I competed in my second duathlon race of the season yesterday in Fort Lauderdale showing progress in overall fitness and gaps I need to close in preparation for the USAT Duathlon National Championships eight weeks away. Here I will share my experience racing the Olympic distance duathlon at the A1A Triathlon.
I love racing in South Florida. Living in the Tampa Bay area it takes roughly four hours to get to one of the cities in South Florida (Atlantic Ocean side) that I’ve become quite familiar with since my daughter, Morgan, attended Florida Atlantic University for her undergraduate degree. It makes for a fun get-away weekend where I also explore the plentiful plant-based restaurants that have exploded in the area. This weekend I had the pleasure of traveling with Lauren Nolan who came simply to support me race and have a great weekend together…and we did.
My race was consisted of a 1-mile first run – 18 mile bike – 10k final run. I raced a Sprint distance duathlon two weeks earlier at Challenge Miami where I came away with a lot of learnings that I wanted to correct in this race and also show progression in fitness. Much of my flaws in Miami were in preparation and I cleaned that up pretty well so I was happy from that aspect. I am currently in a cycle of racing three times in six weeks which I am not a fan of but COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on racing calendars so I’ve made the best of when races are available to compete. With this in play for my overall training schedule my plan for this race was not to fully be rested (taper) going in as I needed overall volume in my training block that I just couldn’t sacrifice for this race. I knew my legs would not be fresh going in and I planned my race strategy accordingly.
When we arrived in South Florida late Saturday afternoon we picked up my packet and headed to dinner in Miami at Love Life Cafe. Lauren had the Taco Salad and I had the El Chamo Bowl (grain bowl). The flavor of both dishes were outstanding and this was the perfect dinner to fuel my body (super clean) prior to the race. We went back to the hotel room and worked on my legs to get them as loose as they could be.
The morning came around quickly with a 3:50 AM wake up call via my iPhone. We arrived at the race location, DC Alexander Park, across from Fort Lauderdale Beach, set up my bike in transition and completed warm-ups. The race course was simple in make-up as both the run and bike courses were out-and-back loops up the A1A north before heading back south at the halfway points.
The Duathlon Sprint and Olympic distance races started together and had the same first run distance of one mile. When the horn went off to start we thrusted ourselves heading north with a significant tailwind. By the halfway point I found myself right behind four of the sprint distance competitors. That remained as we came into transition and out on the bike we went. I was able to take the lead among both distance racers about a quarter mile into the bike as we headed north with the tailwind that turned to a crosswind at points as we entered locations with sky-rise condominiums on the coast. The gaps in the buildings acted as small wind tunnels that provided an annoying side push from time to time. We also experienced a lot of traffic with the triathlon and aqua-bike competitors also on the bike course.
Heading back south into the headwind was quite challenging but all part of the experience everyone was enjoying. At the half-way point for the Olympic distance, racers had to make a hairpin u-turn that I later found out was the location of several cyclists going down. The combination of making the turn, traffic, and competitors racing their tails off was a perfect combination for accidents. I was fortunate at that point in my race I was by myself making the turn. I almost unclipped my bike shoe to ensure I made the tight turn but I made it and back I went for the second lap. I was happy with my first run and was ok with my bike effort. My legs were heavy from the week of training but I felt much better on the second lap of the bike course than the first. I think my legs were beginning to settle in…
As I came in finishing my second lap I dismounted quickly, raced into transition and out I went on the final run. Heading north again for a 2-lap, 10k sprint felt a bit rough and with the tailwind it felt like the sun was really pounding on us. I settled in just over a half mile with a pace that was a little slower than I was targeting but with all variables in play I was content with keeping it. My body was tired and even though I was running a bit slower than my original plan my legs felt strong in a way I knew I was going to have them drive me in mile six if I continued to push. The volume of run training was paying off here. My only concern now was the heat and if I would lose my head (bonking).
This distance is a fascinating one. In a Sprint race I go all-out not paying attention to heart rate. In a Half Iron distance I pace considering heart rate to not blow up on the final run (13.1 miles). In an Olympic distance race, I still treat it like a Sprint race which can backfire on some days with heat and humidity. I did a really good job of fueling my body before and during the race and it really helped with the heat and humidity on this day. Just after mile two I took a gel as a preemptive attempt to attack any head bonking that could have entered. I’m so happy I did as at mile four I was feeling just a bit off in my head but only for about a minute or two. When I got to mile five I knew I would be able to press the final two miles and my head would last.
I picked up my pace with mile six being my fastest of all miles and I went through the finish not knowing where I placed as the bike and final run course were full of traffic. Lauren who had been yelling encouragement throughout the race quickly came over and told me I had won overall. It was a satisfying feeling but more importantly I made progress in my overall training plan and was stronger than when I was two weeks earlier in Miami.
We celebrated a bit through the awards ceremony and on the beach, headed back to the hotel, showered and then had a glorious lunch at SoBe Vegan on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Another plant-based meal full of exploding flavor and nutrition to help me recover as quickly as I can. Lauren had a Super Food Salad, I had the Buffalo Power Bowl, and we shared cheese fries as an indulgence post race and finish of a heavy load of training in Lauren’s plan. There is no doubt the plant-based lifestyle I am living is driving my performance gains, recovery and feeling fantastic!
We headed back home after lunch and began thinking about our next destination races in two weeks as Lauren will be going back to testing her 5k speed progression after running back-to-back Half Marathon races at the Green Springs Park 5k in Deltona, FL on Saturday, April 10. We will then drive a bit north for another Olympic distance duathlon race for me on Sunday, April 11 at the GameOn! Ponte Vedra Beach Triathlon.
I am pleased with cleaning up some preparation issues from Challenge Miami and where my body is in pursuit of the National Championships but I have a long way to go to be ready for that race. The progression continues…
– Add Health to Your Life