CAF Representation at the Ironman 70.3 Michigan
By PO1 Kasia Danigier
On September 11, 2022, I had the pleasure of representing the CAF Triathlon Long Distance Team in Frankfort, Michigan, USA, at their Second Annual Ironman 70.3 race. I was originally signed up to race in 2021, during their Inaugural race; however, COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented entrance to the United States. I had emailed race organizers and deferred my race registration to 2022.
I arrived in Frankfort, MI, on September 8 in order to rest and recover from the travel as well as complete all my pre-race activation on the race course. Frankfort, MI, is a small town located on the shores of Lake Michigan where you will find a very welcoming American Forces Legion. The Ironman Athlete’s village is located right in the heart of the town along Main Street.
For activation and race course familiarization, athletes have access to the entire course site, with the exception of the swim, as it takes place in a protected bay as opposed to the open waters of Lake Michigan. After checking out the layout of the village, I headed out along the bike course for familiarization and out to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park where I would be staying throughout the weekend. Early Friday, September 9, I completed a short activation swim in Long Lake and headed to the Ironman Village for Athlete Check-In and mandatory Race Brief where I also picked up some sports gels and CO2 cartridges for race day. As I had been nursing an aching back, I took a short activation ride on Saturday morning, prior to mandatory Bike drop-off, then took it easy for the remainder of the day and prepared my kit for the race.
After a restless sleep, as is often the case before a race, 4 a.m. came very quickly. Transition at the Ironman Village opened at 5:30, and I wanted to be there around 6:00 in order to set everything up and not have to rush, as there were 1500 individual athletes and more than 50 teams competing. It was a very cool 9 degrees in the morning, and the forecast was calling for rain by 10 a.m.. Far from the 38 degree weather we experienced at Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant in June. My goal for the race was to focus on nutrition and allow my back to dictate the level of intensity during the day.
After a short, commemorative Opening Ceremonies on September 11, the first swimmers were off. I was seeded with the 37-40 minute swimmers, so we didn’t start until roughly 20 minutes after the first swimmers entered the water. The race course was not your typical triangle or rectangle, but rather an “upside-down clothing hanger” as they described it during the brief, mainly due to the confines of the small Betsie Lake. I was very conservative throughout the swim on account of my back, but found a comfortable pace and felt at ease during the 1.9 kilometre swim. I was very happy with a 40:53 swim time.
After a rather long run to transition, I got to my favorite part of the race, the 90km bike. With the rain holding off, the rolling bike course consisted of two out-and-back sections, but mainly along the picturesque highway M-22 which winds its way along the border of Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park, providing a beautiful tree canopy for miles. Despite the windy conditions, I was able to complete the ride in 2:47:38, my fastest bike at an Ironman 70.3 distance to date.
After the quick bike course, I started the 21.1km run leg feeling strong, and settled into my race pace goal of 5:30. The run course was mostly fast, and made up of two out-and-back loops on the paved trails and roads around Betsie Bay between the City of Frankfort and the Village of Elberta. It’s a fun and energetic run as you could see and feel the energy from the transition area and finish line even when on the far side of Betsie Bay. Running through the finish line, I completed the run in 1:58:26, for one of my faster races totalling 5:32:29.
I am very pleased with the result of the race, but also very thankful for the support in preparing and getting to the race; from the CAF Triathlon Team, Unit level Support, PSP and Friends and Family. For this race in particular, I couldn’t have done it without the help and support I received.