Du It For You

Duathlon training and racing: stories, advice, and views from the top

Dr. Steve Jonas: On Death and Training and Racing

running track

Last year was not a good one for me. I had the worst racing season I have ever had since I first started in multi-sport in 1983. In fact, I ended up doing just one of the half-dozen or so races that I had planned for that year, the sprint duathlon at Special Olympics of New Jersey “One More Tri” festival, in Asbury Park, New York, in September.

It’s a great set of events of events put on by SONJ and being in Asbury Park has a special meaning for me. Had an event that occurred there in 1907 not indeed happened, I would not be writing this column. For that is where and when my paternal grandparents met for the first time.

But then, after my almost totally-lost season was over, something much worse happened. After a four-year illness, my wife, Chezna, passed away on Oct. 25. We had been together since 1999 and married since 2010. She was a great lady and we had many wonderful times together, including at some races.

When you lose someone after a long illness that has a known outcome (as hers did), it is certainly not the shock that sudden death brings. But the emptiness is there. When she was gone, it really did hit me that she would never be going to a race with me again. Much more importantly, the love we shared, and all the things we so enjoyed doing together — from spending time with our children and grandchildren to going to the theater to traveling far and wide — were now in the past. How does one overcome that?

In the aftermath, my life really slowed down. My writing on multi-sport, and on politics (which I do regularly) slowed way down. One also has to take time to deal with all the mechanical details involved when a loved one passes. And of course, as I said above, even when death has been expected, it is still quite a downer for one’s feelings. So, along with everything else, my training slowed down and became irregular, too.

Since I started out in racing, my custom has always been to take off two weeks or so at the end of the season, but then get back into a light, but regular, winter training program. This past fall, that didn’t happen.

The two weeks stretched out to four, and when I did start training again, it was very sporadically. That lasted through the rest of 2018 and into this January.

But then, finally, I began to look at a schedule for this upcoming season, and I realized I really had to get back to it. At the end of January, I started back in on my regular 13-week program on which I cycle through the season.

And guess what? After a couple of weeks of sticking to it, doing my minutes (for the 36 years I have been doing multisport races, my workouts have always been counted in minutes, not miles), and adding some stretching and a bit of weight training, I started coming out of it. I started moving from post-death-of-my-life-partner to pre-the-rest-of-my-life.

But then, a) the spring weather in the northeast was cold and wet and not conducive to riding the bike. And b) it turned out that I had a whole-body allergic syndrome to — my late wife’s cat, whom I had brought home with me. It took about seven months before, with the help of my internist, I realized what was going on. I eventually had to take a pass on the whole season.

BUT—I have kept on exercising. Not race-training, but exercising regularly, mainly on my indoor bike and doing power-walking out-of-doors. And, even without racing on the schedule for this year, doing so has helped to put me back in control of my life in a major way.

It has helped me to look forward again, rather than back. And it has brought home to me how important regular exercise is for me, physically and mentally, and has been for so many years. And I am hoping to be able to get back out there racing — on the local (New York area) duathlon circuit — next year.

When you hit a major crisis in your life — and we all do sooner or later — think about how regular exercise, and racing for those of us who race, can help us get through it, in a very healthy way.

This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book 101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book is available at Amazon.comand Barnesandnoble.com.

Steve’s most recent multisport book is Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon and BarnesandNoble.

 His first book on multisport racing, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This column is based on one that originally appeared on the USAT blog, March 15, 2019, and is used with permission.

 2019 marks Dr. Steve Jonas’ 37thseason 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 90s for duathlon. He has raced up to the Ironman distance, but now at 82, 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) 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). All his books on multisport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. He is also long-time writer for various multisport periodicals, including the USA Triathlon blog. He happily joined Du It For You in 2016.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Guest Post: Duathlete Proposes Solution to Long Course Diet

Duathlete and coach Luis Lora, who lives and trains in Winter Park, Florida, composed a reply to MultiRace race director Andre Quirino’s response to Lora’s original letter, published in USAT Magazine and on Du It For You, about MultiRace’s decision to shorten the USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship, held in Miami this year.

You can read the original letter about the switch here, and the follow up here. USAT reps reached out to Quirino, who sent them the same response he sent to Lora (thanks copy-and-paste!) All this took place 3-4 weeks ago. To date, the race course remains its shortened self, and the duathlon community has heard nothing official from either USAT or MultiRace.

The frustration stems from a) a race director’s decision to shorten a ITU world-qualifying long-course event, seemingly without exhausting all other options and b) do it without first conducting a proper marketing survey geared toward duathlon participants and c) do it without effectively communicating the change to athletes.

In the letter below, which Lora sent to Quirino on August 1, Lora proposes a solution. He also provides further comments. Duathletes: What would you like to see happen? Post your comments here. The USAT Duathlon Committee and USAT will see them. I’ll make sure of it! — Du It For You.

<<Good Afternoon Andre,

I want to thank you first and foremost for taking the time out to read and provide a response to my letter. I also appreciate your diligence in answering the various points in my letter.

