Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Brian's Beachside Boogie

I'd run my warm-up with Charlie Hornak and I was in transition, listening to Snow Patrol and thinking about what Straz had written in his article for Eric's website (read it here) about the role genetics play in endurance and multisport. I'm the guy genetics left behind if you read that, and to an extent, I agree. I'm short, oddly stocky. I think I'm built for reading or maybe physical comedy. Then again, my body recovers from training well, which allows me to train a lot, so what's to complain about ? Since I'm not likely to grow tall or thin in the near future it's best to roll with it.

And mostly, when I'm not reading about sport, I don't think about it except at one time, and I think I've written about this before.

Standing in transition. Looking at all these people who look like athletes, it's intimidating. I'd marked four or five guys in my head that had the right build, the right gear, who'd looked skilled warming up. I had a pedal wrench in my hand. I was looking at these guys and they were scattered around in transition and the common theme was bike shoes, or cleated running shoes.

I'd discussed this with my coach Eric- he knows I prefer toe clips, and John Hirsch, who beat me last year and told me I'd lost time in the woods to him because I didn't have cleats.

So I'm looking at these guys. Tall, thin, genetically gifted looking athletes. With cleats. So I decided. I might be short, maybe a little stocky, but hey, I have an idea about the bike. What if I could combine the 360 degree efficiency of the cleat and bike shoe with the speed in transition and ability to control the bike in the woods with a quick foot down of the toe clips ?

I put the shimano pedal on the right crank. I put my bike shoe on and I tested it. I liked it.

We lined up and Ron Meneo started us off. I believe it was David Booth I was telling after the race about how I hate the start of a duathlon. We ran for the opening in the woods at the end of the short field and I looked over and there was Rafael Martinez next to me. Rafael is a great guy and a super athlete, but probably not someone who is going to run 2 miles under 12 minutes. There were 8 or 9 guys ahead of me as we broke through and this is where the panic tries to set in.

I should be trying to win this race after all. I'm not saying I am good enough to win, but that's what I should be shooting for, a win. We turned the corner and we were running hard into the wind- the hardest part of the run, out in the open, a 15-20 mile an hour wind in our face. I started moving up but there were two guys that clearly were pulling away. Eric had told me to stay up there in the first run, and I was, but I decided those two guys were probably going to get away by 20-30 seconds and that was going to have to be okay.

The first mile was not bad. Things settled down pretty quickly and there were about six or seven of us out in front. The two top guys had not really bolted yet. As we wound our way around the back of the run course, still running into the wind, I started to wonder if I was giving too much ground to those top two guys. But I didn't want to blow out my top gear by cooking the first run because I know that my only chance to win this race involves establishing myself on the bike, which is funny, sort of.

I was hoping I was splitting the difference between not destroying myself and not leaving more time than I could make up between transition and the ride out to Meigs Point.

I came off the first run 5th, with two guys right on me. The single shoe switch went really well and I was out on the bike and chasing.

I got passed- on the right, very early.

I've been either the fastest bike split or first off the bike 3-4 other times besides this year, so being passed was not good. It put a little extra something in my effort to get out to Meigs point. I wanted to get on the road and get into the wind.

That's right, I wanted to get into the wind. My whole goal in this race is to get to Meigs Point in contact with the lead group, then find a way to get out in front and just hammer that section.

Five of us went into the roundabout in pretty close order, but no one was drafting. Don Gustavson, who had a really great race and finished second, was the guy who'd passed me and he was working on getting into a dominant top three position during the bike. We came out of the teardrop and I started my passes. Before I knew it I was in front. I was down on my aerobars on my wife's mountain bike (yes, I'm still riding it), the fat knobs making all kinds of noise, but in a really aero position. I know I'm going to lose time in the woods, so I'm really focused on extending my advantage. But again, without over-extending myself.

I never looked back. I don't. It's a rule. I reached the end of the road section of the ride and got on the biggest hill on the course, a grass roller. My aerobar pads (old-school) are bouncing up and down, the springs long gone. The noise is unbelievable. I crest the hill and I'm still on grass but I'm back in aero position. Next thing I know I'm in real woods and as I get to the end of that, I have two guys bearing down on me, the second and third place guys, Don and Dave.

They pass me. I pass them back and try to use the lines of the course to seal them off behind me. They get by again and Dave starts pulling away although I pass Don again.

The second ride out to Meigs Point is tough. I have to really school myself. I'm behind, I'm not picking up any ground, I have a guy that is basically getting away and yet I know, when we hit the tear drop and then go into the wind, it's going to be me that has the advantage. So I don't push. I just wait.

I'm rewarded for that. I make the pass again with plenty of in the wind on the road riding left and now I'm in the lead on the second loop of the bike and this is what's important. I'm not trying to win the race. I'm trying to make the two guys behind me that seem like the main threat work so hard that when we get off the bikes, I can run, and they will be beat. That's my hope. So I'm going hard, but I'm not going all out- just race pace. I even drink some Heed.

This time the gap in the woods evaporates but only Dave catches me. We jockey a bit, I hold him off longer and use my lead to try and out position him in a pair of turns but in the end he passes me about a 1/4 mile from the transition (?) and gets in first. But I only have one shoe to change so I'm out of transition first.

I start running and a lot of the self-doubt and the worry, the franticness I felt at times when I was not controlling the bike on the back of the two-loops the way I'd like, all left. I had a good stride going and I knew that I'd hit the worst part of the run very early in the run and if I could get through that I would have a huge advantage. I turned the corner and I was running into that harsh wind, back towards the pavilion parking lot but on the road, the same road the turkey trot finishes on and I kept telling myself if I could just get to the right-hand turn, I have a really shot. If I can just get out of the wind.

I eat three cliff shot block pieces as soon as I get out of the wind. I start running on this course I know so well, through the grass, and as the yards click off, I know that I'm in the lead and it might just all be over soon.

I wasn't challenged on the second run. The sun was out, the day was beautiful, and I was running with a lead. Except for when Margit told me with half a mile to go that they were catching up, I was able to run hard- within about 10 seconds of my first run- and never feel any panic.

I crossed the finish line with no reaction, but after I took off my chip with no one looking I raised my fists and pumped them. I really wanted this win. Wanted it for five years since the last time I won.

Don and Dave both had great races and chances are that if Peter Daly's wife hadn't been called into work he'd have repeated as champion, not me. Jean, and Ron and Margit put on a great race that's a lot of fun and deserve a lot of credit for looking at the park and seeing a great duathlon course as well as raising money for a great cause- the Myelin Project.

I learned something too. I have to go back and work on the woods part of the course. I take it for granted that I'm going to lose time in there. But there's no good reason for that. i know the course, I have a bike I'm comfortable with. So that's my goal for next year. Ride that part of the course better.

Still, I'm happy. It was a sweet win, because it's a race I love.


Don said...

Congrats Alan! You were great on the bike, pulling away in the wind like I was standing still. And I think your wife was messing with you on the 2nd run, because while i was catching & passing Dave, your 2nd run was faster than mine - no way we were going to close that gap. congrats again for putting the hurt on us, and great race!

Don said...

and don't sell yourself short, peter daly is a great runner but i think you would have eaten anyone's lunch on Sunday...

MandyB said...

Congrats, Alan!!! Way to rock it!!!!

alan said...

Thanks a lot Don, and thanks for coming out and supporting the race.

Margit was trying to motivate me...

Anyone that cracks on hour on that course is having a good day and you've done it more than once. Hope to see you again next year.