Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blue Norther Duathlon

Once again, I did a race I probably would have been better off skipping. If I hadn't registered back in January, there's no way I would have. Still recovering from the knee injury, suffering from a stiff neck the past few days, plus rain and daylight savings time, it would have been easy to stay in bed this morning. But I got up and did this race, and I actually felt pretty good about it. I'm a little disappointed I didn't beat my time from last year, and even worse I don't think I beat my bike split (I don't have clear data) despite a year with the bike and race wheels. I am pleased, however, that I was able to run more than I have cumulatively since 3M, with little complaint from my knee. I'll blame my 1:38:36 being 1:35 slower than last year on the light rain during the first run and half of the bike.

In the three weeks since the Austin Marathon, I started physical therapy to try and even out my leg muscles to try to get the patella tracking properly. This is more of a long-term solution, but this week both my orthopedist and PT essentially said to start running again. I'm pretty sure they didn't mean "go out and race" right away, but I'd say this was a pretty good stress test, and so far it seems to have come through okay.

It was raining this morning, which made it seem all the more nuts to drive 40 miles to a race I wasn't fully physically prepared for. The rain was real light by the time I got to the venue, but there was lots of standing water everywhere. I got my rack set up, which is a lot simpler without worrying about coming out of the water. I jogged around a little bit, but didn't want to do too much running in case the knee was sort of a ticking time bomb, and it would explode after a certain distance. Things were delayed because of the rain, and the race didn't start until almost 9. The two loops of the first run went pretty well. I didn't push the pace that much, only about 8:40. It was a bit of a obstacle course, as the route went from wet roads to a trail that was muddy in spots, with puddles in between.

I got to transition, put on my rain-mottled sunglasses (and helmet) and could barely see anything. I had attached my bike shoes to the pedals, so I ran in my (synthetic) socks through a few puddles before getting to the mount point. Between that, the continued rain, and the roadway, it felt like there were puddles in my shoes most of the bike. I passed 10-20 bikes on the road, and none passed me, but of course the best cyclists ran faster than me. The roads weren't great, but I never felt like I was about to slide out or anything. The few sharp turns I took pretty slowly. I didn't really feel cold on the bike, but at one point I noticed that my legs were pretty numb below the knees. I opted not to wear gloves or arm warmers or anything, which wasn't too bad on a 55-degree morning. I don't know that I realized it at the time, but I threw a lot of gravel and junk from the road onto the bike and my legs. After the race, I wiped them all down before loading into my car, and still washed a lot off at home.

I'm not sure why, but as soon as I got off the bike my hamstrings about seized up. My legs felt fine on the bike, it was when I got off that was a problem. I tried to stretch my legs a little in transition, and was able to get them moving enough to start on the second run. I started out pretty slow, but eventually my legs came back to me, and I went through miles 2 and 3 at ~8:20. I gave it a decent sprint to the finish line from there.

When I saw the results posted I was, at first, pleasantly surprised. While I thought my watch showed a total time of 1:39 (it's new, this is my first race with it), the results showed 1:10. I didn't do the math, but somehow it seemed plausible at that moment, for third in my age group. When I looked at the results more closely and saw that the one person I had seen on the course that I know (passing me, one lap ahead) finished with at time of 1:25, I knew my time was wrong. I did the right thing and informed the race director, and apparently whatever happened to my time was pretty widespread. While 10th of 12 in my age group is far from impressive, the 5k/14 mile/5k distance is not to my advantage. Plus, the competition was much stronger than my last duathlon, at which I won my age group.

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