On Becoming a Race Director…

Giving back to the community can take many forms.  From donations to local charities to adopting a highway, there is more than one way to give back.  How one gives back often depends on their beliefs and passions.

Being a triathlete convert from an office potato, I understand the impact of fitness on improving one’s quality of life.  So, for my philanthropic project for 2012, I decided to do something so outside my box, that I downright frightened myself.

Combining my passion for competition and the local need for a new type of sporting event, I created the concept of the Goleta Duathlon.   A run-bike-run event that is structured as a “B” race, good for seasoned athletes as a warm-up, and a great first race for beginners, that will double as a fundraiser for the Foundation for Girsh Park.

For the first time in my life, I set the bar so high, it drowns me with fear.  Being Race Director is a huge responsibility as the success of the event and the safety of all participants lie on my shoulders.  This event will sink or swim because of me.

Luckily, some of the same principles I learned in triathlon competition apply to my Race Directorship.  In no particular order:

  • Perseverance – Just don’t give up.  Like a triathlon, the mind plays games and tries to get you to stop pushing the edge.  When you get a flat tire, you either continue riding or you change it fast and double your effort to make up time.  As a Race Director, you must keep moving toward the larger goal, even with “No” thrown at you.  If one thing doesn’t work, get feedback and try another angle.
  • Flexibility – Triathlon requires a large amount of flexibility, particularly when dealing with race day conditions.  You can’t let the snow stop you, just adjust your game.  As a Race Director, listening to my community leaders and peers has lead to a very different event that I envisioned last summer when I came up with the idea.   Instead of being stuck on the original event, I rode along for the ride and adjusted where I needed to.
  • Attitude is everything – Sure the rain sucks and makes you cold.  But the cool thing is that you are doing a triathlon in the rain!  Not a lot of people would be bragging about such a thing, but it makes a great story for the grandkids and your friends will respect you a lot more smiling as you cross the finish line in the rain.  Race Director’s have to smile a lot too.  During my first meeting with the city, my event was rejected.  As crushed as I was, I listened to why they rejected it and worked with them.  While the smile did disappear for a moment or two, when the smile came back, I knew this event was going to happen.
  • Enjoy the Journey – Life is not about the destination (death) and neither is the finish line.  In fact, I find finish lines quite boring.  The action is out on the course with every step.  So, every interaction, every sponsor I speak to, and every athlete that contacts me is going to make the journey what it is.  I will be focusing less on race day, and more on how to make race day hugely successful.  Of course, a week before race day, the Race Director seldom sleeps, something that sweetens the journey.

While the daunting task of making the Goleta Duathlon & Fitness Expo a huge success has just began, I know I will be learning a lot along the way.  I know I will also be doing a great thing for my local community.  If there is one thing that keeps me going on this project, is knowing that this event will have a positive impact on a lot of people and be the reason for their smiles at the finish.

Looking to be a Race Director yourself, checkout this inspiring post.

Camarillo Duathlon: A Race to Never Forget

For the past three years, since the very first Camarillo Duathlon was publicized, I have had the goal of completing the course. Due to cancellations, scheduling conflicts, and even injury, I couldn’t quite get my butt down to Camarillo at the right time to get it done!  This race turned into one of those long-term achievements that happen later for a reason.

Back in early 2009 when I set the goal, the race was just an Olympic event (5k run, 20mi bike, 5k run), but today it offers a sprint (1.5mi run, 10mi bike, 1.5mi run).   So, when I arrived at Freedom Park in the wee hours of August 14, 2011, I was feeling a little like I had taken the easy road with the sprint.  Little did I know that in a matter hours, I would be on cloud 9.

Before I go too much further, I would like to commend Bill Escobar for creating this awesome event for us.  Hearing his announcements that morning, watching him interact with the public and volunteers, he demonstrated a passion for multi-sport and a level of hospitality that I haven’t seen before.  Clearly he loves what he does and I am honored to be a participant in his events.

Without further ado, here are my highlights from the event.  I will spare you the novel that I wrote earlier (you know that blow by blow narrative that is a tad long to post here, but if you want a copy of it, please email me armh31″at”gmail.com).

Run #1

Of course the start was pretty melodramatic.  We lined up and the horn blew.  The pack ran off ahead and instead of following the speedy types, I settled into my groove.  By the first turn, I was at the back of the pack, but I didn’t care.  There were plenty of aircraft to admire along the route. As long as I wasn’t last, I was doing well…. observing, strategizing, and plane spotting!

