Guest Post: On Relationships and Multisport Racing

couple jogging

By Steven Jonas MD, MPH

This my third essay in a series on the mental aspects of multisport racing. For the first two, I talked about mental discipline being central to both training and racing: understanding why we are doing what we are doing, being rational about how we go about it in our training and our racing, and staying focused on what we are doing in both. That is, rationally staying within our limits, even as, over time, we may expand them.

I talked about the power of the mind on a day-to-day basis and over time. Understanding that power and using it effectively are both necessary to stay in control and to stay safe; to manage both our race training schedules and the races themselves.

And then we have the mental aspects of our relationships with others, in both training and racing.

How “du” you keep your relationship thriving while training for duathlon and/or triathlon? Share your advice below! 

Duathlon involves give and take

Multisport racing is, as anyone who does it knows, time-demanding. We have to train regularly in two or three sports. While I do two workouts a day only on days when I do my weekly swim (yes, you read that right: I only do sprint tris now. One swim workout a week suffices), and my training program—still the one that I wrote for “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals”—averages just five hours a week, some of us do double workouts 2-3 days a week.

Travel to races usually takes a minimum of four days over race weekend. Out-of-town races also require significant expenditures. Depending upon how many you do, and their cost, you might not be able to take straight vacations.

All of these considerations have an impact—sometimes major—on relationships. Those of us who have been in the sport for some time know how physically and mentally rewarding multisport is. But we also have to be aware of what we give up.

Many years ago, I gave up an otherwise lovely relationship because my partner became totally jealous of my racing and training. She essentially wanted me to cut way down on both my training and my racing. I simply was not ready to do that. Further, I could not convince her that doing what I was doing actually contributed to our relationship because of it made me feel better about myself and it made me healthier, which made me a better person for our relationship. And so, it came to an end.

On the other hand, there is give and take on these matters. Looking back, I sometimes wonder if there were other reasons why I wanted to leave that particular relationship and used triathlon and duathlon as an excuse to end it. Of course, no one will never know.

Find balance in training, racing and relationship

Kieran Modra
A true partnership: Kieran Modra with his cycling pilot and wife, Kerry Modra, during the 1 km Time Trial at the 2000 Summer Paralympics. Photo by Australian Paralympic Committee

What I do know is that if one wants to participate in triathlon/duathlon and be in a relationship at the same time, whether a marriage or another, one does have to find balance in one’s training and racing. Fortunately, I was eventually able to do that. That is a major reason why I am now looking forward to beginning my 36th season in the sport.

I have been married to my current wife for seven years and we have been together for 19 years (half my total time in the sport). I do fewer and shorter races that I used to, which means that I need to train less than I used to (although part of both those factors is age-related). When it made sense to, especially on foreign travel races, she went with me.

But she has also made some give-ups, in terms of my training and racing time, because she knows how important both are to me, both physically and psychologically. As I have said before, perfectionism is the enemy of the possible. On the other hand, if you stay focused, balanced and prepared to make some give-ups along the way, you can find happiness in both your training and racing and your relationships.

** A version of this column originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog, Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 51, 2018/03), March 1, 2018, and is used with permission.

2018 marks Dr. Steve Jonas’ 36thseason of multisport racing. He began the season with a total of 255 dus and tris. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90’s for duathlon. He has raced up to the Ironman distance, but now at 81, 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 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 multisport periodicals, including the USA Triathlon Blog. He very happily joined Du It For You in 2016.

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Guest post: The Mental Aspects of Multisport Racing, Part 2

winner medal

By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

In Part 2 of this column, we deal with some further dimensions of the mental aspects of multisport racing. (Read Part 1 here.)

To get the most value out of mind work for multisport racing you have to know why you’re in the sport, which I discussed in a previous column.

Know your pain

The first aspect of mind work is knowing your body. For example, knowing that the pain you feel is from muscle use, not an injury, and knowing that when you finish, or perhaps even when you go on to the next race segment, in a few minutes it will go away. Knowing your body is being able to act on that knowledge and keep going.

Several times in long and ultra-distance events I have experienced a great deal of knee pain on the bike. I could deal with it because I was pretty sure it was just from exertion. I was almost certain it would go away on the run, when I would be using different muscles. And indeed, it did. So it was okay.

