Hagan Stone Park Duathlon Race Report

After a year of lacking the motivation to do anything other than tromp through the woods for 12 hours eating chex mix, I seem to have relocated my mojo to compete in multisport events, and this year I want to make a “comeback” of sorts.

So I trained hard this winter. Gasp. Granted, it wasn’t much of a winter, but when it was cold, it was cold. Especially in the carport where my trainer was. While cycling in a 30 degree windless room is better than cycling outdoors when it’s 30 degrees, it still ain’t fun. So finally it’s March and time for me to see what 2 months of watching old tapes of the 1992 Olympics while wheezing out intervals on the bike and doing speedwork on the treadmill have brought me.

My quest for a season filled with new coffee mugs and the occasional commemorative ash tray began at the Hagan Stone Park Duathlon in Pleasant Garden, NC (I am unsure exactly where I was but on the map it is somewhere south of Greensboro and north of Sanford.

With slim pickin’s for nearby duathlons, this race was the closest one for months. Still a hefty 4 hours away, it didn’t start until 10AM, meaning I could make the drive the morning of. It was also an hour or so away from my sister so I could work a visit into the weekend, making the drive more worth-it.

The week before the race was rough. I work as a cook, and while it’s not rocket science, it’s not easy either. My days are easily 10-12 hours with a 1 hour drive tacked onto either side, and I work hard. So by Friday my legs were nice and toasted and my brain was fried. Oh, and I had a compressed nerve in my lower back that was making it feel like a sea urchin had taken up residence in my butt and was playing Metallica on my nerve endings. Yay!

My plan was to stay with my friend Naomi (hi Nay Nay!) Friday night after work, thus shortening my drive to about 3 hours on Saturday. However, I was halfway to work that morning when I realized that I had left my driver license at home. Not only did I not want to drive halfway across the state and back without a license, but they make you have a photo ID to race, so if I said screw it, I wouldn’t have been able to race anyway.

So after 11 hours of cooking eggs and leaving detailed helpful notes for staff that would probably never read them, I decided to go on home and drive the long haul from Erwin to the race on Saturday. But first I bought Naomi a bottle of wine and went to her house to hang out for a bit, shared a glass, considered taking some old Prednisone from her husband for my back, (I didn’t do it), and then drove home.

Saturday, I woke up in a moderate amount of discomfort from the nerve, put my racing kit on halfway (it’s a onesie), and made coffee. I ate a couple oat cakes with peanut butter, but wasn’t terribly hungry. I grabbed a couple bananas, my coffee, and hit the road. The drive was long but went by reasonably quickly. I had printed out directions and a map the day before, so I had little trouble finding the race location. I pulled into the park, got my packet and set up. Packet pickup was easy (there were only 80 athletes competing) and I was surprised to learn this was a chip timed race.

After what I will call a warm-up but really consisted of half-assedly hobbling to and from the car to drop off my jacket, I decided to pull the rest of my kit over my shoulders. It felt weirdly tight. I know I’m about 10 pounds overweight right now, but this was odd, like I’d gotten taller, as the chamois was cutting into my nether regions. Also, the top was weirdly bunchy. I decided to go to the toilet one last time and sure enough, I had put the thing on backwards. My bad, yo.

As we were setting up, the race director wandered around asking us if we had any questions before the race began. I thought this was very nice. While that’s not going to happen at a bigger race, it is really nice for the RD to make himself recognizable and approachable to the athletes, who are often confused and anxious about a thing or two (like which way to put on their uniform).

The race began down by the lake, where it would also finish. We gathered up for the start, and it was cloudy and very comfortable, maybe 65 degrees. We waited, and waited, and it turned out someone had been on the trails and moved some directional tape, which the RD had to fix. Really, who wanders out onto trails and decides to rip down directional tape just for shits and giggles on a Saturday morning? As the wait continued, I realized how tired I felt and how I could easily just lie down and take a nap in the balmy breeze.

Finally, the race began. We ran into the trail system, which is fairly tame by trail standards. The path was wide enough for a vehicle to get through, and the terrain was well-groomed. While this made for easy maneuvering and eliminating the bottleneck single-file running that can be very irritating during a trail race, the ground was very soft and energy-sucking. Also, while there were no major hills, the trail undulated with steep little rollers for much of the way. So while these trails were “easy,” this was still a challenging run course.

Finishing the bike leg, one run to go.

The first mile was painful and draggy, as I expected. My legs felt like uncooperative sacks of flour (as opposed to the cooperative kind). While I quickly assumed a strenuous pace, I just couldn’t seem to warm up nor get any speed or rhythm. I passed a few people, but soon starting getting passed by numerous others. During this run, I realized that I was in fact not going to feel great today. I had no power due to the developing injury, and no energy due to my lack of sleep and overwork. While this sucked, I just had to do my best anyway. At a race, you’ve got to do your best with what you’ve got, and even if what you’ve got isn’t your best. I kept running.

