205.5 miles raced, 400 yards swam and 32.4 miles biked in 2011
Race: Legacy Duathlon
Place: Salt Lake City, UT
Miles from home: 12 miles
Weather: 40-50 degrees;
This past weekend marked the first time in 2011 I spent a full actual weekend in my bed. I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful that is. I was hardly rested and rejuvenated after a horrendous travel week (read my blog posting, Eff you, Jet Blue which is quickly becoming the most read blog I have ever posted) but I was home. Of course, being home did not mean that I was resting. It just meant I would only have to make a 20 minute drive to my race this time.
While I knew there was no way I should feel like I could win this race, given I had been on my bike probably a grand total of 7 times, I nonetheless felt that way. At the very least I wanted to win this race for my father. I find it funny I just said “at the very least” there. For those who do not know, my father’s health has been deteriorating since around Thanksgiving. The particular race just happened to take place on his birthday. When I signed up for it I decided regardless of how tired or undertrained I was, I was going to do everything in my power to win it for him. So I suited up in unfamiliar gear, jumped into an unfamiliar sport and decided to give it a go.
The duathlon was put on by a local racing affiliate, On Hill Events, which is quickly gaining popularity in the region. Their Layton Marathon is the only course in Utah to not only be certified as a Boston Qualifier but a World Record and Olympic Qualifier. Given the recent events at the Boston Marathon, this holds even more weight than one would think. I had been in communication with the owner of On Hill Events for quite some time now and I liked what he was doing with his scheduling of a variety of different racing course and events. As such, I decided to throw my weight behind this duathlon and be one of the sponsors of the race.
I had given the course a quick ride on the Thursday before the event to not only familiarize myself with the road but to see if there were any problem areas. A couple of places had a little bit of standing water but given the winter which would not die was still holding Utah in a death grip, this was not at all surprising. I was as ready as I was going to be for the race; which, of course means I went and did a swim workout and as sprint running workout on Friday. I have never claimed to have the most intelligence in the world. But I knew that regardless of my desire to win, this was still, for all intents and purposes, simply a workout.
Now if I could just remember that on race day.
Run 1: (7th Fastest): 19:16
I am still getting used to how triathlons and duathlons have to be run. Even in the smallest rinky-dink 5k, you still simply say “go!” and the competitors take off all together. However, modifications must be made for these types of races where course restrictions limit what the participants can do. For the first 5k, run on a narrow bike path, participants were asked to line up according to their projected 5k time. Then, every few seconds, they would be given the “go!” signal as their number was typed into the timing system. This seemed about the fairest way to do a relatively low-key event as this and for the most part I think it worked out fairly well.
I was positioned about 5th in the line which I knew was a little further ahead than I should be. I could see some high school kids who were undoubtedly better 5kers than I am; the question remained if they had the stamina for a 22.4 mile bike ride and then another 5k after it.
When it was my turn, I gave my number, was given the go and immediately tried to close the gap on the runners in front of me. One of the great things about having run so many marathons in such a short period of time is that my body is a metronome when it comes to the 26.2 mile distance. It also has an engine brake which refuses me to redline before it is time to redline. The problem with that brake is my redline speed for a marathon is nowhere close to my redline speed for a 5k. Subsequently, I spend half of a 5k reminding my body that I will be done running in 20 minutes, not two and a half hours and therefore I can allow myself to make it hurt.
Three runners passed me in this 5k; two being high school kids (their ages written on their legs, if I needed any further clue) and one extremely fit fella who more than looked the part of a seasoned veteran. I let all of them go with very little of a fight. After 1.55 miles, we made a hairpin turn on the bikepath and headed back to the start. I soon caught one of the high schoolers who did not care too much for this old geezer passing him. Every time I would get even with him he would grunt and sprint forward 20 yards. He would then die, fall back level with me and we would repeat this all over again. I wanted to tell him that when you make a move, you have to make it stick. Otherwise, it gives your opponent an edge. However, he would not stay next to me long enough for me to say word one to him.
The great part of this out and back nature is that you then got to see everyone else in the race. I really like out and backs like this because you can really connect with the other participants. Even in a short distance run you feel like there are only two groups of people: those running and the rest of the masses sitting at home on their bums.
As we neared the end of the run and headed toward the bike transition the youngster was still pulling his surge and die routine. However, this time when he sprinted forward, far too focused on sprinting, he cut me off as he continued down the bikepath we were supposed to be exiting. “Etiquette!” I yelled at him as I headed toward the bikes.
Run Bike Transition: (20th fastest) :50
I fumbled with my helmet a little bit as the clasp would not click but I soon had my K-Swiss Blade Light Race shoes off and my bike shoes on my feet. I took a quick swig of Nuun and placed it back on the bike. Pushed the bike through the transition and got ready for the unknown once again- the bike.
