This race season has been quite the whirlwind! Rewinding a few paces back, in the still- wintry month of March when I was just starting to plan my race calendar, many would agree that I was pretty ambitious then. My partner, Jordan and I naturally have ongoing discussions about our life choices (mainly pertaining to training and racing) and always arrive at the same familiar, great big question: why do we keep doing this?
It’s hard to believe that this is only my second season of racing and I know that I still have a long way to go to reach my peak. I’ve decided on three “A races” this season:
Ironman 70.3 Muskoka
ITU Standard Duathlon MultiSport World Championships
Niagara Falls Barrelman Bike/Run.
Keeping these three at the forefront of my training, I’ve added “B races” where I could practice “the essentials” (i.e. pacing, transition, and…
This weekend (June 24/25) was MultiSport Canada’s Season Opener presented by Sketchers Performance in the beautiful city of Welland. A few days ago, I published in my pre-race report how excited I was about racing in the Rose City. I did a bit of research prior to the race and learned that Welland is not only a city rich with history going back as early as 1788, but is also home to the finest rose gardens in the Niagara Region thereby earning its name of Rose City. Naturally, this fun fact stuck with me on my way to the race venue and throughout my racing experience on Saturday.
If there is one word I can use to describe the venue, I would use the word STUNNING. The gorgeous Welland International Flatwater Centre, with the sunlight kissing its surface was the first thing I saw as I rolled…
[Editor’s note: In my view, anyone who competes in a run-bike-run format event is a duathlete. There is no “real.” Everyone, no matter where they finish in the pack, is an athlete that’s doing their best. As Steven Jonas writes, not everyone agrees. The situation he describes reminds me of many conversations I’ve had with non-runners about my weekend activities. I tell them I’m racing on Sunday. “How far?” they ask. 5K, I tell them. “Oh,” they say flatly. “That’s not so bad.” Really? Had I told this person I was running a marathon, their eyes would light up. As if anything less isn’t a “real” race. Tomorrow I’m racing a mile—just one mile!—one week after competing in the USAT Duathlon National Championships (standard course) in Bend, Oregon. That mile will feel as much like a “real” race as the two-and-a-half-plus-hour effort in Bend, for sure! So whatever, wherever, however you’re du-ing it, be proud of yourself for du-ing. You are a duathlete. And now on to Dr. Jonas… – Du It For You]
As you are sure to know by now, duathlons come in a variety of distances and levels of difficulty. I’ve been reading duathlon/triathlon literature for a long time. And every once in a while, I come across something like this [modified] quote from a letter that appeared back in the October 2008 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine:
“Some time ago, I participated in a sprint-distance duathlon. The race took me a few months to prepare for, was a lot of fun, and got me excited about multisport…Here’s my problem: Some say that I didn’t really do a duathlon and that I’m lying whenever I tell people I did, even though I always use the ‘sprint-distance’ qualifier. Some say that only something like the Powerman Zofingen—a 10 kilometer run, a 150 kilometer bike, and a 30 kilometer run—is a ‘real’ duathlon. Am I misleading people, including myself, when I say I did a duathlon if the race was only a sprint?”
So, let’s see. Is there some absolute standard for what qualifies a particular race as “real?” Well, as of this writing, I’m about to start my 35th season in multi-sport racing and have done over 250 duathlons and triathlons.
And no, I don’t think there is some absolute standard for a “real” multi-sport race. If, for the person who told the letter-writer that the only “real” duathlon is something like Powerman Zofingen, all that means is that the only “real” duathlon, for him or for her, is such a race. For what does the word “real” really mean, in personal (not scientific) terms? It means something that you experience objectively, something that you can see or taste or hear or feel, that has an actual existence for you, not necessarily to anybody else.
So whether the race is long, short, or in between; done on a hot, cold, windy, calm, or in between day; hilly, flat, or in between…was it real for you? Did getting to the start line and then crossing the finish line, whether you went fast, or slow, or in between, mean something significant for you? That’s all that matters. Then for you it was a real race, a real experience.
