The whole week leading up to the Grand Haven Triathlon, I got deeper and deeper into a cold that was wrecking my throat, nose, and workout schedule. It culminated the night before the triathlon as I coughed and sneezed while trying not to worry about my race. I may have slept an hour total. When I woke up I was fatigued and felt like crap, but I wasn't going to let a cold ruin my race. I got the van packed up, and I headed out playing, "I'll Sleep When You Are Dead" by El-P, which I had set up for my drive over to pump me up.

By the time I arrived at the race site I was feeling like I could do it. My nose was running and my throat was still raw, but the fresh air felt good. I brought my transition gear over to my bike that I had parked at the race site the day before. As I was loading up my water bottles I noticed a mass of ants crawling all over my bike. I mentioned it to some other participants around me, and they all acknowledged that they had found ant infestations on their bikes as well. Apparently there were ant hills all over the transition area. The ants began to fuel my annoyance that there is a mandatory bike check-in the day before this race.

Luckily I met a lot of nice people at this triathlon and had some good conversations that brought my mood up. It's fun to hear other people's stories and how they got started doing tri. One guy I met while I was putting on my wetsuit, who had the aged surfer look of the Big Lebowski except with a muscular build, was doing his first triathlon after a 10-year break. He told me a bit about his friend Tony Thompson, a top clydesdale athlete who had died from a heart attack in 2004. As it says on the race website, this race is held in memory of him.

Red flags were up, and the swim was shortened again this year on account of the rip tides. The race directors learned their lesson from last year and were well prepared with contingency plans. We started further down the beach so that we wouldn't be near the pier, which was the most dangerous area. While I was waiting for the swim start, I practiced going out and back to shore through the waves. I was having way too much fun and was almost glad that there was a lot of chop. The conditions were unique and challenging. I just wish they hadn't had to shorten the swim because of it. Especially since I was 3rd out of the water.

The run to T1, with the added beach run, was about a mile—another unique element that I hated less this year since I'd planned for it better. I found out this year that running barefoot really isn't that bad. In fact, it does a good job of getting the sand off your feet when you run through the wet grass along the way.

The bike ride was pretty uneventful on the way out. There was a guy on a Harley who kept riding by, which seemed weird until I saw him at the turnaround giving everyone a thumbs up. I think he may have been a draft marshall incognito. On the way back I stopped getting passed and was able to keep up with some of the competitors ahead of me. That was until the guy about 15 meters in front of me, who had passed me about a minute earlier, collided with a Sprint triathlete at their turnaround point. A narrow lane had been coned off on the right side of the road for Olympic and Half distance athletes, but as clump of Sprint people made their turn, one of them went wide into our lane. She tapped wheels with the guy who had just passed me and both went down right in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and maneuvered to the left, narrowly missing them. Luckily no one else went down. As I went by, I noticed the Olympic distance guy lying there looking up in disbelief at what had just happened. His race was over after a split second error. A few minutes later, as I was getting back up to speed, I saw an ambulance coming up the road to pick them up. Riding back the last 10k while dodging slower Sprint athletes was probably the most dangerous part of the course. Traffic was open in both directions and athletes were riding bikes on both sides of the street, often passing each other. Definitely not the safest course I've been on.

Once I was off the bike, I started my run down the Grand Haven boardwalk. This run can get really crowded since there are pedestrians walking around on the course, but it's also a great way to get a spontaneous audience. The run went well for me the first 2 miles, but I started getting a side cramp as I drank at each aid station. It would slowly start to fade as I went along, but would come back each time. I decided that staying hydrated, especially in the 90 degree heat, was more important than the side pain, so I kept taking on fluids. The wind did help cool me off, so the run really wasn't the death march that I thought it would be after reading the forecast.

In the end, I finished strong and felt fairly good for being sick. Although my run was much slower than I was hoping, I was proud to have finished 17th overall and 2nd in my age group in spite of a wicked head cold.

Race Results, More Photos

1 Comment

Head cold, schmead cold. You are a rock star! Nice performance! Looking forward to Steelhead!! :-)



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