Thursday, June 16, 2016

Grand Rapids Half Iron: Sibling Rivalry

My brother has had a pretty rough go with his training for IMLP (Ironman Lake Placid) coming up in just over a month. He works 11-12 hours a day, 5 days a week, and most Saturday's for about 4+ hours. He's always exhausted when he gets home and can easily be talked out of any workout he has to do. But with less than 6 months until race day, he does it anyways. I knew he was going to want a couple races under his belt before IMLP, specifically a half Ironman. It's a good way to measure where your training is at and how much work you have to do before the big day. Since IMLP is in mid July, the number of half Ironman races beforehand are limited. But the Grand Rapids Half Ironman was on June 12th, exactly 6 weeks out from IMLP. Winner. 
"You mean my first triathlon of the year is gonna be a half Ironman?" - Mark
"Yea, so what. You want your first triathlon of the year to be Lake Placid? Mine was Texas" - Megan

Mark and I were invited to stay with Jacqui and Ryan's teammate, Alex, at his families lake house the night before the race. Unfortunately my lucky charm, Rob, couldn't make this trip. We arrived late afternoon and had just enough time to unload the car before it was time to hop on the boat for a small cruise around the lake. We dumped Ryan, Alex, and his wife Dani in the water so they could get in some strokes while Mark, Jacqui, and I cruised with the rest of Alex's family. After our little outing, we headed back to make dinner while the boys played with the bikes in the basement and got everything prepped for race day. There were some science experiments going on in that basement and they were way over my head. So I hung out with the ladies in the kitchen.

Beautiful Sunset on the lake

It was a pretty short night. We were up later than we should have been and our alarms were set for an awful time. My alarm started with 2. And don't forget, we were in Michigan, Eastern time. So in reality, our bodies were waking up at 1:45am on Sunday morning. Woof. It was about an hour drive from Alex's lake house to the race site and our goal was to be on the road at 4am. The cars were packed with bikes, athletes, and spectators by 4:01am and we were officially on the road. Once we got there, Alex's wife, mother, and aunt dropped us off at transition and then grabbed our keys to go park the cars. (These people were absolutely amazing. I mean, I had JUST met them and they housed me, fed me, and were now valeting my car.) 

Once inside transition we immediately began to unpack our bags and set everything up. It didn't take long for Mark to freak out. 
"Sister - I forgot all my bike nutrition in the car!"
Just to put this into perspective for you all, bike nutrition might be most important in a race like this. Coming out of the water your body needs calories ASAP. And continuing the calorie intake throughout the bike is critical to making it to the run in any sort of good condition. And Mark had left that bottle in the car. The car that Alex's family was parking for us in an undisclosed location. I'd freak out too if I were him. Thankfully his family was still with the car and was able to obtain the bottle in enough time and get it to Mark. I had already decided that if the bottle didn't make it in time to transition closing I was going to give him my nutrition bottle (even though it probably wouldn't be enough calorie-wise, but better than nothing) and I'd take real food on the bike and make it work. Thank God plan B was unnecessary.

Please note the green shirt hanging from the tree - Alex engineered this idea to help us find our bike racks ASAP out of the water

Pre-Race Jitters!

Ready to race!

We made our way to the water and said goodbye to Mark, Ryan, and Alex since they started 10 minutes before the women. Jacqui and I hung out with one of her other teammates, Lauren, and waited our turn to enter the water. Those 10 minutes between the men's start and the women's start had my stomach in knots. I love to race. Absolutely love the thrill, the adrenaline, all that comes with it. But when I know my brother is out on the course too, my nerves skyrocket. I want nothing more than for him to do well, but my slightly overly OCD mind has me thinking all the not so good stuff. You see, I've seen some pretty gnarly accidents in the triathlon world. And when Mark and I share the course together and I pass an ambulance on the side of the road as they take away an athlete, my heart literally drops to my stomach. "Omg, is that Mark? No it's not. Good. What if that happened to him somewhere else on the course? Megan calm down, he's fine. BUT YOU DON'T KNOW THAT FOR SURE!" Call me overprotective, his second mother, whatever you want. But I can't help it. He's the only brother I have. So when I had 10 minutes to wait for my start after the boys took off, I knew exactly why my body was so anxious. 