Then how about doing a sprint duathlon or a standard-distance duathlon that the quoted letter-writer put down? Are none of the folks who compete in them real duathletes? What does that make age-groupers who compete in the annual USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships like I did last year at Bend, Oregon? Or the International Triathlon Union Sprint-Distance Duathlon World Championships, which I hope to be doing at Penticton, British Columbia in August?
Over the course of my career, I’ve raced up to the Ironman distance (started five, finished three, ran out of time on the marathon in the other two) as well as several ITU World Championship triathlons at both the Olympic and sprint distances.
Every race I have done, whether an Ironman or one of the sprint-distance duathlons that I do a couple of times a year in New York City’s Central Park, has been, as the word is defined above, “real” for me, in the context of that race, on the day of that race. Regardless of your finishing time or the length of the race, if you’ve had a good time at the race, if you feel good and feel good about yourself after the race, then you are a real duathlete.
This column is adapted from one that appeared on the USA-Triathlon Blog in 2013 and is used with permission.
2017 marks Steve Jonas’ 35th season of multi-sport racing. Steve is the author of Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®. The 2ndEd. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) and Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012). All of his books on multi-sport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
One sign that my race didn’t go as planned—no pictures. Sorry.
This past weekend, duathletes from all over the United States convened in beautiful Bend, Oregon for the USAT Duathlon National Championships.
For the second year in a row, the beer-loving mountain town gave us near-perfect temperatures, sunny skies, and little wind. It was the perfect setting for fast times on a hilly course…mine, however, was not one of them.
But I won’t complain about my race—yet. First, I’ll talk about what went right. Two friends I made in North Carolina during the long-course nationals—Albert Harrison and Tom Woods—both stood at the top of the podium. Albert all-out won the standard course race, finishing the hilly 10K-40K-5K course about two minutes ahead of elite athlete Alistair Eeckman. Tom finished second in his age group in the standard course. Later that afternoon, in his second of three races over the weekend, he won the masters title and the competitive 45-49 age group division in the non-draft sprint. Read USAT’s report here.
Many of my Bay Area friends had great days. Wolf Hillesheim, Jim Girand, and Rick and Suzanne Cordes all finished second in their age group in their respective races. Jacqueline Sasaki, whom I met at a local race the week prior, won the 40-44 AG title for the standard distance. Cassie O’Brien, my transition neighbor at several big races and buddy from the Wolf Pack Events duathlons, finished third in our 45-49 AG for the standard. (Full results here.)
With the exception of the turnaround on the bike course and a slight change to the run course, the routes were identical to last year. You can read the specs in last year’s race report.
The weather was slightly cooler, the wind about equally mild (but no mini twister). My performance: terrible. And I have no one or no thing to blame but myself. My transitions were almost 30 seconds slower. Why? I didn’t practice them. Not once in the past year. Granted, I did get a wave of nausea for a few seconds in T1, and I had trouble getting my cycling shoes on, and I was positioned near the back of the transition area, farthest from Bike Out, but really it’s because I didn’t practice. Why didn’t I practice? How many excuses do you want to hear?
My bike split was about two minutes slower than last year. Why? I didn’t train enough. Sure, we had nearly constant rain in the beginning of the year, and I sold my trainer, so my indoor option is a spin bike at the gym. Adequate? Eh, it’s better than no bike, but not ideal! When the weather cleared, there were many weeks where I’d be too tired from a long or hard run to eek out a quality bike workout later in the week. Or I’d get about half way through, see the pitiful power numbers and give up. Oh, and I switched to a shorter crank a few weeks ago, which I’m still getting used to. But none of that really matters. I didn’t train properly.
My run splits – no complaints there! I improved from last year on both the first and second runs. Why? I’ve been training! I’ve stayed healthy all year, put in consistent track workouts and competed in a variety of road races. No big breakout performances or PRs (at this stage, those are hard to come by), but consistently solid performances. Why? I was committed.
So I’ve finished two national championships this year in duathlon and am two months away from a world championship race. Yet, I have not had the motivation to train for this sport all year. Unless I want to beat myself up again in Penticton, after another crappy race, I’d better find some motivation real quick!
