The Dynamic Duathlon
On Sunday Jason and I did the Mt. Rainier Duathlon in Enumclaw. A bunch of our TN Multisport buddies had signed up for the race and were urging us to do the same. We had heard daunting things about the mighty duathlon course hill, so last week we decided to ride the bike route and see how formidable the hill would be.
Jason, his dad, Beth, Barb and I met in horse loving Enumclaw and rode our bikes to get a feel for the duathlon course. Beth told me that she wanted to make sure she could successfully get up the hill this year since last year she was unable to conquer it. It was a warm, sunny day and most of the roads were flat and fast with a few gradual inclines…and then we got to the hill. Even though I had heard gloriously awful things about it, the beast still caught me by surprise. The first part of the hill is the steepest — it’s mercifully short, but I’m told it’s a shitty 17% incline. When I hit it I was in the completely wrong gearing and frantically downshifted. Although I did make it to the top, I ran out of momentum and ended up keeling over and running into a guardrail (thankfully, much like a Weeble, I wobbled but did not fall down). When Beth caught up to me at the top of the hill, I asked her, “Was that the part you got stuck on last year?” She just laughed and said, “Oh no, it gets worse.”
“Worse” is putting it lightly. This mofo is 2 miles long. While the rest of the hill isn’t as superbly steep as the beginning part, it’s a long, winding, never-ending piece of crap. Every time I rounded a corner and expected to be at the end, I’d see more hill to climb. I cursed, sweated, wheezed, dropped my chain, cursed again, stopped to put the chain back on my bike, burned my legs up trying to start climbing again mid-hill, sweated some more, wheezed a few more times, and finally made it to the top. Then we turned around, flew down the hill (well, they flew while I held my brakes in a nervous death grip) and climbed the bastard again. While I was in better gearing the second time around, my legs were tired and hating me for drowning them in lactic acid. Why the hell would I want to pay to bike up this hill? I just climbed it twice for free and hated every sweat-soaked minute of it!
Our practice ride was last Sunday, and all week Jason and I contemplated signing up for the duathlon. Teresa initially wanted us to do the long course (which consisted of a 5.1 mile run, a 28.8 mile bike and a 3.7 mile run), meaning we’d have to do the bike loop (and that bullshit hill) twice, and once we rode the course we were like “Yeeeeeah, the short course seems more appropriate.” Several of our training buddies were doing the short course and a couple of folks were doing the long course. Confident that she could conquer the hill this year, Beth egged me on to sign up and race with her.
Jason and I dragged our feet up until Saturday, at which point Jason put on his game face, hitched up his britches and decided to do the race. He set out his gear and clothes and I begrudgingly mimicked him like a disgruntled monkey. When the alarm started blaring at 5:15 am on Sunday morning, he bounced out of bed and said in a far-too-chipper voice, “Time to get ready, Bec!” My response was a mumbly “I don’t wanna do the race.” He said, “Why not?”, and I muttered something about getting bullied into it, how the bike course wasn’t fun, the hill was stupid, I’m gonna do crappy, it’s unnatural for human beings to wake up before 6 am, etc.
This is not the first time I’ve put up a fight getting out of bed for a race, and it won’t be the last time. Jason knows my routine, and he’s become quite adept at subtly bullying me into racing. Here’s how he does it:
Me (laying in bed): “I don’t want to race.”
Jason (from the other room): “That’s fine, honey. You don’t have to race if you don’t want to.”
I get out of bed, use the bathroom, re-enter the bedroom and see that my ninja boyfriend has already made the bed.
I walk downstairs and see that Jason is making breakfast.
Jason: “You don’t have to race. Nobody’s making you…do you want oatmeal? One packet or two?”
Me: “One…wait, I want an English muffin. And I don’t think I’m going to do the race.”
Jason (putting an English muffin in the toaster oven): “That’s okay, don’t feel stressed. I’m still going to race but you don’t have to. Are you going to stay home, or will you still watch?” He starts pumping up my bike tires.
Me (eating my English muffin): “I…don’t know…maybe…maybe I’ll come and watch…”
Jason: “Okay, that would be nice…do you want a Gu2O or just a water bottle?” He starts mixing bottles.
