is worth a medal and a half.
The house was quiet and dark. I made some cream of wheat (otherwise known as geriatric comfort food) and some coffee. Sparky arose from his cozy doggie bed to check things out then quickly returned to his bed. I shook off a pang of jealousy as he curled up in his bed.

We were out the door 15 minutes ahead of schedule. It was cold and windy but the stars were shining brightly. No clouds. I knew this would turn out to be a beautiful day.

Parking was very close to transition. So close, I contemplated staying in the truck with the heat on until the gun went off. I could run and dive in when the gun went off. It would have only cost me a minute. (I actually did do that on a New Year's day 5k while living in the area.) I remembered what I learned at Ironman Couer D'Alene and I decided to get the hypothermic, "my lungs are shrinking" feeling over with before the race started. I got a short run in and headed to transition to get suited up.

I suited up and tried not to get psyched out by all the race wheels in transitions. I figured the race would be a bit laid back and casual when I consented to not using my beloved "idropboys" race wheels. My recent tripping over the porch swing caused my husband to loose all faith in my coordination. He advised me not to roll a disc in windy rainy conditions. I agreed because I was a bit concerned but also I thought my race wheels might be over dressed for the occasion. A girl can't show up to a party wearing a prom dress when the party warrants skinny jeans. Can she? Turns out I was the shlep wearing jeans when the prom dress was required. Oh well, I'd have to make up for it someplace else. I met a really nice girl who commented on my San Diego gear. She had lived in San Diego and looked like a fast runner. I noticed race wheels and a power tap on her Cervelo. A power tap. Uh -oh somebody is serious. Crap, I thought a runner and a cyclist. I knew fast Kona Carolyn, from San Diego was there too. I figured I was racing for third. I shook it off because I ain't no Podium Princess. I'm an 18th place kind of a gal so racing for third was something I should be thankful for.

The swim was supposed to follow the breakwall out but due to highwinds the route had to be changed. I was a smidge disappointed but not one bit surprised. I was never a swimmer until moving to California. I did however jump off the breakwall after every run from June- September. ( See, I ice-bathed way before it was cool :) Back then I couldn't swim 1.2 miles to save my soul, although I had excellent cold water survival skills ;)The winds always picked up in late August. It's a great windsurfing spot in August and September. I think it would have been a really fast and wild swim but a little too much adventure for race day. Tim and I stood out like soft wimps from someplace warm, as we both wore neoprene hoods. The guys referred to Tim as Aquaman. Not sure what anyone said about me but I got in the water like I owned it. I started swimming around like I was a big deal or something, actually I was just swimming to stay warm.

I saw fast Carolyn at the front of the group. I positioned myself not far behind. Even though my swim times are still slow. I want to spend my time in the water swimming. SWIMMING not noodling around. After waiting in the back of the pack at a few Ironman events I am done with it. I get just as clobbered starting near the back as near the front so why wait to take my beating.

The swim was a little choppy but fast because it was a narrow course (and a short course). It went in and out of the docks. This denied me all possibility to swim off course and waste time. I could sight off the docks as I breathed to the side. I could see people walking alongside following us and cheering. Bonus points to the event directors for making it spec- friendly and spectacular.

The swim ended very quickly. I ran up the boat ramp quickly and shedded my wetsuit. I sat down with a plop and looked at my watch. It was 31 something. I think I may have rolled on to my tummy and dissolved into a fit of laughter. I don't swim a 31 minute/1.2 mile. I would like to very much. I was a teensy bit dissapointed not to have a chance to legitimately improve my time, but that wasn't to be today. Rather than be disappointed I decided I would accept the 32 minute swim as a gift and pretend I deserved it.

Transition was a bit wet and squishy and I was slow. I ran out of T1 and to the steps we had to hike up before mounting our bikes. It felt like cyclocross style, carrying my bike up the steps. I didn't mind as I knew it was the best way out of town, plus everybody had to do it. The other ways are on paved bike paths. Racers don't mix with moms and baby joggers. My complaint with the steps is the location. They link the park to the downtown, which has the coolest little Mom and Pop businesses. I used to walk up the steps all the time to go shopping or to go to "The Roast and Toast". There is the best old shoe store complete with creeky floors, a big golden lab lying in the entrance, and a bargain basement with creeky stairs leading to the best last seasons funky Merrel's. There is also a store that sells really cute Patagonia stuff. Of course, there is a bookstore right next to the towns best coffee shop " The Roast and Toast." I could go to the "Roast and Toast" for a nice warm coffee and wander through the book store until it warmed up. I was shivering, wet, and standing near the rear entrance to the "Roast and Toast". Couldn't I ride my bike when it warmed up a bit. Decisions!
Do you know where my allegiances lie? I guess with my shiny pink bike. Despite the shivers, I skipped the best cup of coffee and a book and started pedaling.
The ride started with a big climb. I was sort of a wreck for the first 10 miles. The sun had that early morning glare going. I tried to put on my sunglasses but they kept getting caught on my helmet strap and sitting cockeyed. Water dripped from my hair onto the glasses. Then they fogged up. My left eye decided to be difficult. It had something in it and it would not stop tearing. At least I was climbing and not going very fast. I can climb by feel right? Unfortunately, I couldn't feel becuase I was too cold.

