|It's hard to believe I could have forgotten anything|
This weekend was damn near perfect for me. In spite of some mix ups and a few short comings, it was an ideal day.
So let's start at the beginning - I heard about the Festival of Races by 3Disciplines in East Tawas earlier in the summer and decided after feeling great after my first 70.3 that I could do better. I chose this race because of its location near my parents' home in Michigan. I've been to East Tawas many times, but not in at least 10 years. I knew this was a smaller race and from the race recaps, I thought I could rock this.
So I took Thursday and Friday off of work and made this six-hour drive (kombucha in hand) Thursday to meet my parents at their house there. They've renovated the house extensively and the town has changed a lot, so it was nice to see it all. I went out for a short bike ride Thursday night to check out my bike after its tune up, then went to bed early. My mom made me lots of bland little snacks and meals that fit into my pre-race routine and we had a dinner of chicken and mushrooms with baked potatoes. She also made me boiled eggs and bought grapes for me to munch on. I slept well, then went out for a three-mile jog Friday morning before stretching on my parents' new deck. It was lovely and perfect.
|Hydrating and meditating|
After lunch, napping and more stretching, my dad and I made our second trip to Tawas to pick up my packet and get all the details worked out. I forgot to take a picture of the packet, but there wasn't much to see - a race number, a timing chip, a bunch of Hammer samples and some Hammer pamphlets. I was supposed to get a T-shirt and racing singlet, but I guess they didn't make it in time and we'll get them in the mail. I also got my body marking and attended the Multisport 101 meeting, but realized it was for the true beginner and left after a bee crawled into my dress and stung me on my thigh. My dad and I also had to stop to get Pam because I left the fancy wetsuit lube at home. Sigh. We went home for another tummy-friendly meal made by 1/2 of my race-support crew. I laid out and packed up all my stuff and headed to bed early to visualize my race and rest up.
The whole household was up at 5 Saturday and I had a plain bagel with peanut butter, salt and banana with a side of coffee. I put on copious sunscreen and my tri suit and we headed to Tawas at 5:45. We parked just feet away from transition (for free) and started unloading. My mom found a bench right next to my bike where she could catch me after the swim. First thing I did differently - I marked my bike area with chalk so I could find it. The transition area was set up ITU style down the middle of downtown Tawas with long rows. The half got one row, the sprint another and the Olympic a final rack with numbered spots for each bike, which I noticed some athletes summarily ignored. Cheaters.
First turn of events - a storm was predicted to roll in, so instead of the laid out course I swam the day before, they moved the swim into the harbor and went with a time-trial start. This was a first for me, but I think worked in my advantage. The water in the harbor was smooth as glass and we basically lined up by our predicted finish, then went into the water one at a time about every 15 seconds. I got suited up and took a practice swim, then lined up by the 40-minute mark.
Second turn of events - my goggles snapped right as I was supposed to go into the water. I tied them off, took a deep breath and got my butt into the water.
I felt like I had the swim of my life. I was passing people and just gliding along. My dad walked around the harbor following me, and he wore red so I could easily spot him. I repeated to myself "Glide, glide, flow, flow, skinny boat, go, go." Stupid, but it worked for me.
I came out of the water and had no idea what time I did, but was disappointed to hear I was 40 minutes into the race (only 1 minute off of my Racine time). I made the loong jog back to my bike, which was probably 1/4 mile away up the beach, across a state highway and into downtown. I saw my mom and the chalk marks and told her it was going well. Another thing I did differently - applied sunscreen. My sunburn after Racine was ridiculous, so I also toted a spray bottle on my bike to reapply during my time out there.
Third turn of events - it was starting to rain while I was in T1. I got onto my bike and started to head out of town as the rain really started to come down. I took my sports goggles with me, but didn't need them at the time. I tucked them into my tri top and started to pedal.
Fourth turn of events - I dropped my glasses. I was maybe a mile in, but they were gone.
I picked up a bottle of Heed at one of the aid stations and pitched my fancy water bottle at my dad, also known as the best race sherpa ever - he loaded my stuff, helped me with the course, took me back and forth to Tawas several times and waited around with me for hours during this weekend.
Anyhow, the rain cleared up on my way back into town and I made it into transition just as my parents rolled back into town. Everything I laid out was completely soaked, but I changed my socks and shoes, added a hat and race belt and headed out on the run.
