Monday, May 21, 2007

Race Day at Duathlon World Championships

Duathlon Worlds, Gyor Hungary - POST #3 - RACE DAY IS HERE! Well all of he waiting is over and race day has finally arrived! I did get some interesting news late Saturday regarding my start time that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Due to the enormous size of the waves, they moved us 40-44 year olds into the earlier wave which had an 8:30am start verses our previous 9:45am start. This would be a huge advantage for a couple reasons. First of all, it was going to be a scorcher of a day and in that hour plus the temps would go from about 70 to the mid-80s with plenty of humidity to boot. Turns out my finishing time would have been in the top 20 for the later wave (assuming I could still have gone as fast with the hotter temps), but my wave would be a different ball game all together as I was racing with the 20+ year olds, meaning the pace would likely be a tad faster. Before I share the details, let's roll back to last night. After my staple pasta dinner, I headed back to my room and occupied my evening hours by watching the age old war classic Kelly's Heroes on my lap top (PS - Hungarian TV offers very little in English save CNN, BBC and MTV!). Fearing I would not fall asleep (a pre-race curse), I made an executive decision and used a mild prescription sleep aid and it did the trick. I closed my eyes around midnight and woke to the sound of chirping birds at 5am, refreshed and ready to rock and roll. I spent the better part of Saturday seeking out the only pre-race meal I do - a banana, half of a danish and half a bagel with peanut butter on it. The hotel was kind enough to open the restaurant at 6am so we could all get a strong cup of coffee be our event. Around 7am I slowly made my way to the start line. We had to drop off our bikes last night in the nearly 1/4mi long transition area (meaning I had to memorize the name of the cross street my bike was parked near). I dropped off my helmet and cycling shoes and then headed to do a warm-up run and finish my pre-race prep, as I was still missing one vital element of the routine. I found a small side street and did some easy running mixed with striders and around 8am was able to complete the final part of my warm-up. You see, along with my set pre-race breakfast (which has not changed in over 20 years), I have one more thing I do before large events such as regional, national, and now world championships - I throw up! Call it a severe case of nerves, but for me it is a sign that my adrenaline is pumping. That out of the way, I headed to the start line and found my place among the 350+ others (I think I am going to be sick again). The group was very fidgety at first, but with about 30 seconds to gun time an eerie calm washed over the pack and for a moment there was nothing but silence. Then without warning - BANG! The gun went off and we were away! Before every race I write down my performance expectations. For each leg of a race I write down an A scenario (I am firing on all cylinders), a B case (a good day), and a C case (should have stayed in bed). Prior to arriving in Hungary, my A scenario was for a 2:06 total time, my B was 2:09, and C was 2:12. After previewing the course, it became clear that the first run was closer to 9.2K (than 10K) and the bike was 39K (vs 40K). I adjusted all of scenarios lower by 6 minutes - so my A was now 2:00 flat. The first run was in a word - FAST. No, I take that back - VERY FAST! On top of that, it was extremely humbling. At the 3K mark we headed up a small hill and all I could see ahead of me was a sea of bodies strung out over a 1/4mi long - I wasn't even in the top 1/3 of this group. My goal on the first run was to keep my Heart Rate below my Lactate Threshold level of around 175 and I did sort of do that. My first 4.6K split was 16:40 or roughly an 18:15 5K (ya, that would have been a PR - nice pacing Mike!) My legs felt fine and my next 4.6K split was 16:30 (about an 18:05 5K). I jumped on the bike and began the task of reeling as many people in as I could. This course was flat, but very technical, requiring many high speed corners and U-turns - perfect for a former bike racer like myself. I began moving up through the sea of riders and near the top end of lap 1, dove my Cyfac tri-bike into the S-curve only to see the rider in front of me hit a pot hole and go down hard. I had about 1 second to decide on diving right or left and thanks to the bike gods, I choose left and missed him by about 2 inches (of course I didn't see any of it as I closed my eyes and prayed I would clear his spinning bike!) I was averaging well over 28mpg on the 2 long straight-aways and was clicking off lap times near 18:10 for each of the 13K laps (roughly 55:00 for the 39K). The 2nd run was a legit 5K and in a word, it HURT! My stomach was cramping as the temperature was soaring and we had little or no wind to cool us off. On top of that, I felt a blister on my left foot that was painful, but I could ignore it for another 18-19mins. While I won't know how I placed overall or even in my age group until later tonight, that is always secondary to how I did relative to my own time goals. My 'A' scenario called for 2:00 flat and I can proudly say that my final time was 1:50:49. I had a good day, regardless where I end up! What an experience! I guess wearing that red, white and blue was worth a few extra miles per hour on the bike and some critical speed on the run! If anyone ever gets a chance to represent USA in an ITU event such as this - do not pass it up! For those aspiring duathletes - know that the long course Duathlon Worlds take place this October in Virginia! There are 2 more qualifying races left - the Blackwater Duathlon in MD this July and PowerMan Ohio this September! Why not give it a shot, you never know! A final thought. The nest part of this trip was all of the great people I met, especially those on Team USA. One of the neatest people I was fortunate enough to meet on this trip was one of our female athletes - Marge Stahl, who is 77 years young and is on something like her 15th Team USA. What an inspiration to everyone!

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