Our crazy weather of the past few weeks took a holiday in time to offer an incredible day for racing at Victoria’s Duathlon 2009. The night before, I had mentioned to my wife that I would stay home if the winds continued to blow as strongly as they were. Thankfully, when I got out of bed early to put some finishing touches on my bike, the conditions outside were showing excellent potential so I packed up the last of my gear and headed to Waterloo.
After getting registered, talking to some multisport friends and getting organized in transition, it was time to race. I requested to start in Wave 1 with the elites and top age groupers so that I could test my training with the best on the course. It was a strange start as the little girl they had as the official starter sounded the horn pre-maturely during the instructions sending all the athletes down the driveway. Everyone was quickly called back to the line for the real start. The next time, when the countdown reached zero, she hit it twice, so I stopped thinking it was a false start (as a couple of guys left a few seconds early). The rest of the field was off so it was already catch up time. I sped up to find the duathletes I usually race with (Bruce Bird and David Moore) and settled into a quick but manageable pace. A little farther out, I was surprising holding my own and running very smoothly so pushed a little harder than anticipated. I stuck close to a bunch of the triathletes I recognized from previous years on the circuit and came into transition in very good shape, just under fourteen minutes for the opening four km.
With a large group of runners pretty tight into T1 race positions flipped around but I was out to the bike in one of my best transitions and was feeling excited about the ride. I gradually got up to a steady cruising speed and, by the five kilometre sign, was catching up to four or five other riders that were all over the map with their pace. I was happy to be around because of their past results compared to my skill level, but honestly I would much rather be away from the traffic as it draws the attention of the unpredictable officials.
Today, my reason to cycle solo was punctuated as I was hit with a 2 minute drafting penalty for the actions of other riders (in my opinion). My consistent pace had me boxed in with this group and I didn’t feel like they were going to distance themselves if I dropped back. Dropping off would have ruined my momentum so I just kept plugging away trying to stay out of the way. I moved past the small group on a downhill and got back to the right side (as far right as the winter beaten road would safely allow without flatting) but heading up the next incline, two athletes went past me and gradually slowed pushing up the hill. Trying to stay out of their direct line, I moved to the yellow centre line and continued my own pace up the hill, which was faster than their current speed. This apparently, is a violation (pardon my ignorance as I am still fresh to the sport in only my third full year) and I was suppose to let them pass and let them fool around while I slowed to give them 5 metres.
When the motorcyclist gave me the penalty I was overly frustrated as I did not see what I had done to gain an advantage. I just wanted to ride as hard as I could and was trying to ignore the others around me as they seemed to be playing games that I could not avoid. As he tried to explain things, I sat up in my saddle to argue my case and lost more time and focus as we verbally battled back and forth for a few hundred metres.
By this time other riders were catching me and I was losing a lot of speed. I had to mentally block this out and get my head back into the race. I had not trained all winter to let this spoil my day! In the end, I blistered down the rest of the course and even passed the group (still riding together!!!) during the last 5 km of the ride, this time making sure not to get caught up in their games. My average speed of 38.4 km/h was way faster than previous rides in this race and we had an extra 5 kilometres to ride this year.
After another smooth transition, I was off for the run and sitting in a very good position. My goal was to keep it under sixteen minutes for the final four km as I knew I had expending a lot of energy to get back into the race. Most of the athletes on the run had stretched out on the road and were looking strong so I didn’t see too many opportunities to move up the charts. I continued to race my own race and it seemed to be going very well as I felt like I could actually run this final leg instead of shuffling to the finish line.
I finally saw the group chasing me at the turn-around marker, two kilometres out. I had not lost a spot on the last run to this point but knew it would be short lived with the speedy youngster, Taylor Reid, pushing through the field. He ended up zooming by just after we made the turn and was not slowing down. My focus remained to keep loose and get to the finish line. This relaxed frame of mind actually helped me patiently track down one cycling specialist about five hundred metres from the line. With only the grassy section around transition left, I hit the gas for one final burst and broke the (imaginary) tape in 1:17:17, posting a third leg time of 15:22.
This would have placed me in 11th spot (the seventh place athlete was DQ’d but is still on the sheet) for the entire race, well ahead of my top 25 goal. With my two minute penalty, I ended the day in 17th place and a huge improvement over 2008.
Even with the disputable penalty assessed against my race, I am still very happy with my improved runs and efficient transitions. My bike time was 12th fastest in the field and could have been a little quicker if I was just allowed to race. I will take all these positives into Milton when the season resumes in two weeks.
Thanks for reading,