Monday, April 22, 2013

Heel and Crank Duathlon

I love the Heel & Crank Duathlon. The 3 mile run, a 13.5 mile ride, and another 3 mile run format is perfect for this non-swimmer.  It was my very first multisport race back in 2010. This year had some changes, it was earlier in the season with a new venue and race director, Eric Broyles. Oddly enough, this Eric guy was one of the original athletes to make an impression on me back at that 2010 H&C race. He was the first athlete I'd ever seen in a tri suit. I remember thinking he looked like a monster towering over me as he cruised by to beat me by just over a minute.  He was my first rival, weather he knew it or not.
Emily and I after that 2010 H&C

At first, I was reluctant to fall in love with the changes. As it turned out, change is good. Mooresville, Alabama is a cool little community. The race was centered around a scenic little town square. Registration was held in what looks like a very old, restored church. Around the square I noticed a cozy coffee shop, a petting zoo, and Mom & Pop-esque restaurant that could have easily been the original Cracker Barrel. You really get the sense that Mooresville is the kind of place you'd like to have grown up or find yourself at retirement. I don't know why Eric picked Mooresville, but it is a great move. I didn't miss the old parking lot at the mall or the tour of neighborhoods one itty bit. If you get a chance, pat him on the back for me. Great race, man!

Registration was at a warm little church.
It was the kind of place that made me want
to show up for a Sunday  service.
We've had some amazing weather the last few weeks, but race day was 39F when I pulled up. Transition was in the town square's grass courtyard. It was shaded, cool, and damp. I showed up at transition when it opened at 6:30 am. It is one of those layouts where there is a clear position advantage to a particular bike rack, and I wanted prime real estate. This is the only time I was disappointed on the day; I showed up on time, and it was already loaded down. I can't imagine there would be any real benefit to making the athletes queue up instead of letting us in early, but I was still a little frustrated.  I can be whiny on race day, lol.

I had done my homework before the race. There was one name on the roster that I knew well, Andrew Hodges. He's our local pro triathlete. I'm a fan, honestly. The guy has been rocking the sport for several years, and he has had some pretty dang good results. I was hoping deep down that it was a different A.Hodges registered.  One of my friends had asked me how much I would push for this race; my response was "just hard enough to win." Seeing him here, I knew in my little heart of hearts that I would be racing for 2nd.

This is one of the "hills" on the run course
I went through my warm up routine and explored the course. Cool course, no doubt. The run is a rolling out and back 3 mile nicely groomed, dirt path. Rumor was there was a mud bog in one section, and the RD had it filled in the week before the race so we all wouldn't ruin our snazzy sneaks in the muck (thumbs up! Mr Broyles). The bike course is not-quite-a-pancake flat 13.5 mile loop around rural Mooresville. The vast majority of the course is silky butter smooth asphalt, but there is a section of chip seal and the occasional, well marked asphalt crater. A few athletes commented about the "hills," but honestly they were speed bumps at best. Calling the few changes in elevation a hill is post race hyperbole.

By kickoff, I was warmed up and was feeling the race day magic. After a few thank yous, a prayer, and a moment of silence for Boston, we had a 3,2, SIREN! and we were off.
images courtesy of  Greg Glemis and  We Run Huntsville
Immediately Andrew and I were 1, 2. Andrew quickly opened a gap on the rest of us, and I was left to contend with the onslaught of ambitious runners. Every few seconds, someone would whip around me and charge ahead only to slow down and get swallowed up by the group. We saw Hodges at the turn around, and I was just surprised he wasn't farther ahead. We honestly weren't running that fast.  As we continued back to transition, I knew I had a handful of guys with me still. I really wasn't interested in running harder; I just needed to run hard enough to hurt the few guys around me and setup a good bike/run.  My plan was to survive the first run without doing too much damage, put in a solid effort on the bike, then do as little as possible on the second run to hold off the competition.

I'm sure that reads like an odd strategy, but after this last season, I've learned a lot about my recovery needs. I have a few key races coming up, and as much as I wanted to do well at Heel & Crank, I really didn't want to do a lot of damage. 1st Run Data

I was second back to transition behind only Hodges. As I went in, I heard cheers that I was 45 seconds back.As I went onto the bike course, my Garmin 910xt had a fit, and I spent way too much time getting it setup for the bike. While I was fumbling around with it, I got passed by my new friend Chuck who had entered transition steps behind me. It wasn't but a precious few minutes before the Garmin-gremlins allowed me to use my 910 again and I passed Chuck back. He spent the rest of the bike course a very respectful, legal distance behind me, seemingly content to let me pace us as we slowly reeled in Hodges.  I really wanted to be first one back to transition, and have a little cushion on Andrew going into the second run.  Having Chuck so close meant that if I dug too deeply on the bike, I might grenade on the second run and slip down a step on the podium.  I ultimately decided the smart thing for me to do was to just be patient and let Andrew come back to me, hopefully before we rode out of bike course.

Coming back into Transition, I was maybe 50 yards off Hodges and I had put a little distance on Chuck.
I made a quick dash onto the run course and came out ~15 seconds back on Andrew.  Bike Course Garmin Data

Heading out for the 2nd Run
It was an odd feeling watching him float down the dirt path ahead of me as he relentlessly opened the gap. By the turnaround, I was in cruising it in mode. I gave Hodges a "congrats!" And clapped as he ran by me. Then I finished up running just hard enough to protect 2nd. I had a few buddies in the field, and as I ran by they were reporting about how far Chuck was behind me. I settled into a 6:20-30 pace and just ran out the last mile. It was a great feeling to be happy with my race but not completely destroy myself.  2nd Run Garmin Data
I never get tired of seeing finish lines!

1st OA Andrew Hodges 1:10:15
2nd OA Christopher Borden 1:12:48
3rd OA Chuck Branson 1:13:05
Official Results link
Great job Justin Carter and C&C Fabrication on the very unique awards!
Overall, the race was amazing. I absolutely love the new venue, the course is better, and the post race party is perfect. There was a great band, lots of grub including pizza, tacos and breakfast burritos. One of the local breweries sponsored the event and there was some great free beer (so I hear). The awards were uniquely shaped sprockets representing bicycle cranks. Maybe next year they'll be high heels? Regardless, I want some Moore.

Still loving my Salty Sea hoodie that got me around Ironman Cabo comfortably!
They came in really handy during the warm up too!
Awesome run course!
Emily said I was way too Rocky looking.  Considering I am 40 lbs lighter now,
maybe I should dress a little looser for effect!
This may be tempting fate just a bit.

I turned to Andrew just before the gun and asked "what's it going to take to win today?"  

Usually, I get swallowed up at the start of races, but everyone was pretty patient for H&C.

Coming into transition, I fully expected Chuck to take the lead.
There is something uplifting about leading the conga line into the cheering crowd.
I was glad to hold him off!

Just off the bike and seeing Andrew just ahead, I was feeling pretty studly.

Emily, Me, and Ray Aderholt, another Accelerate3 athlete

Ray finished 1st M60-64 happy to even the score with a certain rival, and win entry in to the 2013 RocketMan.
Ray will be joining us in Whislter, BC for his first crack at long course triathlon at Ironman Canada.