Round Robin Racing part 2: USAT Duathlon Long Course Nationals

Following my USAT off-road trip, I was able to stop off at Warriors Path State Park for a short ride on Tuesday. While the trail head was a bit difficult to locate (its not in the main park, but off the exit just past the park, if you’re heading north), it was good to get out and play around on the trails, especially because I would be back on my bike until Sunday. The trails are well-marked and offered some fun single-track before continuing my drive back to Ferrum College. With the semester now over, and my grades in the books, there were only a few days of meetings to endure, some reorganization of the exercise physiology lab, and commencement before I headed back to Richmond for the summer.

Commencement.

Commencement.

Schools out for summer!

The final week of school also meant some recovery time for USAT’s long course duathalon nationals on May 14th. Earlier in the year I had decided to make tentative plans for this race due to it’s proximity to Richmond; Cary, NC was just over 2 hours away and one of my most awesome ESP Podcast listeners, Mike Mouly, offered me a place to crash. I’d also get to finally race on my Giant F1 TT bike. I had ridden the bike a fair amount the previous year, and I even did some Chung aero field-testing using some position changes and various helmets. I will probably revisit this topic in a later blog post, however, my results raised enough questions that I sought some council with Jedi Aero Expert John Cobb. In short, field-testing is not without its problems, but one thing was clear, the Rudy Project Wing 57 was my best choice, and the helmet is fastest and most functional without the visor; which is great because I neither like visors nor swapping glasses.

Aerotesting

Decisions, decisions

Unfortunately, I was forced to make a decision between splitting my preparation between off-road and road cycling, or focusing on just off-road. It made the most sense to focus on off-road nationals, but that meant forgoing any training on said time trial bike until just a week before the event. That decision proved to be impactful on my race. With just a few short days to prepare, I opted for some relatively easy rides – in truth I could muster much more anyway, a couple runs and then off to Cary.

Bike set-up

Rudy Project Wing57 - One fast helmet!

Rudy Project Wing57 – One fast helmet!

Have bike, will travel

I packed up early Friday and headed down to Cary, hoping to beat the traffic, which I failed to do, pick up my race packet, and then ride at least some of the course, which I did succeed to do. It was enlightening to finally feel pretty good on my ride, which covered the early miles of the course. The roads were rolling and smooth, and the traffic light. With an early morning start and temperatures predicted to be in the 50’s, heat would not be a factor. With my ride done, I headed over to Mouly’s place before grabbing the equivalent of Brazilian Chipotle. I had to be up before 0500, so it was an early bedtime!

Who needs and alarm clock on race day?

My internal clock had me up at 0430. However, with a narrow window to set-up and then race, I opted for a simple breakfast of peanut butter and banana, a Rocket Chocolate Honey Stinger Bar, a Lemon Waffle, and some Starbucks Via. I then packed the bike back in the car and headed to the venue. Its simply amazing how much easier it is to set-up for a duathlon than it is for a triathlon, especially when there’s a wetsuit involved! I was able to find my row, set-up my bike, and then relax a bit before warm-up. As is customary, I recheck my bike several times before the race because there’s noting worse than arriving to T1 to find your stuff moved so someone can squeeze in last minute. True to form, this is exactly what happened about 10 minutes before transition closed. I think the woman realized what she had done when I calmly moved all my stuff back. She then asked me advice on the race, to which I gladly offered. No harm, no foul.

Sure and steady finishes the race…

After a quick warm-up, it was time to line-up. Historically, I’ve never performed particularly well in the first run of a duathlon, but I aimed to change that with a lightly slower start and even pacing. The run course was a simple 5-mile out and back course with a few hills. The cool temps meant I started with arm warmers just incase I needed them for the bike; I actually shed these on the way back in. Despite my modest start, I was inside the top-30 at the turn-around and felt relatively good heading into the bike. After what seemed like an impossibly slow transition, something I neglected to practice, I donned my shoes and jogged to bike mount line and off I went, blasting past numerous people fumbling to get into their shoes. Seriously, what is it with the tri community and their need to put their shoes on while wobbling on their bike? Yes, I see the need in some races, or with some types of shoes; FYI I use Time pedals and Sidi shoes and can jog pretty fast. However, I certain that most of these people not only waste more time fumbling with their shoes and risking a crash than they ever save. Either way, I was glad to be out on the bike settling in to my own pace quickly. 

