About 13 months ago, I crossed the finish line at Doylestown Duathlon and wondered "Why is Dirk not here yet?", only to see him cross about 8 minutes later. Turns out he missed a poorly marked turn and rode at least 3 extra miles. I felt badly for The Lordman, but at the same time I chuckled because it seemed like such a goofy thing to have happen.
Well, I finally paid for that chuckle.
Michelle and I gusted our way to Annie's Playground in Fallston to participate in our multisport season opener, the Fallston Duathlon. A 5k-19mi-5k du, it was a perfectly timed training race for Columbia in a few weeks. I got Dirk to race in it as well, essentially voluntarily eliminating my chance of victory. Competition was pretty unrecognizable, except for one fellow with an Army singlet who vocally assumed he would be in the front of the race. Never overestimate the competition, I always say, but golly don't underestimate it either!
The first 5k was pretty comfortable, despite already feeling heavy and still sluggish from a hard week of training, and I came through in 16:31, 2nd best run. The course starts downhill for a mile, a rolling 2nd mile, and the last 1.1 is all uphill. It didn't tire me out, as I kept a tempo-ish effort and started the bike with warm legs.
I had one of my best rides. I started out 45 seconds or so behind Dirk, but slowly gained seconds on him. Around mile 8, a guy who has averaged close to 25mph in half iron races passed me and went after Dirk. I kept him in sight and elevated my effort a little so as to not lose them. By mile 15, I had gained 10 seconds on Dirk, according to a bystander. There was no one in sight behind me for over a mile. I was on pace for a 23.1 mph average on the hilly course, which was going to be strong for me, considering my lack of taper. However, right around mile 17.5, it all went for naught. I temporarily lost sight of Dirk and the other guy as they crested a hill I was climbing. I passed through an intersection with a police officer stopping cars. I didn't see any signs or course marshals, so I kept going straight... off the course. A mile past, I came upon Route 1, which I knew was never on the course. I thought "GODDAMNIT" and plenty of other angry expletives, as I knew I was lost. I practically sprinted the mile back to the turn to get back on the course, nearly fishtailing in desperation and hammered down the last hill into transition to find the guy who was pretty far behind exiting transition to start his run. 6 unnecessary extra minutes on the course will do that...
Flustered but committed to finishing the race strong I jumped out of transition and practically sprinted through the first mile of the 2nd run, hitting 5:07. I had 600m of a gap between me and the current #3, and I was doing my damndest to close that gap. I came upon Dirk as it was an out-back course, and he understandably looked mighty confused when he saw me. Anyway, I closed the gap to about 75m, but then I ran out of space. 16:47 for run 2, and 2nd fastest run split again. Finished 4th overall.
Well that sucked! Getting lost on the bike is never a good way to lose a race or lose placement in a race. But I salvaged 4th, and had the pleasure of seeing Dirk and Michelle win their genders. Most importantly, I discovered that my speed and strength on the bike has increased markedly from last year. My run off the bike is better too. I'm really pleased with my performance and progress. I can't wait to do this racing thing fresh and fully rested.
I did and still do however, feel just like this...