More on the USAT Duathlon Nationals

I’m back home from the Duathlon National Championships and have a full day of work behind me. My head is no longer pounding, but I’m still a little stiff-legged after Saturday’s race and Sunday’s 8-plus hour drive from Bend, Oregon to Oakland, California.

All in all, USAT put on a fantastic event for us duathletes. During the rules briefing the day before the race, many athletes (especially the sprint competitors) were concerned about potentially crowded conditions at the beginning of the run and on the bike. The first run started in a narrow chute (kinda like cattle), and took two immediate hard rights onto a narrow bike path.The bike course went out and back (times two for the standard distance) on a road that was mostly moderately uphill on the way out, downhill on the way back. We only had one side of the road to do all of this, which made those screaming descents seem pretty sketchy.

I can only speak for the standard distance, but neither of these course curiosities presented a serious issue in my race (Women 17-49). It was crowded through the bike path, but nothing worse than any other large race. It forced me to not go out too fast, which is easy to do in these events.

The bike course was fine. The fields broke up pretty fast thanks to the long climb, and there was enough room for people to fly down the hill at 40+ mph while others stayed to the right and either hammered the downhill or clung for dear life, depending on his or her comfort level.

Both the bike and run course had hills to contend with, but nothing compared to what I’m used to in the East Bay hills! The 40K bike course had a little under 1600 feet of climbing; the 10K run, about 430 feet; the 5K run, about 210. We felt every inch of hill on that second run, that’s for sure! At the crest of one of the climbs, on the second run, I saw the photographer snapping away. “How mean!” I said, smiling. A little joke took my mind off the pain. He laughed…after he took God knows about many shots of me and the other athletes when they look like death warmed over.

The transitions were short (no running 400 meters with the bike, no mud, no grass) and straightforward. The volunteer support was excellent. The course marshall at the bike turnaround had a booming voice that she used very well to tell us to either turn around or head left to transition. I heard that a few others missed the turnaround altogether and kept right on going! But they didn’t get far.

Crowd support was pretty good too. I saw a couple friends cheering us on, which was much appreciated, and Elvis gave words of encouragement at multiple spots on the course.

USAT Duathlon Bend
The sea of bikes.

My race was not my best, but I met my very revised goal: finish without embarrassing myself. I also managed a miracle. Because of an injury this spring that derailed my running, I told myself if I finished in the top ten of my age group it would be a miracle. I finished 8th. Viola! Friends of mine had great days, podium days, while others had worse experiences than mine — a dropped chain, cramps, nausea.

The awards ceremony. Sorry I was too lazy (or tired) to take podium pictures.

Bend made a great host for the Du Nats this year. And lucky us, we get to go back in 2017!

PS, if you decide to compete in next year’s nationals, consider staying at Shilo Inn. The rooms are large (I had a kitchen!), reasonably priced (before all the prices go up in advance of the race), and the staff is super nice. They serve a pretty good free breakfast too…I discovered…the morning I drove home.

Did you race in Bend this past weekend? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!


USAT Duathlon National Championships-Results

Follow this link for the damage (searchable results):

My head is pounding and I’m walking a little stiff-like after competing at the Duathlon National Championships in Bend, Oregon this morning. The weather turned out to be nearly perfect—cool at the start, warm at the finish. The sprint races, which started at 1 p.m., had a rougher time, as temps climbed up to about 80 degrees. And…the oddest thing…a mini twister! Apparently, a mini twister took out a few port-o-potties, tossing crap everywhere, literally. And then it blew over the finish line arch and the bike-out sign. Amazingly, no bikes or bodies were harmed by the mini-twister.

The standard distance races, which started between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., had none of that. A little bit of gusty wind, but nothing torrential.

I will have more to write when my head stops pounding. In the meantime, here is a pic of yours truly and my friend Cassie, who was my neighbor in transition and finished fifth in our age group!

It was a little chilly at 6:30 a.m.

Bend is a lovely city. I love the views of the mountains and the river running through. I love the abundance of health food stores. Don’t love the traffic on either 20 or 97, whatever this road is called that my hotel is on. I look forward to coming back next year for Du Nats 2017!

Du the Spotlight: Wolf Hillesheim

Wolf Hillesheim of El Sobrante, California, on the Eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area, got interested in multisport at age 50, but he’s never stopped moving. Ever. Really, I don’t think he knows how to sit still.

His endless energy has propelled him to 18 ITU World Duathlon Championships, and dozens and dozens of national, regional, and local races. He had his eye on a gold medal for years, and in 2015, he claimed two: at the USAT Duathlon National Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota, and at the ITU World Championships in Adelaide, Australia.

That same year, at age 70, USA Triathlon named Wolf Grand Masters Duathlete of the Year. He’s been on a roll ever since, and will likely continue to top the USAT rankings for years to come. “Health is wealth,” he’s known to say. If that’s the case, he is very rich indeed.

We caught up with Wolf just a few days before the local Du TOES (Triathlon of El Sobrante), one of several duathlons and running events that his company, Wolf Pack Events, puts on each year. His low-key, but challenging duathlons regularly attract local elites and newcomers alike. His well-organized race directing and commitment to recognizing all athletes, from the front to the back of the pack, keeps people coming back. (That and the post-race pizza.)

duathlon world championships
Wolf (right) with friend/duathlon champ Tom Parker post-race in Aviles, Spain

RBR: When and why did you start Wolf Pack Events?

Wolf: I started Wolf Pack Events because I gave my Karate Dojo, Kempo Karate, to my son. Forty-nine years was enough. And there were no sanctioned USAT duathlons in the East Bay, and I live to race, along with some of my duathlon friends.

