It is the athlete’s responsibility to know the course. We’ve all heard it from race directors and I agree but I also think it’s the directors responsibility to mark the course well enough to be followed. Why would I start a race report out this way? Take it from me children, there is not a whole lot more disappointing way to end a race than knowing your physical performance was not the thing that cost you a potential win, but rather a stupid COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE error. Would you like to know more about what I’m on about here? Good, now put on your learning caps and read on.
I had not planned to race Sunday’s Earth Day Duathlon. I had planned to show up and run and bike and run but I hadn’t even put it on my schedule or my race plan. It was just going to be a workout. When I saw that one of my racing buddies, Daeton was going to be there, well that plan went out the window. Daeton is a stellar young athlete and on his way to many great things and I was really excited to go head to head with him at this thing. I don’t like to be THAT GUY but I knew from looking at the extremely small field registered for this one that he and I would be the ones racing for the win. The tale of the tape was stacked fairly evenly. Daeton is the better runner but I knew that I had an advantage on the bike (even if that was only because I was on my TT bike and he races on a road bike). I knew the race would be won on the bike for me. I had to limit my losses on the first run, put as much time into him on the bike as possible and then hope it was enough to keep him from catching me on run number 2.
The race course was not posted before the event so I had no way to study it before hand and had to rely on the pre race instructions and course markings to get me by. In the pre race briefing, the directions were given. I thought I understood the course and figured, also, that the markings would lead me if I had a doubt….
The course started at Knoxville Center Mall and the runs were both on mall property. We lined up and on the gun it was GO. Daeton took off and I tried to stay on his heels. Looking down after a couple hundred meters my watch showed a 4:55 pace. WOAH! Not sustainable for me so I backed it down a bit and let him gap me slightly. It was only roughly a mile on the first run so I still kept it pinned pretty hard. It was supposed to be an out and back first run but as we passed .5 mile there was no turn around sign. We kept running. A little further, still no sign. Daeton looked back with a questioning look. I yelled “keep going” we’ll just do a lap. He nodded and we kept going. I glanced back and the rest of the field was following us. OK, good enough. We came into T1 at just over a mile on the Garmin. I yelled over at friend who was helping the race, “there’s no turn?!”. She nodded. Daeton was probably 40 seconds or so ahead of me at this point. Not bad. First run clocked at 1.14 miles and a 6:15/mile pace.
I had a pretty solid T1 and was out on the bike in no time. I made my way out of the parking lot to the road and put the hammer down. Before long I caught and passed Daeton. Now it was just a matter of keeping the iron to the fire and putting as much time as possible into him. I had a great bike and rolled back into the parking lot with a good lead. As I approached transition, a volunteer asked me how many laps I had done (of the parking lot). I told her 1. She said go around again. I KNEW that was not right but race brain took over so I started to pedal off before I hear the race director telling me to come back. I turned and headed back in. This cost me a good 10 to 15 seconds. I was a bit miffed. As I came into T2 I asked, “2 laps on the this run, right?” I heard a yes as I ran out of T2… the wrong way. I was supposed to hang a right and do two clockwise laps. What I did was run out and follow the first run course. I realized this when about halfway around, I met Daeton… going the other way. We both looked at each other confused. Which one of us was right?! We both kept going and I was almost back to the start of lap two. The RD ran out and told me I was wrong but to just .5 miles and then turn and go back the way I came. I did, however, on the way back I was directed back toward finish even though I had only gone 2 miles instead of 3. I was then corrected again and sent out for another lap. At this point, I thought about quitting. Part of me thought, however, that they might just consider scoring by time since there was a very obvious break down in race markings and course direction so I kept going. I finished my last lap and came in to see Daeton already across the line. I finished the 2nd run with 3.13 miles at a 6:43 pace.
I confirmed with Daeton that I had, in fact, run nearly .2 miles longer than he did. Obviously, I was (and still am) extremely frustrated with the way things played out considering I had a very solid performance but at the end of the day, it was my own fault for not knowing the course. As frustrating as things like that are, however, I understand that things happen. I have done many races put on by this RD and her events are typically VERY well marked and she does a stellar job. This was just a case of my race brain taking over and there being a breakdown in communication in getting the course set up. It happens. The only thing that I can do is learn from this experience and use that knowledge to help me be a better racer in the future. At the end of the day, I still crossed the line 2nd overall and because my distances were in line, I was allowed to keep my position even though I technically didn’t run the correct course.
Thanks as always to my team, coach, sponsors and family. Next up: XTERRA Ft. Yargo!