There’s enough bad and scary news right now. Here are two pieces of good news: one, a welcome return. Another, a silver lining in the face of tragedy.
Wildflower Triathlon, one of California’s most popular three-sport events, will be back in action in 2018. This year, race organizer Tri-California had to cancel the event because Lake San Antonio, the site of the swim, had basically dried up to a puddle. Over the past five years, the drought caused it to drop to seven percent capacity.
As the water receded, attendance levels also dropped. A race that usually attracts up to 7,000 people had dropped to 2,500 in 2015. The combination forced Tri-California to put the race on hiatus.
And then it rained. And rained and rained and rained. Up in the Sierras, is snowed. And snowed and snowed. Mountains of snow. California got so much rain and snow that most of the state is out of drought, and Lake San Antonio is up to 57 percent capacity. The race is on!
With so many races, especially in California, to compete with Wildflower, what does this mean for the sport? “I think Wildflower means there are still independent races and independent race directors,” Tri-California president and Wildflower founder Terry Davis told Slowtwitch.com. “The sport is not all corporate, not all Ironman. There is still life in the sport.”
The silver lining
On August 26, 2016, Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Karen McKeachie, a USA Triathlon Hall of Fame inductee and internationally recognized athlete, went out for a ride and never came back. She didn’t come back because Terry Lee Lacroix drove his Chevy Avalanche into the opposite lane to pass another vehicle and hit McKeachie head-on, barely missing her two riding partners.
Out of this tragedy, the community is working to accelerate construction of Washtenaw County’s Border-to-Border (B2) Trail. After McKeachie’s death, her family honored her legacy through a $1.1 million gift to the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative (HWPI), a local nonprofit group dedicated to supporting the B2B expansion.
To accelerate construction, the McKeachie Family and HWPI have announced the Karen’s Trail Campaign, a public effort to raise at least another $1 million for trail construction. HWPI needs to raise $15 million in private funding to complete the B2B trail by 2021.
The Washtenaw County portion of the trail covers 35 miles along the Huron River. The larger vision includes a 55-mile trail that, when combined with the adjoining Lakelands State Trail, will be 70 miles long and will include a unique 44-mile loop trail that connects the towns of Dexter, Chelsea, Stockbridge, and Pinckney as well as two state recreational areas.
For the second year, Cary, North Carolina hosted the USAT Long Course National Championship on April 29. This was my first visit to Cary, located just outside of Raleigh, and my first long course national duathlon. That I won my age group had as much to do with luck as skill. Had I competed in this event last year, I would have finished eighth! But it’s not last year. It’s 2017, and I earned my first age group win in a national championship du. Woo Hoo!
The trip didn’t start well. I arrived ridiculously late—it was 1:30 a.m. Thursday night/Friday morning by the time I arrived to my hotel, and around 2:30 a.m. when I flopped into bed. I slept fitfully for about five hours. As someone who deals with occasional insomnia, I value sleep! I don’t function well when I’m deprived of it. But I pressed on…
The first order of business (after coffee) on Friday morning was a short, easy run; ideally on the course, if I could figure it out. I happened to show up just as a guy on a fancy aero bike rode into the parking lot. “Do you know the run course?” I asked. He kinda did, but his friend Bert knew it better. They were planning to run it also as soon as Bert finished his ride. I asked to tag along and they politely agreed.
Little did I know I was running with the overall male winner, Albert “Bert” Harrison, and the masters men’s winner, Tom Woods. What luck! When I wasn’t falling behind, I learned they were from Idaho and Nebraska, respectively, and none of us had any recent experience with heat and humidity.
Post run, I headed to race sponsor Inside Out Sports in hopes they could fix my bike, which I thought got damaged en route. A cable came unplugged, which I learned was an easy fix. The mechanic went above and beyond: he fixed the cable, checked the derailleur hanger, assessed the shifting, and adjusted an aero bar that got knocked off kilter. The Magic Bullet was ready to go!
Race morning gave us more warm, sticky weather. It was 73 degrees and humid when I arrived at 5:40 a.m. I finished my two-mile warm up drenched. I put some ice in my sports bra (yowza!) and waited.
