I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I have ended up where I intended to be
Well. Its been an interesting last few days and before I go any further with my ramblings, I do need to have a bit of a serious moment. I never thought I would be able to compete in any sport anywhere close to the level I achieved this past weekend. Six years ago to this very week I laid in a bed hating the very nature of my existence. I hated my physical self. I couldn't do a very basic human task, feed myself. It took every ounce of support from my family and doctors to help me out of that. As I went to bed every night, cold under blankets despite the scorching Alabama summer, I could only hope one day that I would maybe cross any finish line again. First, second, twentieth, thousandth, or last, it did not matter. It has been a long, windy, sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad road but I am glad to come to this particular junction. My win at duathlon nationals for my AG and 3rd place overall. It is of course just one intersection in a long road still to come, but with this win, I really have so much to be grateful for overcoming.
Thank you for letting me say that. And now onto the silly, not-so-serious race report.
Bend. You cruel city. Baking hot in the day and freezing in the night. I do love your scenery though. However Bend's majestic scenery would be juxtaposed by the back to back days of pain I would experience. However, they were to be good days with a win in my AG at USAT Duathlon Nationals and 3rd overall and a win the following day at Pacific Crest Sprint Triathlon.
I rolled into Bend friday afternoon and immediately ran into my beloved friend, Jeevan from Washington at packet pickup and we immediately started up our usual clowning around ways. Deep down, I was a tad worried, Jeevan is a formidable opponent and despite how much I love him, he's still someone who I have to race against. But trust me, he's great. I was ecstatic to see him
After a restless night of sleep, I was greeted by a beautiful race morning full of sun. I was very nervous, despite being well rested, I know how painful duathlon is. Run-bike-run is torture to the legs. it just never stops.
After a nervous watching of the pro race start and a quick jog to warm up, I joined the front of the main field for our run start. Of course it would be nice and orderly and we would all have plenty of room to get to the path in our own space right? Yeah. Right. Its a bunch of dudes at a start of a race. Its slightly controlled cacophony.
My nerves carried into the first few miles of the run but I literally kept talking myself down. One guy was flying and quickly after 2 miles was out of reach, Mr. Dunn would go on to win. The next guy to drop me was a kid from Reno who tried to get us to work together. It was a nice thought and I liked it but wasn't going to work on this very hilly course. Two lap run with hills, just brutal.
I felt good after the first lap and was in 3rd, Jeevan was still a few seconds arrears of me. I worked hard the next mile and put some more space between us and slowly started reeling in the quick moving Nevadan. I caught him up the large hill right before the turn around and never looked back as I flew down the hill back towards transition. I felt smooth. I kept thinking of Formula 1 qualifying when i was running It all just felt like we were trading blows in the opening qualifying before the real brutal race began.
I rolled into transition feeling good, but extremely anxious. This was just the first 10k! How the hell am I gonna ride up into the hills, back, into the hills, and back again? How am I gonna keep my pace steady and high? Did I go too conservative in the first run and lost too much time?
As usual, my fears were over played. I was passed by Matt Payne of Minnesota after a mere 4 miles of the bike but wasn't surprised. The guy is a monster and last year's national AG champion. I just kept my head down and rolled on. The bike was essentially either up steady or down fast. 6 miles up, 6 down. I tried to maintain power on the climb and not overdo it. By the time I had reached the turn around for my second lap, I had put a massive hole in the field to my rear, gapping my good mate Jeevan by about 5 minutes. Still, feeling ok and the legs were only fighting me some
As I ascended the final climb and looked down I couldn't see Payne at all and the gap behind was holding steady. I decided the best course of action was patience. I rolled back down conservatively and transitioned at a leisurely pace. After about a mile and a half I could look back and see no one. Payne was around the bend ahead of me and Jeevan was around the same bend but behind. The course was empty
Here is where I eased off. I had a race the next day and I was sitting pretty. I didn't exactly walk or anything but I for sure didn't speed up. I came back down the final hill and jogged back into transition. A smile on my face and plenty of promised pain in my legs. In the end I would snag 3rd overall despite technically finishing 4th. The 2nd place finisher was a 40 year old, absolute speed demon and world duathlon champion but this is America and this chap, despite his kindness, was a Brit and as such, was excluded from awards.
It overall was a great race. I am pleased with my performance I think it is all a good indicator for World Championships in Cozumel. Stay tuned, I was a fool and raced Sunday too, that race report is coming too.