Friday, May 4, 2012

USAT Duathlon Natls - Tucson

I was fortunate enough to travel to Tucson to participate in the 2012 USAT Age Group Duathlon National Championships. The trip was rewarding from many perspectives.

My beloved uncle, his nurturing wife, and their adorable three-year-old girl took care of all my needs. They live within a few miles of the race venue and they provided a vehicle, LOTS of food, tools, fan support, and some medical attention (duh - more on that later). They also arranged for a Sunday gathering of several other family members who live close by. In the end, one of them (Brian) even took care of shipping Kristy back to Indiana. Family! Wow! I am so lucky and appreciative to have family to depend on.

The venue was great. Both the repeating 5K run course and the 35K bike course were carried out on constantly rolling hills through the Oro Valley, which I welcomed after a spring of climbing in both sports. The courses and heart rate data collected from my file can be seen in the satellite maps below. The isles of the smooth desert transition area were lined with green AstroTurf, so they were sock friendly. The entrance and exit were marked by the usual USAT inflatables which were placed with fairness in mind. There was, of course, almost zero shade, but that made little difference since the desert sun seemed to provide as much positive attitude as it did heat.
Satellite view from Polar RCX5 data file
The weather was, well, sunny and warm, then hot (69-82F while I raced). Just what one would expect in the desert southwest. The 8-12 mph wind seemed to vary, but came mostly from the NNW, so it provided a headwind early on each of the two bike out/backs.

The race experience itself was not what I expected. First of all, the run course contained an 1100-meter finishing hill that I had greatly underestimated before I started climbing it. My first two miles splits were 5:15 and 10:40, which were about what I had expected to run on a rolling course. Soon after starting up that last climb, however, I decided to back off. A judicious first run is always advisable in a duathlon, especially one carried out in a desert. I finished that run in a dead heat :) with Scott Schraff, whom I had raced against in the 2010 Du Nats.

The RCX5 data for the cautious first run.
After a rare (for me) smooth transition I powered onto the bike course. Eight minutes later I looked at my Polar RCX5 and was shocked to see that I was only averaging 21.1 mph, which was well below my goal of 25+ mph. But I felt like I was working hard. And I was. The beginning of the course had a lot of climbing into the wind. It wasn't long until descents brought the average up. Whew! Temporarily psyched by the course.

About the time that I began to feel like I was moving smoothly I was passed by a train of four riders, two of whom were in my AG. They were close enough to be flirting with drafting - close enough, in fact, that a USAT official was riding along behind them counting off. The bad news for me was that the big guy pulling the train weakened and the group slowed down. More than once I tried to pass, but the group sped up, keeping me at bay. So, I eased off of the pedals and settled in about fifty feet behind the group - and the ever-counting official.
Polar RCX5 data for the bike.
This continued for more than half of the first lap. Then, one by one, the riders slowed and I accelerated across the gaps. I finished with a good bike leg, for me, at 25.7 mph (mount to dismount) and relatively fresh legs that I hoped would come in handy on the second run. Two fellow AGers were not too far behind.

At each turn-around during the second run I counted seconds back to Schraff. The gap increased to about 40 seconds before that last climb, so I once again eased up while ascending. You have to look at the pace plot to see that, though, because the HR climbed throughout the run.

Polar RCX5 data for the second run.
I finished 11th OA and first in the AG, beating Scott Schraff to the line by about a minute. Scott is a strong competitor and extremely nice guy. We talked for awhile after the race, mentioning the fact that it would have been nice if more of the top Eastern state guys had shown up to strengthen the field.

In the end, it was a memorable trip. The race went well for me, but equally important was the fact that I got to spend some quality time with family. I am already looking forward to a return trip next year. However, I hope to fore go the four days of post-race bleeding fingers . . .

I am also pondering whether or not I should run the Indy Mini (half marathon) tomorrow. My most challenging athletic goal of the year is finishing the Bighorn 100. It starts five weeks from today - and I have yet to train specifically for it.

Some pics from the trip.

Scott and I comparing splits
Aunt Lori and I at Subway
Kristy was parked near the IN flag!
Welcome to Tucson, nerd.
Finishing first run
Entering T1
Start of bike
Midway through Run 2 = HOT!

With Savannah and uncle John.
Just before I danced on the podium.
When bones meet metal.
Perfect alignment of fingers and chain ring teeth = blood sport!

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