In regards to the Zoo access, as you mentioned, my comparison was just that. A simple comparison. As you explained, the logistics between the two scenarios are very different and even in the aforementioned 5K, there is ¾ of a mile run through the parking lot to ensure the full 5K distance since there are some areas that the event cannot enter. So I completely understand not having full access to the Zoo and the well-being of the animals being their top priority.

The comparison was provided to illustrate how from the outside, without detailed explanation, it can be interpreted as a lack of desire to push through obstacles. This could have been remedied with clear and detailed communication as you eluded to toward the end of your response, and I appreciate you acknowledging that.

Despite the obstacle with the zoo, it seems there is plenty of road available to provide a longer distance on the first run (even if it ended up being two loops).

The road inside the park, but not inside the zoo, that ends on one side at SW 124th Ave and Talbot Rd on the other end could provide a simple out and back addition to create a longer run. It also has a path that’s not in the zoo that runs parallel to it for a major part of the road.

Now, I am not going to pretend I am a race director and know the ins and outs of picking, establishing and designing a run course–that is your expertise. Nor do I intend to tell you how to do your job, so I hope that my comments do not come across that way. Again, from the outside, it just doesn’t seem that all options were exhausted.

I agree that 100% consensus is impossible. There are too many variables and too many different opinions. The question that still stands is do you really feel or think you got the general consensus of the participating duathletes?

I would argue that you have not. I am familiar with the survey you referenced. USAT and the race directors they partner with are very consistent in obtaining feedback after their major events. It’s an important part of continuing to provide a product that athletes want to attend, which is great. That survey was an overall survey for the race.

In my letter I eluded to a survey, which again has minimal to almost zero cost, specifically about the proposed change to the duathlon. You mentioned that it took monthsof considering the information to get to the ultimate decision, which means there was ample time to inquire further with the athletes that spent the time and money to participate in the actual event.

In regards to athlete feedback and considering the race conditions to ensure the event is neither too hard nor too easy, it still appears to me to be a miss.

After writing and sharing my letter, I have yet to encounter an athlete that truly thinks shortening the first run to 2 miles was the best thing for the sport of duathlon. The letter I wrote has been shared and viewed by over 200 people and none have disagreed with it, several have shared it and commented that they agree that a National Championship event shouldn’t have been altered that way.

I understand you might have received some feedback on the long first run, but no one, not just MultiRace, investigated further with the collective of duathlon participants. You would have found different results had it been investigated with a specific follow-up survey.

Additionally, if the course conditions in Miami are just too hard to have such a long event, why are we not seeing a reduction in length for the long-course triathlon?

MultiRace put on for several years one of my favorite duathlons in Cocoa Beach, so I know that your organization puts on quality events and can be inclusive of all the different races.

My frustration isn’t directed at you as a person and race director or even solely at MultiRace for that matter. A National Championship race is a joint venture between several parties. The true frustration comes in because none of the multiple parties involved either individually, or collectively, thought to investigate further, communicate broadly and effectively, or treat this National Championship event with the same high reverence and respect that us duathletes treat itwith as we train and prepare for it.

Again Andre, I want to thank you for taking out the time to respond, as I know you are very busy running an organization. Thank you for engaging me in this conversation.>>

Guest Post: MiamiMan Race Director Responds re: Long Course Duathlon

Duathlete Luis Lora’s guest post about MultiRace’s decision to shorten the USAT Duathlon Long Course National Championship course caused a stir! The USAT Duathlon Committee reported to me that it has followed the issue closely ever since Lora originally submitted his letter to USAT Magazine. In recent weeks, the Committee and USAT have taken action.

According to Committee Co-Chair Dave Lasorsa, USAT National Events Coordinator Cody Crowther contacted Miami Man race director Andre Quirino of MultiRace. After speaking with Luis and getting more information, Cody asked Andre for reasoning behind the decision.

Below is Andre’s response to his company’s decision to shorten the long course nationals from a 10K first run to a 3.2K first run. I’m also including a copy of the letter MultiRace sent to its athletes after the race.

Let’s continue a healthy discussion! Post your thoughts in the comments below. I’d like to believe stronger communication between athletes, USAT and its race director partners leads to higher-quality events we’re all excited to participate in. Duathlon is a wonderfully challenging sport with an intimate community that I for one would like to see grow. Let’s work together to make that happen. — Du It For You

Hi Cody,

I am in receipt of your recent (USAT Magazine) letter to the editor and I would like to personally address the various points you mentioned.

First, I would like to convey that I always encourage feedback from all our participants. Whether it is good, bad, or otherwise, direct feedback helps MultiRace (and USAT) improve the events and grow the sport and its various athletic disciplines.  While I completely understand your feelings of frustration in this matter based on the points you brought up, I hope that a deeper understating of the overall picture will abate your perception.

The ”generic response” you allude to is in fact quite accurate even if it is light in details. The truth of the matter is that the combined issues of both logistics and athlete feedback necessitated the change in distance.

While your example of a small/local 5K gaining early access to Sea World seems like a logical comparison, it is in fact quite a different situation at Zoo Miami. It is true that early access to Zoo Miami can be gained by small/local 5K’s and conventional wisdom would ask why can’t MultiRace/USAT with its National Championship event gain access?

