May 22, 2007
Victoria's Duathlon - Waterloo
Although the Victoria Day long weekend is not the true beginning to summer, it has long been treated as Canada’s first summer holiday and this year the weather was absolutely perfect! With this beautiful weather hitting the region all multisport enthusiasts can sense summer right around the corner it comes naturally that we want to get started with the season to test out all our winter training and the new equipment collected over the break.
The first event on the schedule was held this past weekend on the holiday Monday in the quiet outskirts of Waterloo at the Community Fellowship Church. I set out on my trip a few hours before the 11 am start time and arrived at the site in plenty of time to register and pick up my race kit before putting my bike on the rack and starting a warm up. The staging area was very well set-up and conveniently close to the large parking area making it ideal for athletes to get set up without any long walks or shuttles. The Church was built more like a community centre and offered a very good facility for registration and post-event festivities central to the transition area and the parking lot.
Even though I was early by my standards, I still did not beat the rest of my age group to the transition area so I had to make my way to the overflow area and find an empty rack to get my things in order for the race. By this time the weather was warming up so I decided to make some last minute changes to my gear before heading out of the paddock for some quick stretches and to look around to acquaint myself with the start/finish area.
At 11:00 am the Elite athletes, and then some, pulled up to the line and were rushed off by the horn, down the Church driveway into a left turn down the first of many country roads covered during the event. My age group was in the second wave, three minutes behind the Elites and soon we were out of the gate and on the heels of the first wave. The 4k run to start this duathlon was mostly flat with only one average hill on the loop that went up at around 600m into the race and then took us down around 3.2k on the way back to the transition to the bikes.
I went out quickly in our wave and focused on a few better athletes that I hoped I could stay close to during the run (knowing they would pull away from me in the ride). I was pretty certain they would pace me to a respectable first leg of the race and we hit the first km marker at roughly 3:30 (even with the uphill climb), and maintained the pace as we flattened out and watched the first wave loop back down their side of the road. It didn’t seem long before we approached the 2k turn around marker that sent us back down the right side of the road where we got a good look at the competition. It was motivating to see some of the other runners chasing you down and I knew I wanted to hold them off so I kept up the pace with the leaders of our group. Shortly after the 3k sign, we plunged down the hill that was followed by a very minor grade back up to the driveway, hitting the transition area in good shape just under 15 mins.
In T1 I slapped on my helmet, strapped on my shoes, squished in a quick GU tri-berry gel and made a dash for the “bike on” line. It didn’t seem like I was in there long but the transition was poor on the stats sheet and is a definite area to work on in training.
I was now on the bike, clipped in and ready to see if the extra cycling I have worked on would pay off compared to my times at the end of last season. Reading some info leading up to this race I fully expected the hills and it didn’t take long for our group to start the roller coaster that would make up the terrain for close to the entire ride. With the slow, hard pumping ups also came the speedy downs, even on my cheap bike, some reaching over 60 km/hour. I pedaled as well as I ever have and really pushed the bike but my lack of experience and department store bike left me a little behind some of the competition I had used my running to pull away from earlier. Oh well, it’s only my third duathlon and plenty of time to improve in this discipline.
During the final 7k of the ride, a group of four other cyclists and I battled back and forth as I would grab the lead up the hills and they would take back the positions on the downhill portions and flats. Even though I know I will be able to hold them off with more training, I loved the chess game it provided and it was a fun race within the race that sped up the entire group as we twisted through the country side leading us back to the transition zone for the final 4k run. My average speed on the bike posted at 34.2 km/h, close to 2 km/h better than my pace from last fall but something I need to increase even more to be more competitive in this sport.
The group pulled into the “bike off” zone together with my bike slightly behind them at the line. With another slower than anticipated change of gear I started back out to the same 4k route on foot a little behind. It didn’t take my legs long to stretch out and I rapidly over came the deficit from my slow transition and charged past them and up the hill. I then caught a few more runners and followed by a small gap as I turned back for the final 2k of the event. Looking around at the 2k turn I felt there was only one person running at a pace that could catch me and a few ahead in the distance that I had a realistic chance of reeling in. It wasn’t long before the tall, smooth runner pulled up to my right and settled into a side-by-side run for over a kilometre picking off a few others that were beginning to fade in the heat. We continued past 3k and started down the hill together but his long legs covered the downward slope more efficiently and he started to pull away with only 500 m remaining. I hit the driveway and looked back and did not see any other challenges so I decided to exhaust the tanks and make a final sprint to the line in hopes of taking back that one position. The lumpy grass path leading us to the finish line was a little unsettling under my rubberized legs but I kept my balance and had just enough gas to catch and pass him with only 50 m to spare. The final push also helped me hit my goal to go under 4 mins/km on the last leg of the race.
In retrospect, it was a very satisfying first multisport race of the season and provided a lot of reinforcement that I am still improving. There were a lot of the Team Running Free teammates out competing hard with great results. I got a chance to meet a few of the group and that was worth the trip alone. The weather was fantastic for this event and I can only hope every race weekend will match these conditions. The race crew put together another well run event that was organized, competitive and, as always, the volunteers were terrific!
See on all on the road soon!