After a busy morning at work, I rolled out to pick up Jenny and make the three-hour drive to Hickory Corners, Mich. I booked us in the closest hotel to the start of this tri, which was a mistake. It looked like something straight out of Dexter. I would not recommend it.
So we went to the Ross Township park to check out Gull Lake, where I would be swimming the next day. We were told it was a wetsuit-legal (and recommended) swim, but the water was quite comfortable.
We set out all our gear and tried out best to sleep at the most expensive shit hole motel I've ever stayed in. At the crack of dawn, we donned our apparel, had a crappy continental breakfast appropriate for the setting
and drove the 10 minutes to Gull Lake.
Check in was easy as this was a bare-bones race. The Gull Lake Triathlon has a long history, but Race Director Jim resurrected it last year after it was on hiatus for 15 years. This year was the first Olympic-distance tri, but there was also a sprint, a duathlon, an aqua bike and a relay. Lots of events for everyone.
Jenny got my this ingenious Chawel thing-a-ma-bob that's a towel, neck roll, sleeping bag and changing tent. I wish I had it during the Ragnar Relay. Anyways, that and the bucket she gave me were the basis of my transition set up. Then, I donned my wetsuit with much effort and nervously headed to the beach.
Coming out of the water, I thought I was doing OK as I jogged up a steep embankment to transition, but Jenny told me I was one of the last to come out of the water. She thought I had hit the bathrooms. Meh.
I struggled to get my shoes on, but eventually made it out on the bike where I snacked on Luna bars and tried to sip water. I say try because I lost both water bottles in the first mile. I panicked a bit, then just tried to forget it.
The bike was tough. It was hill after hill (see the elevation map) and the pavement was pockmarked and cracked. My bum did not appreciate all the bumps and my parched mouth would have liked an aid station. There weren't any bathrooms anywhere, either, so it's a good thing my stomach cooperated. In the last five miles, I took a shot of straight Krema Peanut Butter. It was exactly what I needed in terms of fuel and a mental boost. Nom.
However, it was discouraging to see the sprinters taking everything back to their cars as I was coming in off the bike. I transitioned through a bit faster the second time and went out for an equally hilly 10K. The first half was tough as it felt entirely uphill. My stomach cramped a bit and I started to really worry about the lack of bathrooms, but it went away. There were a few water tables, but I was happy to have my handheld water bottle.
In this race, it was tough to tell how I was doing. There were no clocks, and because there were so many distances, it was tough to tell if I was at the front, middle or back of the pack. So I just kept trucking as fast as I could trot. The middle portion of the run was on a dirt road, which was not fun. I had tiny rocks in my shoes and I was annoyed. By the time I crossed the finish line, I was feeling strong and comfortable. This was a great boost to my ego because I felt like I could have kept going.
I jumped in the lake again to rinse off, then snagged breakfast at the end. It was French toast sticks, breakfast burritos and granola. It was just fine.
There weren't any unlocked bathrooms, and just six port-o-potties, so I decided to wait out changing.
We stayed for the award ceremony because we learned I got second in my age group! My overall time was 2:52 and I was a half an hour behind the top woman in my age group, but I feel great about how it all went. The medal was a bit disappointing, though. It's identical to the medal I got at the Reindeer Run 5K.
Overall, I think this was a nice community race. I wouldn't travel to it again because it's a big time and cost commitment to stay overnight somewhere. I also would have rather had a nicer medal than breakfast, but that's just me. The T-shirt was simple, but fits well, so that's a win for me.
Special thanks to Jenny for putting up with my terrible choice of hotel, questionable driving and endless pratter during the past 24 hours. Thanks for coming and taking all the photos!
Time: 2:52 overall (will add details when available), 2nd in my age group
Pros: Cheap, beautiful course, clear/clean swim course, not overcrowded at all, nice race shirt
Cons: No on-course bathrooms, no aid stations on the bike, no parking on site (it's a short walk away, though), no finishers' medals, very basic age group award medals.
Would I do this race again? It was a pretty course and a great day for me, but logistically difficult with living in Illinois.