Yes, I’m a flatlander and was not all at prepared for those hills!
If you have the choice, I would recommend using a TT bike. The bike course is rolling, but there are only two points where you need to sit up for a climb. One near the beginning, which is about 300m long and near the end, which is a long drag over Cannock Chase. The rest of the time you can get down low and aero.
The long way up so demoralizing after the insane speed down, do a U-turn and up we go…
Interesting - I’m really torn as I feel like I’ll get more general use out of an aero road bike outside of racing.
Unless you have an n+1 need for a TT bike, an aero road is a good choice. You can always stick some clip ons onto the handle bars to get your body into a reasonably aero position.
Yes, exactly what i’m thinking!
Last short course race for me this weekend. Doing a sprint out in Napa valley with a friend. Fun to have a destination race that isn’t a massive undertaking. An hour of misery and then…wine!!!
Based on the course and previous times I think I have a decent shot at the overall podium and depending on who shows up maybe even the win. The main goal though is to requalify for Nationals which barring disaster should be in the bag. Let’s hope all clicks and I have a good time before going back to long course!
Well, I was the first overall male.
I was the first overall over 16 years old.
I was second overall.
Anyways I’ll write up a race report detailing that interesting story.
Here is my way-too-long race report:
A: Qualify for USAT Nationals - Check
B: Overall Podium - Check
C: Overall Win - Technically, kinda?
I have a friend living out in the San Francisco Bay Area that has gotten into triathlons, and after my disaster of a race at USAT Nationals that didn’t ever re-qualify me for next year, I wanted to get that monkey off my back, and not worry about finding a sanctioned race in my area in the spring so I could make plans etc. But also I wanted to go into the offseason with a better taste left in my mouth. So when he told me he was doing a sprint at the end of October, I mulled the idea of heading out there to race with him for around 30min and signed up for the sprint to race with him.
My training after USAT Nationals was kind of hap-hazzard as I had a trip to Alaska that took up most of August and had a somewhat busy September professionally. In October I started with a new coach (Peter from Outpace Coaching) since I felt like I had really plateaued training myself. At the end of the day, triathlon training is triathlon training but there were some differences in what he did vs. what I would do, and that’s exactly what I was looking for, though I’m not sure just how much of a change there would be in just 1 month.
I arrived in San Francisco on Thursday for a Sunday race which gave me plenty of time to get my bike re-assembled, go for a shakeout run and get a bike opener in. In general we ate pretty well and may have had a couple drinks here and there, though we also may have done some Napa wine tasting on Saturday before the race, and that may have been a little bit and then some more to drink than I would have ideally done before an A race, but when in Napa, right???
The morning of we drove to the course and had an egg McMuffin with some coffee because, who needs to make good food choices right before a race right?!? I was able to get transition all setup pretty quickly, and decided against going with the flying mount. A) I’m not that great at it and as of right now I struggle enough getting my feet secured that it’s really now worth it, and B) the transition area was some pretty gnarly gravel. Yuck. So putting shoes on in T1 seemed like the most comfortable and fastest way to go about things. I filled up my BTA bottle with my mix of half water and half flat Red Bull, then put on my wetsuit for a warmup swim.
The lake (Lake Barryassa) was pretty cold. I don’t know what the official temp was but I’m pretty sure it would be the coldest body of water I have competed in. Still I got in a couple min of warmup with some short sprint bursts in. I felt ready to go.
It was an in-water start which was kind of cool. Knowing that I’d ideally like to challenge for the overall win it’s always nice to know that if you see a guy out on the course, all you have to do is beat him to the line vs. wonder if he started just before you or after you. Obviously you eye up the other guys that hang out near the front and there were some intimidating looking dudes so I positioned myself to be around 10th or so hoping to hang onto a couple faster feet and get a decent draft. The gun went off and I took off. It was a little contested at the front of the swim with a little contact but not too much to write home about. I also noted that I was hanging right off the feet of the guy leading the way in the swim and wasn’t really putting out all that much effort. Then around 100m or so in I got sandwiched in between two others and that’s where it all went to hell.
