Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Backyard Fun: Lake In The Hills Triathlon

Don't you just love those races where you can roll out of bed and literally ride your bike across the street to transition? Oh.. you don't have one of those? Well.. I DO. 

The Lake In The Hills Triathlon is quite possibly my favorite triathlon of the year for a variety of reasons:
  • It's the cheapest triathlon entry I've ever seen.
  • The finish line is less than a quarter mile from my house. 
  • It's a SMALL local event.
  • It's the only race of the year I can count on seeing (and racing against) almost all my local triathlon friends and it truly gives a "backyard triathlon" feel. 
This race is a touch longer than a sprint. {15.5 miles on the bike compared to the normal 12.4, and a 4 mile run compared to the normal 3.1} But it's anything but easy. There are some significant hills on both the bike and the run that can leave you panting like a dog the entire race if you're not careful. 

Coming off of Leon's Triathlon and the Grand Rapids Half Iron only a week before, my body was anything but rested. Ideally, a weekend of relaxed mileage might have been a better idea. But I just can't help myself. The thought of waking up on Sunday and stepping out my front door for a long ride and watching the race fly by my house made me sad. And, it was another chance to race next to my brother.

By 5:01am, the Strugglebus {Todd, Russ and Shane} and Brittany started to make their way to my house and used my street as their parking lot. The transition set up for this race is also a little funky. There are separate transitions for T1 and T2. So parking is kind of 0 fun if you don't live within a quarter mile from T2 like myself. Just before 5:30am we hopped on our bikes and road the treacherous quarter mile to T2 so we could drop off our run gear and get body marked. From there, we hopped back on our bikes and road to the lake and T1 to set up our bikes and prep for the water. 

The "no girls allowed" pre-race photo

As we were setting up our bikes I begin to hear the familiar voices. First, the loudest and deepest voice, Lance Lane. I look up and he's standing with the 2 quietest, Bill Gagne and Terry McKenna. Today, these 3 musketeers were having some fun as a relay team. Our conversations in transition were all triathlon based along with some healthy competitive banter. It wasn't long before I turned my head and Stephen Lynch had joined our circle. These guys all might have kids that are practically my age, but man do they offer some excitement and laughs in the triathlon community. {When I say they have kids my age, I actually graduated high school with Terry's son.} Not to mention, they are all pretty great athletes. Any day I've ever spent logging miles with these guys, I always find myself chasing the pack. 

With each passing minute the familiar faces kept coming. Jon Crane! I happened to run into him the weekend prior on the Grand Rapids run course. At the time he was practically bent in half and having a rough day in all 3 disciplines. Today, he looked like he was ready to roll. Julio Zuleta! Another Strugglebus member who recently had a new baby boy. His life revolved around 3am feedings and diaper changes making him unavailable for a lot of group training over the winter. He worked out on the babies schedule. The John's! Mielnikowski and Ogden. John Mielnikowski also competed in IMTX for his first Ironman and was ready to rock again today. 

Pretty soon we were all lined up (self seeded) for the start. Two athletes entered the water at a time, 3 seconds apart. What was the lineup? Of the Strugglebus members, Todd and I entered the water first {as Russ calls us, the whipper snappers}. Right behind us, Russ and Mark {alpha and omega}. Then, Shane and Julio {the sherpas}. 

The Swim: {1/2 mile}

I laughed as the William Tell Overture played over the sound system when we entered the water. Since the swim is only a half mile, I wanted to really test myself! My usual swim on this course is about 15 minutes and some change. My goal today: 14 minutes. Almost instantly I started to choke as I took in a mouthful of water when Todd and I dove in. You rookie, what the hell is wrong with you? The first turn came pretty quick and thank God it did. The sun was deadly and once you made the turn it disappeared. Just before the final turn I noticed a guy in front of me wearing Zoot wetsuit that had yellow lettering on the sleeves. Mark. He was probably 2-3 strong strokes ahead of me. I did the best I could to make the pass but his gorilla arms are just to long compared my stubs. I stood up to exit the water and saw him 15 feet ahead of me ripping off his swim cap. I was only pissed that he had beaten me out of the water for a split second because I quickly realized I had just swam the half mile in 13 minutes. 

THE BIKE: {15.5 miles}

I chased Mark out of transition and was about 5 seconds behind him. IMMEDIATELY exiting transition you have to climb a pretty decent hill. I remembered to set my bike gears before the race so I wouldn't crawl up the hill with 0 momentum coming out of the water. As I chugged up the first hill I noticed Ian and Lindsey out of the corner of my eye. My posse made it! I made it to the top of the hill and Mark had already gained enough speed that there was no way I'd catch him. I was hoping to maybe sneak up next to him within the first mile and then let him go. But, I'd have to wait until I found him on the run. 

We weaved our way out of the lake area and crossed Randall Road. Less than a quarter mile up the road stood Mom and Dad at the end of our street! Like I said, we practically live on the course. Just after I passed them, I noticed a guy behind me about to make a pass. This guy was.... 1. Older. 2. Riding a 1980's Trek road bike that looked to be made of steel that he put aero bars on. 3. Wearing hiking shoes. 4. Wearing a helmet that resembled an over sized packing peanut, pretty much just white foam. 5. Was FLYING. I could not believe it. I was holding a steady 20mph on a gradual incline and this guy passed me like I wasn't moving. Me and this guy were not over. 

