We decided to make a weekend of it. Got a hotel in the Gaslamp district at a great discount thanks to my friend good deals ak.a. David G.
Chula Vista Duathlon is a true endurathon. It starts with a 5k run, then a 24 mile bike, followed by a 10k run. Any of these events individually would be taxing.
Saturday before the race was great. We happend upon an Islands restaurant in Chula Vista after we recon-ed the course. Islands is where we had our first meal when we landed in San Diego in 2010. This, my friends, was an omen. Burgers we ate at grandpa-dinner time (5pm). This was after a pancake breakfast a few hours prior so I was high as a kite on carbs on Saturday evening.
Although we went to bed @ 9pm, I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours all night. Usually when I can’t sleep I think about a physical activity such as cycling, running or basketball. On Saturday nights thoughts about the cycling and running I would do on Sunday kept me awake. The alternative was to think about work so basically it turned into one of those nights where you toss, turn, go to the bathroom then fall asleep at 430am just before the alarm goes off at 530am. Fortunately this meant my stomach was clear by 6am as we set out to the race.
I bumped into a familiar face warming up at the start of the 5k. I met him at the Solana beach sprint duathlon in 2012. He was there with his beautiful family and I sensed a quiet confidence in him. At the start he asked if the route was clearly marked to which the guy about to set us off said I’m not sure. I asked the guys around me if anyone knew the course from the prior year and only one guy did, who said if you’re not interested in a podium stick with with me.
When the siren went off, everyone took off like it was a 1 mile race. Solana was off the front immediately at what must have been a 6 min pace. Podium was right behind him followed by a guy in a red kit. I had a guy in front of me running with a really weird gait a la Chris Froome. I looked at my watch and realized I was running at a 6min pace which I knew wasnt sustainable and immediately backed off as my target was 630 to 700 pace. There was some movement as the guys who started too fast slowed down and I passed them. At mile 1 of the 3.11 mile run (5k) I was in 5th. I had a heavy breather right behind me who pulled around me and I saw it was Froome with the awkward gait. I let him lead as he was doing exactly the pace I wanted. I let him lead for about a half mile until my consciene got the better of me and I pulled through to give him the benefit of having a pace-setter. Unfortunately around the 2 mile mark I lost him and he later told me his hamstrings seized up and he couldnt keep up the pace.
I got to transition in 5th place and I was right behind Podium who had been dropped by the other runners. I was surprisingly quick (all the transition training at night this week paid off) and Podium and I came out at the same time. Podium was HOWEVER on a TT bike with a disc wheel. I was riding my commuter road bike (shimano 105) with aero wheels.
He pulled away from me pretty quickly and I watched him go, while I was pedaling along at 22mph he must have been doing 25mph. Had a professional triathlete blow by my as well in those first few miles on the bike.
I caught Red Kit (duathlete #4) around mile 4. He was on a road bike as well and he was already appeared to be suffering. At turn 1, I saw Podium ahead of me and a few people behind him. I also saw someone chasing me. We had a slight descent + tail-wind after turn 1, and I went as aero as I could and coasted along at 25mph. We had a climb coming and I had a plan for it.
I had my chaser catch me as we turned onto the one true climb of the day. She didn’t seem to know it was coming as she slowed down significantly on the climb, I dropped her even though I intentionally took it easy and never saw her again.
At the bottom of the climb I gunned it and caught a triathlete ahead of me. This was a flat to slightly ascending stretch of road which is my strength. I crested this stretch and we had another down-hill afterwhich I caught 3 more triathletes. Passed them, and kept doing the same thing: 20 to 22mph on the flats, get my speed up to 25mph on down-hills and coast, slight ascents keep my speed up at 18 to 20mph and any gradient that was significant I went down to 12 to 14mph.
The last few miles of the bike were beautiful. Great scenery, lots of rollers (short hills followed by descents) which I’m good at, and I caught and passed lots of triathletes. All of sudden the bike was almost over. I started going over the transition in my head. I was going to do something I hadn’t practiced which was take of my jersey and run shirtless.
My 2nd transition was S.L.O.W. First someone gave me the wrong bag (volunteers were handing out bags) but I was just really slow at putting on my shoes and I actually stopped to thank people for their help. The whole process took me 1min30seconds which was one of the slowest transitions.
The 2nd run started with a slight climb and my plan was to take it easy and look for my running legs. I chatted with a Scottish triathlete who came out of T2 with me as we run at a 8min pace. We had another triathlete pass us at a fast clip and I decided to stay with him until I realized he was running below a 630pace. I backed off to a 630 to 700 pace. I wasnt sure I could sustain a 630 to 700 pace as I hadn’t done any bike-run training and I expected my legs to be shot.
I caught a few runners and then I heard a heavy breather and my Sottish triathlete was back. He blew by me as I took it easy on a short climb on mile 2. Since he didn’t say hi I decided to use that as motivation and keep him in sight. Friggin’ Sean Connery.
He passed a lady triathlete without acknowledging her either and I thought to myself don’t worry I’ll catch him for you. The lady triathlete turned out to be the first female triathlete.
Sean Connery maintained a 630 to 700 pace and stayed about 5 seconds ahead of me until mile 4 where I caught up to him and got right into his draft. After about a mile he chatted with me and said where is everyone. I chatted with him and moved forward to pace-set as I thought to myself, I guess he’s a nice guy, and so much for that motivation.
With me moving into the pace setter shortly after mile 4 that meant I would have to run at a sustainable fast pace for the last couple miles as opposed to my usual modus operandi which is to save my toughest effort for the last mile.
I hit a couple hills, and went into Strava hill-run-mode which for me means head down, high leg turn-over and keep pace up on the climbs. All of a sudden I’d dropped Sean Connery. I suspect he lost the mental battle when he saw me kill a few hills but I’m sure he could have kept up otherwise.
The best and worst part of this race for me at 5.8 or so when I was someone ahead of that looked suspiciously like Podium who I knew was in 3rd in the Duathlon. I chased him hard. And then all of a sudden I saw a big sign that said FINISH ahead of us. I run as fast as I could which meant PUSH, PUSH, PUSH, arms pumping efficiently, focused breathing, head nodding, legs moving. The crowd was awesome and they yelled as they saw me chasing him down.
Although I beat Podium by 2 minutes in the last run he ultimately finished 5 seconds ahead of me in a well deserved 3rd place and I was 4th. This left me with a lot of what ifs…
It was a great experience and the best part of the race was seeing Wifey and the kids, as always at the finish and knowing they saw me give it my all!
Here’s my list of things to remember for last year:
Nutrition + pace I chose + the pre-race recon
What didn’t work:
Need a TT bike + practice transitions + bring better running legs to win it.