Looking at the weather report and its small craft advisor, rip current warning, and 20-30mph winds, Alaina and I were damn sure this was going to be a du, especially since she did the race in ‘08 when the swim was also canceled under similar conditions. Sure enough, as we biked from the parking lot to transition and saw Lake Michigan looking like an episode of Deadliest Catch, the swim was called off. Instead we did a TT start on the bike in bib # order. That’s a lot of waiting around. There was more anxious boredom than a high school chemistry class.
In transition, we met a couple who lives around the corner from us in Ann Arbor because my nutso wife who talks to EVERYONE recognized them from the bus she takes to work. For such a big race (2000+ registered) it was cool to get a little of the local feel too.
Nutrition wise I’ve had good luck eating less before training/racing, so I went with just a bowl of cereal and an Ensure -- if it works for grampa it’ll work for me. My stomach was felt super smashing, no firecrackers at all, and soon enough we were off.
As we were sent off 2-by-2 there was some crowding right at the start with the Guns of Navarone dudes cranking out some brownout type wattage up the first and only hill on the course. I tried to keep my instinct to chase in check and race my race. I targeted 210w as a steady goal, but my wheels were ready for takeoff and I kept looking down to see 220-230 and reminded myself to save it for the run.
The streets were jammed with riders all over the road as is typical for a WTC event, with some people riding all the way left when they should’ve been hugging the white line. Kept my head on a swivel and got on my bullhorn ‘on your left’ when making a close pass and it was all good. Winds were 10-15mph headwind and crosswind for the first half of the course, so I took advantage of legal drafting by riding up behind riders, checking left, then passing them within 20 seconds. As long as you were on the gas the entire time, you could ride this course legally, but you had to make an effort to do so, and many did not.
Around mile 25 this one guy from my AG passed me and I was all, ‘heck yeah, nice ride’ in my head until the guy on his wheel passed me right after, and the guy on his wheel passed me, and I realized that all these guys I’d passed about five miles ago from my AG were riding a 25mph paceline so streamlined that it made Garmin-Cervelo look like a sloppy pack of Cat-4 riders. And for one second, I thought, WTF, if all these guys are going to be on the run with fresh legs and I haven’t seen a single race official, then what’s the point in riding hard by myself, losing time to these guys and running on tired legs? Do I have to cheat to place well in a WTC race? Oh hell no, I’m not doing that. But sure enough, all the names I recognized from the paceline were in the top-10 in my AG. Cheaters suck.
The rest of the ride was a laugh and a half. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having on solid legs and no stomach issues. Take that, Musselman disasterace! And when we finally started heading south on Blue Star Highway with its wide shoulder and glassy roads, not to mention a huge tailwind, I watched my average speed rise like mercury in Death Valley from 23.2 up to 23.8 all in a matter of <10 miles. WEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Came into transition and galloped to my supa simple T2. Long run out but stayed on the gas.
Started out too hard on the run trying to chase down some people right away rather than being patient and reeling them in slowly. D. U. M. But at least I knew better and settled into a pace that didn’t feel like my quads were doing clean and jerks for 20 minutes straight. On the first hill into the loop section my legs were extra stiff like mile 18 of the marathon bad and I got a little nervous.
Coming into this race knowing it would be the last tri of the year before solely training for the Chicago marathon, I wanted to lay it all out on the line. Blow up, cramp, bonk, collapse in a heap of doughy smoosh, I didn’t care. I wanted to finish knowing I’d left it all out there. And in that regard, I really did.
Miles 3-5 were stellar. I was hitting sub-7s steadily and felt like the runner I knew I could be. My form was right on and had the energy I needed. But come the first hill at 5, some muscle near my quad/groin cramped up like a nazty beotch. I clenched my leg in agony and couldn’t even walk. I was dead in the water. All the people I’d passed were back in front of me. I was helpless and saw my race die there. So I started walking on it in excruciating pain because it wasn’t going away with stretching. Gradually it loosened up after over a minute of lost time. I’d gone from 6:55/mi on the first 4 miles to 10:00/mi for that mile.
But I was determined to right the ship. I was able to run steadily again after another mile and drank a lot of gatorade at each aid station for the electrolytes. The more I ran the better I started to feel, with the next few miles at around 7:20 or below. I thought about something freckle face said to me about when I started racing and had no time expectations and just had FUN. I looked around at all the other crazies running on tired legs. I was part of this cool fun thing. I was going to do this.
Not wanting to cramp again, I couldn’t push it the way I wanted to, knowing that the same hill at mile 10 was going to be another moment of truth. And there it was before me, the hill of doom. It wasn’t even that big, but it was powerful enough to bite the meat off my bone like a tiger shark, silently ascending toward its prey. The focker won again. I made it all the way up to the end before it gripped me in the same spot. And I couldn’t move. It was even more painful than before. Another runner offered my some salt tabs and I thanked him and could’ve hugged the guy. I found a way to put pressure on it and walk, then jog, then run.
Miles 11-13 were long and terrible but like before the more I ran the better I felt. I caught a few more people and gained confidence. The last mile I put everythying I had left into my legs and finished it in 6:51/mi, which is the pace I wanted to run the whole time but today it just wasn’t happening. I have ZERO REGRETS about how I executed this race, despite the fact it wasn’t perfect. I learned to love racing again, had a blast and went as hard as I could.