Powerman Zofingen: Race reports and updates

What’s considered the toughest and most prestigious duathlon, the ITU Long Distance World Duathlon Championships, Powerman Zofingen, took over that lovely Swiss city the first weekend of September.

On Twitter, I promised I’d compile race reports for an upcoming blog. To date, there aren’t many full reports, but I did find some good nuggets of info about this epic event.

From ITU

First, here is the official report from ITU. Switzerland and France took the wins, with Petra Eggenschwiler (SUI) claiming the women’s title and French athlete Gaël Le Bellec winning the men’s race for the third time.

Powerman Zofingen winners

Check out the full report for photos and a list of top finishers.

One thing I noticed when perusing the results (particularly in my age group): the times appear to be faster this year than last. Is the new bike course faster than the old? If anyone has insights, please share!

Here’s the profile of the 2018 bike loop, which athletes complete three times:

2018 Powerman Zofingen bike course

A view from the top

In his inaugural Zofingen race, dominant U.S. athlete Albert Harrison finished sixth in the elite men’s race with a blazing-fast 6:25:52.

He published one of the few race reports I could find, and it’s a thorough one. He starts with the training, shares his goals and continues with his thoughts on the race and USA Triathlon’s lack of support for its duathletes.

He was on TV too. A lot.

Albert Harrison 2018 Powerman Zofingen

Most inspirational athlete

One of the most inspiring tidbits I found came from the Twittersphere. Blind athlete Fernando Raino didn’t just finish Powerman Zofingen. He finished strong.

For random info about Powerman Zofingen, including its history and a general course description, check out my post from September 1.

Got anything to add re: the 2018 Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships? Please share in the comments below! We’d love to hear your story.

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Powerman Zofingen: what to know about the longest ITU duathlon

powerman zofingen
Photo by Ozzymate [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Michael McCormack, a former professional Ironman champion who won Ironman Canada in 1991 and 1995 and broke the course record, once told me Powerman Zofingen was the hardest race he had ever done.

Considering McCormack trained with and raced against some of the best in the world in both triathlon and duathlon, that’s a statement not taken lightly. His words echo the sentiments of most athletes that complete this grueling race. It doesn’t seem so bad on paper, but executing is a different story.

What is Powerman Zofingen?

Thanks for asking! Launched in 1989, Powerman Zofingen is the longest championship duathlon. It’s also the most prestigious, as many call it the “Kona of Duathlon.” It’s one of the few duathlons that attract spectators. I’d say it’s one of the most competitive, and it is, but everyone from front to back suffers in equal measures. It’s the ITU Long Distance World Duathlon Championships as well as the International Powerman Association duathlon final.

The event consists of a 10K run-150K bike-30K run. Much of the runs traverse up and down through forests, while the bike goes up and up and up (and down) through hills, valleys and villages.

Here’s what I know about the course, until they changed it for 2018:
The first 10K starts with a steep 1.5K climb (about 8% grade) and continues up and down gravel trails. You do one 5K loop twice.

The bike consisted (until this year) of three 50K loops. Each loop has/had three solid climbs ranging from 5 to 3K-ish, which grades up to 10 to 15% on the Bodenburg ascent, as well as sweeping descents and a flat stretch. After 93 miles of riding, you get to “du” a 30K run.

For the final run, once out of transition you head(ed) up a long climb and then run up or down to complete three or four loops, depending on the year (the course has been tinkered with through the years).

Powerman Zofingen: a few historical tidbits

• In 1989, its inaugural year, the event was still called a biathlon. Yet, it was a three-legged sport: a 1.5K run, 150K bike, 30K run. In 1990, banana-hammock-wearing American Kenny Sousa won the men’s race.

Kenny Souza
Kenny Souza in 1993. Hope he wore more clothes in Switzerland. It can get chilly in September!

• In 1993, the prize money in Zofingen totaled $200,000—more than Ironman Hawaii.

