Friends Make Horrible Race Pretty Darn Good

Sunday was my worst duathlon race performance but racing with friends, sharing race experiences and life stories after made it a pretty darn good morning. Here I share my experience from the day spent in Sebring, Florida racing the Heartland Triathlon (Duathlon).

I decided to race on this weekend for a few reasons. It was five weeks since I competed at the USAT Duathlon National Championships. I planned on competing in a few races after Nationals since I would be in great condition before taking a break. Going into Nationals I brewed a new injury and it worsened after so I wasn’t able to train with effort over the five weeks and in the middle of that span I also contracted COVID-19. I took that as a silver lining and shut running down completely for one week and continued to bike softly.

Last week the injury was getting better and I was able to run and bike with effort for the first time since Nationals. It felt good to run without pain but I lost my endurance…more than I anticipated come race day…in a big way.

The race consisted of a one mile first run, 12.4 mile bike, and a final 3.1 mile run. I figured a sprint distance race would be a good test of my current fitness. I approached the first run with my same approach I normally do with the same pace in mind and failed quite miserably. When comparing this to my final tune-up race in Cocoa Beach prior to Nationals when I was on top of my game, I ran it 24 seconds per mile slower…ouch! At about a half mile in I knew it was going to be a rough day. My legs felt like jelly vs. the thoroughbred feel I had in Cocoa.

I left transition with two others and sprinted ahead hoping my bike legs would be found. At mile four I was passed but even though I didn’t have it, having him in sight helped keep my head in the game to stay as close as I could. From mile 4 to 10 he kept a lead of 50-100 yards. At mile 10 I caught him going up a hill and that thrust me into transition with the lead.

I had a very fast transition as I knew I needed every second potentially. When I got a quarter mile in my legs were not responding and I was running at a poor pace. This was a most horrific feel and all you can do at that point is fight and give what you have. I did that mentally but my legs were on a different page running 57 seconds per mile slower than Cocoa making that three minutes slower for the final run overall equating to a fail. At mile one I relinquished the lead and had no answer. I fought but didn’t have another gear to flip into during the final mile…it was survival.

When I finished I felt let down. I knew my fitness would be off but I didn’t anticipate the significance of the fail. I am always in the mindset of training, racing, and coaching to current fitness and that gave me a great idea where my current fitness was. Even though the experience was a train wreck I wouldn’t have changed my approach. It gave me the reality of where my fitness currently is.

After the disappointment came a new perspective. Two of my very good buddies, Bob Brown and Sergio Meyers, raced and had very good performances while battling challenges of their own. We all deal with crap whether it be physical or mental and they battled to have a great day and I was extremely happy for them.

We hung around the post race festivities, reflected on the race, shared what’s going on in our lives, and chatted with many other competitors. The atmosphere of the race and being around these two gentlemen made a horrible race experience a pretty darn good morning.

Now that I know where my fitness is I can plan my next steps to move forward. The take-aways here that I share are:

  • Train to current fitness
  • Plan your race to your current fitness
  • Consult with a coach, physician, and/or peer when determining plans or decisions to make when you are off your game
  • Don’t let a poor performance wreck a race day; learn from it and enjoy the company you are around
  • Know a failure on a day doesn’t make you a failure…use it to propel you forward

– Add Health to Your Life

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