Walker Ranch Duathlon

May 25, 2005

Well the weather was quite a shock this morning, overcast down low and very foggy up high, but that didn't stop a few hardy souls from showing up at Chautauqua Park. The temperature was around 50 degrees a little before 6 a.m. when I pulled in. Soon John Ortega pedaled up, as did Stefan and Jason Fraze, both of them on mountain bikes. John Ortega's friend, also named John, showed up a minute later. He was on a road bike and would only be doing the biking portion. Brad pulled up in his SUV. Brad was going to be our support guy. He'd drive up anything we needed, but I was the only one to give him gear - just my shoes, a small Camelback, and my bike lock. Ortega was the only other duathlete but he wanted to do it unsupported. Homie also pulled. He would drive up to the Walker Ranch Trailhead and run the course counter clockwise until he met a runner, then reverse and run with them.

The two cars pulled out and the rest of us mounted our bikes. The start finish line was the intersection of Baseline and the road into Chautauqua Park. We all self timed. I went straight to the front and set the pace, with both Johns right behind me. Jason and Stefan dropped back right from the start as they were riding heavier mountain bikes. Ortega's friend inched out in front a bit for the first minute or two, but by the Flagstaff house it was just Ortega and I, with me doing all the work. John stayed right on my wheel for most of the way to the Amphitheater Road junction. He took one brief turn at the front. By the time we got to the junction, I had gapped him a bit. I figured he'd run me down on the steep upper part, but that wasn't case. I did a relatively slow time of 17:16 (PR is 15:35) for bottom half, but turned a 15:19 for the upper section. That gave me a respectable 32:35 (PR is 30:50) for Super Flag.

Oretga was out of site in the fog now and another nine minutes put me at the trailhead, 43:29 after starting. I popped open Brad's hatchback and switched shoes. After locking my bike, I was running at 44:49 and off to a great start. I ran clockwise, just like I had done before. I might have to try it the other way sometime. The run seemed to be doing fine, but I guess that was because I was cruising along at a pretty casual pace. I was wondering when Ortega would run me down. He's a phenomenal athlete and has won the Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon before. He wasn't in peak shape obviously, but I still figured he was plenty fast enough to run me down. I also knew that Stefan would be riding this loop in the opposite direction and wondered when I'd see him coming at me.

I passed Stefan's friend as he changed the tire on his bike. I don't know this guy's name, but he had driven up to just ride the loop. I asked if he needed any help before trotting on by. Just before I got to the bridge I saw Brad coming the opposite direction. He was just running the loop and heading to work, so I had left nothing in his car. We said hello and kept on going. At the top of the steep stairs, I met Homie. He turned here and ran back with me. We chatted most of the way as I slowly ran up the trail.

The Walker Ranch Loop divides nicely into four sections: a steep descent to the river crossing, then a long climb to the opposite ridge top, then another steep descent where you re-cross the river, and finally a climb back up to the start. I was less than halfway up the first climb when Stefan comes blasting down the trail on his 29" mountain bike. This guy is a very fast and fit mountain biker. He has the FKT on the Hall Ranch Lollipop and I think the Walker Ranch as well. Today, after riding SuperFlag, he rode the loop in just over 54 minutes! That's impressive. This guy has ridden the Kokopelli Trail (135 miles) in a single day and ridden the White Rim Loop, both directions, in under 24 hours. That's 210 miles of mountain biking. He's next goal is to ride the Colorado Trail (485 miles, 60,000 vertical feet) in just five days. That makes any five days of the Tour de France look like a casual tourist ride. The last time I did this, only Stefan came out for it. He beat me in riding 2h25m to my 2h27m. Today, tired from a 5-hour, middle-of-the-night mountain bike ride that he did only 27 hours earlier, he blasted the full Monty in 2h12m! This is a serious time. Very serious. He crushed the field today.

I continued on with Homie, wondering where Jason and Ortega were. By then I knew they were going the same direction as I was. A little ways down the descent back to the river (the third section), Homie passes me by and tries to help me to a faster pace. I can't do it, though, and I'm gapped by a hundred yards or so. Most of the time I can see him and I work hard to keep him in sight. Just before we reach the bottom, Jason comes blazing by on his HARD TAIL mountain bike! What a stud. I don't do hard tails any more. Right behind him was Stefan's friend.

The cruised down the flat section on the other side of the river and were soon out of sight. Homie and I ran this flat section for five minutes or so before we started our final climb out. I didn't expect to see Jason again. I closed a bit on Homie before we topped out and I tossed him my bike key to unlock my bike. I needed every advantage if I was going to run down Jason. I finished the loop at 1:58:30, so the Walker Ranch Loop had taken me 1h13m. This isn't great, but not horrible for me. Dave Mackey has the record for running this loop in just 54 minutes! As fast as Stefan mountain bikes it. I think I could get it down under 1h10m. That will be my goal next time. One thing that was nice about this loop is that I noticed nice mile posts at 6-miles, 4-miles, 3-miles, 2-miles, and 1-mile. I assume there was a 5-mile and 7-mile post as well, but I failed to notice them.

Figure 1: My heartrate and elevation profile vs. time.

I transitioned back to my biking gear and Homie brought all my other gear down for me. Thanks, Homie and Brad! I rode the dirt road out to the Flagstaff Road and started grinding away up the steep backside, still hoping to spot Jason. I couldn't see very far in the fog and knew I'd be freezing on the way down, but it was a quick descent. First, I had to climb back up to the top though. After going through the steepest part, I saw a ghostly image up ahead in the fog. It was Jason. I upped my pace and gave chase. I wanted to sneak up on him. I didn't want him seeing me too early and pushing his pace. I could see him out of the saddle and working hard at the crest of each mini-hill and I did the same. He'd disappear into the fog on the downhills, but appear again at the next rise. I was nearly on him when we got back to the top of Flagstaff and pulled even with him at the first switchback of the descent. Later, he'd tell me that he never saw me coming and figured he had me beat when he got back to the top of Flagstaff before me. Alas, I was right behind him and on a road bike to this mountain bike. We had 2000+ feet to descend in the next five miles and I pushed hard to get a good gap on him. I braked hard into the dangerous switchbacks, though. There was no need to go so fast as to risk a crash.

I put less than minute on Jason on the descent. I finished with a new PR of 2:23:20 and Jason finished in 2:24:08. His time today would have beat both Stefan and I from last year's event. Homie was there in the parking lot with Stefan and we hung out a bit waiting for John Ortega, but he didn't show by 8:50 and we had to get to work. Jason had last seen him at the start of the second descent on the run course - probably about 5-7 minutes behind me. Of course, I hope he got down okay. John, send me some email to confirm you are okay.

The rumored Bill Briggs showing didn't happen. Kraig Koski had to cancel at the last minute due to an injury. That was disappointing. Those two guys might have given Stefan a run for his money. Just think what Stefan could do if he was well rested. That guy is an ANIMAL!