Grand Haven Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Yesterday marked triathlon #3 for me in Grand Haven, Michigan. The Grand Haven Triathlon & Duathlon was named to be the Regional Duathlon Championships, so Mike & I headed out so he could compete! I signed up for the sprint distance triathlon, and was hoping for some opportunities to refine my racing skills. 

Prior to the race, I’d set the following goals:

  • Sub-15 Swim
  • Bike: 17.9 MPH ( my pace w/o the “rest stop”)
  • Faster transitions- get both transitions to the length of today’s T1
  • Maintain my near PR run!

We’ll see how these went through the course of the event! 

Pre Race:

  • Grand Haven is about 3.5 hours from Chicago, so Mike & I had a nice little road trip up the coast of Lake Michigan. We were happy to be leaving the heat of Chicago behind! 
  • We had really enjoyed hearing the course talk at the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon, so we planned to make it in time for the as yet unscheduled, but advertised course talks.  
  • We got to the YMCA that was hosting this event, and we were a little surprised at some of the disorganization we saw when checking in and asking questions.  I was handed my packet, then realized after I got out that they hadn’t given me my timing chip, so I went back a 2nd time. 
  • We racked our bikes on Saturday.  Tip:  if you do this, put a plastic grocery bag over your bike seat to prevent dew from accumulating!
  • We ate dinner at the one Italian restaurant we could find in Grand Haven, although w weren’t completely happy with the service. Actually, my tummy didn’t really like the dinner at all and although I was consciously feeling not very worried, my stomach decided it needed to be nervous.  This lasted from middle of the night through to race start. 

The Swim:

  • I’m happy I brought my wetsuit with me. Even though the air was warm, and the hotel said the water was 75 degrees, Lake Michigan was COLD! I put my wetsuit on at the beach, tried to do a bit of a warmup swim, but my arms were so cold I just got out of the water.   
  • The swim was a pretty easy half mile, although this was the first tri where I felt like I was “in the thick” of many swimmers. Got my goggles pushed a few times, was accidentally swimming into people slower than me, etc. I did feel like I did a good job with sighting though!
  • In the swim time, the race has you swim, run up the beach, and then run about .75 mile to transition — all of this before you hit the transition timing pad! I had been aware of this, so I brought a 2nd set of running shoes to put on at the boardwalk to run up to transition in.  Sockless running success!  
  • Coming out of the swim and into T1, I was happy that I found my bike very easily. This was a much smaller race than before, and I knew that this was something I wanted to focus on.

The Bike:

  • I was more confident about this bike ride than my last one, but I still wanted to work on feeling confident and handling my bike well.  I clipped in (that wasn’t a question), but I was a bit worried about a 180-degree turn we had.  Mike & I drove that part of the bike course the night before and they had taped a very wide turn, so I felt OK about that.  
  • But we didn’t drive the beginning of the bike course, which would have shown me that there were some major hills right at the beginning!  Just after I shifted up to the large chain gear (did I say this right), I turned and then saw a huge hill! I climbed my little heart out, then saw another one! WTF!  I shifted down a bit and kept pumping my legs and chanting “Keep going!”
  • Overall I felt pretty strong and calm as most of the ride was then a straightaway, although on lightly travelled road.  I tried to keep a high cadence up, but unfortunately my Garmin didn’t capture the cadence this race, so I don’t know if I’m improving or not.   
  • The Not-So-Pretty: 
    • I had a 180-degree turn, and the course actually was narrower than the tape indicated. You had about 1 lane total to make the 180-turn.  I kind of stopped, and then had issues when one of the course marshalls tried to get me going again.  At least I’m smart enough to clip out before craziness like this.
    • On the crazy uphill on the way back, I planned better and shifted to the smaller chain gear in front. I got into my groove of pedalling up the hill – and got blocked by 3 riders occupying the entire lane! I yelled at them to move but they didn’t, and I didn’t know what to do as I would either hit them if I kept up my pace, or otherwise stop.  So I veered off onto the grass and stopped. I actually didn’t crash – I was able to clip out with one foot and lean to that side to stop. And proceed to hyperventilate. Some guy came up to me and started “talking me back into the race.” While I appreciate his intentions, I just wanted him to go away.  But he had me walk the bike up to the top of the hill, then coast down and glide up the last bit of hill.  I passed those blocking cyclists within the first half mile of the run.  I lost about 3 minutes due to this fiasco.
  • I did not take any hydration during the ride, but I didn’t feel I needed it. This was definitely one of the more technically challenging rides I’ve done. Michigan likes its hills.   
  • T2 was fast – helmet, shoes, squirt of gatorade & go!  I actually realized I still had my bike gloves on half a mile into the run. 

