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.