My first “A” race of the season is now complete! There is nothing quite like the feeling you get after a solid block of training, a perfect taper, and stepping up to the start line with great form. I’m pleased to say I was able to do that this year at the Cary Du Classic!

This race has been on my schedule for the last 3 years in a row. The last 2 years it has been the host of the USAT Long Course Du National Champs. Each year the race itself has gotten better, and each year I have improved on my previous year’s performance.

However, this year’s course was significantly altered from the previous years, specifically for the run. The event takes place at the USA Baseball training complex, but instead of having transition in the main parking lot, they moved it a mile and a half up the road to another parking lot by a different set of baseball fields. The run course takes a nice tour of the park, running a loop around the fields, up to the main complex and through that stadium before looping around the parking lot and back to transition. Each run was 2 loops of the same course.

The bike course finally went back to the original single, long loop around Jordan Lake. Previous years had been altered due to road construction making it a 2 loop course. The return to the long loop added some extra hills and more exposed riding along the lake and over bridges making wind a bit more of a factor at points.

I came into this race with what I believe to be the best fitness of my life. That is really encouraging on one side because I’ve made it to this point in the season with a big move, change in jobs, AND a new addition to the family! On the other hand, I would have liked to have a better placing at the end of the day, but there really is nothing I could do about that.

So here is how things played out:

Pre-Race

Finding the Family Pre-Race

Since I went to packet pick-up the day before, I planned on getting to the venue at 6am. That wasn’t a bad Idea since I was dragging the family along with me. The downside was that we had to park WAYYYY up on the other side of the complex.

In gathering my stuff to ride my bike over to transition, I realized I didn’t have my bento bag. After a few minutes of searching I gave up and assumed I left it at home (I did…). I got up to transition ad checked everything out on my bike. I had to readjust my front brake because I heard it rubbing on my ride into transition.

I went through all the normal pre-race routines: timing chip pick-up, body marking, standing in line for the port-a-potty, etc. Since I didn’t have my bento bag, I ate my Honey Stinger I planned for the bike and used a rubber band to attached one of the Honey Stinger gels to my handlebars. I decided to swap my pre-race and bike nutrition and hope it all worked out. I still had one gel to grab for the second run if I needed it.

Finally, I took a Hot Shot to prevent cramps (Review coming soon!!) and caught up with the family before doing my run warm up. After that, I was ready to go!

Tough day on the run course

Run 1- 5 Miles- 36:34
My main goal was to negative split the day as well as each individual leg of the race. That didn’t happen… at all! Thankfully, I did keep a fairly even pace overall. I didn’t get too caught up in the opening sprint like I normally do, so that was a big deal for me! I started out too fast and after the first lap I had close to a 7 minute mile average… not anywhere close to my 7:45 I planned. It had started to slip off already so I held that 7:30 pace for the rest of the second lap. Each lap of the run had 2 KILLER hills. One that was fairly long and a decent grade, the other was towards the end and was a short steep punch in the gut that might as well have had stairs. It was bad!

T1- 00:38
Short and Sweet, I got on my bike and got out of there with a nice flying mount.

Bike- 31 Miles- 1:25:56
On the bike I really felt good! I planned to put out around 200 watts for the bike, but in feeling good, I averaged around 217 for the first 20 minutes. I backed off a bit but still kept going strong and finished with a solid average 201w and a Normalized Power of 217w!

The highlights of the bike were the 4 turtles I saw crossing the road. Since we were riding around a lake and it was hot Hot HOT! I assume they were all headed towards the lake to cool off. 2 of them did not make it as shown by the crushed shells and guts all over the road. The other 2… we may never know.

I rode in no man’s land for the whole bike leg. Didn’t catch too many people on the bike, and only a few passed me. All of those guys (and gals) were in the waves behind me.

Textbook flying dismount 🙂

I did start to cramp at 2 points on the bike. I was able to spin both of them out with no real problem and without backing off too much. I think the heat was the main issue. Seems like even a Hot Shot doesn’t prevent ALL cramps.

T2- 00:42
Run to bike transition is always slower… especially when you forget your bib and have to go back and get it! I took a second Hot Shot since I was cramping on the bike and I have always seemed to cramp on the second run here. I also grabbed a gel and ran with that.

Run 2- 5 Miles- 39:44
The second run was miserable! The heat was picking up and I had already been pushing myself. I was able to keep the pace below 8 min miles which is a huge deal for me because almost all my other duathlons I have pushed too hard to start with and totally implode on the second run. This was my least drop off from first to second run AND that was after pushing harder than planned!

Having my family there was a bug pic-me-up coming out of transition and then again on the second lap. Hearing my little girl say “Go, daddy, go!” and ringing that cowbell brought a smile to my face and I know it took a good 30 seconds off my pace for a 1/4 mile or so. (seriously… I checked!) There is nothing like a good cheering section!

Since it was so hot, there were a few issues with the aid stations. One in particular only had one volunteer handing out water in the direction I was coming from and when I came in behind another guy the volunteer had to turn around and fill more cups! I just kept on running and hit it from the other direction. Still, it was a little aggravating in that heat!

Finish- 2:43:37
I finished 5th in my Age Group and 65th overall. Not too bad for a national championship race! It was my best performance yet and I am looking forward to where I can be towards the end of the season!

Overall Race Thoughts…
If you read my previous race reviews from the Cary Du Classic and National Champs last year, I am very pleased to see a few things were addressed! First, the new venue made it a whole lot more spectator friendly! My wife was thrilled that she could see my run and bike a lot more than last year! The 2 lap course made a big difference and being close to a playground didn’t hurt either! The second big thing was an official race photographer this year! I was so thrilled to see that! They were a little misleading in the race emails saying the pictures were free when it is really only the finisher pictures that are free. But still, I’ll take a few free pictures and a few paid over not even trying to get pictures at a National Championship Race!

The one big negative for me that wasn’t addressed was the finisher “medal.” It was a multi-tool. The exact same one I got for winning my age group 2 years ago. It’s better than the bottle opener from last year, but still. Come on FS Series. You can do better than that.

At the end of the day I was happy with how everything played out and I qualified again to be on Team USA and race in Zofingen for Long Course Du Worlds. I’m really sad I can’t make the trip this year, but maybe I can make it happen next year!

I want to give a big shout out to Trisports for keeping my well equipped to train and race! The new team kit is awesome!! My Brooks Launch 3’s felt great for the full 10 miles and the Honey Stinger kept me going! I also was using a bunch of stuff I’ve reviewed or will review soon like Riplaces in my shoes and Hot Shot to keep cramps at bay!