I habitually like early summer races that are nice and flat with smooth paved surfaces. These are the kind of races that let me settle into a groove and dial in my effort precisely. So why on God’s green earth would I choose to do a hilly race yesterday with lots of trail running? Oddly, it’s because of a wedding.
Last weekend was our team race at Lake Stevens. As I don’t swim, I was really excited to go as part of a relay team. Then I remembered that I had committed to go to a wedding later that day. I had to pull out of the relay and I felt like I let my teammates down. It turned out to a picture perfect day for racing and I had a harder time celebrating someone else’s special day knowing what I gave up to be there. I had another wedding to go to yesterday— but this one started just a little later. Earlier this week, I realized I could slip in the Black Diamond race before the wedding and still make it there on time. So, as strange as it sounds, I wanted to do the race so I could enjoy the wedding more. Like any flight attendant will happily remind you, you need to put on your own mask before helping others.
I’ve ridden by Nolte State Park (the race venue) a million times on a bike because it’s on one of my favorite long rides. It’s about an hour south of Seattle by car– just a few miles north of Enumclaw. Nevertheless, I still managed to get horribly lost. Lesson learned: don’t follow the directions of the race organizer. Once I got there, I remembered that I have done this race several times before— and hated every time that I raced it! I can still remember former teammate Rhea Shaw (now a very successful Canadian women’s pro cyclist) doing this race and dropping me like a hot rock about a mile into the bike leg. Parking is awful at this race so by the time I was all set up, I had absolutely no time to warm up. I almost forgot to put my water bottle on my bike. I also managed to forget to apply leukotape to my right foot to help manage my plantar fasciitis. This race was turning into a disaster before it even started!
RUN 1 (1.4 MILES IN 10:02)(7:10 PACE)(7OA)
I have got to be the world’s worst trail runner. How I managed to run 7:10 on a trail run around a lake is a mystery to me. Maybe the course wasn’t measured correctly? (smile) Do not believe the race organizer’s marketing team—the photo at right is not representative of the trail used in this race. Rather than a nicely groomed path of Arcadian tranquility, it’s a rugged trail with exposed tree roots and large ankle-twisting rocks. Not as horrific as the trail run at this year’s Hagg Lake race—but also a lot longer.
BIKE (40K IN 1:17:47)(19.17 MPH)(7OA)
I really didn’t like this bike ride. My watts were holding at about 210, which certainly isn’t the best for me (I was doing 245 watts on 30-minute repeats in Carnation a few weeks ago). At about 30 minutes in, I noticed that I could feel a lot more bumps in the road than normal, so I pulled over and noticed I had a front flat tire.
In all my years of bike racing, this was the first time that I ever had a flat tire in a race. I must have spent at least 15 minutes pulling off the old one, putting on the new one, centering it, inflating it, and — worst of all — trying to figure out what to do with my dead tire. I wasn’t about to waste a $110 tubular tire on the side of the road in a C-race, so I carefully rolled it back up and wrapped it on my aero bar. Figuring out how to do with it and how to hold it there was turning into a brilliant comedy of frustration– it finally ended up as a wadded ball that made my elbows rest much wider. Worst of all, I was completely demoralized, which didn’t make we rush in the slightest way as I changed my tire. I debated just calling it quits— this was a crappy race and I was convinced I was coming in last place. But for some reason, I convinced myself to just have fun and ride hard on the remainder of the bike— maybe I would just pull the plug in transition. But I couldn’t ride too hard–with tubular tires, it’s important to be careful with spares because there isn’t any fresh glue holding the spare tire on the rim. That means I had to take it easy around turns and could only let it fully rip on the straightaways. I’ve ridden behind someone when they “rolled a tire” and it’s a scary ugly sight.
After the race, I looked over the race results. I’m pretty sure I could have posted the fastest time on the bike leg if it weren’t for that damn flat.
RUN 2 (10K IN 46:50)(7:48 PACE)(2OA)
I have no idea how I managed 2OA on this second run. Coming into transition, there were hardly any bikes on the duathlon rack— was I actually in a not-so-bad position after all that? So rather than quit, I decided to run the second leg after all. Coming out of transition, however, my right knee was feeling uncomfortable. I have been doing the Kinetic Revolution 30-Day Challenge and a lot of the movements recently have been down on the knees— and I think that’s been causing a bit of irritation because I haven’t been doing them on a soft surface. So, in the middle of the race, I just stood there. I let people pass me, as I debated quitting or continuing. It wasn’t a question of will power— I could easily muscle through it. I was just weighing the options— could I run the rest of the race without screwing up my knee badly? After about 2 minutes, I started running again slowly. It felt okay if I kept my strides relatively short. About a mile later, I found that I could even hold a moderate pace while keeping my knee happy. A little further down the road, I noticed that, when it hurt, the pain in my knee was around the periphery of the kneecap— probably patellar tendinitis, which is never a big deal. So I then started running a little faster. When I looked down at my watch at this point, I was running about a 7:00 pace without breathing hardly at all. Then the race ended with the same 1.4 miles of trail running that we started with and my pace turned into a crawl. 7:48 is a terrible pace for me; I have to remember that I was dawdling.
After the race, I packed my bike, gave myself a roadside alcohol sponge bath, and changed into a suit in the blazing sunshine (occasionally ducking back in my air-conditioned car). Then it was off to a wedding about an hour away.
And that wedding? It was fantastic! I felt myself feeling strangely emotional all through the service, really taking in what a truly wonderful day it was. It actually was one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to.
As for the Black Diamond race, it’s on my “never again” list, along with the Mount Rainier Duathlon (horribly wet, cold, and hilly) and the Hagg Lake Duathlon (extremely hilly and lots of trails). Unless, of course, there’s a wedding planned for those days. 😉 AA Sports puts together fantastic races– well-organized, safe, and professionally run. They host my absolute favorite race, the Portland Spring Classic duathlon, which can sometimes attract over 500 participants. But this race and Hagg Lake aren’t my favorites.In case you’re the kind of person who loves lots of data, here are the final results.
The mornings are getting a little chilly and weather is becoming a little more unpredictable. This means that I probably won’t run another duathlon this year. I’ll finish up this year with a few more running races, which I think I’ll really enjoy. I’ll also be adding a lot more volume, as I’ll discuss in my next post.
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