I competed in the duathlon at the Lakeland Bi-Tri Classic in Canton, Illinois last weekend for the fourth time in five years. I suppose it is my favorite race in the region. The duathlon is a small event, but it is run simultaneously with a triathlon so there is a good crowd. The race consists of two three-mile runs with twelve miles of cycling in between.
Last year I was fast enough for second overall. So, of course, this year I wanted to win. My training this year has gone very well. I am as strong and fast as I have ever been. I was optimistic about my performance on race morning.
I arose at 4AM to leave by 5 to arrive by 7 and race at 8. I was basically ready the night before, but I do not like to rush and risk forgetting something if I can help it. (Last year I forgot my helmet. (!) Fortunately, there was a bike shop with a tent on site to buy a new one, which I needed anyway.) So, I made my half-caff coffee and forced down some cereal--I frequently have trouble eating early on race days. I topped off the air pressure in my bike tires and filled my water bottles, loaded up the Jeep and hit the road.
I arrived with plenty of time to spare so I could register, set up everything in transition--check and recheck--and get warmed up. I have developed the habit of setting up near either the entry or exit of transition, thinking it will save time. I found a spot near the run in/run out side at the end of a rack with plenty of room. I had planned to leave my cycling shoes on the pedals, but after a quick warm up on the bike I decided against it. There was too much random gravel between the bike dis/mount line and the entrance to transition.
The run course is mostly on a hilly, paved path through Lakeland Park. We run clockwise the first time, counter clockwise the second. The out-and-back bike course exits the park onto a rural blacktop road. It has some gradual inclines/declines and two smallish hills.
My goal for the first run was to average between 6:50 and 7:00 per mile, faster if I felt really good. About a quarter to half mile into the race, I looked ahead where the course turned left in front of me and saw two guys way ahead and moving fast. I hoped they were really weak on the bike. I however, stuck to my plan. As I watched me average pace on the run, I sped up from around 7:00/mile to finishing at 6:57/mile. First goal achieved.
I streamlined my gear to decrease my transition time. I only had to change shoes and trade my sunglasses for my TT helmet with visor. 41 seconds.
The bike ride is always the fun part for me. My legs felt good and I took off quickly. Unfortunately my exit from the park was hindered by two other slower riders taking up most of the lane. I was able to pass on the corner just before the exit. Then I got up to speed and went aero, elbows on handlebar. I maintained this position as much as possible on the flat, straight, smooth sections. I passed a lot of riders and no one passed me. The course just has 2 hills and 3 turns that we take twice each, plus the hairpin turn-around. I would call it a relatively fast course. However, on Saturday, we had a significant wind that I felt really slowed me down. I was .6mph slower than last year. I finished with a 21.3 average. My goal was 22, but I could not have gone much faster.
Transition 2 was just a reverse of T1, with more fatigued legs. 40 seconds.
I started the second run with heavy legs, but not so bad as in Tri-Jesus. One thing I've learned racing this year is that I can push myself farther than I have in the past. So, with my heavy legs, I just focused on my running form, emphasizing the forward lean from my ankles. It was pretty warm and very humid by this point. I drank at every water station and poured water over me trying to stay cool. As always, I watched my average pace. My pre-race goal was to run sub-7s again, but I modified that during the race to be within ten seconds of my average pace on the first run. I was a bit conservative on the first run, knowing that I had to bike and run again. This time, I was going as hard as possible, but still trying to run my race and ignoring the other athletes. I was passed by a few guys early in the run, but I pulled them back by the end except one guy who sprinted the last 50 meters or so. He probably should have been working harder during the first 2.9 miles. I finished at 7:05/mile.
My overall time was 1:16:17, more than two minutes faster than last year, improving mostly in the transitions and the second run. That time would have been good enough for the overall win last year. This year...well, I couldn't catch those two guys that I saw take off like bullets on the first run. I was third overall and second in my age group. Officially, I actually won my age group, because the overall winner was in my age group and thus not eligible for an age group award as well.
In summary, I earned another PR, just like every other race in which I've competed this year. I'm very pleased. It is so satisfying to continue to improve into my forties. This year, I have trained thoughtfully with purpose and I have pushed myself closer to my limits. Nearly every race this year, I have finished with nothing left in the tank and thus, no regrets. What more could I want?