Those events that gain early access to Zoo Miami are entering via the public accessible paths that are closed during the early hours, however, the Miami Man Duathlon course would require entering via the restricted (non-public) areas that run adjacent or near the animal paddock sleeping areas at a time where any disturbance is to be kept at a minimum.  Also, zoo staff & keepers are actively working in this area in the morning preparing/feeding the animals and with the many other tasks required before the zoo opens to visitors.  This is a Zoo Miami decision but it is quite understandable when looked at from their perspective of controlling and minimizing stress to the animals.

Further, it is always difficult in deciding when the physical challenges of a particular race are too high or too low for the intended participant target group.  You mentioned the heat of our Florida weather and the ‘sauna’ it created last year with the strong morning rain.  This is just one of the many aspects that have to be considered, however, it is simply impossible to have 100% participant consensus on such matters.

I will concur that we could have done a better job with the public announcement of the course change.  In hind-sight, a direct email to those already registered would seem to have been appropriate.  This has been noted and I thankyou for mentioning it… this is an example of participant feedback helping us improve the quality of our events going forward.

In regard to your point of a ‘questionnaire’, a post-race survey was sent out to all race-day participants.  Below is a copy of said survey with the original email date of November 26th.  It is through the survey responses (in addition to direct participant feedback) that we formulate our action points for the following year’s event.  We took several months in considering the racer feedback, the logistical issues with Zoo Miami, the current course and its alternatives to arrive at (in conjunction with USAT) at the best possible solution.  Obviously, as I stated earlier, it is impossible the achieve 100% consensus, but we endeavor as much as is possible to do so.

On a personal note, I would also like to emphatically state that ALL our participants, whether triathletes, duathetes, aquabikers, or aquathletes, have an equal level of attention and my upmost & sincerest effort is made to ensure that no one is left to feel marginalized.  I hope I was able to shed a bit more light on this situation and as always, please feel free to contact me with your comments, questions, or concerns.

Regards,

COPY OF SURVEY:

Dear Athlete,

 

On behalf of everyone at MultiRace, I would like to thank you for participating in the 2018 Mack Cycle Miami Man Half Iron & International Triathlon – USA Triathlon Multisport National Championships. I know the windy and rainy conditions were challenging for most, but we were fortunate we were able to see the sun shining by the end of the day. We sincerely hope you enjoyed your race.

 

In an attempt to continue to produce the very best events, we ask for your feedback, both positive and negative. MultiRace strives to improve your race experience at each and every event and have found that some of the best ideas/suggestions come from you, the participants. Please send me all your feedback and/or suggestions and we will try to incorporate these ideas into next year’s race!

 

We are extremely excited to host the 2019 USA Triathlon Multisport National Championships Festival at Miami Man on November 9-10th, which will include the Long Course Triathlon, the Long Course Duathlon, Long Course Aquabike, International Triathlon, International Aquabike and International Aquathlon. Be a part of history and add this “must do” event to your 2019 race schedule.

 

 

For more information: Click here Registration is now open!

 

Finally, please take a few minutes to fill out the USA Triathlon survey by clicking HERE

 

Thanks again, and we look forward to seeing you next year at Miami Man. Best wishes for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Andre Quirino

USA Triathlon Race Director

www.multirace.com

 

 

 

Guest Post: USAT Duathlon Nationals: How Long Is Too Long?

USAT and MultiRace, the host race director for the USAT Long Course Duathlon Nationals, in Miami, unexpectedly made a long-course race shorter. Here, duathlete and coach Luis Lora shares his view on the change. 

Although Luis explains it more eloquently, my thought is this: athletes, why in the world are you complaining that a long-course national championship is too friggin’ long? Suck it up Buttercup! This race qualifies you for the toughest duathlon in the world. If you’re complaining now, you’ll be crying in Zofingen!  — Du It For You

Duathlon

Photo courtesy of Luis Lora

A Step Back for Duathlon
(my letter to the USAT Magazine Editor)

Luis Lora

As you may or may not have heard, the 2019 USAT Duathlon Long Course National Championship event has had a major change to its race distance. The 2018 edition of the event featured a 10K run, 56mi bike and a 13mi run.

Through a June 26th Instagram post by MultiRace it became public knowledge that the race would now have a 3.2K first run instead of 10K. This decision has taken the development and growth of Duathlon several steps backwards, and I’ll explain why.

First, we must attempt to understand the reason how or why this happened. Several frustrated athletes reached out USAT events in an attempt to gain an understanding of what happened, and this generic response is what they all received:

“In conjunction with feedback from the race director in Miami, we both decided it was best to shorten the first run course due to some logistical issues with the park and campground that it runs through. Additionally, many athletes provided feedback last year that they thought the first run was too long for this event”

The first part of that refers to logistical issues. What those are, we do not know from this initial email. Only after further inquiring beyond the initial response, if you have the time and patience to do so, is it relayed that there is no access to the zoo at race start.

For those that completed the event in 2018, that would explain the different 1st and 2nd run courses. A note on the 2018 first run: it was not the best. There were at least four 180-degree turns combined with paths that were narrow, which forced the top 20 athletes to race single file for the majority of that first run.