T1 & Bike

Heading into transition I felt winded and one glance at my heart rate said I had pushed the run a tad hard.  Mounting the bike, I sailed out onto the streets amongst the fields of Camarillo.  With authorities keeping those pesky cars at bay, I settled into a decent pace for the 10 mile loop.

That is until the dude in the yellow jersey passed me.  I don’t know why, but having HIM pass me turned a switch and the game was on! As hard as I tried to keep up with him, I couldn’t quite catch him… until nearly the end of the course.  Things got really interesting as I saw him up ahead and slowing down.  I easily passed him and we exchanged glances.

I thought I had him when, all of the sudden, a half mile later he goes whizzing passed me.  I turn up the speed and start chasing him down, but the zigzags back to dismount kept me from catching him.

Then he made a mistake.  He stopped a good 15 feet from the actual dismount line and I went sailing passed him again only to brake hard and stop right on the dismount line itself (a little trick I learned from an experienced triathlete).  I had 15 feet on him and I ran hard with the bike to the transition.  I still had him!

Run #2 & Finish

The Author Following the Race

With a quick switch of gear, I headed out on the run, not even looking back to see where the mister yellow jersey was. I didn’t care, I had a lead to maintain, so I kept a fast (for me) but steady pace that I was certain I could handle all the way back to the finish.  Since I had just run the same course, I knew what to expect and knew that once I was half way down the dirt road, turn on the sprint to finish.

But at the turn around, I saw that my competition had ditched the yellow jersey and wasn’t that far behind me.  I was nervous so I picked up the pace just a bit more.  Passing him, I could see in his eye that he already gave it his all.  I had won… unless I screwed up.

Hitting the dirt road was when the legs seriously started to protest. Just as I considered my options, I was passed by an older guy whom I knew was a sprint participant.  He was moving fast for his build and age, so I wasn’t about to give up my spot to him.  A little earlier than I wanted, I went into sprint mode and ran him down.

Luckily, there was a curb to run around to the finish chute, which he negotiated rather slowly compared to my more flexible maneuver.  Then it was a sprint to the finish and I beat him by two seconds.

And that was the end of a race I will never forget.

Sprint Results Plotted (courtesy TrainingMetrix)

With my overall time of 1:09:31, I was happy to see myself just ahead of the Sprint race average of 1:10:33.   That was good for 32nd place of 69 competitors.  Camarillo Duathlon Sprint Race results were plotted by TrainingMetrix (graph above is reproduced with their permission) and you can see I am just ahead of average (the red dot).

So, have I achieved that goal I set years ago?  As much as I want to say yes, I still have to finish the Olympic course and we might save that for 2012.  But with the third race of 2011 coming up on Sept. 4th, I might just give the sprint one more try in 2011!

Note: I am working compiling some video of the race (the Olympic start) and will post a video post here when it is complete.

Race 6: Santa Barbara Duathlon Results!

The Camarrilo Duathlon was supposed to be my biathlon event this year.  Originally scheduled for May, it was moved to August and then September for various reasons.  Since the event kept changing dates, I decided that the local Santa Barbara Duathlon would be my biathlon event for 2009.  This was a great decision!

I entered the 2009 Santa Barbara Duathlon short course, which consists of a 2k (1.24mi) run, a 17K (11mi) bike, and another 2k run.   I was looking forward to the shorter run distances for a change.  This meant that speed was needed for the runs and endurance needed for the bike.  Slightly different approach than the endurance based triathlons I competed in so far.

Race morning was cool and cloudy.  The perfect day to rumble the streets of Santa Barbara and Montecito.  I arrived to a sparsely populated parking lot with about a dozen transition bars setup.  Clearly, this was going to be a small event, fewer than 100 for both the long and short course.

I ran into two other participants I knew and we shared stories of our race preparation.  From Red Bulls to strange supplement concoctions designed by heroine addicts to simple foam rolling, we each had our own approach to preparing for the race.  They were definitely hyped up and I was a little nervous… I stood off to the side.


The event was quite informal, so the event start was slightly melo-dramatic.  Almost immediately, the participants broke into two groups for the first run, the really fast and then the normal people.  I kept my pace fast, but consistent, settling in behind an older gentlemen who was keeping remarkably consistent pace at the end of the first group.  Glancing at my Garmin Forerunner 305, I noticed the pace was sub-9:00 and we were only 400 feet into the run. Oh my gosh!

