Sunday, November 09, 2014

Evil Sheriff National Cross Duathlon Champs

So today I ran the fastest 5km run ever, rode the fastest mountain bike race I have ever done (with my Garmin on) and did my 4th fastest ever finishing runs in a multisport event. It is no wonder I am exhausted.

I found myself a place way down the main field in the first run, even though I was puffing to get there, I was still well back.  My heart rate alarm sang out on my wrist, initially to tell me I was going too slow but soon to tell me I was going too fast.  I tried to let it moderate on the flat sections but given a hill – up or down – I couldn’t resist but let rip.  Powering up hills and flying down them is my only competitive advantage amongst the runners and I was determined to make it count.  Saving myself for later wasn't worth losing the few places on the first run and having to weave past those extra people on the bike.

The chap in front of me pointed through the woods to something and, on inspection, I was pleased to see the finishing funnel.  We overshot it a little then turned back into it.  I couldn’t help think that must’ve been fast but didn’t dare check my watch.  I wanted to make transition count. 

I envy the pro’s who make transition look so easy.  For me, time seems to slow down – I can’t get my feet out of or into my shoes.  My helmet goes on wrong.  Little things.  As I ran away I was happy to hear the commentator call that we were 26 minutes in which must mean my run was less than the “I’ll be very happy with that” 25 minutes that I was going for. 

I start the Garmin on the bike and we are away.  A flying mount and quite a few moments of sluggishness on the downhill before my legs have to engage with something solid to ride on.  I am so relieved to have lock-out on my suspension as it makes the forest trails go by so much easier.

However, It’s not long before we get into some fairly gnarly riding and I am impressed by this course.  It’s properly single track in places although there is a bit of space to the sides to weave around people and those that I am passing are good runners but worse bike handlers so they generally let me through.  I am out to make as much time back as possible and I know I have over an hour to do it in.

I reach a short sharp climb off the forest track.  People are already on foot so I join them, happy that I decided to put on my slightly smaller, less comfortable cyclo-cross shoes with mud spikes in the toes. I am faced with a woman lying on the floor still clipped into her bike and two men trying to slither past her.  I follow them to the top of the hill then run past everyone and jump on my bike, pedalling away whilst they sort themselves out.  I don’t see them again.

We’ve been warned of a big lip at the bottom of a long drop and when I find it I approach it cautiously and take a line through a puddle to the side.  I spoing out without any difficulty and set about weaving my way past someone whose chain has ridden over bottom gear and into the wheel. 

It’s the next descent that scares me more and I curse myself for not bringing glasses with me to keep the mud out of my eyes as I go down the thing completely blind.

I try to remember I have to do this loop twice and moderate myself.  I’m cramping in my feet which is either tight shoes or running low on energy foods having decided to wear my rain coat instead of my nutrition-stuffed cycling jersey to stay warm and dry throughout the bike.  I try to consume as much energy drink from my bottle as possible, spitting the mud and grime out.  I supplement this with water from my camelback hoping that at least I’ll not get cramp from dehydration.

We descend a long, straight fire track where a brave marshal waves for us to turn right.  This is the place I discover I don’t have much material left on my brakes and I nearly bowl him over and hit the turn in completely the wrong gear but we make it, still moving, still pedalling and press on past people who have stopped riding or had a mechanical.  We drop out of the woods and back onto the fire road where the first lap concludes with a massive soaking through a huge puddle the width of the course.  It seems to put the foot cramp to sleep.

The second loop seems to go by slower (although it doesn't) as there are less people for me to catch and my legs are used to riding the bike so the effort feels less.  I have to work a bit harder to stay focused although my heart rate alarm has not gone off once – neither too low nor too high.

The water splash is not as smooth this time – I exit it sideways but somehow EmVee keeps my momentum going in roughly the right direction and we stay upright through the climb on the other side (it’s mostly her and nothing to do with me!).  I find a few more people to catch but sadly, these are the ones who are going to pass me back within 10 of the next 15 minutes run to the finish line.

I don’t mind putting my wet shoes back on because my socks are already sodden.  I leave the coat behind because, despite it chucking it down, the run is only 15 minutes and I’m already hot.  I grab a last drink of water at a brief walk so I can actually get some of the cold (actually clean) fluid down my neck then leg it down the forest trail.  

The run hurts.  My legs won’t even respond to a command to go faster when someone passes me so I freewheel as much as I can (the feet are still going around but in no particular controlled way). I don't have the mental capacity to follow my progress through the simple square-shaped run, I am solely focused on my run technique and trying to make the damn thing as fast as possible.  All I am worried about is more people passing me so I am out to run this run as fast as I can. 

If people pass me it’s because they’re superior runners, not because I didn’t pace it right.  Most people pass me on the flat sections and I claw a little back with the uphill and down hill runs but there aren’t nearly enough slopes for me to gain an advantage.   In the end I think two women and two men pass me.  Neither of the women are in my age group. 

To cheer me up and take my mind off the pain, I high fived a few ladies travelling out on their run.  They look happy and relieved to be on the last stage.  I am just hurting and wanting it to be over.  The last 50 m are cruel now as the course has turned into a soggy sodden mush of grass, sapping the energy from every sprint step.  I had no idea what my time was or what barrier I was trying to beat but I wanted to do my best so I opened up with everything I had.  I still merely jogged over the line as I left my last powerful step in one of those puddles.

Final scores on the Garmin: 
Run 1: 5k in 24:40
Mountain bike: 20k in 1:14:00
Run 2: 3.75k in 18:43

Unofficial results posted: 235/328
F: 20/61
F40-44: 5/17

Run 1: 232, 33, 6
Bike: 233, 20, 5
Run 2: 214, 26, 7

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