Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017 Canadian National Duathlon Championships, Magog, QC

Shaking the hand of the 2017
Canadian National Duathlon Champion!
7.7 seconds.  In a race lasting 2 hours, 9 minutes, and 59 seconds, this accounts for less than 0.1%.
The opportunity to stand on the top step and represent Canada alongside my amazing wife as king and queen national champions in the oft-misunderstood sport of Duathlon was literally within spitting distance (assuming a decent sized loogey and a good tailwind).  
On the plus side, I had the best view of the new national champion, Mathieu Paquet, raising his arms and running through the ribbon!
Surely I could have found 7.7 seconds somewhere on the course? So let’s rewind and see how the race played out.

Wednesday. Kieran comes home with a nasty stomach flu. Activate full on containment efforts, short of hazmat suits.

Thursday. Temperatures start to climb again in Calgary, making 30C in our non-AC household a tough recovery environment. Big thanks to @ryanvanorman’s wonderful Animal names sleeping trick®

Friday. Weigh-in results: lowest weight attained by me since the digital scale was invented. Pack TT bikes into new EVOC bike bags and pray for a good night rest. (prayer not answered)

Saturday. Drop off kids and take early flight, which happens to go WAY smoother than expected, despite the Stampede crowds and big bike bags. Arrive in Montreal, rent Jeep, drive 90 mins to Magog, unpack and reassemble bikes, 30 min safety test bikes, pre-drive the bike course (yikes it’s hilly), and eat Poutine. Pray for a good night’s sleep (prayer unanswered).

Sunday. 5AM wake-up call, which for us Albertans feels like 3AM. 91% humidity, apparently, which basically means you sweat just by breathing. Quick breakfast and checkout of our BnB and hit the start. Mel and I get a warmup in and are drenched from sweat in about 5 minutes. Ok, time to settle down. A 30 min delay in our start time means we sit and drink water and occupy port-a-potties, and repeat.

Ok, now to the actual race. Bang, off we go, double file through a tight path and by 1km I am running a brisk 3:50/km and sitting in about 25th!  Ok did I miss a memo about Quebecois running pedigree? Oh well, “stay within myself,” a wise man once said to me*, and that’s exactly what I did. By the end of the first 5km loop I had moved up about 2 or 3 positions gradually, and first place was about 2 minutes ahead of me. At this rate, I will have a 4 minute deficit to overcome on the bike. Sounds doable on this course. Do not panic.
Another loop and after picking off a few more scraps, I enter transition sitting around 14-16th, with an average pace of 3:57 (fast, but *hopefully* within my abilities).  I definitely have my work cut out for me. I was expecting a couple guys to have gotten away, but over a dozen? How could I even keep track of them all, especially with a couple Triathlons taking place at the same time on the course?
The thing about any multisport event is that you have a finite amount of funds in each sport’s bank account, but can borrow some funds from the other sport’s account, but with a heavy interest rate. Oh, and you're never told what your balance is. In a perfect duathlon, you burn through 2/3 of your running funds in the first run, 100% of your bike funds on the bike, and completely empty all reserves of running on the final run.
In reality, most people dip into the other account too heavily and are left with a nasty bill during the final run, often consisting of slowness, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and other nasty over draft charges.

So, on to the bike. Touted (by me) as the gnarliest bike course in any duathlon, with 2 loops of 20km, up to Mont Orford ski resort. Coach’s instructions were to read the course and field on the first lap, and work it on the 2nd lap. Well, the field at this point consisted of predominantly athletes competing in different races, so that wasn’t going to help, but I did feel comfortable on the bike and climbing felt good. Also feels good to pass 200 hundred triathletes like they’re moving backwards.
Finish the 40km bike in 1:06:53 with an average speed of about 36 kmph. Slow by multisport standards, but with the 1500 feet of elevation and technical layout, good enough for the individual bike course record and strava segment. And good enough to move me from 14th to 3rd in the race.
I had no idea of this, other than there seemed to be very few bikes in the Duathlon designated transition area…

The run felt good and I realized I had not overdrawn on my remaining running funds and I pushed on, with paces getting faster and faster. In the final kilometer, I buried myself, thinking any one of the people in front of me could be doing the Dua, and I passed tons. With just meters to go I see the finish line banner and Paquet lifting his arms as he crosses through it and realize… that could have been me!!  Run two: 5.1km in 19:35 (3:51/km).
So, could I have shaved 7.7 seconds off at any point in this week? Had I slept better, or eaten more aero oatmeal, or used my full disk wheel instead of my lighter races wheel, or shaved my nose hair, etc?
My transition times alone were 27 seconds longer than Paquet’s. Could I have pushed one or two hills on the bike a smidge harder. Could I have pushed a little harder on the first run?

The answer is no. I gave this everything I had on this day. I paced the first run as fast as I felt comfortable doing, changed my shoes in transition as fast as I could, hydrated and poured cups of water on me at every station, cycled within my abilities and ran my ass off in the final run, with the final kilometer at 3:37/km. After 2 hours, that’s a full on sprint for me! Paquet ran that final 5km in 20:45, but blasted a 3:29 in the final kilometer… taking 8 seconds on me despite my all-out best.
On this day, 2:09:59 was the absolute best I could have done and it earned me the Silver medal in the Canadian national championships of the peculiar sport of Duathlon, and I couldn’t be more proud.
I also happened to be the only guy on a podium that day to see his wife crowned the national champion in the same event! Wow, what an honor!
Definitely some things to tune up before World’s in August, but for now, we celebrate our successes in a beautiful part of this country that has adopted me and allowed me to represent it in competition.

 Full results can be found here.