Here is my race report for the Mount Rainier Duathlon– a race I told myself I’d never do again. This time, it didn’t turn out so bad (3rd in my age group and 29th overall) but it sure hurt.
I have done the Mount Rainier Duathlon more times than I can remember. In fact, it was the first significant duathlon that my old coach made me race in the Seattle area. I’ve never done great at this race, as I never do well in really hilly duathlons. Races like this are pretty common around Seattle– so much so that I’m much happier driving 3 hours south to Portland to do the flatter races down there. But, after last week’ s performance, I knew that I needed a few more races under my belt before World’s in Aviles, Spain early next month. This became more evident over the course of this last week. My legs were trashed from Portland in a very unfamiliar way. Specifically, I had a nasty case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for a good three days after the race. This shows that my legs aren’t used to the demands of duathlon, so I just had to throw another race in there. And if there is ever a race that can add a little extra challenge to my legs, it was this one. Granted, maybe having more than just a one week break from Portland would have been nice.
There was another reason to do this race this year– the weather didn’t suck. Mount Rainier is notorious for having the worst weather possible. In 2013, this race was the USAT Long-Course Duathlon National Championship. It was freezing cold. It was windy and wet. The heavy rain just blew sideways. Coming down the long hill (Mudd Mountain), it was sleeting. Tons of people dropped out because of the weather. And it’s been like that more often than not. I’ve raced it so often with fingers and toes that I couldn’t feel.
But there was also a reason to not race it. The day before the race, my pes anserine tendinitis came back! Actually, I felt it right after Portland and tried to tend to it, but it definitely came back with a vengeance on Saturday. So I told myself that I would race within the limits of my pain– and that if it started to really bug me, I would pull the plug. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Run 1 (5.12 miles in 37:09)(7:15 pace)
I’m not exactly sure why but I can never manage to run fast at Mount Rainier. Ever. My pace is always at least a good 30 seconds off my usual pace. Some might say it’s the steep short rollers about 2/3 of the way through the run, but it’s not that. Instead, it’s all mental. I HATE this run course for the same reason that I hated long runs during my childhood. There are long, boring stretches that you can see for what feels like miles. This makes the course feel so much longer than it is. I find it utterly demoralizing. This year, I had extra reason to take it easy on the run as my pes anserine was still a bit cold.
In any event, the run started off well enough. I was wearing one of my Team USA kits (my usual attire for duathlons). During the run, I met a new buddy– Calvin– who is relatively new to multisport. I tried to dissuade him from this awful lifestyle, but he kept running. At one point, he turned to me and asked, “are you going to pull me up this hill, Nakata?” This started a little mid-race banter about how he knew my name. 😉
LESSON LEARNED: Learn to embrace boredom?
After last week, I prepared carefully for this year’s transition. I attached my shoes to my pedals and used little rubber bands so they would stay in the right position. I also would be wearing a Castelli T1: Stealth jersey, both for the aerodynamics and also for a little upper arm protection. So I should be blazing through transition, right? Wrong. I lost a full minute. Why? BECAUSE THEY MOVED MY BIKE!
Coming into T1, I went to my rack but there was no bike! I had carefully rehearsed in my mind where my bike should be, but there was no bike! Then I saw it– at the other end of the rack. So I took off my shoes and was about to pull on my helmet– but it was the wrong helmet. In fact, it was the wrong bike after all. So I yelled some kind of epithet and a race official came over and told me that she moved my bike during the run. Why? I’ll never know but it was now on an entirely different rack!
So now I was completely flummoxed and forgot to zip up my jersey (this would haunt me later). I lost about a minute to my competition just on T1– but it felt like an hour.
LESSON LEARNED: If you don’t see your stuff in transition, yell first at a race official instead of floundering around by yourself. Find an alternative to elastic laces that works.
Bike (28.88 miles in 1:27:50)(19.7 mph)
I zipped out of transition and got into my pedals with some effort (memo to self– practice this). Now I was ripping down the bike course. I rounded the first turn and the sun was at my back– CRAP, my jersey was unzipped. Now, a TT bike with deep dish wheels isn’t exactly the sort of bike to ride no-handed, so I had to stop and zip up my jersey. As I discovered last week, slowing down dramatically during a fast portion of a bike course is deadly– and sure enough, someone zipped right by me.
