For those who aren’t familiar with the Columbia Triathlon, it used to be the premier triathlon event in the Mid-Atlantic. Top professionals would compete alongside a sell-out field of 1,500 age group athletes all on one of the most honest courses out there. If you were a triathlete in the area, your presence was obligatory. I have done many rides and runs on the Columbia course over the years, however this was my first go at racing the course; I decided to skip the swim and do the Duathlon.
The race had been on my radar early in the season but I signed up for the Columbia Duathlon about 6weeks prior, mainly out of worry that I would be coming back from 10 day vacation in Smoky Mountains extremely out of shape and not be able to perform prior to Rock Hall Olympic in early June. During the 10 day vacation, we drove 2000 miles through southwest Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina; I did unstructured training, some workouts were good others not so much. The Duathlon would be an ideal course to help push my run fitness on a very tough course coming off vacation.
On race day we planned to get to Columbia around 5:30am. Since I had racked my bike the night before and was doing the Duathlon, very little needed to be setup in my transition area. Made sure all fluid and nutrition were setup as I had laid them out the day before and went to relax back in the car until 6am. The morning in Columbia was prime cool weather for fast Bike and Run splits. I went into warm-up feeling a bit cold with the outdoor temp at 50F; 3mile warmup with strides around Centennial Lake got me to the start line 10 min prior to start feeling good for the race. As I came around to the lake the Triathlon Elite waves were going off. The Triathlon and Duathlon race start timeline were well timed to have most Elites in both raced end up on the Bike and Run courses at the same time.
I met up with my friend James at the race start and we waited for the gun. As they announced all athletes at the race start, we heard Dave Berdan’s name announced and we all know we’d have to work really hard on the bike to have a shot at competing with the multi-time Baltimore Marathon Champion in his multisport debut. I figured he’d be running 5:30pace or faster on both runs and I started doing the math in my head of how many minutes I’d have to put on the run leaders to have a shot in the race.
The gun went off and Dave and another Falls Road Runner Zack we off. They were going faster than any pace I could sustain, out of sight by mile 1. James and I and 2 others ended pacing around 5.55pace for the first run leg of 2.2miles. I felt comfortable, but should have tried to go a little faster. I came into transition in 13:00 and had a quick 0:49 second transition.
I hit the bike course very familiar of all the key sections I needed to hammer and where to not over work my legs. During my first run I had been doing the math in my head and I estimated I’d have to put at least 7min on Dave and Zack. Around mile 2, I did that going up a hill and just kept pedaling as smooth as I could on such a hilly course. The day was cool yet humid. My trisuit was soon soaked and I keep my hydration up all while being weary to not over hydrate. I took in 3 GU roctane gels with gulps of water and half a bottle of roctane energy mix. I soon passed a few other Elite wave triathletes and saw Charlie Larsen at the mid-point of the bike leg. We both stayed pretty close for the remainder of the race. I ended up with 2nd fastest bike split on the day 1:06:31 (22.55mph). I was very content considering I had only done a single bike workout in 2 weeks. I had another fast sub 1min transition and went to attack the grueling run course.
I pushed myself to stay at 6:30 pace. The first 2 miles of mostly rollers went well; Charlie Larsen passed me with his blazing 6:04pace around mile 1.5. I saw Tori soon after cheering me on which was a welcoming sign but when I got to the hills going up into the neighborhood, my pace significantly slowed. I tried to stay cool, use my small hydration bottle and keep my right calf and hamstring as loose as possible with a smooth stride. Coming up into the neighborhoods, I took 2 cups of water and powered back up the last hill back to the park. Even with all the hiking in the Smoky Mountains and some base run fitness, the course's with nearly 500ft. of climbing got me good, again! I came around the last straight away and saw Tori again, she caught me in a smile thankfully. I did not see anyone behind me and pushed harder to the finish. I ended crossing the finish line running the 10K in 41:30 (6:41pace) and overall time of 2:02:47 for 1st Overall in the Duathlon. Not a phenomenal finish but acceptable one such a tough course. A mere 45 seconds later Dave Berdan came blistering through, finishing his 10K 6 min fast than me. Get Dave a TT bike and some more time in the saddle and he’ll be crushing everyone around town in Duathlons for sure. I was very glad to have pushed the bike legs the way I did. James had a great bike leg himself and finished just out of an overall podium spot in 4th position and behind Zach.
This race workout really helped me re-acclimate after a structured training hiatus and before a summer full of Tri racing in the Mid-Atlantic. I’d say one of the best perk of the race this year were the 2 beer tickets on your race bib as well as the massage by Nava Health and Fitness afterward. Tori took good advantage of Harpoon Brewery selections post-race. I have to say was very honored to share the podium with two of the top runners in the area and I know I will need to keep improving my run if I stand a chance to compete in the coming years. Looking forward to future racing and always to happy to see new faces entering the sport!
Big thanks to Tori for getting up at the crack of dawn again on a Sunday, friend and family for the continued support, Coach Ben and Team Invicta Teammates who make me want to keep getting better and stronger every year and all the Sponsors who help my body perform during training and racing . I may just have to come back next year and defend this title!
2:02:47 (R1:13:00 T1:0:49 B:1:06:31 T2: 0:58 R2: 41:30)
Age Group Triathlete enjoying the World through triathlon and eating Cheez-It!