Race Report: MaxTrax Duathlon

Is it bad when you have to blow the dust off of your road bike before you rack it for the race?

OK… so maybe it wasn’t that bad but it was close… 😉

I’m as tired of complaining about the winter as you are hearing about it, I’m sure.  So I’ll shut up and move on.  Suffice to say that I hadn’t been on my triathlon bike for a real ride since… oh… October…?  I had put some time on it through the winter on the trainer but I had absolutely no idea where my fitness was for this race on the bike.  So my goal for the bike portion of this duathlon was to just enjoy being OUTSIDE on my bike again!!

The race:

MaxTrax is the first real, on-road, multi-sport race of the season for me.  Yes, I have done several races thus far, but this one always gets me into true multisport mode.  Transitions, race set up, the whole bit.  MaxTrax comes in two flavors.  Short course and long course.  The short course is 1.5/7(ish)/1.5 and the long course is 1.5/14/3.  As with all Ultramax events, it is well run, well staffed and easy going.  It gets started on time and has the look of a big race.  I’m not sure how many racers there were this year but it seemed like a few less than last year.  The weather was more than likely to blame for that.  People were either scared off by it or didn’t have a chance to train so they didn’t race.  No matter, they missed a good one!  The race is held in Columbia on open roads.  There is only one hill to speak of, but at least you get to run/ride/run on at least parts of it for each leg!

The venue:

Ultramax switched up the location for this event and, other than some parking challenges, I would say it was a big win.  The run course starts out through the parking lot of a local elementary school and then dumps out into a local neighborhood full of bleary eyed people who, for the most part, stared at us running by them with mild curiosity but were very nice and patient as we clogged up the ‘hood with runners and bikes for an hour or so.  The run course starts out flat and then goes downhill for at least 3/4 of a mile!  It was great!  However, what goes down…  And the hill back up to the start/finish/transition was not kind to us, but it was a good challenge.  The roads in the neighborhood were lightly traveled and well staffed with volunteers.

The bike route was unchanged from years past except for it’s point of origin/finish.  Again, it started down hill to get you going before turning out on to a mostly gently rolling course through rural and suburban areas.  Easy to follow and well staffed, the only challenge was the potholes mother nature dug out during the winter, some of which were real wheel benders.  The staff did a good job of marking them with orange paint so there were no surprises.  Columbia PD was at the big intersections with volunteers to keep the idiots at bay and there were no incidents at all on the bike course this year.  The cruelty of this course comes in the last half mile with the only real hill on the course.  Not “brutal” but less than “fun”, luckily it comes at a time when you are already thinking about the next transition and by the time you realize you are breathing hard, it is over and you are in transition.

The transition area was on a grassy area at the school.  I could see this as being a problem if the ground was wet, but other than a little dew on the grass we were fine this year.  It was clearly marked and explained well so there were no problems other than people trying to mount their bikes before they got to the mount line.  It was fairly well contained and condensed so even the worst rack spot in the place was a 10 second trot in or out.

The weather:

DIDN’T SUCK!!!  I was so thrilled!  It was a little cool at the start, but just spectacular.  NO wind, temps in the 50s (a little chilly for the bike in race kit) and glorious sunshine.  I almost cried…

My race:

Setup-  I got to the race site, as usual, to damned early.  I don’t know why I do this, I just do.  I think it goes back to my superstitions as a baseball player in high school and college.  I always had to be the first one in the locker room and last one to leave.  I’m just weird like that.   I decided to race hot so even though it was sunny I wore light tights, my tri shorts, a cycling shirt, pull on sleeves and light gloves.  No hat.  This was just about right.  I got warm at the end of the bike leg but I took my gloves off in transition and pulled my sleeves down to my wrists and felt good for the rest of the race.