In that type of situation, the pain doesn’t worry you. It doesn’t cause apprehension of a future negative event. It just hurts, that’s all. You go with it, and put up with the pain, because you know what finishing means and you have the mental power to do that.

Keep your wits about you

Second, success in triathlon and duathlon depends upon your ability to keep your wits about youduring both training and racing. To stay alert, and out of harm’s way around traffic, natural hazards, and other racers, even when you’re tired, you need to be able to think clearly.

You also need to remember to drink and eat at the required frequencies. In hot weather, drinking fluids on a regular basis before you get thirsty is, of course, vital. (It is often said that if you wait until you get thirsty, it’s too late.) It requires mental discipline to notpass a water stop when you’re feeling good, and not thirsty, and to remember to drink water anyway.

Monitor your pace

You also need to use your mind to hold yourself back from going too fast at the beginning of a race segment. Or, to power all the way through the bike leg because you are a good cyclist, you feel good that day, and you get caught up in some person-on-person competition.

How many times have you heard someone say: “If only I held back a bit on the bike. I had nothing left for the run.” You need mental discipline to control that urge.

Keep putting in the work

The power of the mind in multisport is nowhere more evident than it is in training. Day after day, week after week. Sticking to that schedule. Knowing what you need to do to achieve the results you want. Being able to go out when you’re very sleepy, as well as when you feel full of vim and vigor. Being able to go to the pool at the end of a hard day to put in the yards or the minutes you need for the swim.

As I have said many times since I first started writing about triathlon back in the 1980s: “The hard part of regular exercise is the regular, not the exercise.”

Avoid overtraining

The power of the mind is also evident in the mental discipline you need to not overtrain. Knowing when enough is enough to achieve the results you want. Being aware that overdoing it can be more harmful than underdoing it in terms of potential long-term damage to your body and your racing career.

Even when training is going well, and so is your racing season, you need mental discipline to say to yourself, as you should from time to time, “let’s take it easy this week. I know that my conditioning won’t disappear overnight, and my muscles sure could use some rest.”

Know when to keep fighting and when to stop

In races, the power of the mind comes in knowing when to take a DNF if you have to. Being able to recognize that it’s just too hot, or that you don’t have enough time left in the race to make the time limit. (I have experienced these more than once in my 35 years in the sport.) Just in terms of your health, you must be able to stop before you get heatstroke, hypothermia, or a serious musculoskeletal injury.

Remember, in the scorecard of life, no one was ever declared a failure for not finishing a particular race on a particular day. There’s always another race.

[How do you get it done? Share your mental training tips in the comments below!]

* This column, as recently published (see below) is based in part on an article I wrote in 1992 for my then-regular column, “Triathlon for Everyman,” that appeared in the June issue of Triathlon Today! It was entitled “Some Mental Aspects of Triathloning.”

** A version of this column originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog, Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series,(No. 49, 2018/01), March 1, 2018, and is used with permission.

2018 marks Dr. Steve Jonas’ 36thseason of multisport racing. He began the season with a total of 255 dus and tris. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90’s for duathlon. He has raced up to the Ironman distance, but now at 81, 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 multisport periodicals, including the USA Triathlon Blog. He very happily joined Du It For You in 2016.

Duathlon: How to ace the second run

Duathlon second run

Nothing brings more lead-legged discomfort in duathlon than the dreaded second run.

After five years of duathlon racing, that bike-run transition hasn’t felt any easier. I’ve had second runs where I’ve almost threw up my drink, runs reduced to a relative shuffle and runs where—oh happy day—I ran well and passed several competitors.

With proper training, pacing and fueling, you can improve your run off the bike and cruise to a successful finish.

Master the brick

To run well off the bike you have to practice running off the bike. Incorporate at least one bike-run brick a week into your training. When you’re just starting out, don’t worry about pace. Just run.

Froome run off bike
It’s safe to say Froome didn’t practice his off-the-bike run before stage 12 of Tour de France, 2016.

As you progress, add intensity to your brick. Try a one-hour bike with the last 10 minutes at race pace, followed by a short run with the first five minutes at race pace.

Jason Digman, former head of Dig It Triathlon and Multisport Coaching, recommends what I call the “multi-brick.” After a warmup, perform three sets of one-mile run, 10-minute bike, with no recovery in between. Keep your first multi-brick at race pace plus 15 to 20 seconds. Over the course of four weeks, progress up to race pace.

