With the 2013 Long Course Duathlon Nationals (AKA Mt. Rainier Duathlon) coming up next weekend, I spent some time riding and running the courses yesterday to give you a sneak preview and some advice on how to approach the course.
I’ll start by saying that there is a lot about this course that I like and I think that everyone should find something that they like about it. The course offers a great deal of variety, but is not highly technical. The hill climbing on the bike will favor strong riders, but there is enough other terrain to help even that out a bit as well. In short, I think this is a fair race course and should be good for well rounded athletes.
Run Course 1: At just over five miles (5.12), this course isn’t quite a 10K but is long enough that it should slow down the sprinters a bit. Looking at this on the map, I thought that it would be totally flat, but the race organizers managed to find the one hill in this part of town to incorporate into the course. The hill starts after a hard left turn right at the 3 mile mark and climbs quickly up a rolling set of inclines. The hill is short but steep and I think this is going to separate the girls from the women so to speak. If anyone has gone out too fast, they will pay for it here. There is a nice recovery coming back down the other side of the hill and then the course flattens back out in the last mile.
My advice as always is to pace yourself wisely in the first run. Your running pace should be a pace (effort level) that you can keep up for the entire duathlon — not just for that first run. Most people go out way to fast in the first run. Remember that you have a lot of riding to do after you transition, so take it easy. Work your way up the hill and then use the down hill to recover and get yourself set for the transition as you come back to the start/finish area.
Bike Course: The meat of this race is going to be on the bike. At 28.88 miles this feels quite short for a “long course” race, however, the hilly terrain makes it challenging and it will feel longer. I think the way to mentally approach this course is to divide the laps into three segments: 1) the first portion of the race until you hit the bottom of the climb (0-6 miles), 2) the climb (miles 6-8), and 3) the recovery and descent (miles 8-14). You’ll do two laps of the course.
The first section of the course is the first six miles. This was my favorite part of the course. It is mostly flat. The pavement is in good condition. Depending on the wind conditions, this is a great part of the course to really push. You’ll find that once you turn onto Mud Mountain Road from miles 3 to 6 the terrain becomes quite nuanced with a number of false flats. The road looks flat, but your speed will drop, because the road is just slightly up hill. For those of you that like to shift gears, you’ll love this section of the course. Those that don’t, won’t. There is one spot in particular right before mile 6 when I noticed that my speed drop A LOT each time through the course because of a small hidden roller. You need to pay attention and keep your cadence up.
The second section of the course is the hill climb up Mud Mountain Road. I’m not sure if most riders would really consider this much of a hill if it wasn’t in the midst of a time trial course, but it does have some climb to it. I would break the climb down into three sections. The first incline is at the bottom and is the steepest of the entire climb. This segment is short — maybe 200 meters — but it is the only part that you might have to get out of the saddle. Get into your easiest gears and work your way up. The course then flattens for a few hundred meters and then starts up again. This second section is not as steep but a little longer. I’d say here, definitely stay in the saddle to keep from burning out your legs.
Once again, the road flattens out, this time for a bit longer — maybe half a mile or so. In this area, you should be able to get yourself back into your bigger gears and recover. Then you’ll start the last bit of the climb. This is a gentle climb that goes on for the better part of a mile. You will feel like giving in on this section. Just keep repeating to yourself the mantra “don’t throw in the towel” and keep spinning. Stay in the saddle and you’ll get through it. 685 feet in 2.6 miles of climbing. Not so bad, but you have to do it twice.
Once you get to the top of the climb, there is a nice flat two mile section of road on which to recover. Get into your big gears and groove through this.Watch for the cinder block wall. Follow the green line.[/caption]The last segment is the descent back to the start finish. I’m not a fan of descending so I looked really carefully at this. There are two unfortunate things about this descent. First, it is the only highway section on the course, so this pretty much the only place where you’ll need to stay far over to the left. Second, there is a really bad section of broken concrete at the bottom of the lower part of the descent where a road enters from the right. Look for a big cinder block wall and you’ll see the concrete pad where trucks enter the road. You may be inclined to go left to avoid the concrete, but the road surface is chopped to bits on the left, so go right. All in all, the descent is not bad. There are no sharp turns that require braking, so you can stay on your aero bars for almost all of it, except maybe the very top where you may feel you need more control of the bike.
Lap two will feel like deja vu, except that the hill climb will feel longer as your legs will be getting tired.
Run 2 - The second run is an easy three miles on flat roads. Just concentrate on working yourself up to speed without hyper-ventilating (as some people do). After making the turn-around the road is pretty much a straight shot back to the finish after mile 2.25. Go man go man!
This should be a competitive and fun race. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else thinks! See you in Enumclaw, Washington.
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
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