Suddenly I began to panic. This had only happened to me one other time and that also happened to be this year, but that was due to some waves that hit me just right on a very choppy lake and sufficently interrupted my breathing such that it took me a couple min to recover. But this was different. I have no idea what the real trigger was either. Was it that little bit of incidental contact when I got sandwiched? Was it the cold water? I still have no idea but I do know what every time I tried to put my head in the water my chest tightened up and I couldn’t breath. At first I figured I’d swim a little with my head above water and regain my composure, but even when I did get everything under control, putting my face in the water started the whole thing over again. I repeated this until the end of the swim all to no avail and really kind of shocking my whole system. I had thought that the win was gone for sure. I thought an age group podium and maybe even qualifying for nationals was going to be a stretch. But watching the swim out I just didn’t see anybody running out of the water until I was essentially a couple minutes from the shore myself. No idea why but it seems everybody had a miserable swim? Anyways somehow I was 11th out of the water (and up the pretty big hill) with a time of 17:54, though I didn’t know that at the time.
Transition really kind of sucked as it ran up and out of the severely low lake which meant a steep climb up a very rough asphalt ramp. My feet were not happy then, and they were really unhappy when it turned to gravel. I did my best to wipe the dirt and gravel from my feet before I put on my bike shoes but quite a bit got in there. Speed walked through transition with my bike to make sure I didn’t do anything dumb, and mounted. 1:27
The course could best be described as rolling and technical with quite a few turns, made a bit more interesting with some rain that left the pavement wet. The first kilometer had some really rough pavement but once out of the transition area the road was beautiful and recently paved. I had a power plan for the ride that I tried to jump right into but I was still feeling a bit shaken and short of breath from the swim. I made a decision to really attack the downhill sections in an effort to claw back some positions. And claw back I did. It seemed every kilometer that clicked by I was flying past somebody else on the course who may have been making smarter downhill choices. At one point I was flying around a corner on wet roads at 70.5km/hr. Granted it was sweeping and never really felt I was pushing my tires but it wasn’t something I was really thinking I was going to be doing.
Just before the halfway point I saw the police escort motorcycle and two riders behind them. Damn, I was already in 3rd! (Actually I was 2nd in the male division as one of the riders was a 15 year old girl that really kicked ass on the swim as the women stared 3min back of the men. More on her later.) Shortly after the turnaround I passed the girl that I actually assumed was a younger dude, then soon passed the guy who was leading and was himself putting some distance back into the girl. He was a bigger guy that I passed going up hill and I made the assumption that he probably wasn’t going to trouble me too much on the run especially if I was able to put a couple minutes into him. It was the girl that I thought might be one of those XC runner monster dudes though that could throw down a 16min 5k or something ridiculous. So feeling a bit buoyed by being in the lead behind the motorcycle and getting my breath back after the swim I began to actually hit my power targets, though I did take the downhills a bit more cautiously. Turns out you’re not as willing to take risks when you’re at the front not trying to make up ground.
I did see my friend on the way back and gave him a big shout out. He later said when he saw me I was going uphill faster than he was going downhill, but I’m pretty sure that was at the bottom of a hill, lol. I got back into transition with the fastest bike split of the day for a time of 32:16.
I didn’t take my feet out of my shoes before the dismount line like I normally do because of the gravel and tried my best to not step on the gravel as I was changing into my running shoes. So not my fastest T2 ever but I didn’t have any pebbles in my running shoes, so that was a win. 1:10
I had been running back along the bike course (run and bike course were on the same road for 500m or so.) for around 30 seconds before I saw the 2nd place guy come through on the bike. Based on my transition time I figured I had at least 2 minutes on him and I figured he wasn’t going to go sub 20 so as long as I did a 22min 5k I’d be good. The question was how much time would the girl, I still assumed to be a dude, was behind me. She came in just before I reached the split so I mentally gave myself 3min on her. So that was what I was working with strategically.
The run course itself was kind of mean as it was an out and back that was nearly all uphill on the way out. I decided to go from a 10/10 effort level on the run to around 8/10 at least on the uphill portion. This was mainly so that I didn’t end up blowing up and losing the race, plus if the girl did end up catching up with me, the plan was to kick up the effort once she got in sight to try and keep the gap or at least make it come down as slowly as I could. And even so I think the 8/10 pace was a bit hot for me and I was really feeling the course in my legs and lungs as I reached the turnaround. Part of me wanted to even take a walking break but you can’t slow down to walk if you’re leading. That’s just not cool. Though I will admit I took a gatoraid at the turnaround so I would have an excuse to walk for 3 seconds…even though I am pretty good at drinking on the run.
