I'm not much a pre-race guy. I like to warm up, get the race out of the way, and then socialise.
I left the house 10 minutes later than I wanted to, so I was about five minutes late to Seaside Park in Bridgeport. I got a good bike warm-up in, but not really enough of a run warm-up and that's no one's fault but mine of course.
I was standing at the starting line with Peter Daly, Charlie Hornak from Force 5 Sports/Athlete's Foot, and two others. One, Taylor- with the enthusiasm of youth (he is, after all, a teenager)- looks at Peter and I and says 'What are you looking to run ?'
This is probably one of the questions I hate the most at a race, regardless of the source. The truth is, I very rarely step up to the line with any idea of what pace I want to run. Why ? I might be good with numbers, but I don't look at races like that. At the Fairfield Half-Marathon, I want to run 6 minute miles, yes, and I need a plan to do that which is more complex than who cares ? At a 5K ? Who knows. I only know myself. I will go out too hard. I will struggle to hang on. One mile might be 5:40, the next might be almost 6:00.
At duathlons you have the added issue of strategy. My coach tells me to 'try and stay up in the mix'. While today's race made me realise that I have to get back to my Brian's work ethic and upgrade the mix (more tempo efforts inside my runs rather than just volume), my plan is actually to evaluate the people around me and run hard but not too hard on the first run. I'm planning to counter-attack on the bike...
I made some crack about running somewhere between 6-8 minutes a mile and then we were off.
It was obviously early that I was not in the A group, Peter, Taylor and a twenty-something being that. I was in the B group. Uh, I was the B group.
I felt a lot like I'd only raced four times all year. I was running ugly, with Charlie not very far behind me and I didn't keep contact with that A group.
What was I thinking as I fell 50 seconds behind Peter- who's just a great guy and a great athlete ? As I fell 35-40 seconds behind the other two 'kids' ?
I was thinking that I had better have one hell of a bike. Oddly enough, even though I felt like I wasn't having a great run, and generally was thinking that lack of sleep (five hours a night) is starting to nip at the edges of my ability, I was still focused on winning. It was my first race on the Elite Razor, and that bike is a fast bike. Whether it goes fast with me straddled on it or not is another matter. But I figured as long as I still had the bike segment in front of me, I had a chance.
I tossed aside my first run shoes, their work down. A spectator, clearly new to duathlon, said 'Oh no, his shoe fell off.' Then I was out of transition. I'd marked the guy in third who'd been in transition 10-15 seconds longer than me and quickly rode him down. That's when I start to feel good, once I've taken out someone. I'm still always paranoid about being overtaken by better riders, but that doesn't happen the way it used to.
It was two extremely flat 5 mile loops on the bike. We got to the 'top' of the loop and I saw Marty's car coming back at me. Peter was riding well, about as well as I was, maybe better. The guy in second was losing ground to him- and me. I did what works for me, what keeps me calm. I concentrated on the next pass and ignored-
Nah- that sounds good, but it would be lying. I never stopped thinking about Peter. I made the pass to take second some time before 4 miles and then just hauled ass. I saw Peter coming back out of the 'lower' turn around. I did something I don't do. I turned my head and took a good long look at where Peter was so I could do the math on how far I was behind. I turned my head back and uttered a very loud 'F@ck'. I did not want to finish second. Peter is, again, a great guy, real nice guy, great athlete. Still didn't want to finish second, not to him or anyone.
Although I busted my ass on the bike, I ended up losing time to Peter. I put about 2:20 and 3:10 on the two other guys that had been in front of me and came into transition second. I had a nice short transition, scooped the gatorade bottle off my bike, and started running like hell. My second run, although 30 seconds slower than the first, was closer to my first run time than everyone in the top finishers except Tyler.
I ran hard, but I ran steady and smooth and my strategy paid off. I had the fourth fastest first run but moved up to third for the second- and adding the second-fastest bike to that was enough to finish second.
But it was the comfortable way that running hard the second run felt that gives me some hope that maybe I am not too far off base right now.
Don't get me wrong. Getting schooled by Peter is not pleasing. He's better, no question, but I think I could have pushed him by staying in the mix on the first run and not finished so far behind. However, I went into the bike fourth and crossed the finish line second, I have a great new bike that I've had a chance to race now, and I had a solid second run that reminded me what I am capable of.
It's time to get it up a gear or two and find my speed.
Marty- you put on an awesome race. Well organised, great course. Do it (or Duit) again next year !
PS Charlie- get some damn 20s on those rims. It wasn't a fat-tire race !