Sunday, June 03, 2007

Just a Kind of Angry Wandering Post - DuceMan Race Report

I am not sure how to post my “race” at the DuceMan half-iron but I’ll get the bad news out of the way right up front. I got a PW – Personal Worst – on this course and am 99.9% sure that I was the 6th place Clyde out of 7. It is about 7 hours post race and I still don’t know how to feel about it. I can start by saying that I was not prepared for this particular race; I was prepared for a race that wasn’t here when I got here. I read about this race and the web site said “This course is exceptionally fast with a few hills at about the 40 mile mark”. The bike profile looked ugly but the description said otherwise so I figured to profile was just distorted, I’ve seen plenty of those. I have to say this was the single hardest bike course I have ridden in a race…there is nothing fast about it. For those who were able to pull off good times I can only say they were probably well trained, lots of climbing, and I am impressed with their ability.

The actual bike profile was not all that it was cracked up to be. For just about every down hill section there was a steep uphill that killed your average pace and the “few hills at mile 40” were actually two large hills that erased any speed you may have built in the previous 40 miles. It wasn’t just the deceptively hard course either, apparently the shifting cables on my new bike have stretched out enough to cause me to be unable to successfully use any of my climbing gears and I was unable to shift very well between gears. I would shift and the chain would stay put so I would shift again and it would jump up or down three or more gears and like I said, when I would try and get into my climbing gears the chain would just jump around on the larger part of the cassette. This took one hell of a toll on my bike, any time I was headed uphill, which was often; I was just grinding away skipping gears and getting passed like I was standing still.

A final note on the bike course, well, actually the race as a whole…the traffic was amazingly heavy throughout almost the entire course. The police were out in force protecting intersections but when you road along side the highways and rand through what seemed to be quasi residential areas there were cars, trucks and giant recreational vehicles flying by at high speed all around. On the areas around mile 40 where the major climbing began a group of cyclists just ahead of me were treated to a swirling black cloud of exhaust that was being belched out of a big RV that was right next to them. They all pulled off the course and were coughing and gasping when I went by. The vehicles were also going by at very high speed and very close to the racers. On the highways you basically had three options, ride on the debris filled shoulder, ride on the rumble strip or ride on the white line in traffic. I just felt like I spent much of the day breathing exhaust.

The run course was also tough, pretty relentless hills. I’m not exactly sure if there was any appreciably flat area…but I’m not sure how much that really mattered because I was reduced to walking much of the time anyway.

So…how to analyze my race. I had a good nutrition plan and stuck to it and despite my tiredness I feel like everything was functioning well. Had I had any strength left there would have been adequate fuel on board to keep me going strong. I also had a good race strategy and was able to make adjustments as needed, unfortunately I spent a lot of energy I could have used later in the race earlier on the bike because the “hills” at mile 40 were far more formidable than I expected to encounter. Had I known what was coming I would have played it more conservatively. I also blew a lot of strength screwing around on a bike that wouldn’t shift.

Emotionally, I’ll be honest, I spent a good chunk of the race drifting between anger and something just below enragement. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would title this post “LIARS!” and just slam TriSport and the race organizers but the truth of the matter is TriSport is a very athlete friendly organization and the RD for this race is one hell of a nice person and the race was well organized and in a very scenic venue…it’s just that it is a lot tougher race than is let on and, well, the traffic SUCKED and the course felt dangerous a lot of the time even though I didn’t see or hear of anyone getting hurt.

Anyway, I think I was so angry so much of the time that I also wasted a lot of energy on emotion as well, I developed some pretty significant tightness through my shoulders, which is not normal for me in races of any distance but is normal when I am particularly stressed. This tightness through my shoulders had a pretty negative effect on my run because any time I would start running I was usually forced to stop after a bit not because of my legs but because of increasing muscle tension in my shoulders. I tried pretty hard to relax them and had some success late in the race but the damage had long been done and I was stuck with it.

As I reflect on it the whole disorganized nature of this post reflects my experience today…I just got taken by surprise by the bike course and my malfunctioning bike and everything was kind of discombobulated and colored by negative emotion. Even my swim was not so great but that bothered me far less.

The Clydes and Athenas took off in the first wave with the pros, elites and relays…that was a small field and in pretty short order I was alone in the water with marker buoys that seemed impossibly far apart and I discovered just how dependent I am on swimming in a pack to help facilitate my sighting and pacing. Ha, sometimes I even found myself swimming toward shore directly perpendicular to the swim course. I wasted a lot of time swimming all over the lake and popping up to look around and try and locate a buoy. Things got a bit better when I was overtaken by the lead group from the men’s wave, which started 4 minutes after my wave, but then that was a bit discouraging too but it was also nice because I was able to get some better swimming done.

I was happy to note that the difficulty of the course and my observations on the traffic and debris covered shoulders were not mine alone. When I finished everyone I met was walking around in a daze saying “well that just sucked” or “I feel really beat up” or “That was way harder than advertised” etc… My friend Miguel and I were talking about it and reached the conclusion that this race was harder than the Buffalo Springs Lake triathlon, which is famously difficult in my area. We were not the only ones to make this observation. A few hours after the race we met a triathlete in a convenience store and we were talking about the race and he spontaneously said “I think this was harder than Buffalo Springs. I don’t know If I’ll be back for this one, probably not, maybe the Olympic, maybe the X-terra…I just don’t trust what I will find and that’s not something that I can feel good about. I want to know what I’m getting myself into before I enter a race so I can train and plan appropriately.

The GEEKGRL also finished this race and I spent a good part of the time completely sick with the Idea that she was out on the same course suffering, completely unprepared for what was going on…that too made me angry as hell.


  1. WOW. Sounds like that was one tough course. Maybe you learned a few things that you can use in the future and turn this into a learning situation. My grandma used to say "That which does not kill us makes us stronger". Rest up, for sure call someone about your bike because that is not right, and maybe in couple days your reflection might change a bit. I think that whatever place you might come in does not matter as much as the fact that you had the sack to line up and give it your all. Just my .02. And thanks for the tips on the bike. I used them and it for sure helped.

  2. Snap!!!

    PW or not, you and GeekGirl showed grit and determination in getting it done. You guys are awesome.

  3. Determination and grit - thats what you showed us all today. You both have my utmost respect.

  4. I agree with everyone Myles. It's about getting it done. It's easy to quit. Driving through it and completing the task at hand no matter what difficulties you are presented with, that's a Triathlete. You pulled out a tough race , maybe the rage (okay anger...) got you through it better?

  5. That sounds like one tough race.

    I would have tense shoulders and arms too if I had to worry about cars and trucks blasting by me on the bike ride.

    It is a bit more difficult to concentrate on your race when you are worried about staying alive.

    Good job on your race and thanks for the great, thoughtful posting.

  6. Hopefully after a few days, you will stop beating yourself up. Its pretty obvious from the profile that the description of the course was skewed. I always blame it on the people who put the course together: I really think they try to make it as hard as they can because usually THEY aren't doing it! But you have to look at the positive that you stuck it out regardless of the difficulty.

  7. You are a warrior.Most top tier athletes (and you are a local top tier) give up if they dont crush a course. But you kept going refusing to stop.
    Tougher than Buffalo? No way I'll EVER do that one! Congrats on finishing. What you didn't have in speed you more than made up for in heart & determintation.