Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Welland Duathlon 2014 (Bike-Run)

Welland Duathlon 2014 (Bike-Run)


So in the past few weeks, my quads (left one in particular) have been feeling particularly heavy regardless of how much rest I give them. I've been taking it easy but in Binbrook duathlon last week, I could tell that something was up when during the opening 5 kms, I started getting really tight quads restricting my stride. 

Anyway...I followed the mantra during race week, taking it easy. I got a light massage on Wednesday but the tiredness didn't dissipate. I tried doing a quick taper type workout on Thursday (5 km run at LT, 15 min bike, 3-4 km quick run off the bike). I warmed up, stretched right but once I began running, I couldn't do it. My left quad tightened up so bad after 10 mins that I began noticeably limping. There was no pain, just a lot of tightness. I abandoned my workout and seriously considered pulling out of this Welland race.
Next day, I made an "emergency" appointment for a massage with Tracey Elliott, who is familiar with my ailments. This turned out to be very helpful, as she was able to remove some fatigue and focus on my left quad. 

On the plus side, Enterprise gave me a Mercedes to rent for the weekend! I was pretty surprised myself, when I was able to fit 2 bikes, kit, spare wheels, and even groceries in the back with the seats folded down!

Race Morning:

After the massage, I iced a lot in the last 2 days but changed my mental race strategy. I decided NOT to push my limits, take it easy on the bike, and stop running/start walking at the first sight of this familiar tightness in my quads. Now, I just needed to ensure I was smart enough to realize when to do that! :D 

Drove over to Welland eating my mega PBJ Bagel on the way!


In an act of a true duathlete, I started out my warm-up running along the run course, and did around 5 kms of “warming up” (albeit more defiantly than smartly!). Threw in a little bit of form drills and a bit of stretching towards the end.

Yes, I know that that is “too long” to be warming up for! This kinda fit in with making sure I took it easy on the bike in the beginning.


Like last year, we had a TT type start to this race. Every one left in a sequence of 15s in order of our bib numbers. I was one of the first ones to go.
As soon as my turn came, I trotted off the transition timing mat towards the mount line. There was chaos in front of me…triathletes completely bunched up to mount their bikes. So I walked my bike a few feet further to mount. Now, 2 of these triathletes decided to waver in front of me after mounting…slowly moving, blocking the left lane. I know it’s a long race and lots of bumpy sections in this first few kms, plus I was trying to keep my adrenaline in check, so I let them settle down before I passed them ~200 m later. Around the 5 km mark, 2 guys, who left after me, passed me.
I looked at their bib numbers only to realize I had just lost 45s in the first few kms because of the slow mount and ramping up speed.*FACEPALM*

Rest of the bike was pretty uneventful. This course is FLAT. No chance to coast. There are a few sections next to the water which are really great to ride through and I normally look forward to this part of the course. This day, however, the wind was just confusing. It seemed like we had headwind/crosswind most of the way and only tailwind in the first 15 kms or so. I only got out of my aero position for a few seconds at a time (to drink, at aid stations, etc.) but got noticeably slower every time.

My quads hurt right from the beginning and kept protesting throughout the ride. My left leg was full of complaints today: adductors, ITB, soleus, all just not comfortable. Usually, if you’re tapered, its easy to go out too hard when you don’t feel the fatigue. I didn’t have that problem! I was tired right from the start.
Oh well, I’m good at pacing, so I kept my calm and did well to slowly increasing my power throughout the ride. 

I stuck to my nutrition plan, and gobbled down 2 L’Arabars and 2 gels, along with almost 3 bottles of water and 1 super concentrated Gatorade. Flushed them down with 1 salt tablet towards the end.  At the turnaround near 60 kms, I gauged that the other 2 athletes were approximately 1-2 mins up the road (plus the lag in starting time), but their lead was not growing as we neared the end.

Very little variance!
In the first half, I averaged just around 193W AP/ 195W NP. In the second half, it was about 199W AP / 201W NP. Funny thing is that in my Binbrook race last weekend, I also put out only 197W AP for a 30 km ride, so my power in Welland for 90 kms was the same, if not slightly higher! 

I hate the way this works!

Actual bike time: 2:31:15 (36.0 km/hr...measured 90.78 kms)
Official bike time: 2:32:20 (35.5 km/hr)


Got off the bike and clippety-clappety jogged to the transition area with my bike shoes on. Like every year, I haven’t bothered to practice flying mounts/dismounts. Thanks in part to living in downtown with no space nearby (and generally being lazy)!

I wanted to apply some moisturizing cream on my calves, which seemingly prevents me from cramping (magnesium!!), or at least, in my head they do! So this wasted a few seconds but gave me some peace of mind. Grabbed my run nutrition bottle (lesson learnt finally as a result of overheating/bonking at 16-17 kms into the run for 3 years in a row in this race!) and darted off.
Time: 1:20
Surprisingly, this was the fastest transition in the Bike-Run event. And I thought *I* was lazy in transitions.


My legs feel funny.

That was my first thought as I got onto the first few hundred meters of the run course. Now, I’ve done plenty of long distance brick sessions to know what “good legs” after a long bike ride feel like, and what “bad legs” feel like. This was a bit of a new feeling today….somewhere in between!

