Du It For You

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

Category: Life Outside Duathlon

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: 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.

Race director celebrates 3 years cancer-clear

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

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

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

Gary’s story is a good reminder to:

Wear sunscreen.

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

Visit a dermatologist annually for a “mole check.”

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

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

See you soon!

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