July 15, 2012

Race Report: 2Xrip Olympic Duathlon

This morning I competed in my first multisport event, the second annual 2Xrip Olympic Duathlon up in Howard County, Maryland. The format was a 2-mile run, 26-mile bike course, and 4-mile run. It was a great introduction to the multisport world, and I had a great time.

The Course

The first run was one lap on a 2-mile loop that started with a nice downhill but had a couple inclines along the course. The second run was two laps of the same 2-mile loop, but in the opposite direction...so that big downhill became an uphill challenge on both loops.

The bike course was two laps of a 13-mile loop on country roads, and it was described as "moderate to aggressive" hills. In doing some recon on Saturday, I drove the biking course and actually got a bit nervous, there were definitely aggressive climbs along the route.

Race Day

Transition Set-up
After a sweltering July so far, Sunday turned into a great day for a race. There was a slight mist in the morning, and I was on the road by 4:45 in the morning. Arriving on site, I set-up my transition area on my assigned rack. I was the closest rack to the run entrance, which also meant I was the furthest rack from the bicycle exit; sadly this meant I had the longest distance to run with my bike both before and after the bike leg. It was also around this time where I wondered what I got myself into...I definitely had bike envy. My road bike is a great platform, but it was definitely dwarfed by the price tags on some of the machines in the transition area. Lots of triathlon and time trial bikes, lots of aero wheels and bars, and lots of aero helmets.

My transition set-up was easy: my cycling shoes were already strapped on the bike and I laid out my helmet, gloves, and sunglasses on the handlebars. I had two bottles already on the bike, a 20 oz. with water and a 24 oz. mixed with a Nuun electrolyte tab. I also had a few half-servings of Shot Bloks in the bento box for fuel. I wore a cycling jersey on top and TYR triathlon shorts on the bottom, with my race number attached to a Fuel Belt event belt. For the run portions, I wore my Brooks Pure Cadence with Yankz! elastic laces for quicker transitions.

On the first run leg of two miles, I tried to concentrate on not going out too fast. A wave of competitors poured down the first hill, and I was right in the thick of it. As I crept closer to the front of the pack, it was tempting to go out at a 5k pace, but I decided in advance to stay around 7:00, and I was a little nervous about the bike route. So I focused on a sustained effort on the uphills and downhills, trying to hit my splits. Towards the end of the two-mile loop, I took the last 25 meters a bit lighter, catching my breath before the first transition. I crossed into the transition area in 13:38 (6:49 pace).

Bottom-center in Army jersey
My first transition went smooth...to start. The running shoes and hat were off quickly, followed by strapping on my bike helmet and sunglasses. It took a few extra seconds to put on biking gloves, but it was worth it to me. I unracked my bike and started running across the grass to the bike exit. Here's where my transition turned into a comedy of errors. The bouncing somehow disconnected the ties holding my bike shoes upright, so they started dragging and catching on the grass. I turned the corner, got over the mount line, and slipped by right foot easily in my cycling shoe. But somewhere in the dragging my left shoe disengaged from the Look Keo pedal. So I put a full turn in with my right shoe and when I looked down for the left, it was 15 yards back downhill at the mount line. Curse words ensued. So I spun around and coasted back to grab it. As I was getting it on, my right shoe disengaged and I fell forward straddling the top tube. After a few more less-than-graceful motions, I was fully clipped in and off...a disaster indeed, and not the way to start.

Shut up, legs!
The bike course was just as hilly as advertised, but I focused on keeping a sustained cadence through the ups and downs. The first section wasn't too bad, mainly downhill with some bumps thrown in. I got up into a big gear and just started cranking out the cadence, and it was a fun new experience to corner at 20-30 mph. On one of the first big hills I found myself in a gear that wasn't suited to climbing and tried to downshift, but at this point my momentum has slowed to a point where I was in trouble, so I had to get out of the saddle and punish myself for fifty yards to the top of the climb. After that point, I committed to shifting whenever my cadence fell towards 75, whether I felt like I needed to or not. I found myself leap-frogging a few of the same riders on course, overtaking them on the climbs and watching their time trial bikes and aero helmets pass me on the descents. I paced my drinking and eating to make sure I was doing something every 20 minutes or so. At about 10 miles in, I was thankful I'd taped the turn information on my top tube; it was comforting to know my mileage without having to mess with the cycling computer display. As I started the second loop of the cycling course, I turned up the speed as the humidity and temperature upped as well. Sweat was pouring off my face, but it was a great experience and really tested my cycling ability. As I neared the end of the 26-mile cycling leg, I started planning for transition #2, taking off my gloves and tucking them in my bento box. I also tucked my sunglasses into my jersey top (bad idea as I soon found out). I completed the 26-mile course in 1:23:33 - even with my mount and dismount issues, averaging 18.7 mph over the hills, just above my goal speed.

Tracking mileage on top tube
Unfortunately, getting off the bike was just as big of a comedy as getting on. I pulled my right foot out, placing it on top of the shoe, and started on the other when I somehow let up pressure and my right shoe spun down and hit the ground. My shoe immediately disengaged and I again found myself with a shoe 25 yards away, uphill. I coasted back up and a volunteer handed it to me, so I rode the final 40 yards of the bike course with a socked foot on my pedal, shoe in hand. After the dismount line I tried to get my left foot out of the shoe but the closure wasn't cooperating, so that took a bit more time. Then as I ran towards transition, my sunglasses bounced out and hit the deck. So here I am holding a bike in my right hand, my cycling shoes in my left, and trying to pick up my sunglasses...I eventually put them in my teeth and sprinted for my rack...again unfortunately placed furthest away. Once I got in the transition area, T2 was smooth. I racked my bike, slid on my running shoes, grabbed my hat, and ran out of the transition area. In and out in 52 seconds.

The second run leg of four miles was definitely tougher than the earlier run (as expected). It took my legs about a mile to get comfortable again, so I just tried to keep turning over my feet and trying to wake up the running muscles. Even though I felt my pace hurting on the hills, I started passing a lot of people in my age group as they were shuffling along. But ultimately, recent time off due to vacation and injury bit me on the final run hills. I had to walk a few paces at the top of one incline towards the end, and I hit the finish line in 32:07 (8:02 pace); well over my goal time and pretty slow for me, but a good first experience.

Finishing "Army Strong"

The Results

Run 1 (2 mi) :   13:38  |  6:49/mile
T1 (run to bike) :  0:54  
Bike (26 mi) :   1:23:33  |  18.7 mph
T2 (bike to run) :  0:52
Run 2 (4 mi) :   32:07  |  8:02/mile

Final:   2:11:03  |  Age Group 6th place

At the end of the day, I was really happy with how the race ended up. My finish time of 2:11:03 was under my 2:15:00 goal and good enough for 6th in my age group. I was close enough to the age group podium that I wondered "what if" I hadn't dropped a few minutes during my comedic mount/dismount and tough final run. So I'm already looking forward to 2013 with the knowledge that correcting a few errors may improve my finish.

The Verdict

I had a great time at my first multisport event, and I especially enjoyed cycling in a competitive environment for the first time. Sadly, I don't know of any other local duathlon events this year, but I'm definitely headed back to race 2Xrip in 2013.