Wednesday, May 26, 2010


P5230157 This past Saturday I races in the Ixtapa Pan American Cup. Due to dangerous surf conditions, they changed the race to a duathlon at the last minute: 3k run, 40k bike, 10k run. It can be hard to keep your “game face” on when that happens – even though you still want to go out and race your best, you trained for a swim-bike-run race and you planned/hoped to drop some of the best runners during the swim.

I was pretty confident coming into this race, even though my training since Ixtapa has been a bit spotty. (I am working on another post about that spottiness.) The start list looked a lot less intimidating than the start list for Ishigaki, or the list for any of the Continental Cups that I had done in the United States.  There were sixty guys on the list, but I felt like a top-20 finish would be very reasonable and that a top-10 could be possible if I raced well.  But the run-bike-run doesn’t let me show off all of the swim training that I’ve done this year. Oh well…

P5230099 The first run went off at a surprisingly reasonable pace. I didn’t take any splits, but the whole pack stayed mostly together until we hit the turnaround. Except it wasn’t the turnaround. The 3k out-and-back hadn’t been part of the original race course, so many of us had run it during warm-ups … but most of us didn’t see the right turn that took us up a rather gnarly hill. So instead of turning back towards transition and cruising down a gentle hill, we had to shift gears and charge up a somewhat fierce hill. I lost a few meters at the real turnaround when a few guys in front of me cut the corner and I didn’t. The downhill was steep enough that it was hard to let loose … the bricks/cobbles didn’t help, either! But I slowly reeled my way back into contact with the runners ahead of me.

Entering T1, I saw that Francisco Serrano was not far ahead of me, so I knew that I had a chance of catching the big mass of bikes. I had some trouble clipping my helmet on, though, and my transition was ten seconds slower than that of the fastest two dudes. Not normal for me. But everything else about my T1 and my first 5k of the bike was pretty smooth. I chased up to a group of 5 or 6 guys and sat on a wheel while I got my shoes on. We negotiated a few tight corners and stayed within sight of the growing main field. I took a long, hard pull and got us within 100m before wiggling my elbow for another rider to pull through. Nobody did, so I kept working … but after another 10-15 seconds I started to tire so I waved my elbow again. Nothing. Crap. I tried to pull off and they all just followed me. Ouch.

Without knowing it, my pull had whittled the group down from 7 guys to 4, and the other 3 were pretty gassed… so finally Felipe van de Wyngard from Chile took another pull, even though he had just been on the front before me, and the two of us took turns until the turnaround at 10k. But the impetus had been lost and as we neared the turnaround we could see that the main field had opened a distressingly large gap. Crap.

On the way back to town, Van de Wyngard dropped out and Leif Baradoy from Canada has a mechanical mishap (broken seatpost!), leaving me and James Bales from San Antonio. James wasn’t feeling all that good on the bike, so I did most of the work while keeping him around to spell me from time to time. I was hoping that the main field would ease up a bit and give us a chance … but it was not meant to be.  We lost 6 or 7 minutes to the main field. Ouch.

By the time we started our run, the leaders were already finishing their first 2.5km loop. I was able to stay close to a few of them for the first 1.25km and I still felt pretty good until about 4km … then the wheels sort of came off the wagon for a few km. I was dumping ice water over my head every chance that I had – I forgot to mention that it was 90+ degrees with 60-70% humidity! The run was a battle of attrition! But sadly I wasn’t invited to the battle. I was able to pass a few guys who were a lap up on me, and I caught two struggling runners from the main bike group … but finished the race in 32nd place, 13.5 minutes behind Sean Jefferson.

If I had ran my same not-all-that-great run split from the main pack, I would have been 22nd. If the competition of being in the main group had pushed me to a better performance then I could have broken the top twenty. You’ve gotta keep looking for that silver lining, right?

Looking back, it was surprising and encouraging to see that I may have been the strongest man in that bike group. Felipe was likely stronger and just gave up a bit once the main group was out of reach … but I am accustomed to being on of the weaker cyclists on the circuit and I now know that this isn’t necessarily the case. I also learned that you can’t count on your group to finish a chase for you. When you get that close, you’ve gotta just have that killer instinct and close it yourself if need be. A bit of hesitation likely cost me.

I have a bit more to say about the non-racing parts of the trip, but this post is already rather long so I will save that for another day.



  1. Hey Chris,

    Nice report! Bummer that it was a duathlon; your swim could have put you in the main pack. It's tough to simulate 90+ degrees in Seattle in the spring...

  2. thanks, Todd. The weather in Mexico was a bit harsh ... but my next points race in Coteau du Lac, Quebec, should be a bit milder!

  3. Chris, I'm curious if you feel much of a difference running off your road bike set up for this race compared to your regular TT bike.

    Good luck with the rest of the season!

  4. Triathlon to Duathlon is a little dis-heartening :(. Bru, i think the best of the season is yet to come.

  5. Hey Ben -- sorry for the slow reply. I need to turn on comment notifications.

    I've found that leg fatigue when I run off-the-bike is heavily influenced by two factors:
    -- how hard I ride
    -- whether I've done a few hard bricks yet in the current training/racing year

    My first few bricks or races of a season tend to feel a lot heavier/sloppier than the later ones, once I'm acclimated to some degree. I've found that this early-season effect has gotten smaller over the years -- perhaps my legs have permanently learned how this works.

    How hard I ride in a given race has a pretty major impact on how I feel during the run.

    As for the impact of bike position on my run legs ... I haven't noticed a major difference in the last few years. In my early days of racing, Don Ruthven at ATC would tell me that a slam-forward tri position leaves our legs fresher for the run. But I didn't own a road bike for comparison back then! Nowadays, my ITU position is a bit further forward than a typical road position. My bike fitters have helped me to get similar hip and knee angles on both bikes, so there is probably less of a difference between the two now than there was a few years ago.