The Value of a Minute- Ten Penny Ale Shamrock Duathlon Race Report

1 Minute, 60 seconds, 60,000 milliseconds.  It’s the amount of time it takes to heat up food for lunch in a microwave; it was the difference between winning the men’s ITU San Diego race a few weeks ago, and missing the US Olympic team all together. It’s the difference between a 16:59 official Ironman finish, and an official DNF.   It can be the difference between buying a winning and losing lotto ticket. When was the last time you took the value of a minute for granted?

A few weeks ago I did my first Duathlon of the year.  I usually do these as a warm-up to tri season to allow me to practice transitions, get a feel for my race pace and get the mistakes out of the way.  The last race was hard and fast, but it was short so I knew I could give it everything I had and if I ended up blowing up, it wouldn’t really affect my race too much.  This race was a little longer, and it was a distance I had never raced.  I figured that a 1:30 would be a good target to shoot for given that the past several years that had ended up giving a spot in the top 10.   The one problem was I wasn’t sure I had the endurance to hold an all-out sprint for 90 minutes. Unfortunately for some reason my Garmin is being uncooperative and not allowing me to download my race file.

Warm-up:  I ran an easy 2 miles to warm-up slightly slower than my easy pace runs lately, exactly like I did 2 weeks ago.  I took the time to do a little course recon and noting where the hills were on the way out, and on the way back in.  Kept it easy and ended up with a 7:10.   2 miles/ 7:09 min pace/141 avg hr.

Run Leg 1 3.1Miles

And we are off!

This race was slightly different than the last one I did because they were running a 5k at the same time as the Duathlon so I wasn’t really sure who at the start line was running the 5k and who was racing the Duathlon, with the exception of the people I knew. The Duathlon age group world champion happened to be also racing again so I knew it was going to be fast from the gun.  Racing a bit out of my local area I wasn’t sure exactly who my competition was except for the guys from my area I knew I would be racing against.  Once the start gone went off I paced myself a little more conservatively than usual.  Since the run was a little more rolling, and the bike was extremely hilly, not knowing the course I decided to try and pace myself at around a 6:00/mile.   The first mile was mostly flat with a little uphill the second mile had a few larger hills and the 3rd mile was mostly downhill until the climb back up to transition that was the cap on the first 5k.

As we went off I couldn’t believe how many people were running a sub 6 minute pace, to me it looked like there were at least 20 people in front of me.  I remembered that some of them might be running the 5k and to just race my race. Even so I managed to come across mile 1 at a 5:45 pace.   I reeled it back a little and started to slowly pass those that had gone out to hard around mile 2, as I settled into my pace.  I picked off a few runners one by one as we made our final turn before the hill into transition, to my surprise only one runner turned left and everyone else was racing in the Duathlon.  The winner of the 5k ran a 17:45, the top 8 run splits for the Duathlon are under 18 minutes, with the top 2 being under 17, these guys were running fast!  My conservative 19 minute run left me in 16th place heading into T1.

Time 19:02 (6:07 Pace)/ Avg Hr 167 16/391 overall

Bike: 16 miles (Garmin showed 15.9)

Getting Ready For the Bike

After not being able to clip in 2 weeks ago I made sure I had my pedal down when I racked my bike and I made sure I calibrated my Garmin with the Quarq. I pushed the pace at the beginning of the bike because I knew I was at a disadvantage being a bigger rider and having to deal with8 milesof climbing to start.  I talked to a few course veterans before the race and they told me that the hills weren’t actually that bad, but just constant and consistent.  I passed a few of the guys right away and never looked back.  I was gaining both places and confidence that I had paced my run perfectly and I would be able to take advantage on the bike.  After the first few miles I was knocking on the door of the top 10.  By mile 10 I could see a cluster of about 3 athletes in front of me and I locked in.

The second half of the course is mostly downhill and fast!  The one problem was I was racing on a new bike and I wasn’t completely comfortable with the handling on the descents on the new bike on a course I didn’t know.  As the descents got longer, the gap between me and the pack grew bigger.  When I first locked in I was probably about 30 seconds back, I brought myself close enough to be riding legally, but controlling myself on the downhill sections I fell back quickly.  I got passed at the bottom of the first descent as I was slowing to corner by one cyclist, and by another a few miles later.  Both of them locked into the group of 3 and it now became a group of 5.  With only a few miles left I did my best to keep them in sight while taking it easy on the down hills and quick sharp turns.   I was passed on more time by another cyclist but I never lost sight of him and we came into t2 maybe 5 seconds apart.  I then noticed him hand off his bib to his runner.  It was at that moment that I was determined not to let a relay team beat me, no matter how fresh the runner was.

Time:  45:24(21mph/259 watts average power) 16/391 overall

Run 2 3.1 Miles (Garmin showed 3.33)

heading in to t2

The relay runner headed out of t2, slightly ahead of me as he was already ready to run.  I started running and I was hoping I could match my pace on the first run.    I knew that the second run is slightly longer than the first from the course recon I had done so I had saved some juice on the first run for that.  Once again I felt like my legs weren’t moving, but I hit the first mile in under 6 minutes.  As I passed the first aid station the relay runner started to fade and I kept my pace, the second mile is considerably hillier and I started to see the next runner ahead of me and I set my sights on trying to catch him.  I knew if I could catch him there was 4 more runners right near him.  I started closing the gap but I also started to run out of room.  As I came into the final turn I knew there was not enough ground for me to make up the hole I put myself in on the bike.  As I climbed the final hill to the finish I could tell I wasn’t going to catch the group and there was no one behind me so I might have slowed down slightly, but nothing that would have made a difference in the standings.   I was however able to capture a top 10 run split on lap 2, which makes me happy.

Time: 20:21 (6:09 pace) 10/391 overall

Overall:  1:26:31 12th overall, 1st place Age Group.

Post-Race Reflections: I didn’t go hard enough because I was nervous about not knowing the course, and never racing the distance.  If I decide to do this race next year I will be taking a very different approach as I know I have a more to give for a 90 minute effort.   The second half of the course allows recovery for the legs so going all out on the first 5k next time is an option.    For comparison: In 2011 my time would have put me in 6th overall, 2010 7th, and 2009 2nd, so once again the quality of the competition was very good.   Racing a new course on a new bike I was a little more cautious than normal, and it showed in my bike split.  So for me, this weekend, the value of a minute, is the difference of 7th and 12th places, and a reminder that when your racing, EVERY SECOND COUNTS!  Next up my first sprint triathlon of the year in 2 weeks!