Ironman 70.3 Steelhead

Race Recap Time!!

We’re going back in time with this post to my very first 70.3 race in August of 2016. It was my first season of racing injury free. At this point I only had 2 olympics and a 70.3 Aquabike under my belt. Originally my plan for my first 70.3 was the one in beautiful Miami! I could drive there from Virginia and it was a place I wanted to visit (always a consideration for a traveling triathlete!). However, as planning progressed I realized it was going to be pretty expensive to fly 3 people to Florida and get hotel rooms for everyone. Having my family there for this big milestone was very important to me. I got on the ol’ google to learn about some races within driving distance of Chicago… like 70.3 Steelhead.

Enter Steelhead

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead is put on in a little beach town in south west Michigan called Benton Harbor. It won an Athlete’s Choice Award in 2017 for Overall Satisfaction and Best Run Course. Upon further investigation I learned it was only 30 minutes north of my Grandfather’s beach house! It was settled. The course appeared flat, always a requirement for me, and fast. The multi loop lollipop shaped run course also would allow my family to see me a couple times. I liked that it was in a lake (albeit one that historically thinks it’s another ocean) with no scary marine life and comfortable temperatures. Plus it was an easy hour or so drive for my friends and family in Chicago. Everyone could stay at the lake house so no hotel rooms were involved. Big bonus. That just left getting me and my bike, Gwen, to Michigan.

With my cousin, her boyfriend, and sister enjoying the local brewery, Greenbush Brewing Co, for some carb loading the night before! Water only for me ­čÖü For more local recommendations scroll to the bottom!

Race Morning: 4am

I told my family and friends there was no need to get up as god awful early as I was going to have to at 4am. We decided to split into two groups with my best friend Felecia and my mum doing the early run. While Dad, sister Shea, Aunt Linda, and my cousins came later closer to the start. I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with a banana and started furiously hydrating. The 30 minute drive over was easy and parking wasn’t too much of a hassle. I racked my bike and started setting up my transition area as the butterflies and nerves mounted. Could I do this? Was I crazy? Was I going to fail in front of those closest to me??

Superior Support Crew: Dad, Aunt Linda, moi, BFF Felecia, Sister Shea, and Mummy

As the clock ticked closer to 7am I was more and more concerned. We found out around 6am that the water temperature at Steelhead was sitting around 76 F and was therefore NOT wetsuit legal. This suited me just fine since I didn’t have much experience wearing my wetsuit and felt I was faster without it. My warm up swim was enjoyable and started to garner me some confidence that I could survive the swim.

Swim Start: 7am

Aunt Linda & Felecia made some killer signs

Steelhead has a rolling start meaning the gun goes off for the pros ( around 6:45-6:50 am) and then each age group enters the water to about waist deep and waits for their gun. My wave ended up actually starting closer to 7:40 am by the time we got in the water.

The start of the swim was crazy. There were hundreds of people and bodies and limbs. The term “washing machine start” was in full effect. I kept to the back and outside and just tried to make forward process.
As Coach Cyndi always said “just one buoy at a time” and that is what I did. The swim here, in Lake Michigan, is a triangle course. You swim out, make a right hand turn,┬áswim to the next turn buoy, turn right again, and then head for the beach. I felt all in all the swim was pretty great. Despite a few kicks to the head and being swam over by the men behind me I didn’t find it too stressful. The water was a little choppy but there weren’t any real waves to speak of.

 

T1 : 8:24 am

Gratefully transition was short and fast. You come out of the water onto the sandy beach and run through a sand corral that leads you back to transition. Fortunately you aren’t going far and there were some little kiddie pools you could run through to help remove some of the sand. A great tip from my coach that I used here is to keep a water bottle by your spot in transition just for rinsing. So while I was seated putting on my socks and shoes I rinsed quickly with the extra water to get any extra sand out. I hoped it would help with later chafing & rubbing. As it turns out, it did not.

I was not especially fast in T1 and this didn’t bother me too much in retrospect. My goal for Steelhead was to finish, have fun, and push myself to accomplish something I never thought I’d do. So I took my time and made sure I was comfortable. ┬áDouble checking that everything was in working order. Even made a port-a-potty stop on the way out. I don’t remember seeing my cheerleaders but they told me that they could see me. I think I was in T1 for around 3 minutes and I was off on my bike.

