8/22/2021 Ken Frankenbery Michigan Titanium Triathlon Grand Rapids, Michigan


Michigan Titanium Triathlon

Full Ironman Distance Triathlon

Ken Frankenbery

Finish Time:  14:15:10

Overall Place:  42nd Place / 131

Division Place:  1st Place

Race Review By Ken Frankenbery

I started this journey 2 years ago-read a quote by Mark Allen in 2019
Unless you test yourself, you stagnate.  Unless you try to go way beyond what you have been able to do before, you won’t develop and grow;  When you go for it 100%, when you don’t have the fear of “What If I Fail” that’s when you learn. That’s when you’re really living

After reading it I knew I need a new challenge,  I have never done an Ironman so signed up for 2020 Grand Rapids race. It fit my criteria of non Ocean swim, wet suit legal, within driving distance, lower key event than Ironman branded races, and reviews said it one of best organized events in USA.

It was the perfect race till it was canceled because of Covid.  Having an extra year of training turned out to be a plus.  Biking and running I knew I could do having ran multiple marathons and raced several 100 miles of mountain bike races.  But swimming 2 and ½ miles, that took some time to build up to.  Plus moving my weekly training hours from 12-13 a week, to 20+takes time.

Race day was hot and humid.  Michigan has been having a unseasonable summer with record breaking temperatures.  It was no surprise when water temp was 79 degrees, first time in race history above 78 (limit for wet suits). I was not happy but 2 years of long-distance training taught me its all about overcoming challenges. I was shocked how many people opted to wear wet suits and go off in a  separate wave with there results not officially counting.

Swim start was waves seeded by expected finish time.  2 laps of a 1.2 mile loop.  They sent out swimmers in lines of 5 every 10 seconds .  Start worked great with limited people kicking and running over you.  A semi orderly line of swimmers until second lap.  Then they let waves of ½ Ironman people (only doing 1 lap ) all I could think of was Clash Of The Titans line “Release The Kracken”.  Suddenly it was like every other race start with people swimming over you, kicking you, but not to the extent of mass start races.  I started slow focusing on keeping my heart rate low but being a poor swimmer, without a wet suit my heart rate runs much higher just trying to keep from sinking!   Half distance people cleared out fairly fast and the rest of lap went ok but the last ¼ of swim the shore seemed to keep moving farther away, a long time to be in water!  I finished in 1:45. For transition I decided to go for comfort changing into real bike shorts , bike jersey, socks, applying sun tan lotion, and  hit bath room,  it was 7 minutes which in a normal triathlon would be death, but in a all day race I think it was worth it.

Bike loop was shockingly hilly with over 4000 feet of climbing all rolling hills and 0 flat sections.  I focused on nutrition, pacing and even with heat and humidity finished in 6:54-averaging 16.3 mph.

Another 7 minute transition to change into run gear which again was worth the time.  I started run the feeling strong ( 4 laps of 6.5 mile loop ) but humidity was off the charts. At mile 2 I passed  the 1st place racer in my class but started up hill at mile 3 and my heart rate was in the red zone  Slowing did nothing so resorted to a run/walk plan to keep heart rate down.  No way I would be able to eat/drink unless I could keep heart rate down. The guy passed me and I was back to second.  It was not easy to let him go,  but at this point I was worried about finishing.  I knew if I ran nonstop I would be done.  Lap 2  I saw my competition.  He was slowing big time. I caught up to him and did a long walk to rest up then ran as hard as I could till I passed him and he was well out of his site. My hope it would discourage him. Lap 3 brought cooler temps.   I had pulled 15 minutes ahead of the  competition.  He was walking with friends. Last lap was by far my fastest lap.  I ended up putting an hour lead on 2nd place competitor.  He was a super nice guy and came over and said once I passed him it broke his will to push, and decided to cruise in with friends.

It was hard to stomach a 5:17 marathon but if I would have kept running I am not sure I would have made it. The support from spectators cheering was like nothing I have ever experienced as I finished, I felt a wave of satisfaction I have rarely felt.  It was a fantastic race experience after 2 long years of sacrifice.