All thoughts of racing had gone out of my brain. I felt slightly crazed, confused and unable to do anything except laugh at myself. I finally gave up on the sunglasses. I managed to get them in my pocket despite frozen fingers. My left eye was still watering but it was a whole lot better than dealing with the sunglasses. Now I could focus on racing. I really couldn't focus on racing though. I was all by myself. I felt like I was just going for a nice ride in the country. I tried to remember to go fast but I really couldn't feel my legs. I really have no idea what my exertion was. All I know is my breathing was stellar. My lungs liked the cold, clean air. I tried to move things along and focus on racing but I was having too much fun. I just couldn't concentrate due to the fun. I tried, then I would catch myself looking off in the distance remembering the last time I rode there. How different my life was blah, blah, blah.

This course seemed to confuse me. I thought I was riding on a flat section during an out and back. My spedometer said I was going slow. I had to switch to an easier gear and worried I might have a flat. The road had some frost damage so it was bumpy. On the way back I was flying. Must have been a false flat. I am glad I wasn't like the two guys I saw pulled over inspecting their tires for a flat. All I wanted to do was laugh. Despite my distraction and seeing 10 mph on the dial frequently I started closing in on some boys. I licked my lips as there was fresh meat on the table. If you give the men a four minute headstart, I'm going to enjoy dropping all the boys I can. The miles mentally seemed to go by very quickly. I saw Tim heading back and he was near the lead. I got excited. I could tell from a mile away it was him. He was smiling. He's tougher than me. He has less time to train, the guys competition is deeper, and yet he doesn't whine or fuss like me. I yelled to him he was near the lead. He said I was the second female. I laughed and yelled I was third. Carolyn was in front and that girl with the race wheels and power tap had to be in front of me.

Maybe though Tim was right. Maybe I was in second. After the turn around on my way back I saw a cluster of three girls all with real race gear (not on a mountain bike, riding tri bikes with race wheels and aero helmets). The one in the rear looked the strongest and I knew I hadn't passed her. This meant she could be like me a slow swimmer, strong cyclist. She looked like she meant business. I know she was licking her lips as I was meat on the table. Now the race was on, these girls could push each other, in fact they could draft each other. I really didn't know what they could do but I needed to get busy. I needed to put time on my side, especially after the Solana Beach lipsticking incident. If any of these girls happened to be wearing lipstick and ran me down I don't know what would become of me. I might have to succumb to wearing lipstick while racing. Now the race was on.

I charged ahead and I guess you could say I made a friend. Not to be confused with drafting because I WAS NOT. I follow the rules: no side by side, no drafting, no blocking and no cheating. I don't even talk. No telling stories. Not even up the biggest climbs. I keep it to a wave, peace sign and a few words of encouragement but that it. My "friend" wanted to carry on a conversation. He alternated asking me questions, such as my history of triathlon entries, with giving me unsolicited advice. I would hurry and try to get ahead of him so I wouldn't get distracted, wouldn't have to be rude, and wouldn't break any rules but he would always catch up. Every down hill he would catch me and pass me. Hmm, I thought I was a decender. More on that later. I was trying to make a getaway from the girls. I realized I really had to visit mamma nature and possibly this was making me irritable or maybe I was a bit low on calories. I downed a gel and thought about executing the emptying of my bladder. My friend would resurface every time I thought was a good time to execute. I pedaled on and the miles flew by. He began to warn me about the really big climbs ahead. Yes, there were some climbs but compared to climbing Mt. Laguna and Great Western in one day it didn't seem bad. It just took a while. In fact this bike course took me longer than the one at Wildflower.

The bike was done and I navigated the wheelchair ramp upon my return to the park. We weren't allowed to run down the steps with our bikes. I headed in to T2 and headed out with a whole bunch of crap in my pockets. Don't know how this happened. Since I was wearing my Moment's Cycle Sport bike jersey I had plenty of room in the pockets.