The 2018 first run certainly left much to desire and needed improvement, but not in regards to distance. The logistics of access to the Miami Zoo certainly presents an obstacle, but at the same time I’m wondering how my local running store can get access to SeaWorld’s staff, parking lot and park before hours for us to run a 5K Fun Run. Again, that’s a small local running shop, with much less influence than USAT or MultiRace, gaining access to SeaWorld, a much larger corporation than the Miami Zoo, for a fun run 5K, a much less prestigious occasion than a national championship event.

The second part of the generic response eludes to a first run too long for a long-course duathlon race. To clarify, this National Championship race qualifies an athlete for a Team USA slot to race in the 10K, 150K, 30K World Championship event. How does a 10k, 90K, 21K long-course race still seem too long? More importantly, would we be having this conversation if a few athletes complained that the 1.2mi swim or the 56mi bike or any other part of a long-course triathlon championship race was too long? Highly doubtful.

What are you telling us, USAT?

These initial points aside, the way this was handled, communicated and the message it sends is what truly makes it detrimental to the development of Duathlon.

We are told, only upon having to inquire, that participant feedback conveyed the first run was too long.

There were 111 athletes that made it to the start line for last year’s event. How difficult would it have been to reach out via email to those 111 participants to have them fill out a short survey with 3-4 specific questions around how they would feel about a shortened run at the 2019 event?

It seems like something that could have been easily done. Furthermore, was the USAT Duathlon Committee consulted regarding this change for their input? If so, where was the outreach from them, even simply through the group FB page to gain a wider range of feedback around a shortened run?

We were never made aware that this was an issue that needed some attention. The way this portrays to the duathlete is that when any slight hiccup in event planning presents itself, the easiest thing to do is to simply make the duathlon event less of a “hassle or burden” on race directors.

Fast-forward to the decision being made. How do you decide to relay this message to athletes that are quite possible halfway through the year training specifically for this race and the specific race distance? Surely an email would be sent from the USAT governing body or the USAT Events team. Non-existent. Well then surely MultiRace would make a big announcement through email and let us know as previous participants in both an effort to get us to re-register in 2019 and to inform us. NADA. A short Instagram post is all we got.

What does this mean for duathlon?

So what does this mean to Duathlon? I’m not 100% sure, but it says a lot of things. It says that after making the right decision and taking a National Championship event that was much shorter and making it a true long-course worthy distance, we’ve taken 3 steps back.

It says, “A Duathlon National Championship isn’t the same as a Triathlon National championship, what were you thinking.” It says, “Duathlete, you are not strong enough to race at this distance.” It says, “Duathlete, you can’t compete at the world level anyway, so why try to prepare you for success there.” The lack of desire and effort to push through boundaries and obstacles so we can get into the zoo or find a suitable way to run a 10K first leg says “Duathlete, your $350 registration dollars isn’t worth the same $350 registration dollars the triathlete pays.”

Listen, that race last year was brutal. For the first two hours I was right where I wanted to be and ready to earn a top spot in the last two and a half hours of the race. Unfortunately, a mechanical/equipment issue with my bike turned those aspirations of a top finish to pure survival mode.

Add in the heat that is present in Miami year-round and the morning rain that created almost a sauna effect in the mid to late morning made it even harder. I crossed that finish line in the top 20, nowhere near as high as I wanted, but felt good about what I gave out there on that course.

Since that day, I’ve been thinking about what redemption would look like at that distance, on that course. USA Triathlon & Multirace, you have taken that opportunity away from me and many, many other athletes like me…

Guest Post: Season Lost, Season Reclaimed

[Please read Part One to find out why Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, calls 2018 a “lost season.” It started with a couple misses due to weather, continued with misses due to illness, and culminated with a missed trip to Australia for the Sprint Triathlon Grand Final due to family illness. Here, he’s optimistic about his next race—a sprint duathlon. He talks about that race and what it took to reboot—mentally and physically—below. Enjoy!  — DuItForYou]

Steven Jonas One More Tri

Feeling pretty down, I was indeed looking at a totally lost season. BUT, I was scheduled for one more race, the Special Olympics of New Jersey’s One More Tri—racing the sprint duathlon—in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Sept. 16.

As August turned to September, I was thinking: if I don’t get injured between now and race day; if it doesn’t rain and if my family illness situation doesn’t deteriorate further, I will be there.And if so, that would mean that my season would have been very brief, but not completely lost.

The race was a short (1.5-mile run – 12-mile bike – 3-mile run) duathlon on a virtually flat course. The weather was gorgeous: bright sunshine, temps in the 70s, light northeast wind. This meant that on the north-south out-and-back bike course one had a headwind going out, but tailwind coming back, on each of the two laps. The runs were flat too: the first was an out-and-back on the classic Asbury Park boardwalk, the second a loop was around one of the town’s downtown lakes and then another out-and-back on the boardwalk.

And I made it! Yes, I was very slow, about 3:20 for the course, but I finished. Given that I had no races under my belt for the season and that my training had not gone that well because of that, I had to push myself all the way. And for the second run, being last (way back) I had a “sweeper” with me. Dave absolutely made sure I was going to make it. And I did!

The icing on the cake was that when I was coming in for my finish at the OMT Du, way behind everyone else, the DJ was still there. She played the “Chariots of Fire” theme for me as I came into the chute. That was the same theme that greeted me when I finished my first Ironman, on Cape Cod, in 1985—I was last then too, but ahead of the 17-hour time cutoff. Oh, what a feeling! It was like closing a loop.