The race started in three waves: under-40 men, 40-plus men, and all women. The run course started on a bike path, wound around and through the Team USA Baseball Complex, through a parking lot, back on a bike path, out-and-back on Green Level Church Road, and back on the bike path to the start. The long course did this 2.5-mile sorta-out-and-back twice.
The course was relatively flat, with some gentle rises/false flats and one tiny hill of about, oh, five meters. Typically for this type of course, for this distance, I should have been able to click off 6:50 to seven-minute miles no problem. On race day, it was a problem. The heat? I finished the first run averaging about 7:20s.
I curse when I’m riding. Sometimes. Under my breath when cars do stupid things. My first four-letter word came at the bike mount, which was on a little hill. I was about to take off when suddenly a swarm of people came around from behind, tried to mount their bikes, and proceeded to weave and fall all over the ground. One woman fell right in front of me. That’s when swear word Number One came out. People, please! If you’re going to race your bike, learn how to ride your bike! And that includes learning how to clip in on a hill!
The bike course was relatively flat and fast, with about 1,100 feet of elevation gain over 31-ish miles. Athletes from flatter regions called it hilly. For someone used to the East Bay hills and Mt. Diablo, it was about as flat as you could get!
After the short course duathletes turned off around mile seven, the rest of us had lots of room to spread out. There were long stretches where I had no one behind me, and only one person visible in front of me—a spec of blue jersey far ahead. We rode by Jordan Lake, which is much bigger than I imagined, and along lots of quiet shaded roads. At one point I saw a turtle on the road. Bad sign? A symbol of my speed, for sure. When you ignore bike intervals for eight months and then do them only sporadically before your first big race, you don’t get the best results.
The second run repeated the first-run course, but this time, we had miles of fatigue in our legs and more heat—about 80 degrees. I saw lots of people walking. My pace, which was slower than the first run but still persistent, felt like a slog. I dumped water on my head and sipped what I could at the water stops. That little bitty hill became a beast! I told myself when I got around the final turn, I would pick it up to the finish. Okay, when I got to the first/last water stop I’d pick it up. Oh, well, just finish like you mean it. That I did.
A few days before the race, I saw there were very few women in my age group. I thought maybe, if I had a good day, I’d have a shot at the podium. I didn’t expect to finish first. Now I have a pretty medal, a cool national champion jersey, and had a $20 gift certificate to Inside Out Sports (spent that later in the afternoon).
All in all, I give Cary and FS Series a big thumbs up. The volunteers and staff were all super-friendly and supportive. The event had a local race feel (because it was), but with a big USA Triathlon arch and finish line chute to make it official.
There were a few glitches, such as one water stop running out of water, but glitches happen in just about every race. We had an abundance of finish line food—sandwiches, fruit, bagels, gummy bears, and Mountain Dew (Yep, I had one. Probably my first Mountain Dew in about 15 years!)—and lots of nice people. I met athletes from Nebraska, Idaho, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and, of course North Carolina.
I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some of them in Bend, Oregon in June for the standard course nationals and in Penticton, BC, in August for the ITU World Championships. In the meantime, quality time on the bike!
Sure, you can spend 20 hours a week in duathlon training, but do you need to? For a standard distance (10K-40K-5K) duathlon or shorter, probably not. You do need to put in enough time to build a strong running and cycling base, and enough intensity on the bike and run to be able to push hard for the duration–especially on the critical second run.
Steven Jonas, author of Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals, takes the less is more approach. Here is his guest post on what it takes to finish a sprint or standard duathlon. (For the record, I have never heard the term “duathloid,” nor do I know any amateur duathlete that trains in the 20 hour-per-week range.) Have any training advice or comments? Please share below. Happy run-ride-running!
How Much Training Do You Need?
Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.
Is multisport racing for everyone? Are the “real” duathletes only those who go fast and train for at least 10-15 hours per week? Some of the spokespeople for our sport seem to think so.
One once defined a “duathloid” as “a bozo who prefers to survive, rather than train for, duathlons.” For this “expert,” training began at 6 hours per week, going up to 22-25 for a standard-distance duathlon. Yet another presented a training program for the “Beginning Duathlete” which requires a minimum of 11-12 hours per week (for an unspecified number of weeks). That’s the range, for 13 weeks, I recommended for an Ironman-distance triathlon. With even a bit less training than that, when I was (much) younger (I’m now 80 and still racing) I started five Ironman-distance races, finished three of them, and simply ran out of time on the marathon in the other two.
