Lance Armstrong is generally pretty good for a sound byte. One-liner here, short quip there. He wasn't always this way, but after a few years Touring around France in the summer, he opened up to the media and has provided some great clips. One of my favorite lines was from last summer's Tour, when he rolled up to the finish line a broken man. He said, "some days you're the hammer, some days you're the nail. I've been the hammer before. Today I was the nail."
Now, of course it's impossible to compare the best day I've ever had to even the worst day Lance has ever had, it wouldn't even be a competition. I also am not trying to say that finishing 2nd place in a race, even if there are just 60 people, is the definition of being "the nail" - but yesterday's race for me was a reality check.
The last time I did a duathlon was in 2002, the LaPlata Duathlon, put on by Brad Jaeger's Triathlantic Association. It was in March. It was cold. It was windy. So it was with a certain sense of deja vu that, 9 years later, I was standing on the start line of a duathlon. In March. In the wind. Temps were pretty chilly. And there, on the sidelines, was Brad Jaeger. The only difference is that it wasn't his race. Oh, and instead of being the flatlands of Southern Maryland, it was the hilly hinterlands of Hampstead, Maryland.
I was not looking forward to many aspects of this race. It was early in the morning - a 7:30am start - on the day that we lose an hour of sleep. Which also means it was pretty darn dark on the way up. It was in Hampstead, which is 45 minutes away. 2.5mi run/14mi bike/2.5mi run, so pretty short. It was chilly, but not cold. What was the appropriate attire for the event? It was also a $95 race. That's hefty.
But, there were some things I was really looking forward to - namely the prize purse for top 3 plus the bike prime for fastest bike split of the day. While I am generally the first to want to be in the most competitive race, against the most competitive people, I'm also not generally in a position to win money. Ever. In fact, I've only ever won money one time, for my race win at the 2002 Terp Trot. It wasn't even real money, it was $75 that could only be used at the businesses on Route 1. So I took my friends to get ice cream at Baskin Robbins and then we went out and I paid the tab at Bentley's. When Alyssa alerted me about the race, I did my best to not tell anyone I felt would jump in the race and do it, potentially leaving me out of the money. I figured I would find out if anyone was going to do this race and so I waited to sign up until just a few days before the event.
I get to the race and sure enough boom - immediately see 4 people I know, including Double K, aka Kevin Kendro. One of the nicest dudes of all time and a really talented guy. I see Woody, who I know from the running circles in Baltimore, and I see this dude whose name we never quite seem to catch, but he runs with us at FHR and is generally pretty quick. Also spot a guy who looks familiar, like maybe I've seen him at the pool or something. So I quickly realize, this race is going to be on.
The field was small, and there was a 5k running simultaneously on the same course. 5k runners were supposed to follow the course, while duathletes were going to have some kind of turnaround at about 1.25 miles. From the whistle, 5 people jumped out front, with two appearing to be in the 5k, Double K, familiar guy and some other dude. If the mile mark was accurate, and I think it was because it was downhill, I came through in 5:36 and had moved up to 3rd. I sat in this position, not wanting to go into the red on this first run. I approached a water stop, and the two women there just watched me go by. Some seconds later, I hear Kevin yell up - apparently, despite no indication of any turnaround, the water stop was it. I correct my error, and quickly catch and re-pass everyone who was now in front of me, but one guy who was definitely in the duathlon continued on the 5k course and we couldn't get him back on track.
I finished the run in 16:13, with an added minute I felt like, maybe more. Kevin was 17 seconds back. I got out onto the bike, wearing my arm warmers, toe warmers and long-fingered gloves. I felt okay at this point, but there were times on the course that it got real cold. Kevin passed me fairly early in the race. I tried to keep him in sight, but soon he was gone. Later in the ride, another guy passed me, and then another. I kept those two in sight and around 38 minutes realized we were almost done. Kevin was a half mile into the run when I passed him on my bike, so I knew he was out of reach. The only thing I could do was run down the two guys in front of me.
I passed them in the first mile, but at the turnaround I saw the guy who had gone farther out of his way on the run, and he was running well. I managed to hold him off and ran it in to finish 2nd. My 2nd run time was 14:28, and the way it was run was a little shorter than the first one, so I figured my estimated minute loss was about right on the first run. Kevin finished two minutes up, probably having ridden more than 2 minutes faster than I did. The guy in third - Marc - had indeed run the entire 5k course, and started the bike two minutes after we did. Great ride for him.
I was pleased with the effort for the day, running two solid runs and putting together an okay bike split. While it was the type of course that, due to its hilly nature, one could have done okay on a road bike, I'm still giving up too much without a time trial bike. This won't cut it for the races coming up. Plus, while my road bike was top-end in 2005, it's now 6 years later and I've ridden the shit out of it. It's coming apart at the seams. I need to definitely have a solution in place by Columbia.
Back in the school - which was, incidently, the site of my first ever (and only) bike race in 2007 - I ate a cookie, drank a Coke and then the pizzas rolled in. 40, by my count, way too many for the number of people. Then they announced the awards and, as 2nd place, earned myself $100. The good news is that it means I only spent $2 on the race (after the Active fees it was over $100). So I felt better about at least getting to race for (basically) free.
In 2009, the last year I raced against Double K, I put some time into him on the bike. This year, he got me. I'm sure he's in very good shape, but, as alluded to in the beginning, I used to be the hammer. I used to be able to show up to any triathlon and put down a very solid bike split. Now I'm on the receiving end. I'm the nail. Some of this may change with a new bike, but I also need to race more and get in more hard efforts. As always, I'm now bound by the limits of my range of motion and my knee's ability to generate power, so I've got to find a way to bring that back. There are now 12 weeks until Columbia, and another 3 to Eagleman. That's a lot of time to find form, and more importantly, to hold it. Additionally, as always with goals, there are some that are more important than others. I never put a place goal for myself at Columbia, because it could be (actually, it is) seriously stacked and I might go faster than I've ever gone and finish in a lower position. Same with Eagleman. My goals are for later this year, and those are what I'm working toward.
For the week, it ended pretty well. A good trainer ride on Thursday for Pat's 30th birthday, and a decent ride on Saturday - so three days (albeit short ones) on the bike; 3 swims (2 weren't great, 1 was okay) and 4 days of running for 41 miles, including my return to the track (Tues) and the race (Sun). Just over 12 hours I think.