Back on Track

I took my broken bike into the shop on Monday. But when I picked it up on Wednesday, it still wasn’t fixed. Turned out I needed a new derailleur, but the shop had to order one and wasn’t sure if it would arrive by Friday. And I had a race Saturday, the Strasburg Duathlon. Lots of my lovely team-mates offered me their bikes, for which I was very grateful, and I could have ridden my old bike, but I wanted my B2 for this race.

I didn’t put Strasburg on my race list because I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to race four weeks before Capon Valley, but after consultation with my coach I realized it would be good cross-training. And, Capon Valley is just down the road, so it would give me an idea of the elevation changes I could expect. Plus, I figured I had a chance to do well in an event without a swim (my weakest of the three tri sports) and with two runs (my strongest event). I signed up on Tuesday, assuming my bike would be fixed. Ack.

The good news is that my bike was fixed in time. The bad news: I lost 3 pounds during the week due to a bunch of stressful events (my weight is generally very stable so this is unusual) and I didn’t think I could get my head in the game for Saturday. Getting everything ready the night before the race took forever. I couldn’t find one of my armwarmers, wasn’t entirely sure what to wear because I didn’t want to get too hot on the run or freeze on the bike, and was generally distracted.

Race morning temps were in the low 40s. I knew I’d be comfortable on the run and cold on the bike. I wore bike shorts, two tri tops, arm warmers, calf guards, and gloves, but no socks. My triathlon bike shoes are really tight so my feet go numb if I wear socks. Of course, they also go numb if they get too cold…

On the hour drive to the race, I started to fall asleep. I had to pull into a McDonalds in Strasburg and grab some coffee to wake up. I don’t usually drink coffee on race morning, but I did drink some before Shamrock Marathon and that race went well, so I figured a little caffeine jolt was a good idea.

At the race site I took forever to get set up. I hadn’t thought to bring a towel because there was no swim, but found that the transition area was gravel so I had to run back to my car and grab a blanket to stand on when I took off my shoes. I almost forgot to look at the map of the bike course, with which I was not at all familiar. Next to the map was an elevation chart. When I saw that I almost threw up. The entire 19 miles was a series of spikes, including one at 3 miles that was almost vertical. And the last 3 miles of the course appeared to be entirely straight downhill. It was a good thing I hadn’t seen the elevation map before because I never would have signed up!

I was still fiddling around, trying to get my GUs to stay in my pocket, when we were called to the start. I quickly threw off my sweatshirt and pants. It was nice to see a familiar face in the crowd: Aaron Church is a neighbor and elite runner who is venturing into triathlon. He also races for PRR. Turns out this was his first race on the bike and he was really nervous. We exchanged a fist bump and some words along the lines of “kick some butt!” I noticed that Aaron and I were dressed almost identically, while most people around us were wearing tights and long-sleeve bike jerseys. You could definitely tell the bikers from the runners.

So the race got underway and, as so often happens, all my fears and concerns disappeared. I planned to run the first 5K at a 7 min/mile pace and found that very easy. There was one woman in front of me who I passed on an uphill at the 1 mile mark, and from then on it was plain sailing…at least on the run.

I completely screwed up my transition to the bike. Because I don’t like to run in bike shoes, and because it looks hard core, I always start with my shoes on the bike and put my feet in them as I pedal. But the bike course started climbing almost immediately, so I knew I’d have to be quick to get my feet in the pedals. Of course I wasn’t, and I slowed so much I almost veered off the road. In hindsight, because the distance from transition to bike mount was so short, I should have just run in the shoes…

I’ve already said the bike route was hilly. But looking at an elevation chart and staring up at a monstrous hill are two different beasts. I’d be out of my seat, cranking up a hill, and I could see some guys two hills ahead of me, still standing…The lowest point for me came when a guy passed me on a really old bike with a rack on the back. I passed him back on a downhill but he caught me going up again. I got passed by a few other guys wearing “Winchester Wheelmen” shirts – I figure these guys eat hills for lunch…

So on and on it went. Hill after flippin’ hill. We passed about 53 churches, a very pretty roadside waterfall, and some cows that “galloped” over to the fence to get a closer look at us. I started to get really cold and could no longer feel my feet. At one point we went so steeply downhill that I came out of aero and started braking. I have never been so scared in my life!

Finally the end came in sight and the downhill to the dismount. A woman started yelling “slow down!” so I figured I was going too fast and started braking hard. I couldn’t feel my feet and, when I pulled them out of my shoes, noticed the toes on my left foot had curled under. I started worrying about my dismount and how my feet would feel hitting the ground. It somehow turned out ok but putting my running shoes on was really hard, and when I started running it was like I had legs but no feet. Weirdest feeling ever.

Strasburg Duathlon

Receiving my 1st place award from the mayor of Strasburg!

About a mile into the run my feet started burning like hell so I realized the feeling was coming back, and half a mile later they were fine. I pulled out a 6:56 pace for my second 5K, winning the female division by 5 minutes! Sweeet!

Overall time: 1:49
5K run: 21:22
T1: 00:42
30K bike: 1:05:05
T2: 00:46
5K run: 21:30

Sunday I ran 13.5 miles. What was amazing was that I woke up Sunday morning expecting my legs to hurt, but they felt fine, even on the foam roller. After Sunday’s run I was ready to drop but my legs didn’t hurt at all, after 19 miles of biking and almost 20 miles of running. I think I’m almost ready for Capon Valley. 🙂


About racingtales

Runner, triathlete, writer
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One Response to Back on Track

  1. Beth says:

    congrats on your win! That course sounds like a killer with all of those hills. You must be in awesome shape to not even be sore the next day.

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