On the second out-and-back of the bike leg, struggling up what looked like nothing but felt like a mountain, my inner voice yelled at me. A lot. It’s typical to get the occasional thought during a race: “This is too hard.” “I should just forget it.” “Why am I out here?” Usually I can push those thoughts aside with a mantra or by telling myself to cut it out. In Bend, my “dark side” had the rest of me convinced this was my last duathlon ever. “F— it. I’m not having fun. I’m last. Oh Jesus Christ. There’s a car behind me. The sweeper car? Figures. I have no business going to Penticton. I can cancel my hotel. Maybe I can get credit with Air Canada. What would I do with it? Oh who cares. This sucks. I should just quit this duathlon business now.” And on and on and on it went. Meanwhile, the women I was with during the first run were long gone.
I wasn’t last. I managed sixth in my age group. That’s three places higher than last year even though I was slower. I had two pretty good runs before and after a sucky bike. My attitude toward duathlon is shifting back toward the positive. I haven’t canceled my flight. Time to get my rear in gear!
How do you recover mentally from a bad race? Talk about it in the comments below.
There’s enough bad and scary news right now. Here are two pieces of good news: one, a welcome return. Another, a silver lining in the face of tragedy.
Wildflower Triathlon, one of California’s most popular three-sport events, will be back in action in 2018. This year, race organizer Tri-California had to cancel the event because Lake San Antonio, the site of the swim, had basically dried up to a puddle. Over the past five years, the drought caused it to drop to seven percent capacity.
As the water receded, attendance levels also dropped. A race that usually attracts up to 7,000 people had dropped to 2,500 in 2015. The combination forced Tri-California to put the race on hiatus.
And then it rained. And rained and rained and rained. Up in the Sierras, is snowed. And snowed and snowed. Mountains of snow. California got so much rain and snow that most of the state is out of drought, and Lake San Antonio is up to 57 percent capacity. The race is on!
With so many races, especially in California, to compete with Wildflower, what does this mean for the sport? “I think Wildflower means there are still independent races and independent race directors,” Tri-California president and Wildflower founder Terry Davis told Slowtwitch.com. “The sport is not all corporate, not all Ironman. There is still life in the sport.”
The silver lining
On August 26, 2016, Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Karen McKeachie, a USA Triathlon Hall of Fame inductee and internationally recognized athlete, went out for a ride and never came back. She didn’t come back because Terry Lee Lacroix drove his Chevy Avalanche into the opposite lane to pass another vehicle and hit McKeachie head-on, barely missing her two riding partners.
Out of this tragedy, the community is working to accelerate construction of Washtenaw County’s Border-to-Border (B2) Trail. After McKeachie’s death, her family honored her legacy through a $1.1 million gift to the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative (HWPI), a local nonprofit group dedicated to supporting the B2B expansion.
To accelerate construction, the McKeachie Family and HWPI have announced the Karen’s Trail Campaign, a public effort to raise at least another $1 million for trail construction. HWPI needs to raise $15 million in private funding to complete the B2B trail by 2021.
The Washtenaw County portion of the trail covers 35 miles along the Huron River. The larger vision includes a 55-mile trail that, when combined with the adjoining Lakelands State Trail, will be 70 miles long and will include a unique 44-mile loop trail that connects the towns of Dexter, Chelsea, Stockbridge, and Pinckney as well as two state recreational areas.
For the second year, Cary, North Carolina hosted the USAT Long Course National Championship on April 29. This was my first visit to Cary, located just outside of Raleigh, and my first long course national duathlon. That I won my age group had as much to do with luck as skill. Had I competed in this event last year, I would have finished eighth! But it’s not last year. It’s 2017, and I earned my first age group win in a national championship du. Woo Hoo!
The trip didn’t start well. I arrived ridiculously late—it was 1:30 a.m. Thursday night/Friday morning by the time I arrived to my hotel, and around 2:30 a.m. when I flopped into bed. I slept fitfully for about five hours. As someone who deals with occasional insomnia, I value sleep! I don’t function well when I’m deprived of it. But I pressed on…
The first order of business (after coffee) on Friday morning was a short, easy run; ideally on the course, if I could figure it out. I happened to show up just as a guy on a fancy aero bike rode into the parking lot. “Do you know the run course?” I asked. He kinda did, but his friend Bert knew it better. They were planning to run it also as soon as Bert finished his ride. I asked to tag along and they politely agreed.
