Race Report–Mt. Rainer Duathlon

It was a day of surprises for me this weekend. I was asked by my coach on Friday afternoon whether I had considered racing the Mt. Rainer Duathlon, run by Budu Racing, to occur on Sunday the 28th. I had not considered it, as my race dates for this year have centered around mountain bikes and triathlons. Beyond that, I had never raced in a duathlon. No specific reason; it’s just that I had never undertaken such an endeavor.

In looking at the course profile map, it was clear that the bike portion was going to be challenging. There was a pretty sizable climb right in the middle of the lap, and since I was going to be racing the long course, I was going to be going up the mountain twice.

Race data for this race is a bit difficult to pull apart. For some unknown reason, neither Garmin nor Strava make it easy to flag a workout as a race of mixed types. As such, you are either left with a bunch of runs, or a bunch of bikes. Lame.

First, I wanted to thank Budu for the organization of this event. Though a small event, the event staff, in particular the road minders, did a very good job of managing traffic. In any race where you are on the road, managing the road is critically important and they did a great job. The on course water support left a little to be desired, but this was a smaller race.

I also want to thank my coach. Ben Bigglestone is doing a great job of improving what I called out as my liability – my running. To have gone sub 8min/mile over 9 miles, even with a 30 mile bike ride made me extremely happy. The training this year with VO2MultiSport has been a great experience.

In looking at the run, I am quite surprised to see that I did so well for the first 5+ mile run. My first mile was 6:54! That was completely unthinkable for me several months ago. My slowest was an 8:01, and that was on a section with a few steep, and high, rollers. All the other sections, with slight elevation changes, centered around 7:30, and my HR was in the mid to high 160s. The race time says 7:41 pace. 119th / 225 racers. Not stellar placing, but it was my target pace, and I hit it, without putting myself into difficulty.

The bike was something of an oddity to me. I felt like I was riding very well, despite the headwinds on part of the course, the rain, and even hail at the top of one of the climbs. There was that one tough climb, and in all honesty it’s smaller and tamer than some of the climbs around my house, but for some unknown reason I ran out of gears. Not to the point of being out of gas, but having one more tooth on top of the 26 would have been appreciated. However, no one ever passed me on the climb. I put distance into those near me on both ascents. Looking at the data, it’s just strange that I was as slow as I was overall on the climb.

For most of the ride, I was hovering around 21.5 mph, with a good handful of the miles averaging 22-23 mph. I felt really good, and was keeping my HR under control. That said, I had an interesting experience on the second loop. I was tired. Not exhausted, but sleepy. That has never happened in a race. I remember thinking “I could take a nap.” Strange.

I was also surprised by the amount of pain generated in my neck. Having broken it two years ago, I have not yet raced on aero bars since the accident. The downhill section of the race was loads of fun, but I was touching speeds approaching 45 miles per hour. I used that section to absolutely hammer on the pedals, and made up probably .25 – .5 miles on the people in front of me. You know you are going fast when you hear “what the hell?!” “holy shit!” and “f!ck!!!” as you go by people. If only I could translate downhill fearlessness into uphill expediency and efficiency. That said, it took me close to 2 miles to ride out my neck pain on the first loop, and about 1 mile on the second loop. I didn’t deduce that the pain was being generated from the wind pressure on the crown of my head from the downhill until the pain surfaced on lap 2. The neck is still pretty sore today, so that’s something on which I need to work.

I’m not really sure how I am feeling about my cycling at this point. I guess it is as I have always been – fast-ish on the flats, and fast enough uphill, but when asked to combine the two, I guess I get into trouble. The riding in and around Seattle doesn’t benefit my style all that well. That’s what I get for building my base while living in the flatlands of Houston. The race in Hawaii will be, at the very least, interesting. I am going to have to spend a good deal of time reconsidering what I believe my overall talent potential is on the bike, and whether it’s possible to dream of being called one of the “fast guys.”

The second run was slower. My feet were still frozen from the mix of rain, ground water, and cold wind on the bike. It took me about 2.25 miles to get feeling in my feet back. Sadly the second run was only 3.85 miles. The first 2 miles were 8:10 and 8:24, but the second 2 were at 8:00 and 7:45 pace. Always nice to neg split, and to get faster into the run. Better still, I didn’t walk once. Not once. That has never happened in any race mixed sport race over sprint distance. I felt strong through the second run. I had slight GI distress, but managed through it. Race time says 7:59 pace. 118th / 225.

The biggest surprise of the day was that I ran better than I rode. That has never happened. Ever. That little fact isn’t helping what I would call my shaky confidence going into the Honu Half in June. For whatever reason, I simply haven’t pulled it together on the bike. I thought I was flying for most of the bike. Turns out that the climbs crushed my average speed down. My flat sections were speedy, but those uphill sections just dropped my overall time. Groan. 1:30 for the 29 miles. 71st/225. Top 5 was 15 minutes faster. Yikes. 7 minutes to place me in the top 25.

The best surprise of the day was my mother in law being at the finish line. Completely unexpected, but she came over from her boyfriend’s house. She will need to remember mist racers have a need for personal space at the finish line, and holding a camera phone in their face saying “smile!” may not be the best plan. Her heart was in the right place, though, and it was nice to have a family face at the finish line.

I managed to place 6th in my AG, and 96th overall. The 40-44 AG, where I will be next year, was stacked. I would have placed 19th of 28th. I’m pretty happy with the result. My goal was to finish in the top half of my AG and overall. Both accomplished. I also wanted to finish strong. Accomplished. I wanted to have a strong bike. I’m don’t know enough to know if I had a strong bike. I wanted to have a strong run. Accomplished. It was a good day.

This is a busy handful of weeks for racing. I have a local sprint mountain bike race this weekend, with one of my NW Epic races two weeks from now. And of course the Half Ironman on June 2nd. I will need to spend some serious time on my nutrition plan. I thought I had it dialed, but most plans don’t survive the first bullet, and yesterday the guns were on full auto.