2008 Atomicman Duathlon Race Report

Once again I managed to convince myself it was a good idea to do the Atomicman Duathlon just down the hill from me in White Rock, NM. Last years report is here.

As with last year I elected to do the short and sweet "little boy" duathlon, which was 4k-15k-4k run bike run. I also again elected to ride to the race and back. 9 miles and 800 feet elevation change, down to the race, back up home. Last year I took a strong fifth in 1 hour and three minutes. In my report last year I said:

Maybe next year I will break an hour with a bit more running training, some lace locks for the shoes and some aerobars it should be pretty easy... unless i get old.

The short version of this years report was that I got old and I neglected to get lace locks or aerobars.

The exciting news is that I finally built up my big dummy the day before. I tested it by bringing a case of beer and case of margarita supplies to a party the night before and also by riding revelers around the block. The big dummy worked great and was ready for me to load my road bike and gear and take me down to the race.

I got up at 5:30 or so race morning and shook off lingering tequila induced fuzz and got ready for the race. Downed a quick breakfast of oatmeal, bannanas and espresso, found my race gear and donned it, put on some warmup clothes and went outside to fiddle with the bikes.

First I noted my road bike had not been ridden since october 2007 or so and was still caked in mud from the mixed terrain ride I took that day. The tires were flat. I quickly pumped up the tires, noted that the casings seemed sound and loaded the bike up on the dummy. It worked well.
I quickly jammed all the rest of my gear in a messenger bag and looked at my watch, 6:45am. A leisurely hour and a quarter before my race was to begin. I jumped on my bike and headed down to white rock.
Loaded up for the ride home from the race, the ride to the race was a bit less comfortable...

Somewhere around now I realized it was pretty damn cold. It has been a chilly spring here in northern new mexico, but it was really chilly. I am going to guess 30 degrees as I rolled on down the road. I was not wearing nearly enough, but I was running a bit late and pressed on. The sky was blue as blue could be and the sun was bright as gold. Surely it would warm up soon.

As I rolled to the edge of Los Alamos and began my descent down to White Rock I noted that "warming up soon" was not NOW. It was fucking cold. My hands and feet were freezing, my legs were dead and I was starting to shiver. I passed through a sunless canyon on the descent and came to be one with my arctic explorer heroes. Would I freeze here and perish? Or would I endure beyond enduring only to loose most of my toes and brain function in a botched frostbite operation? Who knows? Fortunately the descent ended with me, my extremeties, and mental faculties largely intact and I only had to power a few more miles of flats to the race. I was still cold and really stiff. And my hamstring hurt a lot.

Why did my hamstring hurt? Well it turns out if you put my road bike on a tray bolted to the edge of the wideloader on the Big Dummy, and the bike is facing forward, well then, the brake lever hits me in the back of the hamstring on each pedal stroke. Not so much that I needed to stop and fix it, but enough that I was sore after 6 miles or so of riding. No time to fix it anyhow.

So after a bit, I roll into the race site at 7:25am sharp. I quickly unload the bike, slap the wheel on, rack the bike, set up my transition zone and ride the Big dummy to the periphery and lock it up. I hit the charmingly clean portolets, grab my chip and actually hace a few minutes to jog about before the pre race instructions.

It was still cold, but the sun was high, bright and warming, so I stripped down to my Duathlonman outfit and hit the starting line at a 44 degrees F. I lined up on the front row. Got in my racing position and waited for the gun. Now sit down there sonnyboy and let me tell you about when I used to be fast. I knew how to get off the line in the lead and hold it till the end. Yessir. Fast from start to end. Now all I can do is get off the line first, before anyone else, yep thats what I can do.

Falling to the hole shot

click for big
race images courtesy of pet pangea

So I did. I got hole shot and immediately chilled out and started running slower. There was a strong pack of 5 runners that started really strongly with me right behind and unknowable hordes lapping at my heels waiting for me to falter. After a long downhill the course went up a bit and I slowly fell back of the lead group which was spreading across the road. As the run progressed I fell further and further back and all sorts of people passed me. I passed some of them back and then the run was over with me in 10th overall. Last year I felt suprisingly fast in the run, this year I felt slow and struggily.

I had a middling transition and got on the bike. The first thing I noticed on the bike was how much differently it feels to be riding my road bike than the Big Dummy. The course started with a right turn out of the transition area and I almost steered straight across the road into a ditch. After a few pedal strokes I got my rhythm, figured out how to steer again and immediately startd cranking. The course is an out and back over a series of rollers. I pass three people in the initial parts of the ride and settle in the drops and crank. It is cold and a bit windy, but I feel good. I see the next group of riders out ahead of me, but it takes me a while to catch them, I pass two of them right before the turnaround point and one shortly after. I am feeling it in my calves and quads as I try to stay on pace.

locked elbows for speed as I am ambushed by a photog crouching in a ditch

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The rollers are somewhat demoralizing but I manage to put some ground on everyone I passed before the halfway point. I am having trouble dropping the guy (gustavo) I passed after the turnaround, but after going back and forth with him a bit, I manage to put him behind me on a long incline.