If you have read this far, you might be saying to yourself: “Why is this guy going on about this stuff?” Because I think that “good” in duathlon doesn’t necessarily mean “fast.” Because I am concerned about elitism in our wonderful sport. Because I am concerned about the witting or unwitting intimidation of potential participants in multi-sport racing. Because I think and feel, both as a professional in preventive medicine and a du-tri-athlete now starting my 35th season of multi-sport racing, that we have a great, healthy, fun sport. And it should be made available to everybody. Telling people that they have to train a minimum of 12 hours per week just to do an Olympic distance-equivalent duathlon closes entry to the sport down. It doesn’t open it up.
The average recreational runner in this country does 12-15 miles per week, taking two-three hours per week. That’s three to four hours per week. Well folks, experience has told us over and over again that’s all you need to do a sprint-distance (5k-20k-5k) duathlon. For the standard-distance duathlon, add another 1-2 hours per week.
Having been a 15-20 mile per week runner for two years, in 1983, I did my first triathlon, at the age of 46. It was the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon at Sag Harbor, New York. My training program for that race was the prototype for what became the program that I first published in my 1986 book, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals: five hours per week for 13 weeks, building on a base that averaged three hours of aerobic exercise per week for a minimum of three months. I have used it ever since and so have numerous readers of my book. There is a very similar program in my book Duathlon Training and Racing of Ordinary Mortals®. Unless you are unusually naturally fast, you aren’t going to win. But with the right approach to the sport you can have a heck of a good time, for a very long time, without ever having an age-group winning time in the race.
Having fun is always my first objective. If you are fast, and you can win, great. Then you will likely train more. But simply to enjoy the sport, safely, simply does not take that much time.
This column is based on one that originally appeared on the USAT blog, June 2013. Used with permission.
2017 marks Steve Jonas’ 35th season of multisport racing. As of the end of his 34th, he had done a total of 250 du’s and tri’s. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90s for duathlon. The second edition of his first book, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals® (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) is still in print. Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides) came out in 2012. All of his books on multisport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
While the clock tells no lies, neither does it ask any questions. Instead it merely records our passing in cold indifference. And so in athletics’ ongoing fight to rid itself of the scourge of fraudulent performance the question arises, where does the responsibility for actually giving a damn lie? And, is drug testing in and of itself enough to achieve the goal?
I ask because based on the evidence of continued PED use, and the institutional corruption that allowed and benefited from it, one might conclude that the intended deterrence has not been achieved, and that some other stick or carrot may be required.
That thought was brought to mind yesterday while watching Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions appear at his confirmation hearing before Congress as Attorney General designate. During one exchange Senator Sessions said the following in response to whether fraudulent speech is protected under the First Amendment to the…
Ironman pro Chris McCormack announced the Super League Triathlon in early February. The goal: to get the world’s best triathletes to compete on sprint-distance courses (using unique formats) for mega prize money.
According to Super League Triathlon’s website, McCormack and crew want to bring mainstream attention to triathlon and they think super-short competitive races will do the trick. Triathlete magazine likens it to Formula 1 triathlon racing in the early 1990s and 2000s; which, they say, put triathlon in the public eye.
Super League has half the talent: 25 top men, zero women. Huh? Even though the most famous one is stepping back to have a kid, I’m sure there are 25 others who can hold their own.
The first event, which kicked off on March 17, takes place on Hamilton Island, in Queensland, Australia. Day One, the “Triple Mix,” featured a swim (300m)-bike (20K)-run (2K), followed by a run-bike-swim and a bike-swim-run, with 10-minute breaks between rounds. Day Two, the “Equalizer,” started with an ITT, the results of which determined starting positions for a swim-run-swim-bike-run. (Heck. If they really want to equalize, why not throw in a run-bike-run? Just a thought…) Day Three, “Eliminator,” features three swim-bike-run races with 10-minute breaks between rounds. Here’s a link to some Equalizer run footage.
Want to wach Super League Tri on TV? If you live in the United States, you can’t!!! Check the website for live updates and info on what Super League Tri is all about. If you live in Europe, Australia, or China, you can watch the race on Eurosport, Fox Live, Sky, and/or Alisports.