But most important for me was that the One More Tri Sprint Duathlon was a total renewal experience. I felt that I had recaptured that past season. It was race #256 overall, in 36 seasons. “How can that be, in such a short race?” you might ask. Well, I dunno. But it did it for me, just to finish a multisport race once again.

Of course, I have been hooked on our sport ever since I finished that first triathlon in 1983. Although I have had several “few-races” seasons over the years, I’ve never had a “no-races” season. What I found that day at Asbury Park was that all that I needed to maintain my racing career for sure for next year, was one “fix” of a race. And I got it—a fix that one can be very thankful for—from my wonderful friends at New Jersey Special Olympics. For me, it rescued my season. Thanks, Jeanene of NJ Special Olympics and everyone!

This column is based on an article that originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog. It 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.

Throwback Saturday: ITU Duathlon World Championships, Pontevedra, 2014

In honor of the ITU Multisport World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain, this weekend, I thought I’d post my race report from the ITU Duathlon World Championships in 2014 – also in Pontevedra. I’ll always remember the smell of cigarette smoke and grilled meat as we ran through the cobbled streets of that lovely city. I spent an extra four days in Galicia and loved every minute. I kept a travel journal, and this post is one entry of several. Note: when I talk about my travel/camping kitchen, I’m referring to the single burner I brought so I could make coffee and hot cereal in my hotel room. I’m strictly gluten-free (gluten sensitivity, Celiac gene and all, and didn’t want to risk GI Hell around a big race.) Best of luck to everyone competing today and this weekend–run-bike-run swift!

Pontevedra 2014 ITU Duathlon World Championship

Galicia, Day Four: Race Day.

I woke up with a jolt at 7:55 a.m. I’m so used to racing at 8, that waking up at 8 feels like I’m oversleeping and late for something. I quickly fired up my electric burner to boil water for coffee and start eating.

I ate what felt like my usual size dinner last night, but was hungry when I went to bed and hungry in the morning. Partly due to nerves and partly because I had four hours until race time, I ate a little more than usual, but not too much.

Thanks to my hotel camping configuration, I learned that canned organic sweet potatoes, pureed, no extra sugar, makes a good pre-race meal option. I ate part of the can last night with my dinner and took the rest with me to race headquarters so that I could have a snack in a couple of hours.

Surprisingly, I easily found parking on the opposite side of the river, about a ten-minute walk from the Sport Performance Center. The infield of a track served as the transition area and the run course took us along one of the straights for each loop.

It was about 9:30 by the time I got to the race site and the sprint race (5k-20k-2.5k) was well underway. I found the bag-drop building (amazingly efficient) and the entrance to the transition area, which I was not allowed to enter until 11 a.m.

I had some time to kill. Most of those 90 minutes were spent chatting with a few familiar faces: woman from the Santa Barbara area, last name Ray, who was on my flight into Vigo; a man from Oregon that stood in front of me in line at the bike check-in; other random USA people.

They opened up transition a few minutes before 11 a.m. and a throng of athletes made their way to set up their spots. The race organizers gave us buckets that looked like small laundry baskets for our stuff. All items had to stay in the bucket.

Turns out my NorCal ally, Cassie, was my transition neighbor, which was a nice surprise. Both jittery, we warmed up together along part of the run course, following the rear ends of a pack of men from France.

ITU Duathlon World Championship 2014

From L to R: Cassie, Martha (from Cleveland) and me

At about noon, all the standard-distance athletes assembled for the cattle call. There were six waves: three male, three female, from youngest to oldest. We were in the last wave, women 40-plus, which started (we thought) at 12:24, but actually started at 12:30. Those 30 minutes in the holding area had to be the most nerve-wracking. With each sound of the horn the nervous stomach lurched one more time.

We’re Off!

With lots of “good luck,” “have fun,” “kick butt,” and other well wishes, we were off! Around the curve of the track, running clockwise, out the main gate, a hard right, over the timing matt, another hard right, a sharp U-Turn and almost immediately up the first and only real substantial hill.

As expected, our group took off like a rocket. The women I planned to keep in contact with drifted ahead. For past two to three weeks, my running has been minimal thanks to a fussy posterior tibialis tendon. My usual 10k pace felt much harder than it should after a restful taper week.

The first 2.5k loop felt long, and we had to do this four times! Wandering through narrow city streets—cobblestone, asphalt and cement—smells of seafood and cigarette smoke wafting through the air, past an ancient church and any number of bars and restaurants, I eventually found a good rhythm. It seemed as though women were passing me left and right. We also had men from other waves passing us left and right. The 10k alone felt like enough. But there was oh so much more to go!

Transition went as smoothly as it could for someone who is not very fluid in such things. A long run in grass to the bike mount area just outside of the track and away we go!

Immediately I heard an incessant click-click-click with every wheel revolution. Oh crap, what now? My bike computer sensor was hitting a spoke. An attempt to lean over while riding to adjust proved difficult and dangerous. After a few miles, it annoyed me enough so that I leaned over and gave it a good swat and it slid to some spot I couldn’t see. I wouldn’t know how fast I was going, but I wouldn’t hear the click-click. [Editor’s note: this was a couple years before I invested in PowerTap pedals!]

