Friday, May 20, 2011

Duathletes Are Jerks

Not all duathletes are jerks.  Really, just 2 of them are jerks, but I'll get into that later.

If you remember from my Oakdale Duathlon race report, I mentioned an incident in the first run and called it the "jerkiest thing ever".  Let me set up the situation for you.

The Setup
I started in the first wave (elites and teams), and immediately drifted to the back of my wave along with woman in the purple top (heretofore referred to as WITPT, pronounced wit'-put).  Two minutes after we started, non-elite men under the age of 40 started.

The Incident
A little over 1 mile into the run me and WITPT approached a gentle leftward curve that also went up a small incline.  (I've included a diagram below that not only clarifies the situation, but demonstrates my world-class autoshape skills.)  WITPT was on the inside line of the curve, and I was off her right shoulder, but still to the left of the imaginary centerline of the path.  Heading up the hill, we hear from behind us "RUNNER ON YOUR LEFT!!  RUNNER ON YOUR LEFT!!".  The two fastest non-elite men under 40 we're hollering for us to move out of the way so they could go by on the left.  I had no intention of moving over for them (they had the half of the path to my right to pass), but WITPT sharply moved right to accommodate, and I had to back off a bit to avoid tripping over her, thus letting the jerks pass us on the left.

I'm the red circle, WITPT is the purple circle, and the two people passing us are blue circles.  Arrow shows direction of travel.

Why was this a problem?  In running, you stay to the inside and pass to the outside (except for weird situations like the Dome, where it's reversed).  Pretty simple.

Admittedly, this incident was pretty minor in the overall scheme of things, but it bothered me more than I thought it would.  And while I hate generalizations, this seems to bring together a lot of thoughts that I've had about triathletes and duathletes.  My intent is not to offend anyone (I know some very good people who are also triathletes), but to point out a major problem that led to this incident at the Oakdale Duathlon.

Most triathletes are over-the-top elitists.

There, I said it.  But one can't help but feel that way when it's a competition where money buys victory.  I understand that you don't need $10,000 bicycles, space helmets, or carbon fiber wheels to participate, but you're kidding yourself if you think you don't need those things to be competitive.  Sure, everyone will tell you that you'll be just fine with your 10 year old mountain bike, but then they either (a) ask you when you're going to get a faster bike, or (b) assume that you'll be last, or close to it.

Before returning to the incident above, let me give you a few other anecdotal stories to support my thesis.

  • The first story is also from the Oakdale Duathlon.  The winners of the race finished a long time before the last people even finished the biking portion.  Instead of waiting, the fast people cleared their bikes and gear out of transition even as people were still trying to race.  On one occasion, there was a group of people chatting in transition, blocking the way through.  A woman coming in from the biking segment had to yell at them to get out of the way so she could keep going.
  • The second story comes from Oakdale too.  After most people finished, they started the awards ceremony.  Mind you, now, not everyone was finished.  So here we are, congratulating people on a race well done, and some folks aren't even done yet.  These people didn't get the spectator support that everyone else got, they didn't get their names announced at the finish, and they returned to a transition area that was almost completely disassembled.
  • The third story is from the Lakefront Days triathlon that I did last summer.  I was on a mountain bike, and on the rare occasions that I passed people, I liked to announce it ("On your left!") and even gave a friendly greeting.  One person (besides friends) announced that he was passing.  What was he riding?  An old mountain bike.
Folks, I get it.  I'm not as fast as you.  I can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on equipment so that that I can buy a podium spot.  But I have a right to a great race as well.  If you want to pass me, then do so—but don't yell at me to get out of your way.  Everything is not about you, and if you ever want your community of athletes to have the same bond and connection that the running community has, you're going to have to change.

