Well, here we are. Only a few short days away from the Duathlon Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota. As most multisport athletes typically do, I spent this last week tapering my workouts to prepare for the big race. After spending countless hours on the bike, in the pool and in my running shoes all winter, this is finally the week where I get to dial it back and prepare for the big race ahead.
Now, I have the advantage of having the entire bike and run course in my backyard and at my disposal. Which means that of course my brother/coach conveniently placed a ride with him on my training plan this last Sunday. Luckily for me, he kept it relatively painless this time. Unless you count the fact that keeping up with his “leisurely pace” is more like my “race pace.” But I guess that's what I should want in a coach, someone who is constantly pushing me to be better. So, on Sunday afternoon I got in my car and drove to meet him at the turnaround point just off of Highway 13 in St. Paul. We met in the parking lot of Moose Country, which if you are a Minnesotan, you have probably enjoyed an adult beverage at once or twice in your lifetime. (Plus, this gave us an opportunity to “recover” properly after the workout with a cold stout.)
We decided to follow Highway 13 as it took us from the turnaround point back to the beginning of the course, which is Harriet Island. Another gorgeous Minnesota Park that I am proud to say is a landmark in my home state. I could even go on for days about all the great things to do in St. Paul, like seeing the Como Zoo, or taking a stroll down by the Xcel Center to enjoy a beer at The Liffy or enjoying a post-race piece of pizza on Cosettas amazing rooftop, but then I would find myself straying waaaaay off topic.
Our ride started with a nice, long, easy decent down a winding road. (I love rides like that!) Plus, there really is some beautiful scenery in St. Paul to keep my mind busy, including beautiful architecture, lush forestry, and even the occasional brush with the wildlife of the area. We were lucky enough to cross paths with a rather large turkey on our ride that day. So just a heads up, beware … they're out there.
As we continued toward Harriet Island I started to realize how far we had descended. Now I realize Minnesota is nothing compared to the mountains of say, Colorado, but we have our share of challenging landscape. As we passed the park I began to see where the course was going to get interesting. I don't want to give too much away, but I would definitely recommend being prepared to climb. For a while. And then come back and do it two more times after that. I do promise that the downhills will make it all worth it! So there in lies another challenge. A three-loop course (for the standard-distance event). Personally, I have to make sure my mental game is strong that day so I don't fall apart on lap two. But if my training is any help to anyone else, I have some really poetic sage advice from my coach. “When you are tired, just move your legs faster.” It's so simple.
So after the long climb, and after getting back to our cars, I had a really intense revelation. This Saturday I get to compete with some of the greatest athletes in the country, heck even in the world. And I get to show off my home state and my pride, Minnesota, in the process! If that's not humbling I don't know what is!
Now I know not everyone has the pleasure of being able to see the beautiful course in advance, but I hope this blog was a glimpse into how fun this weekend really will be! I can't wait to see the turnout, and don't worry, I don't see a single snowflake in our weather forecast.
Race hard everyone and I will see you at the finish line!
Learn more about Erin’s journey to nationals in her first post for the USA Triathlon Championships Blog.