by Christian Baughman
My 2015 race season started with a 5K in sunny Tucson, then a big PR at the Drake Half Marathon, a podium spot at my first Hickory Grove Triathlon, and another huge PR at the Boulder 70.3. My A race behind me, I then rode RAGBRAI with the Bluff Creek Olympic and #BricktheBix on either side. I raced the inaugural Des Moines Triathlon (and cooled down with 50 miles on the inaugural Peddler's Jamboree).
In the midst of it all I fell swoon to the other side of the force and dove in headfirst to the mountain bike scene.
The Turn to the Mountain Bike Side
My wife persuaded me to get my first mountain bike almost 15 years ago (a 21-speed Schwinn with no suspension) and took me immediately to Sycamore to try it out. Of course I loved it (how can you not love Sycamore?) but when I attempted the Center Trails near my apartment on Terrace Hill I was gassed 100 yards into Hillside. My wife and I were into bigger things—riding RAGBRAI self-contained was our major training goal that year—therefore the bike gathered dust for a while.
Years later my father-in-law wanted to clear some space in his garage for a new bike (yes, our bicycle collecting is a genetic condition) and I ended up with his Univega Alpina. Now, this bike was state of the art in its time: a nifty front suspension made things that I never could attempt before a lot more possible. I signed up for my first Dirty Du: the sprint version in fall of 2010.
That outing was as near a disaster as I’ve had in a race. A little rain the night before made for trails that were a little squishy, and my inexperience with the bike and the course had me hugging a bridge within the first mile of the bike course. It was a hard fall, and I’m sure I cracked a rib, but I did finish the race.
My ultimate goal in multisport remained triathlon, so again the mountain bike went into the garage. I got it out a couple of times a year for some gravel rides, winter slushy rides, and the occasional single track excursion. I did the Dirty Du as a relay (I ran with coach Julie taking the bike duties) in 2012 and did the full du in 2013. I remember having to get out of the way of faster riders a lot.
Last summer my wife and I sold our tandem (it was a well-intentioned wedding present) and I vowed to put the funds towards a new mountain bike. I’d been eying the Stumpjumper Hardtail for a while and had decided that was the model for me. I happened to be looking over some of the new bikes with Kyle and he mentioned he was going to get a new bike. So naturally the topic of his current bike (A 2011 S-Works Stumpy with all the trimmings) came up. After another month of waiting for the weather to cooperate I finally pulled the trigger in August. The very next weekend I was entered in my first mtb race: the Hin und Züruck on my very own Center Trails. This was also a debacle, but a good learning experience. More on that later.
Over the last two months I’ve put nearly 300 miles on the Stumpy and am starting to learn how to ride it. The Mullet Fall Classic at Lake Ahquabi was a blast and gave me some experience riding the bike at race speed. I’ve had a few good rides on Center and Sycamore. So by the time I got to race day for this year’s Dirty Du I was feeling pretty well-prepared.
Des Moines Dirty Duathlon 2015
The run course starts with a little loop on flat ground to help get everything seeded out, but even though I started pretty near the front I still had quite a few runners to work through at the beginning of the single track. After a brief section of Hillside the run course hits the paved Bill Riley trail for a few hundred meters which gave me a chance to hit the gas and get up a bit further in the pack to where I could run my pace. About the time we went back on the single track for Rollercoaster I got behind the eventual women’s winner, Lisa Vetterlein. She had a good pace for the single track and I decided to stay right behind her in order to set a strong first lap without blowing up too quickly.
That turned out to be a pretty good strategy for the overall race, but I left the door open for getting “chicked.” I’ve often said I run and bike about as fast as a typical elite female and that’s still pretty much the case in off road racing. The strategy was solid – coming into T1 I had most of the pack behind me. Once I was on the bike I never had to worry about passing slower riders and very few riders passed me. I rode all the bridges well and almost cleaned the big rutty climb on Hillside on the second bike lap. Given my inexperience I’ll definitely take that as a victory.
The second run leg allowed me to pass a couple of the riders that had passed me in the later bike laps and I didn’t give up any more positions. Coming off Rollercoaster and into the last half mile I felt a cramp starting in my left hamstring. Probably I wasn’t taking in enough water during the bike laps. I’ve never really experienced managing a cramp in a race setting before so I did my best. I shortened my strides while trying to quicken my cadence and allow the feet to stay close to the ground as much as possible. It worked well enough – I never had to stop and ended the second lap less than a minute slower than the first.
Transitions were pretty even too: 1:04 and 1:08 which is pretty good considering I was using standard laces and had ratcheting cycling shoes to maneuver. All in all it was a much more favorable performance than my last time racing the Dirty Du: 14th place overall. The only woman ahead was Lisa, who had some strong bike laps and beat me out of T1. I was third among males over 40. This is not a recognized podium, but good to know anyway, right?
Off road racing is a nice change of pace from the super serious type-A world of triathlon. Everybody hangs afterwords with free pizza and lots of folks swig away on craft brews. And the swag and giveaways are really good. I think everybody walked away with something and lots of the door prizes were really nice. Plus, the top three finishers get cash payouts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen amateurs get paid for podium finishes in triathlon.
I’m hoping to establish this race as a staple of my off-season in the future. Its a really fun way to spend a few hours and break training up while maintaining fitness.
Des Moines Dirty Duathlon
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Center Trails, Des Moines, IA
Weather: 55 degrees, sunny
Number of Finishers: 43
Overall place: 14
Division/Sex place: 13
Splits: Run (2.3mi) – 18:16
T1 – 1:04.4
Bike Lap 1 (3.3mi) – 20:18
Bike Lap 2 – 19:25
Bike Lap 3 – 19:38
T2 – 1:08.4
Run (2.3mi) – 20:23
You can read reports from previous Des Moines Dirty Duathlons.
Full results from the Des Moines Dirty Duathlon are online at OnlineRaceResults.
Photo credits: Eric Roccasecca. Photo one is from Hin ind Züruck. Photo two is from the Mullet Fall Classic.