I survived racing on the hamstring at Welland. In fact, it might have gone a bit better than I expected.
The lead up to the race weekend was crazy chez McKnapp. Renovations, pet things, work stress, it was all there. So we decided not to go the night before (jacked hotel rates helped me make that decision, too). We rose quite early race morning, leaving town before 6am, with bike on roof and dog in back. It’s a bit of a longer drive than I like for same-day race arrivals, but we arrived onsite fairly early, allowing me to cram myself into the [very tight] transition zone and do race site recce.
Then off I went to start a long warm-up to wake up my body and activate the hamstring that threatened to keep me off the course. It was nice to have the extra time to witness the very large field of duathletes, including meeting some familiar names for the first time in person, and catching up with some others I’ve met before. The duathlon community isn’t huge, but it’s tight. A pleasant side effect of the sport is having that community.
Race start was in, effectively, a chute, as the group was large and backed into the “Run Out” fencing from Transition. To be appropriately modest, I put myself in the back 2/3 of the pack vs. up my usual spot, near the first 1/3. I was completely unsure how things would go, and kept reminding myself to just be there for the experience.
As the field took off on the first run, I did what I had said I wouldn’t and got caught up in the speed of the group. Nowhere near my planned pace. My speed limiter of a left hammy made me aware this wouldn’t work. Slowed down, then realized I was still going faster than my “safe” pace. Slowed down more. Check.
Each time I felt the hamstring hitch, I’d slow down my run and it would subside. This might have happened twice in the first run, and four or five times in the second, aka longer run, but the very good news was that I kept running, and I did way better on pace than I had feared I would. And I didn’t have to walk.
My run times were not as slow as I thought they would be, and while I finished in the middle of the pack — both in regards to my age group and the overall standings — I did finish, and I felt good for it. The bike was almost inconsequential, but I did do better on that than I have to date — faster pace, consistent, and very comfortable in aero position.
And best of all, when I ran through that finish line, I felt like I could actually have gone on for a bit longer. This tells me the base fitness is there, despite my frustrations in run training. It was a max effort, but I didn’t feel like I was going to die.
Given the stress of the weeks leading up the race, and my physical frustrations, given that I tapered less than usual, I was pleased with how the race felt. I did need more recovery after than I was expecting (still did more training that week than I would have last year after a race), but I’m chalking that up to my increased training loads overall and to the additional stressors, more than the race itself.
The best part is, the mental hurdle has been cleared. Since that Welland race, I’ve been running further, and without meaning to, running faster. There’s still much rehab work to be done, for sure, and I’m not at last year’s race pace, but I’m at least getting somewhere. i’m looking forward to future races, rather than worrying that I won’t make it to start lines.
Team McKnapp Hits The Road
Our vacation in PEI puts me 30 minutes away from the TriLobster races in Summerside, PEI on Sunday, July 16, so I’m bringing the race bike and gear and giving that a go. The sprint duathlon profile looks a lot like the Welland race, short and flat, just with the longer run first, whereas at Welland, it was last. It’s the exact same distances — runs of 2.5 and 5km, and a bike of 20km. A flat course, out and back. It ought to be a pretty good comparison to the Welland race for tracking my progress in this never-ending recovery.
And it should be fun. It’s a very small race, with a field, it looks like, of about 10 competitors in total. Summerside is a small place, and the race goes right through town along the waterfront. There’s a standard (olympic) distance race at the same time, as well as various triathlon and other multi-sport options. With such a small group competing in the sprint du, I realize it’s entirely possible I will place last, running slower than my usual slow.
At this point, what I’m looking forward to is racing in a completely different place, with a different vibe, and the vacation that follows it. And that means I’ll also be training in a new place, which is always awesome.
We hit the road tomorrow, with the tri-bike on the roof racks (I’m told I can only bring one bike) and all our other stuff crammed in the SUV along with the very large Du Dog v2.0. We’ve got 18 hours of driving to do over the coming days, but we scheduled shorter days on our way there to allow for me to fit in some workouts and stay limber.
And most importantly, time to take in the views and experiences Atlantic Canada has to offer.
PEI, here we come!