Monday, September 23, 2019

Making Magic Happen - Traverse City 70.3 Race Report

In summer of 2018 the rumors began and the official announcement was eventually made that there would indeed be an Ironman 70.3 Traverse City.  I'd been going up to the Traverse City area pretty regularly ever since I was very young, with my family.  In the beginning it was most often for a winter ski trip, then as we got older we also started going in the summer and as we became more familiar with triathlon we always thought how cool it would be to have an Ironman event in Traverse City.  So naturally, I registered for the event pretty much as soon as I got the email for priority registration.  Little did I know I would be moving to Hawaii in the summer of 2019, I briefly considered getting a refund or transferring my registration, but that was just a fleeting thought as I knew in my heart I wanted to in Michigan for the Inaugural Ironman Traverse City 70.3.

The transition to living in Hawaii went about as smoothly as it could have.  I headed out just a couple weeks after Ironman Ireland and began laying down the miles on the island.  It took a bit of time for my body and my heart rate to get used to the conditions but everything fell into place.  I put in some big weeks and some big workouts (Kona prep) en route to TC 70.3 and was heading into Traverse feeling confident in my training (albeit slightly exhausted).

Logistically, traveling to northern Michigan from Hawaii wasn't too difficult, it just takes time.  It you're good at sleeping on a red eye it definitely makes the time pass more easily!  Overall my travel went smoothly and no bike fee (thanks American Airlines!).

We arrived in Traverse City on Thursday afternoon and checked into our condo at the Traverse City State Hospital.  The old insane asylum has been renovated into shops and restaurants on the ground floor and condos on the floors above.  We had a great 3 bedroom condo with large chef's kitchen and plenty of space for 4 of us and all the triathlon things.  We enjoyed Thursday evening walking around downtown and grabbing dinner at The Blue Tractor.

Friday morning, Rory and I woke up early to hit Lake Michigan for a practice swim.  It was perfect, water was like glass, nice temperature (wetsuit legal, but fine without a wetsuit), and clear.  After a short swim we headed back for breakfast and to drive the bike course.  After returning I headed out to do a shake out ride on the first few miles of the course - mainly to check out the climb we'd be hitting in the first 3 miles.  It was long, but nothing too steep and the cool temperatures made it quite pleasant!  We did some more race things Friday - like checkin/packet pickup and the underpants run!

Saturday was the regular big breakfast - at The Omelette Shop and then picking up Andrew from the Traverse City Airport before bike racking, pre race briefing and go over race day logistics with the sherpa crew.  We put our chef's kitchen to good use and even use the pot filler to help us make our pre race dinner.

Up early with applesauce, banana, protein powder and osmo for breakfast.  I gathered my things and Mom, Gary, Andrew and I headed out in the car for transition. Rory slept in a bit and walked up to swim start in the morning.  We found a great street parking spot (free) and began walking the couple blocks to transition.  Traverse City Tourism had their building open with heated restrooms so we stopped there just across the street from transition.  I barely had finished my business when I bolted out of the stall to tell Andrew he had to go back - I had forgotten all of my bottles (I haven't pulled this stunt since my first Ironman in 2012).  Thankfully Andrew and Gary headed back to get the bottles (pre made in the fridge) while mom and I hung out in the heated building for a bit.  It all worked out and I went to get my bike set up and when I was just about done they had returned with the bottles.  We then headed over to the Infinite Mulitsport Club (mom's tri club) team tent to stash my bag and get my wetsuit on.

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 37:48 - 26th
I lined up with the 35-37 minute group and we were swiftly moving toward the water once the age group race started.  I hit the water with a few dolphin dives and got into a good rhythm rather quickly.  I felt great, was sighting well and passing some people while maintaining a draft for most of the swim.  It took doing the North Shore Swim Series in Hawaii for me to appreciate the buoys and course markings Ironman uses for the swim course.  It is so wonderful seeing right where you need to go and knowing pretty much exactly where you are on the course (the NSSS used like 2-3 buoys for a 2.5 mile swim).   After hitting the 2nd turn buoy I was trying to pick up the pace to the finish but made a small sighting error that took me off course just a bit (I maybe lost 30s-1min).  I exited the water feeling good and ready to hit the bike course.

T1 - 3:21
I utilized the wetsuit strippers and then headed under the pedestrian tunnel to my bike.  A quick pause to put shoes and helmet on before grabbing Rinster and hitting the bike course.

THE BIKE - 56 Miles - 2:37:23 - 1st AG (1st Amateur)
This bike course had pristine pavement for 55 of the 56 miles.  I'm talking fresh, smooth, blacktop.  It
was lovely.  This bike course also had a 3 mile climb in the first 5 miles followed by rollers, that by car appeared to be such that I could likely carry momentum through them (similar to Chattanooga) and have a freakin glorious ride.  Well let me tell you, these rollers were mostly momentum killers.  lots of climbing, lots of pushing the descents.  About 15 miles in I caught a man (here we go again) that tried to hop on my wheel.  He'd hop on for a few minutes then pass me in which he's almost immediately slow down and I'd have to repass  (FYI to the dudes, the reason it feels easy on my wheel is because you're drafting and saving 30% of your energy).  I somewhat politely asked him to either drop back or go, but don't stay with me.  He told me we were riding the same speed, after which I broke it to him I caught him from significantly further back and I'd appreciate it if he didn't mess with my race.  He went away eventually (saw him on the run course where he made a comment of oh there's my DC Tri Friend, yup here I am, now 4 miles ahead of you, hiiiiii!). 

