Monday, April 30, 2007

Buzzard Duathlon Race Report

The 7th annual Buzzard Duathlon was scheduled for April 15, 2007 but postponed due to bad weather. The new date of April 29, 2007 was a blessing as the day turned out to have the best weather conditions for the event. The extra two weeks allowed me to recover from the Athens Half Marathon and a busy work week prior to the race forced me to taper for the event.

The Buzzard Duathlon is a loop course which is very spectator friendly. The single loop is three miles. So a 1 loop run (3 miles), 5 loop bike (15 miles) and 1 loop run (3 miles). Here is the elevation for the course. The course is hilly. Immediately out of transition you are going uphill. Overall four up-hills and several rollers.


Elevation (ft.)

This was my fifth time competing in this race and I’ve always learned something valuable each time. My first experience at the Buzzard resulted in very bad cramps in my calves. I was attacking the hills out of the saddle and my second run was painful. Second year I stayed seated and would spin up the hills. Third year it was cold and misty so I had to race in crappy weather. Fourth year I realized I didn’t run downhill very well and resolved to fix that deficiency in my running.

This year I wanted to really push myself during the race. I wanted to really test my limits and risk blowing up on the course. I thought about that all week so that I would be ready to perform when I needed to. I wanted to push the pace, be outside my comfort zone, have a goal to reach for and not back down, and leave everything on the race course.

The weather forecast called for morning temperatures to start at 45F and potentially be 54 by 9:00AM, start time. The skies were clear and pavement dry as I prepared for the race. Aimee and I drove out early to be on-site 1.5 hours prior to the start. I was able to pick an awesome rack spot right on the end near the middle of transition. I mingled and talked with some friends (DaisyDuc and TriAl), chatted with Coach Angela and her husband Scott who would be training/racing today, and put my transition spot in order.

With 45 minutes to go I started to focus more on the race. I took the bike for a spin around the course to see the general condition of the roads. Usually I don’t ride the entire loop but this time I am glad I did. There was some loose gravel at one corner and a significant hole in the road at the bottom of a fast downhill. Otherwise the course was in great shape. Once back at transition I setup my area and went out for a warm-up run. I got nicely warmed up and felt ready to race. The adrenaline was pumping as my HR was sky-rocketing, but I knew everything would be okay.

There were several area racing teams in attendance. Team ER, Spin/Second Sole and my own Snakebite Racing. Spin is a new team this year and has some of the best athletes in the Cleveland area so I knew they would be up front. There would be some great friendly competition.

The race started promptly after 9:00 as is usual with this promoter’s events. He does a great job but nothing ever starts on time. I wanted to start with the first lap being a little conservative. I wasn’t drawn into a fast pace by the leaders. The field was quickly strung out due to the hills. I was trailing a pack of runners by a couple of yards content with watching the race unfold in front of me but not loosing contact with the pack. I could already see Frank (Spin/Second Sole) leading the race. Frank is an incredible athlete and has won this event several times in the past. I stayed focused on the pack I was with and kept Scott (Coach’s husband) in my sights.

I was running the downhills aggressively and would catch/pass a person here and there. I also maintained a good pace going uphill. By mile two I was starting to pass more people including Scott, who is doing IM USA this year. I was feeling real good for this first run. I was out of my comfort zone for a Duathlon. It felt hard and that I was expending a lot of energy but that’s how I knew that race should go. I was running strong into transition and was quickly on my bike. As I left the parking lot I hit the split button on my watch, 19 minutes flat and that included the transition time. Angela and Aimee were waiting at the transition exit and I heard them both cheering me on as I started the bike.

Angela and I agreed that this race would be fast which means pushing hard. Angela said to “red-line” it. Push the pace so that my HR was very high. I didn’t look at my HR but went on effort and I was pushing hard. I had the FlashPoint 60’s on the bike and was also racing with new aerobars. I was feeling good. I planned on taking fluid during one of the roller sections and did exactly that on each lap. I stayed in my big chainring and used most of the gears available in the back.

I could see the competition ahead of me but we were all very strong and the gap never got smaller. After the first lap it was hard to keep track of your competition as more people were entering the course on their bikes. On a loop course like this there is a big mental boost as you pass people even if they are not in competition with you.

Two of the best corners for spectators are also the fastest. As you can see on the elevation chart there is a huge downhill during the last half mile of the loop. The downhill finishes with a hard right hand turn. If you hold your line and cut it right you can carry most of your speed to the next turn and be ready for the next uphill. Bill Deiter, owner of Second Sole, was on the first corner and I could hear him each time I went by. He is co-sponsoring the new team but is a wonderful guy and cheers on everyone. At the next corner was Aimee and Angela, and also Angela’s son Wesley. I could here both of them yelling at me as I went by the corner. Usually I was tucked into the aero position as I made the turn. Two comments from Coach stuck with me during the race. “YOU LOOK FAST” and “STAY STEADY”. I heard “stay steady” as I started my final lap. It was good to remember to keep the pace I was holding and I had a three mile run to complete. It was great having those two wonderful women cheering for me at the corner.

