Monday, September 28, 2009

Pre Race - 2009 Duathlon World Championship

Pre Race – Friday September 25th

As soon as I arrived at my hotel at noon the day before the race, I started unpacking my bike and putting it together so that I could get out and view the course. As soon as I got out on the road I noted just how humid it was in Concord North Carolina. Keeping hydrated will be a priority.

The course was great; cycling around the track at the LMS (Lowe’s Motor Speedway) was awesome! I loved the banked turns which were 24degrees; I could not resist trying to climb up the banks to see how high I could get. I kept feeling like my wheels were going to slip out from under me, but they didn’t. It took me until the fourth turn to get enough courage to try and climb to the top of the wall. When I returned to the track later in the day to check my bike in, I stopped to snap a few shots of the banked turns to try gain some perspective on just how steep it the turns are as well as the immensity of the stadium. Luckily Greg Baxter from Australia was marvelling at the banked turn as well, so we took turns snapping photos of one another.

Most of the bike course was outside of the LMS on the expansive Raceway grounds. The course was very technical meaning that there were many changes in direction. The course looped twice around the three main stadiums (LMS, Dirt Track, Drag Strip). Most of the roads were closed with cycling traffic in one direction only; if the course stayed dry it looked like it would be a lot of fun. I noticed one field with hundreds of Port-A-Potties lined up and could not help thinking that Mitch Fraser the Subaru Series organizer should take note. I had to stop and take a picture amazed at how prepared the people at LMS are to handle big crowds.

Race Day - Saturday September 26th

I tried to get a much sleep as possible turning off the TV at 11:10pm. I woke up in a sweat, looking over at the clock expecting to see 5:00am; instead it was only 12:30am. I slept in spurts until 9:00am and then went downstairs to partake in the breakfast bar at the Hotel. The breakfast area was filled with excited Athletes chatting amongst themselves grouped in country teams. I spent almost 2 hours talking with my Mom & John and a couple from Connecticut: Dawn & Joseph. Dawn was competing in the 60-64 age group and ended up finishing third. It was great to see her competitive fire burning so brightly at 63.

The weather was going to be a big factor as there was a constant light rain falling with no signs of letting up. The roads were wet with no chance of drying. Extreme caution will be required on the many turns out on the bike course. The upside of the wet weather was that the temperature has dropped to about 22celcius which would make the run much less painful; or so I hoped.

As sat in my hotel waiting for my start time the elite men’s race was about to begin over at the LMS. I fought off the impulse to go and watch them race and tried to mentally prepare for the race. I had seen a lot of people heading over to LMS after breakfast with pumps, packs and water bottles in hand. Although it would be exciting to watch the race and cheer for fellow Canadian Mathew Pieterson, I decided to spend the extra two hours away from the venue focusing on my upcoming race. I was exited for Matthew, thinking that this event may be a coming out party for him. He is relatively unknown and extremely talented I was hoping for a great result from him. Matthew needs to get into the pool and start swimming so that he can do more great things for the sport in Canada; which is what I told him after the race. Despite running a sub 31 minute 10km Matthew finished well down in the standings demonstrating just how tough the competition was.

Sitting in my room, I kept thinking about the 1st 10km run as I went over my race strategy. The start was on the main speedway with a left turns off the track after 150meters. My instincts were telling me to get near the front and make the turn clear of any congestion. I decided to fight my instincts and trust in my intellect; starting out easier and then gradually moving up. Going out hard at the start of the race will only serve to expend too much energy too early, just to be in a position that I would not be able to maintain. I may get a bogged down at the start, but if I had the fitness I would be able to work myself into striking distance for the bike start. I developed this strategy over the past few years watching the races play out as the person in the lead after 1km is rarely the person crossing the finish line first.

To reinforce my strategy I planned on finding David Frake at the start line and lining up right next to him. Dave has excellent starts he remains relaxed as he systematically works his way up to the lead of the race avoiding any unnecessary energy expenditure that can occur with sprint starts. Two months ago at the Duathlon Provincial Championships, Dave was almost two minutes faster than me during the 1st run. I have been researching Dave’s times in subsequent races and have been impressed with his improvements. I hoped that the running work I had done during the last two months would be enough to keep me close.

My goal was to run a 35minute 10km. I have never run that fast before but I have taken some steps towards achieving that goal. I ran 35:40 in the sporting life 10km back in April; my finish time benefited from a mostly downhill course. I ran a 17:15 5km in the 1st leg of the Cobourg race 6 weeks ago. I also ran a 25minute 7.5km in Orillia 5 weeks ago. The race in Cobourg gives me the most confidence as I did not feel that I was going all out nor did I feel that I had exhausted my reserves. I was prepared for the run, although my hip felt a little strained as a result of the half Ironman 2-weeks back in Muskoka.

I had not spent that much time thinking about the second run portion as typically not much change occurs during this final leg of the race. My plan for the second run was to make the transition back to running just I as have practiced so many times. If everything works out as planned I may have the lead by this point and will need to hold off any attackers. I will run hard but save some gas for the final 500 meters where I will give it all I have. If I am in pursuit at this point I may need to dig very deep and see if I have enough will to spur myself to new heights. As I am a stronger cyclist than runner I have not much experience running down my competition.

I want to take a moment to thank all of my family and friends who have been pulling for me over the past two years leading up to this race. I received over 20 emails wishing me luck and telling me to kick ass in the race today. Thank you all very much.

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