Sunday, May 2, 2010

Duathlon Dry Run

I made it to the top.

TC snapped this photo at the top of Mountain Road, just at the base of Mt. Tecumseh - probably the most challenging part of our upcoming duathlon. At the very least, it was the most daunting.

It probably goes without saying that a duathlon course that includes phrases like "challenging climb" and "Mountain Road" was surely going to put me to the test. The elevation profile made my stomach do flip-flops.

Of course, I decided to read the site more thoroughly and discovered all of this important information after we signed up. That's probably a good thing.

I'm not sure, had I done my research earlier, that I would have signed up. Maybe it would be too much of a challenge? Maybe I'm not ready for this? But with my registration fee paid and a number waiting for me at the starting line, there wasn't any backing out.

TC and I set aside today for the trip up to Waterville Valley - yes, folks, as in the ski area. Skiing equals mountains, right? (I don't know how that got past me when I sent the link to TC a couple of months ago and asked if he wanted to do the duathlon with me.)

We opted for the "short" course, which meant we'd do a 5K run, followed by a 30K ride (18.6 miles), followed by another 5K run. Yes, that's the short version.

New England weather is funny. Not ha-ha funny, just weird funny. It was literally snowing here four days ago. Today, temps skyrocketed in the 90s. A hot day for a run - especially one followed by a 18-mile bike ride up a mountain and a second 5K.

We drove the course first, taking mental notes of the turns and (more importantly) the hills. By mental note, I mean that my legs, lungs and brain were screaming things at me - things like, "What are you nuts?!" and "Look at that mountain road!" and, mostly from my legs, "You seriously think we can get you up there?!?"

To say that I was doubtful and apprehensive would be putting it mildly.

I started making back-up plans for the probable scenario that would bring me through all of my gears to a point that it would be difficult for me to remain upright. I thought about where I could safely unclip and, sigh, walk up the rest of the hill. It would be a long, long walk.

The first 5K was relatively uneventful, except for the blazing hot sun that pelted us. I was glad when the route took a turn onto a dirt path along a brook. (Actually, I felt like jumping in the brook at that point.) It was h-o-t.

We continued back to the car where our bikes were waiting for us. We downed some water and Gatorade, geared up with helmets, gloves and shoes and headed out.

Next stop, mountain top.

I glanced at the thermometer on my bike computer as we made the first turn. It read 97 degrees. Oh. My. God. I chalked it up to the fact that my bike had been sitting in the sun and enjoyed the refreshing breeze that being on a bike creates. (As a side note, the bike thermometer never dipped below 87 - just backing up what I already knew. It was hot.)

We started the slow climb up Tripoli Road, nothing overwhelming but certainly a good push for the legs and cardio. Then came Mountain Road - the steepest and most daunting part of the drive and elevation map.

I found my "groove" - a slow, but comfortable pace - and just started cranking. Conscious of the amount of road left and the incline ahead of me, I shifted cautiously and conservatively. Surprisingly, I continued to propel forward. I watched my speedometer remain steady. (Pegged at a single-digit number, but at least steady and moving me up the hill.)

I felt an inexplicable sense of relief and a wave of confidence come over me. I might actually make it up this thing without walking.

I saw a sign up ahead - a red circle with a "9" in the center. It had been my first back-up plan if I needed a break. And I breezed by it. (Okay, "breezed" might be a bit generous, but I trudged by it without needing it as a breaking point. That was a victory.)

Chugging along, I saw the sign for the final turn - the steepest part of the hill - that would bring me to the turn-around point. TC was waiting for me and I pushed forward to the top - never once backing down into my Granny Gear!

Whoo-hoo! Whoo-freaking-hoo!

I'd done it. Sure, I still had another 16-plus miles ahead and another 5K to run, but I'd made it through what was sure to be my most physical and mental challenge. (We stopped at the top to snap the photo - and despite the fact that it looks like TC's bike in the background is part of a tragic crash, he also arrived safely at the summit.)

The stop was brief - and we tackled the downhill. I must say, I was almost unprepared for how fast and scary the downhill would be. I found myself on my brakes for most of the first part of the descent. At times, I felt as if I had a death-grip on my handlebars, and if it's possible to hold on tighter with cycling shoes, on my pedals, too.

TC and I spent the next 7 miles riding together, sometimes side-by-side, sometimes practicing drafting and trading off the lead position. The heat was still there, but much more bearable on the bike. It probably helped, too, that the entire 7 miles was downhill. (I kept reminding myself that we'd take this same road back to the car, so we'd be tacking a long incline on the way back. A long, long incline.)

That incline ended up not being as bad as it seemed, another exercise in just finding a gear and speed and pushing the pedals. The last two bumps - a couple of rolling hills - were harder than I thought they'd be - probably because they came after 6 or so miles of riding uphill. And I had been almost out of water for a while.

I struggled through them - almost as much as I did going up Mountain Road - and made the turn to the car. I was exhausted and hot. And thirsty. Oh, and I had another 5K to run.

We did all the necessary transition stuff - switching shoes, etc. - and downed some more water. I couldn't keep up with my thirst. My face and arms already felt gritty and my skin felt really hot. The sun had been beating down on my winter-white arms for almost two hours by now.

The second 5K started off as expected - with legs feeling like bricks. But unexpectedly, I just didn't feel right. I stopped to walk. I mustered up enough to run a bit again, then walk. I questioned how I'd make it the rest of the way.

Truth is, I didn't make it the rest of the way. Reluctantly, I gave in to Mother Nature's scorching sunshine and asked TC if we could cut the run short. (More accurately, I told him I couldn't make it the whole way and had a tearful breakdown upon realizing that I wouldn't complete this challenge. We hugged in the middle of the road while I pulled myself together and we ran out the shortened course along a trail.)

Despite the shortened run, I still see today as a huge check mark in the "win" column. It was exactly the confidence builder I needed. I'd conquered my fear of Mountain Road and made it unscathed through the cycling portion - and done it all in extremely hot conditions.

Now, if Mother Nature can just find some middle ground between the snow and today's heat, I'll be good to go in a few weeks. Fingers crossed!

1 comment:

  1. Great job! I've thought about tackling a duathlon. Maybe next year, thanks for the post of your experience.


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