Monday, April 27, 2009

Duathlon Nationals 2009, Richmond, VA

The Duathlon National Championship was today, Sunday, April 26, 2009. It’s my most important race of the year and a qualifying race for the Duathlon World Championships, just like last year. Top 12 in each age group go to World’s. Hundreds of hours and thousands of miles of running and cycling all culminate with this race! Many say that World’s is more important, but you can’t go to World’s if you don’t qualify at Nationals.

The race was again in Richmond, VA. My buddy, Alex, was going to pick me up at 10:30am Saturday morning for the drive. I awoke early and got my stuff together. I went outside to jockey some cars around in my parking lot, moving my car from one parking spot to another. Upon getting out of the car, POW!!! My back blew out and instantly went into a spasm! I was almost down for the count. Debilitating back pain and instant contortion of my torso into an S shape. This has not happened in close to a year. I had been telling everyone that I had finally figured out my back problems, and it would never happen again! JINX!!!

I struggled to make it back into my house, quickly popped 3 Aleve, and lay on my bed. It had been so long since the last spasm that I just couldn’t remember all my secrets to combat it. The question mark deformity of my torso instantly kicked in. Any movement of my core sent stabbing pains to my back. I waited 20 minutes for the mild numbing effect of the Aleve. I needed to get my back ‘taped.’ It was a trick I learned from a Physical Therapist a while back. The taping locks your back in an extended position and provides a ton of support. Harriet, the master taper was not home, but Jenny was. She owed me from all the computer and house repairs I have done for her. J It was about 8:45am and, thankfully, she was on her way. I gave her taping directions as she applied strip by strip of medical tape to a one square foot area of my lower back. She was a life saver!!!

My next decision was whether to take Prednisone, which I horde as an absolute last resort for just this purpose! This is a miracle drug that, within a few hours, could provide some relief from my muscles spasms. The side effects are bad, however, and the drug lingers in the body for months. It’s truly my last resort, but I saw no other choice. Six tablets the first day, five the next…

Thankfully, I already had everything packed. When Alex arrived I had him carry my bike downstairs and load it onto his car. I reclined the passenger side car seat for the 2.5 hour ride. Sitting is the worst! Moving around and walking is the best to loosen things up. We got to Richmond and went straight to the race packet pickup location. I stepped out of the car with a grossly contorted body. I have pictures, but I’m too embarrassed to show.

We eventually checked into the hotel, and I iced my back and lay in bed for about 4 hours. I was not a happy camper! At this point, I actually wanted to just go home. I texted a friend and offered him my entry into the race for free hoping he would drive down, and I could take his car home. Surprise! He did not bite.

8:00 pm comes around and Alex wants dinner. I drag myself out of bed and hobble to the hotel restaurant. I am now feeling sorry for myself and decide to throw in the towel for the race and go into self destruction mode. I order two Jack & Cokes and eventually smile for the first time all day. Don’t forget, alcohol is a muscle relaxer!

After dinner Alex and I meet up with Team Bike Rack in their room adjacent to ours. I am feeling pretty good, if you know what I mean. Richard, the video guy on the team is not racing in the morning, so I drag him back to the bar. Needless to say, I continue the self destruction well into the night. I think the bachelorette party that we met did not help the situation and encouraged the Jagermeister shots. We had fun. By the time I arrived back to my room, it was 1:00 am, and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

6:30am came around quickly. I popped Aleve for my back and was amazed that I didn’t have a hangover. I waited the usual 20 minutes before I rolled out of bed. I paced the room to loosen things up and decided I might just be able to rally! My back was still a mess, but I actually had this crazy idea that I could do this race. I put on a pair of shorts, went out into the hallway to jog a few striders up and down the corridor. I could function, but was still grossly contorted and had subdued (thanks to the Aleve) stabbing pain. I walked back in and told Alex, “I think I can do this thing!” He was a little stunned, and so was I.

I had a ton of time before my 9:30am start. Still without a final decision, I continued my morning race preparation of putting my numbers on, filling water bottles, topping off my tire pressure, and putting on my racing skin suit. The suit only accentuated my deformity.

It was game on!

I grabbed my bike, and Alex and I walked to the transition area to set up. Now I was in my element, and I started to feel good about my decision. Running has always been a back pain reliever for me, but the bike was murder, especially with a time trial bike like mine when in aero position!

Duathlons are comprised of run, bike, run. Since the first is a run, that would help to loosen up my back a lot before climbing on the bike. And to finish with a run would also help. I planned to go out in the middle of the 40-44 age group pack to see how things felt. The one type of running that is not good for my back is steep down hills, and, of course, the race start was at the top of a ridiculously steep downhill. That would be my first test. The horn sounded, and we were off! I stayed in the middle of the pack for the first few miles and things went without a hitch. Then I started to move up. All American Jeff Miller was way ahead, but a group of five was just behind him. I eventually made my way to that group and hung there throughout the run. (10k run split 37:12)

The next test was mounting the bike. That also went without a hitch, but I discovered a new test before I mounted the bike: finding my bike in the transition area. It may have been the heat or the drugs, but my mind was completely blanking on where my bike was amongst thousands. I knew the general area and eventually found it. I put on my helmet and was about to grab the bike, only to discover it was not mine. I took off the helmet and cluelessly continued to search for my bike. At one point, I was convinced someone else had taken it, but then what seemed like minutes later, I found it! DUH! (T1=1:40)

The first lap of the three-lap bike course was slow for me because I didn’t trust my success at this point. I soon came to realize that I may actually be able to finish the race. Qualifying for World’s never crossed my mind. Finishing did! As always, we had our ages on our calves, and I was being passed by a handful of people in my age group.

During laps 2 and 3 I began to start pushing things and becoming more aggressive by standing on the up hills and holding aero on some pretty steep downhills! I am convinced the deep dish ZIPP racing wheels that Bonzai Sports loaned me offered extra speed. I had lowered my seat a bit before the race to take some strain off my back. That was working, but it increased the strain on my hamstrings, and my right hamstring was on the verge of cramping. Plus, did I mention it was HOT!!! Management of fluids was crucial! I could see racers cramping and dehydrated all over the race course with people walking their bikes or huddling in the shade! People were dropping like flies.

The bike leg couldn’t have finished sooner.(40k bike split 1:07) I had just run out of fluids and headed into the transition area. Thirty-seven seconds in transition, the way it should be, I was running the final 5k. This was where I put the pedal to the metal! I was passing buckets of people in my age group, including two guys in the last quarter mile. I passed with authority even though I was beginning to fade. (5k second run split 16:28, the 5k was short otherwise this time would equate to 5:18 minutes per mile and i can't do that on a perfect day)

With a 10k run, 40k bike, and 5k run completed, I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 3 minutes! I finished 12th place in my age group and qualified for the Duathlon World Championships! I was shocked that I placed so high in my age group! And amazed that the human body can take such a beating!


Anonymous said...

You are crazy. . . always an adventure : ). Congratulations! btw: too bad you didn't have your photographer from last year's race -- those pictures were awesome ; ).

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! For placing in your age group and not keeling over from a bleed from the Aleve + alcohol!! Wahoo! Way to go!

L Vanel said...

Whoa! What a great story! You're going to the world championships - WOW~ Yay Jordan Snyder.