I have been itching to get a duathlon under my belt this season and luckily this past Saturday worked out. The Recharge with Milk series had their Woodstock weekend with the shorter events on Saturday and sprint distance races on Sunday.
I have not worked many bricks into my training to date but have been working hard on both my running and cycling, individually. My competitive side was telling me it was time to combine the two elements to see how they meshed together so I got looking around for a race.
After checking out the schedule at home, work and training I decided the Saturday race would work best, although, I maybe should have re-evaluated that closer to the weekend...
Friday ended up being a lot more crazy than expected so I really was not as well prepared come Saturday morning as I would have liked to be. This would be an issue (bike) later on in the race but everything seemed in fine working order as I quickly tossed the gear into the truck before making the trip west along the 401.
Leaving the house later than desired, I started getting second thoughts of racing as I was not exactly sure how long it would take to drive to the race site. In my opinion, if you cannot be there at least thirty minutes before one of these meets, the rush becomes a huge distraction with registration, set up and warm up. I was not feeling good about my chances, to be honest, but I decided to roll along and try anyway.
Thankfully, the drive went much smoother than I could have wished for and I arrived at the park with almost forty-five minutes to spare. After a quick tour through registration, I pumped some air in the tires of my Argon TT bike and crossed my fingers that it was ready to race. I have not been on this bike since the Niagara Sprint Duathlon last August so it has just been sitting around collecting dust.
I then did a quick visualization of the transition zone and then went up to the start area for a warm up. I ran into a few friends up there (Patrick B, Tommy F, Roger H) so did some catching up and then got into game mode as John Salt went through some last minute instructions.
The duathlon was a super sprint distance of 3k/20k/3k so I knew some of the other folks would be hammering it out on the course. I put down a serious track effort on Thursday night and some silly cycling on Friday. I was not sure how this would come back to haunt me but just wanted to stay up with the front runners, empty the tank and let the chips fall where they may.
Off the horn, I bolted out of the gate up a short, grassy slope as we only had about 50 metres to get up to the first turn. It was a tight one with some wooden traffic barriers planted in the ground so I wanted to be clear of the group before hitting this sharp left and did so with a quick sprint from the start line. I then leveled out at close to 3:30/km pace as I pushed along the loose gravel park road with a few chasers on my heels.
After a kilometre, I reached the bridge across the dam where I could really start feeling the pressure from behind. Kent Keeler, of Team Running Free, was right behind me and seemed a lot more fresh than I was feeling already. With Kent applying the hammer, I kept up the pace and we reached the turn around together. I thought for sure he was going to pass during the spin around the marker but he stayed patient and hung in behind me as we returned over the bridge.
We ran this way the entire distance back to transition. Every time I felt a little surge on my shoulder, I picked up the pace until we reached the timing mats side by side in just under 3:30 pace. This was exactly where I wanted to be but I was hoping to feel more energized in doing so. Oh well, time to see how the bike was rolling...
As we both reached our bikes, I made a smooth switch out of my runners, buckled my helmet and grabbed my ride. I noticed my competition was still in his shoes as I pushed my bike up the long path to the mount line. It was not the most pretty mount (my cycling shoes flipped when I tried to hop on the bike) but I got sorted out and started the slow, twisting climb out of the park.
Most of the first four km were gradually sloping away from the park so the pace was not quite where I wanted it. I was making my way through the triathletes already on the course but was feeling the effects of a hard run effort battling to stay at the front of the duathlon. My bike issue also came to light as I tried to power up just outside the park gates. I am not sure how it moved during the off-season but my seat was now dramatically angled down and I was sliding off with every stroke. Damn!
To make things worse, the heat and humidity were pulling alot of sweat from my body so my hands and forearms were slipping off the bars and I could not hold my butt on the seat. This created a lot of lost power and exhausted a lot of energy as I kept trying to get my rear on the seat and hold a position to create a decent effort. Thankfully, it was only 20k so I did my best and fed off the fact I was still making my way towards the front of the triathlon race.
At the turn around, I could finally spot out Kent mixed in with the swim/bike/runners and he was not too far behind. I put in a solid surge up the slope and then made some strong gains with the tail wind across the top of the "U" shaped course. By the time I started heading back to park, my legs started to feel more like their old self and the last five kilometres seemed to fly.
Everything was starting to come back together and my average pace was much more respectable heading into the park entrance. This 500 metres section was designated a "No Pass" zone due to the downslope and twists that would make it a little dangerous. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind a very cautious rider who was really taking it easy. I lost a large chunk of time (1 full km/h on my bike computer) following him to the dismount line. I tried to politely urge him along but he was not looking very confident with this section. We have all been there so I took it all in stride and just waited for my chance to dismount and fly through transition.
Posting another solid transition split was key to pumping up my confidence for the final 3k run. I eased through the first hundred metres on the grass and then picked out some triathletes ahead to use as targets. I knew they were up near the head of that race and would be hitting decent splits so that helped.
Out on the same course as our first run made it very easy to zone out and worry only about finishing strong. As I passed across the bridge and then hit the turn around I could finally see Kent about 150 metres back just coming off the dam. I told him that he was doing great and knew I could not relax or he would be able to cover that gap.
I kept up the pace and ended up with a strong finish on the mix of gravel and grass to post a win in my first duathlon of the season. Overall, I felt pretty good with the result but have lots of work to do to get to my 2012 goals.
After the race, I was able to do some more catching up with former duathlete, Tommy F ( http://www.ignition-fitness.com/ ), Cam B ( @BigRaceWheels ), Roger H ( @hosspro ), Patrick B, Chris C ( @cdcanning ) and some new competitors like Kent K ( @runbikeraceblog ).
Thanks to John Salt ( @MultiSportCan ) and his crew for the great race and to Steve Fleck ( @stevefleck) for the amazing mic work during the event!