I love relays. In such an individual and selfish sport like cycling, it’s nice to be a part of a team once in a while, and get to contribute to someone else’s success. So when I heard about the On the Trails duathlon that the city of Roanoke was putting on at Carvins Cove, I immediately sent the info to my wife Charlotte.
“What if we did a duo relay? You run and I’ll ride!”
She was in.
Charlotte is a runner, and happens to love running on trails. So being that this would be a totally off-road duathlon, our interest was peaked! A few days before we looked at the course map and discovered the course was BRUTAL!
First, the run. Not only was it on single track, but it was straight up a mountain out of transition on technical single track. Running uphill full speed and keeping your feet in the right place is TOUGH! Then, it was straight back down the same trail! Hypoxic to the top, and don’t trip and kill yourself coming down. And that was just the first leg! 2.8 miles of rigorous running.
The bike looked easier at first glanced but then I started thinking things out. The course for the bike started on a fire road; easy enough right? That’s what I thought. Then I remembered how hilly the fireroad was. Like roller coaster hilly. You’re either flying downhill or going up a short, punchy climb. That goes on long enough for you to get tired, then you enter the single track where you have to be ON IT. Fast, smooth, accelerating out of every turn. If that weren’t enough, at 30 minutes in, they added maybe one of the hardest trails in all of Carvins Cove: Arrowhead.
Think of a hill, up one side and down the other. That’s Arrowhead. That doesn’t sound bad, but it is. When you start the trail, you go up on rooty, rocky and loose trail. Nothing is smooth about it and it just keeps going. You climb and climb and finally you get to the top. But it’s not some recovery descent. It’s technical, with lots of turns and punches along the way. Your heart rate might be higher on the “descent” than it gets on the climb! Serious concentration required.
Finally, after Arrowhead, its back on the fireroad. But this time, you have to go even further than the first go around, and on rolling terrain, you simply can’t rest, you HAVE to keep the power down!
So after our brief internet course evaluation, I was a bit intimidated. This would be no easy race! Relay’s are fun, and having a teammate is a blast, but that also means someone is depending on you. They need you to go as hard as possible! And when your section of the race lasts less than an hour… you can hurt yourself pretty good in that short of a time frame! This would 100% effort!
The morning of the race was perfect, albeit HOT! Charlotte lined up conservatively mid pack and with a transition area overlooking the water, it was beautiful! The gun went off and the race was on. The singletrack quickly funneled the field into a single file snake, weaving up the mountain. Charlotte started well and soon had to pass some folks to keep up her pace. Pushing it on the downhill, she ripped back into transition about 4 minutes back of the first male who was also on a relay team. Perfect.
With a kiss and a quick high five, I was off, and I was hungry. Watching people come into transition before Charlotte was fun. The energy, the excitement of the crowd and the cheering is all some of the best parts of racing! But when it was my turn, I knew exactly how many of my competitors were up the road, and it lit a fire under me!
I floored it for the first 3 miles of fireroad. Hammering the uphills, and taking risks on the descents. It was too much fun. I began picking up racers one at a time and it seemed there was always someone up the trail to chase. I finally made it to the single track and began burning through the woods. There was still 2 riders up the trail, and for the first 30 minutes, I didn’t see them, and thought that catching them might be a shade too far for the day.
Then, flying down the backside of Arrowhead, I saw them both. That was it, like a carrot floating in front of me the chase was on. I caught one, then the other right as we entered the fireroad again. Hammering back to transition, I did my best to get Charlotte a bit of a lead, and managed to open a 60 second gap on the next racer!
Into the woods she flew, this time leading the race overall. Without the hindrance of a horde of other racers she was going even faster; 30 seconds per mile faster! She got to the top of the mountain, and she was still in the lead! Ripping down the trail back towards transition she got to pass all of her male chasers, shouting little words of encouragement as she flew through the technical trail faster than anyone else. With 300m to go she burst out of the woods still leading but with a male relay racer in hot pursuit! She conceded the sprint and crossed the line seconds behind to give us 2nd overall and first male/female relay BY OVER 15 MINUTES! With a faster second 2.8 mile run than her first, Charlotte put the finishing touches on our race!
The city of Roanoke did an awesome job with the race. The course was fun and interesting (unlike many duathlon and triathlon courses) and the organization and execution was top notch. We loved it all and enjoyed a fun day out on the trails! Racing with Charlotte was most definitely the highlight of my racing this year! Can’t wait to do it again. Here’s to 2017!