Mike McCarty: a true duathlete in every detail

If you think triathlon has a close-knit community, try duathlon. When you regularly compete in events that draw anywhere from 50 to 1,100 people total—as compared to several thousand in triathlon—you get to know your neighbors.

Over the course of a half-dozen national and world championship duathlons, I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Mike McCarty, resident of New Bedford, Massachusetts and Marana, Arizona. One of the most consistent and prolific competitors over the past 27 years, Mike raced his last duathlon on April 7 at the USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championship in Greenville, South Carolina.

Mike passed away this week at age 72 due to complications from heart surgery.

The duathlon community has lost a top competitor, a whiz analyst, and a good friend.

Mike McCarty
Mike McCarty at a post-race dinner after the 2013 World Duathlon Championships in Ottawa

“Mike and I raced together for 27 years and took pride knowing we had participated in more consecutive National and World Championships than anyone else,” says Jim Girand, a multiple duathlon national and world champion.

“Mike will always be remembered for the in-depth analyses he did on many duathletes. When seeing total strangers at a race, he would tell that person more about his/her race history than realized. Looking forward many years, people will remember Mike’s ‘historical’ contribution.”

McCarty, a retired optometrist, has a history of overcoming adversity and emerging stronger than ever. In 2011, he came back from open-heart surgery—and had a stroke on the operating table—to win his 65-69 age group at the Duathlon National Championships four months later.

In 2015, he had knee replacement surgery after years of running and racing “bone on bone.”

“My knee hasn’t felt this good since I was in college,” McCarty told SouthCoast Today. “My legs were always tired after a race. I used to take eight days off after a race; now it’s four days. I’ve cut that recuperating time in half. I feel like a kid again.”

Nine months post-surgery, he became a three-time national champion, winning the 70-74 age division in the sprint distance.

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Mike McCarty in 1996 at age 51. And a Trimble! (Standard-Times file photo)

In addition to his three national age-group wins, McCarty won the ITU World Duathlon Championship in Calais, France, at age 55.

Since the early ’90s, McCarty has racked up a string of national and world podium awards. His success came not only from training and talent, but from meticulous course preparation and competitor analysis.

As Girand alluded, McCarty analyzed past and current performances of his competitors down to the second. Amol Saxena DPM, another longtime runner and duathlete, recalled via Facebook post how McCarty assessed who Saxena needed to beat to qualify for Team USA. McCarty did all the stats by hand.

“His post-race analysis was also something unique,” USA Triathlon Chief Operating Officer Tim Yount wrote in an email. “I sometimes worried that he had GPS trackers out on everyone in his age group, to the extent that he could gauge power output needed in the next race or following season to overcome these same opponents.”

Yount says McCarty applied the same detailed research to his course previews—seemingly even more than Yount himself, who has to know every inch in order to lead USAT prerace meetings, group runs and rides, and to communicate any changes to participants.

“Even my diligent review of courses could not stand up to Mike,” Yount wrote. “He knew what apex of every turn would get him the fastest time (being an Optometrist probably helped here) where to ride various courses because of wind direction, and transitions…don’t think for a day you could work through processes for fast transitions faster than Mike.”

In the days leading up to the 2014 World Duathlon Championships in Pontevedra, Spain, Mike asked if I had researched my competitors. When I said no, he explained generally how I should do this. Since I’m not a numbers person, my eyes probably glazed over halfway through.

But that’s not what I remember most about that trip. I remember driving the bike course with Wolf Hillesheim, Jim and Mike on a drizzly afternoon, stopping for lunch along the way. I remember spending time with Mike in between and during the post-race Team USA reception, at dinner with lots and lots of incredible seafood, and during the Closing Ceremony. There, we watched Jim stand on the podium to accept a bronze medal (75-79) in front of thousands of people. He was beaming.

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Wolf Hillesheim, Mike McCarty and Jim Girand in Pontevedra

If memory serves (details get fuzzy), Mike walked with me back from the ceremony to he and Wolf’s hotel room, where I had temporarily stashed my bike, even though his buddies were still celebrating. I appreciated he sacrificed missing part of the big party to escort me back early. I enjoyed the conversation on the way, too. I remember him as gracious, intelligent and really darned funny.

I’m so grateful to have gotten to know my Bay Area-and-beyond duathlete friends and grateful for the dinners, drinks and races where Mike was a part. There will be a void in the duathlete family without Mike’s presence. He will be missed by so many.

— Heather J.

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10 international duathlons you need to “du”

Racing a duathlon in another country is a great way to explore someplace new—as a tourist as well as a runner and cyclist. If you like to keep your vacations active, plan one around an international duathlon. You’ll challenge yourself on a new course, as well as enjoy some “active recovery” experiencing local culture and cuisine.