Little did I know I was running with the overall male winner, Albert “Bert” Harrison, and the masters men’s winner, Tom Woods. What luck! When I wasn’t falling behind, I learned they were from Idaho and Nebraska, respectively, and none of us had any recent experience with heat and humidity.
Post run, I headed to race sponsor Inside Out Sports in hopes they could fix my bike, which I thought got damaged en route. A cable came unplugged, which I learned was an easy fix. The mechanic went above and beyond: he fixed the cable, checked the derailleur hanger, assessed the shifting, and adjusted an aero bar that got knocked off kilter. The Magic Bullet was ready to go!
Race morning gave us more warm, sticky weather. It was 73 degrees and humid when I arrived at 5:40 a.m. I finished my two-mile warm up drenched. I put some ice in my sports bra (yowza!) and waited.
The race started in three waves: under-40 men, 40-plus men, and all women. The run course started on a bike path, wound around and through the Team USA Baseball Complex, through a parking lot, back on a bike path, out-and-back on Green Level Church Road, and back on the bike path to the start. The long course did this 2.5-mile sorta-out-and-back twice.
The course was relatively flat, with some gentle rises/false flats and one tiny hill of about, oh, five meters. Typically for this type of course, for this distance, I should have been able to click off 6:50 to seven-minute miles no problem. On race day, it was a problem. The heat? I finished the first run averaging about 7:20s.
I curse when I’m riding. Sometimes. Under my breath when cars do stupid things. My first four-letter word came at the bike mount, which was on a little hill. I was about to take off when suddenly a swarm of people came around from behind, tried to mount their bikes, and proceeded to weave and fall all over the ground. One woman fell right in front of me. That’s when swear word Number One came out. People, please! If you’re going to race your bike, learn how to ride your bike! And that includes learning how to clip in on a hill!
The bike course was relatively flat and fast, with about 1,100 feet of elevation gain over 31-ish miles. Athletes from flatter regions called it hilly. For someone used to the East Bay hills and Mt. Diablo, it was about as flat as you could get!
After the short course duathletes turned off around mile seven, the rest of us had lots of room to spread out. There were long stretches where I had no one behind me, and only one person visible in front of me—a spec of blue jersey far ahead. We rode by Jordan Lake, which is much bigger than I imagined, and along lots of quiet shaded roads. At one point I saw a turtle on the road. Bad sign? A symbol of my speed, for sure. When you ignore bike intervals for eight months and then do them only sporadically before your first big race, you don’t get the best results.
The second run repeated the first-run course, but this time, we had miles of fatigue in our legs and more heat—about 80 degrees. I saw lots of people walking. My pace, which was slower than the first run but still persistent, felt like a slog. I dumped water on my head and sipped what I could at the water stops. That little bitty hill became a beast! I told myself when I got around the final turn, I would pick it up to the finish. Okay, when I got to the first/last water stop I’d pick it up. Oh, well, just finish like you mean it. That I did.
A few days before the race, I saw there were very few women in my age group. I thought maybe, if I had a good day, I’d have a shot at the podium. I didn’t expect to finish first. Now I have a pretty medal, a cool national champion jersey, and had a $20 gift certificate to Inside Out Sports (spent that later in the afternoon).
All in all, I give Cary and FS Series a big thumbs up. The volunteers and staff were all super-friendly and supportive. The event had a local race feel (because it was), but with a big USA Triathlon arch and finish line chute to make it official.
There were a few glitches, such as one water stop running out of water, but glitches happen in just about every race. We had an abundance of finish line food—sandwiches, fruit, bagels, gummy bears, and Mountain Dew (Yep, I had one. Probably my first Mountain Dew in about 15 years!)—and lots of nice people. I met athletes from Nebraska, Idaho, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and, of course North Carolina.
I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some of them in Bend, Oregon in June for the standard course nationals and in Penticton, BC, in August for the ITU World Championships. In the meantime, quality time on the bike!