Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Race Report

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We're back! We left Benton Harbor around 5 AM their time and got home just a little after 1. It took us around 9 hours to get out there and just over 8 hours to get back - a PR :) This may be a long one, folks, so grab a cup of coffee an hunker down. Overall, it was a great weekend despite a few pitfalls.

First off, I want to congratulate Borsch and my brother Matt for an AMAZING half marathon yesterday! Borsch made his goal, and Matt pulled a 2:00:10 race out of nowhere to finish his first half ever. Until last week, he'd never even run 10 miles. I think I'm more excited for him than I was for my own race this weekend.

On the way home, I drove for a bit while Steve rested. He was just as exhausted as me after a long day of cheering yesterday! As I was driving, I got to thinking. Sara and I were talking after the race yesterday about how this was my last tri, um, I mean du for the year. Doing Ironman the last couple of years meant my tri season wasn't done until September, so August seems a little early. Steve and I had decided that we won't be going out to watch Ironman WI this year since we've already made 3 out of town athletic trips this summer. So... That leaves September 7th open, which coincidentally, is the weekend of Square Lake half iron distance race. I signed up when I got home. This way I can get in one last tri, have incentive to multisport train while I'm following the First marathon program, and be home in time to catch up on all my friends on ironmanlive! Plus, it's fairly cheap for a tri, so it's a done deal.

The Day Before:

We left our house just after 4 AM, and after a few stops, including a sketchy stop in Chicago (check out Steve's blog for that story), we were pulling into our hoopty Ho Jo hotel. Right away, we saw the Team Evotri sign hanging off of a balcony and Rural Girl, Trisaratops, and Stu just inside the door. We called up to them and were soon greeted with shouts and hugs. We unpacked our car and noted in the process that our hotel air conditioner didn't seem to work. We tried to make the air coming in cooler, but it was already set at the coldest temperature. Figures. We had nicknamed the hotel "The Hoopty Ho Jo" long before we had arrived because the reviews were so bad, but when there's nothing else left, you've gotta take what you can get. More on that later...

After dumping our stuff in our room, Steve, Stu, Rural Girl, and TriSara Tops and I left for the expo. It wasn't long before we found Iron Wil there with her adorable kids. We picked up our packets, got body marked, and dropped off our bikes.

Getting body marked at the expo the day before the race.

Then we played in the water for a while. It totally put my mind at ease. I'd been a little worried this week about what the water temperature would be like, and it was PERFECT.

Wil, Me, TriSara Tops, and Rural girl enjoying the water.

It was calm and 74 degrees, and I was ready to see what swimming with the current for the entire 1.2 miles would do for my swim PR. We had fun hanging out in the water and the hot sun then met up with TriCajun and JP, the newest member of Evotri. He looks (and is) so young, but that guy is smokin fast! We took advantage of the pre-race pasta dinner and then headed back to our hotel to escape the heat.

No luck in the heat escaping. Our room, it seems, had actually gotten hotter and stickier while we were away, so we went to the front desk to see what they could do. It would be one thing if the temperature was going to drop from over 90 degrees to 60, but the forecast didn't call for that. The front desk offered us a fan. Uh Uh. There was no way that we weren't going to sleep the night before a half that I had forked over a lot of money for. So they offered us the only room left - the jacuzzi sweet for a reduced price. We figured it was worth the extra money to be able to sleep, even though we'd never in a million years use the nasty jacuzzi. Since it was two rooms, though, Stu had somewhere to sleep on his air mattress besides his van. Bonus. For crazy nasty pics of the HoJo, check out Steve's documentation. Lights out before 10.

Race Day:

Our alarm clock went off around 4:30. We got ready and met Rural Girl and TriSara Tops, and to the race we went!

Rural Girl and I gettng ready to show them our all access bracelets.

I looked over my transition area about 4 times, made a trip to the porta potty, spent my usual eternity putting on my wetsuit, and we made our way down to the water. We had heard rumblings all morning that the water was really choppy since the wind had picked up, and soon I was looking at it first hand.

Walking on the beach with some of the members of Team Evotri.

The waves were big, and they were crashing onto shore. Sara commented that a couple of her friends from home weren't strong swimmers, and she was a little worried about them. After walking nearly the entire mile on the beach, the crowd started to turn around, and one guy ran by shouting, "Swim's cancelled! It's a duathlon!" Sara and Rural Girl were especially disappointed. Rural Girl because it was her third tri turned du of the year and Sara because this was her A race and she was ready to smash her PR.

Sara looking bummed that the swim was cancelled.

I just looked at the water, thought of Sara's two friends and all of the other athletes out with us who weren't necessarily strong swimmers, and figured that completely changing the race was definitely worth it if it meant that one person didn't die out there. Was I bummed? Sure. Did it change my mindset for the day? Absolutely. Did it affect my ability to claim an official PR? Most likely. Doing a little math in my head reveals that I probably would have PR'd anywhere from a few minutes to much more, but I'll never know... I still think it was the right decision.

