Squeezed in between last week's big races and next week's big race- Ironman Florida- I wanted to take what's probably the last chance I'd have for a 3rd sanctioned duathlon in 2006.
Believe it or not there were actually 2 duathlons in Massachusetts today, and the one that was 110 miles away was the closer one. It was also a FIRM race, so I pretty much knew what to expect and was comfortable driving two hours each way (give or take 15 minutes) to do a one hour race.
Still, as they say, perspective informs everything you do. This season's been about long races- the Ironman and the marathon. Although there have been a few shorter races, they've mostly come after the big races. I had a month off from racing between the Hammerfest and the Hartford Half. There were no races between the July 4th 5K and the Ironman. When I go through and log my races at the end of the year (I did this afterthe first year I started working with Eric) it's going to be an historical low- and as EH has always suggested, I should consider that I had at least one good A race using that strategy.
So I'd been kind of thinking of today's race as a 'short' race, and although I started training for it in my active recovery on Monday by spinning, I wasn't thinking about it as very important either. I'm not sure what makes a person spend four hours in a car for a race they see that way...still, I'd made some effort. I'd bought new toe clips and worked out with them for two days, tested sneakers with them and had a really good workout yesterday- treadmill, spin, treadmill. But I was kind of thinking of the race as a throw-away, a chance to get in a little racing of my own before turning my attention to helping Margit have the best possible race in Florida.
The funny thing about sprint races is that, they aren't really short. Again, it's a perception thing. You do a few Ironman races and you get spoiled. I don't want to say jaded. I wouldn't pay 40 or 50 dollars to do these sprints (some of the tris are actually 75) if I didn't like them. But I think a lot of us look at these as short, as not big deals. But I went into today's race expecting that it would take just over an hour- 5 miles of running and an 11 mile bike. The equivalent road race would be a ten miler- no easy race.
It's the obvious that gets you- the fact instead of a measured, sometimes even patient effort, you have to go all out, or close to it. I tend to take it easy on the first run of a duathlon, especially when I'm competing against people I don't know, then hammer the bike and give the second run everything I have. That strategy worked for me today- I was 11th off the first run, had the third fastest individual bike split, and the 6th fastest individual run on the second run. I had to work to run down the the #1 guy in my age group, who left on the second two mile run with a 23 second lead, not that I knew he was my target. All I knew as I ran the last 1/4 mile, where I finally passed him, was that he was wearing #1 and he was running way slower than me.
But this isn't about how I did. It's about the day. I tried to remind myself as I warmed up that a sprint isn't so much a short effort as it is a hard effort. It didn't take much warming up for that to sink in. I rode out with the wind at my back and back in against it and decided this was one of those days you don't turn on the computer. I then reversed my run- didn't feel good starting into the wind, which was how the race would start, so I went on the grass and did some stride outs first with then against the wind.
I can honestly say that I have rearely raced in this kind of wind. And by rarely I mean, well, on the bike, I'd guess never. There were times when I could not stay in the aerobars and I consider myself a pretty high-risk areo rider. My calves (a week off the marathon), started to hurt a quarter-mile into the run (and not the good way). Even when the wind was at your back on the run it was uncomfortable because of how hard it was pushing you. And the people on full-disc wheels- if you know you can't corner on a disc, why pass someone right before a turn (the second guy in my age group, who was the second fastest bike) ?
At the end of the run, into the wind, up a hill, I felt like a mime, running in place. But the wind wasn't imaginary. I'm not sure I have ever run so slow in a race.
And yet- a beautiful day. The wind, although stiff, wasn't really that cold. I was in bike shorts and only needed bike gloves. I didn't bother with a hat- it would only have blown off. Although it got bitterly cold later in the day when we were just standing around, it was actually more than warm enough for the duathlon, and certainly we were all running and biking in the same wind. It was also a nice day for a drive. Sure, my car was a little harder to handle in that wind, but bright sun. All in all a great day.
I had fun, and now I'm ready for Florida, if only as a spectator.