This one is a little bitter sweet. It is always nice to win but when you don't reach your expectations it takes away from the celebration. This is even more exaggerated when the racers beside you (the triathletes) are sailing past with ease on the same course.
Leading up to this race, I was not sure if I was prepared for the Half Iron distance so I had originally planned to do the Saturday Sprint Du for a quicker result on the flats of Welland. But, between my desire to complete the entire course (DNF in the triathlon a few years ago) and Tyler's words of encouragement, I decided last week that I would give it a shot.
I then did some research to see who else would be hitting the Half Iron duathlon and found out one of this season's most consistent racers, Florian Ong, would be in the field. I knew he had been both running and cycling speed so I was curious to see how I matched up at this point in the year.
Race morning was calm and uneventful so I was ready to race when they summoned us to the start line. As usual, the field was not very big for the Half Iron Du so we had a lot of room to move out there. On the horn I bolted out with David Cook and we set the pace early as we crossed over the first patrolled crossing on the river front pathway. I felt at ease with the pace and continued to keep it level as I pulled away from Mr. Cook. The drop in weight and taper made the 3:30 pace feel very controlled as I followed the lead bike.
I held my form right up to the turn around and noticed I had a decent gap opening as I turned back towards transition. It appeared most of the competition was saving up for later in the race so I just went into cruise mode and smoothly followed the bike back along the asphalt trail to the arena. As I approached the crowds cheering on the swimmers, I could see I would hit the bike even earlier than the elite triathletes. Wow, this doesn't happen for us duathletes very often.
With a few hundred metres to the timing mat, I let off the gas even more and sailed through the opening 5k in 18:00 on the dot. I then got to my bike and slipped on my cycling shoes ( I decided to bring my cycling shoes instead of tri shoes as they are a lot better quality and should have added a little power) and made my way out to greet the police motorcycle for my escort out of town. I figured this would not last long with Nigel Gray and Len Gushe chasing out of the water so I just enjoyed the attention while it lasted.
During the first quarter of the ride things felt pretty easy hovering around 39km/h so I just tried to keep the pace around this mark and let the strong cyclist from the triathlon chase me down. I was actually surprised to stay out in the lead for so long as I ended up going 44k with the escort before Nigel finally took over the honours from me. Unfortunately, that was not the only thing that was going away as my hips and legs were feeling a sluggish. I was not sure if the wind was a touch stronger than it felt or what the issue was? I had stuck to my nutritional plan and was much more attentive to my intake than any training rides over the last few months.
After a few zig zags on the west side of the course we finally got to the short out and back section. As I made the turn around the pylon I could see Len was next in line to make a move with a couple smaller groups not too far behind him full off the top riders (Rhys Spencer, Jim Sunners, Jakub Macel, etc.). With the way I was feeling I was just hoping the chase groups did not include any duathletes so I checked out all them as I past by and did not see any red bib colours.
I was now back out on North Shore Road with just under 35k left in the ride and Mr. Gushe made his move as we climbed the only upslope visible on the course. As he went by I was surprised that I was not falling back too fast on the incline but my decision to rest on the downhill on the other side is when things started to stretch out and I was alone again but assumed the chasers would be on me very soon. At this point I was very uncomfortable in the saddle and having a hard time holding my average pace near 39km/h even with the slight tail wind on the way home.
After a few easy corners I was back on Feeder Road but things were not well. My gluts felt absolutely dead and I was not able to fire up the legs. I tried standing up, stretching, different positions but nothing seemed to be working and I was losing a lot of time. I was so frustrated and hoping the next set of riders would pass to motivate me but I was the only person around for as far as I could see. I continued to spin and stretch for 10 to 15 minutes thinking the race was over for me when I finally got a little action back out of the gluts and my legs started to push again. It was not pretty but I was moving along in the low 37's and counting down the kilometres to transition.
Finally, I made the last few turns to the dismount line just as Jakub hit the line with me. As I got off my ride I could tell the run was going to be a challenge. I had nothing in the back of my legs so I took my time in the zone to see if I could recover with some liquids and cool water on the body. During this rest break Jim and Rhys exited the zone so I decided it was now or never.
I got a shuffle going out of the arena parking lot and followed Rhys down to the path for a short 200 metres out and back before heading east to the main portion of the run. Just after getting around the turn marker, I slowly made my way past Rhys and started to think things may improve as I now set my sights in Mr. Sunners and Mr. Macel only 50 or so metres ahead. This chase continued for the next few kilometres as we navigated a few town side streets before rejoining the waterfront path system.
Nearing the 4km marker I could see Jim was getting his legs and Jakub appeared to be holding his side. I was thinking this would be a great time to bridge up to Jim and move past Jakub. I was not sure what our pace was at this time (as my stupid Garmin 405 froze due to sweat on the ride) but I knew I was not on my expected pace so running with a top 3 triathlete had to be an improvement.
With a little push I closed the gap on Jakub but Jim was still pulling away. It was on this surge that I started to cramp like I have never felt in a long time. I had to slow up to relief the pain and hope the next aid station could offer the right fluids to calm things down. Unfortunately, the water, Heed and Coke was not working so I had to start to worry about who was chasing me now. When I got out to the far end of the path for the first loop I watched the line of runners coming back. I finally found Florian who appeared to have a decent run going but he was a little more than eight minutes back. I was hurting a lot but didn't want to throw in the towel as the race leader.
On the course I had great encouragement from people like Richard Pady (on his bike cheering on his team), K Jacobson and her man Tanker (amazing volunteers at an aid station), as well as many friends racing along side. I knew they would understand if I called it quits (due to my cramping condition) but thankfully my legs would not let my brain take over and they kept moving, sometimes at a walk, towards the finish line.
For the last half of the run I just kept counting down the kilometres mixing in some average running with some walking just hoping it would be enough to hold off Mr. Ong in second place. Finally, I wrapped up the second loop of the Merritt Island section and headed back into town with only a couple km left. During this stretch I had a few more triathletes (Derek Virgo, Matt Barefoot, B Habermehl) pass me which definitely showed my lack of long course endurance.
So as I approached the finish line, even though I knew I was going to take the duathlon win, I did not show very much excitement as I fell very short of my pre-race expectations. Sure I can take a great training day out of the experience but, if you know me well, you know I expect a lot out of my race performances.
Congrats to all the amazing athletes who competed this weekend all over. Also, thanks to John Salt and his awesome Recharge with Milk MSC crew and volunteers for putting on an incredible race weekend!
Having a few days to let this race sink in, as well as speaking with a few people, it is clear that I need to narrow my focus on one sport. I am too critical of my results to compete all over the sports map as it just leads to unsatisfied feelings when I reflect on my performances.
This being said, I will try to keep to my schedule for the rest of this season (it is too late now to expect much of a change) and sit down with Coach Tyler to tackle 2013 at full force. The long term goals I set out when I started this journey in 2006 are fast approaching so if I really want to hit them I have to either get serious soon or just relax and abondon those lofty target?
Thanks for reading and supporting!
PS - I know some out there may question, "where is the fun?". I still love to get out and socialize on a group run or ride as much as the next person so it is not all work and no joy ;)