Duathlon National Championships (Part 2 of 2)

>> Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Let's see... where did I leave off in my last post? Oh yes, right after this photo...


I headed to the start line. We all started packing in tight, and we heard "6 minutes until the start." Oy. That's a long wait when standing shoulder-to-shoulder with sweaty men. There was a little jostling for position, but it was all good - once we started, everyone was about in the right spot. I was maybe 5 rows back from the start. It was only around 70 degrees, but the sun was beating down and it felt HOT! (I tease people from warmer climates when they complain about the cold when it's 40 degrees, so I'm OK being made fun of when I complain about the heat at 70.) I'm used to doing most of my long workouts at 4:30 a.m. when I'm done before the sun even peaks over the horizon, so I wasn't used to this noon start with full sun. (I was also right next to the generator that was running to keep the balloon arch up, so I was sucking fumes.)

SIDENOTE: I've really only had 1 hot run this year so far. I Instagrammed this about 2 weeks ago:

Today's math: 2000 in the pool + the last day of preschool + an 81 degree 6 mile run with
the boys with 2.5 miles at sub6 pace = Davanni's for lunch. We stopped there on our
run with a mile to go and ran the rest of the way home with the stroller smelling WONDERFUL.

RUN: 2.5K (1.55 miles)

We were off and running! The pace was fast, and I wanted to try to keep with it for a bit. Matt was a few hundred feet into the run course, and he snapped these photos:

You can see the "starting arch" in the background as the leaders come out.

Nate (in green), Bennett (407), and Joe (412), with me way back there to the far left.
Look at how FAR BACK I was just 1-2 blocks into the race. Speedy fellas!

See the topless dudes behind me? I thought that was against the rules in USAT racing.
I SOOOOOOOO wished I was racing topless because of the heat!

Start of the woman's wave. This 15-yr-old from Texas NAILED the first run!

Annie starting her 2nd duathlon!

The run was intimidating! Everything leading up to the start was intimidating with all the speedsters and fancy, fancy gear! I'm used to racing smaller races recently, and usually the "fast" runners take off, the "normal" runners are behind me, and I'm running relatively by myself. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN IN THIS RACE. Because the runs in this race were just 1.55 miles, we were NOT spreading out, and we were packed in pretty tight. I could not see where I was stepping, and that made me nervous. There was a lot of back-and-forth with other runners, but it was all "clean" - lots of friendly runners. The course was pretty flat, but it wasn't necessarily fast because there were 2 complete 180s (around a cone) and 4 90-degree turns all within 1.55 miles.

I went out hard: my first half-mile split was 2:38 (5:16 pace!). I knew I had slowed up a bit in the second half-mile, which was 2:49, for a first mile split of 5:27. Fast. Nice. I was REALLY pushing the effort, but that was the goal: suffer hard for an hour.

The lead pack coming back towards transition.

Kevin O'Connor a bit off the lead (who went on to win the race) with me as
the 2nd-to-the-left runner back there. It's a good day when you can keep Kevin in sight!

Me coming up along side of a guy with a SWEET tux tri-suit!

Hot. Fried. Really working.


Jeremy grabbed a few photos as I ran through:

Running up to my bike.

I ran PAST my bike. Oops. Ran back, and I was off and biking.

BIKE: 23K (14.3 miles)

As I posted in my race course preview, it was only about 70 seconds into the ride before we were climbing THEE Ohio Hill. There was no time to catch my breath.

The hill. In case you forgot. And we got to do it twice.

SIDENOTE: Remember in my last post (part 1 of my race report), I noted practicing my transition skills. Well I passed a biker pretty quick out of transition as he was struggling to get into his shoes as they were pre-clipped into his pedals. My "no frills" approach of running in my bike shoes and clipping in as I mounted worked a lot better than that guy's plan as I passed him as he fumbled. Score.