Bike Course: 8:27 am

This 56 mile bike is mostly on Highway 63 and while it is not a closed course I don’t remember traffic being crazy. My memory of this course is nothing but a positive one. Steelhead has an out and back single loop course (woo hoo!) was scenic and enjoyable. The local police and volunteers made the turns clear and the aide stations efficent. The Athlete guide says that there is 1262 feet of elevation gain but I honestly don’t remember doing any climbing. All of that gain was gradual small rollers that were quick to hit and roll down the other side.

The worst part of this ride for me was getting stung by a wasp in the neck around mile 15. I wasted a lot of water trying to splash my face and decrease the swelling. Hoping & praying that my throat didn’t swell up. Unless your spectators are willing to drive around to see you they really won’t get a chance to see you on the bike course. My family said they had a great time watching the final swim finishers after I left on the bike. They hung out on the beach and enjoyed the lake until the cyclists started coming back in. Many families will set up a little beach spot and make a beach day of it while their athlete is out on the course.

Heading into T2 like a bat out of hell!

T2: 11:23 am

T2 was a quick and easy transition for me. I changed my shoes. Found my visor and glasses. Grabbed my race belt and rolled out of there. Not before a quick pit stop at the T2 exit to get slathered with some sun screen by the volunteers.

Run Course: 11:25 am

Steelhead Run Course

My run started off strong, I thought I felt okay, … until I didn’t. You start out flat and shaded for about the first 1.2 miles until you make a sharp left hand turn and stare down a massive hill. In my memory this hill was Everest. I remember thinking I am not going to even attempt to run this – walking is the only way to survive. Essentially the entire N. Shore Dr portion on the map below is this deadly hill. Almost everyone was walking. I’m pretty sure it accounts for 80% of the 203 ft elevation gain. Once you get to the top of the hill you are at the base of the “lollipop”. I picked up my run again and thought I’m having fun.

Survival of the Fittest

As I ran through the streets of the neighborhoods in the course many people were on their lawn cheering the athletes which was really fun. One house even had dixie cups of beer! Don’t mind if I do! Around 3-4 miles in (EARLY) I started feeling some discomfort and blisters form in my arches and heels of both feet. So at the first aide station I came to I stopped to put on band-aides. When I stopped both hamstrings and groin muscles started cramping. Eat a banana. Apply band-aides. Keep going? But how?? I shuffled along for a few miles after that hoping that things would get better.

Fake it till you make it

It wasn’t until I hit the wooded park portion of the run through the Whirlpool Campus that I started to feel a bit better. I was sticking to my nutrition and trying to keep my head in the game. There is another short but steep hill that you will hit twice on the top part of the lollipop. Right when you exit out of the Whirlpool park you will begin this climb. At this point my feet were in extreme pain and the blisters were all I could think about. As I approached my second lap I could see my family at the head of the lollipop waiting to see me go by. I knew I needed to pick it up and not let them see how much I was suffering. Seeing them and their fantastic signs was one of the best parts of the day.

Like I said, this group killed it on the sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I was out of eye-shot I resumed my suffering and my internal monologue about how awful this was and how I am never ever doing another one. Why do people do this? So a full Ironman is DOUBLE this distance? Never. The entire second lap I just couldn’t stop thinking about how much pain my feet were in. My legs didn’t feel too gassed but my feet! Good grief! I took out my special coin that I carried with me in honor of my boyfriend (now husband ­čÖé ) and imagined he was running with me. Every step of that last lap was a dig deep struggle. I made it down the killer hill and tried to pick it up for that last leg. One foot in front of the other.

Finally into the Steelhead finishers chute and the coolest experience happened. Strangers left and right were cheering for me BY NAME! (Your name is written on your bib, they weren’t all psychics!) I was brought to tears by all these people supporting me (and others!). It was the best most motivating feeling and I realized I had finished! I had done it!

