This past Sunday I raced my first duathlon. Well, technically one of the triathlons last year had to cancel the swim due to dangerous waters–but this is my first EXPECTED duathlon. The course was: 1.5 mile run/10 mile bike (which turned out to be 11.5)/1.5 mile run. I have 3 more triathlons coming up to finish the season, and all of them are “sprint” distance–so this short race turned out to be great for training.
Camarillo, CA is about an hour away from L.A.–and I’m fine with driving that far because there is never any traffic this early on a Sunday. Fog set in as I got closer–and drizzling–which bothered me a little since I couldn’t see very far in front of me & was worried about getting lost on the bike course. There were only 150 people or so racing, and it reminded me of my old school Texas 5k/10ks I did. You can sort of look around & guess that you will probably get a medal by default. It’s harder to tell in these crowds, though, because you are usually semi-serious if you are willing to pack your bike & gear up & drive out here. But my fears of getting lost on the course were growing at the sight of the small crowd of racers. This crowd would disperse fairly quickly & I would be left on my own–not knowing the roads & probably going 10 miles off course. So I spent my pre-race time warming up & studying the race map.
As soon as the race started (with a 10yr old at the start line next to me, awesome!), I knew I would do fairly well in the pack. One woman charged ahead, and I knew it was a lost cause chasing her down. One other woman was in front of me, but I’m fairly confident in my bike skills (especially on flat courses), so I wasn’t too concerned. As the first run ended & I was putting on my bike shoes, though, another woman came out of nowhere & ran off with her bike much faster than me. Oops. But within a few miles on the bike, I had passed both of those girls & knew I was in second. My hope now was to get enough distance on the bike that they couldn’t catch me on the second run.
And from this point on, I was pretty much racing all by myself. I could see no one in front of me, so I’m glad I studied the map. Also, I was prepared for 10 miles on the bike–and I’m very conscious of my pacing, nutrition, etc–so when 10 miles came and left–I was a bit annoyed to still be racing. Sure, it was only 1.5 miles more on the bike…but at that point, I’m just ready to hop off and run again. But I also had no idea what I would have left for this run.
The sun started to come out on the run. It’s good because it made it a little less dreary, but it’s bad because the sun is hot. Amazingly, though, the run felt pretty great. I bounced right off my bike and into my running stride, and it felt almost effortless. Again, I was running pretty much by myself, so it’s a little hard to RACE when there’s no one around–but I did my best to keep the pace up. My last run was actually faster than my first, and no one caught up to me–so a nice 2nd place finish! Yes, I got a Winner’s Circle sweatshirt that is 3 sizes too large for me. I’ve already worn it to bed once.
What I loved about the race: the small-town vibe, the flat fast course, the people racing, the laid back feeling the whole event had. Although it felt great to have a really smooth race, it also made me think about how finishing times don’t mean much of anything in this sport (to me, anyway). Every course is so different, so it is always about “What is the best I can do on this course today?”–not compared to last month or last year. One of my worst finishing times was the triathlon in San Francisco–but it was one of my favorite races. The hills killed me (but challenged me!), the views were AMAZING, & the run was mostly on beautiful trails. I love this about multi-sport events. Each one has its own personality, and as long as you’re not stuck too much on the outcome–they all have something to offer.
My next race is in another week or so. It’s the Long Beach Triathlon, which should be pretty big & I’m excited to jump back into the ocean (terrified, as usual) & race a way more competitive (but equally as nice) crowd. September/October is my favorite triathlon kind of year–my season is coming to a close, so you soak up all the race fun because it won’t be back until April/May.