Friday, July 31, 2009

Big Names Head to Michigan

I'm one who normally blasts Michigan for a lack of things to do and a far-from-less-than-stellar downtown that is Detroit. But sometimes, the Motor City Triathlon weekend being one and this weekend being another, I can say something good about the state and its action-packed events rather than tell my friends to get a good look at a Chicago skyline and note the Detroit differences--and not feel the need to rush back to normalcy in Chicago but enjoy the vacation vibe of southwest Michigan. So back to this past weekend...the excitement stems from my for-once elation over going to Michigan and the crowd I'll be surrounded by. And selfishly happy that my parents will be watching this race and I could convince them once again to come out and watch--my dad likes to joke that he thought his event-watching finished when I got married and boy was he wrong.

The world of triathlon converges on southwest Michigan come July 31 and August 1 with the Whirlpool Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Triathlon taking place in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and the surrounding fruit belt countryside. And the best part is that as this race has grown over the years--it's turning seven in 2009--drawing more age-groupers, spectators and pros. The swim is pretty along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the bike features a tour through the fruit belt where Michigan farmers grow a wide selection of berries and apples, and the run follows a course through the Whirlpool campus (I had no idea that Whirlpool was a Michigan product until I wrote about the race one year for Windy City Sports). But after still recovering from the Spirit of Racine Half Ironman and wondering why I signed up for that when I already planned to race at Steelhead, my eyes were wandering more to the field of competitors than my own training and tapering. When I confirmed my entry materials, I peeked at the pro field coming and was thrilled to see big names like Andy Potts, Luke Bell, Leanda Cave, Amanda Lovato and Nina Kraft. I'm the dork who has only seen this troop racing on TV during Ironman and 70.3 coverage and maybe being interviewed briefly. But knowing they'll be on the race course, in that same transition area and possibly standing beside me at one point if I could get so lucky, really gets me going.

But then I was just as excited to see some big Chicago names--or perhaps only big to me since I've tracked down a few in the last year to interview them for different articles--among the racers. Jenny Garrison, a triathlete out of Naperville who went pro last year and has added 70.3 events to her schedule this year. Andrew Starykowicz, out of Long Grove who seems to put most guys to shame on the bike with his blistering speeds that even some pros can't compete with (I have yet to track him down though). Emily Cocks, from Chicago who I didn't even realize had gone pro until this race--she had a really good finish at the St. Croix 70.3 in May and is fast at all three disciplines. And even some age-groupers who turn up atop the leaderboard at home--and I probably notice because they either are or have been in my age group. Christine Anderson who races on the Timex team and Adrienne Saeger who's part of the Mideast Elite and recently won the Spirit of Racine triathlon amid some drafting debacle brewing on the slowtwitch message boards.

Regardless, it's shaping up to be an exciting weekend in Michigan. I'm about to hit the road myself...have to meet my parents for dinner in Union Pier and as usual am running late. At least my bags are packed, it's just my bike that has issues. More to come post-race and we'll see how the excitement unfolds. Posted by Kate

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