The turnaround seemed to take forever to get to.  The bike path went from straight and flat, to curvy and tree-lined, so it was difficult to see very far ahead with so many runners in front.  The first relief came when I saw the short course leader go SPRINTING BY without an inkling of sweat in the opposite direction.  Ahhh… the turnaround is in site.

The turnaround was nothing more that than a cone sitting atop a big steel manhole cover along the path.  Someone had meticulously dispersed chalk arrows all the way around it, so the runner ran past it, made a right-hand u-turn and faced the onslaught of the runners behind.  Oh yes… fun stuff.

The run back to the transition area was a little painful.  I started to exhaust at 0.80mi and pushed hard to finish without stopping and at a good pace (8:48 in the end!).   Running through the chute to the transition area, I couldn’t stop yet… the bike was at the far end of the area.  Then, run one was over.

T1 – Bike Course

Since I didn’t have the issue of stripping off my wetsuit and getting dressed, the biggest problem was changing my shoes while hyper-ventilating and suffering a heart attack.  I took one glance at my heart rate and it was 181…  I felt every beat.

Putting on the helmet, grabbing the bike, it was time to have a nice bike ride.  The strategy was to go fast on both runs and go conservatively on the bike.  But, this was a competition and there were riders in front of me…  surely, I couldn’t just ride behind them the entire way?  Nope, I went blazing by them… one even yelped in shock as I went by at about 25 mph on the flat.  hehehehe…

The first 3 miles were very familiar.  The course followed the same route as the Santa Barbara Triathlon.  Instead of turning around at San Ysidro, you made a left turn and went up, up, up on San Ysidro to East Valley.  The climb was slow and steady, my quads screaming at me the entire way.  This was the third time I’ve done the climb, so I knew I would make it.  Luckily, I didn’t get passed.

Turning right onto East Valley, I went up, up, up and up some more until I hit the top just before the right turn at Sheffield Drive.  Unfortunately, all of the people I passed, went blazing by me.  ugh!  The funny thing was, going downhill, I coasted and kept up while they were all pedaling furiously the pick up speed.  You have to love the efficiency of a competition road bike.  At this point, it was a matter of conservation, so I followed the group back and finished the bike in 41:02.

T2 – Run 2

Dismounting from the bike, my transition area was only a few feet away.  Again the hard part was changing the shoes.  Luckily, I left my running shoes open and untied, so it was a matter of slipping them on, swapping the helmet for a hat and going for it.

Setting out on the run, I definitely felt the fatigue.  The same fatigue I felt every other time I tried to run after some activity, be it swimming or bike or even another run.  However, this one was a little different.  The fatigue wasn’t as deep in the muscles as previously and I was moving at just over 10:00 pace (a minute faster pace than usual).  Then I noticed the guy ahead stop running. While I was tempted to do so myself, I decided no way…  I am going to run this… the entire way if it killed me.  I picked up the pace.

The funny thing is that the guy I passed walking, kept passing me.  Then I would pass him, he would pass me.  He was using my old theory of running; ran hard and walk a bit to recover, then run hard.  I have to say, it is so much nicer being slower and consistent rather than a walking sprinter.

I made a leisurely turn around the cone.  Luckily, this late in the race, the participants were pretty well dispersed so no major accidents occurred.

Then I saw Tyra just after the turnaround.  Seeing her made me realize that I still wasn’t pushing hard enough, so after yelling encouragement to her, I pushed it.


The last quarter mile was horrendous, yet, I pushed hard.  Muscles were hurting, sweat building, and the mental capability dwindling.  Even still, I got angry and ran faster….  I didn’t want to do a repeat of my pitiful Carpinteria Triathlon finish.  I pushed, picking up pace and concentrating. Then I saw my trainer, Chris.

When your trainer is yelling at you to pick up the pace and every muscle hurts and you are just trying to concentrate on not tripping over the multiple curbs and slipping in the mud, it really makes things interesting.  Despite the obstacles and nearly running over race officials at the finish, I made it. Race number six entered the history books.

Bib 35 brought it home for a 2nd place finish!
Bib 35 brought it home for a 2nd place finish!

Overall, I finished 2nd in my division (M30_39) and 9th overall of about 25 participants.  Yep, my first medal finish!

I feel great about this event.  It was short, beautiful, fun and full of unique challenges.  As my last planned event for 2009, this was surely a sweet way to end the season.