Tough as Nails Duathlon Race Report

For those of you who like race reports in 5 words or less: it was tough as nails.

For the rest of you who live for these race reports, here’s how.

I'm way tougher than this award...and I didn't come in 1st
I’m way tougher than this award…and I didn’t come in 1st

So I had this idea that duathlons would be more my “thing” than triathlons this year, because I’m having a bit of what you may call a “swimming is stupid” year, and I figured eliminating it from my racing schedule was the best solution. Well, suffice it to say this hasn’t really worked out, because: A.) there just aren’t very many duathlons within a 3 hour drive of me and B.) my first race in February got cancelled because there was a foot of snow on the ground.

But with a March race date, I thought there was a 50% chance that the weather would be decent. As an International distance race (1.2 mile run, 28 mile bike, 10K run), this seemed like a good way to get all fast and stuff in time for spring. And it was 20 minutes from my dad’s house, so I figured it would be a good way to get a visit in.

So boy was I psyched when after a week of freezing temps and icky rain the forecast for Sunday, March 9 was for a low of 40ish and a high in the upper 60’s, sunny. But what I had forgotten about was how much it hurts to race an Oly (even without the swim) when you’ve done nothing but ploddy trail runs, mindless trainer rides, and drink beer all winter.

Having a race the first morning of daylight savings is really mean 😡

Aside from the impressively hard course (which, admittedly, I should have expected given the name of the race), apparently they decided that they’d play an extra cruel joke and hold the race at 8AM on daylight savings morn. This meant not only that I would get an hour’s less sleep and STILL have to wake up at 5:30 AM, but also that it was dark until the last second before the race started. So I got up after a horrific night’s sleep that was only compounded by the nerves of knowing that I was losing said hour.

Packet pickup & going to the bathroom in the wrong places

I drove from my dad’s place up to Dawsonville, Georgia, which is thankfully far enough north of the obscene suburban sprawl that is “the Atlanta metro area” that traffic would not be a big issue on the bike course.

The venue was at a rec park, and I was shockingly one of the first athletes to arrive. Usually, I’m that girl running with her bike, helmet on head and wetsuit around neck, bag swinging precariously behind, making train whistle noises and yelling curse words knocking down spectators in my wake while I hurry to get there before they shut the table down.

I sat in the car for a bit, blasting the heat and finishing my espresso bonk breaker (mmmm) and coffee. When I was finally brave enough to emerge, I groped through the pitch blackness, occasionally gazing upward at the stars to make sure I was heading due-registration table.

When I finally got there 30 seconds later, the nice ladies asked my name, and I said “Hayes, Kit Hayes.” I have fun saying my own name. It’s a good name. One declared, “you drove all the way from Asheville?!?! This morning?!?!?” I briefly considered telling her yes, but settled for the truth, that I had only had a 20 minute drive that morning.

I got my number and swag, which was really good swag for a tiny, non-USAT sanctioned first year event: a nylon drawstring knapsack, bike bottle, about 95 samples of anti-chafing stuff, a pack of power bar gummies, and the most enormous size-medium t-shirt I’d ever seen – a race packet like we would’ve gotten in the early ’00s, unlike the hammer nutrition ads (which don’t even come with coupons….wtf!) and 1.5 safety pins we’re all used to now. I liked this race already.

I took my stuff back to the car, and decided now was a good time to take care of business. I proceeded to the toilets in the poolhouse, and should have known then and there that this was not the facility we were intended to use. First, it smelled like someone had died in there, come back to life, eaten his dead self, and puked it back up. I shortly saw why….let’s just say that a massive go was in one commode and it’d clearly been there a very very long time. Second, there was no toilet paper anywhere, and I was the first person on site.

So, instead of inquiring about the toilet situation like a normal person, I paused, looked both ways, and headed into the men’s room, which was in a similar state of disrepair, but with a small bit of toilet paper left.

Only later, after I’d done and gone and warmed up, did I see other racers going in an out of a gym across the parking lot that contained a pristine set of bathrooms that were heated and fully stocked. I went again just for poops and giggles.

Let’s cut to the start of the race

At about 10 of, the race director got on the megaphone and told us to gather round. He rattled off some directional info, said something about hills, and soon we were off for the first 1.2 mile run.

