I competed in this race last year and I had my best finish in a triathlon when I placed 6th overall. It was a little chilly and wet as the rain rolled in and despite a few mistakes I really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to improving on my finish. The drive was about an hour and a half so I decided to do a race day drive. I got on the road at 5am and it immediately started raining…I hate driving at night in the rain. Leaves and crap were blowing over the roads as it rained off and on for almost the whole trip with some heavy downpours at times. It finally stopped when I was about 20 minutes from the venue. I thought for sure it was going to be a wet race but by the time I got to the park it was sunny and mostly dry thanks to the 18-20 mph winds that were blowing through. While picking up my race packet and putting my bike in the transition area I was hearing some talk about the swim portion being canceled. As things would turn out those high winds that dried things up was also causing choppy conditions on the lake. We were told that the coast guard wouldn’t give permission to do the swim so now the triathlon had been changed to a duathlon. That meant that there would be a 1.5 mile run then a 15 mile bike then a 3.1 mile run. I’d never done a duathlon but I thought this might play to my strengths. I’m normally a middle of the pack swimmer and give up 4-5 minutes to the faster swimmers in a sprint. Starting off with a short run meant I could keep a faster runner closer. The only problem was I didn’t get to see the bike course beforehand. They had to change the course due to construction in the area and I didn’t have time to drive it. I had to hope the course was marked well if I got out front. Last year I got a little mixed up on the run course because of the markings but having that prior knowledge of the bike course when I drove it the year before was a big help to me. I had other things that I had to decide also, like do I wear socks (I normally don’t wear them), and do I keep my bib on when I come into transition area from the first run to get on the bike. Little things that would be different than what I normally do in a race so it could be easy to get mixed up. So the goal was to not screw anything up.
They were running to 2 races, a sprint triathlon, and a half ironman but both would be changed to duathlons and because of that change, they decided to start both races at the same time.
I went right up front for the start as I thought I’d be one of the faster runners. On the gun, I was off and running in about 5th place. My goal was to just keep anyone up front in sight and not run too fast because I wanted to have my legs when I got on the bike. It was an uphill grade to get out of the park then downhill most of the way back. I got passed by 2 guys but I could still see the leader as he had gotten out to about a minute lead on me. It was sort of weird doing a run before the bike but it seemed like it was over in no time.
This part really seemed awkward because I had to take my shoes off before getting on the bike. And because I decided to go with the socks one came partially off my foot when I pulled my shoe off so I had to pull it back on. I pulled my other shoe off, grabbed my helmet, put it on, clipped it, grabbed the bike and took off and all this took 26 seconds.
I did a flying start, got both feet on my shoes and was speeding up the road heading out of the park. I got my feet into my shoes, strapped them and was heading out of the park. As soon as I turned to the road I could see the other guys up ahead. For some odd reason, I just felt fast. My legs felt good and my wheels were singing. I know you’re asking, what does he mean by his wheels were singing? Well, carbon fiber wheels make a certain sound when they are being ridden. Mine seemed loud during the ride so I know the riders I passed had to hear me coming! And pass I did, everyone that was ahead of me. And I didn’t just slowly roll by them either, I blew by them. After I passed the last guy that’s when I realized I was in the lead. There’s a feeling you get when you know you’re in the lead, I got it the first time I lead a motorcycle race and now I was feeling it for the first time in an endurance race. I was only about 3 miles into a 15 mile bike ride and I had already gapped a guy that started about a minute ahead of me. My bike computer said I was averaging 22.5 mph even with the strong winds. If I held this pace I should have arrived into transition 4 minutes ahead of everyone. I just needed to put my head down and go!
Well, that’s when things went wrong because somehow I missed a road marker to make a turn. I ended up so far off course that I got lost out on some back country roads. There wasn’t anyone in sight anywhere to help me get back where I needed to be. By the time I finally saw someone I had ridden over 30 miles. When I finally got to where people were I stopped and asked for directions. I was really mad that I had blown my opportunity but I still needed to find my way back. By the time I finally made my way back to the park I had ridden almost 43 miles. The funny part was as I was riding into the park I saw people leaving with their bikes on their vehicles!
As I was riding in people were clapping and cheering! At first, I was a little confused but then it dawned on me that they thought I was coming in from the half ironman. I unclipped my bike shoes and got off the bike and ran it into transition. I wanted to do my run but I was worried about my legs (I’ve never ridden that far before). I wasn’t sure my legs would be ready for it but I knew if I didn’t run I’d get DQ’d. So I racked the bike, pulled my bike shoes off, put on my running shoes, took a drink from my water bottle then I took off.
I had run 1.5 miles and rode the bike 42.7 miles and I still had water in my water bottle and I hadn’t taken in any nutrition; too busy trying to find my way back I guess. I needed to get something in me so I grabbed the gel shot I had tucked in my tri-suit and took some in and grabbed water at each aid station. I was surprised early on into the run that my legs didn’t feel like they wanted to blow up. I made it up the hill to get out of the park reasonably well. When I hit about the 1 mile mark a guy was pointing me where I needed to go. He said head that way and someone will be there to make sure you don’t make a mistake. I said great, because I’ve already made one big one. He said I know and by the way how far did you ride. I said 43 miles, he yelled OMG, you almost rode the half iron! I said I know and kept running. At about the 2 mile mark my legs started to ache and I started to slow but I think shortly after that the gel shot finally kicked in and I was able to pick my pace back up with a nice run to the finish off my 5k (wwwp5k).
I don’t know what my official time was but my watch had it at 2:53:48. That is now my longest continued endurance effort so I guess I did set a new PR! The race director said hey, I don’t know where you finished in your age group but here is a coffee mug for you (top 3 in AG get coffee mugs) for finishing that run after what you went through. He said how did you get lost, the timer said you were the 7th person out of transition. I told him I passed them all in the first 3 miles so I was out front. He said Oh, OK (he must have assumed because I was behind the other riders that I would have followed them). I said I saw the first 2 road markers for turns but I must have missed the next one.
I went and looked at the time sheets and from what I could see if I’d stayed on course I had a good chance to finish first as the guy who finished first didn’t have a blazing time on the run so he probably wouldn’t have caught me. I was at the bottom of the timesheet as a DNF (did not finish). I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way or not but regardless I’d still be last. Good thing I have another race next week, I definitely don’t want to end my triathlon season like that! And if I learned anything from this race, it’s that maybe I am ready to do a Half Ironman…I’ll have to look into it 🙂
Update – the final results are out…I finished 69th out of 73…now that’s funny!!!
The course I rode
The course I should have ridden