Well, first race of the multisport season, and a State Championship to boot. I wasn't too keen on having an important race as my first one of the year, but what can you do?
I was clearly rusty with even the basic stuff: preparation. I didn't get everything ready that I needed to on Sat., so I finished up the loose ends on Sunday morning. I normally like to get to the race about 1.5 hours before start; I showed up 25 minutes prior to start on this one. DOH! I barely had enough time to set up my transition area before they were kicking people out of transition. I thought surely I would forget something in such haste, but amazingly, I didn't. I went over to get my timing chip and they were already put away! DOH!...again. Desiree the race director saw I was panicking and offered her chip, so I got that set up. Then I had just enough time while everyone was on the start line to jog to the end of the block and back. Yep, a whopping 2-block warm-up! DOH!! Desiree found my chip and we quickly switched it out just before the gun went off. I really had given up hope for a decent race with all the fiascos thus far. But it was a beautiful day, great temperature, clear skies, and light wind...should make for a fast course.
Once the gun goes off, it's a great feeling. All sense of panic and worry dissipates and you just get into your groove and rhythm. I wore my Polar with a footpod pace sensor so I knew exactly how fast I should be running. It always amazes me how fast people start out. I was probably in about 50th to 60th place at the first mile. As everyone faded, I stayed constant and came in with a 19:44 5K split, which was good for me. It was about 30 seconds faster than I expected, so the course may have been about a tenth of a mile short. Was feeling pretty good on the run...stayed nice and easy the whole time and even chatted with Talbot Cox (a really fast 15 year old who has a lot of potential) for most of it. He knew I was gunning for my good friend, and big rival, Travis Newton. As we approached T1, he said go get him and we went our separate ways. I was in 29th place out of 121 coming into transition.
The start of the bike was where I could really tell I hadn't warmed up. I got settled in and ramped up to my target wattage pace and my legs were burning from no warm up. I eased off a tad until getting loose, then picked it back up. I was having a great bike split. My pace was right where it was supposed to be and I caught Travis before the bike turnaround, but then I started to get a really bad cramp in my right calf. Travis saw me at the turnaround and knew I was on him, so he dropped the hammer. I kept cramping and couldn't keep up with him, so he pulled back away. Then cramps started in my left calf too. I had to do a lot of coasting to stretch them out on the way back in, but they just kept getting worse. I turned in the 8th fastest bike split with an avg. speed of 22.3 mph. I think I was around 14th place at this point or so...not sure.
I dismounted my bike and then all hell broke loose. Both calves and both hamstrings started to cramp. I used my bike as a crutch to support my weight and came into transition. I took my sweet time in T2, debating whether or not to take my very first DNF. I didn't feel like continuing, but I decided to give it a go. With about a mile left, I saw Talbot going the other way; he saw Travis in front of me and said "there he is, go get him!" I sucked it up and made a huge push to close the gap. He seemed so close that I could have thrown a rock at him (maybe I should have), but I just couldn't close that last gap. The only good thing working for me was that I paced the 1st run and the bike so well, that even with cramps in my legs, I turned out a decent 2nd run: a 20:43, but that was only good enough for the 17th ranked 2nd run.
I ended up 13th overall (out of 121), 3rd in age group (out of 20), with a time of 1:31:48. Our age group was tight: Trey Cone won it and he passed Travis and I with about a quarter mile left (Trey's a superb runner). I closed the gap on Travis, but just couldn't make that last push. So Trey took first in AG (11th OA) and beat Travis by 8 seconds. Travis took 2nd AG (12th OA), and beat me by 4 seconds. Tight finish! It was fun!!!
All in all, I can't complain. The start was a fiasco, but I did what I could do with it. I haven't trained much this year, but still turned in a decent performance and didn't embarrass myself. This year's race was ultra-competitive...one of the best fields I've seen in a duathlon in a long time. I finished close to people that used to crush me, which was encouraging. Such a good outing on so little training makes me think that I may be able to surprise myself this season, and maybe even surprise a few other people along the way.