Perfect weather greeted all those who suited up in their running and mountain biking gear for the 3rd Annual Des Moines Dirty Duathlon. I believe the temperatures for the 12 noon race were in the 68 - 72 degree range with plenty of sunshine and little if any wind.
I succumbed to the head cold going around Iowa that starts with a few days of mild sore throats and finally turns into the sneezing and cough. Mine started on Friday, but was in good bloom by Sunday for race time. I heard several other racers talking about having the same thing, but there we were ready to grunt it out in spite of it. I entered the solo category of running, biking and running all by myself. I put my bike, helmet and cycling shoes in position and then headed off to warm up for the run. After getting all warmed up, it was announced there would be a 20 minute delay to the start as we waited for the beginner class to finish their race. So I kept doing some light jogging and hydrating for the event.
Off we went at 12:20'ish with a one lap run to start the race. I ran past quite a few on the opening climb and got into the singletrack somewhere in the front of the middle of the pack. Running off camber, down, up and over obstacles where you really have to concentrate on planting your feet correctly takes a lot of muscle compared to running on smooth surfaces.
So that first lap took some effort to stay in position. I didn't want to blow my wad on this first lap, so kept things at a good pace to stay on task for the afternoon. I came into the staging area and swapped shoes and gear to head off for 4 laps on the bike.
The trail was in perfect biking condition with a few tacky areas, but no mud to be seen and the trail was a nice, quick rolling surface. The first two laps were pretty uneventful for me as I just held position and tried to find the cycling legs. At the end of lap 2, some I had been following started to fade so I passed them and headed off into lap 3 feeling pretty good.
Lap 3 and lap 4 went better for me as I was in the spinning groove and felt pretty good on the bike. I felt a few twinges of cramping in the legs in lap 4 and wondered if the cold I had was contributing. As I came into the staging area, I had to deal with the double knots I had tied my running shoes with before lap 1. That took a little more time than I wanted, but I got in and out of the transition area in good shape and headed up the climb to start my final lap of running.
Right at the top of the climb, my left leg experienced some cramping. Not enough to seize up, but enough to have me walk 50 feet or so and do some massage. I took off again at more of a jogging pace, popped a gel and started sucking in the beverage. I tried to run the cramp out, but every time I pushed my stride out, it would return. So I resigned myself to a survival mode pace which was much slower than my first lap. Old man's jog is what I would call it. Throughout the lap, I had moments where I was able to stride out as well as moments where the cramps held my pace in check. The bottom of my feet were hurting like some sort of blisters were forming and I was glad I had done a couple of mock races to psychologically deal with the pain of a run/bike/run race because I had to tap into that psychology and just push ahead. Several runners that I had passed on the biking portion closed the gap and passed me back on this running lap. Rats! My training just wasn't enough to hold my position in this format. But I kept forging ahead to get it over with and finally relaxed as I ran up the final climb before descending to the pavement. I opened my stride out as best I could to run into the finish line area and crossed the line somewhere in the 2:20 - 2:22 time frame. No idea what the results were as I headed home immediately after crossing the line. I'll update once the results are posted later this week.
Wow! That was a long race. I did the first race in 2006 and my finish time was 1:52. I think this race was longer in distance and more difficult because we ran on the hills instead of over at Denman's. I think the biking portion back in 2006 was more in the distance of only 3 laps as compared with the 4 we did yesterday. In addition, having to run two times is more difficult than doing the running portion in one shot. It's hard to fire up the running muscles again after sitting on the bike for so long. In all my training simulations I felt that, so was expecting it. I just wasn't expecting the cramps. Could have been my cold. Could have been the toll of running too fast in the first lap. Regardless, I had a lot of fun in this challenge. I hauled my bike back to the Element and was too pooped to even stay for the awards party. I headed home to shower, eat and recover. My walk is quite "ginger" today as my legs got worked so hard in the running portions of the race.
Kudos to CITA and Striders for hosting such a fun event. I like this format and wish we did a couple more of them per season as it is much more challenging than just a mountain biking format.