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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Reblog: In overdrive: Ontario duathlon race report

Here’s a very detailed race report on what looks like a fast duathlon on a tough day. Happy reading!

— Du It For You

https://duathloncentral.com/2017/11/13/mosports-madness-overdrive-race-triathlon-ontario-championship-recap/

Guest post: Want a pretty medal? Wait for it.

Here’s another great column from legendary duathlon “mere mortal,” Dr. Steven Jonas. Funny he should bring up this very important topic. Last weekend, I volunteered for the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon, a race my running club, Pamakid Runners, puts on each year.

My teammates and I manned a booth at a local race expo. The number one question? What will the medals look like? It’s a beautiful, flat course? That’s nice. What about the medal? When can I see the medal? Can I buy a medal? Medals are a big deal in today’s running community. They’re also a big deal for age-groupers competing in big multisport events. Here’s Steve’s take on his well-earned inventory. Enjoy! –Du It For You

ITU Duathlon medal

Are you slow, but want to get a medal? Well, hang in there. Hey, you never know. I am a very lucky man to have found multi-sport racing. I reached the age of 46 having been able to do only two sports reasonably well. They were downhill skiing, which I got into during my first year of medical school at the age of 22, and sail-boating, which I got into in my 30s.

I fell in love with skiing on my very first day, even though I spent almost as much time down on the snow as I did actually standing up on my skis. But not being good at any of the usual school sports, I felt that I had finally discovered one I could do, if I took lessons and practiced. Eventually I did it well enough to become a Level I Certified Ski Instructor.

As for sailing, I was a good seaman and a safe sailor and just loved the “sailing sensation.” But I was never much at making my boat go fast in the club races I regularly entered. And in sailboat racing, if you’re not first, second, or third overall, fuhgeddaboudit (as we say in Noo Yawk). But then came triathlon, at age 46.

My-oh-my! Here was a racing sport which required only the ability to swim some distance, ride a bike, and then manage a run. My very first race was the 1983 Mighty Hamptons Triathlon at Sag Harbor, New York. In it, I discovered that unless you were fast, and competitive, it didn’t really matter where you finished, as long as you finished (and in my view, I did that happily and healthily, a phrase I coined the very next morning, when I went out for a little unwinding trot).

Then it just happened that my third race overall, held the following May, was what Dan Honig, the now-retired President of the New York Triathlon Club (nee Big Apples Triathlon Club) and I have concluded was the very first biathlon ever held. Dan thought up the event as a “season-extender” for multi-sport racing in our region. (FYI, “Biathlon” was the early name for our run-bike-run sport, before the application for inclusion of triathlon in the Olympics came up. Then, because biathlon is a winter Olympic sport consisting of cross-country skiing and target shooting, the Greek prefix was exchanged for the Latin one.)

Dan’s race was held at the old Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. (That airfield, now long-closed, I had known in my New York City childhood as a Naval Air Station. Before that it was New York City’s first commercial airport.) For my first few years on both variants, that’s what it was in its entirety: racing for the pure fun of it.

But then, at what was already a relatively advanced age for getting into a new sport, in my region (New York Metropolitan Area), my age-cohort started to shrink a bit when I turned 50. And lo and behold, with the Mighty Hamptons back then giving age-group awards ten deep, I got my first award, an 8th, in 1987. I took my first age-group 3rd in 1991. I really started reeling them in in both duathlon and triathlon when I entered the 60-64 age group in 1996. Why? Was I going any faster? Why no. As I have gotten older, not one for speed-training, I have gotten steadily slower. But in this region, my age-cohort has continued to shrink while I have continued to race. Now 80, in my 35th year in the sport, I have 250-plus multi-sport races under my belt, including 90-plus du’s. At my age, I am almost guaranteed a plaque if I cross the finish line.

Would I still be racing if I weren’t getting plaques? Because I love the sport so much, I’m sure that I would. But I must admit that I do like getting them. That’s because I view them, for me, as a reward for staying with the sport for so long, especially since I am so slow (and now for the most part walking the run legs). And so, my message here is this: do you enjoy du-ing the Du for its own sake? Great! But even if you are slow like me, if you stay with run-bike-run long enough, you may eventually end up with some plaques too

*This column is based on one that originally appeared on the USAT blog and is used with permission.

2017 marks Steve Jonas’ 35th season of multi-sport racing. As of this writing, he has done a total of 255 du’s and tri’s. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90s for duathlon. He has raced up to the ironman distance, but now at 80, he is sticking to the sprints in both duathlon and triathlon. Steve is a prolific author of books on multi-sport racing. His first (originally published in 1986) was Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®. The 2nd Ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) is still in print. In 2012, he published a book exclusively devoted to duathlon: 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. He is also long-time writer for various multi-sport periodicals, most recently, and happily, joining Du It For You.

Good news: Wildflower Returns, Michigan Trails Get a Boost

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

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.

To donate to Karen’s Trail Campaign, click here.

Super-short Super League Tri: will it invigorate the sport?

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.

Super League Triathlon
The Super League team

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.

 

 

Otillo: Another crazy two-sport event

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.

Otillo swimrun
Water, cold!

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.

Read all about the super-swimrun craze here.

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!