Team USA, it’s not goodbye. It’s see you later.

I am officially on Team USA Duathlon sabbatical until at least 2019. Maybe longer. Maybe until I turn 50 (2021), or maybe I’ll revisit the hiatus in 2018 if I get ridiculously excited about an event. Regardless, I am a one-sport athlete for the time being.

USA Triathlon Duathlon

I didn’t make this decision lightly. The duathlon burnout tugged at me all year, despite ambitious goals. My original plan: USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championships in April, standard course nationals in June and the World Championships (standard course) in August. I felt the first two would prepare me well for the worlds in Penticton, which was my “A” goal.

I didn’t train as specifically as I could have for the first of those three races. I could blame it on the deluge of rain that hit the Bay Area through last winter and early spring. Really, it was lack of interest.

I was ready for a break from duathlon and the demand of my time it required. I looked forward to competing with my team at local running races, but rarely looked forward to intervals on the bike and long brick workouts.

By June, I had fit in more duathlon-specific training. The malaise stuck with me, even in beautiful Bend, Oregon. The voices in my head during the bike leg were the loudest they’ve ever been. You’re so slow. Everyone is passing you. You’re going to be the last one out here. Just quit now. This is not fun. I finished, and only about a minute slower than the previous year (all on the bike). So I wasn’t last, but dang it sure felt like it!

I ran well and had a great time at a one-mile race in late June and a Fourth of July 5K. No transitions, no lugging the bike here and there, no goofy one-piece outfit. I worked on getting excited about the ITU Multisport Championships in Penticton, BC, but the feeling wasn’t coming. I trained anyway.

 

And then, something happened on Fourth of July that sent my motivation for everything plummeting into the abyss. My cat, Soleil—my companion for the past 15 years—got sick. Not the sniffles or coughing up a hairball. Serious sick. On July 5, the vet put her on antibiotics for 21 days, which didn’t help her condition.

And so began a long journey of cat worry, combined with a seriously heavy workload, and training for and planning for a trip to Canada. As the days went on, Soleil got more tests, and I got more overwhelmed about this trip.

I canceled the whole damn thing. On August 20, the day I *should* have raced in the Duathlon World Championships, I took Soleil to the vet to have a tumor removed from her bladder. The tumor was cancerous. Now, two months later, she’s on what the cat oncologist calls “hospice care;” which, in this case, means TLC and pain meds. My heart breaks every day.

I officially started my duathlon hiatus when I called Tiki Shores hotel in Penticton to cancel my reservation. I’ll return when my excitement for the sport returns. Until then, I’m a runner that rides her bike a lot.

USAT, you could do better

I absolutely love duathlon, the challenge it brings and the community of people dedicated to this demanding multisport event. I don’t love a lot of what USAT requires to compete in major events. Its demands also played a role in my hiatus, though burnout definitely starred in the decision.

USAT talks about making multisport accessible to everyone. Yet, national championships, and especially world championships, are not accessible to everyone.

They’re accessible to people that meet or exceed the current median USAT athlete income of $100,000+ per year. They’re accessible to people that can afford to take off a few days from work, travel across the country for a race, and invest in an expensive TT bike, an “aero” helmet and other garb. If the average middle-class aspiring athlete scrapes up the cash to acquire the gear and travel to a big race, and lo and behold qualifies to compete in the worlds, they’ll have to pay dearly. Again.

USAT doesn’t make it easy, or affordable in any way, to compete as part of Team USA. The “travel packages” assembled by its travel agent partner are a joke. I compared the costs one year of booking my own travel vs. working with their travel partner and saved well over $1,000 by planning myself.

If you choose to stay in the “host” hotel, know it will likely be one of the most costly in town. In Pontevedra, Spain, for the 2014 worlds, USAT chose the only four-star hotel in the city, while the rest of the countries stayed in nearby, slightly more modestly priced hotels.

Uniforms? You pay for them. About $220 for a uniform, which changes every few years. In 2017, they also started pushing Team USA athletes to buy a “parade kit,” which was a small $200 (approx.) collection of Team USA apparel it supposedly “required” athletes to wear when they weren’t racing. I assume this was another way for USAT to make money off its amateur athletes. I would never be seen in public in this stuff.

Oh–don’t forget the race entry fee. That sets you back another $200 to $300. And don’t forget airfare, hotel/Airbnb reservations, meals, bike transport fees, and other costs. Start doing the math, and you’ll see anything beyond a local duathlon is not accessible to most people.

Want diversity in the sport? Make it affordable to a more diverse population. Consider at minimum, a discount off uniforms, membership fees, race entry fees and the stupid parade kit for people that meet certain income criteria.

Study USATF’s requirements for regional and national championships. The difference in monetary requirements and pain-in-the-you-know-what factor is remarkable.

Some of the costs associated with national and world events are unavoidable. Race organizers pay a fortune, I’m sure, in insurance, permitting, security, police support, venue reservations and other expenses. But really, a “required” parade kit? After all the athletes sacrifice to compete in a dream of an event, requiring us to wear stuff we’ll never wear again (and pay for it) is like swatting us upside the head with a racing flat.

Having said all that, will I compete in regional and national USAT events again? Absolutely. Do I plan to fulfill my mission of competing in Powerman Zofingen, the ITU long-course duathlon world championship? Absolutely. I don’t know when, but when I do, I’ll be physically and mentally “all in.”