Okay, a few fun things here. First, does anyone have any idea how to run strategically on a 1.2 mile run leg? I don’t, so I settled for a medium hard run. I figured it’d be fun to be out on the bike toward the front, but then again, what would I lose by running easy – a minute?

This turned out to be a short-lived mental debate, because I was immediately distracted by the fact that my tri shorts were falling down. You see, I’d ordered the newest set of Tough Chik tri clothes in the fall, which were purple and fun, and this year with argyle! But when I’d tried them on, the shorts were so low-cut it was like they came off the set of a Brittney Spears video. I knew I’d be showing crack on the bike, but I figured I’d just be motivated to ride away from people faster that way.

What I did not count on was the mother flippers shimmying down my booty within a minute of running. So there I am, jogging along with one hand holding up my drawers. Classy. At this point, two guys behind me were laughing. One said something along the lines of “at least our pants aren’t falling down,” and the other replied with something I’d like to record as “she’ll be having the last laugh though because she’s fast.” I never saw them again.

The 28 mile bike course: harder than Bandit’s Challenge but lots of fun

I had been a bit worried about the bike course, because they’d advertised 2,000 ft of climbing, and I had no idea what that meant in real-life terms. So I decided to go out full-throttle and let the chips fall where they may.

The first few miles were flattish and fast. I was pleased that I wasn’t freezing my partially exposed buns off, despite only wearing a tri kit, wool arm warmers, and wool gloves. I also was happy that my bike seemed ready to race, and we got into our groove. I passed a few people in the early miles, and wondered where all these hills were.

About 7 miles into it (I know this, because they marked every single mile of the bike course….which is really mean), the hills started up. Well, really down. We got to go down a long windy hill, followed by a few rollers with a general downward descent. It was very cold in the valleys, with frost on the grass still.

However, the roads were very well paved, and my bike and I were just trucking along, passing an odd man here and there (I had been the lead female since about mile 2….not saying much because only about 12 women did the race….but then again a few of them were accomplished athletes, based on my past-results-stalking I did post-race).

About 12 miles in, we took our first turn, and finally went uphill. I was happy for this, because A.) going up was warmer, and B.) this is where I could gain some ground.

I figured I was in 3rd place or so overall at this point, and was excited to see 2 guys up a ways that I could turn into my carrots. It took about 5 miles, but I caught up with, then passed them. One caught back up, and we played leapfrog for awhile, before he asked, “are you doing the half or the olympic?” I said, “Olympic,” and he said “thank God! I’m doing the half.” I smiled, taking this as a compliment, and also feeling relieved for a brief moment, until I wondered if he may be bluffing in an attempt to get me to back off.

Just in case, I poured on the juice. He and I continued to leap frog – I just couldn’t keep up on the downhill portions, not because of skill, as these were straight stretches, but because I ran out of gears and just physically could not pedal any faster. I wonder if this is due to aerodynamics or inferior power??? Any ideas, ya’ll?

Anyhoo, with about 5 miles to go, I pulled away from half-dude (turned out he was really doing the half), and was feeling good about being possibly the first rider back in transition, male OR female. But, I was also fading at this point, probably due to not taking in a gel mid-ride, which I would normally always do in an Oly race (I couldn’t reach it in my pocket, because I was wearing my race belt on the bike…dumb idea), along with this being an early season race of not insignificant distance, and I am still just not quite there endurance-wise.

But with a mere half mile to go, I was still burning it up, set to complete the 28.5 mile course in about 1:22-1:25 (they didn’t record splits, and I don’t use a computer), which was pretty good I thought, considering there were about 4 significant climbs and a ton of rollers.

You can’t win a race by making the right turn, but you sure can lose a race making a wrong turn

I got to the last intersection, which was a 5-way junction. Here’s where I did something very stupid, and totally ignored my really good sense of direction. There were cops and volunteers saying, “turn right for 2nd lap” and “stay wahwahwah for finishing up”. There was also a sign with a right arrow for Half and a straight arrow for Oly.

As I was doing only the Oly, I should’ve veered slightly left onto Hwy 9…which I KNEW was the road the rec park was on. But, instead, I took the sign literally, and went dead straight…immediately I suspected this was wrong and yelled back “IS THIS THE RIGHT WAY?????” I didn’t hear anything, and can only assume they didn’t here me either.

