The March Madness Biathlon

Posted by on April 3, 2008 in Training

I raced in the March Madness Biathlon in Central Park this past Sunday, March 31st, in Central Park.  It was advertised as a 2 mile run, a 12 mile bike, and another 2 mile run.  Of course, I need to know exact measurements so I determined that it was a 2.25 mile run course and a 12.2 mile bike.  Those distances notwithstanding, I had no illusions of being particularly fast since my emphasis this training season has been on long course endurance. What made this day special was that it was Deborah’s first time seeing me race.  I would have loved for this to be a day where she sees me get a personal record (a PR in our vernacular) but with a time of one hour and 10 minutes last year, and with the aforementioned different focus this year, there was no chance.  Deborah of course scoffed at my pre-race apologies for not being fast; I knew that she wouldn’t understand the pride and emotional spectrum that I have for racing but in time she will.  In any event, she said she’d bring her camera equipment for the race which was kind of exciting too.In 2004, the first year following my separation, I decided to do as many races as I could to both take my mind off of the obvious personal challenges but to also get experience and finally get rid of the pre-race jitters that made me perennially sick.  I wound up doing 14 triathlons alone along with another dozen other races that year and thanks to that, I am calm as can be before races now.  Sunday was no different. As we got into the starting corral, I looked everywhere for Deborah but couldn’t find her.  Finally she found me and the final component of feeling good about the morning was there for me.When the starting gun went off, I was happy to not get caught up into the typical crazy rush out of the gate.  Starting up the hill by the Metropolitan Museum has a way of tapering any such starting bursts!  I made it to the halfway point feeling good and warm, and in the return trip, I noticed the pace picking up.  It was almost as if I wasn’t even in control and the body was dictating things.  I motored back down the hill with what I think was about a 7:15 pace or so and got through transition very quickly. On the bike, I was aggressive but not in the typical GG fashion which would typically create a massive build-up of lactic acid.  I focused less on who was around me and instead got into as good a rhythm as I could find.  Before long, I found myself passing a lot of people, sometimes in groups of 4 or 5.  That’s good but also suggests that if they were in front of me, my running wasn’t very impressive after all.  As I completed the first loop, I wasn’t sure where Deborah was and while I wanted to smile to her, I was working hard and in the zone… and I wanted to climb the hill by the Met well.  The finish of the bike session was very strong for me but the transition (T2) wasn’t nearly as fast as it typically is for me.  My friends tease me about my boasts of being the fastest T2 guy out there, but with the frigidity of the weather, I had no feeling past the balls of my feet nor in the tips of my fingers which made things tough. On the second run, as I started up the hill, I saw Deborah up on the cliffs by the statue of the cat (thus the name, Cat Hill) snapping away.  I managed to get a smile to her which she captured on camera.  I knew that the second run wouldn’t be as fast (that’s a relative word) as the first run, but for me, the focus was rhythm.  I needed to focus on technique, good breathing, and keep my mind thinking positive.  It’s so easy to become negative and say to yourself, “This is too hard; I’m so slow; Why do I stink so bad?”, etc.  I wound up counting the number of guys passing me on their return trip to the finish line.  I saw a few buddies and while I wanted to cheer them on, I found that my pace was increasing to the point where that wasn’t possible.  I passed a few people who had been ahead of me which is always a treat since I’m not that prolific a runner and at the halfway point, thought that I was in 65th place. I was pretty locked into that position for a good 4 or 5 minutes and just after passing someone to move into 64th, I got passed by two people… putting me in 66th.  Dammit!  At that point, I had finished the straightaway section on the east side of the park which meant that the finish line was about ¾ of a mile away.  I realize now that that’s where I should have “put down the hammer” and gotten the pace up to the fastest I could muster.  Instead, I waited for another 3 minutes or so.  I saw two people in front of me and it was then that I decided to become the predator and catch them; in retrospect, thinking about how I felt after I finished, I know that I shouldn’t have relied on an object (in this case, a person) to start the afterburners… but that’s why I love that there’s always something to learn in this sport. Just after passing those two guys, and with the finish line about 200 yards away, I felt as if I needed to protect my new position because the gents I had just passed would likely put up a fight.  I really pushed hard and from Deborah’s photos, I can see full leg extensions that support the perceived effort level.  My time was one hour and 13 minutes, 3 minutes slower than last year, but faster than what I had predicted for myself before the race.  Naturally, I was very pleased.  And, to be quite honest, it felt good to finish the race and get a congratulatory hug from my girl! 

Next race is the Bronx Biathlon on April 27th.  It’s a 3 mile run, an 18 mile bike, and another 3 mile run.  Again, I suspect that the advertised distances aren’t accurate, so we’ll see what shakes up on race day.  Deborah’s Dad will be attendance that day, so I’m sure to invent some form of pressure on myself that I need to put on a good show for him and his daughter.  It seems like lunacy to most people, but it’s just the way it is, good or bad.

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