Pontevedra World Duathlon Championships 2014 Race Report
Spencer Summerfield – 1:05:25 (Sprint Duathlon 25-29AG- 19/30)
People who know me are familiar with my training and daily workouts to prepare for this huge event, but for those who are not it has been a long year of tireless training and hard work to prepare for international competition.
The race was located in the beautiful city of Pontevedra, Spain and for those who don’t know it’s right above Portugal on in the North West tip of the country. Located on the Coast of the Atlantic Ocean there is zero humidity and sea-level elevation. What this meant for me was I didn’t have to do any elevation training and heat would not be an issue. I am not usually bothered by temperatures of 24C+ but knowing that the fresh ocean air would be there to help my lungs was a plus.
Race Course and Transition Setup
I knew the courses going in and had been preparing all winter indoors on the Computrainer for what I knew would be the hardest bike course of my career thus far. The run was a 2.5K loop that started and ended inside a track and field stadium, which also housed transition and finish line. The first 800 meters of each run loop was uphill and after that it was flat and slightly downward back threw the city’s narrow streets with sharp 90-degree turns and twists before heading back into the stadium.
The transition area was huge in comparison to anything I have racked my bike in before, one advantage is that my number was 182 so my bike was in the first row leading out of transition for the bike loop. There was a basket at every rack point for your race kit items and the bars were marked with race numbers and easily readable. I was given two options to rack my bike and after discussing it with my coach we decided that it would be a good idea to check my bike the night before so I didn’t have to deal with the fuss in the morning. This turned out to be an excellent idea because that was an hour and a half process to get my bike checked, racked and all set for the next morning. Canada had the third largest team at this event behind Great Britain and USA.
The bike course was just shy of 20K for the out and back. The first half was uphill all the way and was it ever a challenging course. Starting around sea-level and climbing 300 meters of elevation over 10K was a task let me tell you. With grade hitting 14% at times this was grueling uphill climb that I will never forget. You left the stadium and mounted you bike before heading out of the city threw roundabouts and city streets. After 1 km of city riding you were out on a highway headed up the mountain. The course was uphill but there were only two large climbs that made up most of the ride. The two largest 2K climbs were quite challenging with only a few hundred meters of rest in between. It felt like a threshold test twice over. The overall average of the entire course was about 5-7% grade. At the top there was a quick turn around and then it was back down the mountain, knowing how fast it was going to be from training rides on previous days with Team Canada I was excited to hammer the decent. I averaged 44+ km/hr for the decent and made hit a maximum of 70 km/hr. I had made the choice a couple of days before to change up my cassette on my bike and I was glad to have my 11T for the way down. Once you reached the bottom and the adrenaline slowed down you road back to the stadium and dismounted and proceed to run the bike back into transition.
The second run was the same as the first so nothing to dramatic there only that you can finally head to that blue finish line!
Race morning I woke up feeling refreshed and excited for competition after a great nights sleep. Getting my kit ready I grabbed my timing chip, race belt, Garmin, helmet/shoes and bike pump and headed out the door. Arriving about an hour before start time is quite normal for me and I find it works best for me. I found my bike exactly how I had left it from check-in the night before and started to get it ready. I went threw my usual pre race inspection on my bike which is breaks tire pressure and something I find a lot of people forget, make sure you are in a easy gear for when you jump on your bike at the mount line. My helmet was placed on my handlebars and I attached my shoes with their elastics now my bike was ready and could move on to focus on run warm-up. What I should also mention is that I usually do a bike warm-up but because I checked my bike in the night before I didn’t get to do that. This was concerning at the time but I realize now it didn’t not effect me in the slightest to miss that bike warm-up.
Run warm-up for me consists of 30second counts on each leg to check pacing and some quick pickups and fartlek’s. Once I do these I just ran around the track with the other athletes and talked to people from all kinds of countries. With 10 minutes to race start I went to the bathroom and back out on the track to keep the legs loose. For me I find it normal to go again with 5 minutes before race start. When there was about 3 minutes to start time everyone in the first wave was corralled like cattle in pens beside the start line. The first wave was all the 5-year age groups from 16-39 year old males. We were moved from pen to pen as the minutes counted down, at the time if felt like an eternity but was mere minutes. Once they let us on the track for start lineup I found a spot behind a literal pack of Spanish athletes about 10 from the front. Knowing the caliber of athletes at this competition I felt that this was a good spot for me not at the front and not at the back I would say in the first third of athletes. At this point I had to keep telling myself to keep calm and race hard for your Country. I stood quietly composing myself and getting into “the zone” while others laughed and joked about. I guess we all have ways of dealing with excitement and stress, mine is to go quiet and clear my mind.
