Friday, March 11, 2005

Chilly Cheeks My Ass

Sunday, Jan. 16
Today is race #2 in a 3 race duathlon series I've signed up for this winter. Race #1 was a lot of fun in unseasonably warm 50 degree weather. Unfortunately the conditions for race #2 swing in the opposite direction and it's 10 degrees & cloudy when I leave the house and the temp. during the race only goes up to 15 degrees. This race is a run-bike-run-bike-(run) format starting with a 2 mile loop on snow packed, icy trails in Cherry Creek State Park in Denver. Then a 3.5 mile bike loop followed by a repeat of the 2 mile run then a 7 mile bike (2x the same 3.5 mile loop) then after racking your bike, a 100 yard sprint on foot to the finish. The bike course is altered from the original plan so that the whole thing will be free of snow & ice which is no big deal to me since I'm on my mountain bike anyway. Last race I found out during the race that my new cleats didn't work in my old pedals (turns out I have the same problem with some of the spinning bikes, it's a Shimano thing not an Elayne is an idiot thing, theoretically they should have worked) so this time I'm determined to be a little more prepared. I spend a whole hour Saturday changing pedals and saddle, fixing a flat and experimenting with clothes that will keep me from freezing to death. I used to commute on my bike all through winter but days this cold are rare and I doubt I've ever been out riding for any length of time in this kind of cold. I decide against clipless pedals since there will be way too many shoe changes and I don't want my hands & feet exposed to the elements so many times. I settle on regular pedals with kevlar straps that work like toeclips but hold your foot tight against the pedal. It means I won't be as efficient on the bike as I would with clipless pedals but I don't care, warm hands & feet are more important.

The race starts in waves to spread things out so the bike course won't get too crowded and the first wave appears to be people who registered for the series since I recognize quite a few faces from the first race. Among those is a woman who annoyed me last time by trying to 'race' me and chatting away to me while I was gasping for breath. I don't understand people who want to chat with complete strangers during a short race like that (a marathon is something else), I'm barely able to breathe as it is. She seems nice but I try to avoid her anyway. My knees are not happy with the extreme cold and it takes me a while to get into a rhythm during the first run. The trail is snow packed and covered with regular and black ice in places so it's even slower going than normal for me. Eventually I catch up to Miss Yacky and I don't want to pass her until I know I can do it decisively because I don't want her to start racing me again (ie, passing me, then slowing down, then passing me, etc.) and I don't feel like chatting. Soon I have to do it though and sure enough she speeds up and tries to start a conversation after I pass her. I've got just enough air to grunt something at her in reply and get enough momentum to get away. I feel a little bad thinking like this but not bad enough to slow down and chat. She remains behind me for the rest of the race.

By the end of the run I'm so hot I have to take my gloves off. This will soon change once I get on the bike and have to deal with the wind chill created by riding. I drink as much water as I can get down since there are no aid stations and I have a feeling my water will freeze. I should have left an extra water bottle in the transition zone (doh). About a mile into the ride my left knee starts screaming and though I have chronic knee problems this pain is in a new and interesting place. In retrospect I think it was just the cold and the different leg position in my pedals (haven't worn pedals with clips in years) since I don't normally have screaming knee pain on my bike unless I'm grinding up a huge hill. Mercifully it stops after a bit but I'm worried. Is this really worth it? What kind of idiot goes out in these temperatures to recreate? My feet are freezing by the end of the short ride and I'm worried how they're going to last on the next longer ride.

The second run goes by quicker than the first though my time is actually around 2 minutes longer. I have my HR monitor on and I can see I'm not working as hard as I did in the first race but it's so cold I just can't bring myself to push any harder. Thankfully my feet and the rest of me warm up pretty quickly on the run and I'm roasting by the time I hit the bike again.

I get on my bike and realize my water is really starting to freeze. I guzzle as much as I can keep down and it freezes solid by the second 3.5 mile loop. Luckily it's not really a thirsty type day unless you're maybe a polar bear. The second bike leg goes by faster than I think it will and I'm finally feeling warmed up a bit and ready to put in some effort by the last 3.5 mile loop. In reality I think I was more like a barn sour horse, smelling the finish line and just wanting to be done & out of the cold.

The race finishes with you racking your bike and running the last 100 yards or so to make it easier on the timers at the finish line. I'm glad I don't have to clop through the ice strewn transition area in my bike cleats.

My final time is around 1:30. I realize after typing all this that my logbook with all the splits and geeky number details is at home and I'm not so I'll have to enter all that stuff later. There were only 2 people in my age group this time and I finished in second by about 4 minutes. Last race I was second to the same person by about 4 1/2 minutes. My overall finish was the same percentage wise.

Overall it wasn't one of my most fun ever races, the cold was bad and I was tired and not really recovered well from the weeks training. However these races are really just fun & training for me so I don't want to taper for them and have to take what I get. Hopefully it'll be warmer for the third one next month!

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