Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Steel Man Duathlon

I began my running blog almost four years ago when I started training for my first (and probably only) marathon. I have not updated my blog in almost two years because I haven't really done anything exciting in terms of running. I have run a few more races in the past couple of years, including my 8th half marathon this spring. When I was running the Bridge Run half marathon in May, I was thinking about how I've gotten a little "bored" with half marathons. I still enjoy running half marathons and they keep me in really good shape every spring. However, I have not really been challenged while running lately and that's probably where my boredom is coming from. During my marathon training, I wrote a blog post about my running bucket list. So this spring I decided that it was time to work on something on my running bucket list.

During a night of insomnia, I made the impulsive decision to purchase a road bike. A few days later I decided to sign up for my first duathlon. This was towards the end of half marathon training so I felt like I was in pretty good shape. I started biking a couple of times a week and continued running 3 or 4 times a week. There was about a month between the half marathon and the duathlon so I figured that was enough time to train. I began incorporating brick workouts, which are not very fun. A brick workout consists of running then biking or biking then running or run, bike, run. I think that it is called a brick workout because your legs literally feel like bricks when you get off of the bike and try to start running. After you get off of the bike and start running, your legs feel really heavy for the first half mile. It's not so bad after that, but it's definitely a weird feeling.

As the training month progressed, I was not sure how well I would do at this duathlon. I felt pretty slow on the bike and other bikers would zoom past me when I was out for a ride. I figured that I was out of shape and it was okay because it was only my first duathlon. It had never crossed my mind that maybe I was using the wrong gears because I had read a lot of articles and watched a lot of YouTube videos about road bikes. I did not discover until after the duathlon that I had been using the wrong gears the whole time and one of my gears was also broken. So I went into the duathlon thinking that it would not be so bad and I was hoping that the course would be flat. I certainly was proven wrong!

On the morning of the duathlon, I woke up feeling slightly nervous as I always do before a race. I honestly had no clue what really went on before and during a duathlon. The Steel Man was also a sprint triathlon, olympic triathlon, aquabike and duathlon. So you could do running, biking and swimming or biking and swimming or running and biking. I think that I would like to do a triathlon someday, but I am not a very good swimmer. The duathlon seemed like a perfect fit for me because the swimming leg was replaced by another running leg.

When we showed up to the duathlon, I could not have felt more intimidated. There were some pretty serious athletes there and here I show up with a road bike I barely even know how to use. I was immediately flustered by the fact that there were hardly any spots left in the corral for me to put my bike and Jay also got yelled at for going in there because he was not in the race. I also felt out of place because I didn't have a fancy triathlon outfit on. There were people in their wetsuits or fancy biking clothes and I just threw on a tank top and spandex. I figured it was not worth investing in triathlon clothing unless I actually liked the duathlon and wanted to do more.

There were so many different things to do to get ready for the actual race. You didn't just put on a running bib like you do in other races. You also had to put a timing chip around your ankle, get body marked and get your bike tagged too. When I headed to the start line, I noticed that there were only about 15 people in the duathlon. There were probably about 100 people competing in the different events, but the duathlon was definitely the smallest. As I sized up my competition, I met a girl who was competing in her second duathlon. She had done the Steel Man duathlon last year and came in last place. She told me not to worry because she would definitely finish after me. Some of the other people in our race seemed pretty serious about the duathlon so I did not know where I would fall into the mix.

We started the race off with a 1.5 mile run. I was feeling really confident and good about my run. I was even towards the head of the pack going into the biking portion of the race. I thought that this race might be a breeze after all. As I headed into the transition area to get my bike, I had no clue what I was going to be in for the next 12.4 miles. I took my bike out of transition and hopped on for what would be the worst bike ride ever. I rode the entire race in the uphill gear and did not even know it. I felt like I was pedaling so fast and people were just flying by me. I was beginning to get discouraged because I had such a good start.

The bike portion of the race was awful. I felt like I was riding really slow, which now makes sense because I was in my uphill hear, and people were passing me left and right. When you were body marked, they put a D on the back of your calf if you were in the duathlon. They also had S for sprint and A for aquabike. As I was riding, I began to count all of the D's that rode past me. At one point, I think I had counted everyone except for the girl that I had met at the beginning. I was so ready to quit and was getting so embarrassed. I am not an expert biker and was beginning to think that I did not belong in the duathlon at all. The people that rode past me were very encouraging and kept telling me good job. One girl yelled some piece of advice to me, but I could not hear what she said. I am now thinking that she was telling me that I was in the wrong gear.

As the world's worst bike ride continued, we rode in one giant square of rolling hills. I kept hearing people telling their friends to shift their gears so I did too. Only I now know that I was just increasing and decreasing the difficulty of my uphill gear. We were only about halfway through this LONG bike ride when we got to a long steep hill. I actually saw other people walking their bikes up it, but not me. It might have taken me awhile, but I slowly made my way up that climb. I was so excited that I was over that hurdle until we got to the next big hill. The hills were nothing compared to what we experienced on the last stretch of the biking. There were 40mph wind gusts plus we were on a pretty major road. Anytime a truck drove by it made the wind gusts even stronger. I felt like I was barely moving at all because the gusts just kept pushing me back. On top of that, the rolling hills continued.

At one point, I was like maybe I should just stop and call Jay to come pick me up. It wasn't that I couldn't finish it. I just was feeling defeated by how hard this actually was. I kept going anyways because this was the challenge I wanted and I was not about to quit. I was so happy when I rode my bike back into Darien Lake and could put my bike back in transition. As I ran out of transition, my legs were feeling super heavy and tired. I was glad to be out running instead of biking though so it was no big deal. The last leg of the race was running the 1.5 mile loop twice. As I finished my first loop, I yelled to Jay and my mom that I was never doing another duathlon. I finished the duathlon in 14th place and there were only 15 finishers. Even though I came in 2nd last place, I was still proud of myself for my new accomplishment.

A few weeks after the duathlon, I had my gears fixed and I also learned how to use my gears properly. It makes a huge difference when you are using the right gears and it turns out that I am not really that slow on my bike after all. Although I said I would never do another duathlon, I think that I probably would now that I know how to use my bike. I think I would even consider a triathlon if I had some serious swim practice, but for now I think I will work on improving my duathlon. I am not sure what my next running challenge will be, but for now it's back to cross country season and enjoying the fall running weather.