First race of 2019! I’ve done this race in it’s different iterations in both 2017 and 2018. I’ve managed to land on the podium with a 2nd and a 3rd those years in what is always a tough race. The format this year was the same as 2018 with a 10k trail run, 60k bike, and another 10k run. While previous years often had strong fields due to a lot of the local Arizona guys coming out, 2019 actually had quite an International field with a number of Elite duathletes athletes on the line. I may not be in 100% fitness in February, but I was excited to test the legs a bit to get a good start to the season.
Rebekah, Charleigh, and I headed up just after 4am from Tucson to make the 2+ hour drive to McDowell Mountain Regional Park. We decided on just taking the minivan since it was just a daytrip and not quite worth the hassle of moving the RV. Charleigh luckily slept the entire way and we arrived and got set up with no difficulties. Before I knew it, the Race Director Kenny Krell was calling the Elite wave up to the line for the start. After some quick introductions the countdown was on and the race began!
I was expecting everybody to take off as in previous years, but it actually stayed relatively calm with only Swiss Andi Kaelin surging off the front for just a few seconds. I found myself in about 4th as everybody grouped into a pretty tight line on the narrow punchy trails. The trails were in good condition with how dry it has been recently, if not even a bit loose at times. After a few minutes I was passed and settled into the back of the line of 5 guys. This was actually perfect for me as my plan was to try to stay conservative for awhile and to have plenty of room to find my own lines to run on the trail without running into the back of somebody. The entire first 5k lap stayed exactly like this keeping right at a 6 minute/mile.
As we started the second lap, I did a little heckling and brought up how much slower we were going than last year. Apparently this was enough to motivate some of the group! Frenchman Gael (current Powerman World Champ) made a move to the front of the group and increased the pace. The group started to string out more after this as some attempted to chase while others only modestly lifted the pace. I stayed in my rhythm and kept 3rd and 4th place in sight for the rest of the lap. I finished the first run fresher than I thought I would and, with a fast transition, started the bike just seconds behind 3rd and 4th place.
Before I go into detail about how the bike leg went, I have to give credit to James Webster of Re-Cycle Tucson for literally saving my butt before the race. A week or two before the race while helping me work on my fit, James noticed that one of my seat clamps had broken off while the other was about to snap! Basically, I was one Tucson chipseal crack away from riding without a saddle, and am super lucky that we caught it in time before race day. With how jarring the course is in McDowell Mountain Park, there is no doubt that this would have ended my day and left me completely off the podium and out of the money. This is not to mention all of the things he did to help get my bike race ready. Being able to trust someone else to take care of these things for me is a huge relief as I don’t exactly have a lot of free time in my life! He also has a ton of bikes on consignment at his shop, including one of mine. Seriously, he’s awesome, check him out.
I took my time getting settled in on the 3 loop bike course as I wanted to continue just having a steady race and not turn the final hour into a death march. I made the pass into 4th place past Andi after a few minutes before setting my sites on Britain Matt Smith. He had a good pace up the long ascent into the park, but as the road leveled out, I surged to make a gap that would stick. Luckily it did, and I pushed on hoping Gael and American Chad Hall weren’t too much further ahead.
Honestly, the next 2 laps of the bike weren’t too exciting as far as racing goes. I continuously was trying to close the gap to 2nd place Chad but only holding steady, and just gradually building more of a gap to Matt in 4th. By the last lap, I was definitely feeling the rough park roads in my legs and the extended time holding aero after not being on the tt bike for awhile. I was pretty relieved to be done after making the final descent to transition, and was interested to see how my running legs would react.
I was a bit concerned after experiencing some cramping while putting on my running shoes, but found that my legs weren’t too bad off as I headed out. I didn’t have a huge pep in my step, but I was able to chug along at a semi decent clip. I was still in 3rd place with nobody else to be seen in front or behind. After the first 5k, it became apparent that the gap in front and behind me was at least a couple minutes. Meaning that as long as nobody blew up, there would be no position changes. I kept at my clip, and actually started to feel better as the final lap continued. By the time the finish came around I was actually feeling relatively good and was satisfied finishing 3rd on a solid and steady day of racing.
After the race included the traditional Powerman Arizona post race waffles (I also had pre race waffles…) and socializing with new and old friends. Rebekah and I even toured Kenny’s 5th wheel RV which is super tempting with how much space it had! After the race we got to spend some time with friends Tomek and Timmie and their adorable 4 week old Casper! It was a long, but great day that I won’t soon forget. Tomorrow is back to training as things begin to ramp up here in Tucson. We have a good schedule down and I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months here of swimming, biking, and running!