• In 2000, attendance started to fall in Zofingen and at other duathlons worldwide. Why? Triathlon became an Olympic sport, which means the major players started swimming, biking and running for what became the more lucrative sport. [Biting my tongue here]

• On the 25thanniversary, in 2014, combined Powerman Zofingen events attracted 1,480 participants. (That includes PowerKids, charity and long and short distances)

• In 2018, nearly 700 athletes will line up for this incredible race (that’s not including PowerKids and charity, only long and short). About 383 athletes will do the full long-course event, according to today’s start list.

Powerman Zofingen today

Due to what were essentially permitting issues, Powerman Zofingen changed the bike and second run course. (Honestly I can’t remember if they altered the first run.)

The 2018 bike course is still 150K, but traverses through different villages and takes athletes over one of the hills in a different direction. It still has a comparable overall elevation profile—from a little over 1800 meters of climbing to a little under1800, depending on who you talk to.

The new course also features about 300 meters of cobblestone. The race directors promote this as a perk (oh yay! Like riding Paris Roubaix!). I see it as a potential tire-puncture risk. The descents are either technical or sweeping, depending on who you ask.

 

Best of luck to all the Powerman and ITU competitors. By the time this posts, I hope you are all sleeping soundly and wake up early in the morning feeling fantastic and ready for the path ahead. I’m cheering for you all!

CODA: Powerman Zofingen will be missing a bright light this year: professional triathlete/duathlete Alistair Eeckman. He died when a bus collided with him while he was on a training ride in Austria. He had just finished sixth in Powerman Austria and was gearing up for Zofingen. He is deeply missed.

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!

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.

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 6.57.08 PM
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.

IMG_0577
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.

10 international duathlons you need to “du”

Racing a duathlon in another country is a great way to explore someplace new—as a tourist as well as a runner and cyclist. If you like to keep your vacations active, plan one around an international duathlon. You’ll challenge yourself on a new course, as well as enjoy some “active recovery” experiencing local culture and cuisine.

Whether you’re looking for a long-course duathlon with a competitive field, a short, flat course to test your speed, or something hilly and scenic, somewhere in the world you’ll find a duathlon for you.

For a break from the norm, plan your next vacation around one of these 10 duathlons and duathlon series.

London Duathlon

london duathlon

Considered the world’s largest duathlon, the London Duathlonattracts more than 2,000 athletes each year. Choose from its standard distance (10K-44K-5K), go long with the ultra du (20K-77K-10K) or du something shorter with the Half Duathlon or Relay.

Expect some climbing on both the run and bike courses, all held within Richmond Park in southwest London. September 16, 2018. @londonduathlon

Winter Ballbuster

 

As if climbing Box Hill five times isn’t tough enough, you get to “du” it in November.

The longest-running, most arduous UK duathlon, Winter Ballbusterlives up to its name with a hilly 8-mile, 24-mile, 8-mile course.

Set in the Box Hill National Trust Site, in Surry, about 19 miles outside of London, the event challenges newcomers and professionals alike. “To finish the race entitles you to hold your head high,” writes Matt Baird for 220Triathlon. November 3, 2018.

Storm the Castle Duathlon

Set in Ludlow, Shropshire (that’s in England) Storm the Castlefinishes inside Ludlow Castle. Pretty cool, eh?

The 10K-33K-5K course offers plenty of climbing along the way. Why visit Ludlow? This tour guidesays it’s a beautiful foodie town with a rich history. April 2019.

Powerman International

Some of the most competitive and best-known duathlons fall under the Powermanumbrella. Du one for fun or to compete against the best in the world.

Powerman Int’l has its own rankings system, which gives you another way to qualify for the ITU Long-Distance World Duathlon Championship in Zofingen, Switzerland. Powerman also hosts the European Championships.

You can find Powermans in Germany, Denmark, Austria, Brazil, Panama and the Philippines, among other countries, including this one. Distances vary from 10K-60K-10K to 5K-30K-5K. Year-round.