Though it didn’t really matter, I got a decent rack spot for my bike and started setting up my stuff.  Since I am used to triathlons, I kept wanting to take off my running shoes and leave them in transition.  Did I mention this is an early season race…?  I had aired up my tires at the car and was frustrated with my front brake.  It just isn’t working properly and needs more adjusting than I can do.  I messed with it in transition for a bit and then finally gave up and took it to the onsite bike mechanic, who looked at it and got it tolerable (then I forgot to hook it back up in transition and had to ride the whole race on my back break only… moron…).  Anyway, it just drags on one side and won’t release.  Gotta get that fixed.  Of course, when I went back to do my final checks (helmet fits, shoes, sunglasses, etc.) my front tire was flat… I have NO idea why.  It’s not like I WENT anyplace on it for the last 4 months and it held air for that long.  Another quick trip back to the mechanic got it fixed (Thanks Tom!  I owe ya a tube!!) and I was ready to go.

My race:

They started the short course 20 minutes after the long course so I got to watch the big boys go off which was fun.  Great group of really FAST people.  Big time envy…  Ahh well.  Some day.  We assembled for the start and I set up just off the front row.  I know this is a beginner race/distance and guessed I would probably be one of the faster people out there so I scooted a little further up than I usually do.  After some last minute instructions and good natured ribbing, we got the gun.  I settled in to my pace and reminded myself this was a SHORT race and I needed to push the entire time.  We hit the big downhill on the run and I strode out and took off.  I was sitting in the top ten (a weird place for me to be) throughout the entire first run.  I got back to transition with a 6:54 average which is fantastic for me.

I fumbled a bit with my bike shoes in transition.  I decided that I hadn’t had enough (read: ZE-ro) practice getting onto my bike and into my shoes on the fly so I just put them on in transition.  I was close enough to the bike mount that it really didn’t matter.  I decided to wear socks because the temps were cool and my shoes didn’t want all the extra stuff in them and protested.  I eventually won that fight but cost myself 15 seconds or so in the process.  My T1 time was 54 seconds.  Not great.

My god I love my bike.  I missed it so much…  I set a goal for myself of beating an 18 mph average for this race (slow for me but with my complete LACK of training time, it seemed fair).  I got settled in on the downhill and then we hit the first uphill on the course.  Let me just say that the only training I HAVE done, mountain biking, is perhaps the most fantastic cross training EVER!  The hills felt flat.  I had lots of power and gas in the tank.  The ride couldn’t have gone much better (although a couple of miles an hour faster might have helped…) and I had NO issues.  I think I’ve got my riding position dialed in and if the seat time on the trainer this winter did anything for me, it got me comfortable in my aero position.  It just felt right.  Now I just need to ride like a madman so I can beat my goal for the year of doing a race with a bike average of over 20 mph!  The last hill didn’t take as much out of me as I thought it might and I got back to T2 with a 19.3 average.  eh… It’s a start.

T2 went MUCH faster and I was out on the last run in 33 seconds.  I need more urgency in my transitions.  I tend to slow down a bit.  I think both of these transitions could have been done in under 30 seconds.  Doesn’t seem like much but when you get beat out of a position by 20 seconds and you could have saved 30 in transition…

I knew immediately on the second run that I am woefully out of shape…  I kept stepping on the gas and nothing happened.  I thought it might just be bike legs but if it was, I never shook them out.  Even the downhill hurt and the uphill was just plain ugly.  I knew somebody was coming for about the last 1/4 mile but I had nothing left to give at the end and got beat at the line.  I should never lose a sprint… just sayin’.  Anyway, the demoralizing finish was the result of an 8:03 average for the last run leg.  Over a minute slower than the first one.  I need to fix that before Dou Zou…

I finished 7th overall and 3rd (out of 3…) in my age group.  How sad is that…?  Get one of the RARE top ten finishes in my life and still finish LAST in my age group.  Hilarious…!  The good news is that I was within 2 minutes of both of the guys in my AG that beat me.  And I was only 5 minutes off the winning time.  Seems like a lot but 30 seconds in transition, a minute on the second run and a mile an hour on the bike and I’m staring down the winner.  Even if she was only 14…

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