Lesson #7: Learn the Damn Course (Mt. Rainier Short Course Duathlon, another podium!)

Had the pleasure of participating in a wonderful race (the Mt. Rainier Duathlon) put on by a wonderful racing company (BuDu Racing) on Sunday, and had an absolute blast. Though certain aspects of my performance would leave me punching something if this were an A race, I was in too great of  a mood and having too much fun to let anything get me down.

PRE-RACE: The usual, ham and cheddar egg white omelette, and a cup of oatmeal for breakfast. Was carpooling with my buddy Brian, who was racing the long course event and was kind enough to offer a ride, so had to meet at his place out near Seward and I-90 at 6… to let that food settle that meant a 4:30 wakeup. Thought that sounded awful, until I remembered that that would be sleeping in 20 minutes relative to what I did for four years in undergrad. (Damn you, rowing!)

We got to the venue in Enumclaw in plenty of time to set-up, checked in, etc. Didn’t really get a chance to warmup, which was unfortunate. Was initially wearing an Under Armour shell with my tri-suit, but decided that would be a terrible idea. The sun was already BRIGHT, and I could tell it was going to be a hot one. Pulled it off at the last second, and made my way over to the start line. They started the long course five minutes before us, and seeing them go off, I was very excited to be running only 1.6 miles to start, and not 5.1.

Run #1 (1.6 miles, 9:55; 3/81 OA): The starter also led the course on a BMX bike, and this was the first of many cool things about the event. Right away a pack of three or four runners jumped out front, and I made CERTAIN that I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes I’ve made in running races as of late… I paced myself. Eventually, a guy (who I spoke with later, named Colby) ran out front and took the lead over everybody else. I just kept it steady, ran with a woman who was laboring a little but was clearly a competitor.

We did two loops around the horse farm (or whatever the venue was); I broke away from the woman I was running with, but Colby was already out of sight. Then Lesson #7 (of the title) first came into play: I entered transition from the wrong end, and had to circle around. The lady I had gapped by 15-20 seconds finished the first run about five seconds ahead of me, and first place was already nearly out of transition. Grrr.

T #1 (1:37, 59/81): Are you kidding me? Awful! Shoes came off right away (yea for elastic, non-tie shoelaces), bike shoes on right away, but It literally took me 40 seconds to get my helmet on. I dropped from 3rd to like 15th or 16th. Whatevs, no freaking. Going to eventually get a flying mount down, and hopefully my T1 times will drop significantly.

Bike (41:25, 1/81): The bestest and most fun ride I have been on in my life. I should preface by displaying an awesome picture of my racing steed:

Pretty much how she looked on race day, except I cut the frame pump off, removed the water bottle cage, and zip-tied the loose cables up front to the frame body. She is F-A-S-T. The plan was to average around 300-305 watts for the ride, but nervous energy had me at 320-330 for the first five minutes, and I was getting a solid 26.5-27 on the flats at that power. Settled down and got to the business of PASSING people. Within the first ten minutes of racing, the road suddenly got very lonely, as I passed everyone who had passed at any point in transition, and the lady who passed me when I screwed up transition. I thought I may have gone off-course, but then way off in the distance I could see a guy on a bike, and figured that was my target.

Closer and closer the biker came, and then I saw it was two bikers. We soon hit the base of the road at the bottom of Mud Mountain, and one biker jumped up out of the saddle and attacked right away. I took the cautious approach… I knew from hearsay that the climb AVERAGED a 6% grade over 1.5-2 miles, and had a couple of short pitches that were in the 10-12% range, and also knew that I put way too much power into hills, and weigh way too much to be effective doing so. So slow and steady it was. My average power for the entire climbing segment was about 340 watts, and it lasted somewhere in the 9-10 minute range… a little higher than I wanted to be, but when your largest cassette in back only has 23 teeth, its not difficult to kill the power.

I eventually pulled up to the second biker I was trailing, and it was a guy who appeared to be in his mid-50’s, frolicing and enjoying a Sunday morning ride. He had two pannier bags, a baggy jersey, and two huge water bottles in rear jersey pockets. That it took me a large chunk of the climb to catch and pass him on racing setup makes him totally awesome.

After summiting, I saw then that there was one more biker (Colby), and a motorcycle lead for the race. While the power-less me would have attacked immediately and tried to crush, I remained steady, and realized that attacking after summiting might cause a little redlining to happen, which is the last I needed. Stayed steady, saw jump out of the saddle, and then realized he was riding a cross bike with a fully ventilated road helmet, wearing a cotton t-shirt. Feeling ridiculous in my budget-but-still-over-budget aero gear, I knew I would have to put a lot of time into him to not feel ridiculous. Passed him shortly before the descent down the mountain, and never looked back (until the run…).

