nation's duathlon race report

After a dismal performance at the earlier D.C. triathlon, I came into this year's race with one thought in mind: REDEMPTION. Mostly on myself for having failed mentally. true, it wasn't 100% mental - but a large part of it was. and dealing with post-race remorse for conditions out of your control (e.g. a flat tire) is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating things about this sport.

so i came into this race rested and ready to kick butt. i saw it as some sort of hometown advantage and while i was bummed about the swim cancellation, i knew that my swim wasn't up to par so i might as well take it as a small blessing and run with it. my boss, a co-worker and our company's CEO were all racing so i was looking forward to having people to keep an eye out for during the bike/run. what i didn't expect, however, was that the narrow road and that my dead-last wave would cause some problems down the road (more on that later).

the morning of the race, i woke up at 4:45, ate my regular bagel with peanut butter and banana and then tried to down a cup of coffee. i drove my car to GW's campus, parked and then walked the 3/4 of a mile down to the massive transition set up in the grassy area between the potomac and the national mall. the week's worth of rain (the same that caused the swim cancellation) made for a very squishy transition, which only exacerbated the chaos as the hundred-plus herds of competitors tried to  squeeze into the muddy transition. even though i arrived plenty of time in advance, the delays actually getting into transition had me setting up my spot in record time. i got in, clipped my shoes into my bike, and slipped in the water bottle. since there was no swim and since i chose to wear my running shoes and helmet during the running start from the entrance to T1 to my bike (about 200m), i actually only had one item left in transition - my visor, which i would grab after depositing my bike and helmet. man, duathlons make for very tidy athletes!

since the 20-24 group was the very last heat, i had to sit around for about an hour while waiting for other groups to get sent off in their waves—i think it was something like every 20 seconds. while there was certainly quality people watching, the time definitely dragged on. quite some time later, our corral started moving and we were split into waves of 12 or so. i jumped in the third-or-so heat, so i could keep an eye on people as i passed them (or that was the plan!)

we ran to our bikes, grabbed them and then ZOOM, i was out of there. while the T1 was *quite* a bit simplified compared to normal races, this was by far the most solidly executed transition I have ever done.... even if I did have to schlep through 4-inches of mud to get to my bike and then to get it out of transition. while I haven't yet perfected the flying mount, I hopped on in a flash, started pedaling and then once i had enough momentum going, i clipped into my (very very muddy shoes).

we then headed out for the out-and-back course, mostly on clara barton parkway. aside from the brief preview i had the day before, i didn't know what to expect. um, i think it was mostly flat? and it's a parkway, so it has to be super-wide, right? well i was right (mostly) on the first, and dead-wrong on the second. well, the clara barton parkway itself was wide, but there was about 15-minutes worth of tight road that really could only accommodate about three riders abreast. additionally, there was a lot of passing, since we were hitting a lot of the team-in-training athletes who had started in waves prior. now, i think the team-in-training program is great. i love that people are out there sweating for a good cause. what i did not like is that this expectation was not well set by that race organizers for non team-in-training members registering for the race. dad I known that this race was going to be such a cluster, i might not have chosen it for my race schedule. would this have been less of an issue if the swim was held? probably. should i have done my homework better? well, maybe that would have helped. will i be doing this race again? unfortunately, no.

as a result of my position, i spent the next hour-or-so yelling "on your left" continuously as i rode past the group. about halfway through the ride, i managed to find a group of guys that were setting a pretty good pace and decided to keep them in my sights and ended up playing a little bit of cat and mouse - it was extremely fun, although i bet having a blonde 24-year-old try to challenge you would get old for some of the late-twenties, early-thirties guys i was chasing.

on my way into transition, i executed a really sweet dismount (aka feet out of shoes, one foot on the pedal, swinging a leg around to stand up while still going 15mph into T2). and then hauled through the mud. it felt very cyclocross, as I threw my bike over one shoulder and trucked through the mud to my rack right near the T2 exit.

i ran alone for the first half-mile—as always, doing all in my power to not look at the watch and freak out about pace. shortly after, however, i started running alongside after a heavily tatted 22-year-old marine, who broke the ice by saying "nice bike" since apparently he was with the group i had been chasing earlier.

after a wheezy "you too", i tried to keep up the banter by saying, "let's go get some people." and then it was on. i've never really ran side-by-side with someone during a race as long as i did with this guy. in fact, most of my race photos show the two of us trucking along.

and TRUCK ALONG, we did. since we finished the bike about the same time, I gave him my Garmin split updates while he acted as my unofficial drill-sergeant. whenever i hit a wall of some sort, he would grunt something along the "let's go" and I didn't let myself fade back from his side until the last .75 miles or so, when he really turned on the gas, egged me on with a few "i'm not letting you lose me now... COME ON!" But then he finally left me in his dust to finish strong.

Although i didn't turn on the gas quite like the marine, i did manage to put up a respectable fight and kick into the finish. and while you *really* shouldn't judge a runner by their finisher photos, you might want to judge me for mine: first off, my number is on upside-down. don't ask. and secondly, a double fist pump, really? that's aggressive.

while i pretty much knew I had won my age group since I kicked butt on the bike and then again on the run, i didn't know i did so well overall. i ended up with the following stats:

  • Swim - 0
  • Bike - 1:05:10 (22.8 mph)
  • Run - 45:10 (7:18 min/mi)
  • Overall - 1:52:55
  • 1st in AG, 2nd in the "tri club challenge" and 9th female overall (not counting elites)

i'm very happy with my performance (despite it being my last race of the season), pleased to know that i really can RACE the bike and already looking forward to 2012.