There are good people that do triathlons.  They may be slow, and they may ride old mountain bikes.  But if you want them to stick with it, if you want them to get the same enjoyment out of it that you do, if you want them to be successful, then show them that they are more valuable than any stupid pointy helmet.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oakdale Duathlon Race Report

Another race???  Maybe not the best idea I've had, but yes, another race.  Katie and I teamed up as The Nerd Herders for the Oakdale Duathlon (which, strangely, isn't in Oakdale, but in Lake Elmo).

The last time Katie and I teamed up for a duathlon, it was super windy, so Katie got the tough job having to bike through that.  This time it wasn't as windy, but it was colder and rainy.  So Katie got the tough job AGAIN.  As she handed the chip off to me after her ride, all she could say was "I can't feel my feet".  The weather may have been ideal for running, but not so much for biking.

We also made a major strategic error leading up to the race.  You see, we encouraged some friends to do team up and do the race.  We did Lakefront Days with them last year, and Mike and Katie S. are all-around good people, so why not get them to do it?  Unfortunately, we forgot the number one rule of race recruitment: Only recruit teams you know that you can beat!  Oops.

Nevertheless, we planned on racing as hard as we could and see what we could pull off.  The race was a 3 mile run, 14 mile bike, and a 2.5 mile run.

"The Nerd Herders" before the race

The race was organized into waves, and the first wave was elite men, elite women, and teams.  This was problematic.  Just after starting, I was already at the back of my wave and throughout the first run, all the speedy people in the next wave were passing me.  Once Katie got on the bike, all the rest of the speedy people passed her, so it was a demoralizing setup for the both of us.  We really didn't get a chance to pass anyone and we were passed more times than we could count.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our wave starting.  I'm on the far left in the red shorts, and Mike is in the middle with the Navy (note the capital 'N') jersey.

Once we started, I knew that keeping Mike in sight was out of the question.  I just wasn't as prepared as I should have been, and had to accept that.  About 1/2 mile in, I fell in behind a woman wearing a purple top and ended up sticking with her for the rest of the first run.

Odd side note: This woman in the purple top is wearing number 392, but 392 doesn't appear anywhere on the results page.  Thus, I don't know if we beat her team or not.

Near the start after having fallen in behind the woman in the purple top

Here's Mike about 3/4 mile in to the first run.  If you look in the background for someone wearing red shorts, that's me.  This is when I decided that I couldn't catch Mike.

I may have been wearing the same clothes that I did for the TC 1 Mile.  Don't judge me—most of my racing clothes are in Michigan right now.

When I got to the first mile marker, my watch said 6'22".  Considering I did the TC 1 Mile in 6'01, I'm 100% sure that the mile marker was in the wrong place; as was the 2nd mile marker.  For most of this run, I pulled out an old cross-country habit where I tucked in behind the woman in the purple top's shoulder and breathed a bit louder than normal.  I used to do this to psych out the competition so that when I would eventually blow past them they would be as inclined to give chase.  On Saturday, the woman in the purple top had a good pace that could pull me along.

I'm going to write a more detailed post for tomorrow about this, but at one point during the run, 2 duathletes from the wave that started after us came by and did the jerkiest thing ever.  To find out what it was, tune back in tomorrow.  (That, folks, is what we call a teaser).

Run 1 (3 miles): 20'55" (2nd place co-ed team)

Coming into transition, we traded the chip and Katie was off on the bike.

Not sure where on the course this was, but Katie has cool new purple bar tape

Hanging around transition, I chatted with Steve and Mike while keeping the muscles as warm as possible.  As we were chatting, I noticed a woman go up and down the rack of bikes a few times as if she was searching for something.  The third time she came by, I asked her if she needed help.  Turns out she couldn't find her bike.  It was a purple Trek next to a brown Adidas bag.  (Just wanted to say that there had to have been 15 purple Treks there.)  We helped her search for it, and after Mike pointed out that there were 2 other rows of bicycles, she found it and was off—after a probably 5-6 minute transition time.  Hope she did well after that!

Transition eerily empty

Katie S. somewhere on the bike course

Once again, no idea where this is, but I'm going to say that it was near the end.

