After I finished the Cortland triathlon I thought I was done for the season. My body felt tired and I was ready to scale it down and go into the offseason. However, I couldn’t get the mishap from the Sackets Harbor race out of my head. That was my first duathlon and I thought I would have done very well had I not missed that turn. So I decided to find another race to do and the only one that came up in the area was the Autumn Classic. So I signed up for it knowing it meant a 2-hour drive to get to it. Normally that would mean a hotel stay but I’d decided I just get up early and do the “race day” drive.
About 3 months ago I bought some extra large pedals. They are regular flat pedals (no clips, see attached pic) that I’d wanted to try on my bike. I knew they would help me save some time in transition in my triathlons and would help to protect my feet during mount and dismount of the bike but I never put them on the bike. The Autumn Classic race was a 2-mile run, 10-mile bike, 2-mile run, 10-mile bike then finished with a 2-mile run. That meant 4 transitions so it would be a perfect time to try the pedals. I put them on the bike but only got in 2 training rides on the bike connected to the trainer because of rain in the area so my first actual road ride with them was the race.
Race day started early for me as I got up at 3:45am. I needed to be on the road by 5am and any earlier would just be a bonus. Most of the drive was under the darkness of the night sky. Surprisingly I felt great during the drive with only feeling slightly tired about an hour in but a few good songs on the radio and some load singing quickly wiped that away. As I got close to the park I realized that I might be in a little trouble…there were rolling hills everywhere! This was going to be a terrible course to ride without my clip in pedals. Oh well, I thought to myself, just do your best and let the results speak for themselves!
I got to the park at about 7am. Most of the roads were dry but some spots were still wet from rain from the day before. It was windy and chilly at 56 degrees but I was prepared as I brought my long sleeve compression top and tights. It was supposed to thunderstorm in the area but that wasn’t supposed to happen until around noon and it was supposed to remain cool throughout that time. After getting my packet and setting up in transition I had plenty of time to chill and socialize. I had quite a few people interested in my bike setup…especially the pedals. They all figured I’d have the best transitions of the day and yeah!
OMG, what the heck kind of course was this…95% trail run! Wet grass, mud, giant acorns, steep hills with tree roots sticking up, a very steep grass hill close to the end that had a drop off that had you running faster than you wanted on wet grass then right back into another hill climb before flattening out a bit before the final downhill stretch into the transition area. Wow that was a tough 2 miles and all I could think about was “dude, you have to do that 2 more times!!!”
All I needed to do was get my helmet on, grab the bike and go. My legs were a little tight so I wasn’t running out of transition as fast as I wanted but I was ready to get on the bike.
I had a bit of a miss hap mounting the bike. I was doing a flying mount where I run and jump on the bike. As I jumped on my seat I slid off it and landed on the cross bar…YOUCH…right on the bone between my legs! Good thing I didn’t land on anything else but now I was aching sitting on my seat. I think the tights I had on caused me to slip as I’ve never mounted the bike with this type of material. It took awhile for the pain to subside but it didn’t seem to hinder me. I passed a few guys that had gone by me in the run but I was struggling on the hills and there were several of them that I would have benefitted from being in clip in shoes. However, it was kind of nice to having freedom to move my feet around. The road into the park was very bumpy…bone jarring bumps…they need to really get that paved!!! My flying dismounting of the bike was awesome with my running shoes on. All I had to do was just step off and already be into my run.
I unclipped my helmet just as I entered the transition area, racked my bike, took off my helmet, grabbed my gel shot and took off.
My legs were already tight so I knew this run was going to be slow. I was probably in about 7th or 8th place and was expecting to get past. My legs were aching running up those hills. After about a mile I had several people go by me…nothing I could do about it because my legs were not going to let me go any faster. I think I probably fell to 11th during this run. That hill towards the end that has that steep drop off is just scary running down it when your legs a whipped!
After getting to my spot I grabbed my helmet and went to clip the strap and one of the clips was missing…oh no it was gone. I took a quick look for it and it was nowhere to be seen. I thought I was done because I couldn’t leave transition with my helmet strap loose. I quickly decided to tie it. I was only able to make one loop…it was enough to make it look connected so I grabbed the bike and took off. I have no idea how I managed to get through that little mishap and still get out of transition in 35 seconds.
I mounted the bike with no slipping this time. I deliberately took it easy the first mile to let my legs relax from the run. That second run really took a toll on them. I was still freaking out about my helmet strap because I was expecting it to come loose. It held for about 3 miles then it came loose. I had to coast while tied it back up. I caught and passed 3 people in the first 5 miles or so in the second bike but the hills were still slowing me down. I caught and passed one more guy then as I hit a downhill my strap came loose again. I had to coast again to tie it and that let the guy go back by me. He said my name as he went by so it had to be someone I knew. After I got my strap tied I was able to catch him as we neared a hill. I was going to stay behind him but I was going a bit faster so I just powered by as we crested the hill. While we were going down the hill my strap came loose again. I had to coast to tie it and the guy went by me again. Dammit, this was pissing me off. I tied it then got back on the gas. I caught and passed him and my strap held for the rest of the ride.
As I ran into transition I thought I’d just be able to yank my helmet off…nope, I guess I had a good tie this time as I almost choked myself when it didn’t come loose. So I racked the bike, untied my helmet strap, took off my helmet, grabbed another gel shot then took off.
My legs were shot and I knew what I had in store for me. It didn’t take long for the guy I was battling with on the bike to pass me. I was hoping that everyone behind me was going to be in as much leg distress as I was experiencing. But 2 more guys passed me with about a half mile to go. I had to will my legs through those last few hills and was able to manage a slow sprint to the finish to make sure no one else passed me at the end.
I finished in 1:57:05 in 10th place overall out of 56, 3rd in my age group. The guy I was battling with on the bike name is Kenneth; I met him at another race. He said he couldn’t understand why I was coasting and I told him I was trying my strap. I knew my clip had to be somewhere between the entrance of the transition area and my bike so I took a walk and found it just passed the entrance. Next year will be the year of the legs for me!!!