We made the turn up M22 and then back right to start heading back towards Traverse City...holy headwind batman! Thankfully pretty much every long ride I do in Hawaii the 2nd half is into a fairly strong headwind.  So I put my head down and focused on the power.  I was thankful for the short out and back for a brief relief from the wind.  The short out and back (maybe 2-3 miles out, then back to the main road) had a U-turn at the end of it.  I went into the U-turn following one man with a man I had passed about a 1/2 mile back behind me.  I took the turn carefully and was waiting for the straight away to pass the man in front of me - oh well the man behind us had other plans.  Without any vocalization he cut inside on the apex of the U-turn and then swung out, cutting me off and running me towards the gravel shoulder in the process.  Yes, I vocalized my displeasure.  He apologized and said he owed me a beer as I rode off, I never saw him again.  I dug in finished out the ride with an effort I was happy with, but I wasn't sure about the time.  With this being a new course, and thinking it'd ride more like Choo I was thinking I'd ride in the 2:25-2:27 range.  I kept reminding myself, if I'm riding a 2:37, everyone else is likely riding slower.  Just keep on it.  The last couple miles bring you down a nice descent and then a flat mile of a bit rougher pavement into transition. 

T2 - 1:48
Nothing special here, except that there was such a quick lead in after our last turn to the dismount line that I didn't yet have my feet out of my shoes on the bike, so I rant into T2 with shoes on.  Not my usual MO, but it worked and thankfully I had a VERY short run to my bike rack.  Helmet off, visor, sunglasses and sock/shoes and race belt on. 

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 1:40:21 - 2nd AG
I hit the run course and had a bit of difficulty getting my last Alt Red out of the little torpedo it was
stored in.  After shaking that around and hitting it against my leg enough it finally came loose and I could stop looking like a complete weirdo.  I saw Andrew and my mom shortly into the run course and heard Andrew tell my I was 3rd and the girl in front of me was actually behind me by 2 minutes.  I wasn't quite sure he he was telling me I was 3rd overall or 3rd age group, so I figured he must mean age group.  I went out a bit fast for the first mile, but was able to reign it in and settle into a solid pace.  The course had a couple hills along Boardman Lake, but those were over powered by the sheer amount of energy from the spectators all over the run course.  After my first trip along the lake I saw Andrew and Rory again, this was where Andrew told me I was 3rd overall.  This was also where I was starting to feel less than awesome.  Hearing that I was 3rd overall lit a fire under my bum and I got to work.  A short jaunt on the road to the turn around and then back up to the lake to do the horseshoe on the path.  I got some caffeine in me and when I passed my Andrew and Rory around mile 10.5 I knew I was still 3rd overall and Andrew asked my to drop the pace by 20s.  Holy crap, I thought, ok we've done this on my long training runs.  I can do this, just get to work. I caught back up with a man who had passed me shortly before and ran on his hip up to the top of the last hill and final U turn before passing him for good.  One man, around mile 11, wasn't happy with my passing him and even vocalized that I shouldn't pass so close - we're running dude, on a narrow path, with 2 way traffic in a race with 2500+ athletes, I'm not about to expend a bunch of extra energy, it's be easier to get around you if you'd just move to one side or the other.

The final leg back to town was fun, paved and a shaded road lined with spectators.  I saw Andrew one more time and heard him say I had opened up the gap to 4th overall a little bit more.  I was feeling good pushing the pace and held it down all the way to the line.  It was so much fun getting to see so many friends, both old and new, along the race course.  Friends I met in DC, friends from high school, athletes of mine, etc etc and of course having my family all over the course.  I crossed the line thinking I had finished 3rd overall and 2nd age group.

The finish line is right downtown in front of the state theater and had a ton of crowd support.  I was pretty tanked when I got there so the volunteers brought me a chair and gave me a cold water
shower.  My Mom and Gary were there, Rory was there and Andrew got there shortly after.  We celebrated the 3rd overall finish and I even told Andrew that I was impressed with how fast my age group winner ran (she ended up 2nd in the AG).  We shared some race stories with other IMTC finishers that had finished near me before making our way back to the village for food and massages.  After food and massages and wiping down with some baby wipes before putting on clean clothes Andrew and I made our way back toward Ironman Village for awards and 70.3 Worlds slots.  It was then that Andrew said something about me winning my age group, I was like Whhhatttt!?  He said, "yeah you were 1st AG, 3rd overall amateur".  Oh my, that's a fun surprise!  He and I chatted a bit about what that meant and if I'd be taking a slot to Taupo for 2020 70.3 Worlds.

I did not go into this race intending to race for top 3 overall.  I had told Andrew the night before that if I was in the top 5-6 overall off the bike to let me know, otherwise I just want to race for the age group win.  It turns out the bike course at Traverse City was much more difficult than anyone really expected, which likely helped me immensely.   I also pushed myself harder in this race than I have ever pushed in a 70.3 and dug into a place on the run that I can only hope to dig into more often, which was evidenced by the level of soreness I experienced the couple days after!

There's always things we learn from every race experience and this was no different.  I wasn't unhappy with my swim, I'm working to get that down to a solid 34 consistently (and lower from there).  I think the biggest thing this year is that my swimming was consistent across my 70.3s, in past years it's been all over the board, so at least there's that.  We'll keep working - developing that catch, drafting every chance I get, and enjoying the process. 

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