Monday, August 12, 2013

2013 ITU Duathlon World Championships

On August 10th I participated in the ITU Duathlon World Championships in Ottawa, Canada. The six day trip turned out to be more than I had anticipated because I was able to experience the company of many old friends while visiting a national capital city bearing a rich history. I'll dedicate a post to the Ottawa visit soon. For now I will present a short review of the race.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I have been dealing with the effects of a pinched nerve for a several months. The condition worsened until I was unable to run or bike. Because I had qualified (and paid) for the trip to Ottawa, I made a concerted effort throughout June and July to make it to the starting line.

Despite continued work with several medical professionals, my condition only saw minimal improvement as the race approached. I was told that the compression on the nerve had been removed and that I could train because the nerve had sufficiently healed. However, my left gluteus, hamstring, and groin muscles did not seem to know how to work together. I suffered from nearly constant spasms in one or more of those muscles and their lack of cooperation often made my left leg feel as if it were being struck with a blunt instrument.

A mere two weeks before the race I was still unable to run more than 1200 meters (0.75 mile) without lying down to stretch spasming and locked up muscles. Before sunrise that Saturday morning I sat on the USI Greenway stretching in tears due to the frustration of not being able to run or bike - or even walk - normally. I don't take well to being sick or injured. And I certainly don't like being sidelined from running due to something unrelated to exercise and so bizarre and unexplainable.

Almost magically, twelve days before the event, I was able to run three miles non-stop. That gave me hope. In all, I was able to fit in 8 non-stop runs of 3-5 miles in the weeks leading up to the race. That gave me less than 40 miles of running in the ten weeks leading up to the race. The muscles were still misfiring, but I was managing it with consistent therapeutic efforts.

Taking a positive stance, I assured myself that I'd be going into the event with "fresh" legs. Considerable thought went into every step I ran during those twelve days in order to maximize my performance. I cannot recall any other training period when I looked at my Polar RCX5 computer so often during training or when I studied the data files so fervently.

Smiles with friends after the parade of nations
Though I was able to cycle more consistently during this time period, I quickly learned that my untrained running legs reduced my ability to ride well. My hard cycling efforts produced solid results - until I rode them shortly after running.

Fingers crossed, I toed the line in Ottawa with a group of talented super fit "old men" from around the world that included two past champions and two likely title contenders.

Finishing lap one of run one
Race day was sunny and cool with variable menacing winds blowing wildly at 15-20 mph. The two-lap run course was mostly flat, but it included a couple of hills that many competitors took note of. The two-lap bike course consisted of an out/back on a parkway and a side box through an industrial area. The surprisingly bumpy roadway, due to countless cracks and potholes, combined with a relentless wind to make the bike leg considerably tougher than expected. I am still wondering, as was noted post-race by many competitors, how it was possible to have head winds in almost every direction of travel.

Starting lap two - form deteriorating
The first 10K went well enough until the left hamstring knotted as I climbed a hill with a K to go. I had to shorten my stride until it quit bitching. That cost me several places as I approached T1. I covered that 6.35 miles (several had it at 6.4+ miles) in 38:20 (6:02 pace) and trailed friend and AG leader Andy by more than a minute.

Powering back to speed after nearly following
Rg off course at the end of lap one
Four miles into the bike leg I had passed several people and thought that I was in fourth or fifth in our 50+ AG wave. Timing our differences at the turns, I knew that I was closing on Andy, but I soon realized that I would not catch him unless he cracked. Andy was having a fantastic day - he did not crack. Given the conditions and the fact that I held back a bit after the hamstring event ending the 10K, I was happy with my 1:01:39 (24.1 mph) split for the ride (24.8 miles by my Polar RCX5), but I wondered as I started the last 5K (3.25 miles?) whether the left leg would cooperate.
She loves being alone in T2 - Andy's disc is at right . . .
For four kilometers I reeled in a Brit named Rg McClean as we ran amongst a wave of younger runners. I finally came within a stride of him with about a K to go - on that same hill. Wanting to pass him with authority, I accelerated and was immediately hobbled by the hamstring again. I then watched as he slowly pulled away from me. Though I was able to gain on him again in the closing meters, he finished ten seconds ahead of me. My 20:20 split (6:15 pace) was slow compared to what I normally run but, again, I was pleased to reach the finish line after all of my trouble.

I was astonished to hear the announcer call my name and congratulate me on a bronze medal finish. I honestly thought I was racing for fourth place. I knew that the depth of talent was lower than it has been in the past - USAT scheduled Tri Nats on the same day as Du Worlds and the world economy is limiting travel. Still, I was excited and proud to stand on the podium to collect a medal for Team USA.

I was also honored to be able to spend time with the many friends I have made over the years through duathlon. Boulder's Andy Ames "came out of retirement" to kick some arse in my AG. Marty, Kevin, Derek, Bruce, David, Warren, Chris, Glen, and several other friends represented Team USA well. I was especially happy to see Greg Fraze, another southern Indiana boy, have an all-around solid race and collect the silver medal in his AG.

A review of the data from my Polar RCX5/G5 gave me a lot of feedback on my performance. I rarely look at my watch during races these days. Instead, I go by feel. For this race I pushed hard until the hamstring knotted up. After that I was hesitant to push it to that thin line marking my aerobic limit until I threw caution aside and surged on the Brit, Rg. My legs were understandably shot during run two, but I did not allow any excuses or negative thoughts to creep through my mind as I closed out. Given my fitness level, I see from the data that I had a solid physical (and mental) performance.

This picture speaks volumes
Course map created by my Polar RCX5/G5
A peek at my log
I would like to thank those who have supported me throughout this frustrating year. You know who you are. Your messages, calls, and visits have been duly noted and deeply appreciated. I would also like to thank all of the duathlon friends who spent time with me during the last week and who sent photos they took during the race. Finally, I send thanks to Polar for the products that allow me to dial in my minimalist training and VFuel for the great tasting gel that keeps my energy levels high during these long events.

This race trip included a thorough tourist experience in Ottawa as I logged many miles walking, running, and riding amongst the many attractions. A pictorial blog of these activities will soon follow.  ST

He first inspired me during my high school years.

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