Having registered for the Niagara Duathlon some time ago, I had to work some magic and get a whole bunch of things accomplished at home/work in order not to waste an entry. The timing of the race was brutal for me with travel the week leading up and the need to fly out right after the race but I knew I could regain a lot of confidence if I could get to that starting line.
Thankfully, I had a ton of support and by mid-week I had my pass punched to make the short trip to Grimsby for the event. I knew this was not going to be a blazing fast race for me so I treated it as more of a great training opportunity and stuck to my regular program leading into the weekend. This included a killer treadmill session on Thursday night. Tyler had posted a 3x2mile workout and I upped the ante by increasing my previous efforts by a large margin in an attempt to strengthen my mental game.
That part of my race was lacking in a big way last Monday, in le Tour de Terra Cotta, so I needed to push the limits and pull through the dark spots of doubt that a “track” workout presents. I admit it was a very tough night at the gym but I passed the test and used the positive vibes to flow into the weekend. Unfortunately, the sore muscles from this treadmill run also followed me into the weekend...
On the drive to the race site, I plotted a simple plan as this was my first duathlon in quite a while (since Milton). I knew I was not going to be on top of my game so the game plan was to hold off on the opening run, control the heart rate on the bike and battle through the negative thoughts running those final 7k. I was not racing for a PB or a win. I told myself to go out and have fun and let the chips land where they may.
After setting up transition, stretching and going through the many other pre-race routines, I got over to the duathlon starting area for some final instructions from Mitch. He confirmed the course would be exactly the same as 2009 (the last time I competed in this race) which meant a 2.3k run, 25 bike ride and 7k run.
As usual, I got out into the clear and started to work on the pace. The air was very heavy with crazy humidity so breathing was not easy and the sweat was pouring out of my system. No worries, we are getting used to it these days, just relax and avoid pushing too hard.
With the opening kilometre rolling downhill most of the crowd stayed tight. One younger gentleman decided to pick it up a touch so I filed in behind and let him lead down into the wooded trail that made up a 300m loop into the bush. This year, the trail was marked out amazingly with lots of highlighted paint on the roots and obstacles. This made it very easy to concentrate on the task at hand so I just kept on his heels and forgot all about the Garmin.
Without looking back, I could tell we had a just a few others on our tails now so things were shaping up the way I had hoped. As we trudged up the wood chipped path out of the forest, I could tell the leader starting to slow a touch so I pulled through and took over as we ran up the sidewalk back to transition. He must have dropped off a little more in the final 750m as I only had one other athlete join me into the park entrance to wrap up the first run of the day. I stayed up in front through the run course sign and quickly clicked on my helmet and grabbed my bike off the rack.
Although, I have not practiced my bike mount in a long time, I executed a great start to the cycling leg of the race and was strapped into my shoes with one of my best transitions ever. Right away, I started to move through the triathletes already on course and worked the average up to prepare for the tough climb to present itself around three kilometres into this portion of the duathlon.
As I reached the bottom, I could see several people struggling and walking their machines up the hill. The thick air was causing some issues here so I knew I had to spin up or risk burning out. Luckily, I have been working on this a lot of late and I made smooth work of the hill and got back to speed before starting my zig zag around the Niagara countryside.
On the flats, I was comfortably reaching a solid pace for me and was happy with my progress through the field of triathletes. I was clipping along untouched until close to the half way mark of the ride when a speedy cyclist whizzed past. I did not know this person but his number seemed to be in the range of those assigned to the duathlon so I wondered who this could be?
“Oh well, no worries, don’t panic.” I told myself as I knew the run would be the place to see him again. I hoped!
Keeping this person in sight (albeit, in the distance), I picked up the intensity a little just in case he created a huge gap but held the effort within my limits. At this point, I had another duathlete catch and pass me. Wow, these guys were riding hard today!
Just after he passed, I backed off wisely and held a legal gap coming into a twisting section of the course. In my slowing, I had a female triathlete pass me and get in between us. I backed off again but she was almost on his wheel as we went through a corner where a motorcycle official was sitting. He pulled out and followed for a very short period of time but did not say a word. Wow, if that was me on that wheel I would have been hammered with a penalty for sure.
Oh well, I just kept my distance and then moved past her when she fell of his pace nearing the tricky and speedy downhill section leading to the lake. I entered the decent a few seconds behind the second place duathlete and made up my mind to get aggressive down the curving drop off. I was moving slightly quicker than he was and ended up having to brake just as I was about to pass as he moved to the centre of the lane to avoid a man hole in the road. My speed dropped so I backed in behind him and was now content to follow him into transition. The next few kilometres back offered several short burst between turns which should have been very routine but I put a scare into myself on the second last corner.
Leaning into the turn, my hand slipped of the handle bar due to the sweat pouring out of my body. Luckily, I kept the bike up right and was able to continue on for the last few minutes to the bike dismount sitting in third overall.
As we hit the line, I saw the athlete ahead of me still had his cycling cleats on so I knew I would have an advantage and leave the zone up one position. This held true and I executed another smooth change over into my runners and was out through the gate to finish off the race.
Having not run very hard off the bike for a long time, it took awhile to get comfortable. Within the first 500m, I was dropped back into third place as Tim Little easily made his way up the road. Trying to think up a new strategy on the fly, I was surprised to notice Erik Box (the super cyclist who easily had the quickest bike split) mixed in the middle of several triathletes. I figured he would be way out on the course by now so I was amazed to see him so soon. Making my way past him, I could now focus on the new leader just ten yards up ahead.
At the 1km point, I was starting to feel much better in the legs. We rounded a few corners heading into the quiet, lake front community and I was closing the gap nicely. By the time we reached the 2km marker, I had pulled even and just kept my eyes looking forward not worrying about his position behind me.
During most of this stretch, I had a female triathlete (she posted the top ladies run split of the day) either right beside me or just in behind. I could tell we were doing a fine job feeding off each other. Anytime I started to slow, she would start to move up which motivated me to pick things up.
When we hit the turnaround near, the midway point of the run, I finally looked back through the field to see my competition. I was now around 400m clear of second so the gap was growing, although, another fellow (the person who ran the second fastest opening leg) was looking strong now positioned in third. There was no room to cruise for the time being.
After running another kilometre or so together, my female pacer started to drop off so I had to use the other targets up the road to stay on track. I felt really confident heading into the final two thousand metres as I entered the wooded trails again. I looked back to see if anyone was in striking distance and I was clear so I pulled back the reigns a touch to avoid any stupid slips in the mud and loose wood chips.
I navigated through the lengthy forest path and finally hooked back up with the sidewalk, having a kilometre left and still holding a comfortable lead. I was starting to get excited to wrap up the multisport season with a victory and coasted into the park under control. I could have posted a slightly faster overall time but there was no need to hammer in this heat as I was already a soaking mess after racing through that thick, moist air.
In the end, I had a little over a minute up on the second place duathlete (the gentleman in third at the turn around) which was marginally slower than my 2009 result. With all the things going on of late, I was very happy with my race and stoked to rebuild my confidence to help get through the off season training.
With work asking me to head out to Modesto for some training, I could not stick around after the race. I’m sorry if I did not have a chance to catch up with some of you. Enjoy the rest of your race season!
Thanks for reading!