Do I think USAT does a few things right? Yep. It promotes a sport that welcomes beginners. In a country faced with an obesity crisis, the more people we have engaging in healthy activities, the better.

It offers a wealth of training tips through its website, newsletters and magazine that athletes of all ability levels can learn from. It sanctions races all over the country, ensuring a greater chance we’ll participate in reasonably well-organized, safe events. It established solid programs for college and youth. It established a complicated rankings system so competitive age-groupers like myself can see how we stack up.

And it hired COO Tim Yount. I don’t know everything his job entails, but I know he is passionate about promoting and growing duathlon, and I know he works hard for USAT’s membership body. He travels all over the U.S. and world as a USAT liaison. I’ve seen him lead course preview rides, town hall discussions and rules briefings. I’ve heard him emcee big races. I’ve seen him stand near the finish line for hours to hand little American flags to athletes approaching the finish line of world championship events.

What do you think? How can USAT make duathlon more accessible to all? To keep the sport going, it has to bring in more participants, and to bring in more participants, it should be more accessible to more people. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Race Recap – Duathlon de Boucherville, Quebec Championships and Coupe du Quebec Finale

CANADIAN DUATHLON CENTRAL

As the summer turns to fall, the duathlon season continues in Canada. The races are starting to be more and more spaced out, but they’re still delivering a punch when they are being held!

This weekend, I travelled to Boucherville, Quebec to take in my first “triple whammy”: Triathlon Canada qualifying race for the 2018 World Championships in Fyn, Denmark, the 1200 point finale of the Coupe du Quebec series, and the Triathlon Quebec provincial championships for the sprint distance (draft legal). The course was a suburban one that lent itself well to draft legal racing. It was a narrow one, so the cap on athletes at 52 was probably a good thing…even solo riders were finding themselves caught up behind groups of the course’s 4 corners and one 180 degree turnaround on the narrow city streets.

It was flat and fast, with a quaint circuit around a small lake…

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Guest post: The basic 8 of regular exercise

Note: Thank you again to Dr. Steven Jonas for his contribution to this blog. This one is a topic that anyone can learn from. We get so caught up in train-race-repeat it’s easy to forget the underlying reasons we “du” what we do: to be healthy! Train wisely and race with “eyeballs out” (thank you Devon Yanko for the phrase), but remember the long game. 

My apologies again for not writing more often. Busy work, tending to a cat with cancer and a general burnout because of the first two took some wind out of my sails. I’m on the upswing again, so I hope to get back to a more regular schedule soon! Now, on to the expert! — Du it for You

The basic 8 of regular exercise

While some of us live where we can race year-round, in many parts of the country, even with the onslaught of global warming, winter is on its way. And as it comes, those of us who train year-round (which I happened to have done in my 34 years in duathlon), think about what we are going to do, how we are going to train, as the weather limits the amount of time we can safely spend outdoors.

Many years ago, with a strong assist from the legendary track coach Bill Bowerman1, I put together what I call the “Basic Eight of Regular Exercise.” They certainly have helped me to keep on truckin’, and given some thought, they might help you too.

blueberries
Because blueberries are healthy.
  1. The hard part of regular exercise is the regular, not the exercise. Believe me, I know, and live this principle very well. There are surely those mornings (and I workout in the morning) when man, I just don’t feel like getting going. But I do know just how important getting going is. While in my schedule (and I generally workout five days per week) I do take an occasional day off, most of the time I do get going, and then guess what? Ten minutes into the workout I’m very glad I did.

 

  1. The best exercise routine for you is the exercise routine that is best for you. There are numerous choices. One size does not fit all. This applies to duathlon as well as to training for it. There are so many articles that say “do it this way, and you are sure to…” Well, maybe, but, as I have said so many times, just because a particular writer says that it works for him/her, it does not mean that it will necessarily work for you.

 

  1. There are many reasons to exercise regularly, other than for race training. Most folks who do will tell you that regular exercise makes you feel better and feel better about yourself, as well as making you look better and look better to yourself. Those are certainly my principal reasons, even though as a preventive medicine doc I know there are plenty of health-promoting reasons to do it, too.

 

  1. Regular exercise can help you prevent and manage certain diseases and conditions. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain kinds of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis (bone softening associated with aging), being overweight and even depression and chronic anxiety. There are no guarantees here, but the risk goes down for getting all of these major illnesses. It’s also very helpful in managing many of the same conditions.

 

  1. Gradual change leads to permanent changes. Over the course of my own racing life, I have found this one to be true over and over again.

 

  1. 6. Explore your limits; recognize your limitations. This applies to distances, to speed, to the frequency of racing, and to training as well. Can you go faster, go longer? Of course you can (just as I did in my early days in the sport…well, longer, anyway!). Do you want to stay in duathlon? Then you absolutely have to do what works for you, not for someone else.

 

  1. Effective mobilization of your motivation is the key to long-term success, both as a regular exerciser and then as a multisport racer. (We’ll be getting back to this key to exercising regularly in one or more future columns.)

 

  1. We can never be perfect; we can always get better. If you can embed this one in your mind, you can have a long and successful (for you) career in tri/duathlon, regardless of your speed or athletic ability.

1. Walsh, C., The Bowerman System, Los Altos, CA: Tafnews Press, 1983, chap. 3.

This column is based in part on an article that appeared earlier in my series for USA Triathlon, and is used with permission.

Image courtesy of Flickr