Family, Friends and Ironman Steelhead 70.3
Last winter talking to my nephew Matt we picked out Ironman 70.3 Steelhead in Benton Harbor Michigan as the big goal to race together in 2013. Not long after my friend and now race director Ethan Page also picked out Steelhead. The three musketeers (triathletes) had a plan. Before race day the 3 were now 6 as my friend Troy Charters and two Forward Motion teammates Kathy and Lindsey were also in the mix. Anymore and we could ask for a group discount. My wife Sherrie, my in-laws Paul and Judy, Matt’s wife Lori, Ron and Kim Page and Troy’s entire family all made the trip. This was the go big or stay home thing, and we were all in for the go big.
Fast forward to the day before the race we gathered together at the beach in Benton Harbor Michigan to do a practice swim. Lake Michigan was on the rough side with 1 to 3 foot waves. Not much experience in rough water, but we made the best of it with a practice swim and hoped for calmer conditions in themorning.
Night before the race we had a group dinner and as typical I didn't sleep worth a hoot. Race morning Troy, Ethan and I drove up to the race together, put the last minute items in transition and walked the mile and a quarter down the sand to the swim start. I went with the 55+ males and 50+ females just after the pros, no time to think about it, walked up, got in line and the gun went off. The swim start was directly into the waves and rough. Made it to the first turn buoy and was mostly just doing the breaststroke to deal with the waves. Thankfully Ironman set 16 swim buoys each numbered so you knew exactly where you were on the course the whole time. It was buoy 3 before I got in any rhythm at all. Breath on the down side of the wave, wait on the top side of the wave. The rest of the swim went okay, and 48 minutes in the washing machine (race sponsored by Maytag was fitting) and I was out.
Run/walk through the thick sand and into the transition to see my familiar classic Kestrel KM40 waiting. We seem to be growing old together J I kept the pace moderate just riding along with another guy in my age group till the half-way point of the 56 mile ride before I started to pick up the pace. Around mile 32 I hear Ethan yell my name as he went screaming past pulling a dozen guys on his wheel. I was impressed; maybe awed is the better word. I finished the ride in 2 hours 41 minutes or just under 21 mph. Hardest part was I needed to pee like a race horse. First order of business after racking the bike and changing to my running shoes was a sprint to the port-a-let. Never so happy to be in one my whole life! I've never had to do that in a race before, but first time for everything.
Out on the run my legs felt really good. The first several miles I settled into an 8 minute mile pace and again following a guy from my age-group. We hung together for the first 7 miles then he started to pull away. By mile 9 mile quadriceps started getting super tight and I knew walking would have to come in to play. Little after mile 10 I had to walk the big hill and it was mile 11 before I picked it back up and ran to the finish. Had some health issues the start of the year and with the slow start I knew this would probably happen.
I was so glad to see the finish which came in 5 hours 34 minutes. Ended up 7th out of 48 in my age-group and as a testament to how hard the swim was 10% of those starting with me didn't make the swim finish. Celebrating with my wife Sherrie and all my family and friends was just spectacular. Ethan finished in 4 hours 26 minutes which is just amazing. Was there at the finish to see my nephew Matt come across the line with his wife Lori. That was super special as well. My coach for 2 years and friend Daniel Brestscher just missed the repeat overall win with a close second. Troy made it despite that crazy swim and so did Lindsey. An amazing day I will never forget.
To add to the craziness, Ethan’s goal was to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas. Finishing 3rd, he got a slot and signed up for it on the spot. We hung around till to see Ethan get his 3rd place award and pay for his entry to Vegas. When they called out the slots for the 55+ males the first several guys turned it down. They called my name as the 7th place finisher and asked me if I wanted to go. Well the family started cheering, Ethan’s family was cheering and next thing I know Sherrie handed me the credit card. I signed my name on the dotted line and in 5 weeks will be in Las Vegas with the most competitive Ironman athletes in the world. Oh my gosh what have I done. All I can say is if you are a praying person please and Ethan and myself to your list. Jesus I look to you …