I'm all about an uneventful swim. And that's exactly what this was. Super smooth water. Kinda like swimming on glass. Not an overly crowded wave start. The entire swim seemed to go by so quick for me. I made it to the turn around and then it hit me. I was blinded by the light. The sun was out for blood today. So I did the best I could to swim close to the buoys and not follow the blinded swimmers. I got to the swim exit and glanced at my watch - 38 minutes. Not where I wanted to be in the swim, but it was still under 40 so I'm good with it. I look up as I'm running out of the water and the first person I see in front of me: Jacqui. We made our way to transition and it wasn't until we were in transition and I could tell she was looking for our bike rack that I said something. "Keep going Jac, a few more rows!" 

"Oh hiiiiii!" - Jacqui as she tries to run to her bike with her head on a swivel.

We made it to our bikes and almost simultaneously pulled down out wetsuits to our ankles and grabbed our bikes. I noted that Mark's bike was gone, meaning he had hit the road already. I knew he was (slightly) worried that I'd pass him up on the swim, but I was confident with a 10 minute lead that he'd be long gone by the time I exited the water. I watched Jacqui take off about 10 seconds before me and it was time for some fun. 

BIKE:{56 miles}

This bike course is mostly flat. There is a small 5 mile stretch where the hills roll a little, but other than that, it's smooth sailing. It's also 28 miles out and 28 miles back on the same road. So essentially, you are doing the same 28 miles twice. The Half Iron athletes also share the beginning of the bike course with the Sprint and Olympic athletes, meaning their turn arounds happens in the middle of our course. Dangerous? Perhaps. 

I took off and found my sweet spot and immediately noticed the scenery. Whoever said farmlands and countryside isn't beautiful doesn't know what they're talking about. I absolutely enjoyed the entire course. I took in some calories and sunk into aero right away and was ready to cruise. Just before the Sprint distance turn around, I see 2 athletes in front of me. One was slowing down, clearly about to turn, while the other is heading straight. I can tell this from about probably 15 yards behind them. But somehow, the guy going straight paid 0 attention to the lady making a left hand turn and completely crashed right into her back wheel and they both bit the pavement. HARD. There were 2 police officers on the side of the road that immediately started to run towards them and I had to yell and put my hand up so they wouldn't cross the street. Otherwise, I would have taken them down too and we'd all be screwed. "So we're 6 miles into the bike and already I'm watching accidents and preventing them at the same time. I'm sure this is a good omen." 

After that, I constantly had my head on a swivel. There was a group of athletes that insisted on passing me and then IMMEDIATELY cutting me off every time. Of course I re-passed them every time. The 3rd time this happened was the last. I made sure to dig a little deeper and pull far enough ahead that I was out of their reach. 

Right about mile 22 I saw the lead cyclist pass me. (My mile 22, his mile 34). Guess what, it wasn't Ryan. Neither was the 2nd cyclist. Or the 3rd. I took notice of the time on my watch when the first cyclist passed me and when I saw Ryan approaching me in 4th place, I saw that he was behind about 2.5 minutes. Piece 'o cake. This ain't his first rodeo. Alex was immediately behind Ryan in 5th place. I had 0 worries for these guys. 

Only a few miles before I hit the mile 28 turn around I saw Jacqui pass me, looking pretty strong. I had been saying my prayers for her daily in hopes that her body would hold up for the run. Only time would tell. And RIGHT behind her was MARK! He saw me and gave me a little "HEY-O!" I didn't think I was at all nervous until I saw him. Because once I saw him, I felt a like a weight had been lifted. He's kickin' ass and takin' names. Now it's your turn. 

I made the turn around and hit some nice little head winds. I stayed low and let my legs take control. I was making more passes than I'm used to and by the time I hit the last 5 miles, I was pretty much riding alone. 2 hours and 52 minutes later (19.5mph avg), it was time to run!

