Time for my first duathlon! I learned about this race earlier in the season and it is part of a 3 race series taking place throughout the summer. Especially intriguing for me was the prospect of a $1000 prize purse with the winners taking $250. I woke up early and headed out for the race from Columbia at about 4 am ready to rock with the traditional tunes turned up on the radio. Upon arrival I immediately noticed the humidity and knew it may be a factor. This concern changed quickly as it started pouring down rain about an hour before the start. Luckily it ended after about 30 minutes and dried mostly for the race start. We all lined up at the start at 7:30am and got the quick pre race briefing before the countdown and take off.
The race was a 5k run, 14.6 mile bike, 5k run. From my research I found that typically the worst mistake to make in a duathlon is to take the first run too quick and burn out. Knowing there were some stud runners on the line, I let them slowly drift away and just watched my HR and tried to maintain a reasonable 6 min/mile pace. This worked until hitting mile 2 and found out we were heading onto trails. The turns prevented that pace, especially with the racing flats I was wearing! After that mile it turned back to pavement and I settled back into my pace until making it to transition.
Heading onto the bike I saw I had a bigger deficit than I would have liked to the 3 runners ahead of me. Figuring they were about a minute ahead, as long as I made the pass before the halfway mark then I would reasonably be able to stay ahead. The bike course was exceptionally flat and would have made for a ridiculous average speed, except for the fact that it was a 5 lap out and back which included 10, 180 degree turns. I felt surprisingly good getting on the bike and immediately settled into a good rhythm. By the time I had completed 1.5 laps on the bike I had settled into first and was just a matter of putting in as much time as I could before the next run. The course began to get more congested over the next few laps and I had to start swerving to avoid athletes.
As a began to bring the power down on the last lap I noticed an athlete who had hooked onto my wheel for some free draft. Whilst this wasn’t technically a USAT race and “no drafting” hadn’t technically been said in the rules, nobody was about to get a free ride off of me, even if they were on a different lap. I quickly surged to 800 watts while still in the aerobars and he immediately dropped off. Soon after I made the turn to head back to transition and put on the shoes for another leisurely run.
The legs didn’t feel too bad and I could tell I had a sizeable gap on the field. At this point it was pretty much my race to lose. Luckily my race strategy played to my favor and I put down almost identical splits as my first run to come through with the Overall win!
A big shout out to the athletes in Bluffton who put up a fierce battle and really put down some speed on the run. Bluffton seems to have a great running community and many of the volunteers were school aged kids who seemed to look up to those participating. I definitely wish I saw more of this at all the races I go to!
Until next time.