I was anxious to try another Olympic-distance triathlon after one race I signed up for got cancelled and another cancelled the swim. There are usually at least a couple races to pick from every weekend, and most of them are at least a couple hours away. I debated between a few before choosing the Tri del Sol Triathlon & Duathlon in Middleville, MI on Sunday, July 16. The first perk was that the Olympic distance was an option. It sounded like it should be a scenic venue, and it was for a good cause.
The race has been around for years and was recently purchased by the West Michigan chapter of myTEAM TRIUMPH. I first became aware of the group when I saw them participating in the Grand Rapids Marathon in 2013. This description from their website explains the program:
“myTEAM TRIUMPH is an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults, and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races.”
It’s pretty moving and inspiring to see people who would never be able to participate in a race get the chance to experience the excitement of race day thanks to “angels” who push them in a chair. I’d seen them participate in a running event, but it sounded like an even more awesome undertaking to do a triathlon. This race would be a great chance to see some incredible people in action.
Although I managed to drive two hours to Caseville on race morning last weekend, I decided two and a half hours was a bit much. I got a hotel in Grand Rapids the night before so I only had half an hour to drive the morning of the race.
Fortunately, the weather worked out. There’d been a chance of storms in the forecast, but it was mostly overcast and around 70 degrees for the race. The race took place at YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin, which was a great setting. They used a grass field for parking and it was a short walk through the woods to get to the transition area.
After dropping stuff off in transition and getting checked in, I went down to the beach. Wind/whitecaps had cancelled last weekend’s swim, so I was relieved to see a nice, calm lake.
There would be a little bit of a hike from the beach up to the transition area.
The lodge had real restrooms which was a bonus. I was able to use one of the picnic tables outside to sit down and work my way into my wetsuit.
Transition closed at 7:40 and 10 minutes later myTEAM TRIUMPH started. It was pretty impressive to watch swimmers pulling the rafts.
The pre-race meeting came next, then a couple waves of Olympic swimmers started at 8:00. The waves started five minutes apart, and I was in the group of Olympic women who went in the third wave. I’m always relieved when the swim starts in waves because it helps reduce the crowd and craziness. Even though I can swim just fine, I always have nerves before the swim. It’s probably a combination of the swim and the start of the race in general. I swam on the outskirts of my group to help reduce my nervousness even more. That worked, because I never ended up too close to anyone. In fact, at times I thought that I went TOO far out of the way. I worried that I was adding a bunch of extra distance. I got a little closer to the buoys for the second loop of the swim, but by then the fast sprint swimmers were out there and I didn’t want them to swim over me. The water was around 74 degrees and I got a little warm in my full wetsuit. The buoyancy definitely helps reduce my time, but I probably wouldn’t want to wear it in water that is much warmer.
Aside from swimming so wide and wishing I was done with the swim at the end of the first loop, the swim went really well. My time was 28:14 for what was supposed to be 1500m. Considering how I worried that I’d added a bunch of extra distance, I was pretty happy with my time. That time also included some of the hike up toward the transition area. I wasn’t really dizzy when I came out of the water, but I wasn’t prepared to jog yet either. Walking most of the way up to my bike didn’t help my already horrendously slow transition time. The timing chip was more low profile than it has been at other races, so at least the ankle of my wetsuit didn’t get snagged on that. Still, I never get out of my wetsuit very quickly. My T1 time was 3:36…not great.
Eventually I got started on the bike. Although 40K (24.8 mi) is usually the standard Olympic distance for the bike, this ride was listed as 23.04 mi. I’ve ridden courses that I consider rolling, but the rolling for this ride seemed to never end. It was challenging for me, and there were enough climbs/inclines to slow me down to a crawl numerous times. A few of the downhill portions were nice and fast, but I’m not sure they made up for my slowness the rest of the time! It seemed like I got passed by almost everyone. I got a comment from one guy about how I must be a fast swimmer. It was kind of a compliment, except for the part that implied that I clearly wasn’t fast on the bike…but I’m very aware of that.
It was a struggle and at times I questioned why I do this to myself. I also questioned if I ought to stick to sprints where the bike is usually around 12 miles. I tried to put a positive spin on it though. I told myself that I was doing this for me, not to beat people, so does it really matter how long I take if I’m up for the challenge?
I did enjoy some of the scenery, such as glimpses of Yankee Springs Recreation Area and some lakes.
My final time on the bike was 1:23:46, around 16.5 mph. Usually my bike to run transition is pretty quick, but I got tangled up for a minute trying to rack my bike. The bike next to mine was so close that I had a hard time squeezing mine in. My T2 time was 1:46.
Even after a challenging bike ride, my legs didn’t feel heavy for too long. I warmed up into the run pretty quickly, starting with a 7:49 mile. My second mile was slightly faster, then I hovered around an 8:00 pace for the rest. I typically don’t have a target running pace in triathlons. I end up running by feel and hope I can hang on! There was a little bit of rolling on the run course as well, though nothing that felt as extreme as it did on the bike. I loved running along a neighborhood road past lakefront homes. It was a really pretty area that provided good distraction. Another good distraction was seeing and cheering for other runners along the out and back course. When we got back to the YMCA grounds, we wound through the woods briefly before getting to the finish line. I tried to pick up my pace a little bit, though I didn’t have a whole lot left in me. I finished the 10K run in 48:51, an average of 7:52 per mile. I figured I might run somewhere around 50 minutes, so I was happy to be under that.
Here are the final stats:
It’s hard to call this a PR since the bike distance was shorter than most Olympic tris and every race varies with the post-swim distance to the transition area. I’m really happy with my swim and run, and still have room for improvement with the bike and transitions. Regardless of my time, I’m glad I got out there and did another Olympic race. Although I may not have always enjoyed the bike portion, it was good to get that work in. As a bonus, I ended up third out of six in my age group, so I got an extra medal! They had little printers set up where you could type in your bib number and it printed your results. No waiting for an awards ceremony at this race – you just took the results to a table and they had the age group awards ready.
I was happy about the age group award, but probably even happier about the post-race food. It seems like I always complain after triathlons that they don’t have enough food. Finally – a race that got it right!
Plenty of fruit, muffins, bagels, cookies, popcorn, etc. I was happy that they had plenty of carbs! I didn’t have to resort to my own post-race stash of snacks like I have at a couple other races this season. After burning 2,100+ calories, I get very excited about food.
I don’t expect these things to be easy, but this one was certainly a challenge. It turned out to be a great day, and myTEAM TRIUMPH did an excellent job hosting the race. Everything went smoothly, the YMCA venue was beautiful, the course was well-marked, the volunteers were great, and there was a good variety of post-race food.
I’m feeling a bit sore after this effort, so I’ll take a couple days off and ease back into things. Next up – the Shermanator (sprint) Triathlon in Augusta, MI in a couple weeks.
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography and Instagram @janetboltz
That’s cool that you included pictures of the scenery you saw on the bike and running portions. 👍🏼 does your watch have a triathlon feature & does the chip you have record each split?
Thank you! I have one Garmin that is specifically a triathlon watch, so it’s great for tracking these races. It has a multisport mode where you can set it to record open water swim, bike, and run with transitions in between. Pretty cool for analyzing all of the data. :) I’m not always great at hitting my watch right on time (as I’m stripping out of my wetsuit, juggling a bike, etc.) so it’s nice that the chip records the splits too. There are timing mats in and out of transition that split it all up.