Getting high fives from your BFF is the BEST!
A teammate taught me to always smile for the camera men even if you want to die ­čÖé

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Time Finisher

As I came across the finish line, exhausted, bloody, but proud. I received my medal and through the crowd pushed my sister to give me that first big hug. We were both crying and I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I finished with a time of 6 hours and 1 minute. Spot on my goal/projected time of 6 hours. I couldn’t be prouder. Finishing Steelhead 70.3 was easily one of the happiest days of my life. After the race I immediately took off & trashed my socks (which were soaked in blood – yuck), got a wonderful post-race massage by a blind man, and went to claim my victory pizza.

We drove back to the lake house and spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the memories of the day. All in all, I highly recommend this race to other first timers and may even consider racing it again sometime in the future for all the reasons mentioned above.

Immediate elation with Shea!
Riding home top down with my mum & Felecia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendations in the Steelhead area:

Greenbush Brewery – excellent craft beers, even more excellent pulled pork mac n’ cheese! Definitely worth stopping by on your way to or from Benton Harbor

The Peasant’s Pantry – really delicious post race breakfast or lunch!

Mesa Luna – my fave upscale restaurant in Sawyer! Perfect for post race celebrating. You should go for the cinnamon-honey butter alone!

Bread and Bar – fun restaurant & bar to send your family to for provisions during the race, great atmosphere and view of the river

The Mason Jar – smaller cafe with an affordable breakfast and other meals throughout the day. Super popular in the area so you may expect a wait.

 

(Wo)Man’s Best Training Partner

** Warning: Many cute puppy pics ahead **

We all love our four legged family members and in our minds they would all run beside us like Balto during the Iditarod. However, this is not the reality for many dogs out there. In addition to being a triathlete off the clock, on the clock I am a licensed veterinary nurse (LVT).  Specifically I specialize in horse medicine!! But when a certain ball of brown and black fur named Denali came into my life one Christmas I had to knock the dust off my small animal medicine.

When we got Denali (named after the breathtaking mountain in Alaska) I knew right away that we were going to have another adventure buddy in our pack to run, hike, swim, and explore with. This will be the first installment in a few  doggie related training posts to help you train with your pet the right way. Canine fitness has many facets to it and things to consider so keep reading to learn how to turn your fur-baby into your best training partner!

Is my dog a suitable fitness partner?

In many cases this may be an easy question to answer. Pomeranian? No. Belgian Malinois? Yes. Toy Poodle? No. Golden Retriever? Yes. For many breeds however the answer is more grey: Terriers? Newfoundlands? Great Danes? A good place to start to answer this question is to find out what ‘Group’ your dog’s breed (or predominant breeds) fall into. You can do this by checking out the American Kennel Club’s website.

Dogs that fall into the working, herding, and sporting groups are going to be your athletic dogs. Your dogs who like to run, and are good at it, like to swim, and are smart enough to handle by a bike. ┬áThen you have groups that are a little more unclear and take some deciphering. The non-sporting group has breeds that would love to go out and run with you such as the Dalmation or the Shiba Inu. It also has breeds that will sit on the side walk and stare at you like you’ve grown a second head such as the Bichon Frise or Bulldog.

Next you have anatomy to take into consideration. Dogs that have are heavier built like Mastiffs, Bulldogs, and Shar-Peis shouldn’t be taken out on longer runs. Brachycephalic breeds (the smushed face dogs!) should not be run at all as the stress on their respiratory system could damage their air ways or lungs. These breeds can not take in as much oxygen as their longer muzzled counterparts. Those things said, just because your dog may be small like a Jack Russel or a Beagle doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from a mile at the beginning or end of your workout.┬á

How much volume can my dog do? How far can we go?

Doggie fitness is very similar to human fitness. You can’t take a dog from couch to 5k without a slow increase in volume. Step 1 is to take your dog to the vet and have a physical exam done to make sure there are no underlying health issues before you begin. Just like with people, if your dog is not very active or is overweight you will want to start slowly and pay attention to your dogs body language. Your dog’s annual exam is a good time to bring this up with your veterinarian to see if running with your dog is something they advise.

