Sunday, June 1, 2014

USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship

This year, the Cary Du Classic was selected to host the USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship.  I was planning on racing anyway, since it's basically in my back yard, and was really excited to learn that it would be a qualifier for the World Championship race in Switzerland.  It was really my main goal race of the spring, and I really wanted to finish the 5 mile run-32 mile bike-5 mile run course in under 3 hours.  Specifically, I was giving myself 40 minutes for each run and transition and 1:40 on the bike.  I felt pretty comfortable about the run-transition times, thinking I should be able to finish the run in about 37 minutes and would have a fair amount of time to run through transition.  The 1:40 on the bike was less certain, as I'd have to average over 19 mph and I haven't ridden at that level of effort for any sustained duration since September at Augusta.

I got to packet pickup around 6:00, checked in, set up transition, and found Jennifer for a short warmup.  It was actually pretty cool at the start of the race, and I was grateful for that considering the North Carolina weather in May can be quite unpleasant.  We picked a spot somewhere around the middle of the crowd lining up at the start and were off.  The one thing I found disappointing was that there was no start mat, so it was based on gun time rather than chip time.  It took us less than a minute to get across the starting line, but I felt like I needed every possible minute to meet my goal of sub-3 and would have liked those extra seconds!

I'd done a test run of the course a few weeks prior when it was in the 80s and humid, so the run felt much easier thanks to the cool temps.  The goal was to stay in the 7:20s for the first run leg, keeping it fairly conservative to be sure I didn't ruin my chances of a decent bike time.  The first mile is flat to rolling, and included about a quarter mile off road.  Normally this would just be grass and dirt, but after several days of rain, it was all mud and puddles.  I rarely run on anything unpaved and am not a fan of wet feet or dirty shoes, so I followed the group running a bit extra to go around the worst of it.  Then we were back on roads and I settled back into a rhythm, hitting the first mile in 7:18.  At mile 1.5, the course turns onto a greenway, and the mile to the turnaround is all downhill before doing a 180 at mile 2.5 and coming all the way back up (7:10, 7:25, 7:22).  The uphill section on the way back had felt terrible on my test run and I was really happy to have made it back to the road without losing much time.  Mentally that gave me a bit of a boost, and I ran the 5th mile, including a return trip through/around the mud, in 7:09.  

Run 1: 36:41 

Transition 1: 1:08.  Somehow I always end up at the far side of bike out, so I have to run the full length of transition in cycling shoes with my bike.  I doubt this adds much time, but I would love to be near bike out/bike in at least once in a while! 

The bike course is rolling hills for the first 23 miles or so, and then mostly uphill for the last 9 miles or so.  Nothing crazy though, and several of the roads are part of my normal route across Jordan Lake, so I  knew what to expect.  

I tried to ride by effort and not worry about speed, but for the most part, each Garmin beep flashed a mile split pretty close to my target pace.  But it felt like most of the field was flying by me, and it really gave me some extra motivation to work more on my cycling.  Though being passed by so many people was a bit disheartening, I was really just competing against myself and the clock, so I stuck to the plan.  Other than a brief stint of being stuck behind a truck (who was in turn stuck behind other cyclists), the ride went well... the weather was perfect, and my Garmin showed 1:39:41 when I got back to the transition area.  Official race time: 1:40:18 - pretty close to my goal of 1:40!

Transition 2:  1:03.  I worked more on hydrating while on my bike, and I guess I did a little too well at that... I am not so serious about this that I've learned to be ok with just peeing on myself, so after leaving T2 I stopped by the porta potty.  I wish it had been inside the timing mat and added to my T2 time rather than my second run time.

Run 2: 38:32 (37:51 without the pit stop)
The goal for the second run was to shoot for 7:10s-7:20s.  I started out feeling pretty good and hit the first two mile splits right on target (7:19, 7:18).  I hoped to just maintain through the uphill section and then pick it up for the final mile, but that hill really took the wind out of my sails.  Despite my best efforts, I was dropping speed in a hurry (7:40, 7:51) and started the mental battle to keep pushing even though it seemed futile.  I was able to get it together a bit for the final mile and even managed to pass a few people (7:24).   A little over a minute off of my goal for the last run, but thankfully still fast enough to get in under 3 hours, and I was really pleased to cross the line in 2:57:44, especially after struggling at the end.  

In addition to finishing below my time goal, I qualified for the Long Course Duathlon World Championship at Powerman Zofingen in Switzerland!  I am not sure how wise it is for a person who hates running up hills to sign up for a race that has a TON of climbing, but I am really excited to represent the USA and take on the challenge of what is said to be one of the toughest races in the world! 

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