Last Sunday I raced in the Green Bay Duathlon (3 mile run, 22 mile bike, 1.5 mile run). 'Twas a short and fun race, I got to wear some whack clothes and I had some superb success...
Quick related note: I’ve had too many experiences racing, from middle school track through my more recent career in triathlon, where I raced pretty well and maybe even set a personal best, but I was still disappointed because I didn’t place as high as I had hoped.
Say you’re the 10th best triathlete in the world. Sometimes you will go to a race, you will be the fastest person there, and you will win. Other times, the 1st or 5th or 8th best triathlete is going to show up and on that day there is not much you can do - they are going to beat you. You might set a personal best time at both races, but if your single goal and desire was to win the race, you are going to be stoked after one race and feel like a failure after the next race.
It sounds pretty obvious, that you shouldn’t get too caught up in your place/ranking, especially over a short time horizon, but racing is the ultimate comparison sport and it’s really easy to fall into the trap of judging yourself based on your place among a particular field on a particular day.
So for this race, the Green Bay Duathlon (in Green Bay, Wisconsin - Titletown, USA), I had goals and expectations more along the lines of ‘maintain even pacing’, ‘don’t overdo it on the first run’ and ‘be stoked when you finish whether you’re in first or fifth’. Given my desires to be a professional athlete, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m a titch on the competitive side, so I did want to win, but I was going to try to avoid basing my post-race happiness on the fleeting and frustrating goal of trying to come in a certain place.
Start - 7:30am
We sang the Star Spangled Banner and by 7:25am the first wave lined up in the starting corral. I wanted to start a few rows back, but somehow I found myself standing out front, all alone, with a solid wall of athletes behind me, each one of them also wanting to start a few rows back. So I started in the very front, and I figured it would at least make for a cool picture.
Leg 1 - 3 mile run
I held the lead for about 20 seconds. As we approached the end of the 3 miles and arrived back at the transition area, I was in 6th or 7th place, 30 seconds back from the leader. As people passed me on this first 3 mile run, I tried to size up their abilities as a cyclist. Of the handful of athletes ahead of me, two of the guys looked like they might be pretty good, but the rest were less concerning. A couple were breathing so hard it seemed like they had forgotten we were doing more than a 3 mile running race, and a couple had arms the size of my quads, and it didn’t seem like their huge arms (i.e. anchors) were going to do much to help them pedal a bike fast.
6:15ish/mile, 6th or 7th place
Leg 2 - 22 mile bike
I felt great when I got on my bike, and I started cranking hard. I passed a couple people right off the bat. I was riding so much faster than them that it freaked me out, and I took a mental step back to see if I was riding too hard. My effort level seemed sustainable enough, so I sallied forth and kept cranking. I was in the lead by the time we reached the 3 mile marker. I didn’t immediately realize I was in the lead, but eventually I figured it out based on the slightly surprised reactions I saw from volunteers and police at every intersection (or were they looking at me weird because of my tights…?) By mile 6 I was so far out front that I was all alone and I could no longer see anyone when I looked behind me.
Even once I was in the lead, I kept the throttle pretty much wide open - before the race started I did some quick appraisals (judgement) and figured there would be some stiff competition on the bike. There were plenty of bikes significantly more expensive than mine, and some athletes looked like they might be able to spin the cranks. Because of these pre-race assessments, every time I looked behind me, I was sure that a beast of a cyclist was going appear on the horizon. A cyclist with quads the size of my waist, a cyclist that was putting out enough watts to cook a Thanksgiving dinner, a cyclist that would blow by me without looking back. An uber-cyclist.
On this day, however, I was to be crowned the uber-biker. I was pushed along by my imagination - no other cyclists did appear behind me. I finished the bike segment several minutes in the lead, having rode 24.5mph average, to the next fastest rider’s 23.0mph.
24.5mph, 1st place
Leg 3 - 1.5 mile run
I didn’t actually know how far in the lead I was when I started running, so I still ran reasonably hard. With a half mile to go, it was clear to my foggy brain that I was way, way in the lead, and I cruised in for the win!
6:30/mile, 1st place
It was an excellent race for me. I ran pretty fast (faster than I ever have), and I dominated on the bike (and held a higher heart rate on the bike than I ever have). And I ‘held it together’ - my pacing, effort level and fitness were such that I was able to finish as strong as I started. And I won overall, for the first time in my life, so that was a pretty great bonus. I wore outrageous tights, and that was okay, because I represented USA strong and because you can wear whatever you want when you win ;)
Finally, and best of all, my parents were there, and we got to take home the Title Belt from Titletown.
Thanks for reading!