The bike course was glorious. For those familiar with the East Bay, imagine 40k of Bear Creek Road: enough uphill on the way out to allow me to pass a lot of women, and long descents on the way back that were steep enough to go fast, but not so fast that my bike blew around in the wind.

The second loop was more of the same. On the 1.5-mile climb near the beginning of the loop, a group of women were bunched up. I was working my way up to pass them when a race official rode by and decided to hover around for a while. I knew he was watching for drafting. I was passing as fast as I could on a hill – geez! The presence of the race official apparently lit a fire in my rear because I found another gear and left the bunched up group behind.

A hard left turn took us onto a road parallel to the river that was lined with spectators. Cool. The dismount happened and off I went to hang up the bike and run some more.

The second run is always the killer and can make or break a race. Sometimes it feels bearable, sometimes it feels like your legs will fall off. Today it seemed bearable, but by no means easy.

I reminded myself that this is only a 5k. Only two loops this time. Piece of cake. Just stay strong and don’t be a wimp. At the first water stop (they handed out little plastic bottles with the lids still on), I dumped more water on my head and down my back and got to it. My pace was decent, I think, and I passed a fair amount of people, both women and men from earlier waves.

The crowd support was phenomenal. For both runs, the streets of Pontevedra were lined with people, including friends of athletes, sprint racers and a lot of locals.

Along the course, I heard “Go Johnson!,” “Go USA!” and “Go Chica!” Near the end of the last run I also heard “Animal!” from a man with a Spanish accent. For some reason, this odd cheer gave me a boost! I focused more closely on catching the person ahead of me, and then the next one, and the next one. I couldn’t wait to get on the track for the final 200 meters. I know what I’m supposed to do on the track: run HARD!

The end result: 2:34:41 good for 12thin my age group (out of 29) and second American in my age group.

I’m happy with my result. Could I have run a faster 10k if I hadn’t had to back off for a minor injury? Maybe. But would my bike split have been as fast if I hadn’t gotten in some really intense workouts in those same two weeks? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I placed much higher than last year’s Worlds in Ottawa (19 out of 26), my first world championship. And I love saying that I’m something in the world.

Guest Post: A Lost Season—Almost

By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

As some of you know, I have been racing triathlons and duathlons since 1983. My first triathlon was on Sept. 17, 1983, at Sag Harbor, N.Y. — the second running of the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon.

My third race, as it happened, was likely the first duathlon (then called “biathlon”) ever held. It was organized by Dan Honig’s Big Apple Triathlon Club (which later became the New York Triathlon Club). It was held in the rain on a cold May day in 1984, at the old Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn, New York. By the end of my 35thseason, in 2017, I had finished a total of 255 triathlons and duathlons.

And man, I was really looking forward to my 36th season in 2018.

But it was not a good year, to say the least. For one reason or another, going into September of last year, I hadn’t been able to do any of the races I had on my schedule. As of mid-September, I was calling it my “lost season” —my first one ever.

What happened?

Strike One

On the day of the first event on my schedule, the New York Triathlon Club’s “March Madness” duathlon, it was cold, wet and windy. Alright, a no-go. Next was the 2018 USA Triathlon Non-Drafting Sprint Duathlon National Championships in Greenville, S.C. The night before I was supposed to fly down for the race, I was hit with an acute gastroenteritis, eventually diagnosed as a bacterial variety. Obviously, I didn’t make it to that one.

Next up, there was a flat duathlon on New York City’s Staten Island, “Patanella’s Flat as a Pancake,” in mid-June. I was ready, but it was canceled. Next was the New Jersey State Championships at Princeton, in July. I was really psyched, but for some reason I felt very weak when I woke up on race morning. Thinking it wouldn’t be wise to try my first race swim of the season in that condition, I decided not to toe the line. The New York Triathlon Club’s Central Park Triathlon, scheduled the next weekend, went by the wayside for a similar reason.

Strike Two

The next highlight of the season after the one I missed in Greenville was still ahead of me: the USA Triathlon Sprint Age-Group National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. It featured mostly flat bike and run courses, and the swim was scheduled for a somewhat protected area of Lake Erie. A piece of cake, no? Well, no.

As it happens, since I was about 60 I’ve been getting seasick in swims that have any kind of motion in the water. I take what I like to call “my performance enhancing drug,” a prescription non-drowsy anti-nausea medication called Meclizine. It’s not on any restricted list, and it does enhance my performance in the water by helping me to not get seasick.

I went to the transition area to check-in the afternoon before the race, all ready to get going. But then I took look at the water. It looked pretty rough, but everyone was saying, “well, the wind dies down in the morning, so you ought to be fine.” Well, the problem would be that if the wind didn’t die down and I went down to the start and then decided not to race, I would have to wait around for about 4 hours to get my bike out of transition. So, another no go.

The irony was that the water was so rough the next morning that the U.S. Coast Guard (which, since they comprise an international navigable waterway, operates on the Great Lakes) asked USA Triathlon to convert the race to a duathlon. Of course, I had no way of knowing that in advance. So, another miss.

