My Steelhead 70.3 Race Report

I signed up for Steelhead 70.3 in Benton Harbor, MI as a training race for Ironman Wisconsin.  But hundreds of dollars later, it was kind of hard to take it as just a training race.  This was the real thing with a start line, finish line and results posted online.

The weekend started off early Friday morning meeting up a Starbucks.  Jason, Eric, John, Patty, Travis and I caravan-ed up to the race.  Packet pick up opened at noon and somewhere on the way, we realized that the race took place in the Eastern Time Zone and would not be early.  Lines had already formed by the time we made it there, so we had to stand and wait…  Immediately after we drove down to the race site to check our bikes in.

Holy Cow!  The transition area was huge.  It must have been over a 1/4 mile long.  My spot was probably a 1/3 of the way in.  I racked my bike and we headed out for dinner and good nights sleep.

4 am  came way too early.  We left the hotel by 5 so we could make it to transition to get set up.  A couple of steps into the parking lot and I felt some rain drops.  Immediately I checked the radar on my phone.  The green was coming, but we still had 3 and half hours til race time.  By the time we made it to the race parking lot and loaded the shuttle, it was pouring out.  I was thankful that I brought an umbrella.

The transition was a mess.  I put my cycling shoes in a grocery bag and tied it shut.  Then I put my running stuff in another bag, praying it would all stay dry.  My hope was for the rain to stop by the bike.

Once transition was set up we stood around and waited in line at the porta potties several times.  The transition area closed at 6:45, so you could not get back in.  My swim time was 8:28, and the swim start was a good 30 minute walk down the beach.  With 45-50 minutes to go we started the walk to the swim start.  When we got there, we checked out swim bags and realized that our group was already stage.  Jason and ran up to the start.  This meant no swim warm up. And we both had to pee, but we couldn’t get in the water.  I stood calmly in my wet suit and waited for a stream to reach my ankle.  With a minute to spare I had a peace of mind.  (BTW, Eric claims there are two types of people…  Those that pee in their wet suit, and those that lie about it.)

The swim was a 1.2 miles down the beach, about 100 yards off shore.  This was one of the easiest swims I have done.  The group had plenty of room, so there was no kicking and clobbering.  The swim seem longed.  Buoy after buoy, I kept waiting for the end.   Eventually  I turned and headed towards the beach. I swam until my knuckles dragged on the bottom then popped up and tried to run up the beach to the transition. Eric was just ahead of me coming out of the water, but he started in the wave 7 minutes behind me.   I was pleased with my time of 33:29.

The rain had stopped and it looked like it would be a good bike.  Once again I ran out just behind Eric. It took a couple of miles but I caught back up with him and didn’t see him again until mile 40 or so.  It was a good pick me up to finish the course with him.   I entered the transition in 2:27:17 averaging 22.8mph, feeling pretty good about starting the run.

Again I exited the transition with a Red Bull in hand with Eric just behind me.  About mile 2 Eric came running by me (He had stopped behind a porta potty.)  I had the worse stomach cramp in the world.  The more I ran the worse it go.  I tried to take the pain as long as possible, but I had to stop.  I jumped in the brush and tried to pee, thinking that might help. I was reduced to a slow jog.  Eventually it went away and I was able to start running again.

I went through a water stop and took some Gatorade and some Endurolytes.   I think the liquid actually made my stomach worse. So I tried to avoid taking anything in.  This was tough, it was getting hot, and I was getting thirsty.  I knew I couldn’t make it though if I didn’t take anything in.  I battled back and forth, watching my dream of sub 5 going down the drain.  Mile 10 came and I had calculated in my head I could still make it.  11, 12, one mile to go and I was reduced to a walk again.  My stomach was killing me.  I had given up.

I made it all the way to the crowds and did my best to compose myself and run strong the last 1/4 mile.  At that point all I could think about was taking in some fluids at the finish.

I was disappointed in myself, and didn’t know what my time was.  (I had the “auto pause” on, on my garmin, it will get you every time!)

It wasn’t til some time later that Patty was on the phone with Bagot, he was checking out times online.  4:59:23!  My mood immediately changed!  It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but it was the best I could have done with the circumstances.   So with all the walking I did, I was able to keep an average of 8:36 miles.

I think everyone had a really good day, at least until the Travis Shroll incident. (still alive and well!)

The rest of the night was spent eating and drinking with friends and celebrating our little victories.

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