Those were some massive waves, but the current was just crazy!

I went out and waded through the water for a bit, and you could feel it trying to suck you under even in just 2 feet of water. We heard after the race that one of the race kayaks trying to put buoys out had capsized just from the undercurrent. The coast guard gave a no go to the swim.

The Swim Run:

I was in the same age group as Iron Girl Nyhus, so we lined up together, but that girl is fast, so I never saw her again. Great to see you again IGN!

I tried taking it a little easy for the first portion. No use blowing the whole race with a 2 mile run. I finished in 18:13.


I was in and out fairly quickly. No wetsuit to peel off, no socks to put on, and I was already donning my tri top and sunglasses. Out in 2:05.

The Bike:

My legs felt a little Jello-y hopping on the bike at first. Plus, the first few miles were against the wind. I was worried that it was going to be a long day. I found my groove pretty quickly, though, and soon I was cruising! My MPH were all over the place, so I rarely looked down at my computer. I decided to just go by feel. I kept looking down, seeing fast numbers, and wondering if I was in a tailwind. I fully expected it to catch up with me later, but it never did. I never felt like I was pushing too hard, and for the first time in a long race, I was passing people. Of course a lot of people passed me, especially since all of the young guys started after me. With that many people on the course, I found myself getting stuck a couple of times unable to pass the person in front of me because someone was passing already. I tried really hard, though, not to draft and succeeded for the most part. This wasn't necessarily the case for everyone. Hoards of guys were passing in full packs. Not even lines that were too close together. These were packs. Like, out for a Wednesday night ride packs. The other excitement for me on the bike was at the second water stop. A guy was shouting, "Slow down! Accident ahead! Watch out!" about 300 yards before the water stop. I saw them loading one athlete into an ambulance. It was time to refuel, so I tossed my bottle and prepared for the handoff. I grabbed the water with my right hand, heard a noise, and felt the biker hit me from behind. I was left to steer with my right wrist and my very non dominant left hand. It was only by God's Good Grace that I didn't crash, but the guy who hit me wasn't so lucky. I apologized profusely and asked him if he was OK. He muttered that he was fine and that it was his fault anyway. I quickly realized that he was probably right, but I still ruminated about it a little for the rest of the bike. A guy stopped about 1/4 mile after the water stop, and I think it was the guy who hit me. He never passed me again. I hope he's OK. The bike went by so quickly. I don't know if it was the volume of people (I'm used to biking alone out there), my bike Tony, the course, or if I really did have a tailwind for 3/4 of the course. Whatever the case, I finished the bike in 3:05 flat. My computer said it was a little short at around 54.5 miles with an average of 17.5 mph including running in and out of transition. Ironman live says I did 56 miles with an 18.6 mph average. I'm not sure who to believe here, but it's a PR even if the course was a little short. My old bike PR was 3:35. Worst case scenario would be that it took me another 5 minutes or so to make up that remaining distance.

T2: I had a great spot in transition, and I was in and out in 2:07.

The Run:

The run was a little brutal. I don't think I've had enough training in hot weather this summer. Plus, I forgot my hat. Not sure how I managed that since I thought I'd packed two. Ice under my hat and in the front and back of my try top is how I get through runs in the hot weather. Yesterday I was stuck with just the latter two. It's my own fault. At any rate, I kept getting goosebumps and feeling funny, so I just slowed down and walked for a minute or two when it happened. The hour late race start, high sun, and unshaded run on blacktop didn't help.

When I saw Steve and James at mile 2, I was feeling good.

I had to post this pic because I actually have a leg muscle in it. I didn't think my calf muscles were actually visible to the naked eye :)

By mile 6.5, I told him that I was overheating but was OK. My legs felt good, my food and electrolyte intake was OK, but I couldn't beat the heat. Something to work on for Sept 7! At mile 11, I told myself that I wouldn't walk any more, and once I got closer to the lake, the breeze picked up and I was fine. The last few hundred feet were through sand and not fun, but I saw the finish line and pushed it in. Total run time: 2:36:30 - 18 minutes slower than last year's run at Chisago and 12 minutes slower than my first half ironman's 13.1.

Running toward the finish line.

I saw Steve at the finish along with James and TriSara Tops. Total finish time: 6:03:55. My half iron distance PR is 6:47:10. I'm thinking that this would have been a PR even with a swim, full length bike, and longer T1, but that's a lot of assumptions...

Steve had plenty of stories to tell me. He made a lot of people's days out there in his scandalous outfit, and people kept coming up to him and thanking him for cheering out there. The yellow shorts were a success!

After The Race:

Trying to recover while a volunteer removed my chip.

