The trip to Traverse City started out a bit frantic, as Keily and I sat in a cafe parking lot in Oconomowoc and realized the ETA to the Manitowoc Ferry was 1:52p for a 2:00p departure. The cutoff time for loading vehicles was 1:30p… and Jackie was already in Manitowoc and relying on my vehicle once we crossed Lake Michigan. This was a huge, but not surprising oversight. These things happen when Andrew and I are together. It’s like a battle of “who can be more chill” and this time we both almost lost. As I sped towards Manitowoc I asked Andrew to call and give them our now optimistic ETA of 1:45p and see if we should even bother with the 90+mph risk or not. The phone call goes as follows: “Hi, um, I have a sick kid this morning and am running late, but yeah so we are on our way and will be there at 1:30p. Will we still be allowed on?” This was 50% funny and 50% what. Sick kid? 1:30? Regardless, we motored on. Jackie was able to smooth talk the operators and we got there at 1:44p and they let us on. Crisis averted. I’m just wondering what type of dad leaves his sick kid behind for a ferry ride…
The big boat ride across the big lake was pretty cool. Andrew and I tried to play bingo but the number caller was doing a comedy routine so we bailed. We spent the rest of the ride looking at the water in awe, when Andrew drops the line “one thing I do wish was real is mermaids though.” What. Arriving in Luddington, MI the ferry driver pulled a sweet 180 turn in the harbor and parked the ship. We got into our car and headed out for the last 2hr drive to TC. We dropped Jackie off at her homestay, went to the gas station for guilt free snacks, then met our Airbnb hosts Carol and Rick around 10pm. She showed us the bed we would share and said goodnight. About 20min later she came back down to offer a blow up mattress, testing the waters of our relationship… “nah we good,” we said. I actually slept really well next to that 6’4″ Mermaid Hunter.
The Saturday before the race was typical. Little workout, pro meeting, check in, etc. This race was logistically simple and that was nice. Sitting in the pro meeting I came to the realization that I hadn’t really thought at all about who was racing and how that might influence the race. My mind has been 100% on IMWI, which is what I’ve been training for and TC 70.3 was just a test day 2 weeks out. I hadn’t tapered, having done a 7 hour day on Wednesday and 22 miles of running on Thursday. But after an easy Friday and Saturday I started to get the racing itch. To be honest I was nervous about how my body would respond. The training load has been higher than previous 70.3 races, and without the taper I had no idea what to expect. But I was honestly ok with whatever outcome and just excited to race for the first time since June.
The morning alarm came quick, followed by the regular thoughts of “why do these have to be so early?” We walked to the race start, prepped the things, then got in the water to warm up. I didn’t have time to get a jog in, so I did about 8min of swimming and 3min of water jogging (I think that’s what it was) to get the blood flowing. We lined up and the cannon went off. The first 400m to the turn was a bit crowded, but I focused on my own effort and when we got to the turn things started to string out a bit and I found a group. The rest of the swim flew by as I just focused on the feet in front of me. Exiting the water I saw I was with 7 others, so that was nice. We ran through a long t1 and grabbed our bikes fast so nobody missed the train. 27:30 for the swim.
Onto the bike we had a solid climb to start the ride. I knew that everyone was going to over bike that section and that it would be fairly easy to bring any gap back once we got to the top, so I just sat up and let the HR come down while keeping the power in check. As predicted a little gap opened up and I came around the group and closed it over the next fast section. From that point until around mile 34 one of those amazing miracles of non draft triathlon happened, where everyone was magically riding the same speed. Even the faster swimmers who were caught somehow found it within themselves to stay on the back of our 8 man group. Wow. I wasn’t back there to verify, but from my angle the spacing was a bit questionable. And we didn’t have a moto official with us for the first hour. However I knew that if we wanted to get back into the race we would need to ride fairly steady. So Blake and I rode at the front, with the occasional help from 1 other. Once we got to the out and back section at mile ~34 we could see the gaps. From there I decided that we needed to ride a little harder to close some of that down if there was any chance at running into the top 6, which was the pay out for this race. We hit the finial 22 mile stretch home and we finally had a moto with the group AND a headwind. I went to the front and rode my 70.3 watts and magically the miracle of non draft triathlon reversed, and I rode 2+ minutes into the group behind, with Blake holding behind me (fairly, IMO). 2:13 bike split, moving into 12th place.
