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Race Recap: Run, Bike, Unite Duathlon for the United Way

After Finishing

On August 27th I competed in the 2nd annual Run, Bike, Unite Duathlon for the Portage County, Wisconsin United Way. This was my second ever duathlon. My first was the Run, Bike, Unite one year ago.

(note: EMS World Expo 2011 came right after the duathlon so this race recap is a year over due)

Because I am in the midst of training for the New York City Marathon I didn’t do any duathlon specific training. I simply have been running 3 to 4 days a week and cycling 2 to 3 days a week. Ideally I would have done some bike and run workouts, as well as practicing my transitions, but I didn’t.

We picked up our race packets the night before the race from the G1 level of the Sentry Insurance building. One new thing for me was the timing chip was embedded in the race bib. No separate timing chip to wear on my shoe or around my ankle.

Transition Area in G1 Parking area of Sentry Insurance

Transition Area
This year the course featured a new transition area location which slightly modified the course distance. Last year the transition was a dry and dusty field/overflow parking area adjacent to the start line. It was bathed in full sun and challenging to get in and out of through two narrow gates.

For the 2nd annual race the transition area was moved up the hill to the G1 parking area of the Sentry Insurance building. The iconic Sentry Insurance building is positioned atop a hill and built like a bunkered fortress. The G1 level is technically ground level – the top of the hill – and has parking levels below and office floors above. The transition area spanned the northern portion of the parking structure. Because of the building above it much of the transition area was shaded. But to access the transition area required 0.2 miles of uphill running (end of run 1) and 0.2 miles of hill running (end of bike) to reach the transition. It is a long and gradual hill, but tough to reach the transition at max running or cycling effort.

Finish/Start line and entrance/exit to ramp to transition area

Technology Failure
I usually run with just a Timex Ironman so as not to be puzzled by GPS differences with measured course distance. For reasons I don’t really recall I decided to race with my Garmin 305 forerunner watch. During my warm-ups I had trouble connecting to a satellite. I eventually connected, but the paces during my warm-up running seemed off. As I did some final stretches and jogging in place in the final minutes before the start I noticed my watch was asking “Have you moved more than 1000 miles?” No. I answered no and thought nothing of it. A few minutes later as I rounded the first corner I looked down for my pace – blank! The watch had disconnected from the satellites and was still disconnected. Thus I was reduced to just comparing the time since start to the race mile markers. Oh well.

Wave Starts???
The race start order was individual men at 0830, individual women at 0832, and teams at 0834. I am not sure how this makes sense. I imagine some of the fastest women are frustrated passing slow men and the really fast team racers make lots of passes. I also think many team racers infiltrated the men’s wave as I noticed several leg 1 runners tagging a new racer in the transition one. Oh well. It didn’t really impact me.

Looking uphill to the transition area

Run 1
The first run was 2.2 miles. The start line was on the west side of the road but in the first 25 meters the course shifted to the east side of the road. Unfortunately there were still several cones blocking the shift so it was an exciting sprint out. The course is a “P” shaped loop through a quiet residential subdivision. Because of my watch problems I don’t have accurate splits. Only some vague memories. I ran the first mile in about 6:35. At about the 1.25 mile mark the course takes a 90 degree right, allowing me to see the runners in front of me. I counted about 20 runners spanned out a fair distance in front of me.

The second mile ended just after the turn up the hill to the Sentry Insurance and the transition area. My split there for the 2nd mile was about 6:40. I finished the first 2.2 mile run leg in 14:40 (average pace 6:45/mile) which was the 22nd best run time for the first leg. It was a relief to run into the shaded transition area, even though the race temp was relatively cool. I felt good about the first run, but not so good as I got on the bike.