Matt got a photo of Annie starting her ride as she was about to make her turn for Ohio Hill:

I struggled up that hill. It was rough. It felt harder than I had hoped. My Garmin was still set to "1 mile" splits from my time trial 4 days before, and my first 1-mile bike split was 4:41, or 12.8 mph. Ouch. But then mile 3 had some great downhills where I came up just shy of 40 mph for a bit, and had a mile split of 2:09 (27.9 mph).

I went back-and-forth with other cyclists all day. That never happens. Usually I slowly get passed by a few (and I WAS getting passed more than I was passing), but the back-and-forth is unusual. Generally, I climbed hills faster than people around me, bombed down hills faster than people around me, but was slower on the flats than those around me. There were 2 guys in my age group that I was battling (both in orange), and it was for (at BEST) 4th in our age group: I knew Nate and Bennett were in front of me, and I saw another guy in the first run who pulled away. So we were always (at BEST) 4th, 5th, and 6th in our age group. Maybe 5th-7th, or maybe even 6th-8th.

I glanced at my overall bike average every quarter. The first half of the ride looked like this:

- Mile 3.5: 18.1 mph overall average
- Mile 7.0: 20.3 mph average

I had no expectations as to what my speed SHOULD be (because of that hill), but I was OK with my 20.3 mph average as I was getting ready to start my 2nd loop. But I was going to try to bike harder.

Finishing the first of 2 bike loops. (Photo from Jeremy.)

Annie after 1 loop.

Matt's photo as I was about to turn up Ohio for the 2nd time.
He shouted to me that I was 31st at this point.

Nearly everyone I talked to said Ohio felt EASIER after the first time up. And I thought so too! It was like we needed to get our "bike legs" under us for a bit, and then it didn't feel so bad. Amanda and a friend were on the hill SCREAMING for me the 2nd time up:

Smiling up the hill! Thanks Amanda!

I pushed the effort at the top of the hill. I still really pushed on the downhills too. In fact, mile 10 clicked over as my fastest recorded individual mile ever at 1:58.0, or 30.5 mph over that mile. (My top speed was under 40 mph, so it was some sustained speed, and not just a downhill that was 50 mph.)

- Mile 10.5: 19.8 mph overall average
- Mile 14.0 (transition): 20.5 mph average
(I briefly hit 20.6 before hopping off)

I was happy that the 2nd half was faster than my first half of the bike. And for all the passing that was happening, Matt noted that I only lost 2 overall spots and was in 33rd overall off the bike.

Another photo from Jeremy as I was just a block from transition.
(It's different than the one above. Really.)

As I noted in my last post, I wasn't going to try any "fancy" dismount because of the quick, sharp turn we had to do just before dismounting.

Finishing the bike with a smile (but hurting).

Getting ready for a no-frills dismount.

This doesn't look fast. Whatever. At least I was off before the line.

Yeah... still not looking fast.


Nothing fancy here. I threw off my helmet (and my shades because I felt like they were making me hot, and I was just looking for ANY way to cool down) and got out of there ASAP.

Shades and helmet still on...

... shades and helmet off. And off and running.

RUN: 2.5K (1.55 miles)

I had those 2 guys in orange in my age group just in front of me. At a little out-and-back section just a minute into the run, I looked at my watch and saw that the one guy was 31 seconds in front of me. I caught the first guy about a half mile in, but was barely making progress on the other guy. I was really moving and really pushing the effort! I was nailing my game plan which said "I need to be off and running HARD ASAP."

My first half mile was 2:59, and it felt a LOT faster. That meant I was dying, but there was only a mile left, so that was OK. In fact, I got really depressed when my Garmin beeped for the first half mile because I was thinking "I have more than 2 splits left!" But then I instantly felt better when I started thinking "Oh, but I only have ONE MILE left!" My first mile was 5:55.