To start you’ll want to keep your dog at a pace that is comfortable for them, for Denali (at 2 years old) this is around an 8:30 – 9 min/mile. At this pace she trots comfortably next to me, is not breathing too hard, and her tongue is moist and still in her mouth. This pace will vary depending on you and your dog but if you follow those guide lines whatever pace you hit where your dog seems comfortable will work. All I am saying is if your comfortable pace is a 7:00 min mile there is a good chance you will need to slow it down considerably for your pooch.

When Can My Dog Start Running With Me?

Typically as puppies a dog’s bones are not completely done growing until they are around 2 years old. This will vary by breed to breed but between 1-2 years is the commonly accepted answer. You want to be careful starting running with your puppy as you can cause permanent harm. Damaging the growth plates can also lead to arthritis and joint disease as they age. For smaller breeds you could start a mile or two as early as 8 months at a slow pace. Larger breeds you’ll want to wait as they are slower to mature and develop. I think I started trail running with Denali around 11-12 months old. Always consult with your veterinarian as your puppy grows and goes in for check ups. They will best be able to advise you on when the time is right!

Environmental considerations

Working out outside with your dog can be a fun way for you both to get some time in nature and explore new trails and parks together. 

Winter

When it comes to the cold whether you’ll want to use your judgment and what you know of your dog. Clearly, Tri Dog Denali and I love some cold weather running. If the temperature is above 30 F I will take her out. But, my feeling is if its in the 20s F no one should be out! Keep in mind that if the air hurts my lungs/face it is also probably uncomfortable for her. Be sure to also keep an eye out for ice patches along the road. Remember that the salt used to de-ice the roads can burn their pads. Make sure to clean their paws well when you get back inside. So, in the winter we keep it short, keep it fun, and always make snow angles at the end.

Summer

In the summer months you want to be cognizant of the time of day and sun strength. Especially if you have a girl who never leaves home without her black fur coat like mine! Generally if the temperatures get in the upper 70’s and low 80’s you’ll want to keep the runs significantly shorter. Around 15-20 minutes is all I would take Denali for when we were on Guam. I paid extra attention to how she was feeling and if she was lagging and trying to walk – we would walk. Remember dogs can’t sweat like we do, most of their thermoregulation is done through panting. ┬áDogs that are excessively panting where their tongues are bright pink and hanging out of their mouths are in the first stage of heat stroke. Click here for more on heat stroke. Also consider the how hot the side walk gets in the summer. You hear every summer about dogs getting their paws burned. If possible do your runs in the early morning or after the sun goes down. I also try to take Denali on more trail and park runs when the sidewalks are super hot.

What workouts can my dog do with me?

Most dogs will love both swimming and running with you. It is the biking portion is where you may have challenges navigating with your dog. Biking with your dog can be very dangerous for both you, the dog, and other people around. I will write future posts on how to safely swim, bike, and run with your canine. Stay Tuned!

Your Dog As Motivator

The most important way your dog can be your best training buddy is by always being psyched to get out there with you. Whether 6am or 9pm Denali is always up for a run with me. Having her and knowing she needs exercise too motivates me out the door. First I think, well I will just do a mile or mile 1/2 with her. Then before I know it we’ve done 4 or 5 miles and are ready to lounge! More often than not, I use Denali as my warm up or cool down for a longer run. This way it isn’t too taxing on her but she still gets exercise. I, in return, get some quality time with my friend and get to relax the pace a bit.

Many a time I didn’t want to do my run or go do a swim but having her got me started.┬áUnfortunately, Denali’s high prey drive (for the wheel spokes… and woodland creatures) makes it impossible for us to bike together. When on Guam we would swim in the ocean together sometimes. But, Denali always felt I was drowning and needed saving which made the swims unproductive. I’m not sure if that’s a comment on my form?? Stay tuned for more articles from this vet nurse on training with your dog!

How to be a champion: Guam Edition

Guam National Triathlon Championship 2017

The capstone event of the Guam Triathlon Federation calendar is the annual National Championship race. This race happens mid-July each year and is nothing short of island extreme. This Olympic distance race features a 1500 meter ocean swim, just under 25 miles bike ride, and a 10k run (6.2 miles). It is a great prep race for athletes who are competing in off island races and draws athletes from Japan & Korea too! However, being able to withstand the heat and hills is not the only requirement to becoming the “champion”. To be crowned the Guam National Championship you need to meet some requirements…

According to the Guam National Olympic Committee you must hold a US Passport and have lived in Guam for 5 years. Being born in Guam qualifies you as well. Even if you don’t qualify to be the “champion” there are still Age Group awards three deep. Yet, before we get to the awards we need to survive the race.