Watching triathlon really is pretty boring. And this is coming from an athlete who will, if given the opportunity, watch a major marathon on TV — the whole thing — and not budge. I’ll watch track meets and bike races with the same enthusiasm. Granted, triathlons have the swimming problem, which doesn’t hold my interest at all (which is why I choose duathlon), but even if I ignore the swim, there just isn’t a lot of grit in tri, except in rare occasions.
Maybe Super League Triathlon will inject some excitement into the sport…if they level the playing field and include a women’s event.
For more on the biz side of Super League Triathlon, read this article on Triathlete magazine.
Regular readers of this blog likely know what duathlons are, but if you are just coming into multisport racing, it might be helpful to go over the definition. Duathlons are distance races with three separate legs but two sports: running and cycling. They come in a variety of lengths from short to very, very long. And in that regard, do you know what, for a duathlete, is a crazy duathlete? Why one who has done a longer race than the longest one she or he has done.
Why tri the du? Let us count the ways. Whether you already do a distance sport, you are looking for a new challenge in your life. Or you want to try it because it looks like fun (and, done right, it is). You are a cyclist, or a runner, and whether you already race in your sport, the idea of combining it with the other one in a race intrigues you. You are interested in getting into what’s called cross-training; that is, training in more than one distance sport at the same time. Cross-training reduces your risk of sport-specific injury in any one of the sports because you are spending less time in each one. Coss-training can also reduce the boredom that can come with doing just one distance sport. And so, if you are cross-training, why not do the racing event it was originally designed for? Duathlon also provides a great excuse to buy some new toys — like a bike — especially for runners.
You may already be thinking about multi-sport racing, and you may well have heard about triathlon than duathlon. Yes indeed, you could try the tri for whatever reason or reasons pull your chain. But, let’s say that you don’t like to, want to, or just cannot, swim. Well then, it is definitely time to look at duathlon. Although there have been just run-bike events (and I did several of those years ago), the most common format is run-bike-run. There are four standard distances (although variants of them can be found to accommodate various course lengths and settings). There is what is generally called the super sprint, 2.5km run,10km cycle, 2.5km run, the sprint 5km run, 20km cycle, 5km run, standard distance: 10km run, 40km, 10km run, and a variety of truly long ones, like Powerman Zofingen, 10km run, 150km cycle, 30km run event, held in Switzerland.
So, if you are thinking about getting started in multisport racing but don’t like the idea of swimming, or you are a triathlete who is getting tired of training in the three sports, or you are looking for shorter combo events that are still a challenge but not as demanding as the usual triathlon, or you are most comfortable on the bike and perfectly happy to do the bulk of your training on it, or what have you, it might be time to “think duathlon.”
When duathlons were first developed by Dan Honig, President of New York Triathlon Club in the mid-1980s, the run-bike-run events were called “biathlons.” In the mid-90s the International Triathlon Union moved to get triathlon added to the Olympic Games. As many readers know, “biathlon” is also the name of the winter Olympic sport that combines cross-country skiing with target-shooting. Understandably, the winter biathlon people didn’t want another event in the Olympics associated with one that had the same name as theirs. So, by substituting the Latin prefix for the Greek one, the official name of the event was changed to “duathlon.” Whatever it is called, I do them on a regular basis throughout the season, and in my 35th season coming up, continue to do so.
By Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.
This column is based upon an earlier column of mine, “Why Try the Tri and Why Do the Du?” which appeared on the USA-Triathlon Blog on April 25, 2013. It is used with permission.
We’ve got run-bike-run (my favorite), swim-run, swim-bike, and, of course, swim-bike-run, and now we have swim-run-swim-run…and so on.
A Feb. 15 Triathlete magazine feature profiles Ötillö, a newly popular endurance sport where teams of two swim and run between and over 26 islands near Sweden. Grand total the teams swim more than 10K and run about 40K—consider it a long-distance, multi-Aquathon.
Race director Jeffrey Cole brought the idea to the U.S. with the Casco Bay Islands Swimrun in Portland, Maine’s Casco Bay. The 2017 edition will take place on August 13. Other swimruns have popped up in San Diego, California; Richmond Virginia; and Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina.
As for me, the swimming-averse one, I’m sticking with duathlon. However, with all the rain we’ve been getting in Northern California, we might be able to pull off something like this in the middle of Oakland!