Katie S. came flying in the bike, and Mike was off to do the 2nd run.  Not long after, I noticed another co-ed team handing off to a woman with a black and green top.  I knew I would have to catch her if we wanted a chance at placing.  Thankfully, Katie came in about 30 seconds later, and it was a race!

Bike (13.5 miles): 47'19" (5th place co-ed teamKatie's speed was within 0.1 mph of Katie S.!)

Ok, it wasn't a race.  The woman that I had to catch kept the gap at about 30 seconds and I couldn't close it no matter how hard I tried.

With about 150m to go, I started my kick

Crossing the line

Run 2 (2.5 miles): 17'52" (4th place co-ed team)
Overall: 1:27 (4th place co-ed team)

We didn't place.  The runner for the team I needed to catch was fresh (they had a 3-person team, so she hadn't done the first leg), and I just didn't have the training to pull it off.  But we still had fun and ate some great hot dogs after the race.

Mike and Katie S. accepting their medals for the 1st place co-ed team.  Great job, folks!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

TC 1 Mile Race Report

I know what you all are wondering—did Ryan Hall ever win a "Most Beautiful Baby" contest at Kmart?  Most likely not.  Of secondary importance is how the big duel went on Thursday.  Read on to find out.

Katie and I set out for downtown around 6pm, and thinking that parking would be crazy downtown, I picked out a garage ahead, and we ended up there.  Pulling in, we realized that the Courthouse Ramp may not have been the most popular place to park.  Ignoring that, I parked next to the only other car in the garage (a jerky thing to do, I know) because it was the perfect chance for a submission to Autobuds!

Mine is on the left. Unsuspecting autobud on the right.

We journeyed over to the festivities as the "Friends and Family" wave was getting ready to start.

Lining up with Uncle Sam in the front

The finish line was 1 mile in this direction

Friends and Family on the move

It was time to warm up.  Katie and I tried running up the course, but it was tough weaving through all the people on the sidewalk, so we crossed Washington Avenue and we found a little plaza that was quite empty.  While I was warming up with some strides, Katie came by waving wildly saying "I think it's him!!"  Sure enough, Ryan Hall was warming up on the same plaza.

This should be the paragraph where I tell you that I went up to him, introduced myself, and got him to sign my shoe.  But I didn't.  I didn't do this for 2 reasons:
  1. I'm not the best person at going up to strangers (famous or not) and striking up a conversation.  How do you start a conversation like that? "Hey, you're Ryan Hall!" (I think he knows that.)
  2. He was warming up.  Every runner has a pre-race ritual.  A runner needs to get both mind and body prepared for the race.  If Ryan Hall was in a chatty mood, he wouldn't have been warming up by himself.  I've got my own pre-race ritual, so I respect that.
So, I didn't get to meet Ryan Hall.  Disappointing, yes, but that's okay.  Witnessing him running later, and watching all the elites was a highlight for me.  Maybe someday I'll meet a famous runner.

Back to the action...

I wished Katie good luck, lined up, and then we were off.  The first quarter was uphill, followed by a slight downhill for the rest of the race.  My first quarter was a hair too fast, but not a game-ender.  

The rest was a blur.  The only thing I remember was seeing two friends, Ariel and Brian, as volunteers around Orchestra Hall.  The thing about the mile is that it hurts.  Always has.  Always will.  A mile is a sustained sprint—probably the most painful race a person can run.  With about 200m to go, Steve, snapped a photo of me:

Rounding the curve, I saw the finish and started kicking.  My goal for the race was sub-6.  Final time was 6:01.8.  Very close, but not quite.  A little bit later, Katie came flying in with a time of 7:21.5—her first ever mile!

