My third Olympic-distance triathlon of the season was the Ludington Lighthouse Triathlon on Sunday, August 20. Ludington is located along Lake Michigan and I’d heard that it’s a great town. I had never been there before and figured signing up for the race gave me a good excuse to finally check it out.
Because the town is one of Michigan’s hot spots in the summer, reasonably-priced hotel rooms are hard to find. I questioned if I should stay an hour or so out of town to save money, but those hotels weren’t especially cheap either. I decided it would be worth it to stay in Ludington so I could make the most of my time there.
Since the race was on a Sunday, I was able to explore the town on Saturday. I wanted to visit Ludington State Park and knew that going early would be ideal. It took me just under four hours to get there and I was able to park easily at 10am. I’m glad I went so early because the park’s beach is very popular and it didn’t take long for the traffic to build and the parking lots to fill. Big Sable Point Lighthouse is one of the top things to see in Ludington, so that was my first destination. Driving there is not an option, so I made the 1.8-mile walk each way though a campground and along a dirt/sand path between the sand dunes.
It was a beautiful walk on a gorgeous day. It cost $5 to climb to the top of the lighthouse, and it was worth it for the great view.
I went for a bit of a walk to see the Skyline Trail next. It was a hike up a lot of stairs to start. At the top, a boardwalk winds through a wooded setting and also provides great views of sand dunes down below.
I kept wishing that I could enjoy it with Matt, but he was on a trip of his own with his dad. Although I was sad that I couldn’t share the experience with him, I’m glad I didn’t let it hold me back from exploring the park on my own. I followed the Sable River Trail next and saw the Hamlin Dam.
There was so much to see, but I knew that I was already pressing my luck. I walked a total of nine miles though the park, and that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do the day before a race.
I drove to downtown Ludington for the packet pickup next. I really liked the design of the cotton t-shirt.
I scoped out the water for the next day’s swim, which was protected from the bigger waves in Lake Michigan because it was between a couple of piers. Another lighthouse was located at the end of one of the piers.
Before leaving the downtown area, I stopped for some ice cream at House of Flavors. I got some fudge and other treats at Kilwins, then also had to check out Cops & Doughnuts because it sounded fun.
I went to my hotel and rested my legs the rest of the night, aside from a quick trip to pick up a sub from Mancino’s for dinner.
My hotel was a quick 10-minute drive from the race site, and I got there a little after 6:30 the next morning. There was a ton of parking along the beach just north of the transition area. The sky was clear and it was in the mid-60s, so it was a really nice morning. I got marked up with my race number then went to pick up my timing chip, only to find that they didn’t have my number. I got it sorted out with a bunch of other people who had the same problem. I had to get marked up with my new number, which meant my arms and hands were a big mess of permanent marker.
8:00 rolled around quickly, and the Olympic men took off for the swim first. The results show that only 18 women did the Olympic distance, so our wave start was nice and small. The water was around 68 degrees, which must have been perfect for me because I didn’t even think about it after I got in the water. The picture below shows that the water wasn’t rough, but it was still wavier than I was used to.
I was a bit thrown off as I bounced around in the water. It was wavy enough that it would have been fun to play in, but it was more challenging than swimming in the nice, flat water that I’m used to. I didn’t swallow any water or freak out, but I did stop to do breaststroke a couple times when I wanted to recompose myself. I rounded the last buoy on the way out and realized I had to look directly at the sun on the way back in. That made it really hard to spot the next buoy. I stopped to tread water for a minute as I shielded my eyes and tried to figure out where to go. A guy stopped and pointed out where he thought we should go. I headed that direction and eventually I was able to spot the remaining buoys. I didn’t think about the waves as much on the way back in, so it was probably more beneficial on the way in versus the way out. This swim was only 1000m rather than the typical 1500m you usually find in an Olympic race. I finished in 20:50 and ran from the beach into transition.
I was surprised when one of the volunteers told me I was among the first few women. I didn’t feel like I’d had that strong of a swim! He also let me know when I lost a place or two as I took too long in transition though, haha. Looking back at my last two wetsuit swims, my transition time was actually a little faster this time, but still not great at 3:07. I didn’t struggle as much as I usually do, but I guess I’m just always a bit slow.
The bike ride was nice, with most of it being fairly flat and a few rolling hills mixed in here and there. The beginning of the ride took us past some houses along tree-lined roads with very little vehicle traffic. There was a pretty stretch along Hamlin Lake where I enjoyed looking at the waterfront cottages. Through that point, I saw a few people ahead of me at times, but I was mostly on my own. Then I reached a stretch where we had to do a little out and back, and that’s when I finally got to see other people. From there, we rode up toward the state park before turning around and heading back to town. That was easily one of the highlights of the race. I loved riding with sand dunes on either side of the road and getting glimpses of Lake Michigan at times.
Because the sprint, super sprint, and Olympic races all rode that portion, I got to see a lot more people. I felt like I was flying along easily on the way up to the park. I actually hit 20 mph for a few miles, which is especially fast for me. When I reached the turnaround point, I quickly realized why I’d felt so great. I went from 20 mph down to 15-16 mph as I rode back against the wind. On the way up, I was loving the view and kept smiling at people as they rode the opposite direction. Now I wondered if they’d really been smiling back at me or if they’d actually been grimacing! It was definitely more of a struggle fighting the wind, but I kept telling myself to appreciate the view. I finished the 40K ride in 1:23:48, which is an average of 17.8 mph. It’s a couple minutes faster than I’ve typically covered the distance, so I’m sure those wind-aided miles must have really helped.
I flew through the second transition in 32 seconds and felt the challenge of adjusting my legs to running. Like the bike ride, the first stretch of the run course was the same for all of the events, so there were plenty of people. It was around a mile and a half before the Olympic athletes branched off into a campground and park. Half of our race was along mostly paved paths in the woods. It was peaceful, pretty, and flat. We did quite a bit of winding around, and one portion sent us through a neighborhood briefly. When we got back out to the main road, it was a straight shot back to the finish for the last mile and a half or so. I felt pretty good during this run, though I was working pretty hard and breathing heavily at times. I finished the 10K run in 45:50, which is an average of 7:23 per mile. My final time was 2:34:04.
Based on how I felt for a couple minutes after the run, I knew I’d pushed pretty hard. My watch had the run course short, but winding through the woods probably threw it off. I’d like to believe the course was accurate and that I did actually run that fast, because it’s the fastest I’ve run 10K in a couple years. My run was also a 3-minute improvement over my Olympic tri 10K time from a month ago, so I was pretty excited.
I was also excited by the post-race food – waffles! They also had watermelon, bananas, Blow Pops, trail mix, and fruit chews.
I killed some time before the awards, which I needed to stick around for because I placed first in my age group! The top two women in my group were overall winners, so that bumped me to the top. There were only 18 women total, but I placed 5th, so I was pretty happy about that. 3 Disciplines had really nice awards. Large lighthouses for overall winners and smaller lighthouses for age group winners. It’s definitely a cool and unique award.
After I received my award, I made another stop at House of Flavors before heading out of town. I figured I had worked hard enough to deserve a couple scoops of Michigan pothole ice cream, which is SO good.
There aren’t many triathlons left as summer winds down. I have my eye on one possible race in a couple weeks, but it conflicts with family plans and the water might be a bit too cold by then. If this was my last one of the season, it was a great way to wrap things up. Beautiful weather, a beautiful course, and a great race experience thanks to 3 Disciplines.