2015: Copperman Triathlon

It was about a year ago that I had the first opportunity to be actually a part of Copperman Triathlon festivities, as a (slow running) member of Two Wolverines and a Badger, from inside rather than just looking on in from the outside. And if you have been fortunate enough to be in the start (or transition or finish) area, you would be quick to know that there is more than just the colloquial meaning to the previous sentence. It was quite the experience, a memorable one at that, and it did motivate me to some day do it all by myself. I’d be completely lying if claimed that I knew that that some day would be during the very next edition of the event.

Acquiring an awesome road bike — NORCO Valence C4, a thing of beauty and as such, affectionately nick-named The Carbon Beauty — in the middle of April (thanks to dear friends in The Bike Shop for a plan to wisely invest the tax dollars Uncle Sam was so kind to return) and learning that 2015 edition of Copperman included a duathlon (Run, Bike and Run) option seeded some thoughts doing it solo. But a quick conversation with dear friend Andi around the same time removed the said duathlon thoughts, and replaced them with a suggestion to grow something else and do the triathlon (Swim, Bike and Run) instead.

While just about anybody can challenge someone to do something, the challenger is very seldom a good teacher. And even seldom is the case where the challenger makes time to teach the required lessons in a hands-on way. I have been supremely fortunate to have friends that not only challenge me to get better but also willing to teach the required lessons in a hands-on way and to periodically monitor the progress: Adam, Jess, Rob, Ryan, Steve and Tim took me out for biking lessons (fixing a flat, changing gears, maintaining posture, line of sight, cadence and tire pressure, clipless pedals, etc.) while Andi, Christine, Dave, Ray, Shannon and Stephen offered plenty of swimming lessons (pool and open water techniques, maintaining posture and line of sight, importance of wearing goggles and wet suits, breathing, resting and survival techniques in case of freak out sessions, etc.).

Many of these and many more (Chris, Leah, Mark, Nils, Rick and Rob) were also kind in canning their triathlon experiences into easily usable lessons. An apriori two-part goal for this event was put 500 miles of road biking and 15 miles of swimming as training while not overly sacrificing running since signing up: only the former saw fruition (700+ miles) and swimming goal only made it a bit past one third of the way with most of the mileage coming in July. Rolling the ankle during Canal Run Half Marathon got me banned from running for about week (by the strong-willed folks in Keweenaw Running Group) — creating an opportunity to spend more time than I would otherwise done on the bike, and more importantly, in the water.