Getting warmed up \ 6am

Starting Strong on the Swim

The race starts at 7am sharp in the beautiful Coco’s Lagoon waters. ┬áThe swim is the best part of the whole race so be sure to take it all in and enjoy it while you can. You can’t beat the warm clear water that Guam offers. Transition and the swim take place at the same location as the Coco’s Crossing so if you swam that OWS race you’re golden. There is really no current to worry about as you swim the triangle course. You start as deep in the water as you choose depending on how you seed yourself on the ramp. Your biggest concern is the jelly fish potential – I was lucky to not have any in the water when I raced in 2017. The atmosphere in the starting chute is electric with all the spectators lining the ramp.

Exiting the swim feeling strong

Champion Made on the Bike

The bike course is glorious for Guam. Honestly, you couldn’t ask for a better (i.e. flatter & shaded) course on the island. Considering how hilly the southern part of the island is and how trafficked the northern part is, this bike course is perfect. From Merizo pier you head out south along the 4 snaking towards Inarajan before turning┬áback to complete loop one. You ride this course twice before heading back to transition. Keep a close eye out for boonie dogs (feral dogs), chickens, and children running out on the course. If you can dodge all of these, hold >20 mph, and maintain your hydration as the day heats up… you’re on your way to National Champ!

Champion Earned on the Run

This run course makes or breaks your race… or at least it broke mine. It is a 2 loop 3.1 mile course where the turn around point is at the top of a steep climb known as the “Pray For Jesus” hill. You’ll start out feeling fine, nice and flat, getting sprayed by the mister manned by our awesome US Navy divers. After about 10 minutes you will approach a steep hill where you’ll climb an 86 ft gain to the turn around point where you can load up on cold sponges before heading down the hill. It was the rare person that even attempted to continue up it at a run. As the hour approached 10 am the heat and humidity became unbearable.

Don’t be fooled by this smile, I was suffering!

By the time you’ve run the loop twice you’ve ran nearly 180 ft of elevation gain… almost all of it hitting that hill twice! I had to talk myself out of checking myself into the med tent versus having to hit that hill again! Most people walked up and down the hill – there was no shame on that course. It was tough! Beautiful but tough! To earn the title of National Champion your hill run game has to be unshakable.

While I consider this one of the worst Olympic’s I’ve ever raced, I am so proud I didn’t quit. I wasn’t happy with my times. That said, I was still thrilled to earn 2nd place in my AG with a time of 03:01:00. This race is such a great community event with people from all levels racing together and embracing the challenge. For me this day and this race is about friendship. There were so many people out there that I enjoy training with, racing against, and hanging out with. I even convinced one of my friends who’d never “tri-ed” before to do his first race… and he came in 2nd place overall male! If you’re interested in chasing the champion title click here!

Hotel Review: Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa

Hotel Review: Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa

This trip was preplanned with friends and it fell directly between IM Taiwan 70.3 and the United Guam Marathon. So for me, it was only important that I found time to get some milage in on this holiday. Keeping my legs fresh and in shape was the only real goal. I had illusions of running outside in the Vietnamese country side but while researching the trip it became clear that wasn’t an option. So started my research into the Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa…

If you haven’t been to Vietnam the streets there are chaos with motorbikes and cars going in every direction. There are sidewalks, however, they are crammed full of parked bicycles, motorbikes, and bar stools for drinking beer and coffee. The mountain town of Sapa was the last stop on our Vietnamese journey. Having already spent a day in Hanoi, 3 days cruising Ha Long Bay, and taken the sleeper train overnight to Sapa we were ready to get checked in and explore the area.

Location

Sapa is located around 236 miles northwest of Hanoi near the Chinese boarder. Originally a French hill station that was established in 1922 for wealthy French colonists to escape the oppressive heat of Hanoi. The air and climate was thought to have health benefits. Sure enough, it was significantly cooler when we got off the train. After arriving at the train station we were picked up by a shuttle which took us up a winding mountainous road to the Victoria Sapa Hotel & Spa.

