Sunday, September 9, 2018

You Shoot Me Down, I Won't Fall...I AM TITANIUM. MiTi 140.6 Race Report

When I found out about Michigan Titanium (MiTi) I knew I wanted to race.  Race day would fall on August 19, 2018 - the day that would have been my dad's 65th birthday.  It was only a couple hours from my hometown, registration was very affordable, and there was prize money, now I just needed to figure out what race to do! One of the great things about MiTi is that almost any variation of triathlon is available to race - Triathlon, Duathlon, Aquabike - and all of those races are available at 3 different distances - Full Iron, Half Iron, and Olympic distance.  I knew my late season goal race of 2018 was going to be Ironman Chattanooga, I knew my heart wanted to race the full but I was weary that I might trash my legs before Chat.  I sat on it for a couple of weeks and decided to go for it, knowing that my history plays in my favor.  My 2nd full of the year, on the 2 occasions that I've done 2 in one year, have been my best executed fulls.  Also, MiTi was almost 2 years to the day of IM Mont Tremblant while IM Choo would be almost 2 years to the day of IM Maryland (the double I did in 2016 that got me a KQ).  And that was that - let's get on with this race report!

Andrew and I rolled into Grand Rapids Friday afternoon.  We got checked into the hotel, took some things inside and got ready to do a little shake out bike/run.  We actually had a nice loop near the hotel with minimal traffic that was perfect for a shake out ride.  I felt good, the cooler temps and lower humidity were very much appreciated.  Once we were done shaking out and feeling good we got cleaned up and headed into downtown GR with Mom and Gary for some dinner.   This is my first time since my first Ironman that I stayed in a hotel.  I usually prefer AirBnB during IM week so that I can cook my foods and keep my routine as close to normal as possible.  The hotel worked out great and wasn't too far from the race site or race check in at the YMCA.

We woke up and met up with the crew at Anna's House for BIG BREAKFAST.  If you're in Michigan and looking for a good breakfast I highly recommend this place.  They were perfect for big breakfast and for some lighter fare for those in our group who wouldn't be racing 140.6.  After breakfast we headed to the race site for the practice swim.  Water temp was announced at 78.0 and wetsuit legal.  I happily donned my wetsuit and went off to follow Andrew's feet.  I felt awesome, swam well, swam fast and was feeling confident for the following day.

Mid-Day we headed over to the YMCA for packet pickup.  The entire gymnasium was set up for the race - including the expo, packet pickup and a curtained off section for the athlete meetings.  Packet pickup seemed to start earlier than originally planned due to athletes arriving early and seemed a bit disorganized for the first bit (small thing but definitely noticeable in that the volunteers doing check in didn't have time to go over all that needed to be gone over - including giving full athlete's their transition bags).  Athlete meeting was good and actually "mandatory" in that you had to attend in order to get your blue athlete wrist band that allowed you access to transition in the AM.  After the meeting we checked out the expo portion, grabbed some sandwiches and headed back to the hotel.

Kara helped me pack my transition and special needs bags.  She's pretty much become a pro at it after helping and watching my do it over the years.  Once the bags were packed and bottles were full, Andrew and I went over to the race site to rack our bikes.   We were able to grab a close and easy parking spot, get the bikes rack, walk through transition and get outta there in time to drive the bike course before dinner.  Now, on paper, the bike course doesn't look bad.  3,500ish feet of climbing
over 112 miles.  Less climbing than on my usual Saturday long ride route and much less than Kona, Tremblant, Placid, etc.  There was talk of newly paved roads on the Facebook group.  The 3500 feet of climbing was spread out in such a way that I never really felt like I was on a flat.  I was either going up or down.  Sadly, the new pavement appeared to be new chip seal.  I guess this is better than torn up, pot hole covered concrete but I was hoping for fresh smooth black top.  Such is life, everyone would have to deal with it.

After driving the bike course we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner.  Met up with the entire crew for a pasta filled dinner before retiring for the night.