Strike Three…is he out?

The third highlight of the season was the International Triathlon Union Age-Group Sprint Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia. I had been looking forward to this race since I qualified for it in 2017 at in Omaha, Nebraska. But, I had a family member with a serious illness who was getting worse, so I decided at the last minute I really couldn’t be that far away for so long.

By that time, I was indeed looking at a totally lost season for one reason or another. It would be my first ever. Well, hopefully that was not to be. I was scheduled to do the Special Olympics of New Jersey’s One More Tri—racing the sprint duathlon—in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on September 16.

As August turned to September, I thought: if I don’t get injured between now and race day; if it doesn’t rain; and if my family illness situation doesn’t deteriorate further, I will be there. And if so, that would mean that my season would be very short, but not completely lost.

In my next column in this space, I’ll tell you what happened. I will also tell you how, in 2018, I already started planning for 2019 so that—barring any circumstances beyond my control—what happened in 2018 wouldn’t happen again.

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

Do you need a space alien aero helmet for duathlon?

Marvin Martian

If you want to shave 30 to 60 seconds per hour off your duathlon time, the aerodynamically obsessed say to invest in an aero helmet. An aero helmet smooths the airflow from the front of your head over your back, making you slice through the wind a little bit easier.

But to get those time savings, the helmet has to fit properly for your riding style and bike position. The long-tail helmets, like the Rudy Wingspan (which I have, purchased at a big discount on eBay), work great if you ride in a super-aero position with a flat back and your head positioned just so. (Which I don’t.)

Why? Because the tail has to effectively sit on your back for max aero benefits. If you look down at your Garmin every five minutes or ride with your head tilted to one side, you lose most of the aero benefits. Suddenly, the helmet’s tail becomes a sail. You don’t want a sail in your race.

Rudy Project Wingspan Aero Triathlon Time Trial Helmet Helmet – Black/White/Silver Matte – Unisize – Men’s & Women’s

Rudy Wingspan

 

 

 

 

 

Another downside: lack of breathability. In a hot race, you have little ventilation, sort of like riding in a car with the windows rolled up. And if you travel to races and plan to ride in the days pre- or post-race, you’ll have to either pack a road helmet or ride around wearing that silly helmet.

The new TT helmets

To mitigate many of the downsides to long-tailed space alien aero helmets, helmet manufacturers started issuing lids without a tail. Using computer technology to analyze airflow, helmet experts found ways to produce comparable aerodynamic benefits without a tail.

These newer helmets still smooth airflow over the head. They also help reduce drag in crosswinds caused by long tails. And they eliminate drag caused by neck fatigue or Garmin obsession. Bonus: they don’t look as silly when you’re on a sightseeing recovery ride the day after a race.

Here are a few new aero helmets that have gotten positive reviews. Since I haven’t worn them, or reviewed them, I’ll leave it to you to do your own research.

Giro Air Attack Aero Road Helmet – 2018 MEDIUM BLACK

Giro Air Attack

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rudy Project Boost 01 With Optical Shield Titanium Matte – Large

Rudy Project helmet

 

 

 

 

 

POC Cerebel, Cycling Helmet for Racing, Navy Blue, M

POC Helmet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giant Rivet TT

Giant Rivet TT helmet

 

 

 

 

 

Lazer Wasp Air Tri

Lazer Wasp TT helmet

 

 

 

 

The poor man’s TT helmet

If you aren’t worried about a few extra seconds or don’t want to spend a bunch of money on another helmet, you *could* tape the vents in your road helmet. (I’ve done this.) The forums say you’ll get at least a fraction of the benefits of an aero helmet. Maybe you’ll get some funny looks, but so what?

What’s your favorite helmet? Give us your pick and why you like it in the comments below!

Duathlon training plan: Here’s what to du

Alistair Eeckman Powerman Panama

This is the time of year when many of us start ramping up training for our first duathlon or triathlon of the year. To get there in the best possible shape, it’s wise to follow a plan.

Whether you create your own training plan, download a generic plan or get a custom plan from a duathlon coach, a training plan keeps you accountable. At minimum, it ensures you will do some mix of speed, tempo, endurance and recovery.

However, just like there’s a shortage of duathlon races, we have a shortage of dedicated duathlon coaches. (Are you a duathlon coach? Tell us about you in the comments below!)

With that in mind, you may decide to self-coach until you find a good fit. You may also need to self-coach for budgetary reasons. Or, maybe you’ve been around the block a few times and know enough about training principles to write your own plan. I know high level athletes that coach themselves, and athletes that work with a coach. Choose what’s best for you and your life.

If you’re relatively new to duathlon, or you need a duathlon refresher, here are a few general training tips to keep in mind. I’ve also included links to resources to help you develop a plan that works for you.

Because I’m not a certified coach, I don’t want to give you an 8- or 10-week plan based on my experience. If you saw my own training calendar, which is often pretty intense and changes often due to work demands, you’d understand why!

Get used to running off the bike.

Become familiar with the brick. Brick refers to a workout that incorporates more than one discipline. I like to think it refers to what your legs feel like when running hard off the bike.

