The first race of the season provides an indication (on the “suck-o-meter” ) of how I’ve progressed training-wise during the winter and it goes without saying that if I haven’t improved, then my off-season training failed.
Going into this race, I knew my running will be out-of-form due to nagging shin splints. This isn’t a blatant excuse to offer a disclaimer to my run times but a legitimate and realistic situation.
On the night before the race, I contemplated whether or not I should race because of the throbbing sensations on my shins. As I stared blankly across the room, guess what I saw? Rock tape. I remember asking for a sample strip of rock tape before I commit to an overpriced $20 roll and it was conveniently sitting on top of my dresser practically asking me to use it. This was a good time to test it out despite my personal rule of “don’t try anything new on race day”.
While reading the instructions on how to apply it to my shins, it said I had to shave the area on my leg in which I am applying. Without hesitation, I stripped my clothes and went straight to the tub to begin the shaving ritual.
After shaving a strip of my leg I realized it looked ridiculous to have only part of my leg shaved, so I began to shave the rest of my right leg.
After another glance, I realized it looked even more ridiculous that only one leg was shaved and it was necessary to shave the other leg for symmetry’s sake. More on my shaving adventures later, let’s talk about what happened on race day.
Learning from last year’s mistake, I got to Prospect Park early at 7:30 am to give myself an hour to set up transition, use the restroom, and properly warm up. When picking up my bib no — they assigned bib no. 1 to me. It’s common in races to assign #1 to the defending champion. Me, an absolute beginner was far from defending and received constant remarks throughout the day “he’s #1!” , “there’s the defending champion”. I’m pretty sure they assigned no. 1 to me because I was the first to register. I type so fast!
I stayed towards the back of the pack with bro & company. Last year I started out in the front and it was psychologically demoralizing to see people pass you like you’re standing still. I simply did not belong there and won’t ever be there unless of course I’m fast enough.
As the race began, I relied on my heart rate monitor to dictate my pace. My original plan of staying around 160 BPM was thrown out the window once I felt my shins were holding up. I stayed around 175 BPM which was a steady 7:45-8:00 min pace for me and avoided getting to 180 as it was too early for me to be in the “red zone”.
I thoroughly enjoyed picking off people that went out too fast and then came across a steady uphill climb. I did a walk-run-walk to get over this and to avoid putting too much pressure on my shins.
The race organizer changed the run course due to fallen trees and warned us that “it was a difficult course”. Difficult was an understatement — already I can tell the run course was far more difficult than last year.
I chose a few steady runners and used them as pacers to get me through run 1.
I ran last year’s run in 22:08 and would’ve been happy finishing in 27 minutes. I ended up finishing in 24:30 and felt great throughout transition 1.
I forgot to mention the weather was perfect. Absolutely perfect. When the weather is this good it’s of no surprise that everyone and their mothers and their mothers’ mothers decide to head to the park. As soon as you get on the course, there are hundreds of runners, cyclists (non-racing), dog walkers (they are a breed of their own), children, skaters, skateboarders, etc. It was a weaving obstacle course and at several times I had to consciously decide if I should a) slow down else I’ll run over a dog or b) go faster and take my chances. I chose the latter. The course is fast and interesting. I was averaging about 20 mph most of the way (which was 2 mph faster than last year) with one sweeping descent at around 33 mph. I constantly felt “on-guard” and had to use my Asian peripheral senses in case something or someone jumps out in the course. Just a bit more stressful than a closed course. (Although this could have been circumvented by having an earlier race time i.e 7 am)
By lap 1, I can tell I was stronger than I was in the Fall race and was picking off cyclists which motivated me more to push harder. “Hahaha!! Take that you fast runners!” This ego balloon was quickly deflated when I was passed by a plethora of stronger cyclists. There’s nothing more demoralizing than being passed like you’re standing still when you are at your absolute max. I ignored the strong field and instead focused on a few other cyclists around my level which inadvertently created a mini-race within a race. A few of these guys approached me afterwords just to congratulate each other with high-five “that was fun!” gestures.
I completed the bike leg in 42:07 and went into transition. The transition area was crowded and ended up walking through it. Anyways, similar to last year, I experienced a calf cramp (I really need to get to the bottom of this) but continued running. I grabbed and absorbed the free gel packs and immediately started to get stomach pains. Between stomach pains and calf cramps, running was a chore and decided to stop before the hill to take a piss break and rest to ease the pains. A lot of runners that I’ve passed on the bike started to pass me but eventually I gathered the energy to continue knowing it’s just a few more miles.
Towards the end of the last mile, I pushed my pace to pick off as many runners as possible and eventually had a head-to-head sprint in the last 100 meters which I won (it was a photo finish!). I can’t wait to see what the photos look like with this as I know my face was absolutely grimacing.
Finished run 2 in 27:52
The oatmeal was awesome. Meeting fellow athletes was fun. With another race under my belt I’m getting more excited about the upcoming races this year. The next duathlon is on mother’s day and will train to crack top 50. Photos to come…
80th in run 1
46th in bike.
102nd in run 2
75th out of 172 Overall w/ finish time: 1:36:22 (beat my last official time of 1:48 by 12 minutes — but then again I didn’t go an extra lap)
1st in bib number!
More info here: http://citytri.com/2010.3.20.splits.htm
Things I learned:
- Racing is more enjoyable when your friends and family are racing with you
- I suck at the aero position.
- You need to be well-rounded for a good race time. Being strong in one discipline means nothing if you can’t keep a strong pace in other disciplines.
- You can still feel competitive even if you’re not in the top 10!
- Defending the no. 1 position when you’re not really no. 1 is stressful!
- Energy gels are evil.