Monday, April 19, 2010

Off Road Adventures!

The Dream Team

Even with a couple weekends away from road racing, I've managed to stay pretty busy. Months ago, Mark and I made plans to do the Hibernia Off Road Duathlon as a co-ed relay team- the Rutgers Cycling Team, to be precise, and since I do love my position on the team as "that triathlete," I very quickly agreed to do the run. Mark was in charge of destroying the competition on the mountain bike section, and my job was to kill it during the run. Can I just say, Mission Accomplished?

From Mark's brief race report:
"Molly and I crushed the team event. Rutgers won this last year, but had a fairly lackluster finish in the overall standings. This year with a much stronger team, we destroyed it. Molly had an amazing run and got me on the bike in third place. I passed the guy and second and got within 45 seconds of the race leader. He was, however, ridiculously fast, and I never made the catch. I did, however, put some serious time into everyone else. Molly and I did a flawless transition, and Molly KILLED the second run to come in 2nd overall.

Yeah, we beat all the other teams, male-male, coed, female-female, AND all the individual athletes (except for the overall winner who was sick,) some of whom were pretty elite."

Mark and I right after the race. Don't I look tired? In my defense, I just finished the second 5k, while Mark had 20 minutes to recover before this was taken!

So, my "race report":

The race was in Hibernia, which is about 2 hours from my parents house. Up at 5, on the road by 5:30- bleck. Dad (our unofficial team Dad, as many of you know) couldn't make it to the race but woke up at 5 am to make sure that I was ready to go and out the door on time with all my gear. Gotta love him!

Anyway, the directions from the website sent me to the right area but wrong Park Avenue- I was about ten miles from the race site, along with a few other SUVs toting mountain bikes, so we formed a small caravan and I somehow ended up finding our way to the park through guesswork and frantic calls to Mark. Luckily, we made it there on time.

It was nice doing a race where the only stuff I needed was shorts, a shirt, and my sneakers- normally pre-race is hectic because of all the equipment, from bike to wetsuit that needs checking, but this race was awesome in that regard. It was less awesome because it was the coldest day of April- hovering in the 40s with some wind. I was not psyched about the middle segment when I'd be waiting for Mark to finish the ride, waiting around sweaty and chilly.

The race was awesomely chill- no racks for bikes in transition, super nice race director that knew Mark (which led to some hilarious antics at the award ceremony), and generally a more relaxed crowd than any triathlon I've done.

The starting line was at the base of a grassy hill, and the course was 2.8 miles of off road, then an 11 mile (2 loop) mountain bike, then another 2.8 mile run. The director yelled Go and we charged up the hill. I knew that the trails would narrow fast, making passing tough, so I gunned it up the hill as fast as I could and hit the trail segment in the top 10, the first female. It took a good mile before people got strung out, and in that time, I worked my way up to 6th or so, still the first female. The trail was awesome- lots of rocks, streams, mud, logs, and general crap to hurtle, jump or run around. Plus, a lot of short but intense up and down hills. This is what I'm good at, so I was happy.

By the time the trail was easy enough that I could look back, there were only two guys in my line of sight, a decent way behind me. The course went way faster than I expected, and when I realized we were almost to transition, I stepped on the gas and sprinted it out. Apparently, I surprised Mark (shocked the hell out of myself too), since I was the 6th or 7th person overall (including some runners just there to do the 5k trail run), and the first woman (I would have won the 5k!).

Mark took off up the same hill I had started on, chasing down two men in front of him. When he came around to start the second loop, he had passed one of the men and was in second. The guy in front of him, as he said, was clearly elite, and he put more time on Mark in the second loop. Mark put a huge gap between himself and the people behind him though, so when he came into transition and I started, I knew I didn't have to worry too much about anyone coming up behind me. Even with the first man 2 minutes or so ahead of me, I still was entertaining thoughts of closing the gap, unrealistic as that may have been, so I went hard.
Mark coming into transition.

The second loop was easier in some ways but mentally harder- with no one behind me and one person way ahead, it was hard to keep my head in the game, but I think I managed fairly well. I have no idea how close we were to that guy's time, but I was really pleased with how we did finish.
Me looking amazingly silly after hitting the finishing chute.

This race was awesome- I realized that I'm better at trail running than I thought, and that Mark and I make one awesome team. Ahem- Duathlon Off Road Nationals next year, perhaps?

When they did the awards and they got to the co-ed relay category, the director pointed out that not only were we the first co-ed team, but we were the first relay team overall, and the second ones to finish the race in general. I was stoked that the director came up to me and said, "you must be a runner, right?" (to which I replied, "heck no, I'm a triathlete!") and Mark got about a million compliments on his mad skillz on the mountain bike. In all, it was an excellent use of a Sunday!

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