Coming down, I felt like I was riding in the Tour de France, trailing the lead motorcycle. Got into the aero tuck, and had a difficult time getting my power above 250, because I was spinning out at 120 RPM. I think I averaged 40-42mph going down the descent, despite a scary episode involving rumble strips and my aero bars jamming forward. Because my bars became tilted unsafely forward, I had to get in the horns, and despite staying low, I undoubtedly lost some time doing this. The descent eventually leveled out, and we made the left hand turn back toward the fair ground; as I entered the parking lot, I got my feet out of my bike shoes while still moving and performed a perfect flying dismount, landing in a run, and entering the second transition.

Ended up averaging ~300 watts, though I admit I took a good chunk of the descent off… haven’t got my NP at my fingertips.

T2 (:37, 2/81): This was awesome… I had the 3rd-fastest second transition out of anybody in the race, and was only beaten by a pro (Rusty Pruden) and some lady who rode a hybrid and didn’t have bike shoes on. Unclipped my helmet as I ran to the rack, got my shoes on flawlessly, and left in a huff, just as second place was coming in.

2nd Run (25:37, 6/81): I was super-stoked at this point, because was nearly a minute in the lead in the first real multisport event of the season… and then it all came to naught. This is where today’s lesson (#7: Learn the Damn Course) comes into play. Leaving the fair ground, I somehow ignored a blatantly obvious sign and took a wrong turn. Thankfully I realized quickly I had come into the dead end of a maze. Unfortunately, I realized this when I turned around and saw two people running the right way. Cursing to myself, I got back onto the main path and found myself a half minute down… an unfortunate swing from the 40-50 seconds I had leaving transition.

The run course was great too, and it was super sunny at this point. A nice run on mostly flat roads, with two carrots in the distance to try catch. While one of them was coming in closer, and I eventually caught him, the other (Colby, who had entered transition 3rd) ran cross country for Gonzaga and can run a 16:00 5k. I tried to put on the burners after a mile and a half, and while I felt like I was inching closer for a half mile, eventually I realized it wasn’t going to happen. Still pushed myself very hard to the end, and ended right at my limit. It was a relaxed finishing chute, as Colby had finished two minutes ahead of me, and 3rd was more than a minute back.

Came back to find my buddy Brian had screwed up his seatpost after finishing the first lap of the bike loop in 4th place, a super impressive feat considering the depth of competition in that event (much deeper than the short course). Pissed at his bike for him, though he seemed in good spirits, probably because of the sun.

Final Thoughts: A great race on all fronts, and I’m super stoked to have another overall podium. Its fun to do well! MVA  has me on the right path, and I can feel myself getting faster every week. The event itself was awesome… BuDu does great events, and I look forward to doing more of them in the future! And as far as getting lost, its just another lesson learned… I doubt I would have been able to win anyways (happens when you try race XC folk who go 22:00 over 3.8 miles while taking it easy), but its something to look out for in goal races in the future!

Overall: 1:19:16, 2nd/81 overall, 2nd/81 25-29 AG

Thanks for reading!


~ by cdviking on May 3, 2011.

4 Responses to “Lesson #7: Learn the Damn Course (Mt. Rainier Short Course Duathlon, another podium!)”

  1. Nice job out there! I am jealous of your transition times… Although I came in 1st in the overall females.. I could have saved 3 minutes in my total transition times.. Give me your wisdom paalleeease! I am a cyclist (although I have only owned a bike for a little over a year lol), but have been pretty successful in road racing (although it may not seem like it on my long course duathlon time only getting 20.5 mph, which I blame on 2 hours sleep and no water during the race lol), but one of the best tips I got on hilly bike races is that every 45 sec – 1.5 minutes you want to stand and do about 10 pedal strokes and then sit again. You can do it steady and not blow yourself, but this is a good technique to use so that you give your hill climbing leg muscles a break, and allows them to regain some circulation. If anything standing on the steeper pitches to maintain momentum, and when cresting any hill to keep your give your much more effeciency to gain speed on the downhill. Standing on the bottom of a hill like your competitor, is not necessary, as you will more likely loose the natural momentum that you already have… Oh, and nothing is over the budget if it is aero! ;). I was shocked (as this was my first solo completed duathlon / tri type event), that more people were not in skin suits and shoe covers (the cheapest and most % benefit for aero-ness! ;). Again, nice job on your race! Loved the race report, and hopefully my bike tip was helpful!

    • Thanks for the comment! I’m a relatively new cyclist (never hopped on a road bike prior to last year), so any tips are definitely helpful. It was nice to do a longer ride, because I’ve been working on 1-2 minute intervals at 105-120% of threshold almost exclusively for a few months, and its nice to see that top end work still translates to some endurance. Great job on your own bike split! You’ll be dominating the local scene for bike splits for sure if you keep up at that pace.

      I don’t own a skin suit because most of my racing will be tris, and its not terribly practical to wear one under a wetsuit, and I think that the added time of putting the shoe covers on and taking them off in transition would probably outweigh the time savings. The best investment I made was in Lock-laces for my shoes; my shoes have a loop on the back, so all I have to do is pull the tongue while holding the back loop and I could slip my foot in; probably saved me something like 30-45 seconds versus tying my shoes. Also, investing in single-strapped tri bike shoes has been worthwhile; I can easily get my feet out of the shoes just prior to the dismount and run to transition in my bare feet, versus clonking in the bike shoes. It’ll also allow me to do a flying mount, with shoes already on the bike after leaving transition, so hopefully I can save another 20-30 seconds. Less important in longer races, but at one race I did last year, I lost something like 5/6 places because of terrible transitions!

