Tuesday, March 29, 2011
2011 marks my first season as a multisport athlete. You may have heard me joke over the past few months as I trained for my first event: When can I say I'm a Duathlete or Triathlete? Is it only when I attempt and finish my first race, or is multisport a state-of-mind?
I like to think the latter.
If you follow our blog you know I attempted a marathon during my first year at Cadence as a bet with the Tri coaches. I needed some motivation over the fall and this fit the bill. I have continued this tradition every November, feeling more confident each fall when I strap on my running shoes again and give the bike a break. Each year, I find myself wanting the racing season to be over sooner so I can start running. Clearly, my state-of-mind was changing, even before I could admit it to myself. I have been a bike racer for so long it seemed foreign to want to attempt anything else. But the more I ran, the more I was reminded of why I loved this sport in high school.
So there's the back story; let's get to the race. Making this transition I knew I would have to choose my first few races very carefully. I knew longer races would suit my cycling legs better and a duathlon was an obvious choice while I worked on my swim. This is where a coach comes in handy. Sitting down with Holden and Jack, we discussed my strengths and weaknesses and came up with a good annual training plan and some key races, the first being a long duathlon in Alabama. It happened to be the National Championships, but that was really just an after thought. This was going to be a trial race to see how my legs dealt with the stress of run, bike, run; a combination I have never attempted. So the race was picked, the training was written and now I had to execute.
The first step is telling people about the event. (This is really only so I have to do it.) Verbalizing your goals makes them more real for some reason. I'd rather attempt and fail then tell someone I didn't try after I already told them I would.
Next was coming up with a race strategy. The race was a 10k run, followed by a 60k bike and another 10k run at the end. Holden and Jack helped me with the run and transitioning while Brian and Colin helped me with my bike. Even for coaches, we realize the importance of the coaching team. None of us can do this alone. We decided my bike would be the strongest leg and that I'd need to sacrifice some time on the first run to make sure I was fresh enough to ride fast. I'd even wear a foot pod to monitor my pacing on that first run. It's tough to LET people run away from you when you are competitive. But I knew I'd see them again soon.
The lead runners started fast. There were about 100 men ages 39 and under together at the line and many left me right away. I stuck to my plan and ran within myself, not digging too deep at any point. Even still I ended up running about 90 seconds faster than planned but I was feeling fresh and ready to get on the bike; but not before my first ever transition. I didn't think I did that bad of a job but at 1:17 seconds I was a solid 40-45 seconds slower than any of the other top competitors. This is not as easy as it looks from the sidelines. It takes some skill to move quickly through a transition.
On the bike I felt right at home. Working with Jack and Colin, we maximized my position on my Cervelo P2 to get me as aero as possible without sacrificing my strong cycling muscles. This means I had to be further back behind the bottom bracket than most other riders but I knew I needed to rely on my strengths. So maybe I wasn't the most aero rider but this was an acceptable sacrifice. Three laps of an out and back course gave me lots of opportunities to pass lots of riders. With so many racers on the course though, and the Pros and 40+ groups starting 10 and 5 minutes ahead, respectively, it was hard to know my real competition. I was amazed at how quickly 60k was over. Breaking it down into 10k sections and trying to match my power for each of these legs kept me focused. The only problem was at the end I knew I had another transition to deal with.
Transition 2 wasn't as bad a the first. I was under a minute this time, but not by much. I was pretty shocked when I arrived and only one bike was hanging there. (Actually there were more bikes but each race had its own section for transition so I knew any bikes around me would be from other 39&Under competitors. Could I really be in second? I headed out on the run course, trying to pace myself, talking to myself in my head over and over like a mantra. "Second would be incredible for your first race, just don't get run down by the guys behind." Not a very proud moment for sure. I joked with my brother, Aaron, who also competed, that I was afraid to have someone close to me at the end of the race because I wasn't sure if I'd be tough enough to do what was necessary to beat them. Racing within yourself is one thing but competing head to head at the end is something else. That has nothing to do with fitness or training and more to do with who is willing to risk more and I was beginning to let the fear in, not thinking I had the guts to take any risks near the end. These are the thoughts running through my head at this moment. Not, "go catch first place," but rather, "run for your life, you are literally getting chased. Don't get caught."
Thankfully, I didn't have to worry about it. Our plan had worked. I gave up some time on the first run, made it up on the bike and was still strong enough to run a faster second 10k than the first. I caught first place at mile three and kept on going. After he was out of sight I was able to coast in for the last 2 miles for my first ever duathlon victory. I had won my age group and had the best time of any racer 39 and under. Only 3 40+ racers and 3 pros went faster. I had a great day where everything went perfect (except for maybe my slow-as-molasses transitions).
It wasn't until standing on the podium, receiving my award that I began to add up all the people I needed to thank for helping me. It truly takes a team to achieve success, no matter what you are attempting. There is a lot of sacrificing that needs to take place to do what we do and it wouldn't be possible without the support of family, friends, co-workers and coaches. Even the whole community at Cadence was integral to my success. Getting advise and friendly words from so many people before and after the race makes me truly realize how special this little shop in Manayunk really is. So thanks to all of you.
Next up... swimming. I am not looking forward to this. Look for another post close to the Philly Tri. Only then can I truly say I'm a Triathlete!
Here is my race bike the night before. I chose the P2 over the P3 for the added headtube height. I'm not very flexible and it let me ride a bit more upright than the P3 would allow.
The Zipp 808 Carbon Clinchers were a huge benefit, saving me between 3-4 minutes on the 60k course. The Vittoria open tubular tires road superb and the natural skinwalls have a retro look to them on a very non-retro looking bike.
I fought it nearly until the end, but the ISM Adamo saddle was a huge key. I couldn't have stayed in my position for that long without it.
I also used a Quarq, crank based power meter, with a Joule 2.0 to track my average wattage and make sure I was staying consistent lap after lap. Add to that my Look Keo Blade pedals and I had no excuse not to succeed.