Monday, September 3, 2018

Crooked Trees Duathlon, Keppoch - 2018

Sometimes a little gem appears and you just can't say no. Thus was the case of the last minute Triathlon Nova Scotia Off Road Duathlon at Keppoch Mountain. This race didn't exist until a hole in the schedule appeared and a great group took it as an opportunity to jump in with something new and unique to the area. 

Keppoch has become a bit of a local draw in Nova Scotia for Mountain Bikers, with great flowing trails up and down the mountain and some crazy gnarly steep descents. So adding an off road duathlon was, logistically, not a problem. 

I was entry number 1. I am by no means a mountain biker, but I am a duathlete and this new challenge fit perfect with my trail running program I have been focused on this year. At the very least, I'd get a great workout for the day.

I drove up the morning of with Sarah and Heather, both taking in the (maybe the smart choice) Sprint Distance Du, while I signed up for the Standard Distance. We arrived and the casual atmosphere was really nice.  

So, I don't even own a mountain bike, but my good buddy Sheldon at Sportwheels, hooked me up with a loaner. This Norco was older stock and is used as a loaner at the shop, but he tuned it up nicely and the shifting and brakes worked perfectly. And based on my test ride, it had just enough easy gearing to make it up the steepest climbs. 

As this was the first year for this race and it was kind of last minute, the crowd was small, but that doesn't mean there wasn't some tough competition. Certainly there were a load of people who were awesome on a mountain bike. A race briefing before the race showed us just what the course was going to be like and what trail riding etiquette was in case we came across other riders.  

Race organizers decided to start us back from the trail entrance for the first run in order to spread the field out a bit rather than have a crowd of us try to enter the woods all at once. Soon we were off and Peter, Daniel and I lead the way for the Standard Distance race. 

The trail was wonderful. Up and downs, twists and turns.  Daniel fell less than a kilometer in, but jumped back up quickly. Soon  he and I took off from Peter before the main climb of the first run. This run went from the base to the top of the hill, covering over 150m in less than 1.5 km. It was tough but we made it up and then Daniel took over with some very fast downhill running. I didn't stray too far though.

A brief foray on an access road lead us back into the woods and some really fast, downhill.  So fast that we both missed a portion of the course and went a different way. Apparently not the only ones to do so, though Peter managed to actually run the correct way. That made us come into Transition slightly behind Peter, having run an extra 0.5 km. 

As i opted to bike in my trail shoes, I had a blazing fast T1 and was first out on the bike though. But within 1 km I was passed by Peter and Daniel as they put some strong effort into getting into the single track first. Still I made decent time, banking on being able to do 30 minute laps (this was a double lap course in my race). 

I'm not going to say this was easy. It was tough. Most of the trail up was quite smooth, with some super steep switchbacks. But i made it to the top and began the descent. Unfortunately I dropped my chain a few times on some super rough patches. Realistically that made me lose maybe 2 minutes  or less. But it did mean that I took the second lap a little less vigorous.  At least I think that was why I took it easier. It was also likely because the first lap was tough. 

By the time I reached the top of the climb the second time, my body was really feeling things. My back was tight, my arms were weak, and my quads were destroyed. Still, all I had to do was go down!

And down I went, on a tight switch back, I was so tired that I grabbed too hard on the brakes and fell off the bike.  Luckily I was going slowly and the damage was just a scraped knee and shin. I was back up and riding quickly, but overall it looks like my second lap was minutes slower than the first. I was also passed near the end by Tim C. who was flying down with supreme control. 

Luckily for me, Tim C. only passed me near the end of the ride down and I caught back up to him in transition 2. I was back into running form quickly and headed back to the toughest hill around. This run was shorter than the first but basically included all the hardest parts of the first run. I made it to the top of the climb, grabbed some water (darn it was hot), and headed for the downhill single track. Happily this time the race director had fixed the issue with people going off course, so I ran the correct way, popping out and crossing the finish line in 3rd place.

Daniel had blazed to the win off of a strong mountain bike, Peter coming second a few minutes ahead of me, and I was totally wiped out but oh so happy.  I had hoped to beat 2 hours but eventually came in officially at 2:02. The dropped chains and fall didn't help, so I think I was physically there for my goal, which is great. 

This was one of the toughest events I have ever raced. It was a whole body beating, I dare say tougher than the marathon I raced a few years ago, and tougher than any triathlon of a similar distance I have done.   

It was great to see Heather and Sarah do really well, both winning their races (the one Sprint race became a sort of Sprint and Sprint Plus race due to the various paths chosen). We drove back to Halifax, but not before stopping for a yummy burrito at my favorite stop in Truro, Habeneros. 

Word is they are planning an off road triathlon next year as well as the duathlon. Colour me interested. But maybe I'll try and get on that mountain a little earlier, just to get my upper body acclimated a but.