This past weekend was the Cary Du Classic which served as the USA Triathlon Long Course Duathlon National Championship (For info on what a duathlon actually is, check out my recent post answering just that question). I raced this last year, and from the moment I found out it was the national champs this year I had made it my main goal this season.
Getting to the race, I went to packet pick up on Friday afternoon once we arrived in town and I got my family settled in. The pick-up process was very smooth as I have experienced in the past. FS Series is very well organized and I think that all goes back to this one lady with a British accent who is always there directing things. At the pick-up I got to meet a fellow Trisports sponsored athlete which was neat to be able to meet some others on the team (I’ve got 20% off codes for anyone that wants them… hit me up on twitter!). The one thing that stuck out most to me was number of people there getting things done to their bikes. A few were not competing the next day, but many of them were, and some of those were getting things like new aerobars or pedals put on… the day before a race! So much for nothing new on race day!
The next morning I knew what I was getting into from last year, so I was more relaxed. I arrived at the USA Baseball National Training Complex just before 6am to get everything set up. This year, however, was quite crowded. Since it was a national championship race, the number of competitors almost doubled! The parking lot was packed, but I was able to find a spot and head on to the transition area.
As we all lined up for the start of the race, there were two guys beside me who started talking about how nice the weather was. It was a cool 58 degrees at the start, but the funny part was one of them said it was probably snowing back home (Syracuse, NY) and the other said that the day’s high (82) was the low back home (someplace in Florida)!
Run 1- 5 Miles- 37:34
The countdown started and we all got up on the line. Once the horn blew the group of men took off (the ladies would follow 4 minutes later). I always seem to get caught up in the opening sprint, so I made sure I was off the front a bit and made a conscious effort not to get carried away by the guys off the front. I watched about ⅔ of the group run away from me as we exited the parking lot, and when I looked at my watch I say I was running 7:00/mile pace… there was no way I could keep that up! I settled down a bit and got my pace down to 7:30/mi which is still way faster than I wanted to be going at that point. It’s a long race and I didn’t want to blow up!
As I expected, many of the others started to slow as we got past the first mile. The course is an out and back with a turn around at the 2.5 mile point. What makes this unique is that it is almost entirely downhill going out… which mean it is almost entirely uphill going back! That totally messed up my strategy since I forgot to take that into account when I planned out the race. I still managed a quick first run… about 7 minutes faster than I had planned!
I got into transition and made quick work of getting on the bike. I ended up almost doubling my usual time for T1 though because my bike shoe velcro got caught on my transition bag and when I grabbed my bike I ended up dragging my bag along with it!
Bike- 30 Miles- 01:23:56
Once I got out on the bike course I immediately realized it would be an interesting bike leg. Since the short course wave started 15 minutes behind the long course, many of the athletes were getting out onto the course at the same time. I quickly caught up to a large group of people and started to pass them. The issue was that others were passing within the group and it was difficult to make a pass without drafting (the rules stated that each cyclist had to keep at least 3 bike lengths behind the persons in front of them unless passing and they have 15 second to pass). As a made my way though the groups there were points where it was impossible to pass and some times there were even people riding three wide and blocking the whole rode! At one point I saw a car get stuck between two groups of cyclists and was forced to drive at their pace.
Thankfully, the race official came around a few miles into the bike leg on a motorcycle and began enforcing the no drafting rule. The moto would ride at the back of a pack and write race numbers down. I hung back behind the moto for a while and the groups cleared out pretty quickly once everyone realized the race moto was there. Then the moto would move on to the next group and I could make my pass. On one hand it was nice to be right behind the enforcer since it made the groups easier to pass. On the other hand, there were points where I could have passed the moto but it wasn’t safe and even at one point I had to break going up a hill which made me lose all my momentum from the previous downhill. I found out afterwards that in all they race official handed out a total of 14 2-minute penalties to long course athletes and 6 of them to short course athletes! That’s a lot of penalties for a race of 234 finishers!
Once we got about halfway through that lap of the course things had spread out and I was able to get into a rhythm. Once I got there I was able to cruise right on through the rest of the bike course. Overall that was my fastest race split on the bike with an average of 21.3mph!
T2 was another simple affair. I again took about twice as long as usual because I racked my bike on the wrong side of my shoes so I had to run around my bike to get them. It was my first race that I racked up against the fence so I think that’s what caused the issues there. I’ll know better next time I guess.
Run 2- 5 Miles- 42:05
Getting back out on the run course was painful. I was moving really slow and I started to cramp up. I had grabbed a bottle filled with Skratch Labs Hydration so I was downing that for the first mile or so. Once I got that into me I started to loosen up a bit. I probably didn’t
drink enough on the bike. The rest of the course was fairly uneventful. Everyone was in pain and you could feel the camaraderie in our pain out there on the final 2-3 miles.
The best part of the day was coming back into the parking lot to make the last loop towards the finish line. My family was there and my daughter (almost 2 years old) had her cow bell and was saying hi to me and “Go, Daddy, Go!” When I waved to her she squealed with delight. It was hilarious! That got me around the last 400 yards of the course and on to the finish line. It was great!
I finished with a time of exactly 2 hours and 45 minutes. There were volunteers at the finish that swarmed everyone that crossed the line to get the timing chip and hand them… not a finisher’s medal, but a bottle opener. That’s right… not finisher’s medal for the national championship race… just a cork screw. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Last year we got socks though. Those were cool. I actually raced in them this year.
Overall this was a great race and it’s always well organized. The one place that FS Series struggles in its races are in the post race activities and all around athlete experience. This year they again did not have a race photographer, which is totally unacceptable in my opinion in this day. The all around contact and experience before and after the race doesn’t get much thought from them and that is a huge let down after such a well organized race.
As far as Nationals goes, I placed 11th in my age group which is good enough to qualify for the 2017 World Championship in Switzerland. I’d love to go, but logistics need to be worked out before then. Of course, I have 16 months to do that!