A Hot Chilly Willy Race

This weekend’s Chilly Willy Duathlon race in Fort DeSoto was hot from a few different perspectives. Here I’ll share my experience racing my first duathlon of 2023.

This race can be and has had some chilly and downright cold environments in years past. Sunday the temperature at race start was in the mid 60s. I was excited for the non-chilly conditions and ready to compete in my first of four tune-up races leading up to the National and World Championships in April. I felt going in my run was pretty close to top form with my bike on the other end of the spectrum as I had just started my build for the April races. In any event, one of my goals was simply see where my duathlon fitness was as it was a few months earlier since my final race of the 2022 season.

The race consisted of a 5k run, 10 mile bike, and a final 5k run. I had pace targets for both runs and a power target for the bike. I knew I would be pretty close on the run targets going in but had a much wider hypothesis for the bike as I just haven’t been riding that much. At the start I saw several familiar faces including teammate Celia Dubey and a multi-sport animal, Jeff Turner. Jeff has one of the strongest bikes in the sport and is the benchmark on most occasions. We are close on the run so I knew this was going to be one hell of a test regardless of outcome.

The horn went off to start and I sprung out to an early lead. I could hear Jeff’s footsteps behind me for maybe 3/4 of a mile. I felt good about my pace but with a user malfunction, I lost the ability to see my pace. Having raced so many 5ks over the last 7+ years, I knew my feel and pace. This was an out and back 5k so at the halfway point I could see Jeff and another gentleman maybe 10 seconds behind. I haven’t seen the other gentleman before but when he passed me at about 1.75 miles I knew he looked young. I found out later he was 29 years old and his name was Jonathan. Darn young legs…ha!

The three of us came into transition hot, with me being 13 seconds behind Jonathan and Jeff 24 seconds behind me. I was happy with my first run time. I didn’t know how far Jeff was behind me at the time but I knew he was too close based on where we were at the turnaround point on the run. His bike is that strong. I had a quick transition and went out in front of Jonathan into the lead. My thought there was to see how long I could hold off Jeff as I had never beaten his bike time in the same race. I didn’t know Jonathan’s capability on the bike but if he took me over or was close it was going to be hard to fight with him on the final run based on the first run.

We went into a stiff wind for the first 3+ miles and when we made our first of two u-turns I could Jeff not far behind and then a couple other cyclists behind him. I pressed with all I had for the next 5.5 miles with better than expected power output before Jeff passed me at about the 8.5 mile mark. I was really pleased that I hung on for that long and then my goal was to stay as close as I could to Jeff going into transition. At that point I knew I gave everything on the bike and not sure if Jeff was holding something back for the final run so I just continued to press to keep it close. We came into transition pretty tight and I had an efficient change and headed out five seconds ahead of Jeff for the final 5k run.

I bolted out with my heart rate very high but my leg turnover was good. I settled into my heart rate and pace at about a half mile in and was running in control. My first milesplit was good, but not great. At that point I recognized my legs felt strong from all of the run miles I had put in over the last several months. Knowing his run I had to pick it up so I picked up the pace and stuck through the halfway point turnaround. I saw Jeff about 25-30 seconds behind. That was great but what if he was negative splitting? Jonathan was maybe another 25-30 seconds behind Jeff roughly and with youngs legs and Jeff pressing, I knew I had to pick it up even more. When I got to the 2 mile mark I estimated one of them would have run a 30 second faster final mile to chase me down as I was going to pick up my pace one more time.

At about a 1/2 mile left my right hamstring began to flutter but I thought as long as I didn’t do anything crazy I wouldn’t lock up. Going around the 2nd to last turn I was able to peak back and not see anyone. I pressed on, made the final turn solo, and passed through the finish…then when I stopped, my hamstring locked up and I went down. Ha!

It was such a rewarding experience as those two gentlemen and especially Jeff pushed every bit of my head and body for an hour and seven minutes. Jeff came through strong in 2nd and Jonathan placed 3rd. Celia came in shortly after that winning the overall female. After the race Jeff and I traded battle stories. He is such a nice guy and fierce competitor. He made me so much better on this day testing my head and fitness. There is nothing like that competitive push, drive, pain, and satisfaction. It made me realize I can push my run another level and although my bike is far from where it needs to be in April, it was better than what I expected and the competition made me better. On another day, another course, Jeff and I could trade places we are that close. He is a monster and I loved everything about competing and sharing our experiences together. He is also a friend and this event strengthened the relationship.

I took my learnings from the race and got back to work Monday morning. A lot more ahead…

– Add Health to Your Life

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