      Thanks again for reading!

  2. Just curious, why don’t you think skinsuits are not practical under wetsuits? Even the try specific skinsuits with the minimal shammy padding? What do you wear instead? I think bike racing has made me super focused on aero dynamics, and the drag produced from loose clothing makes me cringe!! lol. IE: wearing bike gloves is the BIGGEST mistake as far as time trials go! Yea I have those quick tie thingys on my shoes, but I think my biggest problem is not talking to volunteers while in the transition area… lol.. and I really want to learn the whole shoe to bike shoe thing.. I -keeping shoes on bike and putting feet in while biking technique! I was watching a youtube “tips” video, and saw the pro’s rubber band the shoes upright, and I am DEF going to be practicing that (as my goal is to go pro in triathlons). I got some sidi tri shoes (2 velcro straps) but didn’t wear them because I thought my feet might get too cold, although, that was a clearly wrong choice! ALso, about shoe covers, they make half shoe covers that you put on, and I fold them over while my shoes are unstrapped, so all I have to do is tighten my bike shoe and flip it over the straps.. sounds confusing.. but I think if you try them you might change your mind ;), they sell them at performance bike for like 7 bucks or something. You might save a minute or 2 in time on a 20k or more bike leg from them and an aero suit! What are your favorite tri’s to do? My area I want to go “big” in is 70.3’s, as it seems I can run my half marathon in the same pace as my 5 k, lol, not a sprinter! I am surprised your training program almost exclusively has you do 1-2 min threshold intervals? You plan on only doing sprint tri’s? It’s soo funny because I am very opposite! I do a LOT of base (ie: rode another 20 miles after the duathlon) with 1x a week 4-6 min intervals. It’s impressive you can pull such a good bike time with that!! Yea, the bike scene is VERY different from what I noticed at the tri scene. At the last tt I did a 28mph avg, and only came in 3rd in the pro 1/2 category, the pro (one of my good friends Jen Wheeler from Team Tibco) crushing me with over a min less finish time (it was the Pedal Dynamic tt put on by BuDu)! NUTS! It’s crazy you could loose 5-6 places just on a transition.. can I borrow some of yo’ skillz?! Anyways, would love to hear what tri’s you recommend! What are some that pull intense competition?

    • Ahhh, I misunderstood, I thought you meant Pro-Tour style long-sleeve diaper chamois skinsuits… I definitely wear a tri-specific suit, and it was the first thing I bought for the sport (even before my bike!). I’m definitely way into trying to improve aero too… latex tubes, a skinny aero, low-RR front tire, cutting the frame pump off, removing water bottle cage for a short event, zip-tying loose cables up front to the stem, trying to get as much drop as my neck will allow, etc. If I’m spending more money than I should on gear, no reason not to make the most of free speed! I’ll definitely have to check out the half-shoe covers… sounds like they would definitely be worth at least trying out.

      As far as the training goes, I’m focusing on sprints and Olympic distance races this year, and am doing a 70.3 distance (Black Diamond, in Enumclaw) to end the season in September. I’ve been working with a coach who has a philosophy of building the top end first, to improve physiological economy… if I can adapt to an aggressive time trial position and create high-end power in it, I’ll be more efficient in a less aggressive position for longer races; if I do 400s, 800s and miles on the track, my running form and technique will be more efficient.

      I’m also new to running, cycling and the sport in general (first tri last August), so I want to build top end speed before trying to turn that speed into endurance; I’m young yet (24), so why not thrash my body while I can still handle it? Especially with running, if you have a high endurance level, you probably want to toss in some intervals in there to lively things up and get that 5k time down! You swimming much? That’s definitely something you’ll want to work on, especially in long course racing (you can blow yourself up real easy on longer swims).

      I also have a limited time budget (I’m a law student… ugh), so I need to maximize time value of training, and do a total of 8-10 hours a week (3.5-4 running, 3.5 cycling, 2-2.5 swimming). I start doing 5×5’s this week on the bike, so we’ll see where my plan goes from here.

      There aren’t a ton of hugely competitive local races on the female side… probably the Issaquah Sprint on 6/4 (field size is 1500, and I think a couple local pros do it each year), TriMonroe (there’s a pro race, so I’m guessing some fast people would show up for the age group race) on 6/23 (I think), Seafair Triathlon on 7/24 (this is a sprint, but ALWAYS very fast), and Lake Stevens 70.3 in August (run by WTC, the Ironman company, so there will DEFINITELY be some fast people).

      Pretty much, this sport is awesome, and I could talk about it for hours and hours and hours. Time to go do an easy hour spin though!

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