RBR: You competed in the 2016 World Duathlon Championships in Aviles, Spain recently. I heard it was a tough day out there. How so? Are you pleased with your performance?

Wolf: When you race in Europe, all the best in the world are there. I came in fifth, hoping for third, but could not have done any better. The winner has not lost a Worlds race in his past six events. The sprint races started early. We [standard distance] started at 11:30 a.m., in the sun…and then the humidity…lots of American teammates had major cramping problems. But it is the same for all, except that living in the Bay Area, where we seldom have humidity, takes a small toll.

RBR: You are a national and world champion and ranked number one in your age group in USAT’s 2015 national rankings. You’re racing up a storm! What training principles help you stay speedy at 70?

Wolf: Du speed work every week. Eat some real boring meals six days a week—salad and chicken breast at least five days a week. Very seldom miss a day of training. Du most of my bike training indoors, and then go out on every Saturday and du a run/bike /run if we are not racing. Hang around with people that don’t whine and like to have fun. My goal is to be the oldest male to compete in the world championships, so I have a lot more races to DU.

On June 25, Wolf and many others (including me) will head to Bend, Oregon, to compete in the USAT Duathlon National Championships. Run bike run swift!

run bike run

Study: Max Cushioned Shoes and VO2 Max

Triathletes seem to favor Hoka One One uber-cushioned shoes. Maybe it’s because of the endless hours of training many triathletes put in, or maybe it’s because of brand recognition: Ironman U.S. Series named Hoka its official shoe sponsor this year. Or maybe they just get a kick out of wearing brightly colored platform shoes.

I, for one, favor Altra as my max-cushioned shoe of choice. The heavily cushioned models, such as the Olympus (trail) and Torin (road), still look a little funny, but they have kept me on my feet and leave me feeling less beat up after a long trail run. And I love the zero-drop sole.

I’ve always wondered how all that cushion affects running economy. Does it make a difference if I’ve got a couple inches (I’m exaggerating) of foam under my feet versus the cushion of a slipper? Apparently, a few scholars wondered the same thing and conducted a study to find the answer.

Miles A. Mercer, Tori Stone, Jack Young, and John Mercer of University of Nevada-Las Vegas put 10 subjects in a pair of neutral running shoes (Adidas Prene) and a pair of max-cushioned shoes (Hoka Bondi 4). Over two days, the subjects ran on a treadmill at different speeds and inclines in the two different pairs of shoes. The result: the shoes had no influence on VO2 Max.

So the next time you head out in your uber-cushioned shoes, know that you’ll get the same workout as you would with a regular pair of shoes. However, if you’re doing speedwork or racing short distances, the weight of the shoe may make a difference.

Jack Daniels reported that for every ounce you shave off of your shoes, you save about .83 seconds per mile. When you’re chasing a PR, every .83 seconds counts! Go too light, however, and you lose some of the advantage because your body absorbs more of the shock, which costs energy.

Today I did my long run in my almost-worn-out pair of Olympus. Now I know that when I struggled up the hills in Redwood Park, it wasn’t the fault of the shoes!


Why I “Du” The Mondo Brick

The brick is a triathlon and duathlon staple. Although almost every multisport athlete incorporates bricks into her training, they vary about as much as the individual. There’s the standard middle-distance bike-run brick, the run-bike brick, the run-bike-run brick, and multi-bricks: intervals alternating bike and run.

I do a little bit of all of these in duathlon training. I also incorporate what I call the mondo brick: a bike-run or run-bike-run session that incorporates intensity in all segments. Sometimes I incorporate race-pace efforts, sometimes tempo, but the mondo brick has some element of hard all the way through.

Today was a mondo-brick day. To punish myself even more, I picked a hilly course for the bike and run. I ran on lovely, very rolling Nimitz Way in Berkeley’s Tilden Park. For the bike portion, I descended Wildcat Canyon and then used the Bears loop: a 19-mile, hilly-ish loop through El Sobrante and Briones that culminates with Bear Creek Road, home to “the Three Bears” (aka three bears of a hill). It’s a loop I ride often, and it’s also the bike part of the upcoming Du Toes duathlon on June 18.

Nimitz Way
The start of Nimitz Way. It looks innocent enough here, but gets hillier with every mile.

Maybe my reasoning is twisted, but I told myself that if I included a workout that was ridiculously hard, and longer than my goal race, the USAT Duathlon Nationals in Bend, Oregon, that it would make the race seem easy. We’ll see about that.

I gave myself an eight-mile run, six at a brisk pace (roughly tempo effort); Bears loop (plus descending and then climbing Wildcat, about 24 miles total); four-mile run, three of them at a brisk pace (which really wasn’t very brisk, but there was a lot of effort).

For standard-distance duathlon training (10k-40k-5k), this is most likely overkill. But I am self-coached, and sometimes I go a little overboard. As I started the second run, I thought, “this is crazy!” Which means, yes, it was a long, tough workout. More like a mega-mondo brick.

The mondo brick doesn’t have to be so excessively long. I also incorporate shorter mondo bricks into my week. As the goal race nears, I incorporate at least a few bike-run workouts that include tempo and faster intervals on the bike (about 1:15 total riding time), followed by a tempo run around Oakland’s Lake Merritt (4 miles total, including .5 from/to my apartment).

The mondo brick is not for the feint of heart. But it’s a great way to improve that all-important second run! Just remember I’m not a coach so don’t do as I say, or as I do, unless it works for you!