Usual morning routine - wake up, eat the traditional Apple Sauce, Banana, Osmo Protein Powder breakfast and down a bottle of Osmo Active.  Pulled the hydration bottles out of the fridge and distributed them to there proper bags, got the race day braid in the hair and hit the road.  We used the athlete parking lot and caught the shuttle to transition.  It was simple and easy and I'd definitely do that again. 

Once at transition I took my bike over to the mechanics to top off the tires with air, loaded her up with nutrition and hydration, and ran through the brakes/gears to make sure all was well.  Calibrated my power meter and made a couple obligatory port a potty stops before heading out of transition to chill on the bleachers near the finish line.  This was the most calm I've felt before a full - and I think with the contrast of my last full being Kona the difference was stark.  I was calm, I was at ease.  There was a buzz in the air and energy, but not a crazy-nervous-media-covered event type of energy. Nothing left to do but execute and see where the cards fall. 

Water temperature was announced at 78.0 again, and wetsuit legal.  I was thrilled and donned my wetsuit excitedly.  As the sky lightened and go time neared I made my way to the water after morning hugs and good luck wishes from my crew.

THE SWIM - 2.4 Miles - 1:23 (1st AG 30-34, 10th OA)
So much to say about this.  I position myself near the front, on the buoy line.  Confident I would be able to have a strong swim.  The water was calm, the buoys were easy to sight and I was feeling good.  I swam in a pack for most of the 1st loop and I was through the 1.2 mile mark on pace for my goal time (1:13).  Once we neared the orange turn buoy that marked the start of our 2nd lap it seemed
like people started swimming multiple directions.  Some straight towards the line of site buoys for the 2nd lap, some towards the finish and a couple of us towards the actual turn buoy.  As I started my 2nd lap I was still with 2 men that I'd been trying to swim with/near then a couple buoys in they were gone.  I made my way down and around and eventually to the back 1/2 of the 2nd loop.  I got too comfortable and super warm and slowed waaaaayyy down until a pack of people caught me a few hundred yards from the finish.  I pulled my head outta my bum and swam it in with them. 

Looking at this after the fact I would never wear my wetsuit in 78 degree water again for a full.  It was way too warm.  It dawned on me during my 2nd loop that I wouldn't be in a wetsuit if this were Ironman (and I shouldn't be in one now).  If I had to do this over I'd wear my speedsuit or even a pair of buoyancy shorts (that I don't own) but probably the perfect situation to wear those. 

T1 - 3:39 - (1st OA)
I utilized the wetsuit strippers before making my way into T1 to grab my gear bag and hit the change tent.  There was 1 female finishing up in the change tent as I came in, much more empty than I'd expected it to be given my not great swim time.  As I was departing a small group of women were headed in and I overheard them discussing the swim distance they got...2.7 miles!  Well at least I'll forget about my crappy swim time...

THE BIKE - 112 Miles - 5:24:38 (1st OA)
I was off on the bike and ready to get to work.  The skies were overcast, the temps ideal.  I dialed in my heart rate and power and started hydrating like a maniac to replenish fluids from the hot swim.  The first 10-12 miles were on a rolling, gradual uphill.  I was catching many people here including duathletes (started at 8am), aquabikers, and full triahletes and maybe even some Olympic Distance athletes.  Thankfully we were easily identifiable with tattooed markings on our calf for our race and different colored bike # stickers based on race.  About 20 miles in I had to pee - earlier than usual but ok, I guess I've replenished the fluid.  But then it never stopped - I was peeing every 20-30 minutes.  I backed off on hydration because it got uncomfortable and annoying to be going that much.   Out to the loop around so Western Michigan farmland before heading back in to complete the first loop of 56 miles.  The newly paved road turned out to be chip seal, which was fine, just annoying.  There weren't any real big climbs just more of a constant undulating up and down that never really allowed me to get into my rhythm completely.  As I was making my was back towards the turn around after coming off the loop I started picking off some more full triathletes.  At one point a spectator told me I was 2nd female.  I took his info with a grain of salt because I didn't know how closely he was paying attention to what races people were in, but either way I least this let me know I was near the front.  A few mile later I made the pass for first.  There apparently was an aquabiker or 2 still ahead of me, but not to worry about them.  They aren't in this for the long haul.  As I came in to the turn around and special needs I heard Rory and Kara cheering!  I made my usual quick stop at special needs to replenish my Osmo hydration bottles and restock my Honey Stinger waffle supply.  While I was refilling I heard Rory and Kara cheering and asking how I was feeling, I responded "Great!" and was off on my bike as I heard Kara tell me to go get the Thousand Bucks.   I then pondered what they would have done if my response would have been "shit" when they asked how I was feeling.  Haha, at least it kept me entertained for the next 20 miles or so.

