Wednesday, June 6, 2012

USAT National Long Course Duathlon Championships....Race Report

When USAT announced that the 2012 Long Course Duathlon Nationals would be held in Cambridge, MD at the Blackwater Duathlon, the race immediately went onto the 2012 schedule but it turned out that it would be only one week before Eagleman 70.3m. Hmmm....two "A" races in two weeks and a month after IM St George.  As posted before training since IM has really just been maintenance so the goal for these two races was to come in fresh off  St George.

The Nationals Duathlon course was a 10km run, 70km bike and a final 10km run, all pancake flat on the Eastern Shore but with an almost guaranteed wind. Having ridden the course the previous two weekends, I knew which way the winds would be coming from and planned the race strategy accordingly.  Looking at the field in the weeks leading up to the race, it looked like a who's who of Duathlon but to be honest being 4th in the 30-34 age group last year down at Powerman Alabama had me thinking that the podium was within reach in the 35-39 AG this year.

Heading to T1 Photo Courtesy: Sarah Banks
Race morning the wind was calm and with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees it was almost too good.  At 7:00am I was off  with the first wave (males 39 and under) and set about trying to settle into a fast but comfortable pace.  A lead group of about 7 guys (including some professionals) pushed hard from the gun and it was the first decision of the day....go?stay?go?stay?  In the end I stayed at my pace and that left me in no-man's land not with the front 7 but away from the main field.  At least I set my own pace and could run my own race.  Surprisingly with little speed work since IM the 5:35min/mile pace felt a hard but comfortable pace and just after the 5km point I caught up with a couple of others who had tailed off the front pack.  The course was an out and back with the back having a headwind and the three of us kept on pushing to T1.  Looking back I feel I could have perhaps pushed that return leg a bit faster but the comfort of the small group was sure to pay dividends on the 2nd run.

I entered T1 in 8th after a 35:25mins (5:43min/miles) 10km run.

Duathlon transitions are nice and easy without the hassle of a wetsuit and it was out quickly onto the 70km (43.3 mile bike) on the Parvilla Cycle & Multisport supplied Guru CR9.01.  Again the course was an out and back for 2 laps, with the back having the headwind.  This meant that we were all flying out of T1 with the wind at our backs.  The plan was to stick to my Peaks Coaching Group approved power strategy, averaging 256 watts throughout, an Intensity Factor of 0.85 and minimizing the Variation Index.  Flat courses make this task much easier and I hit the first 17.75km turnaround averaging 261 watts.  In that time I had kept a few guys within view as "rabbits" and had passed a couple of riders while also being passed by a couple.  The return leg into the headwind was much the same....averaging 257 watts but at a slower speed.  The Intensity Factor was right there at 0.85 (based upon my FTP of 300 watts) and the Variation Index was hovering at 1.02 (within 2% of the average power at all times).  This power output was giving me a 24MPH average and turned around for the 2nd lap feeling good despite the wind having kicked in as it always does on the Shore.

Due to the nature of the course the 2nd lap was pretty much a replica of the first - average power at 256watts.  Nutritionally I was spot on with Hammer Nutrition Electrolytes, Fizz (made into a 450 calorie bottle with CarboPro) and a Hammer Gel just 20mins from finishing the bike.  The last few miles I had a fellow 35-39 AG'er gradually catch and pass me and I kept him close as we came into T2.  I knew that I was sitting 2nd in AG as the leader of the race overall although being my age was a Professional so wouldn't be included in the National results.

Coming into T2  Photo Courtesy: Bobbi Whisman

Bike Time 1hr 48mins (24.0MPH) and 9th overall.

Rounding the last corner   Photo Courtesy: Sarah Banks
Heading out onto the 2nd 10km run I felt good and had a couple of runners immediately in my sights, including the 35-39 AG'er that had passed in the final few miles of the bike.  Within the first mile I had successfully passed him to take the lead and made a purposeful effort to increase the pace as I passed.  Surprising even myself I actually increased my pace from the 1st mile consecutively to the 5km turnaround.  At that point I could see the gap to 2nd place and had just 5km to go to take 1st place and the National Championship!  The headwind took it's toll and with the pace ever so gradually slowing, I passed one more runner to cross the line in 3hr 4mins 52secs for 9th overall and 1st in in the 35-39 Age Group.

2nd Run Time 38:54mins (6:17min/miles) 10km run

Crossing the line as National Champion for Age Group 35-39 Photo Courtesy: Bobbi Whisman

So, 2012 National Age Group Champion for the Long Course's pretty cool to be able to say that but honestly it is even better to be back racing at a high level after a 2011 season that was disappointing.  And above all, it gives me some confidence heading into Eagleman 70.3 this coming weekend.

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