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…