Race Report: Grand Columbian Half Iron

Grand Columbian Super Triathlon, Grand Coulee, WA – 9/17/2011

The race was under new ownership this year (Trifreaks), so I was interested to see how it compared to last year. Other than a lack of details about the two transition bag system they use there, they did fine.

I, however, did rather poorly. The gut issues that plagued me all summer hit me again when I started my run, and worse than ever. New theory: I’m eating too damn much. Between all the gels, cytomax, and perpetuem solids I consume on the bike, there’s just too many calories for my stomach to digest before I start the run, so it’s all sloshing around in there and causing things to cramp up. I’ll have to test this out in my spring training, but it seems the most likely cause at this point.

In any case, despite a brutal bike course and a demoralizing, painful run, I still had fun. It was my last race of the year, so once my gut acted up on the run I chose to forget about trying to finish in a certain amount of time, and instead opted to enjoy the beautiful day and the companionship of friendly strangers. I ran as much as I could, and walked the rest, and had a damn good time doing so.

The race this year had a full Iron distance race and a ‘Super’ distance race that both started before me. Consequently, I got to the park many hours before my start time, and discovered that it was FREAKING COLD and I hadn’t thought to bring sweats or a jacket, just my hoodie. Crap. I ended up wrapping my legs in my transition towel and shivering for a bit, while watching the real crazies complete their 2.4mi and 3mi swims. Epic.

pictures by susandelene.com

It was finally my turn, and after a quick swim warm up, I was ready to rock. In all previous races I’d used a big mask goggle, because when I was first getting gear the guy in the store told me horror stories of getting kicked in the face, and how it hurts a lot more with regular goggles because the impact goes to the eye socket. It finally occurred to me a couple months ago that I’m never in the big throng of competitive swimmers at the start. I always hang back a bit and let the initial chaos subside, so getting kicked in the face is very unlikely. Plus, the mask was clear, so sometimes the sunrise would blind me during the swim. I finally bought some smaller, reflective, open water goggles, and they worked great!

The wind had pushed some of the buoys around, but I don’t know if that made the course longer or shorter. I do know I went a little off course towards the end, but I caught it in time and finished the swim in 43:42… not a PR, but damn good for me just the same.


The bike course started out with a steep, mile long climb, then a short downhill section, then a massive 3 mile climb straight up that nearly killed me last year. I fared much better this time, which is especially cool after having swum twice as far. Little did I know the hell that awaited me…

At mile 11 the course veers south, and what seemed like a nice long downhill was actually a long series of hills, all into a very strong headwind, for 13 miles. Oof. The countryside was lovely, but that wind sucked a lot the fun out of things. At mile 44 I got to my favorite part of the course, though, which is a 5 mile downhill section, dropping 1000 feet. I love it, and it totally makes the preceding 40 miles worth it.

As stated, my run was crap. But what a course! To get down to the river we got to go through a secured area at the base of the dam that you normally don’t get access to. OK, so it was just a big gravel parking lot with some trucks and stuff, but hey! Special top secret secure area! Woo!

I struggled through the run and eventually finished, forcing myself to run the last half mile, despite massive gut cramping. I imagined a series of ex-girlfriends imperiled by zombies and that I was running to save them… stupid, but it worked.

I went to La Presa Mexican Restaurant for my post-race feast, and had my usual, appropriately sized pina colada to go with it:


swim: 43:42 / bike: 3:45:21 / run: 2:49:17

(distances: 1.2 / 56 / 13.1 miles)

total: 7:29:10

placed: 21/23 in my division, 77/95 overall.

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