This weekend, Adam and I ventured in my new wheels to Chisago City, Minnesota, where we aspired to knock down a second half ironman before the Big Race in September. We left Saturday morning and took the scenic drive from Houghton through Hayward, Wisconsin.
See the sparkle? Isn’t she a beaut? 😉
After a long lunch at ‘Za, we headed over to Paradise Park for packet pickup and to get our feet wet in the lake. We then headed out to Lindstrom (only three miles away!) and checked into the motel.
Our motel was slightly seedy, but it had a bed, a roof, and a toilet (and a $50/night fee), so we weren’t complaining. We stopped at a local grocery store for snacks and relaxed with some air conditioning and Harry Potter in the room. After eating a whole bag of ginger snaps and taking a very half-assed nap (I couldn’t stop jerking myself awake!), we went for a run around the town of Lindstrom to get the junk out of our legs. We returned to our formerly vegetative state of watching television and laying around, eating sandwiches, and staying hydrated.
We made for an early bedtime (maybe 9pm?), and woke up at 4am. I ate a few handfuls of peanut butter puffs and packed my transition bag. I strapped a plastic baggie to my water bottle and filled it with Honey Stinger chews (the Chew Strategy), sealing it off with a hair tie so that the chews wouldn’t fall out. This proved to be beneficial in two ways, explained later. We then threw our bags in the car and headed back to Paradise Park.
We arrived just before 5, so we got a great parking spot near the race start and staging area. We put our wheels on our bikes and pumped the air in the tires, and headed over to transition. It was also nice getting there so early because we found our bike spots without a cluster of other bikes around, and it was easy to get our transition area set up.
We lingered around the transition area until it was time to clear, pulled on our wetsuits and headed to the beach. The race start was great. The water was still as warm as the day before, but the air was cooler, so I had a bit of a chill before we got into the water. It was exciting to be there, because there were some fast racers there (Dave Thompson; Marlo Mcgaver; Julie Hull). The waves went off in 2min intervals and there wasn’t any rhyme or reason to the placement- I think it was based on who registered first- except for the first wave that contained the Elite level. We waded into knee deep water and headed out in wave 8, 14 minutes behind the first group.
The swim went by fast. It seems to not take too long to get to the last buoy, but getting back to the beach seemed to drag on a little more. I also noticed that I wasn’t necessarily swimming in a straight line, moreso just wiggling, and I tried to stay focused and swim straight, digging my arms deep out in front, and keeping the buoys at the right distance away. I also got into a good rhythm with another swimmer, and saw her feet for two-thirds of the swim. Then, I felt my swim cap starting to pull away from my forehead. I felt my head, and my hair was exposed, and it kept peeling and peeling away… so I finally just pulled it off. I thought it would have helped to hold on to it, but it just filled with water and weighed me down and slipped out of my hand. Oops!
When I saw the balloons at the beach, I thought I was close, but no matter how many strokes I took, the balloons stayed the same distance away. So I finally just put my head down, swam hard for several strokes, then spotted, and before I knew it, I was swimming past people that were wading out of the water. Sweet!
I stood up and dashed across the beach, peeled off my suit from my shoulders and headed up the hill to the transition area. I spotted my bike area, because someone near me was clever enough to have a balloon near their bike. I pulled off the rest of my suit and threw on my bike shoes and helmet. I raced out of T1 and was on my way to a great day on the bike.
The Chew Strategy ended up being a great move, as it was the only solid aid I took for the whole bike, and it was easy to eat and access. It also had that hair tie wrapped around the top, and since I lost my cap during the swim, I also lost the hairtie. BONUS!
The bike course was fast. It started on the same course as the sprint triathlon, so it was a bit crowded. Adam went by me somewhere around mile 10, I think. Once the sprinters peeled off, the field spread out, and I went into the 20mile straightaway with a good headwind and no one to stop me. The straightaway was deceiving, though, because the road was new and one of those uphills that you don’t see but know is there. I was hammering away, and couldn’t touch 20mph. I kept flying past people, though, and my adductors would ache. I would change my riding style and use more of my quads, and my legs would get relief.
When we finally turned off the straightaway at around mile 30, I put the hammer down. I hit some higher speeds thanks to the gradual downhill grade, and continued to pass people. One guy was a little less excited to be getting overtaken than the others. He would resume the pursuit position on the few slight uphills we had, and I’d fly past him. He’d overtake me on the downhills as if I had done something wrong, and once overtaken, I’d ease up to give him room. But we kept running into these slight uphill grades, and I kept catching back up to him. Finally, I went into a higher gear and got him out of my sights. We started to bottleneck around mile 45, and it was particularly interesting when a car decided to drive in the lane that the race was using. I would have enjoyed drafting off this vehicle, but they were going slower than the speed I wanted to go, only I couldn’t pass them because the shoulder was narrow and gravely. Finally, the course turned and I threw down a hard five miles. I tried to not enter T2 after a hard push, so I eased up and cruised into the transition area. I was surprised to see Adam by his bike as I made my way to rack mine. Wasn’t he much farther ahead of me on the bike?
The run started out fast. I ran a mile or two with a guy from Iowa I had passed back and forth on the bike. I couldn’t really control my legs, though, and let them go. I started counting the women that passed me on their way back to the finish area, and they were looking strong. Ten, twelve, fourteen ladies went by, and then I turned to the loop-around at mile 6. When I hit mile 7, the guy from Iowa caught back up to me and we ran a few miles together at 7:38min/mile pace. I was surprised to see Adam on his way out, because I thought he was ahead of me on the run. He started feeling better than me, and took off. I was glad that I took a flask with me on the run, because some of the aid stations were more than a mile apart, and it was a hot day! I started feeling not-so-excited to be running around mile 11, and just kept moving forward to the finish line. When I came into the finish area, I had a huge smile on my face when I saw the time. 5:06… which was really a 4:52 (subtracting the 14min start delay). SWEET! I broke 5hours!
After I crossed the line, I grabbed some grub and waited for Adam to come in. He crossed under his goal time, and crushed his previous time by over 30minutes! We waded in the water for a quasi-ice-bath, and then I went to watch the awards. I printed out the result from the finish line computer, and I had finished 13th overall, 3rd in my age group. I couldn’t really believe it. Not too shabby. I got a really beautiful Swedish glass trophy, and then Adam and I took off back to Houghton.
Thanks to Kenny G. for the great race-day photos. I could hear him cheering me on through T2 as well. Kenny, you rock! John M Cooper Photography is also credited for some great race-day photography (watermarked images).