Both Matt Russell (a Pro from my hometown) and I traveled to Tucson to compete in the USAT National Duathlon Championship. My age group was stacked with girls names I had seen on the 70.3 World Championship roster. I had only ever done one local Houston duathlon so I wasn’t quite sure I was going to fare at elevation, against some amazingly talented girls and competing for a spot on Team USA for World Championships in Spain in September. This race consisted of a 5k run, a 35k bike and a 5k run.
A few days before the race, we ran and rode the course. This was the first time I had ever previewed a course before racing (and would be the start of something that is routine for me now). I thought that I would be very excited about starting off with a run as opposed to a swim, however, starting off with a run is much more difficult than one would think because your legs are already zapped getting on the bike. So, after doing a couple mile pre-race warm up, it was guns up. It was like an all out-sprint from the start. These girls took off! I simply sat back and held my own pace now knowing how I was going to feel getting on the bike.
Coming into T1, I felt pretty good, as I had averaged 6:32/mile. Not super fast, but legs felt warmed up and ready to ride. The ride was a pleasant 2 loop course with a few climbs. I could definitely feel it in my lungs and my mouth was so dry – we were racing in the desert afterall! I kept drinking and drinking but felt like I could never get rid of that dry mouth feeling. My legs were already pretty fired up due to the run, but I managed to maintain 20.8 mph. I know that I am an inexperienced rider and have a lot of work to do, but I never realized what “sprinting” on the bike meant until I saw some of these girls fly.
Coming into T2, I had no idea what place I was in or where I was in relation to others in my AG since it was a mass start for all females. So all I did was take off sprinting again…or what I felt like was sprinting. My mouth was extremely dry, the run course had a long uphill, and it was starting to get very hot. My time slowed significantly during this 5k (7:12/mile), but in the end, everyone’s times were much slower for this 5k. I finished 8th in my AG and did secure a spot to Duathlon World Championships in Spain. I later found out that I had received a 2:00 drafting penalty on the bike, knocking me down to 10th. Now, I am a rule-follower and am disappointed in people who decide to draft during a race when a race marshal is not around so I am not quite sure how this happened.
It was a good day for Matt as he ended up winning the overall men’s title. Post-race, instead of relaxing poolside (which is a pastime favorite of mine), we decided to ride up Mt.Lemmon (yes, on our bikes!). We were only able to make it up to about 7000 ft. elevation and then had to turn around to come down in order to make it back to the award ceremony in time. I enjoyed climbing but coming down was very scary for me, especially since it was so windy and I was on my race wheels. Although Matt had easily “glided” down the mountain on his bike, my knuckles were white and my brake pads were worn out by the time I reached the car. No joke. I guess I need a lot more experience on the bike in order to learn how to corner sharp turns down a mountain at 40+ mph. Racing and then post-race training inTucson was definitely a good experience and I look forward to maybe doing a few more duathlons in the future.
I knew starting the race that there was some competition because I saw one of the girls that competed at the Conoco Phillips 10K with me…a young collegiate runner. I hadn’t done much speed work up to this point so I wasn’t really sure what I would be capable of running. And again, this race was being used as a training race since I had to go ride 75 miles immediately after the race. I felt pretty good during the race, settled into a nice comfortable pace and finished with a personal best 10k. I was 1st in my AG and was the 2nd female overall with a time of 40:31. Well, there are not many races I have done so it is becoming easier to PR each race. And I know that my time was not spectacular but as long as I am improving, I am moving in the right direction. But more importantly, my legs felt great during my long training ride post-race.
The week prior to the race, I had been traveling a lot for work and had been on a plane for 4 days. I knew I was coming down with something. What I didn’t know was that I had bronchitis. A few days before the race, I decided to not go to work and stay home and rest to see if I could shake it, what I thought was simply a cold. Well, needless to say, this did not work. The morning of the swim, I was feeling about the same. I knew I just had to muster whatever I had in me to get through the race (with, again, what I thought was simply a cold). Guns up – cold water and I was off. I was coughing throughout the swim (although I PR’ed in the swim). I was very excited to exit the water and get on the bike to see if I would be feeling any better and my lungs would open up.
The bike course was extremely windy since it was along the seawall of Galveston Bay. As I pedaled, I could hardly breathe (sharp pain radiating though my chest). I kept thinking to myself to stay out of aero as much as possible to see if sitting upright would open up my lungs/oxygen flow. This did not work. The deeper I tried to breathe, the more it hurt. After 56 miles of a sharp pain on my right hand side (lower lobe of my lung), I was off the bike and onto the run.
By this time, it had become very hot and humid. The run became unbearable for me. I found myself walking through aid stations, bending over with my hands on my knees to see if it would help my breathing, etc. I was staying hydrated, I just couldn’t breathe. I wanted to stop so badly but there is not a DNF cell in my body, unless I am 100% physically incapable of finishing. So, because I was hardly able to manage a 10:00/mile pace and had to walk most of it, I ended up running a 2:01 half marathon.
I finished in a punishable 5:33, a performance that would take me to the Emergency Room immediately following the race to get proper treatment. In hindsight, I was 100% physically incapable of even starting this race so lesson learned that if I am ever not feeling well again, I will not even attempt to start the race – it buried me and I was out of training for even a week after Lonestar.