Tri-ing the duathlon

I branched out this year and made an appearance at several duathlons. I really didn’t want to do it, but in speaking to my coach it was the right thing to do for my training. There’s a local venue next door, so I should take advantage of that and get my body tuned up for race season. After doing one, I ‘accidentally’ signed up for 2 more, also increasing my distances.

I did my first ever multisport event on Halloween 2011 back in Boston.  My friend Jay Glickman encouraged me to try a duathlon. I had started to think about doing a triathlon, my common phrase was ‘yeah, I’d like to do a triathlon’…although I never executed on it.  The thought of 3 sports was daunting, especially the swim.  I knew how to swim, but I didn’t know how to swim in a pool, or even competitively.

I’m not sure what possessed me to join Jay for this duathlon, but I finished. It hurt. I remember finishing the bike and then starting the run and the first mile was excruciating.  I stuck with it and finished. I’m sure there’s a photo somewhere of my feeble attempt. 

I can’t say I’ve ever warmed up to the idea of a duathlon but agreed that this year I would try new things.  I made sure there would not be rain and signed up for my first duathlon in 7 ½ years on the day. I chose the sprint distance because that seemed reasonable.  That basically meant I’d run for 5k, cycle for 20k then indulge in another 5k run. Sometimes with these events you just have fun and wing it.  I was really pleased on the day that there was no rain, but there was wind…a lot of it. I’m pretty sure I am allergic to wind, but I figured if I had a headwind it would mean I would have a tailwind too…woo hoo!

The goal for this ‘race’ was pacing.  I was under strict orders from my coach to pace smart and to not ‘over bake my cookie’…mmm cookies. I have worked hard on pacing within certain zones over the winter, so this was the first test of the season. My first and second run were about 2 seconds apart, which meant I was spot on with pacing!  I didn’t want to race fast; I was looking to race smart…which meant my coach was happy.  The bike was grim, a massive headwind and really my legs had not done enough winter racing to find the right pace.  I paced way too conservatively, but still made a decent time on the bike.  I ended up placing 4th fastest female on the bike despite the slow pacing.  Due to someone caught cheating, I ended up placing 8th female overall and 4th in my age group, not bad for my first race of the year.

It was great to race with my clubmates that day, they were an inspiration and it gave me people to chase around the course:

After completing the first duathlon of the year, I entered the standard distance, because I’m a glutton for punishment. This day’s race included a 10k run, 40k bike and 5k run to finish it all off. While we lucked out on the day, there was a lot less wind, it was cold.  Starting your race with a run is great, it warms you up, but also gives you a false sense of clothing requirements for the bike.  In order to save time in transition, I wore what I needed for the bike during the run.  Again, the goal of this race was to pace smart and keep my cookie baking in check.

I didn’t start the day well and almost didn’t race.  I woke up with some stomach issues and had not slept well, not just that night, but for several weeks.  I felt absolutely horrible.  I made it to the start line by sheer automation, I couldn’t really think about how I felt, I just had to hold on.  Before the race started, a nice gentleman was chatting, and he was obviously nervous…but guess who found me halfway through the run? I was deep in my own head and this guy started pacing with me and wanted to chat…a lot.  I struggle to run and talk…so I just stopped talking and he just kept going.  About 65% of the way through the run my stomach turned and this guy was sitting on my shoulder.  In lieu of releasing the kraken on him, I maintained composure.  He took off trying to out pace and I just let him go.

The bike was another focus session on pace.  I increased the effort a bit more in this race, but I felt so sick it was tough.  I was dizzy, stomach pains, and well…I was cold.  The downside to racing at Dorney is that you are required to complete 8 laps for a 40k ride. It’s mind numbing.  On lap 5 my hands were so cold I ended up dropping my nutrition.  I just had to give up…just ride and see what happens. I promised myself to at least finish the ride. 

Rolling into T2 I decided to finish the race, it was only 5k.  The good news is that I had passed Mr. Chatty Cathy on the bike and he was well behind on the run.  He has pushed too much on the first run and was too tired to talk now, I’m thankful for small favours in life. 

I made it to the end and just wanted to die a little.  I hurried home and spent the rest of the day on the sofa.  Despite feeling completely unwell, I managed to squeak out 5th female overall and coming out as 2nd fastest female on the bike.  Wow, imagine if I had been feeling well?  The big win, consistent pacing.

Because a standard distance duathlon wasn’t enough, I signed up for the Portsmouth Duathlon on Easter Sunday. I was not aware it was Easter Sunday, I just signed up for the cake (more on that in a minute).  Again, my coach wanted consistent pacing, not actually racing.  I agreed to that with one caveat, I could push the bike as hard as I wanted to.  Coach was happy and I was happy.  He put in my pacing plan and I thought ‘on a good day I can maintain a faster pace’.  I think it’s crucial to listen to your coach, but I wanted to not over do it, but push my body a little bit more.

Race day was sunny and not too breezy on England’s south coast, ideal for those that like heat.  The first run was well paced, nothing magical (as promised) and I found a couple ladies to pace with.  My husband found me along the run course and updated me with my position… ‘um, I’m not allowed to race dear’…he knew I could push a bit more…but I promised to keep a certain pace. Again, happy to be done with that initial 10k I was excited for the bike, I could put the pedal to the metal!!!

Except not.  The bike course runs along the seafront, but there is traffic, pedestrians, zebra crossings, and just about every other obstruction you can find. I paced when I could get an open line of road but had to be careful of the traffic around me and the other participants.  I did push the pace but started to settle a little too much into my pacing on the bike. That is my downfall, I find a pace and hang out there, the downside of endurance training, but exactly the reason for me to do shorter distances.  The bike was scenic, and I enjoyed it, but I did under-pace, again.

Wheeled it into T2 and got ready for the last run.  I kept the pace steady but ran it in negative splits. I finished off the day 10th in my age group and 17th female overall (coming in 6th fastest on the bike).  At the end of the race I went to my favourite café and had cake.  Like I said, I only did it for the cake:

Lessons learned: Duathlon is a runner’s game and I need to push myself more on the bike.  My run pacing was consistent, but I cannot hold back on the bike. Here’s to a faster 2019 season (and cake)!

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