Summary of training activities since the last race
# Date and time Activity details
Device, Distance, Time, Pace, Speed, Heart Rate, and Weather Notes (when applicable)
01 2015-07-19 1:58 pm Houghton Quick Ride
6.59 mi, 0:33:18, 5:03 min/mile, 11.88 mph, 110 bpm, 190
72 F, 24 mph W, felt like 72 F, 61% humidity; sunny and windy
02 2015-07-19 4:14 pm Open Swim: Portage Canal (Prince’s Point)
0.68 mi, 0:30:07, 44:17 min/mile, 1.35 mph, 60
75 F, 22 mph W, felt like 75 F, 50% humidity; sunny and windy
03 2015-07-20 8:15 am Houghton Quick Run
3.08 mi, 0:29:11, 9:29 min/mile, 6.33 mph, 152 bpm, 347
76 F, 13 mph WNW, felt like 76 F, 54% humidity; mostly sunny and warm with a gentle breeze
04 2015-07-20 10:47 am Houghton Quick Ride
3.84 mi, 0:16:22, 4:16 min/mile, 14.06 mph, 71 bpm, 92
72 F, 27 mph WNW, felt like 72 F, 59% humidity; sunny and windy
05 2015-07-21 5:39 pm Houghton Short Ride
18.21 mi, 1:03:49, 3:30 min/mile, 17.14 mph, 144 bpm, 693
70 F, 15 mph WNW, felt like 70 F, 49% humidity; sunny, windy and beautiful
06 2015-07-23 4:33 pm Houghton Short Ride
18.06 mi, 1:02:17, 3:27 min/mile, 17.39 mph, 158 bpm, 797
81 F, 13 mph W, felt like 82 F, 54% humidity; sunny, windy and beautiful
07 2015-07-23 6:07 pm Open Swim: Portage Canal (Prince’s Point)
0.60 mi, 0:18:40, 31:07 min/mile, 1.93 mph, 46
82 F, 10 mph WSW, felt like 83 F, 48% humidity; sunny, windy and not as choppy as Sunday
08 2015-07-24 11:38 am Open Swim: Portage Canal (Prince’s Point)
0.62 mi, 0:19:35, 31:35 min/mile, 1.90 mph, 46
72 F, 6 mph S, felt like 72 F, 73% humidity; partially sunny, gentle breeze and mostly calm waters
09 2015-07-24 4:37 pm Houghton Short Ride
18.11 mi, 1:01:36, 3:24 min/mile, 17.65 mph, 155 bpm, 723
79 F, 6 mph SSW, felt like 79 F, 61% humidity; sunny, windy and beautiful
10 2015-07-25 9:01 am Hancock Quick Run
5.62 mi, 1:10:27, 12:32 min/mile, 4.79 mph, 152 bpm, 778
70 F, 14 mph WNW, felt like 70 F, 78% humidity; sunny, warm and beautiful
11 2015-07-25 12:50 pm Pool Swim: Michigan Tech Indoor Pool
0.57 mi, 0:30:00, 52:38 min/mile, 1.14 mph, 370
60 F, 0 mph, felt like 60 F, 60% humidity
12 2015-07-26 12:17 pm Houghton Long Ride
43.22 mi, 2:49:21, 3:55 min/mile, 15.32 mph, 138 bpm, 1344
81 F, 11 mph W, felt like 83 F, 62% humidity; sunny, breezy and beautiful
13 2015-07-26 4:40 pm Pool Swim: Michigan Tech Indoor Pool
0.46 mi, 0:20:00, 43:29 min/mile, 1.38 mph, 247
60 F, 0 mph, felt like 60 F, 60% humidity
14 2015-07-27 4:12 pm Houghton Short Ride
18.38 mi, 1:00:22, 3:17 min/mile, 18.27 mph, 156 bpm, 727
88 F, 5 mph, felt like 90 F, 49% humidity; sunny, warm, breezy and beautiful
15 2015-07-27 6:12 pm Open Swim: Portage Canal (Hancock Beach)
0.67 mi, 0:19:00, 28:21 min/mile, 2.12 mph, 76
90 F, 6 mph NNW, felt like 92 F, 46% humidity; sunny, windy and pleasant waters
16 2015-07-27 8:07 pm Houghton Quick Run
5.03 mi, 0:43:24, 8:38 min/mile, 6.95 mph, 147 bpm, 598
81 F, 4 mph ENE, felt like 83 F, 66% humidity; sunny, warm and beautiful
17 2015-07-28 6:18 am Houghton Quick Run
3.16 mi, 0:29:08, 9:13 min/mile, 6.51 mph, 157 bpm, 385
63 F, 0 mph, felt like 63 F, 94% humidity; foggy, warm and no breeze
18 2015-07-28 5:14 pm Houghton Short Ride
18.29 mi, 1:10:10, 3:50 min/mile, 15.65 mph, 143 bpm, 688
81 F, 10 mph SSE, felt like 82 F, 54% humidity; partly cloudy, warm, breezy and beautiful
19 2015-07-28 7:12 pm Pool Swim: Michigan Tech Indoor Pool
0.57 mi, 0:22:00, 38:36 min/mile, 1.55 mph, 268
60 F, 0 mph, felt like 60 F, 60% humidity
20 2015-07-29 6:05 pm KRG Weekly Run 2015 #28
3.02 mi, 0:43:35, 14:26 min/mile, 4.16 mph, 142 bpm, 398
72 F, 20 mph W, felt like 72 F, 57% humidity; mostly cloudy, windy and cool
21 2015-07-30 4:31 pm Houghton Short Ride
18.07 mi, 1:13:57, 4:06 min/mile, 14.63 mph, 123 bpm, 508
75 F, 19 mph W, felt like 75 F, 44% humidity; mostly sunny, cool, windy and beautiful
22 2015-07-30 7:24 pm Houghton Quick Run
2.23 mi, 0:20:15, 9:05 min/mile, 6.61 mph, 160 bpm, 240
77 F, 17 mph W, felt like 77 F, 47% humidity; mostly sunny, windy and cool

