Friday, May 3, 2013

Mt. Rainier Duathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 8th Edition 
1 mile skied, 34 miles biked and 102.4 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Mt. Rainier Duathlon
Place: Enumclaw, WA
Miles from home: 167 miles
Weather: 50s; Intermittent rain and wind

“Having no logical reason to believe you can do what you hope to do (and knowing this) does not mean you still won't be disappointed when you fail to reach those goals.” - Me

Yet, that is where I stood for this duathlon, an event I signed up for just two weeks prior while looking at a foot swelled to twice its size with infection. Never mind the fact that I was robbed of basically any working out for approximately two weeks. Forget the fact that I had not ridden a bicycle outdoors since September (and barring three rides on a trainer a few weeks prior, having ridden one at all.) These facts didn’t come into play when I was looking at the results of the race from the previous year and trying to determine how far in the top ten I could possibly finish. Oh yeah, this race was also a national championship race this year. So there’s that.

To put this year's race in perspective, the overall winner from last year, who more or less completed the duathlon in the exact same time –took 11th overall. The overall winner this year beat him by ten minutes. Yes Virginia, the duathletes had come out to play even if I didn’t know this at the time. I also had convinced myself that I could just muscle through the event and get by on talent alone. Perhaps I could have last year, but that was not going to be the case this year.

The evening prior to the race I scoped out the bike portion of the course. The run part didn’t bother me too much with just a 5.1 mile first leg and a 3.8 mile second leg. I knew there was a good sized hill in the first leg and nothing much to speak of in the second leg.  So the bike and its Category 4 hill in the middle is what concerned me. Even my delusional chutzpah didn’t keep me from realizing that a hill of this nature would humble me.

So after driving the nearly 15 mile loop (we would repeat it twice for the entire course distance) I thought I had a grasp on what would be in store for me during the bike portion. Namely, lots of pain. 

But that’s OK. I have a decent pain threshold. I just needed to get through it unscathed.  That, dear friends, is what was really freaking me out.  Granted no one wants to crash on their bike but with some very cool things coming up on my calendar, I simply cannot afford to do so. As such, my nerves were a little frayed knowing I would probably hit 40 mph going down the big hill on the course- twice. In projected rain. I guess I would just have to be careful.

Race Morning:

It looked like the sky had rained itself out by the time I woke and that we might have damp air but dry pavement to deal with.  However, after checking in my bike and sundry other things involved with those infernal contraptions, a rain started to fall.  It stopped and then started more than a few times before we were gathered for some pre-race instructions. Having heard the instructions, I realized I had my gear in front of my bike in transition (Which would be in the wrong place) and risked a time penalty if I did not fix it.  So, cursing the ridiculousness of this sport, I quickly remedied the situation. I didn’t need any added time artificially being put on – I would be doing plenty of that myself.

Ushered over to the starting line we were given a few last minute words of caution (Don’t hit the pavement going 40 mph. We really don’t want to call 911!) and then a deluge of rain poured down from the heavens. So much for staying even remotely dry!
Run Leg: 34:58 (6:51/mile) 44th OA

Within 100 yards, my perspective changed. I could see the big dogs had come out to play. Within another half of a mile I felt like I was already down a quarter of a mile. As the road stretched out in front of me, a long steady stream of runners peeled off before my eyes. Knowing that I had to bike not only longer than I would prefer (by about 20 miles) but also hillier than I would prefer (by about three categories) I knew I had to reserve energy. One thing I did see even amongst the top finishers last year was how much they slowed during their second run of the day. In my mind the second run would be where I would make up time, if anywhere. I was content now to simply fall back into the pack and hold on for all I could. I am not a sprinter even on my best of days and this was not one of them.

As we hit roughly the third mile of the run, I heard the soft pitter-patter of a lightweight runner on my heels. In seconds the overall female passed me. Given the women started two minutes behind the men, this was shocking, When I see she averaged 50 seconds per mile faster than I on run #1, it is less shocking how quickly she caught me. I turned to the guys behind me, shrugged my shoulders and said something akin to “Well, that was humbling.”

With the hill to run up and down around the fourth mile, I was finally feeling like a runner. I managed to pass a few chaps on the upswing, which given my disdain for uphill running, gave me a little boost. I carried it down the backside and reeled in a few more runners. As we headed back home and eventually began running on the fields we started the run on, I felt decent. I passed a few guys as we headed into transition. I told my friend Shannon who was cheering me on and taking pictures that today was not a day for me to race.

Transition: 1:12; 75th OA

This was a lengthy transition area that I would rather had not had to deal with. Serpentining our way through a sea of bikes I had to slip off my Karhu Flow Lights and put on the cement bricks of cycling shoes. Only they were slightly heavier now as I forgot to turn them over when I left the transition area prior to the race. The rain from the run had filled them nice and coldly. Ugh. Dumping them out, I also fiddled with my cycling helmet a bit as my fingers were a little cold. Running warms the core but does squat for the digits. Moreover, I could not take my mind off of how bad I had to pee. Given I had had to go so bad during every one of my cycling portions of every triathlon I have done, I knew I had to remedy the situation prior to starting the ride.