At another little out-and-back section about half way into the run, I noted that I was about 13 seconds behind the guy I was trying to catch. I tried to up the pace but not blow up, because I was running out of time. I ended up coming up and past him on our little loop on Raspberry Island. BUT I NOTICED HIS CALF SAID "50" AND NOT "30!" Damn it. Well still, he was a good rabbit for me to be going after. So now, AT BEST, I figured I was 4th in my age group. No one was in front of me for me to try to catch, so I was 99% sure I was off the podium.

I. Was. Dying. I pushed it hard to the line to try to fend off anyone behind me.

Gross. Dead.

Looking a little more svelte.

Flying with downtown St. Paul across the Mississippi in the background.

Into the chute and to the finish.

I caught my breath at the finish with my hands on my knees. Then I high-fived the 50-year-old who ended up being 14 seconds behind me, and then the other guy from my age group who was just another 4 seconds back.

I heard Bennett's voice shortly after I finished. He said "Steve, you beat me!" He was wearing street clothes and obviously hadn't finished. He got a bad cramp on the bike, and he looked down and actually SAW the baseball sided cramp in his calf. So he dropped out after 1 lap on the bike. Now, the BEST CASE SCENARIO put me back on the podium in 3rd in my age group. I had to check the results...


Steve Stenzel, 34, St. Paul, #408

- 2.5K RUN: 8:49.9 (5:41 pace)
, 18th overall, 5th in age group [Garmin: 1.58 miles, 5:35 pace]
- T1: 0:48.5, 58th overall
- 23K BIKE: 40:56.8 (20.9 mph), 46th overall, 5th in a.g. [Garmin: 13.97 miles, 20.5 mph]
- T2: 0:45.2, 56th overall
- 2.5K RUN: 9:21.4 (6:02 pace), 9th overall, 2nd in age group [Garmin: 1.62 miles, 5:47 pace]

TOTAL: 1:00:41.98

28th out of 190 overall
4th out of 11 in the 30-34 age group


• Sure, I was bummed to be the first spot off the age group podium, but I did all I could. Matt's first words to me when I finished 4th in my age group were "well, how much faster was 3rd?" He wasn't just like 20 seconds faster - he was over 3 minutes faster. No way I could have gotten him.

• 9th fastest OVERALL final run?!? Wow! Again, that shows I was really going for broke. But, that also makes me wonder if I shouldn't have pushed harder on the bike and spent more energy there. Damn.

• I predicted my final time pretty well. I didn't REALLY know what to say for my overall time because of THEE hill (and it was never anything I posted here), but Annie and I were talking over the 5 hours before our race as we were at Harriet Island. I said there was really no way I could break an hour, and that JUST OVER an hour would be fantastic. I said something like "21 mph on the bike would be around 40 minutes, 17-18 mins of running, and some transitions would put me right over an hour." So being 41 seconds over an hour was fine by me.

• Joe called me out with my "keep my half miles under 3:00" prediction/statement. We talked pre-race (and he ended up 3rd overall in the sprint). We tried to come up with a new/better/more appropriate pace. We agreed that I'd shoot for having 1 half-mile spilt under 2:40. And guess what? My first half mile split was 2:38. That was my ONLY one under 2:40. And I kept them all under 3:00. Barely.

So Annie came through T2 shortly after I finished. She was cussing at me for being finished already as I took this photo:

Starting the final run, right before flipping me off.
She probably should have had 2 different 2:00 time penalties for the cuss and bird.

Annie overheating but working her way through the finisher's chute!

To the finish!

Annie started the bike 3rd in her age group, but she passed 2nd and held her off for the entire run. So Annie PLACED 2ND IN HER AGE GROUP! Congrats Annie!

Eating pasta (BUCA catered it!) with Jeremy, Annie, and Matt post-race.

Annie on the PODIUM at the awards!

This was a great venue and a race I'll miss next year when it leaves St. Paul. Great course, incredible competition, and a good personal effort - what's not to love?

Here's a link to the first part of my race report which is mainly about Matt's race if you missed it. Back soon with more pics.


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