Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Race Report: Brian’s Beachside Boogie 2012

Brian’s Beachside Boogie is an annual early-season off-road duathon held at Hammonasset State Park, in Madison, CT.  The race itself is a run-bike-run duathlon consisting of a 2-mile off-road run over mowed grass turf marked with little yellow flags and a ten-mile two-loop bike ride done mostly on packed sand trails, paved road, and more mowed grass turf marked with yellow flags.  Sally and I first ran the Boogie four years ago, and it’s been one of our favorite races of the year ever since.

With that said, I debated whether or not to bother with a race report this year based on how the race played itself out for me, but ultimately I decided that the fate of my personal race wasn’t the fault of the organizers.  Lots of folks read these race reports in the course of planning out their triathlon seasons, and this particular race is one of the only good early-season tune-up duathlons in the region.  So…  I’m gonna go ahead and write this thing up and hope that it encourages others to come out for the Boogie next year.  This year’s event only had eighty-eight participants, down substantially from the last few times we’ve run it.  I’ve no idea why that might be, but by writing up this report, hopefully more folks will be encouraged to come out next year.

The Boogie isn’t one of my “A” races, but it coincided on my training calendar with a regularly scheduled Rest Week, and considering that this tri season is probably going to get cut short prematurely, I was happy enough to have a chance to rest and try to do well.  I ran once, road once, and swam once during the week leading up to the Boogie, but I kept all three light and easy, so that by Saturday afternoon I felt pretty good.  Saturday night, we ended up ordering pizza and pasta from one of the local Italian places, and I had a beer—a bottle of Victory’s Hop Devil—along with a glass of a cheap but decent pinot noir that Sally picked out when we were at the liquor store earlier in the day.

I slept pretty well Saturday night, but for whatever reason awoke with a ripping headache Sunday morning.  I don’t know if it was sinuses or a little migraine or just a simple disagreement with the pinot—my money’s on the later, for the record—but whatever it was, when I got up Sunday morning and felt like hammered shit.  Well, what are you gonna do?  I made some coffee, took a couple of Advil, and started getting ready for the race.  Sally’s mom came over to watch the kids, and Sally and I hit the road at seven.

It ended up taking less than forty minutes to get to Hammonasset.  On the way, I drank most of a bottle of Gatorade and ate a Cliff bar, and at some point, I finally started feeling better.  Not great, but better.  Still, we got there early, and that left us with plenty of time.  We checked in, warmed up on the bikes, set up in transition, and did some yoga to finish warming-up.  The one thing I will mention about that—because it was so amazingly dumb that I can’t believe I did it—is that I adjusted the seat on my mountain bike while wearing my warm-up shoes but then didn’t check the fit after I’d changed into my racing shoes.  Like I said, dumb.  It would’ve been a moot point if I had clipless pedals on the mountain bike, but really, we only ride those bikes a few times a year.  Racing pedals don’t make a lot of sense in my opinion, all things considered.

Regardless, as we lined up, I commented to Sally that the race seemed smaller than it had been in years past, but that the competitors themselves looked lots faster and far more serious than ever before.  Anecdotally, I will say that I saw maybe fifteen guys and girls who’d bolted aero bars onto their mountain bikes for this one race, and I saw one guy who’d swapped out his entire bar for the bar on his road bike!  In past years, we’d seen less than five sets of aero bars, and at least two multisport newbies for every person kitted out in a tri team shirt or full-on team kit.  This time, I’d say that at least a full third of the racer were sporting team kits of some kind.

First Run 
We lined up, a girl sang the Star Spangled Banner, and we were off.  As always in this race, folks took off straight away.  And as always, I let them go. 

My opinion: the key to doing duathlon well is holding back on the first run. 

Anyway, folks took off, and I let myself settle into the fastest pace I could manage easily.  I tried to lean forward and just go with it, and after about three minutes, I decided I was okay to speed up a little.  I passed a few of the real rabbits at about the one mile mark, but as I said, most of the racers looked like experienced guys.  Very few fell apart in the first two miles.

I forced myself to slow down a little as we made the last turn and crossed into transition at about the center of the pack.  I was 15:24 at the end of the first two miles—almost exactly the same time I had at this same race last year.

