Sunday, July 10, 2011

Race Report: Independence Day Duathlon

I'll quickly start this off by saying on Saturday, 7/9 I did 14 miles at an average of 7:19 pace.  My second half was a 1:30 negative split.  Not too bad for 90 degree weather at 6pm.

Sunday brought Duathlon #2 to the table.  This was a small race held up in Westminster.  The start/finish and transition area were in Deer Park, about 45 minutes northwest of Baltimore.  The race was set to be a 1.6 mile run, a 12 mile bike ride, and a 1.6 mile run.  The 1.6 mile run was 2 loops on a paved, narrow, curvy, and somewhat hilly path through the park.  The bike ride was on a rather difficult course in the surrounding area.  Despite being so small, the event was extremely well organized with plenty of volunteers to direct us during both the bike and the run.  They had volunteers at every intersection that we had to turn with flags pointing us in the direction to take.  Though I had already rode the course twice a couple weeks ago, the big orange flags certainly made for worry free riding!

My plan was simple, run the first leg hard and get on the bike before everyone, then pedal my butt off on the bike ride and hope for the best.  As far as transitions go, this time my running shoes had elastic laces that don't require any tying.  I can just slip the shoes on and off with ease, yet still get that tight laced up feeling that I like to have with running shoes.  For transition 2, I had a plan to unstrap my cycling shoes while still leaving them clipped in so that once I had to dismount, I could run to my bike rack with just socks on.  Then, I could just slap on the running shoes and be off, rather than fumbling with the shoes while stationary.  Of course, the best laid plans don't always work out....

As soon as we started I took 2nd place on the run.  After about a minute, I went around the one runner ahead of me and just poured it on.  I wasn't expecting to build much of a lead with such a short run.  I was wrong though.  By the time I finished my second loop and ran up to the transition area, I couldn't hear or see anyone behind me.  I had even managed to lap a few runners at the back of the pack.  I never remembered to stop my watch for splits, but my first run was supposedly around 8 minutes.

In transition I momentarily ran past my bike since I forgot how to count to 5.  Once I actually got to it, I fumbled a bit with my cycling shoes.  Thinking I could save time, I had already started the ratchet straps on my shoes during set up, but it didn't help because I still had trouble getting them to ratchet down.  Next time, I'll just leave the shoes completely undone.  I finally ran my bike out of transition, mounted and was off.

I knew very well that the first 4 miles of the bike leg were either flat or downhill and I would need some serious speed to delay the inevitable.  I certainly felt on top of the world following the lead vehicle.  However, reality eventually set in as I got passed by the eventual winner at mile 1.5 of the bike ride.  At the time, I was riding 27mph on a slight downhill and he had to be doing at least 30.  Such is life...  I would find out later that everyone thought this was a very difficult bike course, which certainly made me feel good, because I shared their opinions!

As the ride continued, we started hitting more and more uphills, each being longer than the last.  There were a few downhills thrown in the mix, but overall, we were gaining elevation.  I was having trouble maintaining my speed and kind of felt dazed.  I had decided not to take any fluids, but in the future will take some gatorade.  I can stomach more things on the bike, and that shot of sugar and electrolytes probably could have snapped me back into it.

I got passed by another cyclist who turned out to be part of a relay as we made our way to the most dangerous part of the course.  A very steep downhill complete with 3 hair pin turns and a torn up narrow road lay ahead.  Needless to say I slowed down a bit.  2 other cyclists who passed me before that did the same.  I was now 4th overall (excluding the relay rider).  The course did not get much easier after that point, but I was able to pick it up a bit and keep my speed over 20mph a bit more easily than before.

As we approached the 2nd to last turn, I knew one nice long downhill remained, followed by nothing but uphill for the last mile back to the transition area.  One more cyclist caught up to me.  I noticed you can tell they are coming if you hear shifting behind you, or in the case of time trial bikes..noise like a freight train.  He passed me but did not put distance on me which meant he was reaching.  I waited for the hills and realizing he was struggling went by him and put him away in that last mile.

Approaching the transition area, I was able to undo one of my cycling shoes but my middle strap on the second was stuck and I couldn't get my finger underneath to release it.  Being tired certainly made it harder.  So I unclipped the left shoe since I had to dismount and ran the bike in with one shoe on and one off.  I racked the bike and slipped on the running shoes real quick and was out of transition in a flash.

I could see one runner off in the distance and could tell I was closing in, but was very worried about how little time I had to gun him down.  My legs also felt like crap.  It took a good 0.5-0.75 miles of running before I started getting my stride back, about the same as my last race.  Once I had it, I knew I had to go because there was not any time left.  I poured it on and really started closing.  Once we hit the most wide open part of the course, I could actually see the entire field and was clearly closing.  If I had another mile or two, I probably could have caught everyone.

Instead, I had to settle for the guy currently running 3rd.  I kept picking away, gaining distance, inch by painful inch.  I kept telling myself I was not going to be outdone by a cyclist.  As we got closer to the finish, I finally caught up to him.  Just as I got blown away on the bike, I did the same on foot.  He sprinted hard to try and stay with me, so I just turned it up a notch and flew away.  I almost crashed into a sign doing this because there was a very tight S-bend that we had to run through and since I have no agility, I barely made the turns!

I sprinted through the finish in 54:55, good for 3rd overall and 2nd in the 25-29 yr old age group.  They only went 1 deep for overalls, hence my age group award.  I don't have splits, but my cycle computer reported an average speed of ~19.5 mph, which is always a bit slower than the actual since it also counts running the bike into and out of transition.  So I'm guessing I hit close to 20mph.

On a side note, there were actually two other people from the running scene out there, both Howard County Striders.  I knew both of them (mostly by name lately), and one of them was a former Terp Runner (University of Maryland's club running team).  We had run together at least a couple of times in the past.  I had a good conversation with him regarding cycling.  He recently suffered a stress fracture, bought a triathlon bike and started cycling 75-85 miles a week during his injury and recovery.  Sounds really, really familiar doesn't it?

I also had a good conversation with the winner, who was rather impressed with my running.  He is in his 40s now, but first picked up cycling in his late 20s.  He started with duathlons but was a substantially better runner than cyclist.  His best marathon time is in the low 2:50s.  After years of cycling, he eventually became a real strong cyclist and now apparently kicks ass at these multi sport events.  This also sounds really familiar....

They both told me the same thing in regards to training.  Find a club and/or racing team that has competitive group rides and go get your ass handed to you.  Sooner or later, you'll be able to keep up.  This should be especially good for me.  Some clubs frown upon using triathlon bikes in group rides, so my road bike should allow me more opportunity to pick up some of these group rides.

Adventures for the Cure holds Wednesday night competitive rides of 25-35 miles at a park and ride about 25-30 minutes from where I work.  It certainly sounds like a good place to start.  They have an A and a B group, and from what I hear, the B group is probably good enough to drop me.  I'll have to make my way out to that so I have at least one truly hard ride (and humbling experience) every week.  I'm liking where this is heading!

1 comment:

  1. An actual Tri bike, aero helmet and jersey will help you with the bike leg if you're averaging speeds over 20. Keep your head down on those descents.