Still at the turnaround I did not see anybody behind me. By the time I did see somebody I had already been running downhill for a bit and when we crossed paths it was a 4th guy who had overtaken the bigger dude and the girl. I had been running downhill for 1:20 at that point so I figured I had around 3min on him, though he had a good stride going. Close behind him was the girl who also looked pretty strong. Doing the rough math in my head, if I was running 4:15/km or so downhill, they would need to be doing 3:00/km to catch me. Surprisingly even with race brain I was able to do that math right, and it dawned on me that I was going to win this thing!
I settled into a decent 4:15/km or so pace that was maybe a good 6 or 7/10 effort level. I had won one other race in my life and they did not have any tape at the finish line for me to break, so my main concern was if they would do that here. Yes yes yes I was counting my chickens before they were hatched, but it was pretty safe. I did consider really emptying the tank and going for the best possible time but I’ll have plenty of time to do that in races that have rolling TT starts in the swim and ones where I’m frankly outclassed by a whole host of other athletes. So I decided to take it in. Everybody on the out and back run cheers the leader, at least that’s what I assumed since I always do it, and that assumption was correct. The other race I won was a loop run so I never got to experience that. It’s really fun and I’m just one of those guys that likes to cheer people on, so I gave out tons of “You look awesome!” shouts to the other athletes. When I saw what I thought was the first female but was really the second because of the girl, I gave her the info that she’s got the win in her sights. I told 3rd place they were 2nd, 4th place they were 3rd, and 5th that a podium spot was just ahead. Whoops.
The whole way down I made sure to check over my shoulder every min or 2 just in case one of the other athletes was closing fast, but I never saw anybody. As I approached the final stretch, I zipped up my suit for the photo…so pro, right??? Then I saw the finish line and they had tape!!! I looked over my shoulder one more time to be sure nobody was going to sprint past me at the last second and I took it all in. They called my name, I reached for the tape, held it over my head, walked a bit through the finish, thanked the volunteers (especially for having the tape) and began recovery. Time was 22:32 and was 7th overall on the run.
The announcer interviewed me for a min or so, I forgot exactly what I said but I think it was something about coming to this race for redemption after my would-be season ending race did not go well. Then the 2nd place male finished around 2min after me. I shook his hand. Then the announcer said “And here comes the female winner.” Come again??? She was 1.5km from the turnaround when I saw her on the way down…no way she ran 4km in 8min right??? Nope, that’s when I found out that who I thought was a young dude was actually a 15 year old phenom girl who beat me by around 30 seconds. I shook her hand too and let her know she beat me too because well I saw the clock. I knew they started 3min behind me and 3min had not elapsed. I’m wondering when I’ll see her name on the ITU circuit sometime in the future. So yeah I was first across the line. I was the first overall male. I was the first overall in the “over 16 years old” group…but 2nd overall where it counts on the clock. Best of luck to her and fair play. I took in the experience and that probably cost me the joy of being at the absolute top of the results list, but also she got to see her name up there too which has to be really really cool for her. I know I’m pretty fast, but there is a definite tier above me and nobody from that tier (at least males…because the girl is for sure in the top tier) happened to toe the start line that day.
I collected my award, my friend finished 2min slower than his first sprint, but since that one was pancake flat and this one was…not…he was super pleased with his performance too!
Well, race to the line? I don’t know though. I’m really glad I did take it in. Perhaps if there is a next time I’ll push harder.
This is the 2nd time ever, but also 2nd time this year I have panicked in the swim. I might have to figure out what’s happening there.
I seem to have a hard time getting going on my bike after a swim. This time I was a bit off due to the panic in the swim, but in other races I’ve noticed it takes me a little bit to get up to “full power.”
Congrats, that’s a terrific effort on the bike and overall. I’m so envious of the tape! I’m sure you’re thankful that 15-year-old girls aren’t in the same age group as you as well, LOL.
Great write up and what a race!
Well done. Any tips on your training that helped the sprint win that you can pass on?
I would also like to find out how to become 15 again and, for the first time, female - then I could kick Mike’s butt
lol @kajet you’ve found my kryptonite!
To answer @JoeX seriously, the thing that helped me the most was who bothered to show up to the race. But given that I had a frankly embarrassing swim from a time standpoint, it was my bike that saved me.
Being an absolute beast on the bike (350+ FTP) is really helpful, but also having the handling confidence to attack the downhills. I’ve noticed quite a bit in races that I might be slowing gaining on somebody 10-15 seconds in front of me, then suddenly we go around a corner and I’m flying past them. Doing 95% of my work on the trainer, I’m very specific when I do go outside, and those workouts are focused on 2 things. 1) Having fun. 2) Working on handling.