Krusnoman Long Distance Duathlon

Got your sights set on a trip to Prague? Plan it around the Krusnoman Duathlon, a long, mountainous 5K-80K-15K about 80 kilometers outside of the Czech Republic’s capital city. You can experience leg- and lung-searing joy of 2,200 meters of climbing and then hobble around Prague’s Old Town Square. May 12, 2018. @Krusnoman

Kyaninga Duathlon

Duathlons aren’t limited to North America and Europe. Uganda, Africa, hosts the Kyaninga Duathlon—part of a weeklong adventure that includes a boat safari, trekking with chimpanzees and a race. Along the 4.5K-16.5K-4.5K course, you’ll ride through Ugandan villages and run in the foothills of the UNESCO Rwenzori Mountains. Before and after, you’ll stay in Kyaninga Lodge in Fort Portal. I just found out about this race and I am intrigued! May 19, 2018.

Powerman Zofingen

I know I already talked about the Powerman series, but Zofingenis iconic enough to get a spot all its own. Considered the duathlon equivalent of the Ironman World Championships, Powerman Zofingen is considered the most prestigious and toughest duathlon in the world. It’s also the ITU Long Course World Championship.

The course starts with a hilly 10K forested run, followed by a 150K bike and a 30K run. Both hilly. If you search around, you can find numerous race reports that describe just how hilly and how long this race is. My eyes are burning from a day at the computer, so I’ll let you tackle the almighty Google. September 1-2, 2018.@PM_Zofingen

Kirkistown and Bishopscourt Race Track Duathlons

If you want to go fast, and you want to visit Northern Ireland, check out these full-track sprint and longer-distance duathlons. From the looks of it, you run and ride on an actual racetrack.

If you don’t feel like riding around in circles, visit NI Duathlonfor a list of duathlons throughout the region. @niduathlon

VeloPark Duathlon

Here’s another race series around a track. The VeloPark Duathlon series takes place on a closed-road circuit around the 2012 Olympic Velodrome. These low cost events take place all year, so you can easily fit one into your London vacation. @Velopark_Dua

Bayside Duathlon

I’m getting a little heavy on the UK events, but since this one says it was voted “Best UK Duathlon” in 2016, I’ll give it a mention.Held along Stokes Bay, in Gosport, and the Lee-on-the-Solent sea front, Bayside Duathlonincludes both a sprint (5K-20K-5K) and a super-sprint (2.5K-10K-2.5K), both flat.

Gosport is a port town with 24 miles of waterfront, beaches and watersports. It also looks like you’re pretty close to South Downs Natural Park. November 4.@BaysideDuathlon

Know of any other great international races? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo courtesy of Michael Fox, Flickr

USAT Duathlon National Championships 2018 – race update

I’m almost a week late in talking about the 2018 USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships held in Greenville, South Carolina. What I lack in timeliness I hope to make up with photos like this:

Greenville, SC
It’s…a peach. (Photo courtesy of Angie Wonsettler Ridgel)

Oh happy day, more than 1,100 athletes registered for some form of run-bike-run last weekend, either draft-legal or non-draft sprint or standard distance dus. The attendance makes the event the third-largest in USAT’s Duathlon Nationals history. Hooray!

I’m thrilled to see the numbers go up. Was it the location? The chance to compete in Pontevedra, Spain at the ITU World Championships? Or is there a glimmer of increasing interest in duathon? I hope it’s all of the above, though I most hope we see a continued increase in duathlon participation.

I’m biased, because I am a pure duathlete (never raced a triathlon, don’t plan to), but I do believe duathlon has so many advantages over its three-discipline sister. Less crap to buy and manage, less hassle in transition, no hopping on the bike cold and wet, and a chance to get very good at two sports rather than okay in three.

Enough of that. On to Greenville…

It was wet and gross on Saturday, April 7.

Greenville hotel
View on Saturday from the hotel of Eric Butz, a competitor in the standard distance du

However, that didn’t stop 303 athletes from competing in the Draft-Legal Sprint Duathlon (5K run, 18K bike, 2.85K run)

Jesse Bauer was in the lead pack through the bike; however, the final run determined the podium spots: Buckingham Shellberg, Derek Stone, Kenneth Svendsen.

Here’s a mini-report from Jesse.

Chris Mosier, a positive force for the trans community, duathlon and for athletes anywhere everywhere, didn’t let a little rain stop him from running a PR in the 5K and placing sixth in the competitive men’s 35-39 age group. Read all about it in this article from Outsports.

On Sunday, the rain subsided but the temperature dropped—to 37 degrees at the start! Not the worst thing for the run. No fun for the bike.