Back in the hunt again, I was now down on my aero bars. First up was the guy who passed me. I whizzed right by him without a problem. I changed my aero position from last week by sliding my elbow pads forward an inch. This really let me tilt my hips forward and drop my lower back into a more neutral position. Unfortunately, it meant my extensions where a little short, but it was still far more comfortable. For about the first half of the loop, the course is pancake flat. My watts weren’t really good (top of zone 2 and bottom of zone 3) but I was still flying ridiculously fast.
Then came the hill and I almost seemed to stop. I downshifted into a 42-28 and just ground my way up the hill. While I was struggling, my power did come back (finally) and I was riding pretty much at FTP. I forgot just how long this hill was! By the time I crested the hill, two guys passed me. The downhill was incredibly fast and I have no qualms about pushing the boundaries of my aerodynamics on the downhill. I must have made up at least 6 positions on that downhill. But there was a problem– my pes anserine was starting to bug me. The thought of abandoning was creeping through my mind. “If it stays like this on second lap or the run, pull the plug,” I told myself.
The second lap was pretty much the same but my legs had a lot more power on the flats. I started out a bit gingerly in increasing the watts and eventually got up near FTP– weird that now my pes anserine was feeling fine. It’s as if my legs needed the hill as a wake-up call. Unfortunately, the field was far more spread out by this point and, while I was still passing a bunch of people, it wasn’t at all like the first lap. I passed a very fast woman right before the hill but then she dropped me like a hot rock climbing up the mountain. I did manage to catch her on the downhill going into transition.
LESSON LEARNED: It’s not just the cassette– get a smaller chainring too before your next really hilly race. Although, really, the only race with a steeper hill that I’m ever going to do is in Switzerland (filed under “unfinished business”). I also need a few weekends with some punishing rides near threshold.
Finally, a reasonable transition. I was slowed down a bit by the fact that I can’t use elastic laces like every other duathlete. Plus, I probably lost about 10 seconds fighting my way out of my jersey.
LESSON LEARNED: Practice everything in transitions– even taking off a jersey.
Run 2 (3.79 miles in 28:40)(7:33 pace)
Remember how I said I hate hilly duathlon races? This is the reason why. Holy smokes, this run hurt like heck. My quads were pretty trashed by grinding up the mountain twice and now I could barely lift my legs. I’m actually quite surprised that I was able to run a 7:33 pace– it felt FAR slower than that. But it was about as fast as I could run with no quads. So 7:33 it is… It wasn’t the end of the world running at a slower pace as my pes anserine now felt perfectly fine.
I did manage to pass an older guy pretty early on. Turns out that he was my podium spot. I could see that he was really struggling on the run. But that girl who got me on the hill? She was just disappearing slowly down the road. On the last mile of running, the guy who finished right in front of me passed me. He was looking great and he congratulated me for a strong bike ride. But, after last week’s race, I made sure to get a sense of his age before just letting him pass– no way was he in my age group. There was no way that I could run his pace with trashed quads but it was good to know he was a lot younger than me.
Rounding the last turn with about a quarter mile to go, I sneaked a peak behind me. Absolutely no one in sight. So I could let up on the gas even more and just cruise in.
LESSON LEARNED: I need more bricks in my life. But I’ve done bricks on the flat without any problems like this. Unfortunately, training for this requires hard uphill sprints followed by hard running off the bike. Not for the fainthearted.
After the race, we all hung around for awhile. Our team’s running coach Julie pulled off first place for the women, finishing right behind a very fast John Dupree. Checking out their running times, they seemed not too far off my 5K times in Portland. But they are much faster runners than me– which suggests that no one has good times on this running course.
After the race, Calvin got a picture snapped of us with my friend John Dupree and Calvin’s friend, Katie Thompson. Now Calvin and I are connected by Facebook– that social glue of the multisport world. He’s awfully fast and I’ve got to keep an eye on him.
I feel a need to say something The Castelli T1 Stealth jersey that I used during the race today. It is an AWESOME piece of kit. It doesn’t feel quite as fast as my Castelli body paint TT suit but for multisport gear, it is pretty damn fast. I have actually been looking for this jersey for two years now– and I was able to grab one from the Athlete’s Lounge while I was down in Portland last week (well, they had to call their Castelli rep and have it shipped to me). In fact, I can see myself wearing it for the entire race in anything cooler than today. Actually, I could have easily run today in it as it’s intended for hot weather– but that wouldn’t have been as much fun. The extra-long sleeves (they stop right at the elbow) make it super-aero but I can see this substituting for arm warmers. Highly recommended piece of kit. Also, it could do double duty as a TT jersey for any multisport athletes thinking about trying a time trial.