Saturday, February 18, 2012

UCHC Super Sprint Duathlon RR

When I signed up for the UCHC Super Sprint Duathlon I signed up to win.  But then I realized that someone else would probably sign up, too.  There's always that, isn't there?

This was to be my first attempt at a duathlon and I signed up for the longer of the two offered courses.  The course was flat and fast, and Kate Anderson, the race director, was awesome.  I've met her in person once before and she recognized and recalled my name, as well as my wife's name!  Impressive.

About seven weeks before race I began to add a short, easy run after each ride.  I did that for two weeks.  Then I had my first brick training and loved the change.  Not only were the workouts harder because of the two sports, but it was fresh and new.  I was pumped and felt I was going to really kick butt.

Then ...  on a day when I came home to someone having destroyed the main waterline into my house, I hurt my hamstring.  That was a month ago, yesterday.  I took a week off from everything, then slowly began to ride my bike and run short, slow distances and incredibly slow paces.  To further complicate things, I'm having an incredibly stressful time of things lately.  My wife is not well, needs gal-bladder surgery, oldest daughter is about to graduate high school and then the normal stresses of working two jobs and trying to make ends meet.

Perhaps because of all of the stresses, I was particularly excited about today's race.  I couldn't stop talking about it, reading about duathlons, and rehearsing my plan.  My plan was this:

  • Have a Clifshot thirty minutes before the race
  • Run the first two miles NO FASTER than 14 minutes, the closer to 15, the better
  • At the transition, kick off the running shoes without untying them, throw everything on, adjust while riding
  • Be conservative on the first half of the ride.  Open up a bit on the 3rd quarter and hammer the last 4 miles.
  • Consume a Clifshot during the 3rd quarter of the ride and make sure to have consumed the bottle of accelerade before the ride's completion.  
  • Loosen shoes while coasting towards the transition area.  Once there, sit on the ground to put on shoes
  • Run the next half mile to loosen up, then fly through the last mile and half, hamstring-willing
I knew how fast I hoped to run and figured I could do that pace safely.  I knew how that speed would compare to other people.  I wasn't sure about the ride.  I knew that I had to have a greater effort on the bike because my hamstring doesn't effect my riding too much.  But I wasn't sure how that would be in relation to other riders.  I was really curious.

This morning I got up and everything was frozen solid.  It wasn't that cold, about 28 degrees, but humid.  For running alone, it would've been awesome, but I dreaded the ride if it didn't warm up, a lot!  So, I packed my arm and leg warmers as well as my winter riding gloves.
I got to the race sight, picked a prime location to in the transition area.  I ran a warm up mile and milled around noticing that the participants of the duathlon were quite different than your average 5K.  In general, much fitter, but still very friendly and warm.

The duathlon had two distances and also some relay teams.  All started at the same time.  So, I reminded myself of my plan before starting.  I couldn't get caught up trying to keep up with someone on the first run.  They may be running one mile of the relay where I was two now, riding 16 miles, then running two more.  

At the start of the race I did a good job cruising along at a 7:30 pace.  My leg and knee were in neoprene wraps and even at that pace I could feel the hamstring wasn't right.  So I just kept my stride short and focused on my pace.  My father volunteered and was policing pedestrians from clogging up the path.  I asked him to trip a group of runners ahead of me the next time around and got a big laugh from him.  In the picture below I'm rounding the lake for the first time at the one mile marker coming in at 7:13 and feeling awesome.

The second mile my hamstring felt a bit better and I went a little faster, finishing it in 6:48, which surprised me!  My hamstring wasn't real happy with me when I stopped to change shoes, but I'd deal with that later.

I hit the transition area slightly ahead of someone I'd befriend, Ivan, who I'm watching walk away with his bike and his running shoes.  I wondered at the time if I should've not switched shoes, but more on that later.
The bike route was a figure eight, which made breaking it apart into sections of intensity very easy.  I followed Ivan a few hundred yards back on the first loop.  Drafting was strictly prohibited, so no need to close the gap.  After about 3 miles we caught a young man who was FAST on the run.  I remember him because he looked like a stud and was DECKED out in tri-gear, and not brand new clothes either.  On the second loop I passed the youngster...just sticking to my plan.  I figured for sure he'd be competing for the overall win for sure!  Don't judge a book by its cover!

The first loop's average speeds were 15.9, 18.4, 22.2.

About half way through the second loop I decided to speed up a bit more and passed Ivan.  I caught a few other people and passed them.  Towards the end of the second loop someone FLEW past me.  I could've kept up and was tempted, but remembered my plan and stuck to it.  I'm pretty sure he was in a relay anyhow!

That was the only person to pass me.  I knew I had to create some space between me and the people I passed because my hamstring was sure to limit my second run.  It told me so in the transition area.

The second loop's (same route as the first) average speeds were 16.9, 20.7, 21.1.  Notice mile three was slower.  That's when the fast dude passed me and I decided to stick to my plan...funny I actually slowed down!

The last two loops didn't line up so nicely for the splits comparison as it wasn't a perfectly round mileage.  But regardless, I did my fastest riding on the last loop.

I coasted into the transition area, having properly fueled as planned.  I felt good, but was tired.  I felt strong on the bike and didn't see a soul that I had passed.
 Not only did my hamstring bother me on the second run, my lack of training became very evident.  My hips were killing me, these tiny muscles cramping.  I was running all alone for the first mile, and having nobody to follow (a few slower people from the shorter course were running) and being in pain, my pace slowed.  I finished the first mile in 7:40. 

As I crossed the first mile of the second run my youngest daughter screamed, "You look purple."  During the entire race I thanked all volunteers and on the last route they offered me encouragement to which I responded with a primal groan.

Then one man passed me.  (You can see him in the picture above.)  I knew him from a 5K in December.  He was a much faster runner than me even when I was healthy.  I did speed up a bit, keeping my stride short.  But he pulled away.  Then Ivan passed me.  I sped up and kept with him, using him as a pacer, but never entertained ideas of trailing him until the end and then sprinting past.  Had my leg been healthy, I'd definitely had tried just that.  (He shared later that he was certain I was going to do just that).

Remember the picture above where I'm watching Ivan?  I beat him on the first run and the ride...but he passed me during the transition area, it essentially costing him no time, costing me a couple of minutes.  He finished just in front of me.

I finished in 1 hour and twelve minutes and some-odd seconds.  And while I was really hurting, I loved it.  I think the picture below is a testament to both facts.

I learned I love duathlons.  I can't wait to try another.  It was a great day.  The race was well planned and supported.  Further, there was lots to do for the spectators.  First, the route had racers almost constantly around the main area because we ran two loops, rode four and ran two more loops, all crossing in close proximity to the start/finish area.  Second, there were kids putting on shows to entertain the spectators in the times when runners were not around.

At the end, I was spent and my hamstring hurt, but not in a real bad way.  I've been on ice and will rest it from running for a couple of days.  I have a trail half marathon coming up in three weeks, and in the mean time, I'm continuing training for a bike race in late April (my true focus).

The last thing that happened was pretty cool.  There were awards given to athletes that were inspirational.  To be considered someone had to nominate you and apparently my wife nominated me.  I was selected as an honorable mention and as my reward I get a free Road ID.

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