Monday, April 26, 2010

Duathlon! Twice as nice!

Man do I love to race. It all started when I was a kid. I don’t know. I just got the bug early.

It was the summer of 1987. I had just finished my 8th grade year. I was home “grounded” for doing something stupid that only a 14 year old boy would think to do. My aunt Martine, who had taken me to my first 5 mile road race 4 years earlier called me one Saturday morning and asked if I wanted to go to a 5k road race at the high school.

“You bet I do!”

It wasn’t as much wanting to race as it was that I needed to get the heck out of the house. After that race I was hooked. The whole summer was spent looking forward to the race on the weekend. Lucky for me there was at least one race every week. My dad thought it was cool so he agreed to pay and cart me all around Cape Cod that summer.

At one race I met the local high school coach. I joined cross country that fall and the rest is, as they say, history.

The passion that I had for racing in 1987 is exactly the same now in 2010. It never faded.

This is the reason that last Friday I rose from bed at 4am to crawl into my car for the 720 mile drive to Richmond, Virginia for the Duathlon National Championship weekend.

The off road race on was on Saturday and on-road race was on Sunday. Now that’s my kind of road trip.

My goal was to leave early so I could take my time. I found a few geocaches here and the, made a couple of store stops and realized after a while that time was slipping away. 720 miles sure does take a long time.

Finally, mercifully I arrived in Richmond. I should have gone for a little bike ride when I got there but I just couldn’t find the motivation. I was tired and hungry. I ate and fell asleep early.

After sleeping for like 12 hours and doing a little geocaching it was time to get to the race course for the Off-road Duathlon National Championships.

Why did the race start at 1pm? I don’t know either.

What a difference a year makes though! Last year it was 96 degrees. 66 degrees this year.

7 mile trail run, 13 mile mountain bike, 2.2 mile run. Go.

Before the race started, something kind of cool happened to me. I was standing there and one of the racers came up to me and said, “Hey didn’t you go to UMass?”

This happens more than you would imagine. The problem was that I didn’t recognize this guy’s face. He remembered me. I am face recognition slacker.

I remember the name when he told me: Derek Treadwell. Crap. This dude is a 4:01 miler. A total stud runner. This race was going to be fun.

The first part of the course went across this bridge and the pace was supper hot. Some guy running next to me had a Garmin and claimed we were running 5:22 pace. That’s way too fast for me. I had to back off. I couldn’t stay with the first group.

My triathlon runs this year have been excellent. The good runs that I’ve had have been at the end of the race. I’m super strong from a lot of swimming and biking but since I can only run 2 times per week because of a heel injury I am not so fast.
I had to let the front group go and hang on as best I could.

Super runner dude Derek was first onto the bike and I was 15th. I rode strong but was so tired that I struggled at times. It takes a lot to run hard for 49 minutes then navigate expert level terrain at a high pace. The up hills were tough, real tough.

About ¾ of the way through the bike I caught Derek. He may be a great runner be the mountain bike leg was getting the best of him. I passed him with no pleasantries. If I was going to beat him then I needed space; lots of it. I pushed to the end and had the 7th fastest bike leg. This pleased me.

The second run was my best leg. I was running a solid pace. I would end up running 12:40 for the run. Too bad ol’ stud runner dude ran 10:21 and passed me at the end. Oh well.

9th place at Nationals is a place that I can live with. My lingering chest cold and heel pain held me back a bit but at the end of the day it is what it is. The race winner was in my age group so he didn’t count for the age group results. Thus I was 3rd in the deepest age group in the race. A podium finish at Nationals is a huge result. I really was lucky to get that. I will, however, always be proud of the plaque that I won!

That afternoon I had to rack my bike for Sunday’s race. That was really weird. I was sticky and tired from racing and here I was getting a different bike ready for another race. Fun. It’s a good thing I love racing.

5k run. 40k on road bike. 5k run. Excellent! What’s really cool is that this race started just 18 hours after the last one. Ouch.

I peeled myself out of bed and into the car. I’m a little sore and tired but what did I expect?

I ran 18:09 for the first 5k. I was REALLY tired and that was about all I had to give. The course was a little hilly but no matter. I didn’t feel I pushed it too hard. Bike on.

The roads were wet and the course was tight so the bike leg was a tad scary. It was like Xterra. There were times when I was going like 24 mph passing someone going 17 while I was being passed by someone going 28. Triathletes tend to be squirrelly bike handlers anyway so I was being very cautious. The bike leg was three loops so there were bikes everywhere! Sure enough on a tight corner a fast young guy and an older lady slammed into each other. He got a flat and she got a face full of pavement. My reward was a few seconds lost stopping to avoid both of them.