We waited to Cheer in Iron Wil. Sounds like she had quite an adventure on the run! We caught up with some of the rest of our friends, and everyone had a great day out there, especially Rural Girl, who secured a Clearwater slot! You're a rockstar Rural Girl! We said our goodbyes, which was really sad. I may not see some of these people for 8 months or more, and truly they are some of my best friends.
The Aftermath:

Of course, no post would be complete without pics of my nasty sunburns! I did put on sunscreen a couple of times, but I missed a few spots. I've really gotta figure out a way to avoid this...
A huge note of thanks to my awesome hubby who loves to ham it up and make people's races that much, ahem, brighter. You're always my favorite spectator. I love you Steve!
When we checked out of our hotel this morning, the lady commented, "Isn't that just a great room?" I didn't have the heart to tell her it was quite nasty and overpriced even for the discount they gave us, so I just politely agreed. She then went on to say that another couple gladly took our room that didn't have AC (last night was a bit cooler) and that another couple happily paid for a dirty room just so they had somewhere to sleep. Gross! I can't believe she admitted that last one to me, and she did it in such a way that suggested we were completely unreasonable for asking for the basic amenities that the hotel stated that it offers.
Glad to be home to my own bed tonight. Back to work tomorrow!
Five weeks till Square Lake, 8 weeks till Twin Cities Marathon!


Steve Stenzel

Square Lake?!?! You're nuts!! But, then again, you DID marry me.



Awesome job Sarah! You totally rocked the course!

I think I might be free for Square Lake...I might just have to make the drive out to cheer.


Congrats on the tri/du - bugger about the swim, but it sounds like you held together well and finished strong.

good luck with the training.


Those shoulders and neck look OUCH! Maybe try sunscreen rather than tanning oil :)

Jumper 2.0

Those shoulders look really, really nasty.

Congratulations on the bike and probable overall PR. I hope I'm in at least one race with you next year.

I love the "scandalous" comment! Hopefully (for many reasons, let alone the shorts), Steve doesn't have political aspirations;-)

Rural Girl

This is your mother-in-law, Connie, speaking...You look great in every picture! How does that work?! Good work out there Saturday. I'll be seeing you guys in October as I plan to come over to spectate for the Twin Cities Marathon (can't pass up the chance).


I swear you're the most photogenic person in the universe :) Way to crush that bike course, especially since it was more of a bumper car course! Scary stuff, but you way delivered. Way to get it done out there. I can't wait to catch up with you guys again!


Nice job. That swim would have been scary. Good thing they decided against it.


Wow, near crashes, real crashes. You are one tough biker chic! Great job on getting it done out there. And it was nice meeting you before the race!

Kick butt on Sept. 7th!


Nice work Pharmie! I think you're smiling b/c of the bowl full of sunshine that's taking the pictures! How could you not like bacon covered nipples?

TC is only 8 weeks away? Holy cow, where does the summer go?

IM Able

Yeah!!! (clapping hands at desk!)

Congrats on mastering a race, even in light of last minute changes. AND avoiding a crash!

Here's to never ending race seasons! Ending the season in August...pshaw!



Congrats on completing Steelhead Tri/er.... DU....er... what ever they are "officially" calling it.

I'm sure you were disappointed about not swimming, but from the looks of the waves, it was the best decision.

Glad you did not crash (one of my giant fears during a race -- or just riding the dang parkways in Mpls).

Try aloe vera on that sunburn. We keep ours in the fridge. Ahhhh.


Great race. I read about it on your hubby's post and I always read your reports, but congratulate you on his blog. Kind of silly.

Anyhoo, congratulations on your PR (I am claiming it for you :o) You looked so strong and happy in all of your pictures. It is very inspiring for a newbie like me. Thank you!


Great race report! Great job!

And what about New Orleans, huh?


great report and great race!!! you did awesome!


Well done! It sounds like it was a tough day out there, and by the looks of that sunburn - yikes!


go pharmie go! fantastic race report and you kicked some ass! way to go out there lobster! nice PR on the bike!


Hey, Charlie keeps talking about y'all - can you please sign up for the New Orleans 1/2 and I promise we'll have a cool place for you to stay! Congrats on your race!

Lisa Parsiola

Iron Girl Nyhus

Nice job! It was fun seeing you (and Steve) there! Good luck at Square Lake... let me know if you want to do a long training run before TCM.


Great job Pharmie with the Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon...oops duathlon last Saturday! It was quite a unique adventure for all of us competitors...I have to say Steve was great motivation for me during my two loops around the Whirlpool Corp Campus...It's nice to meet a fellow blogger while on the run :-) plus the Michaelangelo picture he posted of the two of us is much too funny...

Hope your recovering well and congrat's once again on the great race :-)



Congratulations!! Great report and great job!


Great job girl! I don't know that I would be too happy with a du, but then again, that water didn't look very inviting! Great race report and way to kick arse!


Great job out there.. A crazy race for sure, duathlon and all..

Hopefully that sunburn didn't hurt to much. Hopefully better now.


Great work Pharmie - and great work taking it all in stride. Kickass way to lead to whatever's next - I'll email you about Square Lake!


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