I’m back in Safety Harbor after competing in the 2021 Duathlon National Championships (Standard and Sprint Distances) in Tuscaloosa, Alabama this weekend with Team Total Fitness. It was great spending time with this group of athletes and amazing people. I am completely wiped out mentally and physically as expected… Here I’ll share my experiences from the weekend.
After arriving mid-week I was able to get acquainted with the race course dynamics as I was able to ride the bike course once with the bike and a few times in the car and ran parts of the run course a few times. It was pretty close to what I was expecting so the preparation ahead of time and practice on the actual course put me in good shape heading in. I also had a good taper week and overall training block heading into the event. I was healthy and ready to go. I signed up for all three races:
- Standard Distance Non-Draft (10k run – 24 mile bike – 3.25 mile run)
- Sprint Distance Non-Draft (5k run – 12 mile bike – 1.8 mile run)
- Sprint Distance Draft-Legal (5k run – 12 mile bike – 1.8 mile run)
Saturday morning started with the Standard Distance race and this was my ‘A’ race. I competed in the final two knowing I would just give what I had after completing the long distance race first but there was an opportunity to qualify for the World Championships in the Sprint Distance for 2021 and 2022 if I placed 8th or better in one of the final two races. For Standard Distance I had already secured a spot for this year’s World Championships but needed to qualify for 2022.
The weather was hot and humid Saturday reaching 90+ degrees. I prepared my nutrition and hydration accordingly and had my race plan in place. This event had time-trial starts due to COVID-19 protocols so even within age-grouped waves we were starting with five athletes at a time every few seconds so it was hard to gage exactly where we were in relation to competitors.
The first 10k run went somewhat as planned. I was slightly behind my goal pace but with small rolling hills and heat I was comfortable with how it transpired with a couple nuances. I was 4th after the first run, worked hard for that and from what my perception of the racer right behind me in 5th seeing him on the run, I planned had to lay it all out on the bike or I may get run down on the second run…no holding back.
After a couple miles of the 24 mile bike course I settled in and felt strong and felt even stronger on the second half of the two loop course until near then end. I began to feel vulnerable in my calves and hamstring muscles with a couple miles left. With this in mind I planned to unclip out of my cleats a bit early if I needed to address a cramp. When I went to unclip my left cleat to prepare for dismounting my calf locked up and I quickly spun it out before attempting to get out of the right side. With the extra time I gave myself I successfully dismounted the bike and ran into transition and out on the final 3.25 mile run I went. During the bike portion I moved up a spot and was now in third place.
My calves settled in quickly but I felt increasing tightness in my hamstrings. The best thing for me to do in these situations is to keep my cadence as steady as possible with little or no sudden movements in form. I kept that up for over a mile and as we transitioned from the road onto the trail my right hamstring locked up. I was stopped in my tracks attempting to free it…knowing I still had two miles to go. I worked it out and continued on and it continued to seize up periodically through the finish. I watched the 4th and 5th place competitors pass me and then I was hanging on to hopefully not lose the 5th spot and podium finish. I was able to hobble get to the finish and hung on to 5th place.
I received immediate attention to address the cramps by the medical staff who were fantastic. It was a bitter sweet race. On my best day – this day – I could not compete with the top two finishers. They were outstanding and distanced themselves from the 3rd to 5th place finishers. I was disappointed I lost two spots on the final run while I was also relieved I hung onto the 5th spot. It was a great race and I did what I thought I had to do on the bike to create enough space for the final run and I blew up. I have always said to myself I rather blow up than potentially hold back…and on this day my body blew up. I will continue to reflect on changes I will make going forward from the experience…always learn!
After the race Lauren and I walked up to the hotel to recover before the second race. I had about 90 minutes before needing to head back down to set-up and warm up again. My body and head were in really rough shape at this point. My legs were very sore and heavy and a headache took over. I knew this race was going to be trouble but sometimes when you start, things change for the better. They did not in this race. I suffered in all three elements and when I finished I found myself on my back again cramping severely. After gathering myself with Lauren’s support we headed back to the hotel to recover, grab dinner with Celia Dubey and Dave Morrow and headed to awards.
At this point my head was pounding really bad. I was taking in as much as I could but I felt nauseous the entire day. It was great seeing our team support each other at awards and celebrate so many amazing accomplishments…no matter the finish. We had multiple podium, National Championships, and great efforts to honor.
After awards we crashed and got ready for the 7:30 AM start Sunday morning for the third and final race. My legs had a similar feel as I did going into the second race….knowing my body was beaten down from Saturday racing – running 15 miles and biking 36 miles. My plan was simply to start the race with effort and flex from there knowing my history with pacing.
During the first 5k run my legs felt better as I went along but I was still running 25 seconds per mile slower than I would have normally…but I wasn’t cramping so that was a success. I hopped on the bike and in this race, drafting was legal. It took me two miles riding solo to catch a pack in front of me and once I did we worked together for the final 10 miles. At this point I was working hard but I felt in control of my body and potential cramping. I had a few vulnerable spots near the end of the bike again but not near what I was feeling on the first race Saturday when my body failed on the final run. I completed the bike and out of transition I went to begin the final 1.8 mile run.
I continued to feel in control of the cramping and although again much slower than what I’m used to I fought through to the finish without failing. I finished 7th which secured the Team USA and World Championship spot for the sprint distance as well so that felt rewarding even though a slow effort.
We celebrated all of the amazing team efforts again on day 2 of the event and then had the long 10+ hour drive back to Safety Harbor…
A few final thoughts to recap this fantastic topsy-turvy weekend:
- The second race on day one was simply too much for the body, head(ache), and headspace (after completing a standard distance event) and I would not do again.
- Continue learning and reflect on how to prevent the debilitating cramping; I thought I had it addressed and it bit me in the worst way; it may still come down to the decisions on the first run and bike to gamble/strategize but I will continue to reevaluate and make adjustments.
- It was special to be a part of the team, supporting, and being supported. I appreciate my circle.
- Appreciate being healthy as you never know when it can vanish. I am appreciative of my health.
- Thank you Lauren for being my rock this weekend. I’m not sure how I got to some places and showed up for the next races. Your help in getting me ready to go again was everything!
These events are a great way to build and nurture friendships along with learning about yourself (performance and life). I have lots of learning and more to come… Thank you Team Total Fitness, friends, and family for all your support!
– Add Health to Your Life