The Staff

They were wonderful. The check in process was super easy and efficient. We were worried they wouldn’t have a room ready for us since our train got in at 6:30 am. However, we only had a short wait and they were able to get us into our rooms. We had plenty of time to drop our bags and take a quick cruise around town before our afternoon spa appointments. My husband and I quickly found a large pond to run around and stretch our legs after the travel. This region of Vietnam has cool weather usually in the upper 50’s – low 60’s F. It is also usually overcast with some drizzle which is why it is a popular rice growing region. Our first day however we got lucky and there was some lovely sunshine to warm things up. As a side note: there are many groups of gypsies around Sapa waiting to swindle or pit pocket unsuspecting tourists. Keep an eye on your belongings and pockets at all times and only carry what you really need.

The Room

The rooms here were beautiful. Candidly, we didn’t spend much time in the room as we tried to do many day trips, runs, and spa time! Complete with a very comfortable king bed with a small loveseat and coffee table, the room was nice for kicking back at the end of the day before dinner. Very importantly, the room had aircon and heat which helped us keep the room comfortable. I loved our room location for the views! Our balcony looked out over the courtyard and the valley. In the mornings, a beautiful and magical fog was always settled in the valley and brought with it this sense of calm.

Hotel Amentities

The Victoria Sapa is set up as a true resort & spa. The Ta Fin bar is complimented by a few crackling fireplaces that are the perfect place to warm up and relax after a mountain hike. The concierge will organize any day trips you need to the surrounding rice villages or for a hike up Mt. Fansipan. The gym is located in the same side building as the spa. It consists of a small pool – you *could do laps here but it’d be pretty short. The photos on-line make it look more lap capable than it really is, as you’ll read later on. The gym however is well working. It has cardio and free-weight equipment but it is the view that really sets it apart. ┬áThe spa is complete with facials, massages, and a Vietnamese herbal bath. Perfect for unwinding after a long chilly hike in the mountains!

The Restaurant

Ta Van, the hotel’s restaurant, offers the full chalet style dining experience from the high vaulted ceilings, to the vintage lighting, to the crackling fireplace. The views of Mount Fansipan don’t disappoint either (if it is visible!). It operates from 6:30 am to 10pm and on Saturday nights offers traditional dancing from 8-9 pm. The breakfast buffet was the best part of the day – everything you could dream of! You could get everything from omelets and pancakes to hot ramen. The warm room, delicious food, and hot drinks were particular highlights.

The Spa

Our group thoroughly enjoyed and used the spa. From head & neck massages, to herbal baths, to facials and full body massages, to a foot massage after a day of hiking in the hills we sampled it all!

Spa & Gym Building

The spa and gym are located just up the hill about a 100m walk. It can be a little tricky to find in the haze but the yellow building is hard to miss. My husband got a head and neck massage the second night we were there around 9pm simply because he could and it was so affordable ($20 for 30 min)! The spa is open for services until 10pm and seemed to have a pretty flexible schedule while we were there. He had nothing but great things to say. Our real half-day spa time we had scheduled for the first afternoon we were there. After arriving at the spa complex we checked in, changed into our robes, and sipped some tea while we got ready to get our zen on.

 

 

First up was our dip in the traditional Vietnamese herbal bath. Girls and boys went to their separate sides to soak together. First off, the water, it’s HOT. They’re not joking. The Red Dao bath is a mix of medicinal herbs and bark from the surrounding mountains. It smells like you’re sitting in a nice cup of tea. The ladies lasted longer in the hot bath than the boys but we reconvened afterwards for some ice water. We once again went out separate ways for the massages. They were amazing, the Vietnamese ladies were truly gifted in finding the creaks and bumps (this athlete has a LOT) and working them out!

The Gym & Pool

I was deceived by the photos online and thought I’d be able to swim some laps in the hotel pool. However its pretty short. Probably, around 10 meters by 10 meters. Definitely comfortable for splashing around but for putting in time for a swim work out not so much. Since I had already done a couple swim workouts in the chilly waters of Ha Long Bay I felt okay skipping out here.

