April 20, 2013

Race Report: Hagerstown Sprint Duathlon #1

After my intro to the multisport world with the 2Xrip Olympic Duathlon last summer, I made it a point to challenge myself with more in 2013. Finding the Racine Multisports series up in Maryland really filled out my schedule, as they offer several duathlons throughout the year with this Saturday's Hagerstown race being the first.

The Course

Located in Halfway Park, Maryland, the run courses were on a paved forest path and a park road, and the bike course was on open public roads. Run course #1 was a 1.9-mile run along a paved double-track path winding through some forests to mile 1, and mostly paved park road after that to transition. Run course #2 was an out-and-back 3.1-mile loop that started on the same path, spent a bit more time on the park road, and returned on the same path. Neither course was anything I would consider difficult, but there were some slight elevation changes along the way.

The bike course sandwiched between the run legs was a 10-mile loop on public roads. The elevation map showed rolling hills but no major climb. The front half was net downhill and the back half was net uphill. Most of the roads featured wide shoulders to ride on, and most turns were fairly sharp to the right.

Race Day

With an hour and a half drive up to Halfway, Maryland, my race morning started out very early. I loaded up the bike and transition bag, threw a PB sandwich in the car, and started up to Maryland around 6:00a...timed very nicely with the Starbucks around the corner opening. The drive up wasn't too bad, but I kept watching the temperature display in the car hover around 50 degrees and I knew it was going to be a chilly race.

Transition Set-up
I arrived on site well in advance, picked up my registration packet, and racked my bike pretty close to the bike in/bike out side of the transition area. Even with calf sleeves and arm sleeves, with a warm-up jacket for the wait, it was a very cold morning courtesy of the 50-degree weather and 15+ mph winds. As I tried to take a few pictures for the blog, my fingers were definitely shaking, and in a couple gusts I thought I felt the teeth chatter. I had a pretty easy plan for transition, without wearing bike gloves for today's quick leg I just needed to change out shoes and maybe add a hat. My transition area set-up was an easy as racking my bike and laying out my cycling shoes, with a running hat to the side to keep sweat out of my eyes for run #2; I figured it was cold enough there would be no sweating in the short run #1.

It's always fun (or awkward) to be standing in the transition area prior to race with a road bike. I was surrounded by $5,000 Quintana Roo and Cervélo triathlon bikes with $2,000 wheel sets that cost more than my entire set-up. Setting up next to a multiple-time Ironman with all the bells and whistles, I probably looked like the last kid with training wheels when all his friends had ten-speeds. I always wonder what these guys are thinking when we chat for a while before the race; they're probably just upset I'm taking a good rack space and have no chance. Honestly, even when looking at road bikes mine isn't much to get excited about; it's not carbon fiber, it's not lightweight, it has very heavy wheels, just a good entry platform that needs some upgrades. But I like to think I make up for it with overall fitness and surprise some guys on course. One gentleman was especially narcissistic in talking about what he's done, his best times, and complaining how there was no special rack for the "fast people" and so forth; he even went as far as trying to move some bikes because he felt he deserved to be on the best rack. Come on dude, it's a small local race.

Knowing the open roads and high winds would pummel my non-aerodynamic road bike, I decided to go out in 5K pace for the first leg, so I quickly advanced to the head of the field and picked off runners ahead of me. The plan worked as I held a 6:03 pace and came into transition #1 in 10th overall. Learning from last year's failed attempt at mounting my bike quickly with the shoes already attached, I took it easy in transition this morning. I quickly strapped on my helmet and stepped out on my running shoes, and then took the little extra time to get in my bike shoes and clip-clop my way to the mount line.

I got up to speed fairly quickly on the bike and whipped out onto a parkway for the first few miles of the course. It was a major four-lane road with a very wide shoulder, and winds were whipping down it straight into the competitor's faces. Along this stretch, as expected, I was passed by quite a few guys with triathlon-specific bikes, their lighter frame, flat spokes, teardrop tubes, and aero helmets giving them a free 1.0-1.5mph that I didn't have. Not to mention their ability to get into a tight aero position helped cut the wind. I expected this, and I was actually okay with it, but I was pretty upset when I saw two guys from a Maryland triathlon club working in tandem roll right past me. The rules specifically said you can't draft and had to leave 3-4 bike lengths between riders, but these two guys were riding wheel-to-wheel and taking turns pulling, saving the guy behind 30-40% effort. It's expressly forbidden in duathlon rules, and these guys were just flaunting it. I saw some drafting in other packs, but no one was coordinated like these guys. Being an inherent "rule follower" and not to mention already having a technological disadvantage, I was pretty upset to see such obvious disregard for fair play. After the parkway riding, most of the remaining miles were on rural roads, with some rolling hills. There were a lot of right-hand turns and without closing the streets, the coordinators set up cones to turn inside, but the turns were very tight. Approaching a 90-degree turn at 20mph and only having a few feet to swing around meant dumping a lot of speed at every change in street. Entering the park again, the final mile featured some speed bumps, which are entertaining at 24mph on two wheels. I was passed by about ten people on the bike leg, about what I expected, and entered transition eager to make it up on the run.

