Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Race Report: American Zofingen Short Course Duathlon

By Jessica Douglas

This race is epic.  I knew it would be tough going in, but I had no idea what I was in for.  

The race is held in New Paltz, NY, right in the heart of the Catskill Mountains.  It's pretty easy to get to, take the pike to 87 south in NY, about 3.5 hours.

The race is run by a small multisport shop, which was a little difficult to find, as they had moved to a new location, and I did not get the email with the new address.  It is a very small race, very low key.  Not a bad way to start the season.  There are several options. Short Duathlon - 5 mile trail run, 29 mile road bike, 5 mile trail run, Mid Distance Duathlon - 5 Trail, 29 Bike, 5 Trail, 29 Bike, 5 Trail, and Long Duathlon - 5 Trail, 87 bike, 15 trail.  I chose the Short Course, FoBTT Jana did the Mid-Distance for the second time.  They also offer ITT's of 56 and 112 miles.

The area is beautiful, and we had spectacular weather (sunny and mid-70's).  It is hilly!  We drove the course the day before, which really helped to know where the tight turns are. There is very little road that is flat, most of it is climbing or descending, and there are several tight turns off of descents.  I was very glad that I had a new 12-27 cassette and brake pads put on my bike the week of the race!

We got to the race and got transition set up in a beautiful field.  The Race Director played the "Star Spangled Banner" on his bagpipes, but before he did, they did a small dedication of the race to a close friend and racer, G. Chris Gleason, who passed away in the Philadelphia Marathon this past year.  I was not expecting this, and it was emotional, as his wife, sister, and several family members were there to race under his race number (he had already entered the race) in a relay.  It is obviously a tight community and I talked to a lot of people who knew Chris.  

Racing the short course was nice, as I got to watch the longer races start, each 30 minutes apart.  I warmed up, took in some last nutrition, and started the race with about 50 others.  I was supposed to try to average 9 min/mile and really wanted to go under that, but about .6 miles in, I knew that would not happen.  The trail went from an open field, rolling hills, to a single track, fairly steep and technical trail for about 1 mile, where we all slowed to a shuffle.  Then you hit an open, flat trail where you could actually run.  Then, another uphill to the 3-mile mark.  There was an aid station, which you actually passed 2x.  Especially nice on the second loop!  Then the second half of the loop was mostly downhill, some on open trails, some on single tracks, then through another field to transition.  I had to walk in a few steep spots, but was able to finish in 46:30, just a little off my goal of 45.

The first part (.6 miles) of the bike is a hilly dirt road to exit the park.  When you hit the road, you are immediately smacked in the face with a steep uphill, climbing about 400 feet in 1 mile.  Then you get a nice descent and some rolling hills through the 5 mile mark.  My calves started to cramp after the descent, as I really hadn't trained a lot of running before biking.  They settled down after a few miles and I could start to work, as we were starting the big climb to mile 15.  I didn't get to see much of the scenery, but there are some gorgeous "scenic overlooks" along the course.  There is an aid station at mile 17, and a lot of descending after that!  There are a couple of steep climbs again in the last 7 miles, where I was really grateful for the new cassette, and then you turn back onto the dirt road to transition.  I finished the bike in 1:55, a little slower than I wanted, but right where Coach Jorge thought I would be.

I grabbed a bottle from my bike to take with me on the trails, as it was definitely warm now.  There was no "shuffling" up the steeps this lap.  I just power walked my way up and ran wherever it leveled out a little.  My legs were burning and beat all over, but trail running really is much more interesting than road running and I was enjoying myself.  At this point, I didn't know how many women were in front of me.  I had passed a few, but the field was so spread out, I had no idea where anyone else was.  So, I tried to keep an eye over my shoulder for anyone coming up on me and pushed as much as I could. When I saw the last field, I was pumped.  The race finishes in a rustic pavilion, where they serve burgers, fruit, pasta, and beer!  Final run was about 52 minutes, again slower than I wanted, but I had nothing left in the tank.

I was surprised to see that I was the 5th female finisher, and won my age group!  I was especially pumped to learn that I won a gigantic beer mug.  Even better, the multi-talented race director also brews beers, so we had a nice Stout and IPA to drink after the race!

I met so many nice people there.  I was hanging out by myself most of the time, as Jana was still on course (she won the mid-distance race for the 2nd year in row BTW), and had no shortage of racers and supporters to talk to.  They were so friendly, and I learned a lot about the race organizers and the man they dedicated the race to.  There were massage and ART practitioners there, so I got some work done before driving home. 

I was assured that there is a pattern for the weather for this race.  They have 1 year of horrendous weather (which they had last year), then 4 years of spectacular weather!  So, we are set for the next three years.  I am hoping to go back there with a little better training under my belt and see what I can do.  Who's with me??

Here is a link to the website if you want to check out the course and start planning for next year! 

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