Prairie Punisher Duathlon
by Chad Babcock
Q: How do you slay a “dragon?” A: Give it a cramp!
It’s Saturday, July 28th, 4:50 AM, blaring alarm, sound of Mr. Coffee percolating, faint sound of raindrops on a hot asphalt shingle roof, my wife, daughters, and neurotic Jack Russell, Kirby, fast asleep; I awake or at least begin to function. This morning I would find myself toeing the line of the 6th Annual Prairie Punisher Duathlon in Gardner, Kansas. Two things are different for this year’s Punisher: one, this is the first year for the World Long Course Duathlon Qualifier distance (15K run, 61K bike, 3K run), the course I signed up for; and two, I would be the only one from Team WMS racing the Punisher this year. The later possibly taking some enjoyment out of the event for me. Luckily, my support squad (Jenney, Quinn, and Berkley) and the newest edition to the squad, Steve “Nancy’s Boy” Strickland, found time to watch me race; their cheers kept me going strong and I thank them all for that. As usual, the weather was HOT and humid and the course hilly and windy. Why else call it the Punisher?
Bang, the guns sounds and a horde of scantily clad athletes take to the streets of Gardner. Four events: a 5K sprint, 15K run, short course duathlon, and the World Long Course Duathlon Qualifier started with the sound of the gun. With the aid of my trusty Garmin 305, I quickly realize that I’m moving faster than anticipated and that my heart rate was in check. If Steve, during a conversation about his recent stellar performance in the Vineman ½ Ironman, wouldn’t have got me thinking about potentially blowing up/falling apart when your body seems to be performing at a level beyond your expectations, I probably would have been able to run the first 9.3 miles with a little more comfort. Regardless, I came into T1 at least four minutes faster than I had planned and I felt relatively good; 7:23 pace.
A quick T1 for me and I was off on my bike. I felt good on the bike for the first five miles and then it began. Call the wha-mbulance if you must! It was my first time to experience cramping on the bike, and I’m not talking about mild cramping, I’m talking full on, “my word, I don’t know if I can carry on like this much longer” type cramping. I edited that response should a reader decide to share this masterpiece with their children.
Anyhow, seven or eight futile attempts later at trying to stretch out the cramp, I find my self rolling into T2. Looking back, I still managed to hold a good pace – 20.1 mph. My bike was a little bit slower than I wanted it to be, but I had passed people, held off all but a few, and felt good while knocking out yet another fast transition for me. Now the dreaded second run, and by this time it was HOT outside. My goal for the second run was to finish it and that I did. And surprisingly, I realized that others were having harder times with the run than me as I passed a few and was only overtaken by one runner quickly out of transition.
Rounding the corner to the cheers of unknown spectators and my favorite cheer squad, I finished the race 27th overall and 5th in my age group with a time of 3:29:06; almost six minutes faster than my goal. I was, and am, very happy with my performance. Until next year Punisher!