So, I kind of coasted and half-pedaled for about a half mile, before deciding that I’d definitely taken the wrong road. Nothing to do now but turn around and haul ass the right way. Boy it was frustrating to pull into T2 just as the guy I had worked hard to pass 10 miles earlier was rolling in too >:/

I mentioned my wrong turn, which he surely must’ve gathered, considering I’d passed him and he still beat me to transition. The race director heard us talking, and promptly asked about it so he could address any potential problem with the sign and let the volunteers know that I had made a wrong turn there. I thought this was really cool of him, and the mark of a good RD.

In the end, the wrong turn was my own damned fault, and I estimate I lost 2-3 minutes in the confusion.

This run hurt, and not just because of my nubby feet

The thing about the first race of the season is that you kind of have to write it off as a warm-up race mentally. Your mind gets just as rusty as your body in the off-season, and only a race can remind you of the focus required to have a really good, well, race.

This was evident in transition, as I caught myself just lolligagging along eating a gel and putting my shoes on. Wake up, Kit!!!

So I got my ass in gear and set off on the hilly 10K course. Despite not being able to feel my cold feet, I was pleased with how fast I seemed to be moving, but my legs felt way more tired than they should starting off on an Oly tri run. Again, lack of fuel and fitness.

But I wanted to keep the lead for the women, so I decided to “be relentless.” In other words, I may not be running the fastest or even my fastest, but I wasn’t gonna go down easy. So discomfort and all, I held what I thought I could hold for 10K.

The course was an out-and-back on a very rolly rural road. I just kept on, concentrating on keeping it together and trying to relax my stupid shoulders, which thanks to being chained to a computer 40 hours a week, are constantly up at my ears.

One good thing was, my pants were not falling down by any significant measure this time around. Turns out that sweat makes them sort of stick in place.

I finally approached the 5K turnaround, and was hanging in there. I got some water, and for some dumb reason just stopped and stood there drinking it, ready to chat with the volunteers. After about 3 seconds, I realized what a bad thing that was and took off. I decided to eat another gel, in hopes of preventing a major bonk. When I reached back to pull it out of my pocket, I heard a “ping!” on the pavement….my car key had flung out when I grabbed my delicious Peppermint Stick Gu.

Ugh. Turned around, ran back and grabbed it. Carried on back to home, and only about a minute later saw the 2nd place lady flying towards the turnaround.

Well, I knew she’d catch me, but I wasn’t gonna make it easy for her. So I tried all my tricks, counting steps, making badass faces, etc. Alas, at mile 5, she finally came on by, levitating up a steep hill while I slogged up it.

Now, I switched focus to not letting her gain too much time on me. Not entirely effective, but the right mindset I think. By my calculations, I ran about a 48:45 10K, which is slow for me, but oh well. It was hilly, and I’m not in the best shape this year, compared to the last 2 years (it happens).

I ended up crossing the finish line about 52 seconds behind her, for a close second. Yep, would’ve won without making the wrong turn, but that wrong turn was just part of my race, and errors happen. She won fair and square.

I chatted with her after the race a bit, and turns out she’s quite the triathlete, having done Kona a few times. Curiosity got the best of me later, and I results-stalked her and the 3rd place lady. Turns out the winner placed 10th at IM Wisconsin last year. Freaking 10th – first age grouper lady overall. So no wonder she could run…this was just an easy day for her.

Things you never expect to hear at an awards ceremony..

Like, “Be careful, the nails come off.”

My nails fell off!
My nails fell off!

After waiting around for a very long time, the awards thing happened. Our prizes were plaques with the race name and two giant nails Elmers-glued to it. As each of us collected our plaque, the girl handing them out warned us that the nails came off. Hmmm….sounds safe enough.

So, overall, this was a good race. The course was quite challenging, which I liked. Comparable to, if not more difficult than, Bandit’s Challenge Triathlon in Wilkesboro, which is infamous for its hilly bike and one brutal hill on the run. A good confidence-builder considering my later season Oly’s are mostly on flatter, faster courses. And well-organized for the most part, especially for a first-year event. I only wish more people had done it. Why are people so afraid of du’s? Running twice is kind of icky, but it’s really rewarding and a nice extra challenge. Even if your pants fall down a time or two.

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