Whether you’re looking for a long-course duathlon with a competitive field, a short, flat course to test your speed, or something hilly and scenic, somewhere in the world you’ll find a duathlon for you.

For a break from the norm, plan your next vacation around one of these 10 duathlons and duathlon series.

London Duathlon

london duathlon

Considered the world’s largest duathlon, the London Duathlonattracts more than 2,000 athletes each year. Choose from its standard distance (10K-44K-5K), go long with the ultra du (20K-77K-10K) or du something shorter with the Half Duathlon or Relay.

Expect some climbing on both the run and bike courses, all held within Richmond Park in southwest London. September 16, 2018. @londonduathlon

Winter Ballbuster

 

As if climbing Box Hill five times isn’t tough enough, you get to “du” it in November.

The longest-running, most arduous UK duathlon, Winter Ballbusterlives up to its name with a hilly 8-mile, 24-mile, 8-mile course.

Set in the Box Hill National Trust Site, in Surry, about 19 miles outside of London, the event challenges newcomers and professionals alike. “To finish the race entitles you to hold your head high,” writes Matt Baird for 220Triathlon. November 3, 2018.

Storm the Castle Duathlon

Set in Ludlow, Shropshire (that’s in England) Storm the Castlefinishes inside Ludlow Castle. Pretty cool, eh?

The 10K-33K-5K course offers plenty of climbing along the way. Why visit Ludlow? This tour guidesays it’s a beautiful foodie town with a rich history. April 2019.

Powerman International

Some of the most competitive and best-known duathlons fall under the Powermanumbrella. Du one for fun or to compete against the best in the world.

Powerman Int’l has its own rankings system, which gives you another way to qualify for the ITU Long-Distance World Duathlon Championship in Zofingen, Switzerland. Powerman also hosts the European Championships.

You can find Powermans in Germany, Denmark, Austria, Brazil, Panama and the Philippines, among other countries, including this one. Distances vary from 10K-60K-10K to 5K-30K-5K. Year-round.

Krusnoman Long Distance Duathlon

Got your sights set on a trip to Prague? Plan it around the Krusnoman Duathlon, a long, mountainous 5K-80K-15K about 80 kilometers outside of the Czech Republic’s capital city. You can experience leg- and lung-searing joy of 2,200 meters of climbing and then hobble around Prague’s Old Town Square. May 12, 2018. @Krusnoman

Kyaninga Duathlon

Duathlons aren’t limited to North America and Europe. Uganda, Africa, hosts the Kyaninga Duathlon—part of a weeklong adventure that includes a boat safari, trekking with chimpanzees and a race. Along the 4.5K-16.5K-4.5K course, you’ll ride through Ugandan villages and run in the foothills of the UNESCO Rwenzori Mountains. Before and after, you’ll stay in Kyaninga Lodge in Fort Portal. I just found out about this race and I am intrigued! May 19, 2018.

Powerman Zofingen

I know I already talked about the Powerman series, but Zofingenis iconic enough to get a spot all its own. Considered the duathlon equivalent of the Ironman World Championships, Powerman Zofingen is considered the most prestigious and toughest duathlon in the world. It’s also the ITU Long Course World Championship.

The course starts with a hilly 10K forested run, followed by a 150K bike and a 30K run. Both hilly. If you search around, you can find numerous race reports that describe just how hilly and how long this race is. My eyes are burning from a day at the computer, so I’ll let you tackle the almighty Google. September 1-2, 2018.@PM_Zofingen

Kirkistown and Bishopscourt Race Track Duathlons

If you want to go fast, and you want to visit Northern Ireland, check out these full-track sprint and longer-distance duathlons. From the looks of it, you run and ride on an actual racetrack.

If you don’t feel like riding around in circles, visit NI Duathlonfor a list of duathlons throughout the region. @niduathlon

VeloPark Duathlon

Here’s another race series around a track. The VeloPark Duathlon series takes place on a closed-road circuit around the 2012 Olympic Velodrome. These low cost events take place all year, so you can easily fit one into your London vacation. @Velopark_Dua

Bayside Duathlon

I’m getting a little heavy on the UK events, but since this one says it was voted “Best UK Duathlon” in 2016, I’ll give it a mention.Held along Stokes Bay, in Gosport, and the Lee-on-the-Solent sea front, Bayside Duathlonincludes both a sprint (5K-20K-5K) and a super-sprint (2.5K-10K-2.5K), both flat.

Gosport is a port town with 24 miles of waterfront, beaches and watersports. It also looks like you’re pretty close to South Downs Natural Park. November 4.@BaysideDuathlon

Know of any other great international races? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo courtesy of Michael Fox, Flickr