Blue Lake Olympic Duathlon

Dude, that HURT!

In attempting my first duathlon last weekend, I figured all of my running would translate to the multi-sport world with no problem.  I was so wrong.  Let’s back up a little first; back to the beginning of this crazy idea.

In February I did an FTP test with my good friend and amazing cyclist Sarah.  I surprised both of us with a decent score despite my lack of training and far from perfect execution of the test.  Immediately she began talking about my future in the duathlon and it was both flattering and exciting to think of a new sport in which I might find success.  Then she mentioned that the national championships were in Bend, OR in June.  Now was the time to start training.

But the training never solidified.  Or more like the bike training never really got started in which case it could then have any hope of solidifying.  With Boston Marathon in April, I laid off the bike for a few weeks before and after.  Then I rode a few times (4 to be exact) and thought there was no way I wanted to compete at Nationals in Bend so was loosing motivation for the multi-sport world.  Just two weeks ago, Sarah and Jen persuaded me to join them at the warm up race in Portland (my hometown) two weeks before the national meet.  The pressure was low enough to just jump in and I could see family while I am at it.  Perfect: two birds, one stone!

I signed up and continued to avoid my bike.  I only just managed to talk a friend into tuning it up for me the day before I left (thank you Dax!  You and Idaho Mtn Touring totally rock!!!)  I borrowed aerobars but never put them on.  Forgetting my bike was on top of the car, I even drove my bike into the garage door but the Ruby (roubaix) is built for shock so the bike came out unscathed (my car will need a trip to the body shop though).  Darn!  I guess I’ll still have to compete.

As I prepped for the race and all the intricacies that come with racing two sports in a really short time, I started to realize how much I didn’t know.  I crowdsourced social media (and anyone I knew who would talk to me about this) to find the tips and tricks of doing well in this race.  I made so many gear mistakes.  So many.  That’s just the territory with new sports, right?

As I get my transition area ready, I asked everybody how to do it / where to place my stuff / does the towel go in front or back of the bike/ will it be cold on the bike/ do you wear your number the whole time or just the last run/ WHAT was I doing there?

The duathlon is the geeky cousin of tri.  I am not sure why but it’s just not as popular and it feels like a lesser, add on sport to draw a few more people in to the event.  That makes me a sucker, right ;) ... So like I was saying, there aren’t many people in the race.  I quickly found myself leading the duathlon with the first 5k run.  I kept it conservative at a 6:15 pace but of course the two guys behind me didn’t want to be chicked coming into the event area, so they laid down the hammer for the last half mile and finished the 5k just ahead of me...whatever dudes....  

Even though I ran conservatively and hardly broke a sweat, when I transitioned to my bike stuff I found myself taking a deep breath and sighing in a way that- if anyone had heard- could only mean, “do I have to keep going?”  lol!  I drove my bike out of there like a pro (thank you Spencer!  I mastered the seat driven run) and hopped on.  Then it took me at least 15 seconds to clip in (way too long to sit idle) and I was off.  “Yeah me!  I was doing it.  See guys?  See me?  I can ride!  This is going to be freaking awesome!!!”  Those thoughts lasted all of, um, maybe 3 miles.  No, more like 6 miles.  Then the head wind set in and I wasn’t sure how far I had to go.  My 15 year old bike computer gave out the night before so I wasn’t too sure about my stats.  I channeled my inner t-Rex and tried to stay low in the drops, because of course I didn’t put the aero bars on and now I was hating my position.  I wouldn’t say I was comfortable but it can’t be too much farther, right?  

O.    M.    G.

Everybody and their dog passed me.  Like I was standing still.  The gear envy was getting strong- for $10,000 bikes and $300 helmets and even just padded bike shorts.  (I totally should have just stuck that fleece neck gator in my pants and called it good).  I tried to crack jokes, but the *real* athletes wanted nothing to do with my scrappy style!  

My butt was getting tired- a little from the lack of padding- but more so in the tired muscles that I spend half of my life rolling out.  You know, those lateral glutes that really drive the pedals when you are pretending to have good cycling form.  About two thirds of the way through the bike portion of the race, my glutes bid me farewell and wished me luck finding a replacement to do their work.  I literally began shaking and couldn’t pedal.  There were tears.  It hurt.  I coasted and downshifted and coasted again.  The muscles just wouldn’t engage.  I still had no idea how far I needed to go to get back but it was time to eff the wind resistance and just get this bike back to the park.  I stood up and rode at least 3 miles that way.  Yeah me, I was moving again!  (when I told Sarah this later, she looked at me like I had decided to run uphill backwards- HA!).  

Back to transition and I jumped off my bike.  I knew it was going to be uncomfortable but I think I had a look of terror on my face when my feet hit the ground.  I was sure my legs weren’t going to hold me as I pretended to run back to the bike rack.  I changed and headed back out.  

About 1 mile into the 10K, I could finally feel my feet again (they were numb all the way back to my arch) and my legs readjusted to the running sensation.  I wasn’t too driven because I was certain I was out of the race.  The top two gals passed me ages ago on the bike and it only got worse from there.  “Just finish it out”, I told myself.  Then the second place woman appeared a ways out.  I thought I might catch her by the end of the race but even then I wasn’t sure.  Instead I somehow caught her just after mile 2.  Jen encouraged me to go after #1 who was just around the bend in the road.  It was crazy, how was I coming back after that terrible no good very bad ride?  I kept the intensity and went for it.  I just kept tempo pace again- comfortably uncomfortable with a drive to get this over with.  Somehow that combination of efforts got me across the finish line in first place!  It was a great feeling, to come back from desperation to not just placing on the podium; but winning.  I still feel like it’s not appropriate and I somehow got away with something, but as Barkley reminded me It’s Not Over Until The Fat Lady Sings.  

So there you have it, my brief affair with the duathlon.  I will do another but I need a little more training and a good bike set up.  If I am going to sign up for such torture, I should at least give myself every advantage to do it comfortably!