IRONMAN 70.3 Steelhead was SUPPOSED to be stellar but as we all know to be true, life happens. The end of this story is...I crashed and broke my clavicle but here is a recap of the race and the trip.
Michigan, my home state and a place I rarely get to visit. I’m notorious for the race-cation (racing with a little vacation) and luckily Karen decided she wanted to come too. I think it’s because she loves Benton Harbor as much as I do but she’s basically a super Sherpa too. We rented a very nice house 6 miles from the race site and spent 4 nights total enjoying the area. Just so you know, there are a lot of fun things to do in Benton Harbor! There are some GREAT food spots you should check out.
#1 The Mason Jar
#2 Bread + Bar
#3 Pheonix Rising
Aside from the food and the clean, serene beaches are the cider mills. We visited a few before I was tired and ready for a nap. Plus all that movement while in a sling kinda sucks. We had a HARD cider tasting at Virtue Cider Mill and then on the way home I was feeling saucy, so we stopped at a regular cider mill for apple cider and donuts…my childhood fave! So, if you decide to race IRONMAN 70.3 Steelhead….check out the food, sights and more food!
Having just come off IRONMAN Austria and Challenge Iceland, I had been feeling great on the bike and run. My swimming has been about 3-4 seconds slower per 100yd in the pool but I think it’s because I lost about 8 pounds during my Euro trip. I’m not sure why, but I think I’m just really busy and basically eat everything fresh and home made. The food is just better over there. Plus I train like a mofo because it’s impossible to sit around with The Alps in your back yard! So, answering the time honored, annoying question we always get before a race…YES, I was ready.
We popped into Detroit airport with our 5 bags and puppy, headed to Clarkson and stayed with my Mom for a few nights. Saturday, the day before the race, we drove down to Benton Harbor and met my best pal Trav Hill. After scrambling to the race meeting, our house was ready for us and all pre-race rituals were performed. It was actually really odd showing up to the race site the day before the race. I didn’t really feel “rushed” but I didn’t feel settled either. I would have liked to be there at least 1 day early for sure. I’ll put that on my “to do” list for next year...since I’ll be back.
RACE DAY STUFF
The weather was perfect and the water was also perfect. Luckily with a 58 degree air temp and 72 degree water temp, the pro field was non-wetsuit so I could try out my new BlueSeventy swim skin! Since we all love to race with sleeved tri-kits, it only seems right to swim with a sleeved swim skin, right? Totally amazing! The fit was perfect and it came off very, very easy. Okay, getting back to race stuff…I was ready to go! My bike was set, new Alto disc was perfectly fit and my INFINIT mixes were all aboard.
As I mentioned before, my swim has felt quite off, but I was still 2 minutes off the leaders by the end of our 1.2 mile swim…so pretty normal. I ended up chasing Matt Russell in the water. I wasn’t quite on his feet until the last 200 meters or so but it was really nice to see some bubbles from time to time. The water had a slight swell and chop, but was still very comfortable. I came out feeling less than happy with my swim but honestly, was just hoping to see how the bike legs felt.
I’ve been really focusing on my bike power over the past 2 months and with a bit of weight loss my power to weight ratio has been booming. I’ve never been able to ride with some of the super strong guys before, but I was definitely hanging…until I crashed. The bike course is awesome though. There are a good amount of left and right turns and I’d say 60% of the road surfaces are great. Michigan roads are notoriously shit so this is a GREAT venue to race. Before my crash, which was around mile 45 or so, I was riding 305 NP and IF I finished, I would have been around 2:07 for 56 miles. For me, that’s pretty good! BUT…then the crash.
How did it happen, you wonder?
Imagine racing for 7 years, taking random items from bike-aid stations here and there...never feeling nervous or worried. Since we start first, the aid stations are pretty clean too, no need to worry. I also point at whomever I plan to target…which has been helpful. Looking at my data, I was still going pretty fast through the aid station and honestly, my decision to grab a gel was kind of last minute…or last second. I still pointed and had a solid target but I guess since I was riding so hard I burned through more than I though and needed a “gel” safety blanket. So…I went for a gel. There was 1 volunteer at the end grasping 2 gels and here are the 2 things I remember thinking.
#1 – I need to grab this gel hard and,
#2 – I vividly remember how tightly the volunteer held onto the gel…and didn’t let go.
In true sling-shot fashion I was slung back and then flung forward as I recoiled. This put me laying on my aero bars and rolling to the right. My right shoulder took the full blast, saving my hips. The injury list is quite long but here is the good news:
The break isn’t displaced and I don’t NEED surgery to improve my quality of life. I’m still dealing with a 4(ish) week recovery period which is REALLY good. The road rash is the worst part and basically covers the right side of my body. The ONLY other issue is where my pedal jabbed into my left shin, severely damaging my calf muscle…which will probably take a long time to heal.
When I crashed, I was swarmed with helpful volunteers who cleaned up the yard sale of my bottles, but I never remember hearing from the person who contributed to my crash. I was bleeding everywhere, my full shoulder was exposed, my kit was destroyed, but I couldn’t see any bones. Since this was my first broken bone, I wasn’t sure if I dislocated my shoulder or actually broke something. I rode back to the medical tent without much pain…I must have been in shock. My left shin had a golf ball sized lump and I knew there was a very painful bump on my collar bone, but I still tested that shit out like I could run!!! (dumb triathletes) I think the funniest part is…EVEN though I was going 15-18 mph, sitting up, bloody and torn...people still cheered for me like I was racing. I was like “can you not see this blood”? Super nice to have support, but when you’re basically ruined, it was more comical than anything.
The Med Tent really hooked me up, cleaned out my wounds and sent me to the hospital. I had a really great hospital experience and was basically done by 11:30am…left to collect my shit and asses the real damage. My business partner, Jon, immediately connected me with Dr. Jeff Watson, our local orthopedic surgeon and hero. I am so thankful to have so many people in my corner who messaged me and set me up with words of encouragement from past experiences. I’M SO GREATFUL and not in the least bit worried about my recovery. This is the most rest or time off from training I’ve had in a few years and my first major incident…life goes on. I only wish I could have helped more with our luggage on the way home. Karen, my amazing wife, should write a Traithle’s Wives Handbook. I know it would be long and have a lot of laughter at my expense. I mean after all, I can’t even change my own dressings or my clothes…so, thanks Babe!!!!!
Thanks to the Tampa Bay Orthopedic group and Dr. Watson, I know I don’t NEED surgery and in 10 days I SHOULD be able to run…for like 1 mile. Until then, I can bike on the trainer and work on my diet…trying not to eat everything!!
Duh…didn’t happen, but I’ll be back!
For now, I am still planning to race IRONMAN Italy on 23 Sept. I'm finally riding the bike with both hands on the trainer and plan to execute my first jog tomorrow morning. I've been keeping busy in the meantime, baking my own sourdough bread, smoking some meats and generally doing my best to keep my body loose. More updates to come very soon and I cannot wait to see my friends back in Austria!