Monday, August 15, 2011

Duathl...wait never mind

This past week was rather successful.  I got in 64 total miles of running, my highest week in a long time.  I did a 16 mile long run at 6:45 pace, my longest long run in a while and I biked 126 miles, the most I've done in a week.  One of those rides was a 40 miler and felt rather doable.

On all fronts, things are certainly moving forward!  My tempo run on Tuesday was at 5:47/mile pace for 4.5 miles.  Though still about 10-15 seconds slower per mile than pre-injury, it is more or less exactly where I was at this exact time last year.  Assuming I make progress similar to last year, I am rather confident that a 2:39:59 at Philly is possible.

My long run pace is equally slower, about 20 seconds per mile.  However, once again, it is comparable to last year.  When I finished that run, and still felt great despite the slower times, I realized that being healthy and able to run was more important than being 100% on top of my game.  I'm not forcing any times, and am really just enjoying the steady comeback.  This resurgence has really reminded me that times are not everything, miles are not the be all end's all about just being healthy enough to get out there and get done what you can handle!

After that Saturday long run, I got my bike ready for the Lums Pond Duathlon that was to take place Sunday up in Delaware.  I "borrowed" a friend's apartment nearby (my former college roommate is the man) and was excited for the fast and flat course.  This duathlon was to feature a 2 mile run, 19.5 mile bike, and 3.2 mile run.  I had upgraded my bike this week with carbon aero bars and full carbon aero wheels.  The aero bars allow me to get into a more aerodynamic position (while sacrificing some handling and control).  Though not as good as a triathlon bike since a road bike does not quite have the same geometry, I can still get a pretty good boost on flats and downhills.  The wheels, quite a hefty investment, are both lighter and more aerodynamic than my previous set.  This wheelset, the Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLs were the perfect compromise between durability, weight, price, and aerodynamic character.  They spin up so much easier making it easy to accelerate, stay spinning fast, requiring me to fight less at high speed, and are much stiffer making climbing and cornering easier.

So I've got this sweet bike and bike legs that are starting to click, all ready to go and what happens?  Rain, of biblical proportions!!  It rained A LOT this weekend and Delaware got hit the hardest.  I got to DE 7pm on Saturday night.  About 20 minutes after that, it started raining and literally never stopped the rest of the time I was up there.  When I woke up at 5:00AM on Sunday to go the race, it was a torrential downpour.  I drove through a few washed out roads and somehow didn't crash on my way to the race.

When I finally got there, the rain still had not let up.  They finally announced the inevitable...the bike leg for the Du was cancelled, and the swim and bike for the Triathlon were also cancelled.  They decided to combine the two run loops and make a 6 mile running race for those that chose to stay.

On one hand, I was a bit disappointed that I would not get to try out the bike and that I paid $110 for what would end up being a running race.  On the other hand, I was relieved, because it was dangerous out there.  I figured at the least, I could win the whole damn thing now.  No way I was going to get out run by some multisport athletes!

A lot of people stayed, creating a rather large field of a couple hundred runners.  The plan was to do the first running loop (2 miles), run through transition, do the second run loop (~3 miles), run through transition again, then do the first loop one more time and cross the finish.  I know that doesn't equal 6 miles, but a few garmins confirmed that was the distance.

The Du and Tri were to be scored separately despite the mass start (yay timing chips!).  Regardless, my plan was simple..beat all these fools!  The rain slackened a little for the race but it was so ridiculously wet out there that it really did not matter.  The first 2 miles largely to my surprise were on trails.  While running through puddles, mud, water, and slipping everywhere, I thought to myself "so I was supposed to do a duathlon, but now I'm in the middle of a freaking trail race, great!!"

I knew everyone would have the adrenaline flowing after all the hoop-la about the changed race, so I made sure not to go out too hard as about a dozen other people did.  I was easily 10-12 at the very start.  After the first mile, 2 runners had separated themselves and ran close behind the lead vehicle (a yellow ATV...the most bad ass lead vehicle ever!).  I did more sliding than running on the trail parts but as the footing got better, I slowly closed on those lead runners and dropped the rest of the fading pack.  They looked pretty legit, as oppose to the others that just burned out too fast.

We ran through transition and hit some solid pavement for the next part of the course.  I continued closing bit by bit, inch by inch on the leaders.  The pair started to break apart and just as that happened, I caught up and went shoulder to shoulder with the overall leader.  I would later find out that I blew the duathlon field out of the water and I was only racing triathletes.  Though I had already locked up the victory, I fully intended to be the first athlete across the line, period!  We made the turnaround to head back to transition and do the first loop over again.

During the race, I did not know for sure that this was the plan, but based on my watch, I figured that was it.  Good thing I was right...  I poured it on during this part because I knew things would get hairy once we got back to the wet grass and trails.  I put some solid distance on my foe, though he stayed in the vicinity the rest of the time.

I was now in an ideal spot.  I had not led from the start (I hate doing that) and was now in the lead with less than 1/4 of the race to go.  All that was left was to seal the deal.  As we ran through transition again, I made the mistake of looking over my shoulder.  As I looked back forward, I almost ran into a volunteer who was trying to get me to run over the correct timing mat.  I ended up slipping and busting my ass, falling on my left side.  I immediately got back up and started running again.  It took a few strides to shake off the pain, but I kept going.

I pushed forward, over the grass, through puddles, sliding through the mud, around and around until finally I started heading back towards the finish.  My last time through the muddy area was almost horrible as I slid real, real far but somehow stayed upright.  I usually slip on my trailing leg which is easy to catch, but at this race I kept slipping on my lead leg which was causing me to almost fall right on my butt every time!

As I rounded one of the final turns on wet grass, once again, I slipped real bad and fell this time busting the right side of my ass.  At least it was even now...  Before this race, in nearly 14 years of running, I had fallen a grand total of 3 times.  Now, over the course of a 34 minute race I fell badly, twice!  Talk about an adventure...

Of course I did the same damn thing the last time I fell, got back up and kept running.  I didn't feel much pain this time, because I was hell bent on finishing first.  Thankfully, I had a big enough lead that my mishaps did not cost me position (though I may have been able to break 34 minutes if it was not for that!).

I ended up crossing the line 1st overall in 34:18, 5:47 pace on a very slippery course in which I fell twice.  Talk about a strong run...

For my trouble, I got a big gold medal and actually got to stand on a podium for the first time.  Not to mention a lot of kudos from all the tri and duathletes out there.  I'm actually quickly becoming known in the multisport world for being such a strong runner.  I'm really hoping that I'll someday be comparable on the bike, because then I can really do some damage.

So it was that I won my first "duathlon" even if it turned out to be a run, run, run (yes they actually called it that...) instead of a run, bike, run.

I'll get two more chances to test out my running legs at a BRRC 10K this weekend and the Annapolis 10 Miler next weekend.  This race gave me a lot more confidence in my tempo pace!  Now let's see what I can do in some real running races.  My next duathlon will hopefully be at the end of September, unless I can find one sooner!

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