After we finished, the USA Men's and Women's Championships started.  There's plenty of coverage all over the web, so I won't get into the details, but the short of it was:
  • Sara Hall had a fantastic final 200m and won with a time of 4:31, netting a $10,000 bonus for breaking 4:32.
  • David Torrence won for the third time in a row with a time of 3:58, netting a $10,000 bonus for breaking 4:00.
  • Ryan Hall finished last.  Dead last.
I had a fantastic evening.  I've never been to an event as exciting as this for running.  Running through downtown, the great crowd, the 1 Mile Championships, the Halls—all made for a night to remember.  It was the first time I had ever witnessed a sub-4 mile.  I may not have beat my own time goal, but this one of my top races ever.

Oh, and I crossed the finish line before Ryan Hall.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Showdown Preview

Tonight is the big race.  Most prognosticators aren't mentioning yours truly, but I think we all know that the  Showdown in the Downtown between myself and Ryan Hall will be the talk of the running world tomorrow.  Beating Ryan will be tough, but I have a distinct advantage that I know the course better than he does (the straight shot down Nicollet Mall is really confusing, and Ryan is likely to end up in Fargo).  To demonstrate how evenly matched we are, here is a comparison of what we each bring to the table:

Ryan Hall: Holds the American Record in half marathon.
Me: Holds the World Record for participating in the largest single-day flu shot distribution.

RH: Born in California, a place fraught with natural disasters and an overabundance of Toyota Prii.
Me: Born in Michigan, the Land Shaped Like a Hand (and you've got a map of it!).

RH: Placed 10th in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics.
Me: Won first place at the 2008 engineering olympics as part of the MechE Team by duct-taping someone to a wall.

RH: Won the State of California Cross Country Championship twice.
Me: Won the St. Thomas Lutheran School Geography Bee three times (5th, 7th, and 8th grades).

RH: Ran the fastest ever marathon for an American (not an official record, though).
Me: Won the "Most Beautiful Baby" contest at our local Kmart (official record).

RH: Has run the Boston Marathon 3 times.
Me: Has run around Boston Common once.

RH: Has never run the Twin Cities Marathon.
Me: Has run the Twin Cities Marathon twice.

As you can tell, you can't find two people more evenly matched for this race than Ryan Hall and I.  If I win, I plan to be very humble and gracious (and I may ask him to autograph my shoe).

Race details: TONIGHT on Nicollet Mall.  First wave starts at 6:50pm, my wave at 7:39pm, Women's Championship at 7:53pm, and Men's Championship at 8:03pm.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Showdown in the Downtown

In my most recent post, I told you about one last race I plan to do in Minnesota before I leave: The TC 1 Mile.  Well, the plot has thickened.  A new competitor has emerged, and I'm hoping to leave with some bragging rights from this duel.  So, next week, when we're running a 1 Mile on the mall, it will be:


Ok, I think I lose in the "Most Photogenic" contest, but next week Ryan Hall—fastest American marathoner ever—will also be running the TC 1 Mile.  I think I've got a shot at beating him*

*Due some registration snafus, I will be running in the "Open Wave" that starts at 7:39pm, and Ryan Hall will be running in the "USA 1 Mile Road Championship Wave" that starts at 8:03pm.  I think the 24-minute head start that I'll have is pretty negligible, so we'll be pretty evenly matched.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Last Hurrah

Things are winding down for me in the North Star State.  This past weekend, my folks absconded with my apartment, so all I'm left with are some clothes and a pot in which I can make pasta.  Oh, and now my living room has become a Command Center:

Before I leave, I'd like to do another race or two.  I'm signed up for one already, and I'm contemplating a second.  The one I'm signed up for is the TC 1 Mile.  I know that I'm not in top racing condition (for any distance, but particularly a mile), but this looks to be a fun race, and I'd like to give myself a chance to win a guaranteed entry into the TC 10 Mile in October.  For the 1 Mile, I'm going to enjoy it (as much as one can enjoy a 1 mile sprint...) and get a baseline of what fitness I've managed to salvage over the past few months.  It will also give me a reason to go to my local track a few more times before I leave.

I'm excited to race again, and racing down Nicollet Mall on a Thursday evening sounds pretty awesome.

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