Mt. Rainier Duathlon 2012 Race Recap: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

The Mt. Rainier duathlon was May 6th, so it’s a bit belated to be churning out a race report but I’m doing it anyway so DEAL WIF IT. It was the fourth year I’d be doing the short course, and I’ve grown to enjoy the race quite a bit (it doesn’t hurt that I’ve placed in my age group every time I’ve done it, largely due to the fact that there’s no swim segment to substantially drag down my overall finish time). I thought for sure this year Teresa would finally succeed in forcing me to do the long course version of the race (I’d managed to dodge it in previous years due to 1. Being a noob, 2. Being stubborn, and 3. Being injured), but she surprised me by encouraging me to do the short course race because I had enough long distance races on my plate this season and she thought a fast, short race would be good for me.

Over two consecutive weekends I drove to Enumclaw and rode the duathlon course. The once-mighty Mud Mountain Road climb now seemed totally manageable thanks to experience/familiarity with the route and because I’ve grown to become a halfway decent cyclist. A week before the race I felt comfortable and confident and was looking forward to the event.

And then, as what often happens, three days before the race life decided to kick me squarely in the ladyballs. I won’t go into details but basically an unexpected and profoundly shitty event occurred and my focus immediately shifted from racing to dealing with this sudden hardship. I abandoned my workouts and drowned my sorrows in lots and lots of booze. Thursday and Friday night consisted of drinking with friends and stumbling home from the bars.

On Saturday I pinged Teresa and told her that I wasn’t in the best mindset for the race, that I had skipped workouts and was boozing it up instead of taking care of my body, and whether I should still do the duathlon. She talked me off the ledge and, ever the optimist and eternally my ardent cheerleader, encouraged me to “get back on the horse” and “channel my rage” on race day to push me across the finish line. I sucked it up and decided to follow coach’s orders. Despite having endured such a shitty week, I figured enough was enough and that I needed to get back on track, so what better time to re-establish some order in my life than to wake up and race.

I behaved myself Saturday night, partaking in a single glass of wine at a friend’s birthday dinner and trying to reintroduce more traditional forms of hydration so that I wouldn’t make a complete ass of myself at the race the next day. On Sunday Jason, who was nursing an injured knee and thus wouldn’t be racing, acted as my sherpa and helped me get all my shit together before we headed out the door.

I met up with my teammates and we griped about how cold the race always is before lining up to start. (I never know what to wear for this race so this year I opted to dork it up with a TN performance tee, arm warmers, black tri shorts, and tights. I think my hastily assembled attire was the byproduct of my “Fuck it, this week sucked so I’ll just throw on whatever I can grab so I can get this race over with” mentality.)

Me with some of my teammates before the start of the duathlon

The long coursers took off and I waited around with my short course peeps, one of whom recognized me as the “Mediocre Athlete,” which made me chuckle. I’m starting to get more recognition at races and events, which always bewilders me because I never expect anyone to read or care about my crappy workouts or race times. But it’s always nice in an “Aww, shucks” sort of way to get real-life shout outs. 🙂

Eventually it was time for us shorties to get our asses in gear, so we lined up and bolted out of the gate.

Run 1 Summary

The short course race starts off with a 1.64 mile run around the fairgrounds. I kept a fast but steady pace, not wanting to do an all-out sprint and blow my energy load (gross) all over transition, leaving me with no gas on the bike.

And we're off! (That's me in the blue shirt with my arm warmers already partially pulled down because I immediately overheated.)

When I was halfway done with Run #1, I noticed that there were only a few women (about four or so) in front of me. That kept me focused so I continued to chase them and managed to pass one female before heading into transition.

Run #1 time: 11:32 (7:13 min/mile pace). A new personal best for me on this course–woo hoo!

T1 Summary

Since this was a sprint race, I was in full-on “Go, go, go” mentality and tried to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Aero helmet but no race wheels because I'm ghetto like that.

T1 time: 50 seconds. I beat another female out of transition, leaving two women ahead of me to start the bike portion.

Bike Summary

The short course bike leg is a 14.44 mile loop with a long climb up Mud Mountain Road, then a long descent down the highway back to the fairgrounds. My goal was to stay strong and work hard on the bike, which ended up putting me back and forth with the two women who had run faster than me. We all took turns leapfrogging into first place. It was pretty amusing after a while, and all three of us kept chuckling to each other and remarking about how we couldn’t shake one another. I really enjoyed the friendly competition–the other two were good cyclists but were also quite good-natured, and the constant back and forth battle made the bike leg enjoyable.

Climbing Mud Mountain and chasing the two women right in front of me

The lady on the road bike got to the top of Mud Mountain first, then me, then the blonde woman on the TT bike. I caught up to Road Bike Lady on the stretch leading to the highway, but she and Blonde TT were able to bomb down the hill faster than I could despite the fact that I was in my hardest gear pedaling as hard as I could. (It was at that point that I made a mental note to look into changing my gearing so I could start descending faster.)

Both women beat me back to transition but I was less than 30 seconds behind them, panting and looking to get in and out of transition as speedily as possible.

Bike time: 44:59. The other ladies did 44:53 and 44:28, and we all averaged about 19.2 mph. It was a close one!

T2 Summary

When I got into T2 I was pretty excited. It was cool to be doing a race where the top three women were clumped so close together, so I really wanted to see how Run #2 would go. Once again, I got in and out pretty quickly.

T2 time: 44 seconds.

