The Worlds Most Epic Duathlon

Conditions at American Zofingen this year - the summit of Mohonk Mountain

Conditions at American Zofingen this year – the summit of Mohonk Mountain

Since it’s midweek, the legs are less sore than yesterday and the swelling has started to subside, it’s time to wrap up what has gained cult status – at least along the eastern seaboard, certainly on Slowtwitch.com, American Zofingen.

SSSMST’s Scott Zubricky (owner of what may have been the most sought after post race pic/interview – his American Zofingen tatoo) and yours truly spent the weekend getting ready and racing what is arguably the hardest duathlon on the planet.

Scott toe’d the start line for the second time here and improved his time by 6+ minutes, against some pretty stacked odds:

This is the best little hardest race around. Part two! The rain, again! Two years ago when i did this race it rained, all i wanted was good weather. Two goals finish and be faster than the first time. I got two out of three. When it started raining my spirits were already going down. You could tell it was going to stick around, not again! As Kevin said I was having a hard time focusing on the details of the race that morning too. I went thru a lot of mental ups and downs during the race, I also had two bad times physically . I did think about quitting once or twice, I’m glad I didn’t. The first run was uneventful and transition was smooth, now on the bike and the rain. Why? I was dressed as best as I could for the weather, but I will say I got cold on the descents. Wet and cold, wet and hot! 84 miles of this! Being my second time I knew what to expect, when I might cramp on the back of the course. I did but I felt I knew what to do, soon after they went away. As the 2nd loop was back to the aid station I saw Anne, she is an angel out there. After a bit of whining and refueling off I go. Towards the top of the climb I had to get off the bike and walk the last 10th of a mile. I was starting to get weak and light headed. I was not going to give up! After the descent and some more fuel I felt a little better> As I started the second climb I was still not as strong as I wanted to be. I told myself I would rest 5 times up that climb if I had to. Well i flatted, damn! Wet cold and miserable I get off the bike. Start changing the tire and am getting covered in road grime tire grime and whatever else. Kevin passes me and I say just go! Finally get done and back on the bike, now my brain is saying chase. I am able to control my emotions and stay at a steady pace. Funny thing, I think that flat saved my day. The rest of the loop went well, except for being a bit chilled. Into transition and all I can think is YEAH!!! Off to tackle the three loops of the run, back is stiff on the uphills the whole loop, by the second loop it starts to loosen. At the end of the climbs on this loop I get very weak and disoriented a bit. Make it to the aid station and have some candy and cookies and five minutes later I’m feeling good again. I’m running with Kevin and the other guy and it is helping pass the time. Last loop I do skip the aid station and just keep going to finish. Kevin passes me and makes a great run to the finish, I finished as strong as I could, glad to be done. Goals accomplished 6 minutes faster 9:30:34 Iam glad I went back, I will never do long course again, but I will always remember the feeling of finishing such an epic race in those conditions twice. American Zofingen the best little hardest race you will ever do!

 

As one of the “original 10” to finish the inagural in 2005, I will say that this year was just as brutal – maybe not as cold, but with way more rain. Here’s my perspective and a little background (yes, I’ve already edited this down from my slowtwitch post):

Since my window of opportunity seems to have passed on going fast or placing in the top 10 OA (unless, of course, it’s about 15 degrees colder than it was this year) many moons ago, I keep coming back thinking I can go just that little bit faster….but that demon has yet to be slayed.
Real training started about 8 weeks out when I started going into the 4 hour range with workouts, and in my endless quest to not cramp up severely during this race (6 of my finishes have seen pretty debilitating quad stuff either on the bike or run or both) I both changed my nutrition plan and decided along the with all the other crap I had going on, that it’d be easier to deal with back-to-back brick workouts on weekends limited to 4 or 5 hours rather than a single one going into the 6-8 hour range.

For those who don’t know, my orthopedist has been trying to get me to quit doing races like this in an effort to stave off an inevitable knee replacement. I’m sure my sheer love of this race course probably put me on the fast track for that. In reality, I felt like I was very well prepared to do the middle distance F1 race. Two weeks out and I feel like the body was telling me its time to leggo of Long Course and back it down. Encouragement from countless people reminded me that I have nothing to prove, that no one would really care what course I chose to do. In the end, I felt like I had prepared mentally for LC, and would really feel hollow not having done it, especially not knowing if this was going to be the year I didn’t have too many issues on the race. Long Course it was.

Race morning arrives. 50-ish degrees.

Scott goes out to the car and says “Oh, it’s not too bad out here – kind of humid though.” Forecasts leading up to the race were calling for clouds, temps close to 60 and a 30% chance of showers in the afternoon. Less than 3 minutes after Scott, I went outside and it was sprinkling, which gave way to drizzle and actually some near-downpours early on in the race. It quit raining around 4 or 5PM, and temps never got above the mid 50’s. Nice!
Get to Spring Farm and try to keep everything dry and exchange pleasantries with as many people as I could. Rain continues to fall, and as it gets brighter out, doesn’t look like it’ll be lifting anytime soon. Very unfocused in getting everything together for this year’s race, but not nervous about anything either.
Since I purposely backed off the first run I got full view of the eventual podium + other fast doods come roaring by me a little more than halfway thru the loop. Wrong turn? Never fails! We find out later they missed the well marked hard left at the first aid table.
Typically slow T1, I probably spent more time wishing I had run with my arm warmers on – damn that’s hard after you’re all sweaty and wet. Only threw on my cycling jersey (for the pocket space!), the arm warmers and my wind vest. Running gloves got stuffed under my jersey next to my stomach in case I got cold coming down the first decent (2 miles in) of Mohonk, but they remained there for the next 5-1/2 hours.