So as I exited transition, I leaned my bike against the porta-potty and hopped in.  Upon exiting I was ready to start riding. Too bad my chain wasn’t. Somehow it had slipped off my gear and I hadn’t the foresight to think of seeing if it had done so prior to racking it an hour or so ago. But I was able to get it back on in what I consider record time for me as I still know diddly about bikes. The cheers of a few spectators who saw my dilemma warmed my heart as I mounted Leeroy Jenkins (my bike) and away I went.

Bike Leg : 1:35:19 (18.1 mph); 109th OA

The bike course consisted of about 5 miles of mostly flat riding with a few rises, about 3ish miles of hill climbing and then about 4 miles of downhill and flat to the finish. Lather, rinse repeat and you are done. As trepadacious as I was about the thought of cycling prior to the race, once I was on the bike the nervousness was gone. I don’t know if that is just being in the moment or just being foolhardy. However, I felt decent on the bike as I tried to keep my speed above 21 mph, which is what I wanted to average for the ride. I knew I would slow considerably on the uphills but was hoping I would make up for the lost time on the downs.
When we started the large climb I did my best to stay out of the way of other riders who would pass me in their waiflikeness. I would then try to mimic whatever it was they were doing, be it getting up out of the saddle or staying aero or anything else. I figured they all had to know better than I how to conquer this beast.

Near the top of the hill, a slighter older gentleman caught me and threw some words of encouragement as he did. “Soon you can use that bulk on the downhill and blow by all us scrawny dudes!”  Wait.  Did you just call me fat? I asked. “You have thighs bigger than my waist,” was his reply. He wasn’t really lying.

When we finally did get to the top and began descending he had put more distance between us.  He also knew how to ride downhill. I say this as even though without much effort I was passing other cyclists who were tucked into aero and pedaling their hearts out (I was basically coasting and still passing them) he stayed pretty much the same distance in front of me. He had some pretty nifty wheels on his bike and one expensive looking ride which I assumed helped a great deal. As we barreled down the hill on slick roads and I saw I hit in the upper 30s, possibly into the 40s of mph, I just was happy to have the first loop coming to an end.  One more to go.

Very little changed on this loop from the previous. A few riders would pass me here or there and I would marvel how someone riding that fast by me could have been so damn far behind me. How slow of a runner are you?! Somehow the climbs seemed a bit easier, if only because I knew exactly what was coming. While some of my flat portions slowed a bit (I was all kinds of ready to be off the bike) I climbed better. I also, in spite of a pelting rain which felt like hail, was able to push it a little faster on the downhill portions.

All told, as I came into the transition, I had somehow done both laps within about 30 seconds of each other. I might not be very good at riding a bike in completion but I am at least consistent at sucking.

Transition: 1:05; 47th OA

The same serpentine transition area, just about the same time. Yet somehow I was much better in the overall rankings of doing the transition. Wasn’t because I was in any damn hurry that is for sure. I absolutely could not feel my right foot. Half thought about another potty break but knew I only had 4 miles to run.

2nd Run leg: 25:45 (6:47/mile); 34th OA

Right out of the chutes, I had four or five runners just a few yards in front of me. I could tell they had either weary legs or legs that weren’t quite ready to run.  Although it would take half of a mile for me to even feel my foot, I knew I could make up most, if not all of the distance between us and then hopefully put them behind me before they felt comfortable enough to push it. Sure enough, I pushed past them, left them behind me and soon had another group in front of me to chase. The course for the run began the same as the first run and then basically eschewed the bigger hill that the longer run had in it and turned back home sooner.

For me, I was simply zeroed in.  I had passed no less than ten runners and was trying to track down another group in front of me.  Obviously you wish to beat anyone in any race but in races of the duathlon and triathlon nature I have found you are really only racing those in your age group. I could see that none in the group directly in front of me was in my age group. Either grey hairs or young legs were ahead of me. Now, I am not saying I slowed up in my pursuit to track down a few more runners but I definitely didn’t speed up any more. I knew a few more passed athletes would not mean much in the grand scheme of things. I was pleased with how hard I was pushing, how many people I had passed and how well I had traversed the entire course out of shape and under trained for the sport itself.

I was able to slip one more runner in my pocket in the last 1/3 of a mile and cruised on home to the tune of 2:38:22. I finished in the top 1/3 of racers overall- obviously way off my morning's goal. My effort, as I have gone into great detail, was not what I was hoping it would be.  However, it did garner me a top 5 in my age group. Also, as I would learn a few days later, due to my finish, I qualified for a slot on Team USA at the 2013 ITU Long Course Duathlon World Championship, taking place in Zofingen, Switzerland.  Unfortunately, chances are very high I am busy the weekend of the actual race, but to make the team was a huge honor. And if I do go, I will be in about 1000% better shape to show what I can actually do when I am fit.

All told I am pleased with how the race went but far from happy. I think that is a good way to live life.

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