Sunday, December 9, 2012

Natural Bridge Caverns Duathlon, etc.

For the third straight year, I raced in a duathlon at Natural Bridge Caverns, with the unique feature of starting within the cave. The bike course was shorter than last year due to light rain (making it more like 2010). So the times aren't comparable, but I did improve my overall position to third, and retained my age group title with my time of 1:54.

Since racing up the Willis/Sears Tower a few weeks back, I visited my parents in NY for Thanksgiving, and then hours after getting back to Austin, participated in one of the stupidest and worst races I've ever been part of the: The Beer Mile. This consists of drinking an entire 12-ounce can of beer, running a quarter mile, and repeating four times, for a total of one mile and four beers. Since my "prime" beer-drinking days are long past, that was by far the hardest and worst part of the event. I won't explain, but let's just say I incurred a penalty lap. You can find out what that means easily enough if you want to know more. If I'm ever dumb enough to do this again, my goal will be more to not have a penalty than to beat my 19:02 time. The good part of the event was the social nature of it. People were chatting much more than more serious events. I had a chance to talk to some people I've seen at many races, but never actually said much of anything to. Afterward most people went for dinner nearby.

On the second, I volunteered for the Dirty Du. I woke up much earlier than I needed to, and just drove out there. I got there before most people were awake (many people had camped out). I helped out with packet pickup before going to my actual assignment of a water/sport drink stop on the run course. It was cool because there were quite a few people I knew racing (a pretty good percentage considering there weren't that many people total). The only real problem was bees. There were a few when we got out there, but once we had sugary drinks sitting out, word spread and we were swarmed by hundreds of them. I don't think anybody was allergic, and I don't think anybody got stung, but it was pretty creepy.

Other than the crazy early start time and fog, the duathlon today went pretty well. I had to get up at 3:30 to drive the hour down there in time for the 6:30 start. Of course I couldn't get to sleep last night until almost midnight.
This event has grown considerably in the past two years. The first time there were just a few doing the hardest "T-Rex" distance. This time there were probably almost 50 people doing T-Rex and 40 doing the "Woolly Mammoth," which I did again this year.
I don't remember what I put down for a seed time, but I was third of the mammothers. They left enough of a gap between T-Rex and Mammoth groups that I didn't pass any of them until the final stretch in the cave to the exit. I was glad not to be held up by any of them. Through most of the cave, I was right behind the woman who was seeded second, but I passed her shortly after getting out to the surface. I was passed going down "the" hill by the guy who had started right behind me. He didn't get far away, and we exited transition at almost the same time. I was happy to follow him out to the road, as I was almost totally blind. The visor of my helmet was totally fogged on the inside. I was able to see a small section of clarity through a vent hole, but otherwise it was just rough shapes. So I just followed him until we got to the road, and there was a stripe to follow. Soon after I passed him I was able to wipe the inside of my visor and have some visibility. The weather itself was foggy and drizzly, so it's not like there was any way to truly have good visibility.
Normally in a multisport race, there are plenty of bikes out ahead for me to pass. This helps me psychologically. This time, however, I was all but alone most of the time. The guy who had started first was long gone (obviously a decent cyclist as well as a good runner), and the T-Rex racers weren't out on the course yet. It wasn't until the long course met up with the short course that I saw more than a couple bikes going my way (I was passed by two T-Rex racers). There was a stretch where the course doubled back and I could see people going the other direction.
Ironically, the road leading to Kreuger Canyon, which was cut out due to the wetness, was the only dry road on the course. I didn't have a problem with the dampness, I took the turns pretty slowly, but one guy I know wiped out at a two corners.
The second run was slower, but a little better, than the first run. The second time through it was actually light enough out that you could see the bigger rocks on the dirt road that could sprain an ankle. I saw the guy who started just after me on the run, and I was trying to stay far enough ahead of him to beat him. When someone ran past me, I panicked for a second before I realized it was a guy doing a different distance. In the end I finished just far enough ahead of #4 to beat him by seconds. I was second across the line, but somebody who started after me wound up doing the race in less time, pushing me to third overall. I am definitely not disappointed in how I did.

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