Alex Arman won the standard distance (8.45K run, 39K bike, 4.5K run) men’s race, while Aimee Phillippi-Taylor claimed the women’s victory.

It warmed up a little for the sprint race, with Taylor Huseman and Cassidy Hickey breaking the tape. Go you!

For the nitty gritty on the non-draft action, read this race report from Podium Sports Medicine.

Did you race in Greenville last weekend? How did it go? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

2017 year in review: success in spite of myself

I started mentally reviewing my 2017 racing season well before the holidays, but it took until now to get my thoughts on the page. In between, contributor Dr. Stephen Jonas provided helpful questions to ask when reviewing your racing season. Take a look!

For most of 2017, I criticized myself. My performance on the bike wasn’t up to par. I didn’t practice my transitions, which would have saved me precious seconds in important races. My running performance started off strong, but faded halfway through the year. I considered 2017 a wash.

But when I shifted my mindset and thought of my goals, I realized I had a pretty darn good year in spite of myself. Here are four things I’m proud of.

1. Top 10 in USA Track & Field/Pacific Region Road Grand Prix, short and long series.

USATF has annual team and individual competitions in road, cross country, mountain/ultra and track events. My club, Pamakid Runners, competes in all of these except track.

One of my 2017 goals was to earn “comped” status in both the short- and long-course road series. This requires placing in the top 10 in my division, 40+ women. Result: nailed it! I placed seventh in both. That means I receive free entry into 2018 short and long Grand Prix races. Yay, free! I got comped for the short series (10th) for 2015, but thanks to an injury, didn’t get to take advantage of the benefit.

2. USA Triathlon Duathlon National Champion

One of my all-time duathlon goals was to win my age group in a national championship race. Unexpectedly, I accomplished this at the USAT Duathlon Long-Course National Championships in Cary, North Carolina, in April.

IMG_0300

I had a lackluster race. (Can you tell I’m hard on myself?) My bike split was minutes slower than my expectation. I had acceptable run splits considering the heat and humidity. But I did my best on the day. Result: Age group win! Bonus: a “national champion” bike jersey that I’m a little embarrassed to wear.

3. Came out of half marathon hiatus

In February, I lined up to race the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon for the first time in 10 years. In between, I ran some trail halfs as training races, but didn’t specifically train for a half.

Why? After the 2007 KPSF 1/2 I ran a big PR, and then ended up with a stress fracture a week later. I became gun-shy about racing the half and focused on races from 5K to 10 miles. I soon got over my fear, but training for a half just didn’t fit…for a long time!

In 2017, I not only ran the KPSF 1/2, but also the Clarksburg Country Run in November (part of the road Grand Prix), where I placed third in my age group. Result: barrier broken. Bonus: I stayed healthy and still am!

4. Pamakid Runners Female Runner of the Year

Well this was unexpected! Each year my club hands out awards for male/female runner of the year (road and ultra), most improved and most inspirational. It also gives out an overall “Pamakid of the Year” and “Volunteer of the Year” award for members who go above and beyond to help the club and the running community at large.

I missed the club’s Christmas party, where they present the awards, only to discover a couple days later I won one! And here I thought I had a crappy 2017.

Pamakid Runners
At the Christmas Relays, belatedly receiving my award. Thanks Pamakids!

For most of 2017’s second half, my motivation to race took a nosedive due to caring for and losing my beautiful feline companion, Soleil. From the time I learned she had a tumor, in August, through the worst of the grief, I had no passion for racing or much else. I raced to keep my skills sharp and to spend time with my Pamakids family.

my cat
My pal for 15 and-a-half years and a sock monkey she didn’t like. Isn’t she the most beautiful cat ever?

I criticized myself (can you see a trend here?) for slower race times, but in spite of myself, I ran a lot of races and placed fairly well in them. I also volunteered a fair amount for my club. Taken all together, Pamakids saw something I didn’t. I’m grateful.

As 2018 picks up momentum, I have my enthusiasm back and my health intact. I’m working toward my 2018 goals with a renewed sense of commitment.

What are you most proud of in 2017? What did you learn? Tell us about it in the comments below.