On Saturday morning I drove to Washington, IA to participate in a duathlon. After talking with Dan White, my rehab guy we decided I could go ahead with this race as a "benchmark" race. The race was advertised as a 5k run, 20 mile ride, and 1.5 mile run. I would take the first 5k very conservatively and then race the rest hard if my achilles didn't hurt at all.
I arrived at 7:30 for a 9:00 a.m. race. I already was a little scared because I happened to read the waiver on the entry form because there wasn't much else for details on the entry. Maybe I never read waivers because they can be pretty scary. In signing the waiver I was acknowleding that riding a bike in this race on a course open to traffic is extremely dangerous and could lead to serious injury and potential death. I also thought it was interesting the waiver said that "I realize I am entering a public roadway without event control devices and that cars on this roadway will not be aware of my presence." This tells me that they won't have course monitors or protection at major intersections. Itwas a little afraid of this waiver but figured all races probably state that in the waiver...I've just never bothered to read them before.
When I first arrived I was thinking I may be in the wrong spot since I couldn't find any bike racks. When I asked the guy at sign-up where they were he pointed out to the street in front of us and said, "They are right there." What he pointed to looked like the bike rack at my elementary school but not near the size. They were public bike racks that were intended to hold at most 20 bikes total. He then said, "If the racks are full you can use your kick stand and put your bike in a parking stall." What??? A parking stall? A kick stand? He must be joking...no he was dead serious. I quickly realized I was in for a very interesting race.I warmed up with a 1.5 mile run and a 6 mile bike ride and then tried to get my bike in their elementary racks but it would not stand up as I'm sure the engineer of those did not have triathlon racing bikes in mind when he or she designed them. I thought I may just keep my bike in my car and get it out after the first run but then I saw everyone else was laying their bikes against buildings, random items in the road...whatever they could find. I found a nice looking street light that held my bike up in a safe position and claimed that as my transition spot. My friends from the Quad Cities Judd and Monica Allbaugh had also come to this race and they were in as much shock as I about this race setup. You can see Judd below at his "bike rack" and I was next to him against the light pole. I was worried about whether or not the course would be safe since we left town through a couple busy intersections with stop lights. The race director announced they would be blocking traffic at the first intersection and there would be someone at the turnaround on the out and back bike course.
RUN: When the gun fired...check that when the lady yelled "go" I began the run very conservatively. I had on the GPS watch to monitor my pace and I was hoping 6:00 pace would feel comfortable. As we got out on the course I was checking it and was running 5:47 average pace at the mile mark. I couldn't believe how easy it felt. I picked it up a little but stayed very relaxed and by the time I hit the 2 mile my average pace was down to 5:42. There was still one guy really close to me so I slowly kept dropping the pace without letting it become uncomfortable and when I got to the 5k my pace was down to 5:37. My time was 17:30 for the 5k which shocked the heck out of me. It was a huge confidence booster that if I could run that relaxed with the minimal training I'm doing I should expect really big things down the road. The best news was that my achilles felt awesome.
BIKE: The bike is where the real fun began. A steady rain began almost immediately after we started the run so this would be a wet ride on wet roads. I was quick through the transition and my bike was waiting for me at my new favorite light post. I was out on the roads pushing the pedals hard but I approached that first intersection with caution. There were police officers there but I wasn't taking chances. They weren't really blocking traffic. They were just standing there and I slowed down and they waived me through. I was able to start pushing the pedals hard again in the pouring rain. My bike computer had stopped working due to the rain...I need to get that fixed. It came on a few times and I was riding anywhere from 24 to 28 miles per hour but didn't know how far I'd gone since it wasn't working half the time. The turnaround was supposed to be 10 miles out and I began to feel like I should be getting close but I couldn't find any volunteers to tell me I should turn around. Finally at the bottom of a hill I spotted a volunteer and when I got down there he told me to turn right. I asked him where the turn was and he said there would be people down the road to tell me when to turn. About 3/4 of a mile later the road turned to gravel and I still hadn't seen anyone. I couldn't believe I was about to take my Orbea with Zipp wheels on gravel but I figured with this race anything was possible. I've never done a triathlon that had gravel roads as part of the course. I slowed way down to accomodate for the gravel and after 2-3 minutes there was still no sign of a volunteer. I made the decision to turn around because the gravel was getting too difficult to ride on. I made my way back down the gravel road onto the real road and traveled the 3/4 mile back to the turn where the volunteer was. I still did not see any other rides. I stopped my bike and asked him where the turn was and he said, "There should have been a group of people up by that bait shop." Uh, no I'm sorry, no one was there. As it turned out I was supposed to turn before the gravel road so I had just added nearly 5 minutes to my time. I was pretty ticked off that they had no markings on the ground and no one there and I rode back in anger. I came to a stop sign where we made our only turn onto a highway and there were cars coming both ways. The volunteer there made no attempt to stop them so I stopped and waited...another thing to be pissed off about. I then made my way toward transition but just before it I had to go through that intersection with the stop light. This time there were no police officers or volunteers there and the light turned red just before I got there. I thought about that waiver that reminded me of potential death so I came to a stop and unclipped my pedal and waited for the cars to go and then for my light to turn green. I could see the transition area but I just sat there waiting. Once it turned green I rode into transition in disgust before dismounting my bike at the light pole and putting on the running shoes again.
RUN: The 2nd run was only 1.5 miles. I wanted to test myself on this one. When I began running I was getting small cramps in my hamstrings. It was awesome! I have waited a long time for my legs to have this feeling. I don't know why but I love brick running when my legs are trashed. On the way to the turnaround I was averaging just under 6:00 pace. On the way back the cramps were gone and I was able to get that pace down to 5:30. I averaged 5:45 for the 2nd run. I saw the 2nd place runner starting the run just before I finished so I'm guessing I won by about 8 minutes. I say guess because I doubt I'll ever see results posted for this race. I even heard from someone they allowed a biker to ride without a helmet. This event was not safe. The bike course was not well marked and there was no one at the turn. I will not be back for the Flying Pigs Duathlon for year 2 and I think if anyone ever gets seriously hurt or killed in this event their waiver will not hold up in court when they put on an event with so much negligence for safety. I was glad I survived and was happy with how I ran. I was even more excited to wake up on Sunday without any additional pain in my achilles tendon. I ran 27 miles this week in 5 days of running. Payton was excited to see me when I got home and she wanted to try on my race helmet. Some day I'd love to see her racing in one like it.
A big congratulations goes out to all who did the QC Marathon or 1/2 Marathon this weekend. I worked at the 1st GU station on the course and it was so much fun watching people go by. I know many people had worked hard for that race and it was great to see you doing so well. My younger brother Josh did his first 1/2 Marathon and told me afterwards the longest he had ever run before that was 7 miles! I was impressed he did the entire thing without walking and ran right at 9:00 mile pace. He is now thinking about doing the Hy-Vee Triathlon next summer and I couldn't be more excited for him. My wife Jen also ran a race on Friday night. She ran in Augustana College's huge home invitational against a lot of college girls...about 500 of them in fact. Against stiff competition and even some division 1 teams she placed 10th and ran like a champ. I'm amazed by how well she's been running on her busy mom schedule. Things are looking bright. I have lots of work to do beginning Nov. 1 and I look forward to it with great anticipation and enthusiasm. I can't wait for the long road ahead of me. Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!