Races and Stories

Goin' Fast (Sort Of)

Dick Granger Duathlon, Dallas, Texas, November 1997

Same song, second verse.

Except someone speeded the record player up a little bit.

Last August, I posted a report on the Bath House Duathlon at White Rock Lake in Dallas. It's a little 2-10-2 neighborhood sprint, directed by Thruston Racing, and a dandy for newbies. I finished third, 20 seconds behind the competition, and felt like I could have gone no faster.

The Dick Granger is a repeat of the same race, so it's a good 'un for checking progress. The one difference is that this race is held in honor of Dick Granger, sole owner of the 80+ age group, and a legendary fixture in the Dallas running and multisport scene. He ran the race this day, and finished in 1:30:12. Even though he was the oldest competitor, he was by no means the slowest. He was definitely the classiest. The whole crowd went out to meet him to share the last few hundred meters with him as he finished.

As usual, Thruston supported all the weight classes, so I entered in the Clydesdale category. Having been training a lot lately, and having picked up a bit of hardware at the previous race, I figure I was in the hunt and approached this race with a little different attitude.

An early arrival assured me of a really good spot in the transition area. At the last race, I fiddled around and barely got to the start in time. Not this time. I prepared my transition area, and went for a 15-minute warmup run. I even had time to wait in the Port-a-Potty line.

My strategy in a sprint du is to run conservatively in the first run, ride like hell, then hang on for dear life in the second run. I knew I was a contender in my category, so I lined up as close to the front as I dared. Too close--the gun went off, and the runners in front of me vanished into the distance like the Millenium Falcon making the jump into hyperspace. I thought, "Why are these guys sprinting?" Then I realized the sad truth: they weren't. I could have picked my feet up and ridden the wave for the first quarter mile.

But the frenzy of the start got me going, and I altered my strategy. The race was combined with a 5K. Everyone started together, but the duathletes turned around at one mile, and the footpads made their turn at their halfway point. I figured the winner of the 5K would finish in about 16 minutes, so my strategy was to do what it took to avoid hearing the announcer call the victor of the running race. That required getting through the transition area before 16 minutes went by.

Now, I gotta remind you guys again, we's in the tail o' the pack don't rotate on the planet in quite the same way as you rabbits up front. You guys affect the length of the day (all energy expended rotates the planet a little faster). Us'n Clydesdales knock the planet out of orbit. Nine minutes per mile is a conservative pace for me.

All I can say about the first run is that it felt slow, but I forgot to hit the button so I don't know how slow. At least I didn't hear the announcer calling the finish of the 5K. But there were no bikes left in my rack.

White Rock Lake lies in a hollow of the land and collects all the cold air in the area on still mornings. With the sun unable to penetrate the clouds, I had decided to wear a Polartec cycling jacket that has nylon front to ward off the wind. It was a little too much in the first run, and I contemplated taking it off. That would have been a Bad Thing. As is was, my fingers were so cold at the end of the bike that I could not operate my lace locks (damn those rules people--what a time for Shoe-Tite brand Automated Lace Locks!), and I ran the second run in loose shoes.

I love riding the bike in a duathlon. The bike for me is the Great Equalizer. I figure anyone I pass in the first half of the bike is gone for good. Anyone I pass in the second half I may see again in the second run, but at least for a while they are watching my tail. But nobody, I mean nobody, that runs at my lethargic pace can keep up with me on the bike. At the end of the 10-mile bike leg, I was passing age-group winners. Enjoy it while it lasts. For me, getting on the bike is like pulling up the anchor, and feeling a good, stiff breeze snap the spinnaker. For once, I create a bow wave. In such a race, I'm never guilty of blocking.

Another goal for me was getting into the second run before the leader finished. I saw Brian Hasenbauer running for all he was worth on his way to a 51:07 finish. "Go, Brian!" I hollered. Brian is an occasional face at my swim practice. Willy Altamirano, who also swims at my practice, blew by in fourth. By the time he finished, his superb running skills had moved him up to third.

At the second transition, riding buddy Keith Hester was about ten seconds in front of me. Keith is a much better runner than me, and a little bit faster rider, usually. I gotta tell ya, It's not shabby being with people who are normally far ahead. I don't race for the glory of victory, but when a little of that brand of goodness comes my way, it definitely does not suck.

The pain of the second run was like an old friend. I knew this pain, and he knew me. We could work together. Knowing pain is not a bad thing, it is actually liberating. I felt the same way running the half marathon three weeks ago. The pain told me where the limits were, and left me free therefore to pursue them. I finished strong and happy, posting a time 14 seconds shy of a flat hour. Good enough for 2nd among the Clydes, and 4th in my age group had I gone that way. 3:15 faster than in August. The experience charged the batteries: Sunday I went out for a 16-mile run; the longest to date.

As I stood around at the awards ceremony with a group of club buddies (all of whom brought home hardware) posing for pictures and telling stories, I thought, "This, folks, is what multisport is all about."