1997 Addison Oaks Off Road Duathlon

Originally published in Local Dirt (#5), the MMBA Southeast Chapter newsletter:

One of the big buzzes in sports these days is off road duathlons and triathlons. There are at least four of these races in Southeast Michigan this year.

Yesterday was the Addison Oaks Duathlon: a 2.4 mile trail run, 8 mile mountain bike, and a 2.4 mile trail run. The standard Addison Oaks mountain bike course was used for both biking and running. There were two challenging 4-mile mountain bike laps.

The weather was perfect: warm, sunny, and not too humid. I’m guessing there were around 60-70 participants competing as teams or individuals. I decided to do the whole enchilada. As the race began, the fast runners flew off the front, the fastest guy running sub-6 minute miles. I recognized two guys as the State’s top mountain bikers (one expert, one Pro-elite) and we ran together at around sixth position. With a mile to go I picked up the pace, adding five beats per minute to my heart rate.

I opened a 20 second gap by the run’s end. I threw on my helmet and was changing shoes as the two other bikers came in. All three of our bikes were staged together which added to the excitement.

I chased down the front runners and got caught behind a group of three in the long single track section. I was patiently waiting for a chance to pass, but also waiting for the fast bikers to catch up.

But the trail turned to two-track and I shifted to the big ring, rose from the saddle and cranked. In less than 100 yards, I moved into first. There was a biker ahead of me, but he was competing as a team. Nonetheless I passed him at the start of lap two.

With no one in front of me, I hit a groove. I felt great accelerating out of the corners. The bike was floating underneath me.

With two miles to go I saw the top biker dude. He noted my position as well. There was one small climb separating us. I just kept pushing.

I held him off and started my run before he finished his bike. I was happy for that — I didn’t want to be anyone’s rabbit.

I felt terrible running but told myself everyone’s going to feel like that. My tough-as-nails running partner was in my head, pacing me along. Eventually auto-pilot mode kicked in and I lengthened my stride. I looked back on occasion but didn’t see a soul in the woods. Then, with a half-mile to go, some guy flew past me in Richard Simons runner’s shorts. I said “team or individual” with a couple breaths thrown in between. He said “Team. And don’t worry. You have a big ass lead.” I probably gurgled “Cool.” I don’t remember..

With 100 yards to go, I zipped up my bike jersey just like the Tour de France guys do. Sponsors prefer seeing their name in the finish line photos and not your chest hair (not that mine would be legible anyway.)

The finish was uneventful. There were no pictures, no ribbon line to break through, no American flag to wave at the masses. I hugged my dad and caught my breath. Second place was to finish 1:38 later and that wasn’t the biker on my tail. He had fallen during his second run and got some decent cuts on his leg.

It was exciting. It great to do well in front of my dad and friends (who also raced well.) Tailwind Enterprises did a great job promoting the race.

I had done an on-road duathlon the day before which just wasn’t as fun. On the road the pain in your legs is so much more apparent. In the woods you have to follow the trail and avoid the trees, roots, and rocks. There much less time to think about the suffering.

And that’s a good buzz.

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