The RunSurprised smile

  • Once I was out on the run I was just kind of enjoying things.  The run course was along a boardwalk, so we saw other people walking, sitting & cheering. I didn’t push too hard on the run, although I was passing some people. I mostly got passed by Olympic distance runners.  The turnaround came up quickly, and it was heading back!  
  • I hadn’t really seen anyone in my age group on the whole race, so I wasn’t sure what my placing was.  I knew this was a small enough race that I could potentially place. I actually saw the first person in my age division on the final 1/10 mile stretch up hill at the end of the run! I was already powering into the finish, and finished only a half second behind her. But actually I ran about 6 minutes faster than her.  She was just more awesome at the swim & bike.  

Overall Thoughts & Tips for Next Time:

  • This was not a very well organized race. The course was pretty, but there was a lot of confusion at the race check-in/expo, no Saturday course talks, and the schedule of race starts actually changed that morning! I also was given the wrong timing chip, so it took about 2 hours before my time was posted, and only because I followed up and remembered that girl who finished just before me.  The awards ceremony was also delayed, and we actually saw quite a few people leave when it was delayed.
  • Post race food was OK – BBQ & granola bars.  I was looking for some gatorade, or a bagel too.
  • Same as before:  I need more practice on the bike – longer distance rides and getting comfortable with turns, drinking, etc.
  • Practice transitions.  Make those times tighter!

Times (and age group rankings):

  • Swim: 22:48 (3/10)   — wasn’t reasonable to put a time goal toward this swim given the run as well! 
  • T1: 2:58.5 (9/10)
  • Bike: 48:20 (8/10) – not so much. This was a hilly course. and w/o my “break” I averaged 16.7 mph. “Breaks” also slow me down.
  • T2: 1:27 (7/10)  – got my transitions just under that 4:28 goal from PP.
  • Run: 28:48 (6/10) – I could have pushed a bit more throughout the run. 
  • Total: 1:44:23 (6/10)

What’s  Next?

My next triathlon is the Chicago Triathlon – Olympic Distance! That’s a new distance for me, double that of a sprint.  So I’m looking at approximately 3.5 hour completion time.  My goals for the training period leading up:

  • Practice those bike handling skills.  Practice regularly on the road bike.
  • Use Venus de Miles as an opportunity to extend your distance and also practice nutrition/hydration on the bike.
  • Do at least 1-2 practice transitions! Also practice changing your roadbike tire.
  • Try to do a brick workout once a week
  • Keep up my marathon training.  This will get me my run distance in.
  • Keep up the swim practice.  See what a reasonable mile time could be. 

6 thoughts on “Grand Haven Sprint Triathlon Race Report

  1. Erin @ Loop Looks

    Wow. I wonder what happened this year. It was WAY more organized last year. They were also really strict about riding single file and following all the US Triathlon rules. I even saw the US Triathlon reps riding up and down the bike course on motorcycles making sure people were following the rules!

  2. kilax

    Awesome job! And how cool that you are going to try a Olympic Distance next!

    Geesh! Can you imagine if you had not realized right away your timing chip was not in there?! Thank heavens you did, even though it was the wrong one.

    So does that .75 m run to T1 count as part of the swim?

    What is up with the people riding three across on their bike?! How totally lame. You did well dealing with all the craziness!!!

    1. Lauren Post author

      Yes – that .75 mi run was included in the overall swim time. When I’d first reviewed the times from last year, I’d thought “wow – I could win the swim!” since my time in Pleasant Prairie had been ~17 minutes, and the fastest here were 19 minutes. Then I looked at the course and saw that there was that run included in your swim time!

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