When I raced an Olympic-distance triathlon in Ludington in August, I wasn’t sure if it would be my last tri of the season. There are only a few races left once September rolls around, so I put them on my calendar and figured I’d play it by ear. The Sunrise Side Triathlon in East Tawas, Michigan has been on my radar for several years but I hadn’t done it yet due to weather and/or family plans. This year the weather stayed warm enough that I thought the water temperature should be reasonable with a wetsuit. Although it looked like things would cool down a little bit by the weekend, it seemed like conditions could be ideal, so I signed up for the race a few days beforehand.
The race was on Saturday, September 8th, and on Friday morning I received an email with this info:
Even though I waited until the last minute to sign up, things STILL went wrong. Instead of swimming 1500m like I’d been looking forward to, I’d be doing a duathlon with a 5K run, 40K bike, and 10K run. I’d only done a duathlon once before, and like this race, I’d planned on doing a triathlon until the swim was cancelled. I did really well in the other duathlon and had been interested in trying another one, but I always want to swim when it’s an option. I figured this would be a good excuse to do another duathlon.
East Tawas is a nice little town up north and I was hoping I’d get to see some good scenery during the race. I stayed in a hotel in Oscoda on Friday night, which was about 15 minutes north of Tawas. It took nearly three hours to drive there after work, so I had just enough time to lay my stuff out for the morning and get to bed.
With a pre-race meeting scheduled for 7:10, it was an early morning. I found a parking lot a couple blocks north of the transition area. The registration area was down by the beach, which was a few more blocks away. The sun was just starting to rise when I got there.
It’s a lot easier setting things up in transition for a duathlon versus a triathlon. No need for a wetsuit, Body Glide, a towel, goggles, swim cap, etc. Just rack the bike, lay a couple things out, and that’s it. I spent a little time debating what I should wear. I was worried that the wind would cause me to get cold on the bike. It was nearly 60 degrees though and I felt comfortable standing around in transition wearing arm warmers. I decided that I’d probably get too hot once I was working up a sweat, so hopefully a t-shirt and shorts would work.
I jogged back down to the beach to take advantage of a building with decent bathrooms, plus it was a good way to warm up for the race. There were several wave starts and people doing the half-iron distance started around 7:30.
The Olympic men started around 7:45 and the Olympic women started a little while after them. I appreciate the wave starts in the water, but it seemed a little silly to separate the men and women for the run when there were only 55 of us doing the Olympic distance. By the time my race started, I’d been standing around for nearly half an hour. That was enough time for my legs to stiffen up as I shivered a bit in the wind. My legs felt a little heavy as I took off for the 5K run. I’m in the orange in the picture below.
I was amongst the top 5-6 women to start the run and felt pretty good about that. During the first mile I glanced at my watch and realized I ought to be going faster, so I tried to pick up the pace. We started out on a road that ran parallel to the main road where I enjoyed looking at the variety of waterfront motels. After turning off of that road we mostly ran past trees and a few scattered houses. It was a flat out and back course, and on the way back I started to catch some of the people from earlier waves. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I managed to run a pretty nice negative split. I noticed that it took me a bit of time to warm up into the run. I’m sure that’s thanks to the fatigue of training for a marathon. By the end of the 5K it was a pretty tight finish for the women. It looks like I came in one second after the leader, and the next woman was just four seconds behind me. I needed that good placement in the run knowing that I would lose plenty of ground on the bike. My official 5K time was 23:56.
I was able to transition quickly since I’m still haven’t taken the step to learn how to ride with clipless pedals. That meant I didn’t have to change into bike shoes. All I had to do was put my helmet on and run out the exit with my bike. I debated if I should grab gloves or anything else to stay warm on the bike but decided against it. That ended up being a wise choice since I was fine temperature-wise throughout the ride.
My T1 time was 34 seconds. My T1 times for triathlons are always slow, so obviously it made a big difference when I didn’t have to struggle my way out of a wetsuit and get into my socks and shoes. The quick transition helped me stay ahead on the bike for a little bit. I’m so weak on the bike that most of the women passed me eventually.
A lot of the course was pretty flat. I liked riding past one house that had a bunch of goats and another that had a horse. We made our way out to the Huron National Forest and spent most of our time there. We rode along a main road with trees lining each side and I noticed some signs for snowmobile trails. It was peaceful and pretty, and some rolling hills popped up here and there. I got out of the saddle to climb a few times when I struggled to keep moving at a decent pace, but there weren’t any really tough hills. I don’t remember the wind bothering me too much on the way out, but I sure noticed it on the way back. It got pretty annoying at times, but I managed.
While I had finished the first run in 10th place overall for the Olympic athletes, my bike time of 1:30:39 was good for 40th out of 55. It’s pretty clear that I’m a runner and not much of a cyclist!
