For those interested in the “run” part of run-bike-run…need a feel-good story for the season? Read this. A positive attitude will get you far…all the way to the State Meet for this high school cross-country team. Happy reading and holiday weekend! — Du It For You
Here’s a very detailed race report on what looks like a fast duathlon on a tough day. Happy reading!
— Du It For You
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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
The Long-Distance Duathlon World Championships was unique course and the toughest race I’ve ever done. It was not just the distance that made this race tough, but also the terrain. The race started with a 10km (6.2mi) run, then 150km (92mi) bike, and finished with a 30km (18.6mi) run. The race was held in Zofingen, Switzerland, which is about a 50-min drive outside Zurich.
The first run (10km run) was a two-loop course and it started off with a 1600m (mile) climb, where we climbed 115m (375ft) with an average grade of 6.5% grade and max grade of 20%. I didn’t get a good starting position because it was my 1st time racing Powerman Zofingen, and all the pre-race favorites got called up to the starting line first. This made it hard to stay in front since I lost contact with the pre-race favorites just a few minutes into run…
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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
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.