Sunday, February 22, 2009

Race Report: Desert Classic Duathlon Feb 22 20009

Race Report for the Desert Classic Duathlon – Arizona February 22nd, 2009

Race Facts (some can be found on the race website
The race is a US age-group qualifier for the 2009 world championships
The race was sold out 3-weeks before race day.
The race capacity is limited by the Mt McDowell Regional park capacity. Although the park is vast, the amount of clearance (from the desert) and parking area are minimal. My wife who arrived at a more reasonable hour to see the end was stopped 4+ miles from the finish line and missed the end.
The race conditions were ideal, and a great break from the Toronto winter

I had been planning on competing in this race for about 6-months. Much coordination was required, including a mini vacation with my wife, in-laws taking care of the kids and coordination with work in the Phoenix area. This was also my 1st opportunity to ride my new P3 outdoors after 3 months on the trainer in my basement. I got in 2 early morning rides before race day and was so happy with the feel of the bike - fast, smooth and responsive. 3 months on the trainer also had me prepared for the more aggressive position on the bike compared with my old set up on a road bike with bar extensions.

When I first arrived at my hotel, I realized quickly that I was missing the nut to reattach my front brake. I quickly drove over to the bike shop that was sponsoring and supporting the race – Bicycle Showcase in Scottsdale. The guys in the shop were unbelievable, not only did the fix me up quickly, but Tim from the shop lent me a set of Zipp clincher’s so that I wouldn’t damage my tubulars in my training sessions. That is some remarkable hospitality for an out of town racer.

This was the 1st race that I had competed in the elite category. I was exited about racing in the same group as the top athletes. Canadian Olympic hero Simon Whitfield had competed in this race for the past 3 years; unfortunately the Canadian team had other plans in 2009. The race did have some multisport all-stars participants including Tim DeBoon a 2-time Hawaii Ironman champion. The race announcer had run through a list of the elite athletes as well as their accomplishments. A week prior to the race the director had asked me to send him a list of my top race results. I put together a short list of my feats in the local Duathlon series from the 2008 season including 4 race wins and tops in my age category in all 9 races. I also included a note that this was my 1st elite race. As the race announcer ran through the list of athletes and accomplishments, including 2-time Kona world champion, I was curious about what details he would include about me: …Bruce Bird 41years old from Toronto Canada, competing as an elite for the 1st time. The announcement was a perfect foreshadowing of what was to come.

As the start time approached all of the male and female elites pressed in at the start line. I had already decided not to try and get into the 1st row based on my projected run speeds. I did not expect the female elite to shoulder me out all the way to the back, but you have to appreciate the competitive spirit. I expected there to be between 15-20 male elites, my goal was to finish in 12th or 13th based on the results from the previous year (2008). I thought that there might be 2 main groups of runners and I planned on competing in the second group and making up time on the bike. When the race started, I quickly worked my way around the women runners and looked around for the second group to form. There was no second group. One of the women remained in front of me. I settled into the top pace that I could maintain in 12th place right behind a tall racer who might have had as bad a running form as me. The course turned left off of the park road onto the desert trail that was full of twists and turns around the beautiful desert vegetation. I ended up with scratches on both shoulders (as did many others) from swerving around the prickly obstacles. I ran past the tiny woman racer; who may have gone out too hard as evidenced by her rapid breathing. Visibility was limited due to the amount of turns and density of the brush. I kept the close to the tall runner and could hear sounds of the top women competitors close behind me.

I entered the transition area in the same place that I started the race in; last, 10 seconds behind 11th place. It took me 1:20 (an average time for the group) to clear the long and narrow transition area. After mounting my bike, riding into my shoes and making a big right hand turn onto the main road, I was in a position to claim 11th place, however, it was at this point that the guy in front of me started to pull away. We were at the start of a 2.5 mile climb that led to a mostly downhill ride to the turn-around at 10.5 miles. I figured that it would take me to the turn-around to begin catching anyone. The racer in front kept gradually distancing himself. At around the 9.5 mile point I saw the leader who had considerable lead in front of 4 racers who were battling for 2nd. I was hoping that I wouldn’t be too far away from the final 3 riders, unfortunately the closest rider to me was the leader from the age-groupers who despites a 3 minute start disadvantage was closing in fast. I put my head down and gave it all I had imagining that there was a rider just in front of me that I was closing in on, this helps me stay focused on putting in a maximum effort. I was caught by the lead age group winner just before the final 2.5 mile descent. The bike course was much more demanding that I had anticipated, not realizing how much climbing was involved. I did not give enough credit to the level of rider that had posted top times in years past. I did manage to ride faster than 1 of the other 11 elites.

I passed the 29 year old age-grouper in the transition area, but was quickly overtaken again at the start of the second run. I was passed by one other 20 something age-grouper out on the trail, which included climbing up a steep little hill with switchbacks and loose rocks. I pressed on hard through the finish in a time of 1:32:34 good enough for 12th place out of 12 among the elites and probably 16th overall. There is nothing more that I could have done on Feb 22nd 2009 to have run a faster race. I was disappointed that after training alone for most of the past 5-months I ended up racing alone for most of the race. There was no thrill of getting to pass my competitors out on the course and I did have to deal with pressing on after being passed by two should be elites who started 3-minutes behind me. When I went through the race results on the next day I realized that I would have won my age-group had I not decided to try racing with the best, which makes me feel better about my performance. I am glad that I chose to race with the pros. I certainly learned a lot about where I stand in the sport and what others are capable of, which is exactly what the race announcer had predicted would happen.

Other Notes:
After the race another athlete told me that I would not be able to compete in the age-group category at the worlds in September now that I had raced at the Elite level.
I qualified for the world in the 40-44 age group, not in the elite category. If I am not allowed to race in the category that I qualified in, then a serious logic flaw exists. There is no way that I am going to enter as an elite not having qualified as one. I am not at the elite Worlds level and would most likely be lapped out at the Lowe speedway in NC before even getting on the bike. I am going to check with Triathlon Canada regarding the rules.