Courtesy of my boss-man (himself an athlete), I had Friday off from work and courtesy of XTERRA customer service folks for having ensured a timely delivery of my new wetsuit, I was able to escape the confines of civilization and cellular coverage by mid day. The drive up north was pleasant and uneventful. Reaching Copper Harbor early offered, for the second year in a row, an opportunity to get a glimpse and be a part of many a behind the scenes activity in the start/transition/finish area. A really long list of things — small and big, and simple and complex — that needs to get done, doing them the right way, and number of volunteers and staff required to ensure that an event of this magnitude goes as smoothly as it does, and attention to detail — for all the aforementioned things — were yet again the take-home lessons. This experience also re-validated the belief that there is no magic wand to wave and make things happen — most certainly not for anything of significance.

The Eles family was kind enough to let me use their campsite in Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. Not only was the campsite within a stone’s throw from the start/transition/finish area of the race but also came with lovely and friendly neighbors (Kim and Greg Green). Dinner at the Mariner North led to discussions with many a dear friends around the town and by campsite which, in turn, led to a planned full night of sleep around 10:15 pm. I was wide awake five and one half an hour later with dreams/hallucinations of gusting winds, nervousness, higher than normal heart rate and potential ways to freak out and earn a DNF but learning from the experiences of Canal Run Half Marathon not too long ago, I chose to stay horizontal instead of running around the campground. A 20 minute nap from about 6 am definitely calmed the nerves and still left me with plenty of time to get the body marked and more than decent enough slot in the transition area to keep my belongings.

Swim (0.50 mile)

I should have made enough time to test out the new XTERRA wetsuit before leaving for Copper Harbor (and carried the one that Stephen graciously let me borrow for training as a backup) but I was grateful that it fit me quite well. Water in Lake Fanny Hooe was very pleasant (69 F, all of it on the plus side of zero) albeit a bit choppy, and I didn’t probably need the wetsuit but it did help in making me look like a penguin of sorts and simultaneously hid the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach. Given that I had never swam the length of this course in one shot, with or without treading waters and/or with as many fellow swimmers, there were quite a few Oh my God, this is actually happening and the swim will start soon in the minutes leading up to the 9 am.

0.65 mi (estimate; Garmin recorded 0.94 miles), 0:29:23 (official: 0:29:28), 45:12 min/mile, 1.33 mph
Garmin Forerunner 620 and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress

Fear of failure and not being able to do two of the three things I am actually decent at while potentially earning a DNF against my name in light all that so many had taught me so much was more than enough motivation to keep my act together and not freak out in spite of getting a kick in the face (within the first 100 feet of start) and feeling a cramp in the left leg. Remembering some of the survival techniques, I chose to move wide of the pack to prevent more kicks but didn’t feel the need to either tread waters or change the stroke. I wish I had diligently put in more effort to learn the techniques of swimming as they were being taught but it was a valuable lesson to learn the hard way in a production environment: keeping the head above water and turning it both ways with each stroke required unnecessary expenditure of lot more energy. Coupled with the extra distance I chose to swim and lack of maintaining a proper line of sight, it added 50% more time than what I had for my goal. Though I wasn’t the last one out of water, there weren’t too many left in it either and could be counted using just the digits in one hand. In spite of all this (and fortunate for it), I felt like I had plenty left in the tank as I headed into T1.

T1 and Bike (23 miles)

T1 seemed to take forever as I couldn’t get the wetsuit off my feet. In addition, putting on a bike jersey and shoes with prevalent wetness turned out to be, as I was made aware ahead of time, much more difficult. As if that weren’t sufficient, my infatuation with collecting and analyzing data required changing the mode in Garmin Forerunner 620 from Run (this model doesn’t have a Swim mode) to Bike which, in turn, added even more time to T1. It was frustrating to have taken a long time to get moving on the bike but not surprising since T1 had all along been just a theoretical construct in my mind with zero practice in reality.