Play with the distance of your run and bike intervals depending on your goal race’s length. Bonus: you get lots of transition practice!

Du second-run strides

Albert Harrison, a USA Track & Field Level 2 Coachand a USA Triathlon national champion in both the standard and long-course duathlon, recommends a set of short intervals right off the bike. Running fast right away helps your body overcome that jelly-leg feeling and—surprise surprise!—run fast off the bike.

Harrison suggests 20-second strides or 400-meter repeats faster than goal race pace. “Be careful though,” he wrote me via Twitter, “you’re more susceptible to injury while running on tired legs.”

Jesse Bauer, an elite duathlete based in Edmonton, Canada, agrees. Why? Because short, fast efforts promote a high leg cadence off the bike.

Bauer’s favorite second-run speed workouts are 200-meter repeats at faster than goal race pace, or 5x 30-seconds, followed by a 30-second walk/jog recovery, straight into a 1-2K race pace effort.

“Paid off big on the steep hill out of T2 on Friday,” he told me via Twitter, referring to the recent ITU World Multisport Championships in Fyn, Denmark, where he competed in the elite men’s standard duathlon.

If it’s early in your season or you haven’t done much stride work, build intensity gradually to avoid injury. Start with a couple sets of 30-second strides, with a full recovery jog in between.

Focus on form.

Top age-group competitor and multisport coach Suzanne Cordes keeps her focus on good form during the second run—that time when you see many runners hunched over, shuffling along or walking.

During your interval or faster running workouts, focus on how you hinge your hips, how you run tall, how you maintain good form. Think about that powerful stride when you bolt out of T2, she says.

magnet

When you settle into your second-run pace, use the magnet trick suggested by sports psychologist and Your Performing Edge author Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter:

Imagine your competitor has a magnet on her back. Let it pull you toward her. If there’s no one in eyesight, put the magnet on a tree or the top of a hill.

Don’t start out too fast.

Repeat: don’t start out too fast. When you’re well-rested and well-trained, it’s so easy to fly through the first run as if it’s a standalone race. Don’t. You’ll pay for it in the second run, if not on the bike.

The goal is to hit even splits—or as close to even as possible—on your first and second run. I accomplished my best races when I ran the second run pretty darn close to my first.

Endurance coach Eric Schwartz suggests the following: if your race involves two 5Ks, plan to run them about 30 to 60 seconds slower than your standalone 5K time. The faster your race pace, the less time you should add.

Digman suggests something similar. Add the distance of your run legs together and pace according to a run distance one step longer. For example, if your duathlon involves 10K of running, race according to your 10-mile race pace.

Your competitors may run away from you in the first run, but with smart pacing and training, you’ll pass them back in the end. Remember, Digman writes, “they don’t give away the medals for the first athlete into T1.”

What are your second run training tips? Let us know in the comments below!

Guest Post: Thoughts on the mental aspects of multisport racing, Part 1

winner medal

By Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.

Renowned American inventor Thomas Edison supposedly said: “Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.”

Taking “inspiration” to mean mental work, back in 1992 when I wrote the original version of this column (see my note below at the end), I thought the ratio in triathlon racing was almost the opposite (even on a very hot day) —99 percent mental work, 1 percent perspiration.

I recall reading an article in an issue of Triathlete magazine back then in which one of the original “Fabulous Four,” Mark Allen, described winning the Hawaii IRONMAN as a “mental exercise in pain management.” (The other members of the group were Dave Scott, Scott Molina, and Scott Tinley. All four are members of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame.)

Back then I noted that except for those folks at the front of the pack who are technical riders or fast swimmers, there is little physical or athletic skill involved in the primary triathlon sports: swimming, cycling and running. Left, right, left, right is the name of the game. And while we all perspire profusely on a hot day, it is not the perspiration per se that gets us through the race.

It’s our minds.

Today, while I think that’s still true for the most part, there is much more emphasis on technique in all three sports than there was back then.

For myself, as a Golden Oldie (age 81), who, as I describe myself, started out slow 35 years ago and has been getting slower ever since, it’s never been much about technique. I needed a lot of discipline and, indeed, technique in both teaching and writing in my work as an academic. I also needed it in my other sport, downhill skiing, in which I eventually became good enough to become a certified ski instructor.

