This Saturday I participated in a winter Duathlon put on by the Triathlon Club of San Diego. The race venue was located at a community park in a region called Black Mountain. The race would consist of a 2.5-mile run, a 20km (12.4 mile) cycle, and close with a 2-mile run. Because I was competing in two races this weekend, I took it easy on Saturday to save my legs for the triathlon the following day.
I woke up at 5am, eating a banana and a bagel (~300 calories total) and drinking 1 liter of water. We headed out to the race site at 5:45am, arriving in the freezing cold community that was Black Mountain at 6:30am. I got my timing chip, set up transition, and went for a 2km warmup run.
As soon as the gun went off I moved into the lead pack. I didn’t bring my watch to the event in an effort to stop myself from going too hard, but it seemed like we went out at a 5:40/mile pace. I hung on to the back of the lead pack of five, keeping the first four runners within five or six seconds.
The first half of the run course is dead flat, and as you approach the turnaround point some rolling hills are introduced. I managed to fly down and up the hills a lot better than a couple of the runners in the lead pack, moving into third place. Once we made it back to the flats I found myself getting caught by the fourth and fifth place runners. The pace had slowed down slightly (~5:50/mile) and the five of us had put a nice gap on the chase group. The lead runner managed to put seven or eight seconds on us, and second through fifth were all within five seconds. I happily strolled into transition in fifth place.
Earlier this week I did an exercise where I practiced tying and untying my shoes quickly. I now realize that I should done that exercise with an elevated heart rate. I somehow managed to pull one side of the strings out of each shoe completely while creating a tight knot that was very difficult to undue. I lost about 40 seconds playing with my running shoes, and then finally grabbed my bike to start the cycle leg. I was passed by one athlete during transition.
As the name of the community (Black Mountain) suggests, the course was very hilly. The first two thirds of the course are almost entirely uphill, with the final third being a steep descent, producing a total ascent of approximately 600ft. I made the mistake of not looking at the elevation profile before the event. I spent the first three to four minutes waiting to hit a downhill so I could get in my cycling shoes without losing much time. Halfway into mile two I realized there probably wouldn’t be a downhill for quite a while, so I slipped into my shoes while climbing a 2.5% grade hill in the lowest gear on my big chainring.
For the first six or seven miles I just could not find my cycling legs. Even though my run was at a controlled pace, I realized that I may have ran it a little too quickly. Finally, around the halfway point, I felt comfortable pushing a power output close to my threshold. By this point I was passed by six athletes, pushing me into twelfth place. I quickly caught and re-passed two athletes as we approached the significant downhill on the course. I held that position (10th) through the rest of the bike leg.
I successfully performed my first flying dismount in a race (unclipping from your shoes and jumping off your bike while it is still moving, immediately running when your feet hit the ground). This saved me a lot of time in transition, and I was able to pass an athlete as I quickly threw on my running shoes to complete the final leg of the day.
Within the first minute I passed two athletes, putting me in seventh place. I was probably holding about a 6:00/mile pace for the first half. At the turnaround I noticed that the eighth place runner had sped up significantly. As he made the pass I considered hanging on and then speeding up the last mile. However, I told myself that this was just a warmup race, so I let him complete the pass. I held a 6:10/mile effort through the finish, coming in 8th place.
This was a fun little event, and I was happy with my performance given that I was not going all-out. I also learned that I need to slow down a bit more in the first run leg: a piece of experience that would prove to be significant in the triathlon the following day.