The violent thunderstorms of Saturday were well past us when I woke early Sunday morning for my first duathlon of 2011. It wasn’t that the race time was particularly early but park entrance was mandatory before 8:30 due to the Try-A-Tri race. The race was held at Kelso Conservation Area just to the west of Milton so a very short 20 minute drive from home so I had no problem getting to the site by 8:00 and having lots of time to enjoy the incredible weather leading up to my 10:00 race.
Not having to rush, I had everything set up in plenty of time and was able to get in a quality warm up near the starting area. I used the time to look over most of the first run (which was pretty muddy from the rain the day before) and talk to a few folks hanging around, waiting for the games to begin (Thanks for the cheering Terry!).
Having so many new faces in the du field, I was not sure what to expect from the others. There sure looked like a number of them could take out the pace, but as Mitch sent us out for our race, I found myself up front without much of a sprint needed to get clear of the group. It seemed as though we were all going to ease into this one so I just made sure to run down the trail in a good line to avoid some of the puddles that had accumulated.
I was running together with a young, 23 year old for much of the first kilometre. He had a nice, long stride and appeared to be holding back compared to my effort so I was starting to wonder what he was going to bring on the bike. As we pushed closer to the turn around, Sean Delanghe (a name I did not know at the time but certainly do now!), put in a surge from the three hole and started to push the pace. I didn’t want to hammer the first run too much so I let him, and the other younger athlete, spread out in front as I comfortably held on to third around the sandwich board marker, just past 1km.
As we made our way back through the mass of runners, we settled into a solid mid three minute pace. The gap remained constant through much of the second/last kilometre so I was happy to hit transition in good shape with lots of leg left for the bike. I entered the zone fifteen seconds back of the lead covering the 2.21k opening leg in 7:55 (3:35 pace).
For T1, I had decided to put my cycling shoes on before mounting the bike as I have not practiced the transition much this season. I figured that I would save time by getting the shoes on nice and tight on my mat instead of slowing down on the bike trying to fumble around with straps. I believe this was the correct choice on the day as I got out to a serious pace on the Argon E114 with my best start on this course in four attempts.
With my course knowledge, I attacked the turns and caught the second place duathlete (Jerret Kennedy, coming off a strong 2010 season) right around the second km. As we climbed a minor grade on Campbelleville Road, a number of triathletes we sitting behind a slow moving mobile home. They had bunched up on the back end of the vehicle and were not sure what to do as crossing the yellow line would have risked DQ. Not wanting to give up more time to the leader (Sean), I told the crowd I was passing the RV on the right side so make some room. Not sure why they were not doing this themselves but I managed to get by without dropping too many seconds and was able to keep my cool. I then proceeded to pass the group of riders the vehicle was stuck behind before making a right turn onto Sixth Line.
Reaching Sixth Line hill, I was averaging a little over 40km/h even with the small traffic issue. My legs were feeling really strong so I decided it was time to push up this sucker with authority. I was making some good time moving past the triathletes on the course and finally spotted our duathlon leader a few hundred metres up the hill. He was moving well up this section so the gap remained the same during the climb as we hit the 5k marker at the top. Thankfully, I was able to recover from the ascent in good time and got on my horse to begin the battle for first place. Within a few minutes of hitting the top, I reeled in top spot and worked as hard as possible to make some space assuming he would be tough on the last run.
For the rest of the ride north, I tried to make up for the lost average (dropped more than 10km/h from going up the hill). This seven or eight kilometre section is rolling with a slight up slope and tiny headwind to hold the speed back. By the time I had crossed the top portion of the bike route, and hit the 15k marker, I was only averaging 32.5km/h so I had a lot of work to do on the way home to best my three previous efforts in Milton.
The next stretch, heading south (with tailwind), became a speed fest so I threw it down to my low gear and grinded away to pick up the pace. I was now finding some open space on the roads and could bury my head and hammer away. This continued until our last significant climb, just before re-joining Sixth Line, where I grabbed a small breather as I spun up the hill before turning right.
After the re-group, it was time to fly again and I managed to push the average to 35.5km/h before dropping down the escarpment where I picked up another kilometre per hour giving me some confidence to better my old times on this track. For the last four kilometres, I just kept the pedal down, using the wind and down slope to finally hit 37.5km/h just before the parking area in Kelso. At this point, there were some cars in line at the gate house and a few other athletes being cautious so I had to drop the speed more than I was planning for the dismount.
I reached T2 in first place but was not sure how far back my chasers were. I had a quicker transition but, as I started to run, I could feel I was not my old self. Our first challenge out of the bike zone was a dirt/gravel hill that I just could not attack. I tried to ease into the run hoping to find my legs up the trail but as I reached the next section nothing was turning on. I made my way through the park and turned north onto Appleby Line to face the tough climb towards Hilton Falls. Even though I was passing a lot of triathletes, I knew I was falling behind my goal of sub thirty minutes for this hard 7.5k run.
Trying to just get through the uphill portion (basically the entire first half), I looked for positives to motivate my legs but they did not respond. Finally, I made my way around the forest loop in Hilton Falls happy to know the way home would be downhill. I took a quick peak coming out of that park with just about three k to race and did not spot anyone from the duathlon.
After a long downhill run on Appleby, I finally made it to the back end of Kelso attempting to feed off the speed of one of the triathletes. It helped for a bit but I was still running a lot slower than usual and was not aware of the danger sneaking up behind.
With just under a kilometre to go in the race, a familiar runner pulled up beside me and started to pass. It was Sean and he was looking very strong. I tried to stay on his hip but a tiny cramp in my stomach was holding me back. I thought if I could keep the gap small enough for a final sprint I may be able to pull it off but the new race leader kicked it up a notch with around five hundred metres that I just could not close. I gave it one last effort but had nothing in the tank. I took a glance back to make sure nobody else was charging and set into a slow jog to the finish line way off the run split I had visualized for the past few weeks.
So overall, I ended up in 2nd place and 1st in my age group. I was happy with most of my race including the controlled first run and a PB on the bike course. I admit I am concerned with my final run off the bike as my run conditioning and speed is so much better in 2011 than the past but it did not translate into the duathlon on this day. I am sure Tyler and I will work this out and hammer some solid bricks in training before my next set of races.
Post race I got to thank my Aunt Cathy and Beth for coming out to cheer me along the course. It is always fun to race in front of family and friends so to have a decent result made it more rewarding.
I also had a chance to meet the winner, Sean Delanghe, and chat about his racing. It is always great to meet people that are excited about the sport so I Congratulate Sean on his impressive performance!
And…Congrats to all the others who raced in Milton!
Paul “Speedy”, Kevin, Darcy, Mat, Cameron, Jennifer, Carlos, Duncan (ageless wonder!), Shane. I hope I did not forget anyone!
Thanks to all my Sponsors and Supporters! HiPerformance Training, Mark Keating, FMCT Falcons, Endless Endurance, Feet in Motion, Zym
Lastly – a quick analysis of the top triathletes that competed in 2010 and 2011. Their 2011 bike splits were marginally quicker in most cases but their 2011 runs were close to a minute slower than 2010. Last year, the weather was cold, windy and rainy before the race (so I bailed) but this year the conditions seemed ideal. I guess we have not had time to adjust to running in the heat so it took a lot more out of us than expected. Interesting!