In order to teach proper technique, essential to good (and safe) skiing, I had to be able to do it myself. But for our sport it’s always been to do what I do in all three sports to a) get through the course and b) not get injured, having learned just enough technique in all three sports to do just that.

Nevertheless, what is it that enables triathletes to finish, especially in the long races (whatever is a long race for you—sprint-, Olympic-, long- or ultra-distance)? Technique, for sure, to help you go as fast as you want to go, bearing in mind that you have to be able to finish the race.

But primarily, in my view, it is mental discipline, dealing with both technique and speed. It is the ability to focus, to concentrate. As well as staying with your technique, it is the ability to keep your eyes on the prize (which for most of us is finishing at or around our time objective).

It is the ability, as Mark Allen put it, to put up with the pain, to manage it, even adjust your speed to it: “I can take the pain that speeding up will bring with it.” Or, conversely, “It’s okay, I can take a minute-a-mile less on the run. It’s going to hurt a lot less and that makes slowing down a bit worth it.”

For me, much more important from the mental standpoint is knowing why you’re in the sport. Multisport racing, over time, is tough, more for the training than for the racing. To stay with it for any considerable period of time, you have to be doing it for yourself, for how you feel doing it, for how it makes you feel about yourself, for how it makes you look, to yourself, not to someone else.

If it makes you feel good, and feel good about yourself, you are going to stay with it, as tough as it is, physically, mentally and time-wise, over the long haul. If not, then you will not stay with it. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Hardly. But to stay with it, you definitely have to know why, and what are the goods, for yourself, that you are getting from the sport.

Next time, we’ll deal with some of the specifics of the mental aspects of the sport and the power of the mind.

* This column, as recently published (see below) is based in part on an article I wrote in 1992 for my then-regular column, “Triathlon for Everyman,” that appeared in the June issue of Triathlon Today!It was entitled “Some Mental Aspects of Triathloning.”

** A version of this column originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog, Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series,(No. 49, 2018/01), Jan. 29, 2018, and is used with permission.

2018 marks Dr. Steve Jonas’ 36thseason of multisport racing. He began the season with a total of 255 du’s and tri’s. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90’s for duathlon. He has raced up to the Ironman distance, but now at 81, 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 multisport periodicals, including the USA Triathlon Blog. He very happily joined Du It For You in 2016.

Guest post: Spring is here: what to “du”?

Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H., duathlete and triathlete, shares his tips for getting out there after winter hibernation.

bike in snow

Spring is coming. Really? If you, like I do, live in a part of the country that has had a pretty rough winter, especially during the past month of March, you might not actually believe that. But yes, spring will eventually get here and where you live too, and we will be able to start racing again. And so, what to do for getting going for the upcoming season, in light of the really miserable winter weather many of us had?

We are all, of course, all anxious to get back to racing. Some of us ordinarily do work out outdoors during the winter. While I used to when I was much younger, my winter routine is now primarily found indoors—riding the stationary bike, stretching, and lifting in my own gym in my basement (lucky me!) But if you have routinely spent some of your winter training time outdoors, you may have had to cut back because of the weather. And if you are like me, running and riding outside again will be delayed, or at least cut back some, because of the weather.

What are my main words of advice?

Caution and patience.

Don’t push it, either in your training or in your early season racing. The season is a long one. You don’t want to get injured at the beginning of the season. And yes, you may have your heart set on an early-season duathlon, but if you can’t get in enough training for it, it is much better to skip it than to go out there and get hurt.

Until four years ago, I skied during the first two weeks of March. While skiing for the most part isn’t aerobic (or shouldn’t be, if you know what you are doing, and as a retired ski instructor I can say that if you don’t know that, you don’t belong out there), it does get the blood circulating and the muscles limbered up. But since I am no longer skiing, that part of my preparation is not there. Now, early in the season, in any race that I do, I will take it even easier than I usually do these days.

I’ve got a long, good season planned. You may well have one too. Don’t ruin it by trying to defy Mother Nature. She will have her way, and if you go with the flow, you can have a great season, even if it means either missing or taking it very easy in that first race or two.

###

This column is based in part on one that originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog and is used with permission.

