Posted by: cadavidson | March 4, 2013

McDowell Mountain Duathlon Race Report

Way back in 1998, when I started this endurance racing madness, the McDowell Mountain Duathlon was my very first multisport race. I remember the morning of the race, my truck wouldn’t start (of course). My dad accompanied me to this race and I was hooked! I did not even have cycling shoes! I just ran, hopped on my bike, cinched down the toe straps on the pedals, and rode off. I sort of miss the ignorant bliss and simplicity of not knowing what to do. It gets so much more complicated, and stressful (although I like this kind of stress), when you know how you’re supposed to handle transitions and gear…

I revisited the Desert Classic Duathlon in 2005 as part of my build up for Ironman Arizona. In 2005 I managed a 5th place in the 25-29 age group. Since I don’t have any other pictures, and since I thought it was really funny, I’ve posted a pic of me during the 2005 edition. The funny thing is: I’m wearing the EXACT same top and EXACT same shorts! I still have the same sunglasses and, arm warmers, and helmet (I normally still use the lid pictured, however for this race, I chose to wear the helmet I wore in 1998).

I hope my readers can find the humor in me wearing the EXACT same kit 8 years later!

I hope my readers can find the humor in me wearing the EXACT same kit 8 years later!


This would be my first multisport race since that 2005 year. I was really looking forward to this race. There’s something about the geekiness of getting gear ready the night before a multisport race. Multi pairs of shoes, glasses, transition towel, bike stuff,  etc, etc.. that I find really fun. I visited packet pick-up the day before the race in Tempe at TriSports Tempe. Nothing additional needed, so I managed to escape without dropping any serious cash, which is always a problem at such stores!

Race morning went as expected for me – meaning, I was the FIRST car in the parking lot. That’s right, the only cars there before me were volunteers. And it wasn’t like all of the volunteers beat me there… I just like arriving early. Takes the stress out of worrying about traffic and rushing around the start and transition areas, particularly during a multisport event which includes setting up transition. Another benefit that my brother-in-law, who is training for Ironman right now, would appreciate, is the opportunity for multiple port-o-potty visits!

I would be in the first starting wave, which included all males 40 and under, at 8:00 sharp. I still qualify for this handily at 35! There would be two waves following me, over 40 men in wave 2 at 8:03 and all women in wave 3 at 8:06. My goal was to not get caught, which I thought was doable especially since I knew I would put some time into the over 40 guys on the first run. Chasing3 Productions did an awesome job of starting the race off on schedule. The race started with a roughly 3.5 mile run. I think the run was a little longer than 3.5, but close enough, besides trail runs are much more difficult to get accurate measurements on. The first .5 mile is a gradual uphill paved section. I started in about 10 position and felt good. As I age, it seems like it takes me longer and longer to settle into a good fast pace. Within 10 minutes I was into 8th position. I stayed in this position for the remainder of run 1. Run 1 over three miles of trail. I’ve been doing ALLOT of trail running and racing recently with the end goal of a good (hopefully 10 hours and top 5) at the Zane Grey 50 on April 27th. Most of my recent trail races have been part of Aravaipa Running’s DRT Trail racing series. The distances have ranged from 25 – 35k and have been on some great technical courses. Aravaipa has done an awesome job on these races! They are extremely well organized, start on time, present awards within minutes, yet still remain low-key as ultra running and trail running should be!

I completed run 1 in 24:20, for a 6:57 pace according to the 3.5 mile distance. I entered T1 in 8th and exited T1 in 8th position. I was glad to see I didn’t dink around and waste time and lose positions here.  My T1 time was 47 seconds. That’s 47 seconds to enter, find my transition area, take off running shoes, put on cycling shoes, put on my helmet, and get out of the transition area with my bike. I thought pretty good. The fastest T1 time was about 35 seconds, so I didn’t lose to much time.

My transition area on the blue and white striped towel.

My transition area on the blue and white striped towel.

