Saturday was the annual Beloit Biathlon (Duathlon). This was my first multisport event in 2007 and I haven’t missed the race since. It’s a short race (2 mile run, 11 mile bike, 2 mile run) and one of my favorites of the year. In my mind, it’s the beginning of the season.
In 2009 it was my first (and only) overall multisport win. Last year I was hoping to be a repeat winner, but I got outrun and finished second. This year, the plan was to reclaim first place, but my torn tendon put a big wrinkle in my plans. I had a few weeks of limited running followed by a few weeks of no running before getting the go-ahead from my doc to resume running about two weeks prior to this race. I considered skipping the race, but I did a few runs in the weeks preceding the race and my knee held up pretty well so I decided to go ahead with the race and “test” out my leg. My biggest problem was actually hip flexor pain, which my doctor has not done an adequate job diagnosing. I’m not sure if it’s a strain, pull, tear or what it is. I don’t even know if it’s a muscle or tendon issue, or if it caused my torn tendon in my knee or if it’s a result of the torn tendon.
The night before the race wasn’t without drama. I went over my bike to make sure all was good to go and discovered my crank bolt was broken and my crank arm was ready to fall off. Unfortunately, I discovered this about 9:30 pm so I was up later than I wanted taking the crank off my road bike and putting that on my time trial bike. But I got it all sorted out and had my bike ready to roll in time to get a decent amount of sleep.
It seems we always have wind to deal with at this race (with the bike being my strength and the course being pretty flat, I welcome the wind) but it hasn't rained since I started doing the event. Most years have been really nice, just windy. The sun was shining when I left the house and the forecast was for a chance of storms. By the time I got registered and had my bike in transition, the skies were turning dark and it looked like we’d be racing in the rain. A few minutes before I headed out for my warm up, the skies opened up and a steady rain fell. I put on my rain coat and started my warm up routine.
Part of my routine is to practice a couple of transitions. Mainly, I practice getting into and out of my shoes while on the bike to make sure I’m fast and comfortable doing that. Today I was really struggling getting into my shoes while riding. I had practiced a little the day before and was rock solid, and typically I’m quick and steady doing this so I was having a hard time figuring out why suddenly I could barely get my foot in my shoe. I start with my left foot each time, and my right arm was shaky and it felt like I was losing my balance as I reached down to slip my foot in my shoe. A few more tries and I figured out the problem. My shoes and socks were wet, and as I reached down to put my left foot in my shoe, my right foot was sliding off my shoe, and thus off the bike making me off balance. So I decided it wasn’t a good day to leave my shoes clipped into my pedals. I would put them on in transition, but still planned on getting out of them early on the bike since I wasn’t struggling with that in the rain.
Other than that, my warm up was smooth. I felt good on the bike – comfortable and my legs felt strong. I did a short run warm up, not enough to really indicate how well I might run so I didn’t really know what to expect.
My plan was to be a tad conservative, hoping I wouldn't have to push too hard to stay with the lead group. I had no idea how my knee or hip would hold up and wasn’t confident in my fitness. Unfortunately, there were some runners in the group, and overall the run was faster than it has been in previous years. With the way my running had been going early in the year, I would have run between a 5:50 and 6:00 pace for this run. But instead I opted for a 6:20 pace. I’m not sure what pace the leaders ran, but I couldn’t even see them as I headed into transition, and I felt more mid-pack than I wanted. I was hoping to be just behind the lead group, and then the plan was to hammer the bike and hopefully come off the bike with a big enough lead that no one would have enough time to run me down. With the leaders out of sight, my work on the bike was going to be tough.
I’ve come into second transition with the lead a few years in a row, and really wanted to keep that streak alive. My confidence in my ability to win the whole thing was quickly fading, but I felt confident I could make up a lot of time on the bike. I made up a few positions very early in the bike, and then focused on chasing down the leaders. I kept my head down and out of the wind as much as possible, and dug deep to keep my watts as close to threshold as possible (I always end up a little short of threshold in multisport events). Around the halfway point, I worked my way into second and could see the leader. He still had a sizeable lead, but I could see that I was making up ground. A little past the ¾ mark in the bike, I took over the lead and put my head down and tried to pull as big of a gap as possible. The bike finished with a headwind which I figured worked to my advantage. My legs were burning, but I ignored the pain. I welcomed the pain. It felt good, and it was my way of venting my frustrations with how my year has been turning out. I told myself to keep my head down and out of the wind, and continue to pedal the bike in anger and frustration. At one point I looked back and didn’t see anyone and thought that maybe I was actually going to pull a big enough gap to win this thing.
If nothing else, my streak of leading the race into T2 was alive and well. And I had set a new PR for this course breaking 25 minutes and averaging 25.5 mph. That felt good.
As I headed out of transition I heard someone tell me to “go…he’s coming into transition.” Really? I thought I had a bigger gap than that. I ran hard, but was struggling. I didn't feel comfortable, and quickly realized this was my first brick of the year. I checked my watch and was running a 6:35 pace. There was no way that would hold him off. So I stepped up the effort and checked my pace about a quarter mile later – 6:35. I kept pushing, but figured it was only a matter of time before he caught me, and I would end up in second for the second year in a row. Disappointing, but second isn’t bad. I managed to hold him off for about a mile, which I was happy with. I still digging deep but couldn't get my pace under 6:35. I felt comfortable enough to go faster, but my legs didn't have the strength. Every time I asked for more, they couldn’t respond. I figured I had second locked up, but opted to check my lead (expecting it to be pretty big since I passed this guy about the halfway point in the bike) and saw third place was closing quickly. With ½ to ¾ of a mile to go I thought I might be able to dig deep enough to hold him off and salvage second place, but I couldn’t do it. He closed the gap quickly, made the pass, and pulled away. So I finished 3rd overall, first in my age group (the overall winner was in my age group but got pulled out since he got the overall win).
Yes, I’m disappointed in my results. I won’t lie. I didn’t go there to lose. I really felt I could still win despite my lack of run fitness, and I thought winning would be good for my morale since this injury has me feeling down and out these days. But even though I’m disappointed, I’m still proud of my performance and I had a lot of fun. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know the race director a little (he had actually consulted me on a few potential course changes this year) and my parents volunteer at this event so it’s a fun day and it’s an event I really want to support year after year. It’s one of those low-key, really fun spring races that I hope will stick around for many more years (this was the 22nd running of this race so it already has quite a history). And it’s the beginning of my season so how can I not go?
Post race my knee and hip flexor stiffened up pretty bad and I found myself limping around. They loosened up later in the day, and I don’t think I reinjured anything but I do believe I set my recovery back a few days. Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest decision to do this race, but I feel like all I’ve done this year is sign up for races and not show up (with the exception of time trials). So now I’m back to focusing on healing so I can get on with training for Kona. I spent a lot of time this winter writing out my entire training plan, which I’m rewriting right now to account for missed training. I’ll write an update on that in the next couple of days.
Sorry for the lack of pics. I took my camera but forgot to charge the battery.