Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Monday, March 28, 2011

RACE REPORT: Enchanted Rock Extreme Duathlon
March 27, 2011

This Sunday was the third annual Enchanted Rock Extreme Duathlon at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 30 minutes north of the historic, German town of Fredericksburg. This race features a five mile hilly trail run, a 16 mile out and back bike on hilly roads (with cows!), and a 1.2 mile run – straight up Enchanted Rock. Actually, "run" is a bit of exaggeration, since very few competitors have actually managed to run up the whole way, perhaps as few as three people in the three-year history!

My wife, Kat Hunter, and I have gone to this race every year, and this year was not just for fun – this was serious. In our three previous duathlons, I had yet to go faster than her. Obviously this could not stand, so this year I would have my revenge. Finally I had some solid run training before the event, so all I had to do was stay close on the run and pass her on the bike. No problem!

The run starts nears the pavilion area, and we all gather for a mass start. Kat and I position ourselves near the front, where I notice a young woman ( Apryl Mortenson of team Tri-Sition) who looked very fit. "Look out for her," I whisper to Kat, who replied "I know." She already had her game face on, had already identified her main rival. This was going to be fun!

The race starts and we all take off down the narrow trail. The first bit is relatively flat with a few rocks and stairs to navigate up and down. Then a quick run through the parking lot and back onto the trail, where it starts to get pretty steep uphill for about a mile. I pace myself on these uphills and Kat pulls away from me and her rival Apryl in the early going. I'm thinking Kat has the race won for a minute, but then when I look up again, Apryl has taken the lead! I'm not too worried yet. Last year the same thing happened when Monica Longlorai of the Texas A&M Tri Team threw down an amazing run time. Kat had managed to take the lead back on the bike, and I was sure she could do it again this year.

I pull up alongside the guy just ahead of me. "We're getting chicked," I joke. He says, "Yeah, by TWO of them," but he says that he's used to it, that it's his wife up there. "Me too, my wife is the other one!" I say. I try to get some intel out of him by super cleverly asking, "So does she beat you on the bike, too?" He answers, "Oh, we're about neck and neck." Uh oh! Ronald Mortenson looked like a pretty fit guy, and was running a decent pace. If his wife could bike with him, Kat might be in trouble. "This could be a good battle then!" I say.

We proceed to go back and forth on the run, trying to keep our wives in sight, but eventually they pull away as we get close to transition. I heard later from a spectator that Apryl came into transition with a good lead on Kat, but was sabotaged by her husband's bike when it fell over as she tried to get her own bike out of the crowded transition spot. She was far too kind and actually stopped to put his bike back up, losing a few seconds in the process. To be fair, the racks really were far too close together, one minor quibble in an otherwise perfect race. Kat took advantage of a smoother transition to take the lead at the start of the bike. (Though apparently she was not aware of that, as she hadn't seen Apryl in transition, and was quite worried!)

My transition was uneventful and I was ready to get on the bike and crush it to catch Kat, then drop her with authoritah! However, my lack of run fitness seemed to be getting the better of me. While I could maintain a fast, steady pace, when I tried to shift into ludicrous speed, every muscle in my legs would start to scream. There were 16 miles of hills to go, then a run straight up a huge rock, so I didn't want to blow up yet. Ludicrous speed was not an option.

I still managed to pass quite a few of those who outran me. Thankfully, I got ahead of all three Aggies (minor collegiate rivalry there, though I'm not a Longhorn, but an Owl). I was only passed by one competitor. As he pulled up next to me on a hill, I noticed his power meter and asked how many watts. "Three-fifty," he said. I kind of doubted that, but then he pulled away – far, far away, and I became a believer.

Approaching transition, I became aware that I would not be catching Kat, again, this year. Her and her Cervelo P2C must have gone as fast as I had (wrong, she had gone minutes faster). Goals had to be adjusted – now I just wanted to podium in my age group and go as fast as I could. Off the bike, and onto the trail to the climb.

Once again I decided I would try to jog the whole way up. Three steps later, plans had to be adjusted. The steep grade just makes one's heart rate instantly max out, and legs burn. I switch to hands-on-knees power walking, which serves me well. Regular park visitors along the trail look at us, wondering who these people are in funny outfits, sweating and moaning, barely going any faster up than they are. As you approach the summit, the grade finally levels off and you can manage to run again. This is convenient because the spectators at the top can't really see you below that point. So as far as they know you ran the whole way!

The finish line is marked by two flagpoles with the E-Rock Duathlon logo. I sprint for the finish and look for Kat and our families, who are up there waiting for us. She is smiling and okay, and now three-time women's champion! (and fourth overall!) I come in three minutes later and 2nd in my age group. We both had our fastest overall times, each improving by six minutes over the last year. I have a moving target, but maybe next year I will be victorious...

Apryl Mortenson came in 2nd overall woman with a solid finish, and her husband Ronald had a strong showing as well at 2nd in his age group. Jamie Cleveland of Texas Iron, overall winner of the 2009 race, repeated in 2011 with another strong showing and was one of the few who actually ran up the rock. Kat and Jamie also won the King and Queen of the hill awards, for fastest male and female times up the rock.

The Enchanted Rock Du is truly one of the greatest multisport events in Texas. The views at the finish line are amazing and there's an amazing atmosphere, great trails, and tons of good German food and beer to be had in nearby Fredericksburg. Also, our Texas state parks are one of our best and most under-appreciated resources, so what better way to help support them than by training, racing, and spectating at the great venues they provide? We highlighted three state park rides in a previous blog post. Add Enchanted Rock to your list. Cycling is huge in and around Fredericksburg, and the park itself offers superb running trails, rock climbing, hiking, and camping. Go there often enough, practice that run up the rock, and maybe you can be King of the Hill one day.

Full results are up Here

Special thanks to Earl Nottingham of TPWD for the race photos, and for his dedicated coverage of the event. (We have to note that, of course, the blurry photo of the race start was not the work of this professional, but rather, our own meager contribution.) Look for more of Earl's photos and Kat's article about the race in Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine in 2012.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great race report! And a funny one at that! My husband was informing me of this on our way home and got a chuckle out of it, so thanks for sharing! It wasn't the most ideal race for me, but was fun and I certainly am looking forward to racing against Kat in the future! She is a great competitor and will be looking for her at races!!! :)