Well, it’s official… sort of. I have chosen the path that leads to the dark side. Yup, Darth Bob did his first duathlon today…
Before I get started on my race report, let me just say how cool it is to have an event organizer like Ultramax in your back yard. This was a “practice” duathlon, set up by our club, Columbia Multisport, but since the Ultramax guys needed to test equipment and train staff for the upcoming season, they brought out the timing chips, mats, cones and signs to make it look official. Many thanks to Mark and the gang for doing this. It made for a great first experience that was fun, low key and great for first timers.
Now about the race… The organizers wanted us noobs to see how the experienced guys set up their race so they let the first group (1.5, 15, 1.5) go out and then made a second group for us noobs (1, 7.5, 1) and a couple of veterans who were testing various equipment or injuries go after the first group got done. I enjoyed this part as I have never spectated at a multisport event except on TV so watching how people transitioned, whether they put their bike shoes on before they ran to the mount line or ran barefoot with their shoes clipped to the pedals (like the pros do) was all great to see and I learned a lot. The only problem with this was that it was FRICKIN’ COLD. Not the organizers fault, but I didn’t dress for it so standing around for over an hour after I thought I was going to start kinda got to me. I think I warmed up 3 times… We did finally talk them into letting us go a bit early because some of the stragglers were taking a long time to come in.
I, being the ever eager beaver I am, had been the first to arrive on scene that morning (thinking that there would be more people participating than there were). This always embarrasses me but I would rather be early, it’s just how I roll. I waited to rack my bike until others started to show and then watched them to get a feel for how it was done. Luckily I had brought most of my stuff in a bag and I saw that this was what most people did. They just put their bikes on the rack and put their bag of stuff under it. I did the same and then immediately started to stress about what to wear. The temperature started out at 50 but by the time we went off it had fallen 5 degrees and the wind had picked up. It was also very humid so it felt colder. I couldn’t find my windbreaker bike jacket so I was worried about being cold on the bike. I also didn’t bring enough stuff to keep warm while standing around for 2 hours so that bothered me as well. I almost just went back to the truck, but I didn’t want to miss anything.
I have been practicing getting into and out of my bike shoes with them clipped into the pedals. I’m not good at it yet, but I don’t fall over, either so I wanted to give that a try but I noticed a few things. First, very few of the experienced athletes did it. Most just ran in their shoes. Second, the transition area went up a little hill in a parking lot, which was not the best for barefoot running (especially with my baby butt soft feet). And finally, my coach arrived and encouraged me to just run in my shoes. So at the last minute I unclipped my shoes and set them next to my bike.
Finally they made the call for noobs to head to the line and after some brief instructions about the course (and a reminder that since we were not on a closed course and didn’t have traffic control, we were required to clip out and at least touch a toe down at every stop sign) they finally said go.
I took off with one of the experienced triathletes that I have run with in the past at Traknights. I knew I could hang with her on the run but I knew she would smoke me on the bike. We came across the timing mat side by side at 7:14 for the first mile.
Transitions were an enigma for me so I took my time and made sure I did everything right. My running buddy got out about 10 seconds ahead of me and I never saw her again. Running in bike shoes was just as difficult as I thought and I may very well just toughen up my feet and barefoot it through the transition area. I felt like I was going to slip with just about every step. Other than that I felt pretty smooth and, most importantly, I didn’t forget anything.
The bike was an experience. I have never in my life ridden a road bike in a race. So saying I have a lot to learn is an understatement. I basically did everything wrong. I went out too fast, crunched a big gear too much, pushed too hard on the hills and basically did everything I could to hose the ride. It felt good to go fast though. I just can’t seem to get my breathing right and it seems as though I’m always breathing too hard on the bike. I watched my running partner effortlessly pull away from me and only saw her briefly on the return run. The route was hilly and since we were required to stop at each stop sign, my average was pretty slow. I “think” I averaged around 17.5mph for the ride. My friend averaged 18.4 and the fastest time in my group was 19.2. I knew I was in trouble when I got off the bike for the second transition and I couldn’t run. This was because of a combination of jelly leg from the bike (which I expected) and having to run with bike shoes (which I haven’t done) down an off camber slope around a corner. Why I didn’t fall and bust my ass, I don’t know. I certainly wasn’t in control at that point.
The second transition was easy and pretty fast and I was off on the last mile run. This was when I knew I had borked the race because I could not run with any power at all. My legs felt weak. My lungs were fine but I had nothing left in my thighs. I just pushed as hard as I could because I knew this would get better as the bike legs wore off. Unfortunately, this didn’t start to happen until I had less than 200 yards to go. If we had been running a couple more miles, I would have been fine. My last mile was 8:23. Over a minute slower than my first mile. Some of this is my conditioning which I know I need to improve. But most of it was just not managing the race very well and going out too fast. Lots of lessons learned here.
So what do I need to do?
Bike, bike, bike. And then get on the bike.
If I needed anything to drive home that point, I got it at this race. I am definitely going to adjust my training to do two things. I need more endurance and I need bike time. I am going to go to 2 days a week swimming, 3-4 days a week riding and 3 days a week running with one of those being a long run.
My overall time was 43:52 and if there was a finishing order I would have been 3rd overall. The two people in front of me were experienced multisport athletes. But if I had run in the experienced group race I would have finished somewhere in the middle of that pack. For my first result, I guess I’ll take it!
The first real duathlon is coming up in a couple of weeks and I will be much better for having done this one. Then there is a hard month of training to the triathlon.