Monday, May 16, 2011

Corpus Christi Duathlon

Today I did my first race "on the road" in Corpus Christi, an Olympic distance Duathlon (5k, 40k, 5k). The only reason I signed up for it, really, was because I got a free entry, thanks to the organizer's (Red Licorice Events) Twitter feed. It cost me more for a hotel for last night and the gas to get down and back than the entry fee would have been, but it was a good experience to be away from home and stay in a hotel before a race.

Before the race, I hoped to finish in the 2:00 to 2:15 range, and was quite pleased with a 2:01:46. I was even more pleased that for the first time ever, I finished "on the podium," with third place in my age group. It was an almost completely flat course, but the wind made it pretty tough, especially the cross-winds on the bike.

Yesterday I took a class in the basics for a first responder for a motorcycle accident. It was a lot of good information I hope to never have to use, and several friends from the HOG chapter took it was well. It was scheduled to go until 4:30, but it finished up more like 3:30. I had all my gear for the race with me, so I left straight from there and drove about 3 and a half hours, with traffic, to Corpus Christi. I got to the hotel just before 7, but by the time I found packet pickup, they had already closed down for the day and wouldn't give me my stuff, but assured me it wouldn't be a problem in the morning. I also found out at that time that the swim portion of what was supposed to be a Tri/Du had been canceled due to high jellyfish activity and everybody would be doing a duathlon. I had already planned on only doing the duathlon, so my only bit of disappointment was that there would be more competition for the du. They had held a swim in the gulf that afternoon, and every person wound up getting stung, so the canceled the swim portion of the tri. I checked into my room, then went to get some dinner. What I had was good, but probably not the best thing for me pre-race: Penne with shrimp, crawfish, chicken and andouille in a spicy cream sauce.

I was awake from 3-4 this morning, but managed to get back to sleep before the alarm went off at 5. I filled my water bottles, got all my gear and made my way to the race. Even though I have a cable to lock my bike to my car, I had brought it into my room overnight, taking a cue from seeing numerous bike racks in the parking lot, but no bikes. I rode the short distance from the hotel to transition, got my numbers, got marked, and racked my bike. I went for a short warm-up run around 6, then just kind of milled about until the race started just past 7. Because they had to cut the swim out, they decided to change the course up a little bit as well. Instead of having the Olympic du have one 5k loop and the sprint a shorter loop, they had the the sprint do a 1.5 mile loop, and the Olympic do two loops. The run headed north from the start/finish line along the sea wall. The sun rising over the Gulf, and a group of runners between it an me was a spectacular sight on a beautiful morning. I wish I had a picture of it, but at least at the moment I haven't found one.

My first run went well. I maintained a pretty steady pace, with mile times of 8:02, 8:06 and 8:09. Heading north out of transition, there was a bit of a head wind, so turning around and having a tail wind felt good for the next 3/4 of a mile. It of course repeated for the second loop. I was not going quite as fast for the second run, after the bike. My first mile was 8:19, but that was largely because I started a little faster, transitioning off the bike. By the end of the first mile, I was running closer to the 8:45 pace I ran for the next two miles. Actually, in the third mile I was running at more of a 9:00 pace, but managed to pick it up enough at the end to finish the mile at 8:44, and then had that last 0.1 miles to the finish line. Coming into the finish chute, another runner was coming up on me fast. I gave it all I had left to keep ahead of him, but he nipped in front of me just before the finish line.

The bike portion was harder than I would have expected, considering that it was totally flat after a small rise just south of transition. The bike was two loops, effectively four 10k legs. At the start, I felt some wind in my face, so I thought I was going into a head wind, and was pretty amazed that I was going 23-25 mph. After the first turn around, it was clear that the wind was at my back for the first leg, and I only managed about 19-21 mph for the second leg with a head wind. The bigger problem with the wind, though, was the cross winds and the gusts. As I mentioned in my last post, my new wheels are very wide and catch a lot of a cross-wind. It was rough, but at least when the wind was steady I could lean into it and just deal with it. It was when the wind gusted that was the worst. The first time it happened, I swerved around the road and felt like I could have gone down. Another thing that made the ride tough was the road surface. The first couple miles were nice smooth concrete, but then it went to fairly rough asphalt. Because the roads were still open, we were supposed to ride in the bike lanes, where they existed, and the road there was even rougher. For the first loop, I just put up with it, but the second loop, I said "screw that," and stayed in the car travel lane for the most part, where the traffic had smoothed the asphalt out more.
On the first leg of the bike, I passed quite a few people who had run faster than me. I picked off a couple more on the second leg. On the third leg, I didn't even see anybody going my direction- I didn't pass anybody, and nobody passed me. Just past the turn to start the last leg, I was passed for the first time. I think I passed him again later, as well as a few other people I passed on the fourth leg.
On Friday, I received a new speed tech item I had ordered: A cover for my rear wheel to make it like a disc wheel. I decided not to put it on for this race, largely because I thought it could be windy, but also because I don't like to use anything for the first time in a race. I like to give myself a few miles with something like that to get more familiar with it, and see if anything needs to be adjusted. One exception to that rule I did make was for an aero helmet I picked up on sale recently. I wore it on a quick spin around the block to make sure it wasn't too restrictive or anything, but that was all. It wound up working out pretty well. I have no idea if it actually saved me any time on the bike, but it didn't interfere with my head movement, it didn't take any longer to put on, plus it looks pretty cool with my aerodynamic bike and wheels.

After the race, I felt great. I pigged out on cookies, sandwich, drinks, whatever they had. When I saw the results posted and that I was listed in third in my age group I was about ecstatic. Transition wasn't open yet, but my bag was close enough to the barrier that I could get my phone out and brag to Facebook and Twitter. I stuck around for awards, of course. I wasn't going to miss my first podium ceremony. Unfortunately, they had a shipping problem and didn't have enough medals on hand for me to be able to take one home with me, but at least I got to wear it for a picture. I can't wait for the real thing to come in the mail. After awards, I gathered my stuff and walked back to the hotel, where I had a great shower. I had kind of hoped to have time for a nap before leaving, but just didn't. I packed up, checked out, and then decided I should get some more seafood before leaving the Gulf. I had some tasty fried shrimp on the water, then drove home. I picked up a delicious milkshake just before I got home, around 3:30. I took a much-needed nap a little later, and now, it's time for bed.

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