There are many things that draw me to triathlon but I think what I like most about it is simple: “you get out what you put in.” To me, this is the great appeal of all endurance sports. There is no hiding behind others and no blame to be cast on anyone else. It is you, against you. You against a 2-hour interval session on the trainer, and in the end, the numbers don’t lie. I think the chorus in this song nails it:
“This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name!”
In fact, triathlon training is probably a lot more than fifty percent pain, but you get the picture. I am fortunate that both my greatest strength and biggest weakness is my ability to go “all-in.” In February I made a decision to go “all-in” on triathlon. Ok, that may be a little heavy, I am still writing a dissertation, trying to be a husband, and caring for a puppy, but you get the picture. What happened at Grand Rapids last weekend validated this decision.
Last year Grand Rapids did not disappoint. The course was absolute fantastic, and the race seems to bring out some of the fastest racers not only in the Midwest, but in the country. While I was able to squeeze out a pretty solid swim/bike last year, I fell apart pretty bad in the run. As Bri and I made our way north on Saturday morning, flashbacks to those last few miles set-in. Dear god, not again. We arrived early afternoon on Saturday, perfect time to pick up our packet and make a trip to Vivant brewery before grabbing dinner with some teammates. A day before the race beer seems to be customary with me, but they always say not to do make any drastic changes the night of the race.... At dinner teammates Ryan Linden, Zachary Carr and I discussed all-things triathlon. The highlight of the conversation was probably our appreciation for our new ENVE 7.8 wheels, and about how our arms are too small to get the tires on them without throwing them in the dryer first.
Brews at Vivant. I drove Bri to dinner.
Race morning wake-up was 4am. Of course Ellie being the anxious dog she is, refused to take a poop the entirety of the trip, which meant she spent a good portion of the night wandering around the room crying, not the best night of sleep. We were lucky to score a mini-kitchenette where I prepared my standard bialetti (stove top espresso) and put it in a mason jar to be consumed 1 hour before the race. Arriving to the course well before the start I was able to get set up in transition without stress which was very nice! As we waited for the swim start I followed my nose to the scent of monster energy, being consumed by coach Zach Ruble. We chatted a bit and all of a sudden I realized I still had my wedding ring on (it certainly would have gone flying off first couple of strokes). Fortunately I was able to pass it off to teammate Mark Beckwith’s father who was standing nearby. Crisis averted, it would not have been the best to lose it after less than a year!
My blood type = caffeine.
The swim start was sort of sudden, which kind of lowered the stress. I put myself at the front of the group and immediately began swimming HARD towards the first buoy. Looking around I immediately realized this field was much stronger than the one at Terre Haute, as there were still at least 10 other swimmers around me. I decided to kick it up another gear until I reached the next buoy, in an attempt to create some separation. It worked! By the next buoy I could see two swimmers a good 20m in front of me (this is what I refer to in my head during the race as “the guys who swam in college”) and one swimmer to my right. Deciding to dial it back, I followed his feet until the turn-around at which point I figured I would do my share of leading. Interestingly, he wanted no part of this. As he saw me coming up he put in a few hard kicks, surging in front of me again. “Whatever” I thought to myself, Ill just ride him all the way-in and save my legs. The sun was totally blinding on our return trip but my Roka R1 goggles gave me just enough tint to see the shore! We both got out of the water just over 27 minutes (1.5 minutes faster than last year), with a solid gap on everyone else.
Swim time: 27:17
Roka = speed.
Transition at Grand Rapids is LONG. The street is narrow and there are racks of 8 bikes on either side in a big race (~2000 people). Getting to my bike I threw on my new Rudy Project Wing 57 aero helmet and headed out with my Felt IA4, leaving two of the people who beat me in the swim behind. Thanks to my cylcocross skills my mount was a total success and I began hunting the rider in front of me who was in hot pursuit of the lead moto. The first few miles he seemed to maintain a good gap but his cadence was really high. When he glanced back I knew it was over, putting in a solid 5’ at 280-90 I made the pass and gave him little hope of coming with. The rest of the bike I really focused on staying as low as possible and riding smooth. At the turn around I was starting to hurt a bit, but my power had been high and I knew the way back I would have a tailwind. I was ecstatic to see I had an estimated 2-3’ gap on the next rider. This motivated me and forgetting about the pain I dug deeper. The last few miles I found my mind drifting to the run. Would my training this winter and spring pay off? Or had I overcooked it on the bike and was about to repeat 2015? Here is the strava file, Im ecstatic I was able to push 20 more watts than last year.
Bike time: 2:12:13 (fastest of the day)
As I ran through transition, my legs didn’t feel too bad, but I had no idea how fast I was running. Grabbing my BOCO hat and race belt I set out on the two-loop run course. Glancing down at my watch I saw 6:25 for mile 1 and I felt totally in-control. Trying to keep myself calm I hit the next miles in nearly the exact same time. At mile 4 I saw second place (Ryan Guliano), who I knew is a heck of a runner and was just coming off a huge OA amateur win at Texas. At the turn-around I was joined for a minute by Bri and Ellie who ran next to me. Unfortunately Ellie didn’t attack Ryan who by now was in hot pursuit, and he caught me not long after, immediately putting a sizeable gap in me. Trying to not let this phase me I proceeded onward to a 607 mile, at which point he already had 30 seconds on me. At mile 10 I estimated I had 3ish minutes on the next guy, Guliano’s teammate. Just keep your shit together and you can beat him I told myself. By the last couple of miles I was hurting bad. My legs were not used to the relative hilliness of the GR run course. With a mile to go the emotions were flowing: pleasure, pain, excitement, fatigue. As I rounded the corner I saw the race clock: 4:04:XX. Giving it everything I had I crossed the finish line in 4:04:50.
Run time: 1:22:03
Happy Greg, Happy Ellie.
While I knew I had finished second in the under 40 age group, I still had to wait for the 40+ guys to come in, which meant waiting on first American at Kona, Dan Stubleski. Sure enough, Dan was able to pull off a blazing fast run and beat me by a minute and a half for second overall. It didn’t matter, I was still absolutely stoked with my third OA. This had been something I had been dreaming about since February, although didn’t even think it was realistic. Teammates Zachary Carry, Ryan Linden, and Mark Beckwith were close on my heels brining home two first place age group finishes. After the race we got to make a number of new friends, many of which were familiar with the team! On the way home I reflected on my race, truly everything went as planned. I could not have asked for a better day. I am so lucky to have a team of such motivated and like-minded individuals. Huge thanks to Bri and Ellie for accompanying me and being my crew, I wouldn’t be able to do it without you two!!!!
Left to right: Carr, Beckwith, Linden, Grosicki
Three weeks from now I will travel to California for Vineman 70.3. Cant wait to meet some of the west coast team and smash some California climbs!