22.26 mi, 1:25:27 (official: 1:24:26), 3:50 min/mile, 15.65 mph, 150 bpm
Garmin Forerunner 620 and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress

Having test driven this course a handful of times over the last three months to get as familiar as possible with the terrain and turns as well as with varying weather conditions ensured I could just react to the terrain and turns as they approached rather than thinking (and worrying, and in turn, wasting brain cells) about a strategy. Visor removal to further minimize air resistance (thank you, Chris), clipless pedals, changing the gears to keep up the cadence, tweaks to ensure that gears changed at normal pace (thank you, Rob in The Bike Shop), a posture that has improved over the last 250 some miles, pushing when the course lent itself but not cooking up the legs too much … helped a great deal in countering the west winds off the Lake Superior and maintain a decent pace throughout the course finishing about four minutes slower than my intended time.

Sticking to the suggested nutritional plan, I did consume an energy bar over the two miles past the last turn around point in Esrey Park — to give the body enough time to work on it and be ready for the last leg of this event. It wasn’t until a few miles left in the biking portion that I noticed non-existence of an energy gel in the back pocket of my jersey: a result of not paying enough attention to detail before leaving the transition area which was a direct result of never practicing T1.

T2 and Run (5 miles)

T2, unlike T1, was something that I had indeed practiced a few times in real life and the practice did pay off: there was tingling (or giving out) sensation in my legs as I dismounted the bike. But much like T1, T2 also took longer than necessary as I had to change out of biker jersey and shoes into their running counterparts, and consume an energy gel. Using Salomon trail running shoes saved few seconds as I there wasn’t any need to lace them up (thank you, Andi). My continued infatuation with collecting and analyzing data required changing the mode in Garmin Forerunner 620 from Bike back to Run added more time to T2. I failed quite miserably at it as I didn’t push all the right buttons, and in the interest of time (and amidst a friendly reminder from a dear friend and event photographer, Adam Johnson: G, what’s taking you so long to get moving?), I let it stay in the Bike mode and started my run.

5.00 mi, 0:42:00 (official: 0:42:18), 8:28 min/mile, 7.09 mph, 161 bpm
Garmin Forerunner 620 and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress

As I had done for the bike course, I had several test runs along this course over the past three months to gain further familiarity. Legs continued to feel good during the run but I did stop at nearly every aid station, and did walk a few other times. Leaving the water bottle at 0.50 mile aid station turned out to be a good idea as I could pick it back up at 4.50 mile mark on the run (thank you, Justin and Linda) and have more water for the one last push. I didn’t quite time the big push well for I was left with a bit too much energy after crossing the finish line (about two minutes slower than my goal time).

Personal goals for the event (in order of importance)
## Goal Result (metrics; standings: age group, division, overall)
01 Swim in 0:20:00 (1.50 mph, 40:00 min/mile) No, 0:29:28 (1.02 mph, 58:56 min/mile; 3/3, 52/56, 86/90)
02 Bike in 1:20:00 (17.22 mph, 3:29 min/mile) No, 1:24:26 (16.36 mph, 3:40 min/mile; 3/3, 50/56, 78/90)
03 Run in 0:40:00 (7.50 mph, 8:00 min/mile) No, 0:42:18 (7.09 mph, 8:28 min/mile; 3/3, 30/56, 38/90)
04 T1 + T2 in 0:05:00 No, 0:05:16 (0:03:36; 3/3, 40/56, 71/90 + 0:01:40; 3/3, 26/56, 43/90)
05 Swim, T1, bike, T2 and run in 2:30:00 No, 2:41:29.7 (3/3, 43/56, 72/90)

Post finish line activities included chugging down several cups of energy beverages, exchanging pleasantries with volunteers, spectators and fellow participants, getting some medical attention to what I thought was a bug bite or bee/wasp sting (but in reality was just the wetsuit kiss) and what I knew was a cramp in the left leg (thank you, Cindy, from Aspirus Keweenaw). As I was beginning to contemplate on areas in which I could have done better and that needed improvement or a better effort for next edition, the awards ceremony got its start.

