For the past 4 years I’ve made the pilgrimage to McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona to race a duathlon. Sometimes it was just down the road, and sometimes it required flying across the country. Either way, it’s always a weekend of fun enjoying a morning of racing in the desert. This year I made the flight from Grand Junction to Tucson in order to stay with my coach and friend Jesse Vondracek and his family. Flights went smoothly on Saturday and I was able to knock out building the bike up super quickly before we headed out to dinner. After some tasty Pho and some good socializing, it was off to bed before heading up for the Sunday race.
Moving my sleep schedule up during the prior week apparently helped, as I awoke 2 minutes before my alarm was set to go off on Sunday morning. We loaded up and the 2 hour drive to the park flew by with the sun starting to rise just after we arrived. Set up went super smoothly with Jesse as my sherpa/coach there. A very short run and ride to warm up and I was feeling pretty ready to rip it! We had tested keeping the training load relatively higher leading into the race with a very short taper, and the legs seemed to be liking it.
Unfortunately the race this year did not have a prize purse to draw out a deep field, but the 4th place finisher from last year Peter “Oz” Ellis was present, and it is always a mystery as to who else might show. Soon enough the air horn went off and the race had begun!
I took the lead from the start to make sure that I had a clear line on the technical single track trails. I settled into a quick but controlled pace and was feeling pretty smooth. Before long I was starting to build a gap to Peter and the rest of the field. I kept things flowing without burning any matches and soon realized that this was likely to become a solo time trial. I was excited at the opportunity of the second run not being a death march as in prior years, so kept the pace high but reasonable enough to hopefully have something left for later on.
I came into transition just a tad slower than last year, but feeling much better and ready to crush the bike. Which is rare after a fast run in a duathlon! My TriRig Omni had a fresh set up with the new closed-back scoops and some new 80mm wheels from DT Swiss which I was excited to really test riding outside for the first time during the race. I’ve done some riding on the trainer with them in currently frozen Grand Junction, but hadn’t really tested them in the elements yet. This course is a triple out-and-back 60k with plenty of bumps, cracks, and dirt to try to sling you off your bike at any moment. I’ve never been able to hold any decent power on this course, but the legs cooperated for the first time in 4 years, and I was able to have a decent ride. I gained about 2-3 minutes on each lap to Peter and was able to stay smooth and aero without fading much from the beginning to the end.
About midway through the ride my stomach did start to rebel on me from something I had eaten before the race and the jarring of the bike course. I decided to reduce how much I was consuming on the bike in hopes that it would resolve before the final run. I hopped off the bike with a very solid lead and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to make it another 10k without a bathroom stop. I told Jesse who decided it would be prudent to time me during my stop. I managed to be in and out in 90 seconds according to his math, and I was back out for the final 10k of running!
The first couple miles were a bit slower as my stomach sorted itself out, but then things really started to turn around. My legs found themselves again and I was able to finish the last few miles strong, which has never happened for me in this race since they lengthened the distances.
I came in about a minute faster than my previous year’s time despite the bathroom stop, and feeling much less like death. The time following the race involved meeting new people, grabbing some Phoenix Mexican food, and returning to Tucson. Overall it was a great trip to soak in some sun, get a good race in, and see some friends I haven’t seen in awhile. I’m already back in Grand Junction and training is continuing without a missed step here. I’ll be posting some of my upcoming races for the Spring soon, and I’m super excited to build for a strong April and May of racing!