Run #2 Summary

Run #2 would be a flat 3.79 mile loop to finish the race. I’ve been running pretty decently off the bike so far this season, so when I came out of transition I felt pretty good. As soon as I rounded the first turn in the fairgrounds, I ran into Road Bike Lady. We chatted for a brief moment, both amused by how close together all three of us were, before I passed her in search of Blonde TT. I saw her on the road up ahead and managed to pass her before the first major turn. We panted “Good job”s to each other and I continued on, happy to see that she looked more miserable than I felt. I kept running but was afraid to look behind me to see where her position was.

When I turned to get back on the last long stretch back towards the fairgrounds, I finally snuck a glance behind my shoulder and didn’t see her. Relieved, I worked my way down the road and kept telling myself, “Wow, I’m in first place right now! Am I really in first? Do I put my arms up when I cross the finish line? I’ve never been in this position before!”

And then, as I turned right onto the dirt path that wound back to the finish, I looked behind me and saw Blonde TT emerge like a Terminator. I thought, “Holy shit, she’s really rallying” and started to pick up the pace a bit. With each step I cursed the fact that the finish line wasn’t right in front of me, and I kept throwing back glances and seeing that she was getting a little bit closer. “Screw putting my arms up at the finish, I need these bad boys to run!”, I thought, so I pushed even harder and hoped that if I were running as hard and as fast as I could, maybe she was doing the same and we’d keep the same distance between us since we were both maxed out.

At the very last turn before the finish line, I saw Jason and his dad cheering for me. They both looked past me and saw Blonde TT. Jason stared back at me and just said, “Finish strong, you can do this,” while Jim offered up a not-helpful, “It’s gonna be close!” I half-smiled, half-scowled at them before entering the finish chute and throwing one last glance behind me. Blonde TT was close, but not close enough. I managed to fend her off for the win. (Jim was right though–it was a close one.)

Run #2 time: 27:21 (7:12 min/mile). I managed to run a little faster than my Run #1 pace, whereas the other two women were a bit slower. Staying strong off the bike certainly helped me. (Teresa, I’ll never complain about brick runs ever again.)

Total time: 1:25:28 FOR THE WIN (and a course PR!). Blonde TT finished seven seconds behind me. No joke.

Surging to the finish with Blonde TT behind me

(By the way, if you were wondering what “Rebecca’s running hard and hurting” face looks like, this is it:)


(Followed by this:)

I am not an attractive race photo person

BuDu snapped a pretty cool photo of Blonde TT crossing the finish line and a very tired me high fiving her for making me work for the win:

Yes, I still have the stupid tan lines from the Costa Rica REV3

If you compare our splits, Blonde TT outran and outbiked me but I had a faster second run leg. However, what really made up the difference were my faster transitions. It’s hard to believe that my transition times earned me a win but they did. Practice your transitions, kids! They do come in handy!

In addition to another gear-tastic trophy from BuDu, for winning the race I received a free entry for next year (or “Rebecca Keller” did, anyway–not sure what happened there, but it’s Kelley, not Keller [I swear it was me who took first and not some Alternate Dimension Doppelganger who’s half Japanese, and grew up in Ohio]).

Unexpected but greatly appreciated

So there you have it. I planned on racing, then didn’t plan on racing and went on an epic “I don’t wanna deal with life right now” bender, then sucked it up and got back on the “Well, I guess I have to deal with life whether I want to or not” horse and raced and ended up taking first overall female. I’m really glad I ended up racing–I mean, obviously winning was pretty awesomesauce, but the race itself also gave me a great reboot and helped me refocus and return to a sense of normalcy and control that I had been lacking in the previous few days. The Florence + The Machine song “Shake It Out,” which I had mentioned in my post about Hawaii’s ridiculous winds, is an accurate summary of my thought process going into the race and how I felt afterwards:

And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn

…Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it’s always darkest before the dawn

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off

I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn

I don’t know why, but the song pumps me up and really embodies the notion of “shaking out” whatever jitters, stresses, and doubts I have going into a race and how it’s always darkest before the dawn, that no matter how bleak or negative things may seem, I can emerge victorious and feeling renewed and invigorated. That’s exactly what happened at the duathlon this year, and I’m very grateful that the race brought me out of my funk. Now I just need to brainstorm some new blog taglines to something a bit more appropriate. Any suggestions?

7 Responses to “ “Mt. Rainier Duathlon 2012 Race Recap: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn”

  1. teresa says:

    You did so great and I really did believe it would be the perfect thing to get you back on track….Coach was right…just say it 🙂

    Watching you grow as an athlete has been so much fun you are learning the tricks of the trade (winning races off transition times, etc).

    Proud of you for trusting in your fitness, digging deep and being your awesome-sauce self!

  2. Hurricane says:

    Hey, I didn’t know they made forearm warmers? lol

  3. Mary Moltman says:

    Rats! I knew it was all about hard work and training and stuff. Part of me wants to believe that the few nights off and boozy goodness helped. But I guess if that was the case I’d be a way better athlete!

    It’s tons of fun to read your blog, Rebecca. Thanks for taking the time! And congrats!

  4. Angela says:

    WOW, congratulations – that is just fantastic! That is a hard race, and plenty of very fast people show up(I speak from experience of being on the other side of the pointy end), so double congrats!

  5. Theia says:

    Awesome! Congrats on the win. Love the pics (I too am not an attractive race photo person).

  6. Janel says:

    Fellow Seattle-ite here!

    I was surprised to see that someone besides me says “awesomesauce”! Your blog is awesome, not to mention hilarious. I found a link for it from, and I don’t regret it! Keep up the sporty, dorky awesomeness!!

  7. Carly says:

    You are awesome-sauce. Not sure how I missed this earlier. Probably because you’ve been tearing it up all over the globe! I sang that song in my head the entire time at Calgary.

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