I’ll usually find a residential area that has few stop signs, lots of curves, and ideally some pretty steep hills. If I really want to push myself, I’ll also do all of this on a day with crappy weather such as wind and rain. I’ll then session them over and over again until I get around the curves as fast as possible. As a bonus, by doing this you’re usually exceeding the speed limit so maybe one day I’ll get a speeding ticket on my bike. One can only dream until that day happens. Nevertheless that really helped me out in this race specifically but also many others as I’m comfortable keeping the power down while in areo through most corners. It really saves me quite a bit of time.
So my major goal this year was the world duathlon championship (sprint duathlon - draft legal so 5km run, 21km bike and then another 2.5km run) in Aviles, Northern Spain. I count myself more as a cyclist that a runner but enjoy duathlons (never done a triathlon).
The event was yesterday so thought I’d do little race review. Race start was 9am and I got to the venue as part of GB team at about 7.15. Very cold (warmed up for race) but great to see athletes from all over the world (big teams were GB and Spain but also plenty from USA, Mexico, Canada and France with people also from South America, Africa, Japan, UAE, Russia and elsewhere).
Got transition all sorted…this was only my second ‘proper’ duathlon - first was the qualifying event, and my first ever draft legal race (although plenty of cycling experience so no worries about that).
Race started and Spanish team in particular went off at a crazy speed, one I knew my run ability had no way of staying with, settled into comfortable pace which knew could handle without killing rest of my race and got in decent group of GB and Mexican athletes for first run at about 18.30 min pace for 5k
Was bit slow in (what was a really long) transition area and lost 15-20 secs on my run group as I put my bike shoes on in transition, where rest had then on bike…however easily caught them on bike in first few 100meters whilst they did their shoes up etc!
Then onto the draft legal bike with group of about 10, first hill after about 5k and I attack along with 2 others and I gap the field but the other 2 also gap me so I’m now stuck between groups…
Into aero position and steady effort, after few km a mexican athlete comes by me and I jump on his wheel. We then work together for pretty much rest of the bike leg, working well together and catching other groups at regular intervals. The basic Spanish I learnt before coming, including phrases I thought would be useful in the race did indeed help a lot!
We caught a small group of riders with about 2-3km to go and I attacked on a sharp turn just before transition (I say attacked…just took the turn well… triathletes…can’t corner for toffee! ) and got a gap of 10 secs or so into T2. Really long run with bike through T2 and out (most times were 1:50 - 2:15) but no issues.
2nd run was fine, just settled into hard but sustainable pace, 2 people bit ahead of me that I wasn’t catching but equally group of 4 about 20 secs behind me that I kept checking on but weren’t gaining. Thoughts were to take it as easy as I could whilst maintaining gap to group behind in case any tried last minute sprint, but held them off fine.
End result was 20th (of 40) in my age group and 6th (of 13) in GB team…so very definition of mid table!
However my ‘bronze’ target was not last in AG or GB team, silver target -top 30 and gold target was top 20 so very pleased. My running isn’t remotely good enough to challenge the very top guys and draft legal really does benefit the runners over cyclists in duathlon.
Sorry for long post but very happy end to nearly 2 years of solid training, 3 runs, 3 rides (99% indoors with TR - only really ride outdoors for races) every week. Mission accomplished!
Well done Robert great write up, sounds like you had a lot of fun which always makes it worthwhile!
I’ve never done duathlon, because running is my weakest link, maybe I’ll have to change that.
You should! They’re brilliant fun. Horribly painful but brilliant.
Awesome report, and that’s a very respectable 5k time to open a duathlon! The fact that you had a strong bike and ended up right in the middle speaks volumes about the competition that showed up.
Also, yeah triathletes need to learn how to corner. They give up loads of time there yet will drop tons of money on the latest Zipp disc wheel to save them 15 seconds.
XTerra Europe have announced the 2022 calendar… Including a new race at Super Besse in France which looks very tempting for me
(OK, sorry, not really “Short Course” but it’s about the same duration as an Olympic !)
18:30 in the first run… and you’re stronger on the cycling side of a duathlon… FFS, I have some work to do! congratulations!
To put it into context I was 22nd after first run (out of about 40). Top 10 all sub 17mins or there abouts