Why tempo blocks might not be a bad idea

Anyone who follows my Podcast knows my feelings on threshold/sweet spot/tempo training. Frankly, its utter nonsense to still believe that anything magical happens at “threshold intensity” and people who still believe this simply refuse to accept the evidence. Some of this can be blamed on fluff articles in Pro Cycling magazines claiming top pro’s made enormous leaps in performance by training there…ahh, but I digress. Putting all that aside, I quickly realized that my lack of prep for steady state road cycling would hamper my bike performance. Simply put, highly stochastic training and racing do not help with pacing, most likely related to a lack of coordinated muscle recruitment; note the tightly packed quadrant analysis. So while on paper my power output should have been much higher, I was finding it more comfortable to sit at about 10% lower power. It’s also interesting to see that my preferred cadence is actually about 10% HIGHER than my training cadence, yet my HR didn’t drift ever upwards like some would claim. I believe just 3 or 4 sessions probably would have solved this problem, but it was too late now!

Power output quadrant analysis.

Power output quadrant analysis.

Despite my less than optimal pacing, I was able to move up several spots in the bike, at least until all the draft began. It’s simply amazing how many athletes come to a major race and seem to have no issue sitting on someone’s wheel; with only one single moto official (I thought this was a national championship), enforcement is spotty at best. So while some of us rode own race, guys like Michael Turch (394), David Britton (175), and Douglas Marocco (295) sat on our wheels all day; sanctions would be dealt later. Seriously, that was a major disappointment to see and completely unwarranted, which is glad I finally pulled away from all of them!

Heading into T2 and the final run I still felt pretty good, and set an even pace early on that I was able to maintain (+ 10 sec/mile). This alone was enough to move me up 5 mire spots by the turn around. However, that’s the best I would do for the day, hitting the line for 24th best overall and what would turn out to be 4th in my age group, just 2:30 back from 3rd. Upon analysis, though, my bike was what proved to be my downfall. This is bitter sweet, because the bike is generally my strength, but my lack of preparation was a necessary evil to accomplish my original goal and I’m not certain I would or could have changed my prep. Still, its food for thought on making a better run at du natz next year, and overall how to best prepare for the race. That’s what makes the racing so much fun; set your goals and try to achieve them!

The finish line.

The finish line.

Other Race Notes

  • I wish I had actual race photos, but despite being a National Championship, there was no photographer.
  • On a similar note, I am astounded by the complete absence of doping controls at USA Triathlon’s National Championships. USA Cycling takes constant criticism over this issue, yet they actually have a clear testing system. It’s as if USAT is in complete denial that athletes cheat. One trip on the bike course proves this is not true. If you support clean sport, I would encourage let USAT know.

USAT Duathlon Long Course Nationals by the numbers:

58o at the start.

Run 1: 5 miles, 6:12 min/mile @174 bpm and 178 spm (Stride 1.45 m); 494 kcal

Bike: ~30 miles, 233 W (NP) @ 158 bpm and 98 rpm; 994 kJ

Run 2: 5 miles, 6:29 min/mile @171 bpm and 178 spm (Stride 1.37 m); 454 kcal

Total time: 2:21:29

~2000 kcals burned.

Race fuel included:

1 L of Matcha Green Tea + Lemons Skratch Labs exercise hydration mix

Honey Stinger Blueberry Buzz bars

1 Gel Flask of Concentrated Skratch + Caffeine = ~60 g carb + 200 mg caffeine

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