I was really excited because this was favorite my run when I lived here. I have tons of miles logged on this path. I ran this trail before it was leveled and paved, when there were sandy washouts. I ran it in snowfall and rain and today turned out to be sunny and crisp. My favorite running conditions. I was at mile 1 when I realized my legs weren't tired at all. My toes were coming back to life but the bruised up toe had been iced sufficiently to feel no pain.
I ran for a while and still felt good. I passed a few guys but no women were in sight. I have lead my age group off the bike before but I have always been run down. I knew there would be women behind me who could run faster than me but I thought I would give holding my position a shot. I resisted the urge to look back. Miles passed and no females caught me. I wasn't sure how I was performing athletically today, my bike time was very slow for me. Maybe I was a bit of a slug today. I felt good so maybe it was a slow course. I decided to believe in the later. I noticed I hadn't seen any of the men returning yet.

Finally I saw the first male returning, then a little while later I saw Tim. I was so excited Tim was in second place. He looked great. I could tell he was so happy and I knew he wouldn't let anybody pass him. He yelled that I was in third. Cool I thought. I knew Carolyn was in first and it must have been the power tap girl in second. Fair enough. Then a little while later I saw my friend Jack. He yelled to me I was in second. Third? I yelled. No, second. A while later I saw the first female, then a bit after that I saw Carolyn. I wagered the first girl was in the relay. I couldn't catch Carolyn but I had enough to keep me motivated. I saw three girls not far behind at the turnaround. I thought they would catch me. I really didn't want them to. I knew Tim wouldn't be letting anybody run him down today. I wanted to do just as Tim was doing. I didn't want to be a party pooper so I ran as fast as I could. One lady passed me but she was in the relay. She had a ton of spring in her step and I tried to go with her but I decided relay people didn't count so I let her go. I could live with that. I tried to throw it down. I was in the final miles and nobody had caught me yet. Relay folks are great but I don't count them. It was so awesome to be racing on my former turf and to be successful.
1/2 mile from the finish I about collided with an elderly couple on bicycles. There was blind corner and when the volunteer yelled "racer coming through" she might as well have said "Unicorn Rider" coming through. I came to a screeching halt and somehow avoided collision. I had no time for an accident. I was being hunted. I ran into Bayfront Park and down the finish chute before anybody caught me.
My friend Maureen and her kids were there cheering as I ran in. Maureen's daughter couldn't wait to show me her pink bike and her pink helmet. She said it was warm and soft with fleece inside. The same one she uses for skiing :) Then she showed me how fast she could ride her bike before slamming on the brakes and halting. I saw Tim (changed and cleaned up already). He told the race director that he has done a few triathlons and this one was the most fun. The race director was so excited he announced that Tim did triathlons all the time and this one was the most fun.

After the race we bumped into the gentleman who had been riding near me. He offered me a lecture on aerodynamics 101. He even said I "needed" a lesson in aerodynamics. Who says that to somebody who didn't ask? He went on to tell me he almost ruined his race by starting the run with a 6 minute mile. Then he looked at me in all the seriousness and said he didn't even know if he could count it as a 1/2 Ironman finish because the swim was short. I about died trying not to laugh. Sorry sir, you can not have a 1/2 Mdot tattoo. Good thing I have connections with the founder of Sprintman. I am getting an S-dot tattoo.

Tim and I decided to hangout and celebrate seeing as we both got second overall in the race and won our division. I only won because Carolyn was so fast they kicked her out of my age division and crowned her the overall champion. That left the age group victory to me. Can't complain about that.


Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

nice work on your race! I think it was probably the prettiest race I've done.

tim said...

oops that was from me

Cindy said...

Great race report! I felt like I was there, watching and cheering you two along! The podium is a great place to be.

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

I LOVE your race reports!

Okay - CONGRATULATIONS!!!! You did a super job out there. Also (I told Stacey the same thing) - but never give up on catching someone ahead, even if they've been ahead or seem really fast. You just never know - and you are so talented and such a smart athlete that you can make it happen! YEA!

Had to laugh on the guy giving you pointers...holy cow! I feel the same way while racing - no conversations, especially with strangers? Holy cow!

And I have to agree - my favorite distance is the Half IM.... :) Awesome job again and CONGRATULATIONS on your win! Woo hoo!!!!

Scott said...

I just stumbled upon your blog post. The picture of you as a kid is great. I think its pretty sweet (and by sweet i mean awsome)that the plate on your bike says "Sweet Thunder", seems to sum you up pretty well.

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Ironman By Thirty said...

Great post! And great finish!

I'm doing Breakwater 2010 this year. I was up in Petoskey earlier this month and rode part of the course to familiarize myself with it. It is definitely going to be the hardest bike course I have ever raced on.

Thanks for the race report. It's always good to have this research ahead of time.