Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Du It High Race Report



On July 15 Kristy and I competed in the Du It High Duathlon in Leadville, CO.  I had been aware of the event for a few years, and was actually in town on race day in the past, but that was because I was participating in the Silver Rush 50 Mile Run in the Mosquito Range east of Leadville. Without the SR50 on my schedule this year, I jumped at the chance to compete in the highest duathlon in the country (the world?). It was, as expected, a lung searing suffer fest.

This run/bike/run was billed as a 5K/20K/5K duathlon, but my Polar RCX5 measured it at about 5.6K/20.3K/5.2K. The runs were not the same length because we had to run by and then back into a parking lot on the first run, but not on the second. If you know me, and my history of measuring courses, then you know why I mentioned the course length. I don't care how long they are really, but I think that race directors should make an effort to measure them correctly and  to state the actual distances when promoting the races.

Like a local ultra course
I would like to have known up front that I was going to run a few minutes extra on that first run, which was almost completely on gravel and rough double track dirt. Then my foolish self would NOT have gone out nearly as hard. Those last few minutes of oxygen deprivation, which caused most of the field to walk, nearly took me off of my feet. Honestly, I would love to have video footage of my first transition.

Finding Kristy was not a problem, since I had parked her near the transition exit. When I reached her, however, I stepped straight up to the transition crossbar and leaned heavily on it with both hands. My eyes were not focusing well and they seemed to "switch channels" by blacking out as I looked around. After a few moments I gathered myself enough (?) to grab Kristy and walk away.

Then I noticed the ladies at the transition exit eying me suspiciously. Aha! I rolled Kristy back to my transition spot and proceeded to change into cycling shoes and grab my helmet. I found myself wondering if my head was clear enough to go rocketing down the slope out of town. Once on the bike, I thought about how peaceful I would have been jogging along the trails if I had entered the SR50 that morning. The adrenaline rush from steering Kristy around that crazy course suppressed those thoughts.

Some of the roads had deep cracks spaced about twenty feet apart. I had ridden the roads around Leadville many times, so I knew exactly what to expect on the bike course. I had even taken a map when I registered and driven over the course so that I would know how far I would go before I made the first turn and how far up Sugarloaf Mountain I would find the turn-around.

Bumpity, bumpity, bump. I rode in aero as often as I could, but the cracks made that position ridiculously dangerous on a few sections of roadway. Only on the west side of the railroad tracks, on the climbing approach to Turquoise Lake did the road smooth out enough to settle into an aero tuck.

It was a cool, sunny morning, so I enjoyed the ride a lot. Like all of the reservoir lakes I encountered in western states this summer, the water level in Turquoise Lake was well below normal due to the minimal snowfall last winter. The bike course went across the dam and then up along the paved road leading back to Mayqueen Campground. Duathletes and sprint triathletes turned around well before Mayqueen, but not before a section of road that was torn up by a landslide a few years back. That one hundred meter section of road was still gravel. Orange cones separated the "lanes" through the gravel.

Though I had passed a number of cyclists from the triathlons during my ride, I was hoping to cross the gravel alone on the return down the mountain. There would be no such luck. As I rounded the bend in the road leading into the gravel, I encountered a cyclist who was moving much slower. She made a last moment decision to cross over from the edge of the road to the center just as I reached her. I was already there in order to pass her.

Moving further across the center of the road I could see that another cyclist had entered the gravel in that lane, so I quickly swerved to pass the lady in the only place I could, on the right. I yelled to let her know I was there. And, wouldn't you know it, she cut sharply in front of me. I steered Kristy off of the road and through the fist to football sized rocks strewn about. How I made it out of that, I do not know.

I completed the shorter second run in about the same time as I had circumnavigated the longer first run. And it hurt just as much. I had run ultramarathons, cycled, and climbed all through the Colorado mountains, but I had never pushed myself as hard as I did on those two runs. It was a wonder that my lungs did not break ribs in their frantic search for oxygen. Oh sure, a sensible person would have slowed down. I have rarely been accused of being sensible, and I am now certain that the moniker will never apply to me when I am racing a bike, especially at altitude.

So, I finished the Du It High Duathlon walking as if I had been drinking shots for the previous eighty two minutes and mumbling incoherently about how spectacular the views were. It was a blast and I hope to do it again someday.

Due to the wave starts, it is always hard to tell where you are when you are in multisport events. It turns out that I finished ahead of the small field of duathletes that day. At the awards ceremony several of the duathlon competitors were upset due to the seemingly random placement of the guy awarded second place. He had gone off of the bike course and they made up a bike time for him that put him second place. None of us had ever seen that done before. Off course had always meant DQ'd. It is unfortunate that the situation was handled in a way that upset several people. Otherwise, it was a great event. I especially liked the swag, which included a Melanzana beanie and socks.

And the hardware became a rare keeper for me.


"I have always delighted in the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning." - Joseph Priestly, the inventor of air

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