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.

 

 

Guest post: Why Du the Du? An Introduction

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.

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!

Du’ing it as a pro: Alistair Eeckman

Alistair Eeckman has stood on a lot of podiums since taking up cycling at age 13. But when the 22-year-old from Berkeley, California crossed the line at Powerman Panama in January 2017, he had an even bigger reason to celebrate. It was his first win as a professional triathlete/duathlete.

Powerman Panama

It was only a matter of time before Eeckman, a top finisher since his first multisport race, would claim an elite license. He earned it in 2013, the year he won age-group gold and placed in the top 10 overall at the ITU Duathlon World Championships in Ottawa, Ontario. He also won the Junior USAT Standard Duathlon Nationals that year, at age 19. He had college to think about, as well as a potential future in triathlon. So he waited.

The opportunity came again in 2014 after he won the competitive Challenge Penticton Half by 11 minutes. Again, he passed.

USA Triathlon offered Eeckman a pro card a third time in 2015 after he took the age-group win at the Wildflower Long-Course Triathlon by a whopping 14 minutes. This time, he said yes.

“That race was an eye opener,” he says. “I did the whole race by myself with no one around to push me. It would have gotten me 15th in the pro field. With more competition, I thought I could get top 10 in a pro race. So I decided to take it and see what happens.”

As a newly minted pro, Eeckman has competed in both triathlon and duathlon, the latter giving him an early chance to compete on an international stage. At Powerman Florida, held in December in Silver Springs, Florida, Eeckman ran out of real estate as he closed in on the leader, France’s Gael Le Bellec, a two-time Powerman world duathlon champion, to take second in the elite field on the 10K-65K-10K course.

At Powerman Panama, in January, Eeckman patiently moved up from sixth to second in the first 10K run. He took the lead on the 60K bike and held it though the end of a hot (between 77 and 90 degrees F), humid race. You can read about both races on Eeckman’s blog.

Powerman Panama
Alistair Eeckman opened up a gap on the bike.

“Several people took it out pretty fast on the first run,” he says. “You have to be careful—it’s easy to go out too fast on first run, and if you go out too quick in hot races, you’re going to pay for it pretty bad.”

Powerman Panama
Especially in hot, humid weather, don’t go out too fast!

Eeckman knew that about duathlon from his first race—the 2012 Golden Gate Du in El Sobrante, California, just a few miles east of his Berkeley home. With only two weeks of running under his belt, Eeckman won the race. From then on, he’s focused only on multisport and hasn’t looked back.

Eeckman’s physiology and personality make him ideally suited for multisport. As a junior professional cyclist, he excelled in time trials and hilly courses. In races with lots of attacks that only a sprinter’s DNA can cover, he struggled. Besides, he likes to race for himself.

The fitness gained from an active childhood and years of cycling allowed him to easily transition to running. It didn’t take long for him to build up to a 33-minute 10K in an Olympic distance tri. He continues to work on his swimming. In the meantime, he mixes it up by competing in both tri and du.

While some of his 2017 races remain in flux, Eeckman says he will toe the line in Bend, Oregon, for the 2017 USAT Standard Duathlon National Championships. And he plans to keep the run-bike-run format in his racing calendar moving forward.

“It’s something I’m good at,” he says. “I feel I have a good chance to win the Elite Duathlon Nationals and unfortunately, I couldn’t race it last year due to an injury. I also want to stick with duathlon because another goal I have is to get on the podium at Powerman Duathlon World Championships some time in future.”

 Follow Alistair on Twitter @ajeeckman, and on his blog and his website. For triathlon or/and duathlon coaching (he does that too!), you can email him at: ajeeckman@comcast.net.

Got a question for Alistair about training for Powerman duathlons, training in brutally hot races, or training as an elite? Ask us in the comments below!

Duathlon’s humble beginnings

Welcome Du It For You guest contributor Steven Jonas, author of Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary MortalsŸ: Getting Started and Staying with It (Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides 2012).

Duathlon for ordinary mortals

Now in his 35th year of multisport racing, Steve, age 80, has completed more than 250 duathlons and triathlons. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and expects to join the Duathlon Century Club this year.

Here, Steve takes us back to duathlon’s beginnings: who started it, why, and how it got its name. Got questions about duathlon’s early years? Post them in the comments below. Enjoy!

Duathlon: A Historical Perspective

The racing sport that for quite some time has been called “triathlon” originated sometime back in the mid-1970s in San Diego, California. No one is absolutely certain of when the first such race was run, who thought it up (although there are a variety of claimants to that honor), and under whose auspices it was put on. But we can be fairly certain of the original history of what is now called “duathlon” and who came up with the idea.

Daniel Honig was an early organizer and promoter of triathlon in the New York Metropolitan Area. I first met him at my second triathlon, a race held on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, at the end of September 1983. Right next to the transition area, Dan had set up a table for what he then called the Big Apple Triathlon Club. An inveterate joiner, who had actually fallen in love with triathlon during my first race two weeks previously, the second running of the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon (then held at Sag Harbor, New York for the first time), I jumped at the opportunity to enroll.

The next spring, when I received a notice from Dan of a race to be held in May 1984, something he called “biathlon,” I was intrigued. For there was a race one could do locally well, before the water at any of the then-available triathlon venues was warm enough for swimming. And that was the idea that originally inspired Dan to come up with biathlon. How about a variant of triathlon that could extend the season in the colder climes? It would still have three segments, but the swim leg would be replaced by an opening run.