Outtadasaddle hup hup hup, into the teeth of the wind

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I roll into the transition in 4th overall with one guy hot on my heels. I manage a similarly middling transition and head out into the course with no one within sight ahead of me, but more hordes real and implied at my heels. Gustavo passes me quickly in the run and I attempt to hold it together to remain in fifth. Running after hard biking is never fun, especially when you practice it once a year during this race, so I was abit clunky, but moving along at a good clip. At about the halfway point in the last run I look behind me and see no one, so I am feeling pretty good about repeating my fifth place from the year before. The course kind of eases up on the second half of the run with a protracted downhill, and I guess I eased up too because three seconds later I hear an odd honking sound and footsteps behind me. I look back to see some fast runner killing himself to blow by me and then promptly do so. He then gapped me, caught gustavo, who was cruising along 100 yards in front of me, and dropped him too. Huh, I thought, I guess I am not going so fast.

As the race drew to a close local fast postal worker Ted caught me. I thought I surely could stay with him for the last quarter mile or so, but no, he ran away from me like I was pretty much not trying too hard. But I was. I was not going fast, but I was trying pretty hard.


click for big

So I finished in 1:04:57 which was about a minute and a half slower than last year. Still good for seventh and first in my age group (maybe second in my age group really, but the winner was in my age group, so I got first by default or something). Unlike the previous year, when there was no one within 2 minutes of me either way at the finish, the second run was quite competitive, but I still think the second run is gratuitous. Results here. It occured to me mid race that I never ever run on pavement anymore as it hurts to much, so going from not running on pavement for a couple of years to raceing on pavement is pretty darn painfull. I could feel the soreness starting on the first run. My calves and hips hated it. I think this more than anything else keeps me from racing the longer race at this point.

My splits were:
17:30 run (10th fastest)- 1:15 transition - 26:18 bike (fifth fastest)-1:07 transition- 18:49 (10th fastest).

Last year it was:
00:17:06 run (6th) 00:27:05 bike plus both transitons (7th) 00:19:21 run (7th)

My conclusions were that more faster runners were here this year, conditions were slower and I am not quite in as good running shape as last year, but my cumulative run time was about the same... Huh. Who knows, next year aerobars and lacelocks, unless I get older again. Maybe I will not sit down in the transition area, I noticed all the fast people did not sit down when they changed shoes. Maybe...

I did win the Cowbell of Age Group Victory. Which is cool. I love cow bells. It had a dinky clapper, but I fixed that with a aluminum water bottle bolt, a dork nut and a lock nut. Woo.

The cowbell of age group victory!

Highly customized clapper mod, west coast cowbells here I come

After I finished the race, I ate some donuts streched a bit, and watched the Fat Man long race. My buddy Clay won by alot. His report is here. He subtly barely mentioned that he won, by something like 7 minutes. Good job pal. He made it look easy.

Anyhoo, I watched some more of the race and then swapped the bike tray around so the bike was pointing backwards. I racked the bike and then road on home. Putting the rack on backwards and at an angle was a nice change. I was able to strap the fork of the bike to the back of the V rack and the rear tire and rack were far enough away from the bike that I could pedal without interference.

The setup was wobbily out of the saddle, especially on the hills, but managable. I think if I used the long loader to stablize the rear wheel, it would have been better.

rolling up the hill

The ride back was very slow, but pretty comfortable. Last year it was slow but really really uncomforable as I was riding the racebike with a huge pack on my back. Things that would have improved the ride this year would be not having the saddle be slightly crooked, getting more stability out of the saddle and not wearing shorts with such a huge seam between the legs. Also not being sore would be nice, but hard to do after a race like that. Overall I really enjoyed the race, despite the cold and the pain and the soreness. I probably will do it again next year. Yep. Probably...

Back at the house


gpickle said...


That is awesome Tarik! Great pictures and report and I just love it when people ride to races. Ira tells me about old Belgian racers who had racks to carry their race wheels on their bikes so they could ride to the race without risking puncture, I bet they would have flipped out for an Xtracycle.

Antoine said...

So your meticulous preparation and training paid off. Here's to no lace-locks and eighth place next year.

Tarik Saleh said...

Pickle, G,

Thanks man, it worked well. Way back in 98 or so I tried to design a QR rear wheel rack so I could carry a pair of racing tubulars on my track bike and switch at the velodrome, but I decided it was easier just to race on clinchers. Some of the brit TT racers used to do the same thing. Ride to the race with fenders and training wheels, race wheels on the rack, and then strip the fenders, switch to race wheels, hit the TT, do it all in reverse for the ride back home. Good stuff indeed.


Yep, meticulous, thats the exact word.

Thanks for reading.

OmarSaleh said...

in the starting line picture, it kinda looks like you are falling over dead. The way your arms are all dangly?

so..ummm...are you dead or something?

Tarik Saleh said...

Yes, I first die a little bit to get one of those Flatliners-esque time contraction dealies thus getting the jump on the norms and their watches. See? Of course you see, you are a physicist!

Then, obviously, I undie and do the race...

Maureen said...

very thorough race report! at least your bike time was faster this year than last year!

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