During lap three a couple of riders did manage to catch me. We stayed in close contact with each other and we would go back and forth. I would often catch someone on the uphill and loose a little bit of ground on the rollers. One of the riders was in my age group so I kept a close eye on him. I powered up on Hammer Gel during lap four so it would be available during the run. On the fifth lap the guy I had my eye on started to gap me so I wasn’t sure what would happen during the run.

During the last half mile of the bike I started getting ready for the run. Before entering the parking lot I reached down to loosen the straps on my shoes. The first aisle of the parking lot was announced as a slow zone. Keep race position, decrease speed, make the final turn into transition and dismount. In the slow zone I pulled my feet out of my shoes and prepared to dismount. After the turn I hopped off the bike and ran to my rack spot. Running shoes on, helmet off, grab running hat and GO.

I exited transition right behind the age grouper I was chasing. He had about 10 yards on me. I don’t know why or how I managed to catch up with him. He had much more distance on me coming into transition so I don’t know what happened that allowed me to gain on him. Now I had to get the running legs going. I was determined to not let the gap grow any further between us. I tried attacking on the downhills and pushed the pace on the uphills. The distance stayed constant until about the 1.5 mile mark. With two more hills to go I was getting my legs back so I started pushing the pace. I cut the gap in half on the first uphill and then pulled even and attacked on the second uphill. He tried to stay with me as I surged ahead but I put the final nail in the mental coffin as my legs were with me now and I kept pushing forward.

With about ¾ mile left in the race I heard footsteps behind me. I didn’t know who it was. Could the guy I just passed be making a surge? No matter what I didn’t want to have those footsteps pass me. I picked up my pace again drawing as much power out of my legs as possible. The footsteps finally pulled even with me and I saw a new face pass me. It wasn’t the person I feared it to be (my AG competitor). Then he passed me. Rather quickly as he was simply flying, or so I thought. He only gapped me by about 10 yards and I finished 5 seconds behind him. As we entered the parking lot towards the finish line I could hear Aimee, Angela and Alan (TriAl and SBR Teammate) yelling for me.

I finished in 1:18:49. I finished first in age group and seventh overall. I was 4 minutes behind the winner (Frank) and 45 seconds ahead of the guy in my age group I battled to catch. The guy who passed me at the end, who finished 5 seconds ahead of me……he was in the 25-29 age group. Now that’s an ego boost for a 40 year old.

Splits went like this:

19:00 for first 3 miles, including transition

40:00 for 15 mile bike. 22.4 MPH average speed.

19:49 for second 3 miles. Very happy with this split.

This was the best Duathlon I have ever raced. I executed my plan perfectly and fought hard to the finish. I’ve finally crossed the line to where I have laid it all on the line during the race. I didn’t hold back and left everything on the course. The reward this day was huge.

I congratulated several other finishers that were close to me on the course and did a cool down run with Alan. I went back to transition for my bike to discover that my wonderful wife had already cleared all of my stuff out of transition. What a wonderful racing partner she is. Cheering for me all during the race and helping with cleanup afterwards.

Post race I started thinking about what I had done. I completed Ironman to test my limits, go the distance, show I could do the time. But it took a local Duathlon for me to push my limits, reach for a goal and see how far I can take the body and mind in a race situation. I truly love what I do and am learning something each time I go out to train or compete. I have a feeling this season is going to be something special, but in a different way from Ironman.



E-Speed said...

nicely done! These are the races that define you as an athlete. What a great execution!

Bolder said...

great job!

i would have expected a bit more 'Little Miss Sunshine' in your post 'I WON I WON I WON'... mad running around...

you're too modest.

great race. great report.


Jodi said...

What fun! I bet it feels really good to red line after a year of LSD!

Congratulations on a wonderfully executed race!



DaisyDuc said...

Eric, it was obvious to me that you were just flying around that course!!! Great job to you on a well-executed plan!!!

What a great day for that race which had such spirited crowd support!!!! It really does help!

Nancy Toby said...

Well done indeed! Can't get any better than TOP OF THE FREAKIN' PODIUM!!!!

TriSaraTops said...

You're making me excited to do some short course again! :)

Me likey fast.

TriEric is hella fast!

Way to go!

JenC said...

Fabulous job my friend! You are a true competitor! Congrats!