I pressed on and finished the bike leg.

I ran my heart out and it was over. Even though I cramped a little at the end I still managed to run the second run about the same as the first. I was 76th overall. Out of 1000 people I think that is OK. My age group results were somewhat pathetic. 21st I believe.

The good news is that I scoured the results to see if I had the fastest combined time from Saturday and Sunday. Sure enough my combined time was the best. (I contacted USAT and inquired about this. They said they were working on it) Can I claim to be the National Combined Duathlon Champion? Not yet. Who cares. It was a fun weekend and boy was it tiring.

The 11 hour drive home was a hoot. OK, it wasn’t. It sucked rotten eggs. SOOOO boring. 23 hours of driving to go with my 16 miles of running and 53 miles or biking. Was it worth it?

You bet your bottom.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Adversity is a dish best served in March

Of course I arrived a day early to preview the course for the 2010 Xterra Miami. I like to be prepared and ready to rock. I knew this is a race that I could win. It was my goal and I wanted to see the course to help prepare me for victory. In retrospect…

I was flying along the course keeping my eyes peeled for problem areas and dialing in the tricky spots. Then it hit me. Actually I hit IT. It was a tree. Man did I hit that thing HARD.

I really don’t know what happened. One second I was riding and the next I was wrapped around a tree. Lucky for me my head hit first. Unfortunately, my shoulder was the next to make contact. Ouch.

Now for my parenthetical statement of the day: If you are riding a bike you should be wearing a helmet. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet I would have been typing this from my hospital bed and not my kitchen table.

My shoulder was hurt badly. Crap. I struggled back to my car then back to the hotel room. The rest of the day was spent being a tourist in pain. Things didn’t look good. Saturday night I gave my chances of being able to swim on Sunday morning at about 50/50. Lifting my right arm above my head was excruciating.

I really thought I’d broken my collarbone.

Thank god the pain had subsided by 6am. We were good to go.
Half mile swim. Go.

Out of the water around 10th or so out of about 100. Not too bad. Not to good either. I guess I should be glad that I could even swim. Peel the wetsuit off and onto the bike.

Bike was going well for the first part of the first of two laps. I had passed a few people and was feeling good about my chances.

Then I heard “Ptsssssss….”.

Oh shit.

Front time went from 40 lbs to like 20. It was ok because with tubeless tires you can ride real low pressure… for a while. Then it went to like 5 lbs and I couldn’t ride anymore. I started running with my bike hoping to come up with an idea. What the hell?

I was hoping to run into the wheel fairy or something. I don’t know what I was thinking. I ran for at least 5 minutes until a passing rider gave me a C02 cartridge and an adapter. Nice. I was going again.

That was the front tire.

At the start of the second lap the same thing happened to my back tire. I rode almost the entire second lap on about 10 lbs of pressure. I had to brake at every corner and be super careful at every root and rock. It was awful. With about a mile to go it finally went down to nothing and I rode it in. Have you ever ridden on a completely flat tire? Try it sometime. It sucks as bad as you think.

Now I can run; finally. And I ran like the wind.

I was flying. It was awesome. The run in Miami is kind of neat. It actually had 3 water crossings. Yes, you actually have to swim. It cools you down. It’s fun but your shoes REALLY weigh you down.

Anyway I had a good run. Some fast runner was there and beat me by a minute! His swim was a couple of minutes slower than mine and so was his bike. But boy could he run.

My run was 36 minutes. Fast runner dude was 35 something but nobody else ran under 40minutes.

I ignored my painful blisters and mercifully the race ended. Overall I finished 5th.
My wife asked me what I learned from the experience. I learned that adversity is cool and is a dish best served in the month of March when the races really don’t count. I learned that I have a serious tire problem. I learned that my run and bike fitness are both excellent. I learned that Advil helps when you bust your shoulder up before the race.

I learned a lot. Above all though I learned that one of my best talents is to simply keep fighting and doing my best, despite the challenges that I may face. (Even when doing my best fast falls far short of my expectations)

I’ve done three triathlons this season and two have involved some sort utter travesty. Both times, however, I continued on and ended up doing ok despite lost time.

Oh yeah. I guess I learned that I need to bring my own CO2 with me in races. Put that on the to-do list. Next race is in 3 weeks in Fort Myers. Another Xterra. Frank Fernandez-Posse will not beat me again. Mark my words!