Shortly after the turn as I was headed back out I saw Andrew headed in for the 1/2.  He was looking strong and smiling. Out on lap 2 I started to feel like my saddle had slipped down.  I was not feeling as powerful on the climbs and my hips just felt real low.  Nothing I could do about it so I focused on my posture and for and just kept at it. Then my heart rate started dropping.  I was eating, I was drinking (again) and my power was staying the same but down goes my HR.  Similar to what happened in 2016 at Mont Tremblant (also a race where I couldn't stop peeing and I was on my period for both of these races).  Granted Mont Tremblant had illness, bike mechanical, etc but nothing I did kept my HR up where it should be.  I decided not to worry about it since I was able to hold my power.  Around the loop, through the manure and through the aide stations, back past the old people cheering mid course and finally to the main road. As I made it to mile 84 I was mentally ready to be off the bike - I was no longer very comfortable due to the saddle and rough roads and we now had full sun.  Gone were the overcast skies and cool temps.  Things were heating up and quickly!  The temperature had gone from 70 at the beginning to 73 by 3.5 hours in to 80 by the 4 hour mark and 88 by the time I was dismounting my bike.  As I approached mile 110 there weren't anymore cyclists in sight - behind me, in front, etc.  I was alone and just working to bring this thing in and run.  I saw to motorcyclists sitting off in a driveway on the left side of the road.  They pulled out in front of me which I thought was weird since I was literally the only one in sight - vehicle or bike!  One moto was wear a rider instructor shirt and the others shirt said something about a motorcycle school on the back.  I figured they were just out for a lesson and enjoying the otherwise low trafficed roads.  They seemed to slow up and I was figuring out how I was going to pass them if need be - they were riding
side by side - is there room on the shoulder for me to pass right? But passing right seems wrong, but to pass left puts me almost on the double yellow.  I saw one guy looking his mirror and gradually speeding up to match my speed.  As we approached the road closed section he gave me a hand motion to move left and this is when I realized - "Oh they're part of the race and escorting me back to T2 because I'm in the lead! Sweet".  We made the left hand turn onto the main drag and I saw my mom and one of my sweet best friends jumping up and down and screaming as I came in with my moto escort. 

T2 - 1:50 (1st OA)
I quick run in after my flying dismount and handed the bike off as a volunteer grabbed my T2 bag off the rack for me.  I changed my shoes, switched out my helmet for a visor,  snapped on my race belt downed some water and got some ice before heading outta there.

