A year ago I entered my first bike race. It didn’t go well.
Yesterday I entered my second race, and my first multi-sport race. It was a “duathlon” — running and bicycling — around Brooklyn’s lovely Prospect Park in the twilight hours of a perfect summer weekday.
How did I get myself into this situation? It all started so innocently, in a late-night AIM chat with Adam Greenfield in which I mentioned that I heard about an event called the “Brooklyn BricK Duathlon“, and that it looked like something I might be able to handle. Next thing I knew, Adam and I were both registering online at the same time, spontaneously and impulsively. There’s no way either of us would have done this if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement you get from having even just one person to commit with you.
The start was at 7:00pm on a Wednesday night, just as the park was getting dark and the streetlights were coming on. This alone made the race attractive to me: I am not a morning person, and my evenings on Fridays and Saturdays tend to involve fine wines and good spirits into the wee hours. This makes early morning weekend racing a bit of a problem for me. Having a whole day to eat properly and prepare mentally for the race really helped.
The BricK was what they call “sprint distance”, a cynical term for what is still an endurance event for most mortals. It consisted of:
- A 3/4 mile run through wooded trails.
- A 10 mile bike around the park loop.
- A 3.2 mile run through the woods and around the meadow.
So how did I do? I think I did pretty well. Of 133 entrants, and 89 finishers, I came in 35th overall (results here). I did equally well in both the run and bike phases, and felt pretty good at the end, too. Which means I am definitely doing this again.
The event was inspiring, to say the least. Adam and I felt like we were surrounded by superhuman professional athletes, and the carbon-fiber stealth-fighter looking machines most of them had put ours to shame: me on an 18-year-old steel frame, Adam on a single-speed (!). Many of the competitors were tricked out in team gear, ripped with muscles, sleekened hairless, and sharing war stories about the other triathlons they’d triumphed in lately. Nonetheless, the whole event was really low key, very DiY and ad hoc, and completely devoid of the kind of aggression I felt all around me in when I was racing in a cycling pack. In a triathlon/duathlon, drafting behind other cyclists is illegal, which means it’s just you and the wind — which is how I like to roll.
The race was brisk, of course, but the vibe was pure fun. A great first-time experience. The best part was on the last run, where the race leaders would pass the rest of us on their return trip to the finish line. Most of the top five finishers took the time to cheer on the rest of us as they ran by us: “great job, way to go, great pace!”. That meant the world to me.
I want to commend the information design by the kids who chalked the directional arrows on the roads. The running route was fairly complex, the maps they prepared were god-awful messes, and the race director could barely describe it without just confusing people even further. But some young kids were sent on a mission to put directional arrows on the paths using chalk, and they did a great job. The route doubled-back on itself, and there were two runs on the same trail, so the signage needed to indicate which way to turn on the way out and which way to turn on the way back. Here’s what they came up with. Not bad, huh?