I got on the bike and immediately realized that I’d moved my seat too low before the race.  I tried to ignore it, but it drove me absolutely crazy for the first four miles of the race.  I also wasn’t passing anybody on the bike, which was weird, too, compared to past years.  Before, I’ve always started reeling people in pretty quickly once we were on the bikes.  This year, I caught a few, but it was real work with the seat out of position.

In any event, one of the big differences between this year and past years was the bike course.  Hurricane Irene did a number on some of the trails, so that there were several spots with deep sand and more than a few spots with exposed rocks, roots, and other hazards.  Truth to tell, I kind of liked it that way.  Before, I always thought this race was a “mountain bike race” in name only.  This year, you actually needed the fat tires—and a few skills to go with them.  The course wasn’t technical by any means, but it was bumpy and sandy, and there were lots of sharp turns.  You couldn’t just cruise it.  You had to really work in places.

We got into the more challenging portion of the course at about the three-and-a-half or four-mile mark, and it was then that I finally stopped, moved my seat, and started to get more serious about the freakin’ race.  The effect was instantaneous.  I was off my bike for maybe twenty seconds.  I made those back in the first half-mile and finally started to really reel people in.  I hit the half-way mark at thirty-five minutes and was ready to accelerate and get it in gear.  My strategy going in had been to wait for the second half of the bike leg before really pouring it on, and so far, it looked like that was gonna work for me.

Unfortunately, I cut hard around a corner at about the six-and-a-half mile mark and sliced my rear tire open on a sharp rock.  I spent maybe a full minute in denial, but nope.  That was it.  My day was done.

The funny thing was that I’d actually considered putting a spare tube in my pocket for the race but decided that it was just not worth it.  Who flats on a mountain bike?

Well, I do.

Anyway, I walked back to Transition in no particular hurry.  Eventually, the rear inner tube started coming out, and I even had to carry the stupid bike.  Argh.

Second Run 
I dumped my bike, loafed through transition, and decided to run the second run anyway, even though I knew I’d DQed.  Having had a break, I was able to push it ludicrously, eventually turning it a 15:06 for that second run.  That’s probably not a lot faster than I’d have been able to run straight off the bike, but certainly, I don’t think I was gonna negative split the two runs.  Last year, I ran 15:40 on that second run.  I was probably cruising for that time again.

After the Race
A couple of guys came up to me after the race and consoled me.  One guy even said he thought I’d been racing well.  That was nice.  Truthfully, though, I wasn’t too upset until later.  At the time, I’d thought I was on-pace to almost exactly repeat my past performance, and that didn’t excite me over-much.  Certainly, I’d noted all the serious racers—and the fact that I’d only barely started to work my way up in the standings when I flatted.  What can I say?  It didn’t look like it was gonna be a stand-out performance.  Maybe that second loop on the bike was gonna be electric, but then again, maybe not.

As it happens, though, there were only eight racers in my age group, and I had an excellent shot at finishing third.  The guy who actually got third finished in 1:09-something, and I was 1:07-something last year.  Now granted, the course wasn’t quite as fast this year as it had been last year, but still… I had a good shot at negative-splitting the bike leg.  With that in mind, 1:09 was not an unreasonable goal.  Certainly, I’d have liked to have been able to race for it and see if I could, in fact, have caught the guy and gotten onto the podium.  After all, why else were we there but to race?

Still, it had been a decent enough day.  Sunny, mid-fifties, and not at all windy.  I got out there with my wife and raced.

If you’re wondering, by the way, Sally finished in 1:22-something.  She was fourth in her age group, and she said that she felt like she could have pushed it a little harder.  Probably, but she hasn’t been on the bike much, and I don’t think she has the killer instinct much in these race.  But, y’know, who cares?  We went together and raced.  At then end of the day, that’s all I can ask for.  Yes, it would have been nice to get a time, but as I noted to the guys that consoled me after the race, it’s not like this was an Olympic qualifier.  Ultimately, I think I ran reasonable well.  I’ll just have to take solace in that.

So.  If you're thinking of running this race next year, here're my thoughts on it:
 1. It's early in the season, but the weather is usually decent, and the last two years it's been actively NICE.
 2. There aren't many duathlons, and this one is fun.
 3. Where else are you gonna race your mountain bike?

And that's all I've got to say about that.


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