After an embarrassing amount of time I won’t mention, I got to the transition area. Yay! Bike time! My transition was fairly quick, as I had stretchy speed laces on my running shoes so they came off quickly. I put on my helmet (forgot to bring sunglasses with me so I was going bare-eyed) and bike shoes, grabbed my bike and ran.

The course was 16 miles, two loops, and very well marked. Overall it was a fast course, although there were one or two hills that killed the momentum a bit. The first of these came right after we left the park. Typically, I excel on uphills, but today not really. For one thing, I wasn’t in tip top shape. For another, I turned onto the road just as a giant pickup truck had passed, which means it got stuck behind other riders, which meant I got stuck behind it at the most inopportune time. This is always annoying, but it happens in races. One of those things you cannot control.

I then began reeling other riders in one by one. I really like having a target ahead of me. My approach to the bike portion goes against most conventional coaching advice, but as it is by far my strength, my M.O. is “go full throttle on the bike portion and sort out any consequences on the run later.” I played do-si-do a couple of times with other riders, passing them, then shortly being passed back, then I passed again. Fortunately, I never go re-do-si-doed.

I enjoyed working hard on the bike again, although I was glad the course was not any longer. This early, my endurance isn’t there to hold onto a top pace for long. My split was fast enough to be the fastest female split at 47 minutes and change, although it was one of my slowest 16 mile race splits in recent memory. Either I’m getting old and slow, the course is harder than I thought, or I didn’t ride my best. Oh well.

As I arrived in the transition area again, I tried to prepare mentally for the second run by pretending it was my first run. The course was basically the same, except this time it started at transition and ended down by the lake. As I dismounted my bike, I really hoped my hip/leg/butt/back wouldn’t hurt. While it was certainly weaker and twingier this time, I didn’t feel any real pain, which was a relief.

I was in second place for women entering the second run, and I tried to keep the fastest pace possible in hopes of holding off the next person, whom I had passed on the bike but whom had run much faster than me the first leg. I felt marginally better on this run, although I was actually running more slowly. Again, I just had no power. The sun had come out, causing the course to warm up considerably. I like warm weather, so it actually felt nice to sweat for real for once.

As I passed the 2 mile mark, that lady had yet to catch me, so I started to feel like I might be able to hold onto my place. I began the process of perpetually bargaining with myself to hold onto my pace and speed up no matter how much it hurt. I tried, I really did. But I was stuck in 4th gear no matter how many times I tried to shift up. Alas, with no more than 1/10 of a mile to go, that lady was right behind me. I tried so hard to up the pace and hold her off, rather than accept the pass. I just didn’t have enough in me. She passed me and ended up finishing the race 9 seconds ahead of me. Bummer. But at least I tried until the very end.

I was relieved to finish the race and hear that I was still the 3rd overall female. Granted there were not very many women in the race to begin with but a podium finish is a podium finish. I walked back up to the tent to get some water and snacks. There was a nice spread–fruit, granola, nuts and yogurt and a keg of beer.

Oh great, another glass :)
Oh great, another glass 🙂

As the results were posted, I saw that the first place girl (I say girl because she is16) finished a full 7 minutes ahead of me. Ouch. But impressive, all the same. After hanging out for awhile, they did the awards, and I am now the proud owner of a new beer glass. A lot of people are like “oh great, another glass” but I actually really like glasses so I was genuinely happy.

Overall, I liked this race. It is actually part of a series they do around the Greensboro area, the Trivium Multisport Series, with 2 or 3 other duathlons and a number of triathlons. I would consider competing in more except for the long driving distance for me. I cannot swing entry fees plus time off work plus hotel costs for more than a race or two each year. Nor do I want to drive 4 hours each way for many races.

Unfortunately, in the weeks that have passed, my injury has worsened significantly, and I have actually not run a step since March 12, the day of this race. I can spin on the bike a little, but I cannot every really walk or sleep properly. In fact, I am probably going to have to significantly rework my planned race schedule. It really sucks, but there you go.

Do I regret racing on a developing injury? Not really. In my experience (and many would not agree with this), more than half the time these things just work themselves out and if you are conservative you’ll not be worse for the wear. I gambled and lost. Now, I just need to keep in mind that I have many months to get better and still get some races in (although this is getting harder as it’s 3 weeks out and I still cannot walk 1 block without severe pain and cramping. Good times.) I’m doing what I can with massage and PT (thank you Wes of Anti-Fragile Physical Therapy for sponsoring the Piney Flats Racing Team!). So, with any luck, you’ll get to read a plethora of ridiculous race reports from me throughout the year.

3 thoughts on “Hagan Stone Park Duathlon Race Report

  1. you should really get some race people to sponsor your blog, it is entertaining, informative, thoughtful and often hilarious. and it makes me feel like i’m hanging out with you for a cup of coffee instead of 10,000 miles away! (should you want to visit, i challenge you to run over here in this stinking humid heat – all year round – by the end of my 5K last night i literally felt like i was running through a sauna)

  2. Kit, Fun report and congrats on the podium finish. I won’t likely get there this year, but maybe 2017. Bummer about the injury, but it happens. I’ve got a few years on you, but ibuprofen is my friend. Cheers, Kelly McCoy

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