NOLA... 5320?

A few months ago, when the WTC announced the new 5150 series, I nearly exploded when I saw that one of the races on their schedule was in Louisiana. A New Orleans girl myself, I couldn't wait for the chance to race in my hometown and actually have some fans of my own -- for once!! I immediately emailed my dad, convinced him to be my "race sherpa" on race morning (although that turned more into photographer... but that's another story), and bought a plane ticket and bike bag for the big trip.

On the morning of the race, I was up early, milling around and all set to go - but my dad was running a little late. I had forgotten to mention the fact that transition typically closes in advance of race start, so I think he was probably banking on that little bit of cushion time from my wanting to be there so OCD-early. : )

We ended up hauling to the race—I swear, I think we were going 88 in a 25 at once point... not good!—and making it with just 20 minutes to spare. I booked it to transition to set up my spot, which in two back-to-back racing weekends, I now have managed to get down to a science. Shoes on the bike, helmet on the aerobars, goodies laid out -- ready to go.

The race itself, however, was not ready to go. First the race director pushed the start time back a half hour to try to give the kayakers and JetSki-ers more time to set up the buoys out in Lake Pontchartrain, promising everyone that they would inform us of the "altered swim course as soon as they had made more progress."  Everyone was camped out on the levee, trying to anticipate the outcome of that endeavor. I chose to instead mull around transition, and avoid all that hubbub and general negativity.

As it got closer to 7am, the race director finally got back on the microphone and announced that everyone —pros included—would be doing a duathlon: run 2mi, bike 40k, run 10k. So... the New Orleans 5150 was now the... New Orleans 5320?

After warming up, we walked over to the starting line where we watched runners get sent off in waves - pros, elites, men, and then finally  the AG women. When the gun went off, I jumped out in my typical front-runner fashion before settling in a comfortable 4th place and around a 7:30 pace. I got tired of watching the gap grow ahead of me so I kicked it up a notch, passed the girl who had been in third and started slowly picking off the guys who had been given a 2-minute lead ahead of us. I wasn't seriously struggling but already at the 1.5 mile mark or so I could already tell that it was going to be a rough when I came back out on the run course a second time. I've been off my feet for the last few months thanks to a pesky psoas issue so yesterday was more of a test of my ability to toughen up and do work than of any fitness indicators—but it was a test that I was ready to tackle.

Run 1: 14:10, 7:05 min/mi

I zoomed into transition kicked off my Zoots, plopped my Lazer helmet on my head and grabbed Steve. I don't know if I executed a flawless transition or if I can just change faster than a 13-year-old's Facebook status, but I think I passed 2-3 girls in T1 because I headed out of there with no girls in sight, passed one girl very early on in the bike, and then was just cruising with the guys for the rest of the race. Literally: I saw that one girl out on the course. I set my sights on one guy from Team Hard Inc (hard to miss with the giant cross bones) and treated him like my race rabbit for the next 30k or so. Other than a pack of dudes that I played cat and mouse with on the ride (I would pass on the ups, they would pass on the downs and occasional flat) we were putting most of the guy field to shame. The course out had a serious headwind, which stank, but coming back we a had a delicious tail wind which helped me zoom through the last 15k or so. It also helped me realize that I hadn't been keyed into my bike form up until that point so I few corrections really helped me dial into my right race pace and amp up the MPHs a little more. Had I actually been more focused the first half, I might have knocked my race average up into the twenty-twos for the bike. Definitely something to keep in mind for the future.

Bike: 1:09 - 20.9mph ave

The only issue with opting for socks today was the stockpile of burrs and twigs that I managed to accumulate rolling my bike throughout T2. I racked my bike, slipped on my Zoots over the fuzzy socks, and headed out. Instead of stopping to take off my burr-covered socks like I probably should have, I just trucked on. For the first mile, I didn't look at my time because I felt like I was slogging along at a 10min/pace and instead just focused on making it to that next mile. At the first mile marker (and aid station), I looked down at my watch and was pleasantly surprised: I was doing 7:30s and there were no girls around me to be seen. I kept trucking along, cruising through mile two and then mile three feeling strong, with my only thoughts set on getting through one mile at a time. I felt so great that I even whooped a little "Who Dat!?" to one of the guys manning an aid station wearing a Saints jersey. [As an aside: the volunteers and police support at this race were PHENOMENAL. Volunteers and NOPD, thank you, thank you!]

This worked well until after I looped the turn around, somewhere near mile 5. A girl in a hot pink swim suit cruised past me, I tried to match pace but just couldn't find the next gear. Shortly after, I broke down and walked up one of the steeper overpasses, where another girl passed me. I tried to keep up and stayed on her shoulder for another half mile before she extended the gap to about 12 seconds at the next steep(ish) climb. I was hurting hard here, trying to reel in my out of control breathing and managed a sprint of sorts for the last half- to quarter-mile. I don't really remember crossing the line but I finished with a run split of 48:56  and overall time of 2:16 for the duathlon.

Run: 48:56, 7:54 pace - final 4th AG Female overall

Overall, I think I did a decent job given the circumstances and cannot wait to see what I can actually accomplish with a swim start (and not the rude 2-mile awakening I dealt with yesterday) and a little more training.

I'm getting better (perhaps with the introduction of a coach... more on that TBD) and stronger - and can't wait to actually race my first triathlon - first was Myrtle Beach last fall (cancelled swim, funky length), second was Peasantman (where the bike course was short and I got sent on an extra half-mile run loop). Here's to more training and more exciting races!!!