Incorporate a variety of brick sessions into your training plan. Start with easy bike-run and run-bike workouts and build up to bricks with portions of the bike and run at or near race pace. Du at least one brick per week. More if you can.

Practice transitions.

Mastering this one skill helps you save precious seconds off your total time without extra training. Duathlon transitions are relatively simple because you don’t have to shed a wetsuit.

Find an empty parking lot or some other safe spot and practice running into an imaginary T1 and T2, switching shoes and taking on/putting off your helmet quickly. I usually practice for about 15 minutes after or in the middle of a recovery ride. I also time myself to track my progress.

Dial in nutrition.

For any distance duathlon, figure out your optimal prerace meals. For standard-distance (10K-40K-5K) and longer, also figure out your optimal fueling strategy during the race.

Over the years, I’ve learned I can manage with Skratch Labs and a gel during standard distance dus. For anything longer, I switch to Gu Roctane (more calories) and more gels.  Mind you, I’m efficient and only 105 pounds, so I don’t need as much as a 170-pound dude.

Dial in a nutrition plan that gives you energy to last the distance.

Incorporate bike and run intervals.

To run and ride faster you have to practice running and riding faster. Makes sense, right? If you’re new to both, start with 4-6×100-meter strides at the end of your runs and some short pickups on the bike. Progress to more structured and longer intervals.

Ride aero.

In a duathon, more often than not you’ll be riding on your own in the aero position. As race day nears, ride your race bike more often and du your training sessions in the aero position. Use your aerobars as much as possible. The more you use them in training, the more comfortable you’ll be on race day.

Duathlon training plan resources

Elite duathlete Albert Harrison is a Level 2 USATF coach. Steve Lumley, a UK-based coach, has coached multiple Powerman athletes. As a bonus, he also hosts a training camp in beautiful Majorca.

For lists of generic downloadable plans, both paid and free, check out:

Eric Schwartz, Duathlon.com (outdated website; training plans still relevant)

The5KRunner

London Duathlon

Training Peaks (multiple plans by Phil Mosley and others. Some include email access to coach)

Buy Steve Jonas’s book for the fundamentals and Gale Bernhardt’s book for training specifics.

What are your plans for 2019? How du you plan to du it? Let us know in the comments below!


Planning your 2019 season? Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

dart board

As one year closes and another one starts, many athletes start planning their 2019 racing season. (If they haven’t already.) That short-list of A races may come with goals: set a marathon PR, get an age-group win, qualify for the Duathlon World Championships.

As you imagine your best year ever, review your goals. Are they S.M.A.R.T.? Commonly used in the business world, S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting ensures your goals aren’t just fuzzy someday ideas. They’re goals that bring results.

Here’s how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, retooled for athletes: single-sport and multisport.

Specific

Set specific goals. Instead of, “I should drink more water,” try, “I will drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day.”

For your race plan, that might look like this:

• I plan to compete in at least three local duathlons this year.
• I will start training for the Quicksilver 50K in March 2019.
• I will qualify for Powerman Zofingen 2020.
• I will replace the batteries in my PowerTap pedals.

(Yes, those are a few of my 2019 goals and one task.) And notice the affirmative language. Will, not should or maybe or try. Remember the wise words of Yoda: There is no tri. Only du or du not. (play on words is mine!)

Measurable

How will you track your goal? How will you know you’ve accomplished your goal? If you plan to run your first half marathon, you can track your training. You’ll know you’ve achieved your goal when you cross the finish line.

If your goal is to raise your FTP by 20 watts by June, you’ll know you’re on track by performing a 10- or 20-minute FTP tests. (Here’s a book about training with power.) You’ll know you’re there via a test in June and/or with a time trial on the roads.

The goal of “get faster on the bike” is less specific and measurable, and therefore less effective.

Achievable

Set challenging but achievable goals. In 2005 and 2006, I ran the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon in 1:38 and change. For 2007, I wanted to best that time. I settled on sub-1:36. I didn’t know if I could hold a faster pace for 13.1 miles, but I thought if I put in the work, maybe. I finished in 1:34:32.

Had I set my goal at sub-1:20, my mind would have said, “no f     ing way.” Set goals that get you excited, but aren’t rooted in fantasy. I know I’ll never race fast enough to get a pro card, so it would be silly to set that as a goal. To aim for All-American in my age group is challenging, but realistic with dedicated training.

Relevant

Choose goals that matter to you. You’re investing 10, maybe 15 hours a week into your sport(s). Set goals that you’re passionate about.

Don’t set a goal just because your riding partner set the goal. Even if you want to beat him in a race for the first time ever, don’t set “beat Jim” as your goal. Keep your goals focused on your own performance. Consider sailing past him in the second run of a duathlon an added benefit.

Timely

Similar to Specific, make sure your goals have a time frame. “I will do x by x date.” Setting a time-specific goal increases the likelihood you’ll achieve it. It also helps you stay on track along the way.

Races are naturally time-bound, which is why they’re popular entries on athletes’ goal lists.

According to U.S. News & World Report, only 20 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions stick with them past February. Be like these outliers and set SMART goals for your 2019 racing season.

What are your goals for 2019? Let us know in the comments below!

(Photo courtesy of Richard Matthews, Flickr)

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