Monday, June 13, 2016

Enell Ambassador Review: Olympic Aquabike at The Grand Rapids Triathlon

Note: As an ENELL Racing Ambassador, I receive race entry fees and merchandise, but I genuinely love the brand. All opinions here are my own. 

I was originally signed up for the Olympic Distance as part of the Athena National Championship at Grand Rapids, but I didn't feel ready for the run, so I dropped down to the Aquabike, which is the swim and the bike, no run.  
For once, my husband was not able to travel with me and be my sherpa, time cop, photographer and navigator. I am very lucky to have such great support for races most of the time, and I definitely missed him. 

I traveled with my friend Rebecca instead, who was also doing the Aquabike.  Another friend, Angi, was doing the half, and she recommended a hotel a little off the beaten path. It was definitely old-school -- actual keys and exterior room doors -- but it was clean and comfortable for $70 a night.


The night before the race, after a great dinner with some fellow Athena athletes including the impressively accomplished Leslie Battle, (who won the Olympic-distance championship again yesterday), I did the traditional obsessive packing and repacking of the gear until I got into bed exhausted at 11 pm.

My kit matches the Biscay Green ENELL Sport perfectly!

I was sound asleep when my alarm went off at 4 a.m. I was a little crabby about eating a peanut-butter sandwich with a lukewarm bottle of water and crappy hotel-room coffee when I wanted to go back to bed.

But I managed to get a smile on my face for a hotel-room selfie before racking our bikes and driving to the race site at 5 a.m. Getting there early paid off -- I got prime parking while my friend stayed with our bikes and fought off airplane-sized mosquitos.


In transition, Rebecca and I ran into one of our local triathlon celebs, Joyce Donaldson, who co-owns Elite Endeavors, a Toledo-area race management company. She also travels the world as a USAT official, which is why she was there yesterday.

I took the "God Light" in this photo as a sign that we would have a good race.

After this photo, I stowed my camera in my backpack and headed to the beach.  I was not taking this race as seriously as I usually do, but I still wanted to do my best. We missed our friend Angi's start and we had to start swimming ourselves before she got out of the water. Once I was out on the course, I was all on my own, other than the great support from all the volunteers and fellow racers.

I felt strong in the swim, but I knew it wasn't going to be my fastest time.  The water was cold but after I got used to it, fairly pleasant. It felt like there was more room to spread out than usual, so I didn't get kicked and swum over as much as I usually do in these races.

The swim course map
This guy greeted us at the end of the swim.
There were two brawny guys helping people out of the swim. They had to be exhausted at the end of the day. I really appreciated the lift as the steps were a little slippery. There was a fairly long run to transition, which was longer and narrower than most -- it was a tight squeeze for me to get by the athletes who were leaving with their bikes.

The long and narrow transition area. 
There isn't much to say about the bike. As usual, my bike computer decided not to work, so I couldn't figure out how fast I was going or what my cadence was, so I just had to go by feel. I felt like I was going pretty slow -- I hit the 5 mile mark and was really disappointed that I wasn't further. I also felt like I got passed a lot. There was a headwind at times and a few steep hills. Then it felt like I was suddenly at the finish -- and because it was an Aquabike, I was done. My time stopped when I crossed the bike in mat, and I could take a leisurely mosey to the finish to run across the line, get a photo taken, and collect my medal.

I took dozens of selfies to get one I liked.
  I felt a little guilty being done while everyone else was still racing. I went to watch for my friends to come in on the bike. I didn't notice Rebecca until she was right at the finish because she had added a purple tank to her outfit, and then I lost her in the crowd. I got to see Angi come in on the bike and leave for her run. I went in search of Rebecca, couldn't find her, and so returned to take more medal selfies.

You can see my mint-and-white bike in this picture.
Rebecca wasn't as lucky as me -- they had run out of medals by the time she finished. All I can figure is that a lot of people switched from the Half to the Olympic at the last minute.  They apologized and were taking names and phone numbers to get them their medals later, but I know from experience how disappointing that is, so I loaned her my medal so she could make her finish Facebook Official.

Her first race of this distance! It's easy to underestimate the step up it is from a sprint. 

Got Rebecca to take a picture of me in my ENELL gear. Note the excellent support...
We had a long time to wait for Angi. We packed up our stuff, changed clothes, and moved the car.
We were able to get some post-race food and check out the afterparty, which was already starting to wind down.  I found the results and was pleasantly surprised that I had hit 16.6 mph on the bike -- I thought I was going much slower.
The first 12 Aquabike finisher results.
I love these results printers.
 We even got to meet 1988 Olympic Racewalker Gary Morgan, who had brought the torch he carried in the Salt Lake City torch relay for the kids to see and take photos with.  I couldn't resist -- I knew I would never be this close to an Olympic torch again.


Watching my friend Angi finish her first half was very emotional. We got word that she was very close to the cutoff so they let her finish, but that everyone after her got picked up by the sag wagon. She got to run with a police escort. I teared up as she finished. 


Totally staged medal photo. Then they realized they gave her the wrong medal...
The race management was great -- even though she was about 15 minutes past the cutoff time, they didn't rush us. They got things done, but they let her have plenty of time to take photos at the finish and generally made us feel like rockstars. I would definitely do this race again.

With the proper Athena Nationals race medal
This was such an emotional day, plus a physically demanding one. It felt like an extra leg of the triathlon just to drive home, not to mention unloading the car. I was ready for bed at 9.

For the last few weeks I had been letting my as-yet-unsuccessful search for a permanent job get me down, but today I felt content. Permanent marker seems to have mood-lifting qualities. I went into work today, strategically wearing long sleeves and a long skirt to cover my numbers, but I still knew they were there.


8 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a really good day ... the pictures are great! I always love reading about your races!

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  2. Yay!! It was such a fun race, so glad we were all there together!

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  3. Yay!! It was such a fun race, so glad we were all there together!

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  4. Well done everyone!

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  5. Can't believe you were in GR! I have many friends who love that tri - I'm so sorry they ran out of medals. That happened to me at a half once & it was an awful feeling.

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    1. I know, it happened to me last year and I was so upset. I hope Rebecca gets hers soon.

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