What a great way to wrap up the 2009 Subaru Duathlon season! I was accompanied to the race by a truck load of fans (my aunt, brother, niece and step-nephew) willing to pull themselves out of bed early Saturday morning. The skies were as clear as one could wish for and there was hardly a hint of wind. Perfect racing conditions!
We pulled into Guelph Lakes Conservation area a little more than an hour before the race which gave me plenty of time to get organized. The event was very close to being sold out so the racks were super crowded by then time I entered transition but the overflow bar had a very nice spot that I staked out for my ride.
As I had not raced in a full month, I knew it was imperative that I put in a very good warm up so I headed out to test the bike. With everything rolling along smoothly, I made my way back through the park to park my bike and do some final preparation for the big race.
Since it is the last competition on the series for the year, all the categories (sprint tri, sprint du, triathlon relay and try-a-tri) were full of athletes and our duathlon had a sizable group of 212 participants. This is the biggest duathlon I have seen since the Victoria’s Duathlon in May, which is generally the largest because there is not a triathlon offered.
While warming up at the start line I ran into one of the few familiar faces in the crowd, David Frake. I expected David to show and knew that he would be a very tough opponent as I have yet to beat him in a race and he is coming off a very impressive second place finish at the Ontario Du Championships in Gravenhurst, where I was sixth. We spoke for a few minutes leading up to the horn and exchanged best wishes just as we were sent out for the opening 2k run.
As usual, I bolted out to the lead to get away from the crowd but I had company right out of the gate. Another athlete, that I did not recognize, decided to take a shot at setting the pace which was much faster than I was anticipating. Not knowing what this fellow could do on the bike, I did not want to give him too much room so I kept within reach, pushing a little harder than in the past few events. By the turn around, he had opened up a five second gap and I could see that many others were right on my tail, including Mr. Frake.
As we all headed back to the main staging area to grab our bikes, I had another younger runner zoom past me to pull up to the leader. David had also made a move up beside me as he patiently stalked his prey. He is so experienced and calm out on the course and able to sit back to size up the field, knowing that his bike skills will put him in a very favourable position for victory. I have seen this in a few top duathletes over the past few years so I never get too excited when I am leading them through the first portion of any race.
We continued to run side by side for a few hundred metres heading up to the bikes. At this point I figured it would be best to settle myself down a touch and get ready to push the bike as hard as possible. I entered transition in fourth spot just behind the leaders. With several solid pit stops this year acting as confidence boosters, I put together another extremely efficient switch over to my cycling gear posting the best time (tied with 1 other person). This bumped me up to the second spot overall just behind Jason Smith.
After negotiating the slower riding zone to get out of the park, I was now picking up the pace. I knew David would be up with me at any time so I just focused on keeping up my tempo. By the time he pulled up alongside, we had just passed Jason Smith and David was encouraging me to keep pace with him, legally. I was pretty sure this was not going to happen as he is much stronger on the bike than I am but I kept the hammer down to make sure he did not get out too far in front of me.
Thanks to the speedy opening leg of our race, we had very little traffic to deal with out on the roads. I passed a few triathletes near the start of the ride but, by the time I was 7 or 8 kilometres from the park, I was riding in a wide open space.
Getting closer to the turn back marker, I could see just how few people were out in front of us. I am pretty sure there were fewer than fifteen riders in front of David, who was now on his way back. I was next but he had close to a minute or more on me at this point.
After making my turn, I found another gear knowing that half the ride was in the books. From this side of the road, I could see many others still making their way to the turning point but nobody from our race seemed to be within striking distance.
Although, that was a little comforting, I did not want to let up as I had numbers in my head and also wanted to make back some time on the leader, if possible. This helped me move up even more through the field as I tried to keep an eye out for the top duathlete.
The final portion of the bike went very smoothly but I dropped several points from my average speed when I re-entered the park. Riding beside a triathlete seemed to slow things down even more than usual through this rough and bumpy section. We were being very cautious not to create any unnecessary wreckage being so close to the dismount line. Just outside the gate my computer showed 38.6km/h for the cycling portion but it was all the way down to 37.8km/h when I turned it off at the end of the 30k. I am sure everyone suffered some loss during this stretch but I think I may have been too conservative on my approach.
Once I had my bike back on the rack, it was time to push the limits on the final run where I had my created some relatively expectations based on recent training. I made way back around to the front of transition and past my family who were cheering me on. This pumped me up and got me into a real run instead of my usual final run shuffle. I kept this pace up for much of the first half of the run and finally saw our leader as we passed each other about 300 metres from the turn around. I knew this would be a tough task to catch him now but still wanted to hit my target time so pushed ahead.
Upon reaching the same spot where David and I crossed, I picked up a visual on the third place racer, Jason Smith. He was pouring it on so I knew I had to pick up the pace even more. Thankfully, I was able to stir up some extra energy for the home stretch as this speed demon made up more time than I could ever imagine and finished only 16 seconds behind.
When I checked out the results after the race I could not believe how fast he had put down the final 7k and thought it had to have been an error. He ran the quickest final leg of the race among all athletes (tri and du) in 23:40. When I finally Google’d his name at home I could see that he finished 7th at the 2008 Ontario College cross country championships, making him more than capable of running such a blazing time. Great racing Jason!
My second place showing was an extremely satisfying way to end the 2009 season. I ran my quickest opening leg and hit my goal time in the final stage of the race. My ride was very strong with only a few lapses that I can work on this off season to correct. Now that the duathlons are over, I am looking forward to a late season triathlon to get some experience in the swim.
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