Michigan Titanium Triathlon – 2015

This weekend I made yet another trip to Michigan.  This time to participate in a race that is more my speciality… a full distance triathlon.  If you want to the short and sweet version, scroll to the bottom and watch the video recap. Otherwise continue reading for a less short synopsis of this race:

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This year marks the 4th year of the Michigan Titanium Triathlon.  There is a full and 70.3 distance to choose from as well as aqua-bike races.  I decided to do the Full distance (2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2 mile run). The race is located in and around the Grand Rapids area.  I was a little nervous about the road conditions (those of you that live or have spent any amount of time in Michigan know what I’m talking about) but it turns out there were slightly better than I expect.  But first things first… the swim.

The swim was a two-looped swim in Verslius Lake.  Water temperature was about 76-77 degrees.  In the past when I’ve swam with a wetsuit at these temperatures, I over heated and ended up struggling the rest of the race.  I anticipated it being just below wetsuit legal temperatures, so leading up to the race I tried swimming open water in my BlueSeventy Core Shorts (MAVMIKE saves 20% on all BlueSeventy orders).  I really liked how it felt and decided I would give it a try on race day… but with having my PZ4TX swim skin on underneath of it.  First time doing this was on race day… and I broke the rule of never doing anything new on race day.  But it seemed to work well for me.  I got on the feet of a former collegiate water polo player (he was part of a full distance relay) and another professional from Hungry.  I pretty much let them do all the work and just drafted off of them.  I tried getting around them a few times but getting out of there draft caused me to work harder and go the same speed, so I took my spot at the back of the group of three for the two loops.  I exited the water just a few seconds behind 1st and 2nd and ran in to T1 with them.

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Once I got to T1, I went into the changing tent only to realize that going in there was optional.  I lost a little bit of time due to this and got out on the bike about 30 seconds behind second place.  I caught him pretty quickly… probably about 2-3 miles into the bike.  He got behind me far enough not to be illegally drafting, but close enough where he was definitely still benefiting from his position.  About 2 or 3 miles later, I caught 1st place (he was part of the full relay team).  The smooth pavement turned into chip and seal road about 10 miles into the bike and stayed that way until the last 8 miles of the loop.  2nd place was about 4 to 5 bike lengths behind me almost the entire loop.  I tried putting in a few surges to drop him (a few efforts at 370-380 watts) but he wasn’t going anywhere.  Finally, I made it back to the smooth road and had about 8 miles to the turn around to start the next loop.  I looked over my shoulder before making the turn and didn’t even see him.  I met him heading back out and was told after the race he was 2:45 behind me… all of which was put on in the last stretch.  I knew he had popped and wouldn’t be coming back up to me.  So I just tried to hold a steady power for the second loop.  However, biking at just under half-iron wattage to try to drop the guy for most of the first lap started to catch up to me with about 25 miles left to go.  Add in the rougher roads than I’m used to in Kentucky and I was starting to feel a little beat up.  I kept my nutrition coming in a little more frequent than the first loop to maintain my power and energy levels.  This race I mixed my custom mix from Infinit and 3 one-ounce servings of the highly caffeinated NAPALM (MAVERICK saves 10% on Infinit orders).  I found this to more simple than having to juggle a bottle of my custom mix and 2-3 flasks of NAPALM in my back pockets/special needs bag.  I had 5 bottles total mixed up this way.  I then supplemented with salt tabs and water from the race course.  Once I got back to the smooth road, I could see the clouds up ahead. The sky looked dark and stormy.  The lead motorcycle slowed down and I rolled up to him.  He said to stop at the next aid station that I got to (which would be 4 miles before T2) and wait there.  He said some really bad storms were rolling through.

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I arrived at the final aid station and waited.  I asked the guys on the motorcycles what was going to happen.  I knew I was about 15 minutes ahead of 2nd place at this time and was worried that my lead I worked so hard to get as big as possible would be erased from the “pause” in the race.  They couldn’t give me a straight answer, but agreed that I was about 15 minutes ahead of him.  I took that time to talk to other athletes and take in some real food.  It started raining a little and before long, a bunch of the athletes were starting to get really cold.  The race was about to restart when another round of thunderstorms started rolling through. At that point they called the race and I just rode back to T2.  When I had stopped at the final aid station, my Garmin read 4 hours and 26 minutes.  I saw the watch of the 2nd place guy while he was waiting and it said 4:39.  I had about 13 minutes on him and with a little more road to go until I would have put on about another 45 seconds on him… so about 14 minute lead.  I also had my best power output for a full distance triathlon by about 10 watts here.  295 watts Normalized Power!

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Based on my training and the cooler temperatures, I’m assuming I could have ran anywhere between a 2:50 and 3:10 marathon depending on how well I held together in the final stretch of the race.  That would have put me around a 8:20-8:40 finishing time… a huge PR for that distance on a similar course to Louisville as far as elevation profile on the bike (2700 ft climbing at Titanium and 2900 ft at IM Louisville). Plus, Louisville’s swim is faster with 2/3 of the swim being down stream and the road quality being better makes the roads faster.

I had plans on using this race as a test run to see what I wanted my goals for next year to be.  Mainly, to try to get to Kona as professional in 2016.  I think with a iron-distance time of 8:20-ish I stand a chance to get there.  I won’t be in the fastest there… far from it… but I would like to make a run for it at least.

Over all, this event was a top notch, world-class event.  Way better experience than any WTC race.  There were more aid stations than needed, the volunteers actually knew what they were doing at the bottle exchanges, and the lead vehical guides made sure to stay far enough ahead to not let me draft off him.  If you are looking for a great place to race a full or half distance triathlon, you should consider this race!

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