Before you know it there is some things announced in Spanish and then you hear “ready” BEEEEEEEEP as the horn goes off with no warning. The start happens so fast and is apparently normal for this level of competition.
The first run starts everyone took off to the run-out gate from the stadium. There was so much congestion that when I was squeezing threw the gate I slowed down to almost a walk. It was a hard 90-degree turn as everyone spilled out on the street and headed off. Right out of the stadium you took a turn that ran back at the stadium and immediately did a 180 and started you up the only climb on the run course that was about 800 meters. I felt strong as I flew up the hill keeping my pace steady by shortening my stride and thinking “fast feet”. At the top you turned down into the heart of the city’s pedestrian area with narrow streets and sharp corners. The streets were narrow but the pack of people quickly thinned out over the first 2 km and I found myself in the top third of runners. I settled into what I felt would be a fast pace but one that I could hold for 5K. I still felt strong as I re entered the stadium for my second loop, the pace I hade set be it fast was one I felt comfortable holding. Running along the track you by passed the finish line and went out on the second loop. Looking back I didn’t even feel the 800m climb on the second loop either, I know I was faster form the start but now that I had my adrenaline under control and was focused I was able to repeat a quick climb again comfortably.
The last km of the second loop I started to think of transition and mentally went over everything I needed to like where I had to run to and where the bike out shoot was in relation to my bike.
I entered the stadium feeling strong and headed all the way to the first rack where my bike was located. I was lucky because I really didn’t have to count the rows of racks or anything I just knew I had to get to the first one. Running into transition I ran about 50 meters and then turned down my row where my bike was located and quickly put on my helmet, removed my shoes and headed down the row towards the bike shoot. Once I had my bike all I had to do was run down to the end of the row and into the bike shoot. The shoot went all along the bottom of the transition area before turning and running all the way back up the side of transition and then out. It was by far the longest transition I have ever had to deal with around 400m in distance. I had a fast T1, which I usually do and once you cleared the bike out shoot you ran to the mount line. The mount/dismount line was well marked with a think green and red carpet. I felt confident that I was going to stick my “flying” mount, which I have only practiced a few times and usually goes fairly well. Shockingly when I crossed the mount line there were a few people that actually had stopped to step over their bike and were in my way. I ran threw them and jumped over my bike landing comfortable on the seat managing to get my toes in my shoes right away. The only issue I had was one of my shoes pull-tabs on the heel got stuck inside my shoe and I had to mess with it a little before tightening them up. Overall I was very happy with my mount because I knew leaving my shoes on my bike for T1 was something I personally wanted to start doing and worked out great. I am envisioning that my local races T1 times are going to be 20 seconds faster this summer at least. Out on the bike!
The bike course started out of the city right away, over 1 km or so and then you were out on the highway. I found myself headed out with a fair amount of people and by now the other waves had started so I was sure to see more people from all age groups. Quickly I shifted down into a gear I was comfortable with climbing 2% grades and peddled hard. Keep in mind that the entire course for the 10k out was all up hill, the first 2k I knew would be the best time to flush my legs from the run. At 2k I had my first taste of 6% grade and climbed for about 500m, this was a good way to prep my legs for what was coming. At this point in the ride I was feeling great and still passing quite a few people that had been stronger on the run. Kilometers 2-6 were a series of little ups and downs and I kept a steady cadence of 90+ keeping my eyes out for a land mark I had picked on a training ride that signaled the first of the 2 large climbs. I averaged 35km/hr and once I saw my “landmark” a small house with a laundry line I knew that the first climb was right away, so I shifted up and got my legs spinning. There was about 100 meters of flat ground before I hit an 8-10% grade climb that lasted 500 meters, immediately followed by another climb of 5-6% grade. Both of these climbs were around 1k in distance and felt like an eternity at an average speed of 20km/hr. TO my surprise my heart rate never went above 157bpm during the bike at all in fact I averaged 148bpm. From kilometers 8-10 again there was a series short ups and down grade changes from 7% and as low as -11%. The turn around was located 1km past my second “landmark” a gas station and that marked the pain of climbing was almost done. Seeing this for me was a huge relief because I was truly exhausted, my legs were in such agony and fatigue. On The way to the top I had seen a large group of riders headed back down and one of them was carded for drafting and panelized with a 1:00 minute addition to his time. The drafting distance was set at 10 meters and I wish that more officials had been on the course to enforce it. I turned around at the top and quickly shifted down to pick up speed. The descent happened so quickly in comparison to the climb that I was peddling as hard as I could. It took me 20 minutes to climb the 10K and just over 13 to descend down the mountain. I had a maximum speed of almost 70k/hr on the way down keeping my cadence average just over 100rpm for the 2 fast descents. I was glad I had put my 11T ring back on my cassette because I used it the entire way down. There were a few up hill sections but they didn’t last long because I was carrying so much speed from the top I shifted up a few times to spin up my legs and quickly back down. AS I got closer to the bottom with about 2 km to go I had to coast a few times to let me legs rest and I was also now in a pack of people and didn’t want to get carded for drafting. The last kilometer I was had my heart rate down and was focused on the crown and people cheering as you re entered the city streets and the heart of the racecourse. I had me feet out of my shoes and was ready for the dismount line with time to spare, I don’t feel that I lost any time here just that I used it to focus on getting ready to enter T2.