Run:{13.1 miles}

I took off and one thing was for sure, my legs were definitely warmed up and ready to run. My first mile was way to fast and I knew it, clocking in at 7:45. Let your legs have fun for a mile and then it's time to settle in. Psych. Mile 2: 7:57. Mile 3: 7:49. So ummmm maybe this is gonna be a REALLY good day?

I was well on track to PR for the day, but until I hit the road on the run I never like to get my hopes up. You just never know how your legs will respond coming off the bike. But today it looked like I was well on my way. Just as I was approaching mile 1 I saw a motorcycle crawling on the other side of the road. Who is he ushering to the finish line!? The gap closed between myself and the motorcycle as I saw Ryan just behind. And he looked like he was hurting. But he had less than a mile to go and that W was his. Just another day at the office for that kid. Shortly after that the course turns left and you run through a long cul-de-sac. As I was about to make my way back onto the main road, I see Alex cruisin' along to the finish line. Yep, boys. Makin' me look all slow over here. 

I started to really find my groove after I saw Alex when all of a sudden I hear someone yell, "Go Megan!" Jacqui. On the other side of the street. Walking. On the sidewalk. 

"What are you doing??" - Me as I extend my arm and point at her walking.
"Oh, it's ok. I'm done."  
It was like deja vu. We had been in this exact position only 1 short month prior in Texas and it still hurt my heart knowing that this girl wasn't able to compete the way I know she can. I sent my love via a blown kiss and told her that I was almost positive Ryan had just snagged another win. 

I kept chugging along and it wasn't long before I saw Mark heading my way as he was rounding up his first loop. {His mile 4.25, my mile 2.75} He was moving faster than I've seen him ever move on the run. And he looked damn good too. Damn, you're gonna have to do some work if you want to catch him. Now you have to remember, he had a 10 minute head start on me. But passing him KNOWING he had a lead was just what this sibling rivalry ordered. 

I did my best to pick up the pace. It wasn't easy because just after I saw Mark, the hills started to come into play. And I had to pee. Like, really bad. Go ahead and stop in the porta potty if you want, but you're gonna lose time and he might pull ahead of you. I'll wait. Time to test out what my bladder muscles are really made of. As I was nearing the end of my first loop {mile 6.25} I saw Mark heading out for his 2nd loop {mile 7}. He still had a fresher look than I cared for, but that just meant he was getting stronger. Good for him. I had closed the gap a little, but still had some work to do if I was going to cross the finish line before him! And he wasn't going to make it easy on me. 

Every step I took I could feel my bladder SCREAMING. Just before mile 10 you hit an aid station followed by the turn around. Mark was leaving the aid station as I was approaching it. He didn't look so happy this time. The fatigue was starting to hit. Less than a quarter mile. I made the pass just after the aid station on one of the nasty hills and gave him a little love tap on the butt as I plowed past him. 

The last 3 miles I got my 2nd wind. I made sure to put some space between Mark and myself. I managed a 1:46:59 run split (8:10 avg) with an overall finish time of 5:23 - a 25 minute PR. I rushed back to the finish shoot to wait for Mark. I had no idea if he was right behind me or not. 7 minutes later, Mark crossed the finish line - with a total finish time of 5:40 - a 30 minute PR. I rushed to find Mark past the finish line and Ryan had already beaten me to him. My heart was so full. I couldn't be happier for Mark. He deserved every minute of that PR. He immediately ripped off his watch and asked me to go through his splits. It was obvious - he was pretty damn happy too. 

We met up with the rest of the group, grabbed our gear and headed out to the most anticipated part of the day - BREAKFAST! 

Mark's cinnamon roll fed the whole table

For every 10 minutes you PR, you are allowed a meal

He made me pay for breakfast. Ugh.

Being the "big" sister that I am, I paid the bill and we hit the road. Of course, I ushered him around all weekend (he didn't touch the steering wheel once). And in return, he made sure to keep me company on the ride home. 


It's ok though. I anticipated such an exciting ride home. Plus, now I get to make him drive home from Lake Placid ;)


  1. Congrats to you and Mark. So proud of you guys! Best of luck in Lake Placid!!
    Kenny Klimes

  2. You two rock! Love the writing and well...just proud to know you:)