Early in the season I had set a goal of racing the half-iron distance duathlon (5-90-21.1) in Welland. I figured it was close to home and would be a good opportunity to try a longer race. Unfortunately training (on the bike especially) didn’t go as well as I had hoped so I decided to race the shorter du on Saturday instead.
This was a 5-30-5(.2) race on the exact same course I did last year. My wife (MK) was doing this race as well and we were lucky enough to have Grandma take the kids for the morning – this gave us one less thing to worry about before the race started! Unfortunately the stress free pre-race morning we designed was not to be when MK reached into the back of the van on the way to the course and asked why my rear tire was flat! I had been so well prepared with tuning up both bikes and loading them the night before. I switched to my old disc wheel which hadn’t been used since last year. Obviously the tube wasn’t impressed with the lack of attention it had received and wasn’t holding air. It turned out to only be a minor problem and just took a few minutes to get back up and running (albeit with a lingering fear in my mind of recurring flats!) Once that was sorted, I was ready to get things going.
We racked our bikes in the big arena parking lot that serves as transition and headed to registration. I wanted to get in a decent run warmup, mostly to test my ankle which I had rolled during a trail race a few nights before. I was surprised at how good it felt, and how good my running felt in general when I warmed up. A nice mental boost before the start!
Soon we were off on the recreational paths along the canal that make up the Welland run course. I didn’t know any of the competitors in the du, so (as usual) I wasn’t sure what to expect off the gun. It was a quick start but settled into a more reasonable pace than I remember from Woodstock. There were about 4 of us running around 3:40 pace with one more up ahead moving a little quicker and opening a fair sized gap. It soon thinned out a little more and I ended up running with another Team Running Free member named John. We sat 2nd and 3rd through the rest of the run and into transition. We kept a good pace and managed to introduce ourselves and had a pretty good conversation given that we were still running in the low 3:40s.
I had another embarassingly slow transition which cost me some time. Out on the bike things weren’t as fast as I had expected. The day was abnormally light in terms of wind so I was hoping to really fly on the flat course. Instead it felt like I was always fighting the light wind – no tailwind sections to really move on. I never really got comfortable on the bike for some reason, and felt like I was fighting it the whole way. It may have been that my expectations were too high, but I was definitely wishing for more power the whole time. I had a bit of scare towards the end of the ride when I looked ahead and saw a big line of cars stopped all the way up to, and across, a bridge. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen as there was no way we could get across the bridge until the cars moved, and that didn’t look like it was happening anytime soon. There were a couple of riders ahead of me and I saw them ride up onto the sidewalk and cross the bridge up there. I followed them and the the police had stopped traffic to allow us to exit the sidewalk and cross through the intersection at the other side – crisis avoided! From there it was a few more turns and I was back to transition.
After another brutal transition I was running again. The run off the bike is usually when I feel my worst. Today I was feeling better for some reason, and focused on keeping a reasonable pace. I was happy to be running at just under 4:00. The second run follows the same route as the first and has a couple of turnarounds so I was able to figure out where the leaders were. Coming off the bike I guessed I was in 4th position overall, and after the first turn I confirmed this. 3rd place had a good gap on me and I wasn’t feeling strong/confident enough to push things to try and catch him. I continued to focus on my pacing and was happy with where I was… until I noticed him getting closer up ahead! I still wasn’t planning to try and run him down, but I kept seeing him getting closer. About 1km from the finish I accepted that I would have had to make a move earlier and that the gap was too big to try anything. Then at 500m to go I realized that if I went really hard to the finish I could make it close. I changed my mind and as we came down the final pathway section, I was running hard to catch him. Someone on the sidelines yelled out “you can get him” which we both clearly heard. 3rd place spun his head around, saw me coming, and picked up his pace. I thought I was done at that point, but was committed and kept charging for the line. He must have been out of gas because I did manage to pass him and take 3rd overall. I don’t really have a strong competitive drive in me – I actually felt bad for making a late surge and knocking 3rd place into 4th! It was definitely the first time I have ever taken the opportunity to make a last minute kick like that. Anyway I was happy I was able to salvage third place, and ended up first in the 30-39 year old age group.
I grabbed a chocolate milk from the Recharge with Milk tent and headed back to wait for MK to finish. I knew she was worried about some injuries she’s been dealing with lately, so I was glad when I saw her bike back in transition and knew she was on the last run. I was really anxious to see her cross the line. Soon enough she did, and it was 9 minutes under her goal time. An awesome result for her!
Overall the race was great – I really like the Welland venue. Its not the most scenic or challenging course but it has a really good atmosphere. I couldn’t get over how many people were milling around the the race site before the awards. It had sort of a race expo/party feel to it and everyone was having a good time. Another great job by the Recharge with Milk/MSC crew and all the volunteers. The Hero Burger line was much quicker this time, just like John promised at Woodstock!