I made my way through the next couple miles and continued the cat and mouse game with this fellow. Soon I started to see the cyclists on the way back to transition. First, Bill Gagne, cyclist for the 3 musketeer relay team. Then, Stephen Lynch shortly behind Bill. And then, my starting buddy, Todd. He had made some solid ground, clearly leaving me in the dust. The hills kept coming and so did the competition! I saw Mark was ahead of me by maybe only a minute or 2 at most. Meanwhile, my old-man-Trek buddy wasn't letting me relax. It wasn't until mile 12 that I made my final pass and didn't see him the rest of the day. 

You can almost see our house in the picture..

...but not this one.

Just before transition I saw my family again and this time with Jess, her dad, and dog Onyx! The whole crew made it out! I was a little worried my bike legs wouldn't be alive due to back to back race weekends plus a long ride the day prior. But I surprised myself and ended up finishing the bike in 45 minutes with a 20.3mph average. Now I just needed them to get me through 4 miles on foot!

The Run: {4 miles}

Transition 2 took less than 60 seconds and I was on my way. I saw Brittany's mom and dad as I turned into the neighborhoods. And then I took a look at what was ahead. There were only a few athletes ahead of me but it didn't take long for me to make my way past them. Within the first mile of the run I heard simultaneous foot steps behind me. In unison. I was about to get passed by 2 GIRLS, age 13 and 17. But they looked far younger. I was convinced I had just been passed by 2 pre-teens and considered asking them if they were old enough to be left home alone. As they passed me they yelled, "Go Sammy's!" It took me a second, but I realized I was wearing the Sammy's kit I had received when I raced Leon's. How do these little girls know me? They really didn't, but they were so sweet that they acted like they did. They were holding a pretty solid pace and I tried to match them, but their long legs (they obviously hit a growth spurt that I never did) were always a few strides ahead of me. Thankfully I was able to keep them in my site until the end. 

It didn't take long for the turn around athletes to make their way to me. First, Lance Lane, the runner leg of the 3 musketeer relay team. Then, Stephen Lynch, movin' at a brisk pace. Immediately behind him, Todd. Todd cheered me on but there was no way I could respond. All oxygen was being used at the moment. I made my way up the big hill to the turn around and I see Laura Crane (Jon Crane's wife) on the corner cheering, camera in hand. My lungs were on fire and I still had a half mile climb up the big hill before it was smooth sailing. As I'm 3/4 the way up the hill I spotted Jon Crane and Mark immediately behind him. "Mark, here comes the assassin!" Jon yelled. I was able to muster a smirk but that was about it. 

I made the turn around, relaxed on the downhill, and finally let loose. I could see Mark. I could also see Russ making his way up the hill. And shortly behind him, Shane and Julio. Finally, I made my way back to Laura and she yelled, "Mark is literally 100 feet in front of you!" Yea, I see him. I dunno what my legs have left though. At that point I had less than a mile to go and the gap was closing between Mark and I, but not enough. My only saving grace was that he had no idea I was behind him and that he might relax a little. Unfortunately he was looking pretty strong and my mini surges weren't doing the trick. Maybe 200 yards before the finish line he turns his head to check behind him and spots me. "Oh shit!" he yells. Damn it, I'm done. His daddy long legs took off and left me in the dust. I did the best I could but he was long gone. The trail opened up and spectators emerged. I heard my name from all over the field - Ian, Lindsey, Jess, Todd and his wife Lindsay. 4 miles complete in 30 minutes flat. I crossed the line exactly 16 seconds behind Mark with a total finish time of 1:32:39. A 9 minute course PR from last year. 

Mark takes the cake this weekend in 1:32:23

Everything burns. I prefer longer races.

Post race was spent mingling and laughing with the group. Now a days it's hard for us to get together. Families, varying schedules, and lives take precedence. That's why I love this race. No matter what, it brings us together. 

The 'bus!' (Todd snagged a 3rd place age group finish!)

RyBread Racing athletes had a SOLID showing!

Mark walked away with a 3rd place age group finish, and I finished 1st in my age group (8th overall). We walked home with our hardware and dreamed of a shower and some shut eye. But of course, we had more miles to log. We laced up our running shoes and took off. 

I'll let him think he's cool for now.

The 3 Musketeers Relay Team wins!

Stephen snags 2nd in his age group! (what's he looking at?)

Mark's first triathlon podium finish!

It's been a pretty crazy 3 weeks. My body was able to heal only 3 weeks after Ironman Texas and then carry me across 3 separate race finish lines, back to back to back, setting a PR in each of them. So for now, you won't be hearing from me for a while. I'm going to log some serious miles. Spend some more time with my better half now that I'm not racing every weekend. Go visit some family and watch one of my favorite cousins get married on top of a gorgeous mountain in Colorado. But don't worry, Lake Placid is right around the corner. I'll be ready ;)


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