Transition Run Exit
Transition #2 was just popping off the cycling shoes and slipping back into the running shoes, with the elastic laces for no delay in getting moving. I exited transition, quickly picked off two runners, and started putting ground between us. I didn't see too many people through the first half of the run, but once I started seeing folks on the back route I knew my placing. It was about that time I was getting my "running legs" back after the hard transition between 90rpm cycling and my running cadence. At the halfway water station, no one let the runners know that it was Hammer sports drink and since the color wasn't anything dark, I assumed it was water. So it was quite a surprise when I dumped a cup of sugar water over my head and quickly noticed my neck getting sticky. The back half the run took competitors up some slight elevation gain and I used this to pick off another runner and move up to 17th overall, where I finished.

Some of the serious triathletes I talked to prior to the race finished just ahead of me and saw me come through, so I got some kudos for my place considering they thought my bike would sink me. And if nothing else, the narcissist finished 5+ minutes later, didn't even place in his age group, and told me I whooped him on the second run...yeah, not to mention the first run, T1, the entire bike, and T2 for good measure.

(from Racine website; www.hypnoticimagery.com)

The Results

Run 1 (1.9 mi) :   11:30  |  6:03/mile   (R1 rank #10)
T1 (run to bike) :  0:38  
Bike (10.0 mi) :   30:21  |  19.8 mph  (bike rank #25)
T2 (bike to run) :  0:32
Run 2 (3.1 mi) :   20:59  |  6:46/mile   (R2 rank #13)

Final:   1:03:57  |  Overall #17 (AG #7) . . . don't I get anything for being the first road bike? 

It was a fun day of hard racing, and my strength was obviously on the run portions. I placed 10th and 13th overall when isolating the running legs. Though I hate to use it as a crutch, I feel like my bike did hurt me a bit. Though my 19.8mph is a really good average for a road bike, and beat a lot of aero bikes there, a few of the guys I spoke with said they get another 1.0-1.5mph with their tri bikes versus their road bikes. That little mph gain would've theoretically pushed my 25th overall bike ranking into 13-15th and overall race closer to 12th...but again, I wasn't surprised I got rolled on the bike, and I certainly wasn't going to win anything either way (and the top four overall finishers were in my age group).

The Swag

Standard swag applied, short sleeve technical race shirt, gel samples, and a finisher's medal; though I was surprised to get a medal for the sprint distance, it's a good quality premium. Although, if I may pick a nit, this year's finisher item has a swimmer icon and makes me look like I finished a triathlon...so I like 2012's better, I'm not a triathlete, I need the two little runner guys, haha.

2012 Finisher Medal 2013 Finisher Medal

The Verdict

Even with the long drive, I really had a blast at this local duathlon. It's always fun to get out of the running world and add some biking to the mix. All things considered, I was pleased with my finish and especially happy that I finished strong on the second run, something I improved on from my 2012 duathlon. With two more Racine duathlons this year, including another one on the Hagerstown course, I'll definitely continue heading up to Maryland and participating in these events.

The Gear

As I mentioned in last year's duathlon gear post, it seems to be a requirement on triathlon blogs to write about your gear at the bottom of every post...so here goes a brief summary of my unexciting toys:
  • Running: Brooks Pure Cadence shoes; Yankz! elastic laces
  • Biking: 2011 Specialized Allez Comp (Apex Compact); Specialized BG Elite Road Shoe; Look Keo pedals; XLab carbon wing (rear seat set-up with water bottles and Kona bag with spare tire and tools)
  • Other: TYR Competitor tri shorts;  Garneau Race Day Revo bag

Top view of Yankz! elastic laces XLab wing w/ bottle cages, bottom Kona bag