Instead, I put time in on the ol’ dreadmill. Luckily, my view was top notch. The beautiful trees and mountain hills with the rolling mist was like running amongst the clouds. The gym was all glass windows so you could appreciate the vistas from all sides. So, depending on our agenda for the day I would sneak up the hill and run for 3-5 miles on the treadmill just to keep me legs in shape. I considered doing another run in town but between the vespas, cars, and gypsies I just didn’t feel safe out there by myself. The gym is open from 7am to 10pm so there are no excuses for no time!

A particularly foggy morning

General Hotel Information

Price Point: $$

Check In: Upon Arrival (usually around 7 am if you arrive on the 6:30 train)

Check Out: 12:00 pm

Free wifi in room, lobby, common areas, and gym

Business center and concierge services for arranging tours

 

Sprinting it out on Guam

For an island that is only 30 miles long and 8 miles wide, Guam has a thriving triathlon community. Being a tropical paradise lends itself well to year long training as long as you avoid the typhoons! Guam’s triathlon club called Guam Triathlon Federation or GTF offers a number of sprint series throughout the year. Most of these races are no frills, less serious, fun races in the community. However, you shouldn’t leave your A game at home as the competition is no less fierce out there! This offers competitive triathletes an easy opportunity to get in the right headspace and practice their transitions. As well as offering a safe and feasible distance for newbies to try out triathlon.

Sprint When?

Typically, the GTF coordinates with the GCF and the GRC so the races compliment each other. G2G? GCF, or Guam Cycling Federation, and GRC, the Guam Running Club, hold their own events respectively but the three organizations try to space out the big ones. The sprint series are typically held in January/February and June. These series are usually a 2 or 3 race series and include a t-shirt and a medal. The distances are usually the same per race with the swim being around 400 meters, the bike is 6 miles, and the run is usually around 2 miles.

Sprint Where?

GTF does a great job of holding the races in a location that is super safe and secluded making it welcoming for first timers. It is held in Piti across from the Guam Power Authority power plant. The swim is protected from currents and swells. Then both the bike and run take place on a road with minimal traffic that services the ports. It is easy to find and there is plenty of parking along the road and outside of the little park where transition gets set up.

The Swim

The waters on Guam are perfect for swimming and perfect for triathlon. The sprint course is typically set up as a very small triangle. The swimmers will swim straight out for about 150 meters, make a left hand turn for another 100 meters or so, and then swim back to the start for a total of approximately 400 meters. The water on Guam usually sits around 87 F on the surface. There are usually a couple of kayak volunteers floating about on the surface to help nervous swimmers. Plenty of fish are visible below in the clear blue water to ease nerves from below. The GTF also always have a carpet to prevent people from slipping while getting out of the water. All the while, Dave Torre, Guam’s resident Mike Reilly will MC the day and announce people as he catches them coming out of the water.

The Bike

The bike course for the sprints is so awesome. It’s perfectly flat with an insane tailwind going out… and then a strong headwind on the way back. Some days its worse than others but usually it’s perfectly challenging and rewarding. The course is a scenic 2 loop course that is along the port access road. The bike part seems to go by in the blink of an eye. It is not uncommon to see people on a full range of bikes from expensive flashy TT bikes to old rusty bikes with kickstands. Children from ages 10 and up are out there cycling their speed and trying their best.

The Run

Running on Guam around 9 or 10 am is pretty miserable. These sprints usually start promptly at 7am so depending on how long these take you, you’re hitting the run right as the day is heating up. Again, same as the bike portion, the run is very flat and enjoyable. There is always a little aide station at the turn around point with some water and gatorade. It is an out and back (my favorite!) roughly 2 mile course.┬á

 

All in all, the Guam Triathlon Federation sprints are a super fun race with the local community. There are always a fair number of fans, I mean spouses and spectators, to cheer everyone along. It is a great way to dip your toes into triathlon and meet new people in the community. If you are an existing triathlete this is the perfect way to meet training buddies and other people of your brand of crazy. The sprint turn out is usually around 100 people from ages 10 to … experienced ­čÖé If you’re moving to Guam, passing through, or a long time resident first time tri-er check out the GTF facebook page for the next race!