3:50 A.M. came faster than imagined and as I pealed myself off of the couch, I realized how dark it was outside. My immediate thought, “uggg, why do I get myself into these things??” After sticking my head in the shower, I pulled on the new race clothes and munched on a baked sweet potato between sips of coffee and water.
After loading the car with bikes and race gear, we made our way up the dark, deer filled roads to Maryland. I almost appreciated having the extra time to wake up, rather than the usual rush of arrive and run. The race parking lot was filled unexpected amounts of “bike porn” and here I’d thought the pack would include others who were out to try their hand at their first multisport event. We were surrounded by fancy tri outfits and even with the smattering of mesh short wearers, I felt a bit self-conscious of my noviceness. I kept reminding myself that while this was my first duathalon, this, by far was not my first race rodeo.
When we arrived at the start area, we assembled our bikes and gear in the transition under our numbers. I found myself next to some biking veterans… the section under my bike looked so minimalist: 1 coconut water, 2 water bottles, some shot blocks, new helmet, biking gloves, sunglasses, lulu pullover. Before we were allowed to exit, we were marked with a giant black sharpie. 480 on each arm. 30 on my calf. I gave my mom a quick pre-race call and wore my green Donate Life bracelet per tradition.
Between three performance enhancing pees and some stretching, it was fun to note who did and didn’t resemble the ages plastered publically on their bodies. As we corralled towards the start line, the announcer went over the long list of race fouls… explained the refs on the course. With a 3-2-1 the men were off… then 4 minutes behind them, we hit the road.
This being my first multi-sport experience, I am starting my race recap with my top 20 lessons learned:
- Road bikers can be doush bags. Just because you have a cool bike, aero-dynamic helmet that saves you seconds and a sexy triathlon outfit, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say “on your left”. Hello! Race foul! I don’t care if it’s my first time and your 800th… you should still show me the respect that I show you on the course! Please note that this doesn’t apply to all road bikers, there were plenty of nice triathletes who abided by the race rules, but the ones who didn’t came across as super arrogant racers sponsored by the letter D.
- Clipless pedals and road tires are essential for road racing. I’d guess that I doubled my effort with the cross tires and cages… granted, I didn’t feel as bad as the guy on the fixie or the girl on the beach comber, but… you get the idea. Although, middle of the pack finish, I’m happy with that.
- When you think you packed enough water, pack more.
- Loops suck! I get bored easily, so running or riding in circles makes me crazy! I’d rather not know what lies ahead… Especially when I’ve already experienced the hills of Howard County on the first go around.
- Having your age in permanent magic marker on your calf is sexy, right? I think running races need to institute this rule, it’s fun to see who you are surrounded by… that is until you get passed by someone with “79” on their calf, yes, “79” – have no fear, I did my own double take from the saddle that almost pulled my bike off the road.
- Bricks practice is essential. Bike, hockey game, bike doesn’t count.
- People who cheer are the best! More people should thank them.
- Running miles 1 and 2 out of 4 after biking feels like hell – there are no words to describe the lead feeling in your legs. The brain keeps telling them to move… and they just don’t. Period.
- Determination is the name of the game… All races have a mental component. While staring down the second 13 mile bike loop, I had a flash of “I can’t” which I quickly extinguished. I was beginning to regret my choice of bike and envy/hate the fancy road bikers. Must make it to 26 became the mantra. I kept promising myself that the exchange was an oasis of coconut water and that 4 miles would be simple. The latter half was a lie.
- Signing up for races where you have to wake up at 4 A.M. on a Sunday isn’t always the smartest idea. But… it always makes for a crazy adventure and a good story. And look how much we accomplished before everyone else woke up!
- There is no doubt that Crossfit helps with recovery and overall fitness, but 10-15 minute workouts do not entirely prepare you for the way your body feels at the very end of a nearly 3 hour beating.
- Practice using cages BEFORE you race. They bite. And… having the race paparazzi catch you awkwardly mount your bike isn’t awesome. But, it might make for some funny race photos.
- Don’t fail your helmet inspection.
- Apply more sunscreen. See exhibit A.
- Find friends to race with… having a pre/post-race buddy who is up for the fun makes all the difference in the world. Agreeing to run your own race in advance is key, but having someone who is just as crazy as you are… is good motivation to push yourself and it just feels nice knowing that you aren’t alone out there with a bunch of strangers.
- There is a first time for everyone and everything.
- Showering, brushing your teeth and drinking a good beer after racing are better than sex.
- Getting older does not mean getting slower, just smarter. It also means you have the ability to buy better equipment and have more time to spend on back country roads.
- Carbs like bread and pasta are not needed for race fuel. My pre-race dinner included: a monster salad with chicken and prosciutto. Breakfast was a baked sweet potato, banana with peanut butter and piece of homemade Lara bar.
- When faced with the decision to play a 10 P.M. hockey game after a morning of racing, say no. Run, bike, run, hockey… makes for an angry and exhausted body.
The first 2 miles were the fast, fluid and easy.
The bike started rough with a slice to the back of ankle due to an awkward attempt to get into my cages. Elevation changes and wet roads made for slick turns and long climbs. I was a tad timid on the declines and mile marker 20 was an evil tease when I realized it was meant for those bikers on their second time around the course.
I had a small pit in my stomach as I passed through the exchange and embarked on loop two, but it seemed to fly. Easier, probably in part because most of the rude bikers had already finished, but also because I’d relaxed my shoulders and took some deep breaths. I stopped breaking on the declines and felt stable and comfortable on the bike. Since I was thirsty as hell, I daydreamed about the water sitting at the transition.
The last four, well that’s a whole other story… the sun blistered, my legs fell in heavy thuds, and the small hills felt more like mountains… I remember stumbling out of the transition and dumping a few cups of water on my head. I heard the announcer read 2:10 over the loud speaker as someone finished, and made a mental note that I had 50 minutes to beat my goal. As I embarked on the first loop, I shouted to Brian, “This is much harder than CrossFit!”
I did my best to power up the last incline and across the finish line, seeing the clock close in on 2:59… after subtracting our start time – goal accomplished! Under 3 hours, 15th in my age group. Hot damn! Now, if it weren’t for the sore hamstrings and shoulders as I rolled out of bed this morning… Time use my new knowledge on the next one in September.