By the way, you may notice that there’s no elevation gain listed on any of my Garmin stats that I’ve posted here. I swear there were some hills on this ride! Unfortunately the elevation has gone bad on every Garmin triathlon watch I’ve had…and I’m on my third one right now. I won’t vent now, but it’s REALLY annoying.
I had another quick transition as I racked my bike, took my helmet off, and grabbed my hat. Not having to change from bike to running shoes sure helped, and I was out in 35 seconds.
The 10K run was the same as the 5K for the first half, but we went twice as far on the same road before turning back. The first mile was a bit slow as I dealt with tired legs after riding 25 miles. I felt slow for the first half of the run, but things seemed to improve as I headed back. That’s when I realized that the wind was probably a factor. The out and back course meant that I had plenty of people to watch heading each direction, and that kind of distraction is always helpful for me. I didn’t really have people to chase on my way into the finish like I did during the first run, but I still managed to pick up the pace. It was fun getting to finish on one of the main streets in town with a bunch of cool shops on each side of the road.
I finished the 10K in 48:20, and my final time was 2:44:03.
I walked past a table and received a medal. I thought it was kind of odd that it wasn’t hanging from a ribbon like most medals.
(*Update* – a couple weeks after the race I received a ribbon in the mail. Maybe they mentioned it at the race and I missed it, but apparently they didn’t intend to hand out ribbon-less medals!)
I knew ahead of time that I shouldn’t expect much in the way of post-race food. There was going to be a dinner catered by Boston Market and an awards ceremony/raffle in the evening. They mentioned that there would be “light” post-race snacks. That consisted of bananas, trail mix, fruit chews, and lollypops. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and ate some trail mix while stretching my legs. Then I headed to the car because I got pretty cold. I’d been fine during the race, but I was pretty sweaty and the cold wind started to affect me. I realized that I left my warm clothes in transition and I only had a t-shirt and shorts in my car. Changing into those helped a little, and I sat in my warm car while I ate several snacks that I had brought.
Most races don’t want people going into the transition area while athletes are still racing. If someone is trying to run their bike in and head out for the run, it’s no good to have people lingering around and potentially getting in the way. I figured I’d have to wait a bit before I could get my jacket and track pants. Maybe if I kept moving I could warm up a little bit.
I went down to the beach where the swim would have taken place and took in some of the scenery.
Based on how much I was shivering, I think they made the right call to cancel the swim. If I’d gotten on the bike soaking wet in those conditions, it could have gotten bad.
Eventually I went back to the transition area and saw that they were letting some people in, so I collected my stuff and made sure I stayed out of the way when half-iron athletes came and went. I knew it wouldn’t be smart to get ice cream when I was shivering, but I was ready for it once I got my jacket and pants. I browsed some of the stores that had the typical “up north” clothing and gifts, then I got some fudge and ice cream before heading home.
It looked like I had placed pretty well when they posted some initial results, and I confirmed it when I got home. It’s pretty typical to win some kind of age group award when I race the Olympic distance simply because there are so few people. Only 22 women did the Olympic race, and I was first in my age group. I was more excited that I placed fourth out of the women! I was 19th out of 55 overall.
I was kind of bummed because I didn’t think I’d end up getting my award. I didn’t want to pay for two nights at a hotel just so I could be there for the awards. By the end of most race days I usually have a headache and feel pretty wiped out, so staying for dinner and then driving nearly three hours to get home was not a reasonable option. I could have the prize mailed to me for $12 but didn’t know if it was worth it. I was really fortunate to find out that my Instagram buddy Jeremy had also done the race and stuck around for the dinner. He offered to collect the prize for me and get it to me somehow. I mentioned that one of my neighbors actually volunteers for 3 Disciplines (the race company) and I probably should have asked if she could grab it for me. He was kind enough to track her down and talk to her for me, so I was able to get my prize after all. I really appreciated both of them being so helpful! This fleece blanket is a pretty cool prize.
Jeremy ended up winning a bunch of really cool stuff in the raffle. The race directors say it’s the biggest raffle of the year because they clear everything out for the end of the season. If I do the race again in the future, maybe it’s worthwhile to make a weekend out of it and stick around the extra day.
Although I would have preferred putting my swim training to use in the pretty lake, I still had a great race. I enjoyed my second duathlon and was happy to see that I placed well. I’m thankful that two running segments could help me compensate for my slow time on the bike. I realized that my legs were a bit more wiped out by swapping the swim with another run though. I’ve bounced back after all of my triathlons this summer and continued on with marathon training the next day. This time I woke up to a painful calf cramp in the middle of the night and I decided it would be wise to take the next day off to rest my legs. An extra rest day now and then is probably smart anyway.
It looks like this event will wrap up the multi-sport season for me. I did three Olympic triathlons, one sprint, and this duathlon. It was a pretty solid season and I had a good time. Although I’ll maintain my usual swim routine, I’ll probably drop the biking for now as I concentrate on running. I have a couple of half marathons coming up, but the Indy Monumental Marathon in November is the next big goal.