Race Report – 2014 Mt. Rainier Duathlon

Rainier Duathlon 2014 - BikeThe look on my face carries quite a bit of context. It was a tough day on course yesterday.

The Budu Racing series hosts quite a number of races I have come to love while living in Seattle. True, most of them are mountain bike races, but the organizers also run a number of multi-sport races. Last year I tried my very first, and only, duathlon on this course. With the same Half Ironman on the calendar this year, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity for a tune up race.

The hard part about racing in Seattle in April is that you never quite know what you are going to get with the weather. Allow me to present exhibit A from AccuWeather.com. This is what we have in store for us this week:

Late April 2014 Weather
racedayweatherLooks amazing, right? Sadly, yesterday was not quite on that plan. The weather reported by Garmin for the opening run is showing 48F. It was colder than that, but the rain was real. Very real. In fact, it was hailing (HAILING!) at my house last night, but of course, Seattle spring being what it is, 80F is coming this week. It makes tons of sense, trust me.

Weather aside, it was great to get outside and turn the pedals in anger. So much of the Seattle winter training schedule is done indoors, usually in the dark of the morning, and cold. For this season, I have been in training for just shy of 6 months before having a multi-sport race effort. It’s been a long time coming.

I entered the day feeling a bit apprehensive and unsure of myself. My running this year has far exceeded my expectations. Best of all, in my long sessions, I am able to run faster and longer than ever before. Where I have had concerns is with my bike. I just haven’t felt like I have had enough hard efforts over distance to feel prepared for this race. I have definitely not had enough time riding outside.

My plan was to run the first run at a reasonable pace, and then try to get after it on the bike, but making sure I managed my power (via the Quarq Elsa, which I was racing for the first time) to ensure a solid run. If I made one mistake for this race, it was not having a solid warm up plan. I absolutely did not get my legs warm enough, or my HR up enough, ahead of the starting gun. Shame on me.

2014 Rainier Duathlon Race StartRunning a 6:52 out of the gate was not to plan. The plan was supposed to be 7:15 pacing. It’s easy to get swept up in the start and let the adrenaline flow. Once we made our first mile, I knew I had to pull things back so that I didn’t get out of control. Apart from mile 4 (7:52) that had a couple of painful rollers that I opted not to attack, my plan was solid. That is, until I reached back for my Gu packet and it was gone. Doht! My calories should have been fine, and getting 5.5 miles banged out without Gu is certainly doable. The problem is, with racing, things can get in your head. The case of the missing Gu completely derailed the internal dialog I was having. All of the sudden, I was thinking about conserving energy, not pushing too hard, maybe not chasing down that guy up there. Groan. Never leave transition with the exact number of Gu you need. My run was faster than last year, which was a much sought after improvement.

I felt fantastic coming in off the run, and cruised through T1 almost a minute faster than last year as well. The bike was clearly going to be a battle of wills. First and foremost, I was racing with a power meter for the first time, and had pretty clear instructions from Coach Ben about what I was allowed to do. I didn’t do what I normally do, which is damn the race plan to hell and just hammer on the bike. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I came in just under 3 minutes slower than last year. Yes, the conditions this year were atrocious. Rain. Plenty of wind. Freezing cold (manifesting in lobster claws that could neither find Gu easily or pull a water bottle – even one time – from the under the seat cage). I still would have liked to have gone faster. Here’s the Strava data for run 1.

The upside of having a power meter is that I could be more controlled in my effort (avg 204 – 2.8W/Kg. Target was to stay under 220W – 3.0W/Kg). Here’s the Strava data for the bike. I didn’t blow my top riding up the big hill on either lap, though getting into the high 300s like I did was a bad plan. It’s a strange climb in that it has a few false flats, and you can’t really settle in and grind it out.

I do take some measure of satisfaction knowing that I hit 604W going downhill. That stretch of road is a screamer! I also managed to keep my HR well under control, averaging 150 for the whole effort. I somehow ended up with a top 20 bike split of the day. On the whole, I should be pleased. I’m still not convinced my cycling is where I need it to be ahead of Honu in just 5 short weeks. I’m very much lacking confidence in this part of my game.

When I got to T2, my hands were unusable. My feet were numb stumps. It was comical to try and get things off and get things on, all the while hearing Coach Ben yelling things like “put the hat on while you’re running,” “are you listening Brandon? Get your shoes on first and go,” and “seriously, put the hat in your mouth for now.” Sub 1 minute transition. Awesome.

The run turned out to be something of a non-event. My Garmin 305 decided to lock up at 00:00:25, so I thought was running metronomically along at 7:20 pace, but about 5 minutes in I realized something was wrong. Without HR or pacing data, and no one really around me to pace, I was on my own. Coupled with numb feet and rain, well, the fire wasn’t there. Normally I get run down by many people after a bike effort. On this run, only 3 people passed me. Normally I walk some on a run after a bike effort. Not today. Running strong after my bike is what I need to do in order to improve my overall game, so in that regard, I should by psyched. And hey, the ran stopped at the end of the run.

I ran almost the exact run 2 same split as last year, though this time I crossed the finish line and could have kept running. Last year I needed to sit down for about 20 mins before even thinking about doing anything productive, and I was done for most of the day on into the next day.

Rainier Duathlon 2014 - Coach ConferenceOverall, the effort this day required was lower. I was slower than last year, but conditions were tougher. The curse of the age group level up put me 30th male overall (up from 96th last year, though with a deeper field on account of it being the national championship race), but 9th in my AG. If I was born but two months later, I would have been on the podium this year. Curses! 🙂 There was also only 3 minutes between 6th and 10th in our AG, so I really should feel much better overall.

Team VO2MultiSport had loads of athletes at the race, numerous podiums, and even AG winners. It’s awesome and humbling to be on a team with so many great athletes, young and old. It provides plenty of great examples of progress and what can be achieved with hard work and effort. And of course, at the end of the race, Coach Ben is always there (on the left in the photo) with a kind word for his athletes. Next race is the NW Epic Series Stottlemeyer 30 miler in 2 weeks. And then 3 weeks to Honu Half Ironman. Nerves…they are a’fraying.
  • Bruce

    Great race Brandon! Looking forward to seeing you rock it in Honu!