And it rained big time at this point. I don't know if it was the rain or pushing it on the bike, but I lost steam on the run. I kept thinking about Fort2Base where I experienced flow and felt like I could keep going forever. I'm not sure what changed, but I never got into the groove. My miles got longer and longer. The rain kept coming down and then, the rain stopped and it got hot. The run course was an out and back twice, so it was mentally tough to go back out on that second loop. There were some great spectators (THANK YOU) out there cheering and yelling in spite of experiencing every season in a single afternoon. There were three aid stations, but they weren't very well-stocked and the kids running the stations seemed only mildly interested in being there. One girl told me that it was hot just standing there and she wasn't sure how we were out running.
The race was relatively small - there were nine separate races and a total of 500 athletes, but just more than 100 doing the half Iron distance. So eventually, it started to feel pretty lonely. As the rain came down, I felt like I was the only person left on the course, especially as the aid stations got less stocked and eventually tore down. Despite there being a ton of bikes still in transition when I left, I felt like I was a lone wolf several times in this race.
As I finally hit the finisher's chute, I saw my mom there cheering and it really got me choked up - my parents spent their whole weekend chasing me down all over the backwoods of Michigan through the rain and the heat. I hit the finisher's arch and the time said 6:03. I didn't realize my dad was taking a video, but I'm not sure how I missed him because he was the only person there. It was a ghost town. I asked him if I made my sub-6 time goal, but it was tough to tell with the time-trial start. A volunteer gave me my medal and took my timing chip and then I went to the finisher's tent.
There was watermelon, peanut butter crackers, chips, Heed, water and a few Pepsi products. Not enough for my appetite, but my mom packed me a lunch for after the finish. We knew there wouldn't be much there because instead of having a finisher's party and awards right after the race, they string out the day and have it in the evening. We planned accordingly. I also got my finisher's sweatshirt, which was pretty nice. The medals, however, were the same for everyone and a little cheap looking.
|Finisher's medal on the left, First place age group medal on the right|
We loaded up the car and the final times were not available, but I was fairly confident I got an age-group award, so we decided to come back in the evening. We headed back to the house for showers, snacks and a family-sized Iron nap.
My dad and I went back to Tawas for the awards and to get my official time. I had mixed emotions when my dad told me I clocked a 6:02:05. It's a 12-minute PR and scored me an age-group win with minutes to spare between the next competitor, but it was painfully close to my time goal. I wonder if I would have made it if I got out of my wetsuit faster or didn't take the bathroom break.
My dad and I skipped the post-race dinner, mostly because they charged non-race participants $15 a head for a dinner catered by Boston Market and we were expecting family over that evening anyways. The race company held a massive raffle and I scored a canister of Heed in the process, but the awards ceremony took forever. It was 8 p.m. before we headed home, which is a long day for everyone.
Overall, I would say this race is well-organized and the bike course was breathtakingly beautiful. It is a bit difficult to get to this race and I heard grumblings that the swim course was long, which would explain why I felt like I was having such a great swim but got nearly the same time. The age group medals were nice, but the finisher's medals were a bit standard. I like the sweatshirt and look forward to getting my race singlet and shirt. This is a great community event, but I don't think the half is designed for first-timers at that distance.
|My regular medal model was unavailable|
This is my cousin Bryce
I may not have made my time goal, but I did achieve several race goals, such as not getting burned to a crisp, running the whole half marathon, using my aerobars and having a productive swim. I'll always take an age-group win, too.
Time: 6:02:05 (Swim: 40:06, T1 4:17, Bike 3:10:52, T2 2:18, Run 2:04:31)
Pros: Slightly cheaper than an Ironman-branded race, more giveaway items (in theory, haven't received them all yet), a community-feel race, ITU-style transition, memorable bike course, plenty of free parking, easy for spectators to navigate, highly organized operation
Cons: I don't like splitting up the post-race party, and there wasn't enough food at the finish. There also weren't a ton of bathrooms on the course (1 on the bike, 3 on the run, 6 in transition), the run from the swim to transition was long and slippery in the rain, some of the volunteers didn't really want to be there, the aid stations ran out of a few items and they were tearing down the aid stations before the majority of the half athletes finished, I heard some people say the swim was long
Would I do this race again? Yes - I have free nearby accommodations and know what to expect now