And little did I know that some one (or many some ones) had nominated me for the Nick Bell Memorial Award for the pursuit of athletic excellence: whoever wrote the recommendation letter, by far the most humbling one I have ever received, you seemed to know almost every aspect of my life so very well. It was (and still is) very overwhelming experience and meant (and still does) a lot as it’s instituted in the name of someone special to the community and the event (I wish I had the opportunity to meet this guy in person but I hope to meet some of his family members some day), all those folks that have previously won this award, and the community that I live in choosing to nominate me in an anonymous fashion. THANK YOU, and all I can pray is that life may shower you with its choicest blessings, and all I can hope is that I will live up to your expectations.

The goals for this event had evolved over a period of time, with practice, leading up to the event, and looking back, were fueled partly with ego rather than common sense backed by even more practice. Swim, bike and run had approximately 6, 700 and 1260 banked miles respectively — since taking up each of these three disciplines — before the event, and the return on investment showed very vividly (and unsurprisingly) in the trend of my standings within the division and amongst overall participants. I didn’t get any of the goals I had in mind, but this event definitely provided not only an opportunity to get my feet wet (colloquially and quite literally) but also very clearly demonstrated aspects that need lot more attention to detail and mindful practice before the 2016 edition.

Post event activities included sharing a few beverages with dear friends in the campground and at other fine establishments — in Copper Harbor and Eagle River. The evening ended early, and the return drive to Houghton Sunday morning was just as uneventful as the drive up north.

