Racing Recap: Duathlon Nationals 2021
Davidson neighbor Dave Munger allowed us to share a recent post on his personal blog – Mungerruns.
I have spent the spring focusing on a fast 5k time and haven’t really had time to seriously train for multi-sport, but I did really want to do this one race, the draft-legal Sprint Duathlon National Championship in Tuscaloosa. The race is a qualifier for the world championship. I had qualified for 2020 worlds in a non-draft-legal event, but of course the 2020 race was cancelled, so I wanted to try again, this time to qualify for the 2022 world championship in Australia.
We had a bit of a scare driving to the Sunday race on Saturday, because we needed to arrive by 4:00 pm to pick up the race packet. I had given myself a 2-hour cushion, 9 hours instead of the expected 7, in case of bad traffic, but we got a bit of a late start, then got caught in a 90-minute traffic jam. All the sudden my GPS was estimating we would make it with only minutes to spare. So all bathroom breaks were cancelled as we tore across Georgia and Alabama trying to make it to the race on time. I made it to registration, just barely, but I was starving, dehydrated, and badly needed to pee, all at the same time.
Two dinners and many glasses of water later, I finally felt human again and went to sleep dreaming about porta-potties.
On race morning things went a bit smoother, except for the part where I forgot my cycling glasses and so was constantly worried about my regular prescription glasses sliding off my face as I walked nervously around the transition area wearing my required facemask (despite already having received my vaccine).
Finally we all lined up at the start and were allowed to throw away our masks. Soon we were off, somewhat socially distanced as they started us in groups of 5, spaced apart by a few seconds each. This little bit of spacing actually mattered quite a bit as this was a draft-legal race, so the idea is to find a pack to ride with on the bike section of the race so you can conserve energy for the run. By spreading us out from the start, the officials were making it harder to employ the usual strategy on the ride.
I decided to go for a conservative 6:45 pace on the run so I would have something left for the ride. Even this pace felt pretty difficult for me, probably because of the non-ideal pre-race drive the day before. I ended up running closer to a 7:00 pace and headed out on the ride.
As I feared, I didn’t find a pack to ride with and could see only a couple riders ahead. I caught one of them, then another rider caught us, and we had a group of three. Until we hit the first hill, then one of the guys dropped away, and now there were just two of us. But we could see a pack of 7 or 8 riders perhaps a quarter mile ahead. Me and this guy (I later found out his name was also Dave) worked together and started to reel that pack in. We made good progress on the climbs but they would always pull away on the flats and downhills. Finally at about Mile 8 out of the 12-mile ride, we were on a big climb, and I made up my mind to bridge the gap. I caught them right as we crested the hill, and Dave was with me. Then it was going to be easy cruising until the finish.
It didn’t take me long to realize that these guys were ahead of us because they were really good runners. My only chance to beat them would be to force them to work harder on the ride, so I took the lead and continued to push the pace. They stayed together as a pack, though, so we all rode into transition together.
As I feared, I had little energy left for the second run. I was struggling to run even 8-minute pace. The whole pack of riders passed me, most of them patting me on the back and thanking me for a strong ride. I guess I was the sap who worked too hard on the ride!
Finally I made my way to the finish, and the group of riders was all there. They all congratulated me on my ride and Dave thanked me for pushing him so hard — he ended up on the podium in his age group. Greta got the picture of the two of us above.
I ended up 8th in my age group. That qualifies me to compete at the 2022 World Championship! Plus I had a lot of fun on the ride chasing down that group of riders. Maybe in 2022 I’ll do a little more work on strategy, and maybe a little more duathlon-specific training, and see what I can do at the championship. Either way, it was a fun event and I’d like to do more draft-legal racing in the future.