The run was a big question mark. Not my fitness, because I knew that was going really well, but more of just the lack of rest and how that would feel. Right away I could tell that my legs were ok and the pace came pretty easy. I was clicking off 5:35ish miles and was excited to see where I was at the first out and back. At mile 2 I could see that I was in 10th place and the next 2 guys didn’t look good. Andrew and Justin Metzler were battling it out for 6th and 7th early in the run. As they barreled toward me, breathing so hard, I could tell that one of them was going to crack as they seemed to be stuck in their own little 1-1 battle… or at least I hoped. The next time I saw those 2 on the 2nd out and back Keily had moved in front and Metzler just wasn’t having his day. I knew eventually I would catch Metzler for 7th, but had no idea what the actual gap to Keily was and he looked ok. At the start of the 2nd loop I was really feeling good. I ran a 5:29 7th mile and I really had to convince myself to chill because it was too early. The big run volume I have done was paying off, as that’s usually the point of the race I either slow down or it gets ugly. But that day I was feeling great. A little later I saw Jackie en route to a 1:16 half marathon and WIN… and she calmly tells me “let’s go only 30 more min!” My thoughts are ‘wow she’s right, but how does she even know that?’ It was good to hear because 30min seems slo much easier than 5 miles. I continued running, passed Metzler for 7th, and could see at the next out and back that Andrew was slowing and the pass would happen soon if I held it together. As I ran up behind him I went from focused competitor mode to coach mode, and I started yelling every instruction I had, which I’m pretty sure was something like “Listen, the guy in 5th is fading (made that up). Do not give up right now. Hold it together and get the leg speed up. We can do this.” Probably a few swear words but IDK. The mile after that was the hardest because I was trying to catch my breath from the instructional pamphlet I just read to him on how to run the last 5k of a 70.3. The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. I was gaining on 5th but knew I would run out of real estate. I crossed the line 6th overall with a 1:13:30 run split, 3:57 total time.
It was really cool as a friend and his coach to turn around and see Andrew come across next, in 7th. This was a breakthrough race for him and he earned it. It’s awesome to have a relationship with someone who will go to war on Sunday but then be generally happy for you when the race is over. I took the last payed spot, so this situation came with a little $ dynamic… but Andrew only mumbled once about his mortgage. Haaaaa. Blake came across the line to round out the top 10, and with Jackie winning the women’s race and Robin Pomeroy taking 7th, the Wisconsin Pro’s had a solid day in Michigan.
Overall that was probably my best front to back 70.3 race. Not my fastest overall, but my best when all put together. And the run split really reflects what I have felt I was capable of all season. That’s the closest I’ve been to the winner! This gave me a lot of confidence going into the final 2 weeks before IMWI. I didn’t have a lot of ‘top end’ during the race, but I was smooth and controlled the entire time. Afterwards, I had zero soreness. My coach Bevan says it’s because “I’m really fit.” I think it’s because of the sleeve of cookies I ate before the race. 😉
The boat trip home was fun. Jackie and Andrew are fun to travel with. A lot of laughs and Jackie bought us Wendys Frosty’s with her prize money. I got a small. Shoulda got a large. After dropping all the kids off, I got home at 3am. Long day but a good day.
We are about a week out from IMWI and things are still going really well. The fitness is there, the plan is solid, and it’s now down to execution. I’m looking forward to a big day in my backyard, and look forward to seeing everyone else out there doing their thing.