After the first turnaround just 500m into the race, I had overtaken one of the two guys ahead of me. The person now in the lead was approximately 40 seconds up. Not too bad, I thought. To win, I’d need to be at least 45s ahead of him at the finish, which meant I needed to make up 85 seconds in 21.1 kms. Time to get to work.
However, by the 2 km mark, I saw him walking up ahead. I know where that road leads. I felt a bit bad for him because it clearly meant he either pushed too much on the bike or didn’t pay attention to nutrition, generally speaking. So I passed him barely 10 mins into the run and I was now in the lead!  There’s a small hill with another turnaround at the 3 km mark, where I was able to gauge that I had already put in about 40s into the 2nd place.
Going down that hill, the funny feeling in my legs wasn’t going away. I began to get numb feet. What the hell? Quads still hurt, but this was weird. I slowed down a touch, kept my cool and tried to keep negative thoughts of the pre-race strains away from my mind. Patience. The numbness went away in the next 2kms or so.

Now, this run course has about 4 kms to get to the “Merritt Island”, where you do 2 loops of the Island path (each loop roughly 7.5 kms each) and then run 1.5 kms to the finish. After reaching the turnaround at the far point of the island in the first loop (about 10 kms into the run), my legs finally started to feel like remembering how to run! Finally, I could get into a rhythm! (This is the longest that the “jello legs” feeling has stayed with me after a bike ride...usually, it only takes about 15-20 mins!) .

My quads now hurt more than I remember during any brick session, but I still had to keep myself in check and hold back the urge to open up my stride so I don’t blow up and spend all my pennies too soon. This felt like excessive tiredness, not any unusual pain, so I kept my pace in check, remembered my pre-race mental plan and slowed at any sign of increased discomfort in my left quad. I didn't have to worry about winning the race now, so it was just a matter of minimizing damage.

By now, my traps were getting tired. Its my sign of dehydration. Gulped down water at every aid station and kept sipping from my run nutrition bottle throughout the last 10 kms. For the past 3 years doing this race at Welland, I’ve maintained a solid 4:15-4:20 min/km pace for the first 16 kms, and then on the home stretch, I completely fall apart due to either dehydration, calf heart attacks, back pain, general fatigue,side stitches, dizziness…you name it. But this year, I was determined to not let that happen. 
I had enough of a lead to play it conservative till 16 kms, so I just increased my tempo a little bit towards the end so I could finish strong. I also didn’t want to dig too deep because of the recovery time my quads would need. Oddly, all this did was increase my HR, because my pace didn’t get any faster!

However, the 21 km mark seemed a bit too far. About a kilometer from the finish, I was asked to go over a timing mat. OK, weird, but I thought this way the Sportstats people would be aware of who is going to be coming across the finish in a few minutes.

I saw Garima cheering for me a few minutes later. I high-fived her and enjoyed my way to the finish line. Thanks to Mike Cheliak for the awesome photos!
Run time: 1:32:20 (4:23 min/km)


After I gather my bearings and remember that I can’t just lie down at the finish line, I hobble over and the race director, John Salt, comes up to me to congratulate on the finish and inform me that the timing mat ~1 km ago was the final official timing mat!! 

The course ended up being longer than 21.1 kms (closer to 22 kms!) so the MSC guys decided to put up a timing mat at the right distance instead of the finish line. I had suspected the longer run while I was on Merritt island, but I thought those just might be markers in the wrong place.

I ended up being 8 mins ahead of the 2nd place, but both the 2nd and 3rd place finishers were absent from the awards ceremony. So I was a loner on the podium.

Although I didn't mind running the extra distance, and I had enough of a lead against 2nd place…I’m sure some people may have been disgruntled to find that the time they made up trying to sprint to the line, didn't count! Or worse, that someone running right next to them at that timing chip actually beat them to a podium spot! There will always be complaints. But kudos to the MSC/Sportstats for reacting very fast and coming up with a plan to make sure the right distance gets timed.

A familiar face: Roger Hospedales grabbed me for an interview, which you can find at:

Then I realized I couldn't walk much: my quads would just not allow it. So I grabbed a carton of Chocolate milk, put on the Compression Boots they offer to athletes, and just lay down on a beach chair looking like a pro!

Next two days, my glutes, hamstrings, shins and calves don’t hurt at all. But my quads beg for mercy and my Achilles/Tibialis Posterior muscles hurt a lot. Time for some R&R!

Big thanks to my usual partner in-crime: Garima. Although she did not do the race (too long and too boring, she says!), she did go out and do the 90 km bike ride on her own, after obtaining consent from the race officials. She did amazingly well and averaged 33.0 km/hr for the whole ride! Woah, I need to get on HER program! 

Also, a shout out to Tracey Elliot (BodyTrace) for urgently accommodating me in the week before the race for a massage session that took out some fatigue from my legs and helped my left quad recover enough to participate in this race. Thanks Tracey!

Next up is Guelph Duathlon/Triathlon next Saturday and possibly Centurion C75 or a charity ride on Sunday. Check back next week for more!

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