Duathlon 1: Humble Pie
October 12, 2003 - By Mike Muha
When I drove into the Riverbend picnic area at Island Lake Rec Area, I was a bit worried. Thirty minutes before the start of the race and there was only one other car, and that belonged to Dan Motowski, the race director. Were Dan and I going to be the only participants?
I didn't really expect lots of racers: the weather reports from the previous day had predicted (wrongly) rain for our inaugural Duathlon, and there really aren't all that many runner / rollerskiers out there. Still, I expected more than two of us!
I pulled on some warm-up pants and a vest over my shorts and tea shirt to keep out the cool wind as we talked. A few minutes before 9:00, three more cars rolled in! There were now seven of us.
Dan went over the course outline: "We're going to run up the Blue Trail to the mountain bike parking lot, then down the other side of the Blue Trail back to Riverbend. We then run up the Yellow Trail to the bike trailhead, detour into another section of the Blue Trail, turn left on an abandoned section of bike trail to loop back, then run along the paved bike path to the Yellow Trail and back to Riverbend for the transition. We then rollerski 3.1 miles straight out to the finish."
Although Dan had been out the night before and that morning marking the trail with orange paint, he thinks it useful for us to warm up by running parts of the trail to see the intersections. That proved to be an excellent idea: Although the trail was well marked, in an oxygen-deprived state, we might have missed one of the turns.
So we trotted the trail. Saw the orange arrows. Looked slightly lost to some bikers in the mountain bike parking lot. By the time we go back to Riverbend, Bill's determined his feet are giving him problems and decided to forego the running portion of the race.
And we lose Tim.
He was there when we started the warm-up, but now he's nowhere to be seen. After 5 minutes of calling his name, he trots into the start area.
By now, we're warmed up and have pulled off our sweats. From behind the start line someone yells, "Ready, Set, Go!" and we hit the trail. I immediately take the lead, with Mark right on my tail, and a couple others just behind him.
"Hey Mark, if you want to pass me, just say the word."
"No - you're setting a nice pace."
Thinking I'm holding the pace down for everyone behind me, I want to increase my pace. I hold back, however, thinking about Torbjorn Karlsen's advice to start relatively easy and pick up the intensity over the length of the race. I try to hold my heart rate below 90% of max.
I feel I'm gaining a little, and after a few minutes, I don't hear anyone shadowing me anymore. As I finish the first of two running loops, I see someone a hundred yards behind me. I start pushing a little harder as I head back into the woods for the next loop.
I don't see anyone else for the rest of the run. I hold my pace, don't try to go all out because I know I'll need the energy for the rollerski - particularly since I'm planning on using my classic rollerskis while everyone else will be skating. But I'm thinking to myself, "If I'm this far ahead on the run, wait till they see me on skis. Suckers!!!"
As I enter the transition area, I pull my car keys out, press unlock, press "Open Side Door", and head for the back seat on my minivan.
Hold it - what's Mark doing standing by his car? Wasn't he behind me in the run? Did he abandon?
I toss the skis on the ground, sit on the floor and take my running shoes off. I then struggle with my ski boots: "Damn Carbon Pro's..." By the time I get them on, I've caught my breath ask Mark, "What are you doing here?" "I stepped on a root wrong and hurt my foot."
Boots on, the Pro-Ski C2's on, grab poles. Cleverly, before the race, I put my gloves on, then my poles, kept the straps loose, then pulled the glove/pole combination off. "I'll just slide the glove on and my pole will already be attached - that'll save time."
Not. I can't get my glove on while the pole is dangling off it. I lose precious time. Greg and Bill - who are only doing the rollerski portion of the race - can't figure out what's taking me so long. They want me to start so they can start. I hear other people arriving in the transition area.
Finally, gloves and poles on, I'm on the rollerski path, climbing the hill out of the parking lot. Three quarters of the way up, Bill and Greg power past me. "Hope they're going out too fast, or I'm going to be really slow on this leg..."
(Hey, they don't count anyways - they didn't do the run. All I have to do is beat everyone else.)
By the time I reach the top, they're a couple hundred feet away. I see Greg trying to pull around Bill. I'm kick-doublepoling to their skating. They're pulling away. I see Tim coming in from the run...
Time to ski my own race. I feel somewhat uncoordinated. I'm trying to get my legs and arms to snap. I will my effort to increase. I can tell that my heart rate is lower than during the run.
In the curvy section of the course, I lose track of Bill and Greg. Once I come out on a long straight section, I see they really haven't gained much additional ground. They did go out too fast! This gives me the incentive to pick up my pace another notch. Around a curve and down a hill. Lots of pine needles over damp pavement - hope that slowed them some.
Up an easy hill and I hear something - somebody! - behind me. Doug is catching me! I'm dumbfounded! Just before the road crossing, he passes. I try to hang on, but can't. Up the final hill, I break into diagonal stride - it'll be faster on this section. Over the top and doublepole like mad down the other side to the finish.
Doug beats me by 14 seconds. I later find out that he made it out of the transition zone 52 seconds faster than I did.
So why do this?
I've been training for months now and it's starting to feel like work. Ski racing season isn't for another two-three months. I need something extra to spark my training. A little racing the will make my training feel like it's for a reason, and this series of duathlon's is just the ticket (Thanks Dan!).
I'd exchanged several e-mails the previous week with my coach, Torbjorn Karlsen, to help rearrange my training schedule so I could do this race: "I recommend that you take a couple days off before the race. If you do train, do something short two days before."
For several of the others today, it was their first quality session on rollerskis, and with competition around, everyone tried their hardest.
For me, I'm motivated to train harder to make sure I beat Doug's time next month...