2018 marks Steve Jonas’ 36th season of multi-sport racing. He began the season with 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 81, he is sticking to the sprints in both duathlon and triathlon. Steve is a prolific author of books on multisport 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, including the USA Triathlon Blog. He very happily joined Du it For You in 2016.

Photo courtesy of Francisco Daum, Flickr.

A faster duathlon transition: Experts share their top tips

duathlon transition

Want to shave a minute or more off your duathlon time without much effort? Master your transition. With a seamless, speedy transition, you can get a jump on your competitors and place a few notches higher in your age group. If you’re trying to qualify for Team USA, every place matters.

The duathlon transition is less cumbersome than triathlon—no wetsuit to peel off, no wet clothes. Helmet, shoes and bike are your three key components to master. Here, age group aces (and one pro) from across the United States and Europe share their tips for a faster transition.

 Alistair Eeckman, professional athlete, Berkeley, CA

“Practice, practice and practice will help you improve your T1 and T2 times. I prefer to use rubber bands on my cycling shoes. Like this video shows, for example.” (Read more about Alistair here)

 Albert Harrison, Moscow, Iowa

“Practice at home and rehearse on race morning by running through the transition area. Running out barefoot may give you a fast T1 split, but if you’re fumbling with your shoes while you’re getting going on your bike, you’re likely to lose some time.”

“Be sure to look at the last half mile of the bike course and make a note of when it would be safest/fastest/easiest to get your feet out of your bike shoes. If it’s uphill or technical, it may be best to dismount and run in to T2 with your bike shoes on. Click, clack…”

Jim Girand, Palo Alto, CA

“Get power straps [for your bike] and wear your racing flats. With training they will be just as good as cycling shoes.”

Wolf Hillesheim, El Sobrante, CA

“Make sure your bike is in the right gear when you mount. In sprint races, use the [Power Grips] or Pyro Platforms—if you can find them! Then you can use your racing flats—no bike shoes. It’s quicker, and there’s less chance of cramping on the second transition.” (Read more about Wolf here)

Steve Fung, Orinda, CA

“Little things matter in the bike transition. I always try to ride my bike before setting up in T2. Make sure the wheels are smooth, no rubbing. Check skewers a couple times to not stress about it when racing. Make sure brakes are pulling correctly and air pressure feels right.

“Shift through gears a couple times to make sure rings and cassette shift smooth. Make sure it’s in the right gear for a speedy departure and crank arm is at the three o’ clock position.

“Make sure your helmet fits comfortably—check straps and clip. Make sure glasses are the right tint. I have a couple different tints depending on terrain and lighting. I frequently use high-contrast yellow for shadowy rides. Make sure water bottles are tight in cage, bottles open, and tool kit [if you carry one] is in place and complete.”

Claire Steels, Steels Fitness, Mallorca

“Practice makes perfect. Look for an easy way to spot your bike, such as a tree or bin. Make sure you leave your bike in an easy gear—you only make that mistake once!”

duathlon transition
I use my bright orange spike bag in transition. If I can remember what row I’m in, then the orange bag makes my bike easier to spot.

Bradley Williams, Westland, MI

Speed laces in shoes. Little or no extra gear at your transition spot. Practice, practice, practice.”

Mark Griffin, Suffolk, England

“Don’t rush and don’t try anything you haven’t practiced in training. It’s far easier to gain 30 seconds on the bike or run over panicking and messing up in transition looking for single seconds.”

Nate Deck, Raleigh, NC

“Keep it simple. The less you have to do, the quicker you will be. Lay everything flat: race belt, helmet with straps open, shoes… Also, run through transition mentally on race morning when you set up your transition area.”

Pamela Semantik, Cleveland, OH

“I do not do a flying mount or dismount. I have seen all kinds of bad stuff happen, and it’s beyond my skill level. The way I see it, if I take a couple extra seconds to dismount the way I know how, I may have just saved myself some time (and embarrassment, and possibly injury) if I flub the flying dismount.”

Angie Ronsettler-Ridgel, Cleveland, OH

“I use a ‘cross dismount technique after I get my feet out of the shoes. I have not perfected the shoeless remount, so I put my cycling shoes on in transition.”

Got any transition tips? Share them in the comments below.

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.