Being a finisher in this race in 2005, when it was almost as wet, but much colder, I can honestly say this was the most carnage I’ve seen this race hand out. Flat tires everywhere, mechanicals. Racers freezing their arses off asking me to send someone to pick them up. Luckily, the race director’s wife, a really good photographer who’s been at this race before with his motorbike and a few kind locals made sure anyone who had to abandon on course was picked up and accounted for. Turns out one guy who probably would have factored in the podium broke his chain, double flatted on one of the descents he was coasting down to get as far as he could, took off his cycling shoes and reportedly ran barefoot with his bike for about 7 miles, until someone got to him and he eventally decided to retire. That’s what kind of breed signs up – you don’t come here to not finish.

Back to the ride. Had sunglasses with me, but never made it out of my pocket with the rain. First lap there is general excitement to see how you feel going up the climbs. I can’t say I felt great, but I wasn’t on the limit either. It was almost like I was going thru the motions, without a lot of power, even in the fast spots. Right knee was bothersome (perhaps walking around NYC for two days prior to the race wasn’t a great idea, but it worked with the family’s schedule). Had to pee. ML and Burke (eventual defending champ and second loser this year in the F1 race) caught me exact same spot they did last year – me starting up the steep part of Mohonk (1 mi @ 15%) on lap 2, and them going into T3 in the F1 race. Damn that’s fast.
Second loop grabbed water and bottle from the special needs table to keep on schedue with feeds. Not much trouble going up to Mohonk the second time, just 15% slower. Having gone down the technical Mohonk descent once, I started getting my legs this lap and probably pulled back almost a minute from my time going down the first lap. Had a little stomach issue during lap 2, but otherwise the knee started to loosen up by the end of the lap and I felt like maybe I was going to catch a few people. Had to pee again. Grabbed a Hammer Gel at the hard right from 44/55 onto Granite, stuck the pack in the leg of my du shorts, only to look down about 10 minutes later and think I was bleeding. Finally realize that the vols at the aid table had torn it open for me and there’s Montana Huckleberry streaming down my leg. Or inching.

Final time up Mohonk was just slow, but never really ran out of gears. Final special needs bottle and decided to wait until I hit the Iron Time Trail (ITT) aid station to get more water. Was really happy my stomach felt better (must have been the Smuckers Uncrustables) and was looking forward to the backroads after Minnewaska and seeing if I had anything in my legs. Came up on Scott who was changing his flat and was probably in that twilight zone between being pissed and dilerious. I was stopping to help him since he had tire all over his legs and he’s like “Get going!!” Hesitated and he said it again, so I knew he was all business. I had the sense to tell him to gather his sh!t up, change the tire, and finish this thing. Pick up truck almost took me out on the descent of Minnewaska (I had grabbed a section about down the middle of the lane to avoid some crunchy road, and the truck came by me with about 3 inches to spare). Again excitement that you’re going to be done with this climbing on the bike nonsense and not chafing your ass crack any further because of the moisture it’s been subjected to. Best thing was that I wasn’t cramping up.

Into T2 and Scott was hot on my tail. Grabbed a few gulps of beer from heckler #1 – Michael Bakker – and my flask and set out on the run. Boy that beer tasted good. It took me about 30 minutes to figure out how to run again. Had to pee yet again. Once my legs started coming back I was able to actually run the flats and downhills, so there was an outside chance I could keep the run loops under 60 min each and go under 9:30. Started second lap of run 2 with part of a Guiness Bakker handed up. A little dry for this late in the race and not enough in the can! Grabbed a little Red Bull and went off on lap 2. Encountered a guy (Kevin Cunningham) who was in the age group up from Scott on the first section of uphill singletrack and we ran and hiked all the way thru lap two. Back into the gazebo for a final time and no beer to be found. No one to call on to set me up with the ICB…..what the….? More Red Bull and I’m out. But back together with KC and Zubricky and we pretty much kept each other going the whole final lap. KC got away between Table Rocks and Bonticou, before taking a header and rolling around in the mud. We couldn’t believe he didn’t hit some rock or tree roots, but he was back up by the time we got up to him and all three of us went up to the ridge together. Scott decided to skip the aid table and just wanted to be done. He had several hundred yards by the time we made the hard right to start coming down the carriage trail, and I put my best Jeff Timm (Mr Duathlon) impersonation to work and caught back up to him before we hit the single track up behind the gazebo/finish area. Had to hike the last steep section and KC caught up to us again. Scott was like “We can’t lose him!!!” I knew the last gnarly section of downhill was going to be a doozy so I took a flyer on it and really didn’t care if I was going to wipe out or not – almost did coming out of it onto the home stretch though.

Brought it home in 9:30. Pretty much the median for me – almost exactly halfway between my fastest and slowest times. The thing that made this one different was that I really enjoyed the you-know-what out of this race.

Worth a look, race photog Martin Weiner has a bunch posted – he’s got some good ones of Scott, only one of me (must have been my finish when all semblance of running form is shot):

http://www.flickr.com/…s/gunker/8755410463/

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2 Responses

  1. Nice! I enjoyed the report. EPIC! Gotaa ask – did you scrape the Hammer Gel off of your leg and eat it? What flavor goes best with beer?

    • Interestingly no – I didn’t scrape up the Hammer Gel. It literally sat tucked into the leg of my shorts for 90 minutes. Coming by the same aid station on my next lap I ditched the now-spent packet and picked up another, only to find that the new one WASN’T pre-opened! DOH! As for flavor w/beer – doesn’t matter. You’re looking for anything that doesn’t taste like what you’ve been downing for the previous 6+ hours. It’s all good!

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