The bike is where it all came apart. The course was shaped like a letter “T”. Once you exit the transition area, a right turn was made. The course was two out and backs along the top of the “T.” I missed the first bike turn-around. The turn around was at approximately mile three. Me and three or four others blew right through it. I take full responsibility for missing it, however the sheriff manning the position made absolutely no effort to alert us. The four of us were unsure if we  had missed the turn or not and rode about two miles past the turn around, for a total of 4 extra bike miles. Four miles extra on what should have been a 25 miles bike leg can kill a time. I figure I list about 12 minutes here at a 21 MPH average. The rest of the bike went well. I was never passed from the point I rejoined the course and passed a handful of people. I finished the bike in 1:27:08. The bike computer had my average speed at 21.1 MPH. I was very pleased with this. In the past, I’ve always lost so many positions on the bike. I focused on keeping my heart rate HIGH during this bike section. I find that I usually do not work hard enough on the bike. For instance I can run a 10-mile tempo run at a heart rate between 160 and 165 and feel relatively good. On the bike though, 160 feels very, very uncomfortable. If I ride to feel on the bike, I would not ride hard enough. My goal was to keep my heart rate above 150. I was around 149 – 155 for the entire ride. I can, and should have, pushed much harder. I’m glad I continued riding the bike hard. As I my extra miles back to the bike course I considered just rolling through the bike course because I knew that my chances for a top three were all but gone in such a short race. I really enjoyed riding my Pinarello FPQuattro during the bike leg. Nearly all the other fast cyclists had tri-bikes, so I took pride in passing several of them while comfortably riding in the drops while they were tucked away in the arrow position.

Sandy, Gravelly stretch leading into transition.

Sandy, Gravelly stretch leading into transition.

There was a short gravelly, sand section, probably 150 meters between the rode and the transition area. While the mountain bikers probably enjoyed this, it had potential to cause some problems for the skinny tired road athletes. Fortunately, I didn’t see anyone go down. Most athletes were smart and sort of rolled through this section. My T2 time was 54 seconds. This transition was about 10 seconds longer than I would have liked. I tried the strategy of leaving my shoes tied after T1 and trying to just slip them on during T2 before the final run leg. I had them laced a bit too tight and struggled for a few seconds to get them on.

I felt phenomenal during the second run leg. I passed several others during this 3.6 mile run. I knew though, that each person I passed, was still ahead of me on race time because they had started in a later wave. That missed first turnaround really killed me! I didn’t have the slightest inkling of a cramp, and generally felt excellent this entire run. My pace came in at 7:37 for a 27:20 final run. My second run time was the 8th fastest of the day. Which was exactly the same as my first run – 8th fastest. I’m certain that had I not missed the first bike turnaround I would have run this second run leg faster. I think I could have held on during the bike and maybe only lost three or four positions, which I would have made back up on the run. Had I not missed that turnaround, I think I might have been able to crack  the top10! In all of my years racing, this was my first error missing a turn, turnaround, etc…

All in all, a really fun day at the races. As much as I love running races, specifically trail racing, there’s a special place in my heart for multisport racing. I like the culture of ultrarunning so much more, but the multisport racing is really fun!

GEAR (because I love writing about gear):

Run – I knew this stretch of trail was not very technical, and since it was short, I left the Hoka One One’s at home. Anyone who follows my race reports knows that I love my Hokas! I decided to wear my Adidas training shoes. I didn’t go with a very light weight shoe, only because I wanted a little cushion from the occasionally jagged rock in this generally smooth trail section. As pictured I wore my 2005  Pearl Izume tri-shorts and a Sugio tri singlet. Both worked well. Fairly comfortable on the bike with the minimal padding and no chaffing or anything negative from the top.

Bike – I rode my newly acquired Pinarello FPQuattro. I did not use clip-on bars, just good old road bars. This bike is so comfortable, I can stay in the drops all day. I attached my Garmin 310XT to the handle bar mount before the race and wore my HR monitor during the run (without the watch since it was on my bike). I can push myself hard enough on the run, so I feel confident I’m going at the right effort on the run, but I need to know my HR on the bike in order to go hard! I elected to ditch the water bottle. The bike was 25 miles, or it was supposed to be at least, until I blew through the turnaround, so I figured just over an hour in cool weather didn’t require hydration. This was a good decision. I downed two gels during the bike and this was the correct level of nutrition for this race.  I was a little unsure if I should bring tools and a tube to change a tire if necessary. The field seemed about 50/50 split on this. I elected to bring my saddlebag with tube, tire levers, and CO2. Fortunately, I did not need it.



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