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.
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.
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!