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National Masters Report: Day 4, The Duathlon

Tue, Jan  20, 2004

Woke up this morning a little foggy and a bit out of it. Coffee didn’t help. We arrived at the race site well in advance of our 10am Duathlon start time but I still didn’t have it all together.

The Duathlon works like this: Waves starts based on age groups, a 5 km classic leg over an intermediate and moderately hilly course, stop just before the transition zone, take the skis off, enter the transition zone where we pre-staged our ski bags containing our skating gear, exchange equipment, run out of the exchange zone, put on skating skis and poles, race another 7.5 km over a very hilly trail with several technically demanding downhills, then cross the finish line.

I’d decide to classic with my skate boots. I’m using the Salomon Carbon Pro boots, and the neoprene cuffs on the boots make them difficult to put on. Once they’re on, they fit my feet wonderfully, but I’d lose all sorts of time trying to change boots during the race.

The air was still, the sun was trying to peek out from the clouds, and it felt cold. Very cold. The air temp was 6 degrees F, snow temp was 4-5 degrees about an hour before the start. It wasn’t that cold, but I was having problems keeping warm.

We scoped out the exchange zone, and then put on our boots for a warm up. I skied the beginning of the classic course and the end of the classic course, checking out my kick (fine) and the one fast downhill with a corner at the bottom (easy). I diddled around, then skied off for the start area where I figured I could do a few sprints to really get warmed up.

“Two minutes to start time. You have two minutes to the start of the first wave.”

Guess I’m not going to finish my warm up. I don’t actually start until 9 minutes after the first wave, but I still have to do a quick feed, drink some water, and take off my warm up clothes.

I felt pretty good in the start line. That lasted for all of half a kilometer after the gun went off. I quickly lost ground to the faster racers. At the two kilometer mark, I was all alone.

My skis had a high breakaway speed; that is, they were slow until I reached a certain speed when suddenly the friction would be reduced. Unfortunately, I had to reach a relatively fast speed before the resistance decreased. Uphills and flats were slow, but downhills were fast.

I reached the transition zone, alone, swapped skis and poles, had a little trouble putting on my skating skis (snow in the boots), but finally got underway. A few V2’s and I was feeling great. The skis were running fine. A fast downhill and on to the Olympic Trail.

First uphill: Slow skis, no legs. I struggle. The next downhill: I fly. Next uphill: slow skis, no legs. So on and so forth, until…

A classic racer on the skating trail?

Who’s that passing me? It’s a classic skier! From the wave three minutes behind me! We clabbers me on the uphill, but I pass back on the down. Next hill, he’s by me again. I hang on. He gains a bit on each uphill, I make it back on the downhill. Eventually, I pass again but he gets me again on the next hill.

And he has a cast on one forearm…

He’s now striding the easy uphills, skating and herringboning the steeper stuff, skating the flats, tucking the downhills – all on classic skis with medium length ski poles.

Finally, we reach what appears to be highest point of the course. And it’s a SHARP drop with a SHARP right turn at the bottom. I take the downhill easy and the classic skier – I think it’s Chris Ransom, gets away. That’s gotta stop.

It’s mostly flat to downhill. I V2 like mad and get around him. Another hill, I pass another skier, I stay in the lead. Up and over a steep bank of snow and into the curves that lead to the finish. “Let’s race for it!” comes a yell from behind. I kick on the juice. V2, V2, faster V2…and across the finish just in front. (Of course, I’m really 2:59 behind because he started three minutes behind me.)

Chris says that he’d been out skiing the day before and was passing skaters on the uphills with his classic skis. A snap decision in the transition zone – he decided to stay with his classic equipment. Good decision: he won his age division.

Not my best race, but the race within the race was a blast.

I then fumbled into my classic boots, had a quick feed, grabbed my camera, and headed back out to take some pictures of the women’s race.

Got the pictures, got cold, headed back to the car, put on several more layers, and waited for Jamie and Bill to get back to the car so we could get lunch. They arrive, we eat pasties, I take a nap.

It’s not until mid afternoon and a double espresso at Dead River Coffee that I finely feel human for the day.

Hopefully the 15 km Classic Race on Thursday goes better for me.