THE RUN - 26.2 Miles - 4:11:12 (1st OA)
As I made the turn out of the park and onto the main road my lead bike escort joined me - not a moto this time, just a normal bike.  I had convinced my brother to volunteer for this role a couple weeks before the race, so yes my bike escort just so happened to be my brother.  The energy was contagious and I felt awesome starting out on the run.  Andrew was there and let me know what he thought my lead was on 2nd place.  I tried to settle down and take water and ice at every aid station and keep with my fueling plan.  The run course was  out and backs or "laps" as I'll call them.  The first lap was fun, I was picking off a ton of half athletes, and enjoying having a bike escort.  The back half of the lap was shaded which was much appreciated.  There were some wild and crazy fans about midway down on the lap.  The aid station volunteers were attentive and helpful in giving me what I needed as I called it out while approaching the station.  The long part of each lap was more rolling than I'd expected.  The course map made it look like we'd be along the water which I thought would be flat, haha, we weren't quite and never had a view of the water.  We made our way back toward the park and around the turn around cone where my crew was cheering and ready to give me more info.  My lead was growing and I was looking solid, or so they said.  I had the opportunity to get into my special needs bag at this
time but chose to make myself only access it 1x (near the 13.1 mile mark) to better simulate Ironman.  I still felt good during lap 2 - continued with ice and water and started taking soda at every aid station.  The course now had more full athletes on it and some 1/2 athletes still out there.  I was able to get a glimpse of the women in 2nd and 3rd and cheer them on during the out and back.  As we made our way back to the turn around cone near the park I let my bike lead know I was stopping at Special Needs.  I had the info that my lead had continued to grow and knew I had time to grab my refill of chews and a small bottle of Osmo mix.  I attempted to grab some cold water from the special needs table on my way out...unfortunately it wasn't water.  It was luke warm pickle juice.  I promptly spit it all back out and said "what the f*ck was that?" as I ran off.  Lap 3, not feeling as awesome, legs felt more like I was at mile 20 than 13.  Just kept my head in it and kept on moving forward but knew that I didn't need to dig deep as those behind me were slowing even more.  I also knew I had to do this again in Chattanooga 5 weeks later.  88 degrees was hot for a marathon especially after 112 on the bike.  As I made my way back toward the park to make my final turn around for lap 4 I was excited but also ready to be done!  Now that the 1/2 athletes were off the course the crowds were thinning out a bit.  I made my way down the long stretch of road and got another glimpse of 2nd place...I was putting in huge time still and decided at mile 22 to just use a port a potty and be comfortable for the last bit.  I was also feeling horrible for how slowly my brother was having to ride a bike, hahaha.  AS we got to mile 25 the two motos joined us for the final 1.2.  OMG I though they were going to tip over trying to ride slow enough to escort me.  As was made the final right turn back onto the main road that led to the park I started to let myself believe it.  I was going to break the tape, I'd thought about it, I wanted it, I'd even dreamt about it, but 140.6 is a long way to go and it seldom goes perfectly.  The moto's peeled off, my bike escort peeled off and I made the final right hand turn into the park and had the finish chute all to myself.

FINISH TIME - 11:05:10 (1st OA)

It wasn't a PR and it wasn't what I know I'm capable of but given the conditions of the day it was a great day.  Overall I loved the experience at MiTi and if it fits into my schedule in the future I will likely go back.  Like I said earlier, given the conditions I would never choose to wear a wetsuit in 78 degree water again.  I also think being prepared for what the bike course consists of (and not having a slipping seat post) would be a huge advantage for this course.  Just knowing times will be slower than a smooth 112 across the board.   Having the opportunity, as an amateur, to have lead motos, a bike escort, break the tape and take home money is rare these days.  All of the event staff were great and communicative and working with much less man power than the big brand.  Given that, I'd say they manage to pull of a great day.  One of my biggest suggestions would be to have a proper awards ceremony in the evening.  As the top overall females we had to find each other and help ourselves to the podium for pictures.  When my crew asked if they were going to do awards they said no, just go to the awards table and collect your award.  Thankfully, the other 2 ladies were hanging around and once we all approached the podium the man in charge of awards did a small announcement/ceremony for us. 

Thank you to everyone who made this race and journey possible.  Thank you most of all to my amazing family and friends that were there to cheer me in person and from afar.  Thank you to DC Triathlon Club, The DC Tri Club Elite Team and all of our sponsors including TaveKaan, Louis Garneau, District Taco, Osmo Hydration, Honey Stinger, Rudy Project, xx2i optics, Xterra Wetsuits and to SBR Sports Inc, AltRed, and Rose Physical Therapy Group.  Huge thank you's to Fuel Your Passion Coaching and to Andrew who raced a phenomanal 70.3 and then was the best sherpa, info relayer, stuff gatherer, and support man ever.