Sunday, April 25, 2010

Du It Duathlon

Some days you want to race. There may or may not be a race that day, but everything is perfect. You're rested, you're pumped up, the weather is awesome.

This was not one of those days. I'd done a two and a half hour ride/half hour run yesterday, then spent two or three hours on yard work. Because it was a beautiful day. 60s and sunny, a great day to ride, even a decent day to clean up the yard with a handsaw.

When I got up at 5:30 I was actually pretty hopeful. The road was wet, but it wasn't really raining. It was cool, but not really cold. I was thinking that 'hey, this isn't going to be so bad.'

That kind of glass 3/4 full optimism took its first hit about half a mile from the house when it started raining for real. But as Marty said on the race website, just because it's raining at your house doesn't mean it's raining in the park.


On the highway, at 65mph, of course a steady rain seems like a monsoon. There was no way to talk myself into the idea that I was going to get to Bridgeport and it was going to be nice there.

It wasn't. I dutifully set up my bike, stood in line to get my numbers, and then went back to the car to get as much gear as possible on. However, after warming up it became clear the Asics techical running jacket was going to be one layer too many so I took it off. I'd be racing in my thinnest pain of tights, an underarmour short sleeve under my Hosdka cycling jersey and arm warmers. I offered my jacket to Michael D'Addetta, who was wearing nothing but a singlet and bike shorts and he declined.

Tough, but not the right call as he later admitted.

To Marty's credit he got the race going right about on time, which had seemed impossible at about 7:20.

The course is flat, but it's flat with a kind of steady uphill incline of about half a percent going out (and obviously, half a percent decline coming back).

I've written about this before. The start of every duathlon seems to be the same for me. The run starts and I'm engulfed- I go from starting right in the middle in the front to having 10 or so guys swarm around me. My goal is to run steady, to have two runs very close to each other time-wise. But it's difficult to have so many people running as fast or faster than you at the start of your race and either not get sucked in or panic.

I'd gotten a little panicky at Brian's at the start and let my heart rate get too high. Not today. I actually felt good as we started the first run. Except of course for the number of people in front and around me.

Early on I was 8th or 9th and I was trying to just stay calm and evaluate the people around me. I actually liked most of what I saw, except for two guys, both of whom were running away from the rest of us, one moderately, and the other, significantly. This would be another case for me of misjudging a book by its cover. The guy that was really running away from the rest of us on this first loop had kind of a stocky look and was wearing a cycling jersey with Cannondale on it.

I kind of gave up on winning the race right there. I mean here was this guys who looked totally like a biker, too stocky for a runner, wearing a cycling jersey- and yet he was crushing us. What would happen when this guy got on a bike ?

The majority of the other guys around me were Tri-Fitness guys.

There was a lot of back and forth on the first run, which is an out and back. I was as high up as fourth and back and forth with one Tri-fitiness athlete in particular- Bryan French. He was on me, breathing pretty hard, audible cadence, and I was holding him off in the first half for the most part. After we broke around the cannon and started back, running slightly downhill now, a younger guy went by us and all I could think about was how bright green the outsoles of his running shoes were on the heel. He proceeded to drop us, putting an amazing 30 seconds on us in about 1.5 miles (or so).

Finally, Bryan passed me. I didn't want to pick it up any more. We had about a quarter mile left and I was not interested in picking it up. Not at all. I wanted to get on the bike and blast out of transition.

I settled in and finished a second behind him.

I had a good transition. I did have to abandon the sunglasses I'd worn because they got hung up on the hat I'd had on and I didn't want to waste a few seconds. I got my shoes and helmet on and ran through transition while others were walking. the guy with the lime green outsoles was struggling to change his shoes.

I moved up two or three spots coming out of transition.

The course is flat with a lot of turns. I got out there and I worked on closing down the guy in front of me. I took the turns very aggressively because I'm light, my bike is light and there aren't a lot of crosswalks in the park where you have to worry about sliding on the paint. The first loop was pretty uneventful until the back part. I passed one opponent, but then on the back I started getting pressure form two of the tri-fitness guys. As I rounded the turn to the second loop I had to stay left to avoid people feeding out onto the course- there were actually people just starting the bike after I'd done an entire loop, which is hard to get the math on but...

Someone yelled 'drop your gear' as I went by, standing up to regain my momentum. If this advice was for me it was exactly wrong. I needed to go to an easier gear but I wanted to grind it out to get that speed back up. I was going right through the puddles, not veering like the other riders. Yes, the puddles slowed me down but I was cutting nice straight lines.

As we got to the area where the run turn around was, someone said 'Go left or around the island ?' I thought it was a first looper, so i said nothing. it turned out it was Bryan, who was just about to pass me. He went the long (wrong) way as I followed the arrows on the road, oops. I felt bad, but not too bad.

Especially when Bryan passed me before the turn-around. I did keep him close, but I was unable to reel him back in, however, suddenly I was going past the guy that had crushed us all on the first loop. He was using toe-clips and was on- well, it didn't look like a great bike. The guy that looked like he had to be a biker first was actually a damn good runner and...

I passed him and I'd see him again.

We went into transition in a group and Bryan left first, then me, then Ron Lombardi, the fastest runner.

Do you know the phrase dead legs ? I have never in my life had dead legs like i'd had when I got off my bike. My right shoe went on easy. My left not so much.

When I started running, it was amazing. My legs felt like they were simply not going to respond at all. They did. Dead or not, I found my usual turnover. Within a minute, as I downed a Gu, I was running at my normal pace, my long stride. I was closing on Bryan and holding off Ron. But not for long. I passed Bryan and moved up into second and I fought to hold off Ron but it wasn't happening. He went by me and then started to gap me.

I was running hard. Despite the fact that I was basically having the race I wanted to have, and my second run was close to my first (just about 3 seconds difference between my run 1 time and my run 2 time), I was afraid of being caught.

By Bryan, or the other Tri-Fitness guy, or the guy with the green shoes. I ran the back half of the loop, where I was actually comfortably in third, like three other guys were breathing down my neck, and it was that fear that allowed me to put 37 seconds on the next finisher in a 3 mile span. Really, it was the fear of being caught that pushed me on, that allowed me to actually cut my time on the course by over a minute.

I did learn something in the cold and the rain.

Sometimes fear is good.

I watched my teammates- Dick Korby, Michael D'Addetta (@poycc), and Susan Wines finish- all placing in or winning their age groups- then I put on some warm clothes and enjoyed the feeling of having raced in miserable conditions but come through with reasonable results.

Sometimes that is enough.

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