Transition 1: Run to Bike
I wear orthotic inserts in my shoes. Moving the inserts from my running shoes to my cycling shoes caused me a bit of fumbling. On a whim I decided to jog out of the transition area without fastening the Velcro in my shoes. I secured the Velcro, three per shoe, as I cruised down the hill from the transition area. I don’t think I gained any time doing this, but I don’t think I saved any time either. In a perfect world I will learn to run out in my socking feet and get my feet into my shoes which would already be secured to my pedals. Transition time 1:38. Next year.

Bike 12.5 Miles
The bike leg is a large figure eight loop on rural roads north of Stevens Point. I had a really hard time finding my rhythm, probably because I over-extended on the run. I was riding my Trek 2.1 with a standard road riding set-up. I was only passed by other male riders that were on tri specific bikes – aero bars and disc wheels.

I tried to do some riding in my drop-outs but had a hard time keeping my breathing regular in my most aerodynamic position. I rarely ride in the drop-outs and race day was not time to get used to it. Note to self: do more riding in your drop-outs. I rode the second half of the bike with another rider at my side. Because of the no drafting rule we just rode even for about 6 miles. Pulling into the transition area I was both disappointed and pleased to see him tag-off with a team mate that did the run.

During the run I drank about half a liter of gatorade. There was a modest WNW wind which had minimal impact on the ride. I finished the bike in 34:52, 21.5 mph.

Transition 1: Bike to Run
Like the run, the last 0.2 miles of the bike uphill into the transition area. The race leaders were on their way down the hill as I was on my way up. Instead of pulling my feet out of my shoes I unclipped from my pedals and tried to jog to my waiting gear. I was pretty wiped out from the bike ride. I quickly found my gear and began to change shoes — not as fast and easy as I would have liked it to been. I also kept reminding myself – take off your helmet! I didn’t want to run out of transition area still helmeted. On the way out of the transition area I noticed the first place female competitor entering the transition area (recall she started 2 minutes behind me). My transition time was 1:31. I am not sure how it was faster than the first. It sure didn’t feel faster.

Run 2
The second run started by descending 0.2 miles from the transition area. I had a hard time getting rolling to a high leg turn over. At the bottom of the hill we turned south towards and through the Schmeekle nature reserve. Just before the nature reserve, probably 0.5 miles into the run, another runner came up along side me. His presence was just enough to get my to shift up a gear. After entering the reserve and turning east I was passed by the top female racer. This was the additional incentive I needed to shift up a gear and continue to chase her.

The second run leg was complicated by a variety of surfaces – asphalt, concrete side walk, compact crushed granite, lose crushed granite, hard pack trail, freshly covered wood chip trail, and boardwalk. On one of the trail sections the top female, just in front of me, rolled her ankle on a rock or tree root and nearly took a header into the woods. Somehow she recovered and kept moving, but just a little bit slower for me to catch her and pass. She passed me one more time before we left the woods, but I found a little extra boost on the last quarter mile to finish well ahead of her … or she was slowed by her injured ankle.

My second run was a woeful 16:32 (7:31 mile pace). I am pretty sure my second mile and final 0.2 were faster than the first mile but because of my watch foibles don’t have the proof.

Crowded Finish Line
The finish line was the same as the start line which normally is OK, but crossing the finish line immediately put finishers running north into the flow of cyclists heading south. So is my hypoxic state I had to figure out how to get out of the way of cyclists and runners just entering the run course. I am sure this will be addressed in the 2012 configuration of the course because over the next few minutes it got much more congested and dangerous.

Final Stats
I finished 16th overall and 8th of 53 in the 30-39 age group. I had the 8th best run 1, 6th best bike, and 10th best run 2 in my age group. The finishers ahead of me we were 30-45 seconds faster in the transition areas.

Closing Thoughts
1. Practice transitions
2. Learn to mount and dismount bike with shoes attached to pedals
3. Upshift faster on the 2nd run leg
4. Consider a tri-bike, searching now!

My tri-top for this event was supplied by Road ID – makers of excellent identification products for endurance athletes. Find out about their products and education materials for First Responders.


By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.