I dismounted without any hesitation and ran my bike into the transition area. This was another time when I was thankful I didn’t have to remember what row I was in just run to the first one. Running my bike into transition I was mentally feeling strong and energized, my legs on the other hand were in some, specifically my left calf. I racked my bike and took set my helmet on the bars. Quickly slipping on my race flats I was out on the run as fast as possible. T2 was another fast transition for me, faster than T1. Because you didn’t not have to run the bike shoot T2 about 200meters shorter than T1.
Headed out of the stadium for my last loop of the course I knew that mentally I was starting to feel tired and it wasn’t just my body. Anyone who knows me is aware of my genetic heart condition, for those of you who don’t I have LQT Type 3. I take a beta blocker (Nadalol 20mg) that keeps my heart rate under control and limits its cardiac capacity by about 30%. This is something that I have been only taking as of recently and has severely impacted my endurance.
So for me to feel tired only at this point in the race was a positive. The first hill was the 800m climb that I struggled up, honestly I was not expecting to feel like that but all you can so is keep going. Running off the bike is by far my weakest area of this sport and I am working on it to improve. Once I finally got the top I just kept telling myself it was “only another 2 kilometers” “only another kilometer”. My calf was screaming by now and I kept digging deep to fight the pain, which is by far the worst thing I have felt in a long time. A huge thanks goes out to my wife Laura cheering her face off and rooting for me, with her my coach Gabbi and her husband Ken were located at the bike in/out and run in/out the entire race and seeing their cheering faces gave me the little extra needed to finish.
When you came around the last corner before entering the stadium for the last time all you could hear was people cheering for everyone from all countries. At this point it was just finish strong knowing that you just accomplished something amazing and had fun doing it. When you entered the stadium you took an immediate right and headed to the finish line and headed for that bright blue finish line carpet. The last hundred meters running in to the finish line is almost euphoric and hard to describe unless you have experienced it first hand. Its not like crossing a finish line at a local race, there is something special about it and it leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and pride. For me personally it was quite emotional and those last 30 seconds as every other sound melted away except the cheering crowd and my entire journey up to that point flashed threw my mind. Crossing the finish line with my arms raised you are immediately snapped back into reality and just want to collapse from exhaustion and pain.
Conclusion and Summary
In conclusion the experience and memories are something I will not ever forget. Being part of something on this level gives you a feeling of purpose and reward for all of your hard work.
I would not change anything that I did in my race of in preparation; it was honestly a perfect event in my mind. I set myself a goal of 1:05:00 and was only off by a few seconds and that is just fine with me. For me a year was the right amount of time for preparation I was confident in my winter training times and biking my bike power was off the chart form where I thought I would ever be.
Winter 2013, I was running just under a 20-minute 5K’s and had a FTP Power of 243 Watts.
May 2014, I now run low 18-minute 5K’s and have a FTP of 277 Watts.
Looking at the data in number form looks impressive, but when you can put it all together and preform so well it’s almost unheard of. To date the World Duathlon Championships has been my best race overall all things considered and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
In the future I will keep training and working hard to improve my overall fitness and abilities in multi-sport and one day I will be able to do it all again and represent this great country of Canada.