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Race Report: My first Draft Legal Race

30 Nov 2015
by Tony Orru

by Tony Orru

My “A” race for 2015 was IM 70.3 Augusta. Competing in a Duathlon National was absolutely off the radar until my team mate Rusty Smith posted on Facebook about  Draft Legal National Championships November 7 and 8 in Clermont, FL for both Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon. I was all in.

Preparing for the race

After Augusta and some down time, there was not much time left to really prepare the Duathlon. I did some workouts specifically to regain speed for the run and get used to the surges and breakaways of the bike leg in a draft legal race.

Building speed: the week of October 17th I did a 5k followed by a cyclocross (CX) race the day after. Both races were a perfect diluted brick that worked well: my running speed was good and the CX race
really helped me working on surges and technical skills as well as hammering hard.

Group Ride: I was able to ride 3 times with my road cycling group and work on simulating race conditions such as drafting really tight, getting used to attacks and breakaways, and getting used to surges and hammering with a very high level of lactate in my legs. My teammate Nathan Nowak joined me twice as he was preparing for the same race.

Race day

The extreme heat was my biggest concern. I do not like the Florida weather at all. Race day was like being in a steamer: 90 F with 78% of humidity when the race started at 11.00 am.

Also on my mind was possibility of a crash due to the drafting. I still ride with road cyclists quite often, but my last road cycling race was many years ago, and memories of those grueling fights were not
so pleasant.

I know the USAT Duathlon Nationals Field: fast and competitive. My goal was to run a conservative 5K, useg my bike skills and speed on the bike leg, and give everything on the second run. I am fast and good in T1 and T2 because the flying mount and dismount which I have been doing successfully in many races.

I knew the field in the first 5k would start fast. At the signal the fastest runners immediately imposed a
furious pace. They quickly made a compact running peloton able to breakaway. From a 5:50 pace of the first half a mile I dropped to 6:20 and then 6:45 before hitting the turnaround marker to go back to T1, from the turn around to T1 I kept 7:00 ‘ pace at first to further drop to 7:30. It was so warm, so
humid, I really felt uncomfortable and my heart rate was high.

T1 went well. I did a flying mount with my shoes attached to the pedals and the shoes holding on the frame: boom boom.

Exiting T 1 I found myself solo which is the worst possible scenario during the bike leg of a draft legal race; made even worse due to the strong head wind. I looked behind and did not see anybody closing on me, so I decided to push and close on two athletes ahead of me.

I caught and passed the first and then second athletes; the second close to the first turnaround of the 3.1 mile loop. I was caught by another athlete who was also in my age group. We started pulling each and soon started working with three men from the 50-54 age group. Working together we closed on
people ahead of us passing 3, maybe 4 if not more, athletes.

If things are happening fast in a sprint race, in a draft legal sprint things are happening at twice the speed. You have to decide in a fraction of a second. I have a blurry memory of the race and the surroundings. When hammering at 26-27 miles per hour it is better of thinking of what you are doing when your front wheel it is just couple of inches off the rear wheel of the guy in front of you.

At the beginning of the 4th loop my group grew up to 9 people and we did the last loop like a rocket, at
the last turnaround before heading to T2 two from the group tried to breakaway to gain ground but we closed on them.  I loved it.

T2 went perfect: feet off the shoes, off the bike, and boom boom, I put my second pair of running shoes on and started running with no cramps or muscle fatigue. I passed 3 or 4 people on the run and kept a steady pace to the finish.

I placed 5th in the 45-49 AG with a time of 1:11:28. 35th overall.

 Tony and Nathan post duathlon at Clermont with fellow Atlanta athletes

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