Me: “I’ll take one of each…wait, what am I saying? I’m not racing today!”
And then before I know it, I’m pulling out of our garage with my race gear on and my bike strapped to the back of my car. He is such a sneaky bastard.
We got to the fairgrounds, signed up for the race and set up our transition area. Before the race began Teresa snapped a photo of her athletes like a proud parent taking pictures of her kids on their first day of Kindergarten:
Look how bleary eyed I look. At this point I still hadn’t forgiven Jason for suckering me into waking up at 5 am and driving all the way to cold-ass Enumclaw to do a stupid duathlon.
At 8:05 the short course racers started. The first run was a short 1.6 miles. I ran with Bri and we hit the transition area at around the same time. I changed out my shoes, strapped on my helmet, put on my sunglasses (which immediately fogged up), grabbed my bike and click-clacked out of the transition area (note to self: learn the fancy “run out barefoot and slip into your shoes while riding” trick sometime this season) to begin the 14.4 mile bike portion. I biked pretty steadily and felt pretty good about passing a bunch of people. When my spidey sense started tingling to inform me that the hill was approaching, I sucked down a gu and fueled via my aero bottle in anticipation.
For me, this was the third time I’d be climbing the big hill within a week, and the third time was the charm. And by “charm,” I mean it didn’t suck quite as bad as it did the previous two times. Yes, I was slow and yes, I wheezed like a fat kid on a 12 carton of smokes a day habit, but I wasn’t as slow or as wheezy as the week before. I hit the top of the hill, refrained from punching the photographer in the face for capturing me at my absolute worst, and kept plodding along.
The rest of the bike course was fairly fast. At one point there was a steep downgrade and I wasn’t in the right gearing when I got to it, but my hands were too frozen for me to trust them to fumble with the shifters at the end of my aero bars, so I ended up keeping them right next to the brakes as I coasted down the hill, praying I wouldn’t hit a pothole and fly off my bike going over 30 mph. One dude actually passed me going down the hill, shooting down in his little aero helmet and fancy bike. He was the only person to pass me on the bike portion, and I later found out that he was the long course winner. That dude was fast.
Eventually I got back to the transition area and nearly fell off my bike when I dismounted (stumpy Asian legs + frozen quads = accident waiting to happen).
I dropped off my bike, stripped off my helmet and sunglasses, changed into my running shoes, and started the 3.7 mile run. Holy crap, my legs were so numb and cold from the bike that I felt like little Forrest Gump running gimp-style with his leg braces (minus the triumphant scene where they break off into a million pieces and he outruns the bullies). Two women passed me on the run, but I trudged along and hit the finish line at 1:36:37. Not too shabby!
I waited around with Jason, Teresa, and some other folks for some of our teammates to finish the race. While we were waiting the race organizers announced age group winners. To my surprise, I heard someone say, “Is Rebecca Kelley here?” I waved my arms in a dorky “Derrr, I’m Rebecca Kelley!” fashion. It turns out I took 3rd in my age group, and the two women who passed me on the run took 1st and 2nd. (They beat me by less than a minute. Bastards!…though I did have the best bike time in my age group, so that’s rad.) My first age group placement! (Well, technically I took 2nd in my age group at last year’s Apple Capital Olympic triathlon, but that was out of 3 total females…and the 3rd girl didn’t even show up to race.)
I was so stoked to have received a 3rd place medal that I forgave Jason for “tricking” me into doing the race.
See? Hugs and forgiveness abounds!
Speaking of Jason, he won his age group! Well, technically he was the only person in his age group, but hey, he had to show up in order to win, right? Plus he placed 11th overall, so it’s not like his time was sucky. He did really well and I’m proud of him.
Thus concludes my lengthy duathlon recap. I guess the moral of this story is that you should never say never. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you at least give it a try. I dragged my feet and whined and pouted about not wanting to do the race, but in the end I tried my best and got a sweet-ass medal for my efforts. Oh, and having a nagging but encouraging boyfriend doesn’t hurt, either.