Sunday, June 01, 2008

Finding Your Way and the Du It Duathlon

A year ago, if you'd told me that I'd get my season together around the end of September, I'd have doubted it. I'd just dropped out of a duathlon I'd hoped to have a chance to win because of a calf problem and I was staring down Eagleman in a week, with no guarantee I could run. Turned out a little icing solved the calf issue- you'd think after four years as a college coach that would have occurred to me sooner. I was as discouraged as I could have been, although the odd thing is, I'm actually an optimist. After not running for two weeks I not only went to Eagleman and assumed I'd be able to run but PRed the course- although both my times there are among my less impressive long distance races.

So fast forward to this morning. I got off the highway and immediately went the wrong way. Fortunately it was about a minute before I saw Chris Thomas riding to the race- instinct was already telling me to turn around- maybe I was getting something out of my system. I still got to the race about an hour early, registered, checked out my bike with a quick spin and got a spot on the racks where I could actually find my bike.

I was warmed up and ready to go when Marty gave the race instructions. Important note here. I listened to the instructions. The one thing i took away was 'When in doubt, choose right'. All the turns were right hand turns, with the exception of a couple on the run.

OK. I had a gel and cliff blocks in my EH jersey, gatorade on the bike. I was ready to go.

This was another one of these races where I felt buried at the start. People were streaming around me. It was uncomfortable and frustrating- aggravating, really. There was a Bethel guy in front of me and I wasn't sure if it was one I usually beat or get beaten by, although I thought it was the same guy I'd beaten at Greenwich. I was running the pace I wanted to run, so I was trying to shut out all the noise in my head and focus on that.

I did not sort out the field the way I usually do on the first run. I just ran in and focused on having a good transition, which I did- I'm adjusting to using the bike shoes in these races finally.

I took some Gatorade right away and started riding. We'd been told there was no passing in the coned-off area at the start of the riding. The second we exited the cones, I got passed by someone who had actually outrun me as well.

Again, I told myself to let it go. He slowly pulled away, but not far away as he was in sight. And then things started getting strange. We reached a Y intersection with a police officer. There was a LARGE (I mean large) white sign with a big red arrow pointing to the right fork.

The guy ahead of me went left. Confused, I asked the police officer for direction. He pointed right. I went right. I started screaming, while going up hill, because the other road was parallel, but the guy couldn't hear me. I was just wearing myself out, so I stopped screaming. I felt bad for this other guy. If it had been a group ride, I'd have busted my ass to catch him, but going the wrong way- that might only have led more people off course. I felt bad about moving up this way, but I was also busy trying to get my breath back climbing a hill.

I think I had been ready pretty steady, but maybe a little uninspired, and with no rabbit in front of me I just settled in. This was a mistake, and I think, like my first run, I was just a little bit- not much, but a little- having trouble shaking off the training pace. But then another athlete made the race for me. There are several tri clubs in CT and I'm in the one with the fewest people (we're looking for more- all ability levels- join today !). A CT HEAT athlete went by me and made the mistake of being social/nice. He said something like 'Great job', or 'You're doing great.' This was a mistake. I usually say something like 'Keep it up," as it's awkward telling someone you're passing they are doing really well. But It wouldn't have mattered what he'd said. I loathe being passed on the bike, it's an ego shortcoming, I know, but I can't take it, not if it makes me think I'm not working hard enough. Which I wasn't.

I gaged him down the hill, stayed back as required. I came to the conclusion that I just needed to up my cadence to pass him, and that's what I did. I got on top of the gear and started pushing on a flat, opened up a small gap. I never looked back after that, so I'm not sure when (or even really if) I dropped him. But my second five or so mile lap was about two miles an hour faster, and I felt like I was really racing. It was a tremendous difference, and I just want to say thanks to whomever that was for challenging me- it was just what I needed.

When I came back in, it was right behind a pair of more casual-looking athletes who'd obviously missed the repeated instructions about the two-loops on the bike. Why two loops is too much for some people- well, that is just one of those things that happens, I guess.

I had a good second run. I felt really strong heading out, I downed a gel, and when I turned the corner and started up the long uphill, I ran steady. There was a guy in front of me who was not running very well. I passed him and then set my sites on the next guy, who was a long way away and I never did catch.

The bad news was that on the way out on the second run, I saw a significant number of cyclists coming back in on the same road. Problem ? The run and the bike were on opposite sides of the railway parking lot, and there was no, and I mean no, part of the two courses that overlapped. How these people got on the run course, I'll never know. They clearly missed a turn somewhere, and it's amazing they got back at all.

Although my overall time was not great (54:58 ???) for 2-10-2 (and by 2, we mean 2+), and I got beat by one or more people I usually don't get beat by, I actually think this was a good race for me.

Thursday I did a reverse brick- 1 hour hard run, then 60 miles on the bike in under three hours. Friday I did a hard, hilly 68 miles on the bike. Saturday, for an easy day, I ran an hour. Now for all I know, everyone I was racing is also doing an Ironman in July and is on the same training schedule as me, but maybe not. Doesn't matter. The workouts are definitely eating into my racing- and that beats the snot out of the alternative, and what I think my coach would say is my history- my racing interfering with my training.

And when I got kicked in the pants a little bit by another athlete- who was only being nice, no question, whose reward for encouraging me was not appropriate- I responded with a better, more focused effort. That's what I really took out of the race.

Now, I also feel REALLY bad for Marty Schaivone. Marty worked very hard to make this a great race, and through no fault of his quite a few people ended up off course. I'm not going to comment much on that. I'm a big believer that you and only you can prevent navigational errors and you have to know the course. At the same time at least one athlete said a police officer sent them the wrong way. The one person I saw go off course had no excuse I know of, he just missed a sign, arrows in the road, and the general instructions that all the turns were to the right. Regardless, it happened, and the only thing you can say for sure is that it was not Marty's fault. Period.

If you're reading this, Marty, I for one had a great time, it was a great cpurse, and I hope that this doesn't discourage you in any way from doing this again.

I was a little sore going into the race and I'm still sore now. But I feel like a year later, I'm finding my way this season instead of losing it.

Hopefully I'll feel the same way after my afternoon run.


Anonymous said...

I was in a pack of about 20-30 people that made a wrong turn. I had studied the course map and live in Fairfield so I knew we weren't supposed to be going up Stillson but there was a volunteer there directing us to make a left. Why? No idea.

You mentioned the guy taking a left at the Y split on Bronson. On the course map provided on the DU It website, that's what is shown.

So even if you did study the maps, and pay attention to the pre-race instructions, it was still confusing.

I talked with a lot of people after the race and while all the confusion is unfortunate, everyone seemed to enjoy the event. Without a doubt, it should continue (maybe with some better maps).

alan said...

Thanks for the clarification. I'd heard there was some misdirection being given out on the course. I also know that when a pack of people go one way, that's the way everyone in that group is going to go. Clearly something went wrong. It only takes one volunteer who- completely accidentally- gets it wrong to cause havoc.

It also explained why the athlete in front of me went left, I guess. Maybe sometimes not looking at the maps is the way to go. I was following the markings on the road.

I thought the method they came up with for riders not crossing paths, while unusual, was great. I've done Firmman and both times found myself coming back crossing riders going out. That's a recipe for disaster- I almost cut someone in half in 2006,