Sunday, February 24, 2008

Icing on the Cake: Desert Classic Duathlon

I officially completed my training camp week by racing the Desert Classic Duathlon. I finished top-3 in my age group, 25-29, top-10 overall amateur and knocked off a number of pros. The placings aside, my biggest victory of the day was in the "mental toughness" category, a category that I believe I have the most to improve in. Well, I also got some 3rd place schwag in the form a this very nice Phoenix Triathlon Club cow bell and a bottle of Windhawk anti-inflammatory pills:

The morning greeted racers with a fresh, overcast 50 degree morning and welcomed everyone with this beautiful Arizona sunrise that overlooked Four Peaks:

The first 3.5 miles on a nice smooth desert trail and was fast and furious. My goal was to stick on the feet of the fastest guy out there. I did this well and was in the 3-person lead group (2 in my age group and 1 in the 30-34 age group). After about 1.5 miles one guy from Tribe Multisport came cruising around all of us. Fast. This disruption broke up the group and I fell into fourth with about a 5 second gap behind 3rd place. I made a conscious decision to not pursue and to hold steady. By transition I had made up the ground on 3rd place. I must have had a slow transition as I never saw 1st or 2nd place guys in my age group the rest of the race. I passed the 30-34 age grouper later on the bike. In the past, I would have typically backed off earlier and would have started to obsess about the pending bike prematurely. Not this time. Mental toughness victory #1. Here is me at the start in the second row with the blue and orange top. One of my good Xterra buds, Tom Obrien is 2nd from the left in a red Phoenix Tri Club top (this was his first race on a road bike).

Once on the 21 mile out-and-back bike course, I tried settling in with a big enough gear to go fast, but a comfortable enough gear to warm up my heavy legs (24hrs of riding & 6hrs of running the week leading up to the race). Right out of the gate a 2.5 mile climb awaited. Nothing steep, but enough to know right away that my upper limit was going to be, just guessing, 20-40 watts off of my standard. A 3 mile descent followed where I realized that my 2hrs in the saddle on my Cannondale TT bike was not enough to get comfortable. The rest of the course had a mix of wind and numerous rollers that had me out of the saddle jamming away. I stayed positive and focused on moving the bike forward as fast as I could with the juice I had, no lapses. Mental toughness victory #2. Here is my Cannondale TT bike, compliments of Focus Cyclery:

The final 2.7 mile trail run was pretty straight forward. I worked through the run/bike transition stiffness by picking up my cadence on the twisty desert trails. 3/4th of the way through this leg another 25-29 age grouper passed me. I didn't panic or lack confidence to stay on his heels. So the pace picked up a tick. Mental toughness victory #3. Another 35yr old joined us and as we approached the one and only short climb. We all took a 2 second wrong turn and then headed up the climb. The 35yr old was the fastest of our group and I stayed with him down the back side of the hill and put some distance on the other 25-29 age grouper (thanks Xterra running!). I stayed on his heels and finished off the race strong. Mental toughness victory #4. All in all, my run was pretty good and my bike was fair, but good enough all things considered. A podium is a podium: