On March 30, I did the Enchanted Rock "Extreme" Duathlon for my second and, unfortunately, probably last time (the race director said he won't be able to do this race again in the foreseeable future). Also unfortunate is that my time this year was two minutes slower than last year. If there's any one cause for the slowdown, it was probably that I biked 100 kilometers the day before in the LBJ 100 ride. It was a really nice ride, the weather the whole weekend was beautiful, my legs weren't trashed, but they did feel less than completely fresh for the 5-mile trail run, 16-mile road bike, 1.1-mile run duathlon, ending at the top of a big bald pink granite knob.
Friday night I watched some of the Texas Relays track and field meet, something I had never done. Actually, I intended to go to the NCAA championship swimming and diving meet also being held on the UT campus, but it was sold out. I definitely did not expect that, as I've seen pretty much every top American Olympic swimmer of the past few years race in that pool at other meets and they were never close to selling out. I enjoyed the relays, but with running, shot put, long jump, and pole vault all going on at the same time, it was hard to know where to look. And while I know a bit about running, I don't know much about track, and had never even heard of a sprint medley relay. Uncharacteristically, I went to a movie afterward, and didn't get home until late. Then I stayed up for no real reason and wound up only getting about 3 hours of sleep before waking up at 6 to drive out to the LBJ ranch west of Johnson City. I got to the park entrance about 8, but it took about 20 minutes before I got parked on the airstrip, which at least felt like half a mile from the start line. I don't know how many people did this ride, but it was a lot. I rolled down to the start area, checked in, and made my way up toward the front of the crowd of bikes.
Out of the many, many cyclists, I managed to run into a few people I know from the gym. David flew by me early on, not to be seen until after finishing. I ran into John at the second aid station, who was looking for Denise whom he was supposed to be riding with. The three of us met up again at the next station. I led us out of there, but dropped them on a downhill. I saw them again at a later aid station, but they left before I did and I never caught them.
It turned out to be a gorgeous day, slightly cool in the morning and quite reasonable in the afternoon. There were a lot of wildflowers along the route, particularly bluebonnets. 40 miles in, I found a nice vantage point and took some photos of riders going by. The burrs I sat on in doing so were unpleasant, but probably worse was a bee hit my leg late in the ride and managed to sting me. Fortunately I'm not allergic, but it still caused some pain and irritation.
New Orleans before the marathon). It was a 20-odd minute drive over to the park; some nice folks helped unload my bike and gear and get it into transition at the pavilion area. I was not the first one there, but I was among the earliest, getting there shortly after the appointed opening time, allowing me a close parking spot in the main area. It was a cool morning, but not nearly as cold or windy as last year. I walked the dark trail (with a headlamp) back to the pavilion I would soon be running in the opposite direction. I got my transition set up and sort of milled about until close to the start time. It was cool enough I didn't want to leave my jacket in transition and stand around shivering, so I kept it on until almost the last minute and stashed it in the pavilion. When it was time to line up for the start, I certainly didn't try to shove my way up to the front. It was a wave start, but individually timed across the start line; I wound up going toward the front of the second wave. I was passed by quite a few people in the first stretch back toward the parking area. Either I lined up too far forward (it was self-seeded), my legs weren't there, or everyone else started too fast. In the end it was more of a combination of the first two; while I did pass a few people through the course of the first 5-mile run, it wasn't nearly as many as passed me. My average pace worked out to 8:27 by the timer, 39th place out of 158, but more importantly one minute slower than last year.
At transition, I didn't take the lesson from last year and put my shoes on before mounting my bike; if this race is held again someday hopefully I'll read this and remember not to try running shoeless across the gravel in transition and to the mount line. The bike was pretty uneventful, apart from really feeling the previous day’s ride in the small rolling hills. I passed some people, some passed me. My bike average was 18.2 mph, far from what I would normally shoot for; my split ranked #35 and was another minute slower than last year.
I unclipped my shoes coming into T2 rather than slipping my feet out at the dismount line. It’s still a fraught dismount with a down slope and loose gravel; even with a mat over the cattle guard it’s a hazard. I racked my bike, swapped shoes, and headed once again toward the parking lot. The second run went fairly well at first; I did get somewhat off course, taking a slightly less used path up to the start of the real climb. I was fine with the divergence, it wasn't any farther, but I had a slight concern I confused the guy I had overtaken; I’m pretty sure he made his way okay. I had been running up the trail, but when I got to the bald granite, I was forced to a walk. I walked about as fast as I could, but as steep as it is and not having a stairway, it was a bit of a struggle. There were no markers on the granite (nor many elsewhere for that matter, but there was at least a clear trail), so I just had to make my own way up to the “finish line,” which in actuality was two timers, one holding up a tall flag. At least it was flatter at the finish so I could run the last bit. Thanks to my mountain climbing and stair racing, this was my best split relative to everyone else, 27th overall. This split was only 15 seconds slower than last year. This year they did the King of the Hill differently (they had less timing equipment for whatever reason) and used the whole second run time, dropping my KOH ranking from last year’s #18. For the whole race, my overall ranking was 34, and 6th in my age group. The run/bike/run splits within my age group were 6/3/3; I couldn't bike or climb my way out of a 5+ minute deficit on the first run.
After snacks and sugary drinks, and hanging out for awards, I packed up and rode back to my car. I went back to my motel, showered, and headed home. Before I got to my house I dropped my bike off at the shop. On Saturday’s ride, I noticed a rattling sound that I eventually traced to the arm rest being loose. When I collected my bike after the race, I noticed that left arm rest had sheared one of its bolts (from a lot of caustic sweat) and was cocked. They wound up having to replace the extensions because the bolts were so far gone it wasn't possible to make a simple repair.