Praise be to the Good Lord and life's blessings, and thanks be to

the opportunities, organizers, sponsors, volunteers, law enforcement/border patrol/immigration officials, timing folks, photographers, community members, fellow racers, electronic gadgets, software, internet, and my good friends -- the Abbotts (Kathy and Mike), the Blakes (Amy and Scott), the Bogans (Ronda and Jim), the Boissevains (Margi and Paul), the Bradfishs (Anna, Eva and Eric), the Brauns (Teri, Louis, Louis, Tom), the Brewsters (Katie and Brian), the Bunkers (Kris and Kate), the Carlsons (Abby, Cassondra, Josh, and Justin), the Carmeans (Jess and Tim), the Chards (Amy and David), the Donnelys (Darcy and Brian), the Durochers (Bridget and John), the Eles (Sarah and Stephen), the Engstroms (Christine and Jaime), the Ericksons (Maija and Nat), the Farquhars (Cheryl and John), the Fredricksons (Linda and Dave), the Friedrichs (Dr. Mary and Dr. Craig), the Gracis (Kara, Mary, Sam Jr. and Sam), the Grays (Stasi and Richard), the Greens (Kim and Greg), the Handlers (Christine, Rob, Shannon and Stephen), the Janowiaks (Rexx and Maria), the Johnsons (Rich and Erik; Robyn and Adam), the Kramers (Mandy and Jim), the Kostinskis (Dr. Lilliana and Dr. Alex), the Lehtos (Tammi and Chris), the MacDonalds (Cynthia and Bruce), the MacInnes' (Elizabeth and Scott), the Makelas (Lynn Czarnecki and Jason), the Manderfields (Leslie and Peter), the Meyers (Lisa and Mike), the Meyers' (Jeanne, Ted and John), the Milligans (Sheila and Dr. Walter) the Obermanns (Alicia, Catherine, Doug and Tim), the Ontls (Kelly and Todd), the Oppligers (Shawn, Emily, Ruth and Doug), the Pandeys (Aparna and Dr. Ravi), the Pergers (Liz and Dr. Warren), the Ransoms (Cindy and Chip), the Rasners (Amanda and Donald), the Resslers (Dee and Tom), the Richards' (Carrie and Dr. Bob), the Rukkilas, the Salos (Chris, Karen, Dan and Don), the Seelys (Nancy and Dr. Bruce), the Smigowskis (Christina and Tim), the Stenvigs (Alexa, Annie, Chelsea, Erik, Helen, John, Nils, Mike, Nancy Verscheure, Tom), the Stickelmyers (Kari and Steve), the Tervos (Chris, Jim and Ryan), the Tomasis (Susan and Mike), the Vendlinskis (Andi, Jim and Rick), the Vertins (Melissa and Joel), the Vizankos (Kelly and Steve), the Watrous' (Liisa and Matt), the Weathers' (Stacy and Bryant), the Wendels (Heather and Caleb), the Wilmers' (Kelly and Stephen), the Youngs (Amber, Christine and Michael), the Zerbsts (Kristen and Ron), Adam Griffis, Dr. Alex Mayer, Alice Flanders, Alison Umbarger, Amanda O'Toole, Amy Madsen, Angela Luskin, Angela Yu, Anika Kuczynski, Ann Anderton, Ann Hoover, Arni Ronis, Ashley Ames, Ashley Miller, Audrey Manderfield and Kyle Kelley, Aurelia Leigler, Dr. Bryan Suits, Ben Wittbrodt, Carolyn Stevens, Cassandra Wagner, Chelsea Fagan, Chris Swanston, Christopher Buckley, Christopher Schwartz, Cindy Harwood, Crystal Haataja-Holzberger, Dan Kauppi, Dana Bianco, Dr. Daniel Fuhrmann, Dean Woodbeck, Deedra Irwin, Elizabeth Stempihar, Ellen Manderfield and Ryan Jones, Eric Byykkonen, Erin Kauppila, Greg Reed, Heidi DePuydt, Jeff Brookins, Jeffrey Burl, Jeffrey Toorongian, Jenelle Potvin, Dr. Jennifer Slack, Jim and Randy in Cardinal Hotel, Joan Becker, Joe Caron, John Burton, John Vertin, Jonathan Kilpela, Julie Koskinen Ruotsala, Julie Springsteen, Justin TerAvest, Karen Koethe and Adam Manty, Kate Waring, Katie Temple, Kay Tislar, Kelly Wooten, Kelsae Eliszewski, Kenny Gilkerson, Krista Kasuboski, Kristen Schmitt, Kristin Thompson, Laura Mlynski, Lauren Schaefer, Lauri Keteri-Smith, Leah Tollefson, Lianna Miller and Benjamin Ciavola, Lena Widman, Louisa Raisbeck and Jesse Cleaver, Lynette Potvin and Matt Manders, Lindsey Goss-Maurisak, Lynn Geisler, Mahesh Shastry, Marc Rea, Mariana Grohowski, Marine Foucher, Mark Schnabel, Marilyn Swift, Mary Webster, Matt Mlinar, Dr. Maximilian Seel, Melissa Elmer and Justin Hoffmeyer, Michael Babcock, Michael Karinen, Michael Sereda, Mike LaMotte, Patrick Rozich, Peter Negro, Polly Bolduc, Shreya Kumar and Randal Harrison, Ray Sharp, Rebecca Anderson, Ryan Towles, Riccardo Tortini, Robert Larson, Dr. Robert Weidman, Sam Roache, Sam Robinson, Sandy Houle, Sarah Bird and William Atkinson, Sarah Conner, Sarah Menassian, Sarah Stanek, Scott Bolon and Alison Skwarski, Scott Gibbs, Shannon Vairo, Stacy Bussiere, Sue Peterson, Tom Edinborough, Tony Schwenn, Wayne Mills, 5th & Elm Coffee House, Copper Country Track Club, The Fitz, Houghton Pizza Works, Houghton Police Department, Keweenaw Running Group, Madison crew (Christine and Scot Van Asten, Claire Luby, Gus Lang, Kelly Higgins, Maggie Turnbull, Mark Mehler, Phat Huynh, and Susan Speth), Michigan Tech Athletic Department, Michigan Tech Public Safety, team /var/run (Nancy Banfield, Joshua Myles and Amy Blake), and more (in and outside of my community) -- for the often unexpected, undeserved, unrewarded acts of constant encouragement, and offerings of constructive criticism, tested tips and tricks to improve myself as an athlete.

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