Monday, March 15, 2010

Nine Weeks To Duathlete?

Last night I passed the 300-mile mark on my bike/run 2,010 in 2010 Challenge. And because I'm always working toward some new "challenge," it somehow seems appropriate to hit this milestone while just stepping into yet another one.

In just nine weeks, I
will compete in my first duathlon. No, not the skiing and shooting sport - that's the biathlon. (Although that would be a fun challenge, too!)

The Black Bear Duathlon, to be held on May 22 in Waterville
Valley, will challenge me to run-bike-run. As a newbie, I've opted, along with TC, for the "short" course, a 5K run, 30K bik, 5K run. (The "long" course is 10K run, 60K bike, 8K run.)

On the surface, it would seem like this wouldn't be that much of a challenge. I mean, I can certainly handle running a total of 10K and, if needed, I could probably push out 30K on the bike (fingers crossed we'll be in the flatter parts of the valley).

But, can I do it all together? Consecutively? And not embarrass myself?

I've been told - and experienced once first-hand last year - that the transitions can be physically tough. The mechanics of running just aren't the same as cycling, so switching back and forth between the two isn't painless and effortless. At least not for newcomers.

I guess that's where training comes in.

Last night, after an exhausting workweek and way-too-little sleep, I decided to test it out. A windy, rainy, raw day sent me packing for the gym. My plan had been to run a few miles, somewhere between four and six, depending on how I felt.

As it often does, my plan soon changed as I thought of ways to make the often-boring treadmill run a little more exciting. I decided I'd break my five-mile run into two parts, each 2.5 miles, and jump on the stationary bike in between.

The first 2.5 miles were uneventful, which wasn't surprising. I can't remember the last time I "only" ran 2.5 miles on the treadmill. Or anywhere for that matter. I spent most of the time wondering what the transitions would be like, whether I should be altering my pace in preparation for the upcoming bike and second run - and just generally thinking about a duathlon in general.

Would I be way out of my league here?
What am I supposed to wear?
What will the hills be like?

At precisely 2.5 miles, I hopped off the treadmill and made my way to a bike near the front of the gym. I don't often (if ever?) ride the bike at the gym and quickly noticed there were several different kinds to choose from.

I opted for one of the more upright ones (as opposed to a recumbent model) that had some interesting-looking handlebars - the one that looked to be most like my "real" bike. I soon discovered that it even had a small fan - bonus! (Definitely not as good as the real wind-in-your-face feeling, but at least a little something to cool you off a bit. A very little bit.)

I strapped my feet onto the pedals (was glad to have that option!) and starting spinning my legs. I found myself pushing it - recalling a conversation I had recently with TC about effort, comfort and challenging myself during training and workouts. I was sweating like crazy, making me glad I brought along a small towel and plenty of water.

I finished out the ride at six miles (only a third of what I'll do during the actual duathlon) at a 16 mile-per-hour pace. I was pleased. And my legs were tired.

I brought my tired legs back over to the treadmill and hopped on.


I quickly learned why this type of training is called "brick" training. My legs felt heavy and almost immobile - yep, like bricks - despite the fact that I was running at my "normal" and usually comfortable pace at 9:30 minute-miles.

I pushed myself through the awkwardness - really, it just felt weird - knowing that I'd loosen up and get back into a regular running groove soon. Soon enough, it was just like a regular run.

I rounded out the second run, bringing my workout total to 11 miles - 5 running and 6 on the bike - surely a long way to go until Waterville.

Only nine short weeks? Holy Moly.


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