Bike: (12th Fastest) : 1:01:05
As we headed off on the bike, I noticed that none of the people I had in front of me on the 5k were anywhere in sight. As there was a shorter distance Duathlon and a few other events occurring simultaneously, simply spotting a cyclist did not mean they were in my race. All I could do was simply pedal along.
If I feel my body does not really know how hard to push itself in a 5k, it is completely clueless when it comes to what is hard or fast on a bike. I really need to get a trip computer so I can look down and see my mph. As such, I just tried picking off cyclists in front of me and just pushing along the best I could. Soon I saw no more cyclists in front of me and was by myself. I stayed in my own little zone here for the first five miles until one cyclist passed me from behind. I figured that may happen given my lack of experience on the bike, but I wanted to at least make him work for it. I stayed as close as possible for as long as possible but I could tell he was a much better rider than I and finally had to let him go. Right around mile nine another cyclist passed me as well but with no markings on his legs I assumed he was just out for a workout. (The bikepath was not closed to pedestrians and we did have to contend with a few out exercising that day. Not many, but a few.)
The turnaround was around a cone in the middle of the bikepath which I found a little disconcerting. I had to come to more or less a complete stop, unclip my shoe and turn around. Given my inexperience with clip-in shoes I was a little uneasy but before too long I was heading back home. As I mentioned, I had ridden the course with my friend Chris previously. I had braved some pretty fierce winds on the way out on that day and enjoyed them greatly on the way home. However, today there was virtually no wind to aid me to the finish.
I found out here that the cyclist who had passed me with no markings was indeed in the race as he turned around the cone as well. I tried desperately to keep him in sight but soon he had put a large amount of ground between the two of us. About four miles back on the return another cyclist passed me. He too separated himself from me. At the turnaround for the shorter race, Chris was directing cyclists to and fro as a course marshal. Seeing me coming, he was kind enough to whip out his camera and grab a few shots of me as I sped by.
As I headed home, I reached down to get a drink of Nuun and after taking in a swig, went off the bikepath for a second while replacing the bottle. With about two miles left in the bike I was either very tired or the bikes tires had flattened when I went off the bikepath. Not again, I thought. (I have had something go wrong with my tire in nearly every ride I have gone on. I was beginning to feel cursed.)
I pushed through the last few miles and was happy to be done. My time out was approximately 30 minutes and my time back, thirty-one. Not bad but not what I was expecting. And the tire wasn’t flat at all. I am just weak!
Bike-Run Transition (13th Fastest) :38
I was pretty pleased with my transition time here but I could have easily taken my feet out of the shoes prior to dismounting which would have said me a few more seconds. But overall this was not a bad transition. Now I had to try and make up what time I could on the final 5k.
Run 2: (3rd Fastest): 20:10
As the 5k course twisted and turned all I could hope for was to not see any of the runners in front of me. I was hoping to get as close as possible to them before the turn around and then make a final push to try and win this darn thing. Unfortunately, right around the one mile mark, the first runner went past me in the opposite direction. I gave him a low-five as he went by and realized he was going to beat me by about 10 minutes. Not exactly what I had in mind for my father’s “birthday present.” In quick succession a few other runners went by and I now was just focusing on the final competitor who had passed me on the bike. Every step I took put me closer to him and I spurred myself on.
At the turnaround I knew I would soon over take him. A half of a mile later I was 100 yards back. Another half of a mile later and he was now in my rear view. However, I knew I could not simply pass him to beat him as he had started behind me to begin with so I pushed down the throttle. Up ahead I could see the unmarked cyclist. Unfortunately, I was running out of real estate and knew I would not catch him. But I was going to try.
Putting even more distance between my chaser and myself I saw my friend Tommy who was doing this entire duathlon with some shoulder problems. Total trooper. While I ended up catching no more runners, coincidentally right after seeing Tommy, I saw his wife cheering people on and she grabbed a picture or two of me as I finished.
All told, I finished 7th overall and first in my age group with a time if 1:42:02. I wish I had been looking at my watch as I hate any time with an :0X for its seconds. I always want to get it down to the next minute. While I was disappointed with my overall finish, my time was right about what I expected it to be. I was thinking two separate 20-minute 5ks with an hour bike in between. My time more or less panned out this way. The caliber of talent however was simply better than I expected it to be.
There was a really jovial feel to the race even though people were pushing themselves hard. It may be considered low-key but without a doubt people were trying their best - evidenced in no small part by the high schoolers and their relentlessness in the first 5k. I spoke to my parents afterward and told my Dad I did the best I could. He was pleased as punch that I made it through without crashing.
I guess that was good enough of a present. Love you, Dad.