Other two-sport variants of triathlon appeared around the same time under a variety of names: “Byathlon,” run-bike, “Cyruthon” (cycle-run). But the run-bike-run format, as developed by Dan, in the first instance quickly came to be seen as an entryway into multi-sport racing for weak or non-swimmers, some of whom might then stay with the form indefinitely (as do many of the readers of this journal).

“When I was a boy” in multi-sport terms, I did my first biathlon in May 1984 at the old Floyd Bennett Field (a former Naval air station) in Brooklyn, New York. It was a cold, wet day, but I was determined to do what then would be my third (what we now call) multi-sport race. I hadn’t raced in the rain in a very long time, for reasons both of safety and comfort. But having looked forward to the race for a couple of months, nothing was going to stop me on that day. Furthermore, it was on a flat, closed course, which made it somewhat safer than being out on a road with traffic. I don’t know what the distances were, but in my race record I do have that I was out on the course for 1:38. That first full season I stayed with both tri- and biathlon, and have done so ever since.

Of course, we now know the sport as “duathlon.” Internationally the name change from “biathlon” came about in the mid-1990s, when the International Triathlon Union applied for the inclusion of triathlon in the Olympic Games. As the campaign got under way, even though there was no idea of including the run-bike-run biathlon in the Olympics as well, the need to come up with a new name for triathlon’s two-sport offspring became appar­ent. In the Winter Olympics, there is a well-established Nordic event that combines cross-country skiing and target‑shooting. It is known as the “biathlon.” Understandably, the International Biathlon Union did not want an­other event in the Olympics, summer or winter, that was associated with the same name as theirs. So, using a Latin rather than a Greek prefix, still with the Greek root, the name “duathlon” for the run-bike-run races was created.

In this column, I will share with you some duathlon thoughts, experiences, and recommendations that I have had over the years. I hope that you will find them useful, and please, if you would like to get in touch with me, don’t hesitate to do so.

This column is drawn in part from Chap. 1 of my book, Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary MortalsŸ: Getting Started and Staying with It. © Steve Jonas, All rights reserved

Race director celebrates 3 years cancer-clear

I’m sharing this story because it’s good news (and we could all use more of that these days) and because it’s good advice for staying all-around healthy.

Gary Westlund, a coach, race director, and founder of Charities Challenge, a nonprofit that puts on a host of running and walking programs in Minnesota, is celebrating three years clear of melanoma.

Fortunately, Gary caught the cancer early. A mole on his left knee looked suspicious. He immediately visited his doctor, who performed a biopsy and confirmed his suspicions.

Gary’s story is a good reminder to:

Wear sunscreen.

Check your skin monthly for possible melanoma. (If it’s oddly shaped, has an uneven color, or if it gets bigger or changes over a period of weeks or months, get it checked.)

Visit a dermatologist annually for a “mole check.”

Gary also reminds us that even though we stay fit with running and cycling (and more running), we may not be overall, full-spectrum healthy. Proper nutrition doesn’t just fuel your training and races, it also helps keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check. If you have a family history of heart disease, keep an eye on your numbers.

And remember to have fun and enjoy life, even when you’re off the bike and not on a run.

See you soon!

What to “Du” When Your Training Route Collapses

Understatement of the year: it’s been a little wet in the San Francisco Bay Area this winter.  Most of the region is well above normal in rain totals this month, and it seems like most of  it came in a three-day period last week. As a result, almost half of the state is no longer in drought. This is good! But we’ve also had a lot of flooding, fallen trees, sinkholes, and muddy crud and debris in the road.

One of the biggest rain repercussions occurred on a section of Alhambra Valley Road that’s one of the East Bay’s popular riding routes. A creek that passes under the road rose higher and higher, and eventually washed away a hunk of the road. Check it out: It’s a canyon! Too wide even to bunny hop, unless you’re especially talented.

alhambra valley road
photo courtesy of Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

Obviously officials have closed the road until they can fix it. Who knows how long that will take.

Bear Creek Road
Elsewhere on the course – Bear Creek Road. Photo courtesy of Ryan Masters, Santa Cruz Sentinel

On any typical day, motorists and cyclists can choose another route. But when it’s the most logistically feasible bike leg for a popular duathlon series,  what to do?

That’s the dilemma Wolf Hillesheim faced the past few days as he figured out how to hold his next event, Du 3 Bears, on January 28.

Here’s what he’s come up with: He cancelled the USAT-sanctioned short- and long-course duathlons. The five-mile run will go on with a new start time and location. Wolf will bring his transition racks for any athlete that wants to ride an out-and-back route after the five-mile run. He will time and hand out awards for the run as usual, but the bike is self-timed.

If you decide to “du” this modified run-bike, he asks you to pre-register via the printed entry form. Run-only participants can register either online or by snail mail.

Race directors face all sorts of strange last-minute challenges: no-show volunteers, signs and course markings blown away, extreme weather conditions, construction, you name it. It’s not everyday your road disappears! Kudos to Wolf for making the best of a bad situation. He could have canceled the entire event. Instead, he got on the phone with city officials and park officials and figured out a way for the show to go on. And a loyal duathlete following is ever-grateful!

What is your strangest weather-related race experience? Let us know in the comments below!

— GoRunBikeRun