Sunday I completed what was the hardest race ever… a duathlon! The Door Prairie Duathlon was a 5K Run, 20K Bike, 5K run. Or 3 mi-12 mi bike-3mi run. 18 miles total.
I just finished the Illinois Marathon, so I thought this would be relatively easy. I completed a 12 mile bike last weekend, and that wasn’t too hard either. But this race was nothing like I had expected.
First off, the weather was COLD! Weather was in the high 40s, low 50s, even though we’re in mid-May. It was even 87 degrees on Thursday… what happened to the sun?!!! Cold, rainy for two days does not make for a happy Lauren (or a mud-free course).
I knew this race was a lot of things I wasn’t experienced in: cross-country run, bicycling.
Our friends Peter & Dave (to-be-Ironmen!) came over last night so we’d caravan down to Rolling Prairie, IN. A little more than 1.5 hours from Chicago. We visited a friend’s birthday party, and then hit the hay early.
Wakeup call at 5:15 AM, and we ate a real breakfast! I haven’t had cereal prior to running in a looong time, but I also don’t usually drive so far for a race. We were on the road at 6:15, and made it to the race site before 8 AM. Checked in, decided what clothes to wear, set up transition spots (where the bike lives), and then listening to the “athlete announcments” – i.e. everything you should know about the race! I actually did a short warm-up!
The race didn’t have the loudspeakers required for most Chicago races, so I was expecting to get time updates (10 minutes to start) and ran out of time! I skipped my last bathroom break & missed taking a pre-race Gu when I realized the race was starting in less than a minute!
First 5K Run: the first run was OK. I noted a 10:40 first mile, and then slowed down a bit as I realized that cross-country running is harder on the legs… more hills, uneven terrain, and potential for mud! It was interesting that running through forest, you don’t always see the person ahead of you. I thought back to my marathon, where even at the last miles I could usually see whoever was in front of me. Sometimes being “alone” was serene, sometimes eerie (am I on the right path?). Luckily the course was very well marked with orange paint, so I always saw the marker directing me in the proper direction.
T1 & Bike: I came back to the start and into Transition 1. Here I had to:
- put on bike helmet & gloves
- switch from running shoes to cycling shoes
- planned: put on windbreaker for bike ride. (not done).
That was definitely a bit more challenging than expected, and I watched as some people just snapped on a helmet and jumped on their bike. I got out, and made my way on the bicycle. Clip-in shoes is still pretty new for me, but I was lucky to get clipped in fairly quickly. This part of Indiana had more hills than Chicago, so I struggled a bit on getting up the hills, especially on the first of the two loops. Overall, it was OK though. I definitely struggled more the first loop, and 2nd loop had a better idea of what I would see coming up (i.e. where are the hills), what gears to use, and where to push.
I had practiced earlier this week (in my Chicago neighborhood) on taking one hand off the handlebar when cycling. While I experienced some success (could ride most of a block w/ only one hand on handlebars), I didn’t see it as much today. Luckily, it was cold & rainy, and I didn’t feel the need to hydrate during the bike ride. Also good, because I didn’t have a bike-cage to hold a water bottle!
T2 & 2nd Run leg: Coming in from the bike, I struggled to get my running shoes back on. I hadn’t untied them when I took them off @ T1, so I just jammed my feet in. Helmet off, and jelly legs on a roll toward the hills!
My legs were so tight in the beginning & I noticed my stride (distance run in one step) was laughably short. I also noticed my hands tingling a little… hadn’t realized that I was gripping the bike’s handlebars so hard on the last climb! I tried pushing as hard as I could, and I knew my legs were the limiting factor.
I passed runners on their way back in as I was heading out. High-fived to Dave, and then to Peter & some other random athletes. After a little while, my legs loosened up, and I started pushing harder. It was quiet as all the athletes had spread out… I only saw 5 people during this second run! There was one girl I was doing my best to chase, if only my legs would let me.
As we continued, I could feel myself getting faster. You still had to keep a close eye out for the mud & puddles, and climb the grassy hills of the cross country course. They had some HEED drink instead of Gatorade, which was odd and not strong enough for when I wanted it.
By the end, I was pushing hard and it wasn’t my legs that were the limiting factor, it was my cardio! I couldn’t push myself any faster, regardless of what my legs would have let me do. But since this 2nd 5k run was the same as the first, I recognized landmarks and pushed as I knew we were approaching back to the finish!
The official times aren’t posted quite yet, but here’s what I got out of my Garmin:
- 5K Run: 33:46
- 20K Bike: 55:27
- 5K Run: 35:17
I had a good time, and see that I definitely should practice more cycling! I was a wimp on the hills – didn’t have as much stamina as I would like, nor a consistent mental technique toward pushing through the “pain” on the bike.
I also need more practice with some of the techniques in cycling & duathlon: fueling properly, transition practice, etc. I’ve signed up for the Chicago Endurance Sports triathlon summer program, so I’m looking forward to learning about things there!
Have you ever done a Duathlon or Triathlon? What tips do you have for a newbie?