The Duathlons

From - "Stepping Up", by Stu Downs.
Chapter 17 – "The Duathlons"

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt

During late winter and early autumn each year the Wellington district experiences a number of sporting events that compliment the summer triathlons. Much to the relief of those not owning dry suits these events take part without the need for open water (winter) swimming. The nature of these events is a 'run-ride-run' approach, so the legs get a good workout. None of the results really mattered too much, as areas such as transitions, nutrition, speed, and ‘getting it right on the day’ were practiced. I was acutely aware that the journey towards the 2010 Ironman started with these events and thus for the first time in two years I would be competing in build up events. Has it really been that long??

I was also becoming more conscious that I needed something epic on the plate. IM is moths away and these build up events provided little more than teasers. Give me the solitude of the truly long event, where competitors become a welcome sight (and source of encouragement). That will wait for now though. The entree to this season had arrived...

In hot pursuit at the Kapiti Harriers Duathlon

Kapiti Harriers Duathlon - 2km run / 13km bike / 2km run.
The Kapiti Harriers had four duathlons this season. This was the fourth, with the first run before I decided to do Ironman, and the previous two races missed due to illness. Yep, things had been a little shaky, but with a proper training program things had changed for the better. In fact, I didn’t know it at the time, but the event marked a remarkable run of training, with this being 'Week One' whereby not a single swim, bike, run, stretch session, or yoga session being missed for no less than nine weeks. These injury free days were eventually taken for granted, as was a pleasant start to the season.

It was a clear day for the race, but being the tail end of winter the start was chilly to say the least. As we setoff for the initial 2km run (which I suspect is actually 2.5kms) I recalled several weeks earlier where I had run this circuit three times averaging just over 13 minutes on each occasion. As luck would have it I ran into a bush on Lap 3 that evening and accepted that it was getting a little dark for off-road running. A time of 10:10 for the run was a little surprising, but to follow was possibly the slowest T1 transition ever. Daryl Rutter and myself then played cat and mouse for the 13kms, (never drafting I might add), before another slow transition had me running off in pursuit of those who had arrived after me on the bike.

A close finish would decide things and there would be three of us sprinting for 3rd place. I finished behind the other two, (later regretting not finding a way past them), and learnt an important lesson. "Know where the finish line is". Yep, a simple but not insignificant point.

Fathers Day Scorching Duathlon - 5km run / 20km bike / 2.5km run.
Next up was the first of the Scorching Bay duathlons. I had never done one of the scorching events, so it didn’t seem odd that the event was held some 40kms from Scorching Upper Hutt. To say the weather for the day was perfect would not be an understatement. I even got slightly sunburnt, which at the time didn’t seem odd, but the next six weeks would bring nothing but foul weather that in hindsight meant the beautiful weather on the day was a false dawn as far as summer was concerned. There was a bit of racing too though.

The day was remarkable for it’s lack of highlights. I made a point of reminding myself that I need to lose some weight while riding up Whiteman’s Valley, but these thoughts were put to one side as I roared down the other side and held off anyone attempting to pass me. This would be my last ride at an event on the road bike, so I wanted to give it a good day out. The lasting two memories were the calves cramping (shortly after a superfast T2), and then out sprinting another competitor at the finish. It was interesting to note that the discomfort during the race hurt less than the irritation I felt after the last event.

Final Scorching Duathlon - 4km run / 24km bike / 4km run.
The third of the three duathlons saw a contrast in the weather, with my introduction to Scorching Bay including a hailstorm in the middle of the bike leg. This concerned me little...mainly due to me having a tailwind at the time. I have to confess that on a day that otherwise saw me focused solely on my race, I had a wry smile on my face as I listened to the approaching cyclists yelp under an apparent blanket of frozen rain being fired at their faces. Truth be known, I love the extreme weathers though, and probably would have been smiling if I had been receiving a face full of hail. As it was, I simply heard the tap-tap-tap on my helmet.

The second of the two running sections saw my calf issues surface once and for all, with the last 500 meters shifting out of the discomfort zone to the pain zone. Not good. Crossing the line I simply closed my eyes and hoped my legs would keep me moving forward. Fatigue is fine, but simply put that was not fun. No. I looked forward to a post-race stretch and eventually decided on asking an Ambulance driver for an icepack.

At the foreshore of Lake Taupo. (Photo taken just south of Hatepe).

What else can really be said about three short course duathlons. No. Nothing epic, and frankly I struggled at times to get my head around doing events for the ‘fun’ of it. For the last two years the only events I have done were essentially show stoppers if things went south. These recent events were ‘sum zero’, with someone first, second, third, and inevitably last. Few would hang onto the memories, and some will have forgotten many of their lessons of those days before the next event arrived.

The following week I would see the physio everyday. Additionally, I wasn’t to know it at the time, but I was also carrying a nasty bug that hit me a few days later. As always, the visits of the ‘Black Dog’ leave me full of vigour and hope, and to be frank at one stage it made me reconsider where things were really at. Shortly thereafter on two occasions I even thought, "Why follow this journey??". Not a high point I do concede. However, an auspicious conversation with a friend put all of this into perspective, with Amit commenting that, "Sometimes when you feel like giving up the worst is almost behind you". No truer words ever spoken.

The story so far then is not lined with ‘Triple Loops’ of the Akatarawa’s, or 325km Wairarapa loops. No. Instead it is of, and about, the grind. I recall the road towards Taupo late last November, when everything seemed so bleak, and I learned so much about myself. That was hard work, but the reward was just 10 hours away. Triathlon is day after day. That is not to say that I dread it. All going well I can think of little else I would rather be doing. A lottery win would simply mean I could get in more training, and I would continue with this goal for sure. No, it’s when things aren’t going ideally that you look within yourself. That’s when you start to evaluate ‘why’ this is happening. Not so much what you are training towards, but who you want to be when you get there.

Several months ago, with aching ankles and knees that were starting to be sore after runs, I got a coach onboard. Lynley said that there were two clear goals for this journey. Firstly, to get the start line in the best possible shape, and secondly to get through the summer without a divorce. Both are on track and for this I am grateful, and I am enjoying a season that has more balance to it than the 2008/09 campaign.

My true goal therefore is the start line. The event won’t “take care of itself”, but I know that as with the Maxi Enduro, I’ll have my easy out at any point I wish, with the water being entered for my warm up for the lake swim being my point of no return. On more than one occasion I have been enduring a hard workout and have imagined how the sand between my toes will feel at the start line next March. It is only recently that I have realised how much I long for an epic outing, and in the past few weeks it has also dawned on me that those moments on the foreshore of Lake Taupo early next year will become the end of this journey…and the beginning of my next.

No comments: