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:
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.
View on Saturday from the hotel of Eric Butz, a competitor in the standard distance du
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I am officially on Team USA Duathlon sabbatical until at least 2019. Maybe longer. Maybe until I turn 50 (2021), or maybe I’ll revisit the hiatus in 2018 if I get ridiculously excited about an event. Regardless, I am a one-sport athlete for the time being.
I didn’t make this decision lightly. The duathlon burnout tugged at me all year, despite ambitious goals. My original plan: USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championships in April, standard course nationals in June and the World Championships (standard course) in August. I felt the first two would prepare me well for the worlds in Penticton, which was my “A” goal.
I didn’t train as specifically as I could have for the first of those three races. I could blame it on the deluge of rain that hit the Bay Area through last winter and early spring. Really, it was lack of interest.
I was ready for a break from duathlon and the demand of my time it required. I looked forward to competing with my team at local running races, but rarely looked forward to intervals on the bike and long brick workouts.
By June, I had fit in more duathlon-specific training. The malaise stuck with me, even in beautiful Bend, Oregon. The voices in my head during the bike leg were the loudest they’ve ever been. You’re so slow. Everyone is passing you. You’re going to be the last one out here. Just quit now. This is not fun. I finished, and only about a minute slower than the previous year (all on the bike). So I wasn’t last, but dang it sure felt like it!
I ran well and had a great time at a one-mile race in late June and a Fourth of July 5K. No transitions, no lugging the bike here and there, no goofy one-piece outfit. I worked on getting excited about the ITU Multisport Championships in Penticton, BC, but the feeling wasn’t coming. I trained anyway.
And then, something happened on Fourth of July that sent my motivation for everything plummeting into the abyss. My cat, Soleil—my companion for the past 15 years—got sick. Not the sniffles or coughing up a hairball. Serious sick. On July 5, the vet put her on antibiotics for 21 days, which didn’t help her condition.
And so began a long journey of cat worry, combined with a seriously heavy workload, and training for and planning for a trip to Canada. As the days went on, Soleil got more tests, and I got more overwhelmed about this trip.
I canceled the whole damn thing. On August 20, the day I *should* have raced in the Duathlon World Championships, I took Soleil to the vet to have a tumor removed from her bladder. The tumor was cancerous. Now, two months later, she’s on what the cat oncologist calls “hospice care;” which, in this case, means TLC and pain meds. My heart breaks every day.
I officially started my duathlon hiatus when I called Tiki Shores hotel in Penticton to cancel my reservation. I’ll return when my excitement for the sport returns. Until then, I’m a runner that rides her bike a lot.
USAT, you could do better
I absolutely love duathlon, the challenge it brings and the community of people dedicated to this demanding multisport event. I don’t love a lot of what USAT requires to compete in major events. Its demands also played a role in my hiatus, though burnout definitely starred in the decision.
USAT talks about making multisport accessible to everyone. Yet, national championships, and especially world championships, are not accessible to everyone.
They’re accessible to people that meet or exceed the current median USAT athlete income of $100,000+ per year. They’re accessible to people that can afford to take off a few days from work, travel across the country for a race, and invest in an expensive TT bike, an “aero” helmet and other garb. If the average middle-class aspiring athlete scrapes up the cash to acquire the gear and travel to a big race, and lo and behold qualifies to compete in the worlds, they’ll have to pay dearly. Again.
USAT doesn’t make it easy, or affordable in any way, to compete as part of Team USA. The “travel packages” assembled by its travel agent partner are a joke. I compared the costs one year of booking my own travel vs. working with their travel partner and saved well over $1,000 by planning myself.
If you choose to stay in the “host” hotel, know it will likely be one of the most costly in town. In Pontevedra, Spain, for the 2014 worlds, USAT chose the only four-star hotel in the city, while the rest of the countries stayed in nearby, slightly more modestly priced hotels.
Uniforms? You pay for them. About $220 for a uniform, which changes every few years. In 2017, they also started pushing Team USA athletes to buy a “parade kit,” which was a small $200 (approx.) collection of Team USA apparel it supposedly “required” athletes to wear when they weren’t racing. I assume this was another way for USAT to make money off its amateur athletes. I would never be seen in public in this stuff.
Oh–don’t forget the race entry fee. That sets you back another $200 to $300. And don’t forget airfare, hotel/Airbnb reservations, meals, bike transport fees, and other costs. Start doing the math, and you’ll see anything beyond a local duathlon is not accessible to most people.
Want diversity in the sport? Make it affordable to a more diverse population. Consider at minimum, a discount off uniforms, membership fees, race entry fees and the stupid parade kit for people that meet certain income criteria.
Study USATF’s requirements for regional and national championships. The difference in monetary requirements and pain-in-the-you-know-what factor is remarkable.
Some of the costs associated with national and world events are unavoidable. Race organizers pay a fortune, I’m sure, in insurance, permitting, security, police support, venue reservations and other expenses. But really, a “required” parade kit? After all the athletes sacrifice to compete in a dream of an event, requiring us to wear stuff we’ll never wear again (and pay for it) is like swatting us upside the head with a racing flat.
Having said all that, will I compete in regional and national USAT events again? Absolutely. Do I plan to fulfill my mission of competing in Powerman Zofingen, the ITU long-course duathlon world championship? Absolutely. I don’t know when, but when I do, I’ll be physically and mentally “all in.”
Do I think USAT does a few things right? Yep. It promotes a sport that welcomes beginners. In a country faced with an obesity crisis, the more people we have engaging in healthy activities, the better.
It offers a wealth of training tips through its website, newsletters and magazine that athletes of all ability levels can learn from. It sanctions races all over the country, ensuring a greater chance we’ll participate in reasonably well-organized, safe events. It established solid programs for college and youth. It established a complicated rankings system so competitive age-groupers like myself can see how we stack up.
And it hired COO Tim Yount. I don’t know everything his job entails, but I know he is passionate about promoting and growing duathlon, and I know he works hard for USAT’s membership body. He travels all over the U.S. and world as a USAT liaison. I’ve seen him lead course preview rides, town hall discussions and rules briefings. I’ve heard him emcee big races. I’ve seen him stand near the finish line for hours to hand little American flags to athletes approaching the finish line of world championship events.
What do you think? How can USAT make duathlon more accessible to all? To keep the sport going, it has to bring in more participants, and to bring in more participants, it should be more accessible to more people. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
One sign that my race didn’t go as planned—no pictures. Sorry.
Okay, I took a couple. The finish line – a welcome sight!
This past weekend, duathletes from all over the United States convened in beautiful Bend, Oregon for the USAT Duathlon National Championships.
For the second year in a row, the beer-loving mountain town gave us near-perfect temperatures, sunny skies, and little wind. It was the perfect setting for fast times on a hilly course…mine, however, was not one of them.
But I won’t complain about my race—yet. First, I’ll talk about what went right. Two friends I made in North Carolina during the long-course nationals—Albert Harrison and Tom Woods—both stood at the top of the podium. Albert all-out won the standard course race, finishing the hilly 10K-40K-5K course about two minutes ahead of elite athlete Alistair Eeckman. Tom finished second in his age group in the standard course. Later that afternoon, in his second of three races over the weekend, he won the masters title and the competitive 45-49 age group division in the non-draft sprint. Read USAT’s report here.
Many of my Bay Area friends had great days. Wolf Hillesheim, Jim Girand, and Rick and Suzanne Cordes all finished second in their age group in their respective races. Jacqueline Sasaki, whom I met at a local race the week prior, won the 40-44 AG title for the standard distance. Cassie O’Brien, my transition neighbor at several big races and buddy from the Wolf Pack Events duathlons, finished third in our 45-49 AG for the standard. (Full results here.)
With the exception of the turnaround on the bike course and a slight change to the run course, the routes were identical to last year. You can read the specs in last year’s race report.
Reviewing the run course during the rules briefing.
The weather was slightly cooler, the wind about equally mild (but no mini twister). My performance: terrible. And I have no one or no thing to blame but myself. My transitions were almost 30 seconds slower. Why? I didn’t practice them. Not once in the past year. Granted, I did get a wave of nausea for a few seconds in T1, and I had trouble getting my cycling shoes on, and I was positioned near the back of the transition area, farthest from Bike Out, but really it’s because I didn’t practice. Why didn’t I practice? How many excuses do you want to hear?
My bike split was about two minutes slower than last year. Why? I didn’t train enough. Sure, we had nearly constant rain in the beginning of the year, and I sold my trainer, so my indoor option is a spin bike at the gym. Adequate? Eh, it’s better than no bike, but not ideal! When the weather cleared, there were many weeks where I’d be too tired from a long or hard run to eek out a quality bike workout later in the week. Or I’d get about half way through, see the pitiful power numbers and give up. Oh, and I switched to a shorter crank a few weeks ago, which I’m still getting used to. But none of that really matters. I didn’t train properly.
My run splits – no complaints there! I improved from last year on both the first and second runs. Why? I’ve been training! I’ve stayed healthy all year, put in consistent track workouts and competed in a variety of road races. No big breakout performances or PRs (at this stage, those are hard to come by), but consistently solid performances. Why? I was committed.
So I’ve finished two national championships this year in duathlon and am two months away from a world championship race. Yet, I have not had the motivation to train for this sport all year. Unless I want to beat myself up again in Penticton, after another crappy race, I’d better find some motivation real quick!
On the second out-and-back of the bike leg, struggling up what looked like nothing but felt like a mountain, my inner voice yelled at me. A lot. It’s typical to get the occasional thought during a race: “This is too hard.” “I should just forget it.” “Why am I out here?” Usually I can push those thoughts aside with a mantra or by telling myself to cut it out. In Bend, my “dark side” had the rest of me convinced this was my last duathlon ever. “F— it. I’m not having fun. I’m last. Oh Jesus Christ. There’s a car behind me. The sweeper car? Figures. I have no business going to Penticton. I can cancel my hotel. Maybe I can get credit with Air Canada. What would I do with it? Oh who cares. This sucks. I should just quit this duathlon business now.” And on and on and on it went. Meanwhile, the women I was with during the first run were long gone.
I wasn’t last. I managed sixth in my age group. That’s three places higher than last year even though I was slower. I had two pretty good runs before and after a sucky bike. My attitude toward duathlon is shifting back toward the positive. I haven’t canceled my flight. Time to get my rear in gear!
How do you recover mentally from a bad race? Talk about it in the comments below.
For the second year, Cary, North Carolina hosted the USAT Long Course National Championship on April 29. This was my first visit to Cary, located just outside of Raleigh, and my first long course national duathlon. That I won my age group had as much to do with luck as skill. Had I competed in this event last year, I would have finished eighth! But it’s not last year. It’s 2017, and I earned my first age group win in a national championship du. Woo Hoo!
The trip didn’t start well. I arrived ridiculously late—it was 1:30 a.m. Thursday night/Friday morning by the time I arrived to my hotel, and around 2:30 a.m. when I flopped into bed. I slept fitfully for about five hours. As someone who deals with occasional insomnia, I value sleep! I don’t function well when I’m deprived of it. But I pressed on…
The first order of business (after coffee) on Friday morning was a short, easy run; ideally on the course, if I could figure it out. I happened to show up just as a guy on a fancy aero bike rode into the parking lot. “Do you know the run course?” I asked. He kinda did, but his friend Bert knew it better. They were planning to run it also as soon as Bert finished his ride. I asked to tag along and they politely agreed.
Little did I know I was running with the overall male winner, Albert “Bert” Harrison, and the masters men’s winner, Tom Woods. What luck! When I wasn’t falling behind, I learned they were from Idaho and Nebraska, respectively, and none of us had any recent experience with heat and humidity.
Bert (left) won a growler (empty, sadly) for his efforts.
Post run, I headed to race sponsor Inside Out Sports in hopes they could fix my bike, which I thought got damaged en route. A cable came unplugged, which I learned was an easy fix. The mechanic went above and beyond: he fixed the cable, checked the derailleur hanger, assessed the shifting, and adjusted an aero bar that got knocked off kilter. The Magic Bullet was ready to go!
Race morning gave us more warm, sticky weather. It was 73 degrees and humid when I arrived at 5:40 a.m. I finished my two-mile warm up drenched. I put some ice in my sports bra (yowza!) and waited.
Me and the bike are ready as can be.
Hot bike alert! Very patriotic
Another pretty bike
It was a sea of pretty bikes
The race started in three waves: under-40 men, 40-plus men, and all women. The run course started on a bike path, wound around and through the Team USA Baseball Complex, through a parking lot, back on a bike path, out-and-back on Green Level Church Road, and back on the bike path to the start. The long course did this 2.5-mile sorta-out-and-back twice.
The course was relatively flat, with some gentle rises/false flats and one tiny hill of about, oh, five meters. Typically for this type of course, for this distance, I should have been able to click off 6:50 to seven-minute miles no problem. On race day, it was a problem. The heat? I finished the first run averaging about 7:20s.
I curse when I’m riding. Sometimes. Under my breath when cars do stupid things. My first four-letter word came at the bike mount, which was on a little hill. I was about to take off when suddenly a swarm of people came around from behind, tried to mount their bikes, and proceeded to weave and fall all over the ground. One woman fell right in front of me. That’s when swear word Number One came out. People, please! If you’re going to race your bike, learn how to ride your bike! And that includes learning how to clip in on a hill!
The bike course was relatively flat and fast, with about 1,100 feet of elevation gain over 31-ish miles. Athletes from flatter regions called it hilly. For someone used to the East Bay hills and Mt. Diablo, it was about as flat as you could get!
After the short course duathletes turned off around mile seven, the rest of us had lots of room to spread out. There were long stretches where I had no one behind me, and only one person visible in front of me—a spec of blue jersey far ahead. We rode by Jordan Lake, which is much bigger than I imagined, and along lots of quiet shaded roads. At one point I saw a turtle on the road. Bad sign? A symbol of my speed, for sure. When you ignore bike intervals for eight months and then do them only sporadically before your first big race, you don’t get the best results.
Jordan Lake. Photo courtesy of Flickr
The second run repeated the first-run course, but this time, we had miles of fatigue in our legs and more heat—about 80 degrees. I saw lots of people walking. My pace, which was slower than the first run but still persistent, felt like a slog. I dumped water on my head and sipped what I could at the water stops. That little bitty hill became a beast! I told myself when I got around the final turn, I would pick it up to the finish. Okay, when I got to the first/last water stop I’d pick it up. Oh, well, just finish like you mean it. That I did.
A few days before the race, I saw there were very few women in my age group. I thought maybe, if I had a good day, I’d have a shot at the podium. I didn’t expect to finish first. Now I have a pretty medal, a cool national champion jersey, and had a $20 gift certificate to Inside Out Sports (spent that later in the afternoon).
Me and the second place woman, Alisha Woodroof
Big shiny medal. The blue national champion jersey is pretty cool too.
All in all, I give Cary and FS Series a big thumbs up. The volunteers and staff were all super-friendly and supportive. The event had a local race feel (because it was), but with a big USA Triathlon arch and finish line chute to make it official.
There were a few glitches, such as one water stop running out of water, but glitches happen in just about every race. We had an abundance of finish line food—sandwiches, fruit, bagels, gummy bears, and Mountain Dew (Yep, I had one. Probably my first Mountain Dew in about 15 years!)—and lots of nice people. I met athletes from Nebraska, Idaho, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and, of course North Carolina.
I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some of them in Bend, Oregon in June for the standard course nationals and in Penticton, BC, in August for the ITU World Championships. In the meantime, quality time on the bike!
“Of course we are happy to welcome the European long distance Duathletes in Germany after we already hosted the standard distance Duathlon Championships in 2016,” said Matthias Zoll, CEO for Deutsche Triathlon Union. “St.Wendel, with its tradition as an excellent event organizer as they hosted already Worlds in duathlon and cross country cycling, is a perfect choice of ETU to guarantee a spectacular European Championship in 2017. We are also looking forward to St.Wendel as it will be also the start of the year where German Age Groupers can perform on home soil as the European Sprint Championships on 24th & 25th of June are just around the corner.”
As Zoll mentioned, Sankt Wendel hosted the 2005 and 2011 UCI Cyclocross World Championships. It hosted the ITU World Duathlon Championships in 1998.
Crazy me, my 2017 racing calendar includes a trip to Cary, NC, followed by a trip to Bend, Oregon for the standard course nationals on June 17, followed by the World Championships in Penticton, British Columbia, in August. I’m saving my dollars for this plan already!
Wherever you are, may you have a fun weekend of running-riding-running.
Last week I talked about goal setting. This week I give you goals! USA Triathlon has announced its 2017 national championship calendar. Start planning now!
The season runs from January to November, so you have more than enough to choose from! Of note to duathletes, the duathlon long course nationals will take place again in Cary, North Carolina on April 29. The standard and sprint distance national champs will be held in Bend, Oregon in June (most likely late June), date TBA.
photo by Rich Cruse, courtesy of USA Triathlon
These events qualify you for ITU World Championship events. The 2018 Multisport World Championships, site of the standard and sprint distance duathlons, will head to Odense, Denmark that year.
What big races do you have planned for 2017? Tell us in the comments below!
My duathlon “A” race next year is the Duathlon World Championship (standard distance) in Penticton, BC. I also plan to compete in the National Championship in Bend, Oregon. I’ll call that an “A-” race goal!
I’m back home from the Duathlon National Championships and have a full day of work behind me. My head is no longer pounding, but I’m still a little stiff-legged after Saturday’s race and Sunday’s 8-plus hour drive from Bend, Oregon to Oakland, California.
All in all, USAT put on a fantastic event for us duathletes. During the rules briefing the day before the race, many athletes (especially the sprint competitors) were concerned about potentially crowded conditions at the beginning of the run and on the bike. The first run started in a narrow chute (kinda like cattle), and took two immediate hard rights onto a narrow bike path.The bike course went out and back (times two for the standard distance) on a road that was mostly moderately uphill on the way out, downhill on the way back. We only had one side of the road to do all of this, which made those screaming descents seem pretty sketchy.
I can only speak for the standard distance, but neither of these course curiosities presented a serious issue in my race (Women 17-49). It was crowded through the bike path, but nothing worse than any other large race. It forced me to not go out too fast, which is easy to do in these events.
The bike course was fine. The fields broke up pretty fast thanks to the long climb, and there was enough room for people to fly down the hill at 40+ mph while others stayed to the right and either hammered the downhill or clung for dear life, depending on his or her comfort level.
Both the bike and run course had hills to contend with, but nothing compared to what I’m used to in the East Bay hills! The 40K bike course had a little under 1600 feet of climbing; the 10K run, about 430 feet; the 5K run, about 210. We felt every inch of hill on that second run, that’s for sure! At the crest of one of the climbs, on the second run, I saw the photographer snapping away. “How mean!” I said, smiling. A little joke took my mind off the pain. He laughed…after he took God knows about many shots of me and the other athletes when they look like death warmed over.
The transitions were short (no running 400 meters with the bike, no mud, no grass) and straightforward. The volunteer support was excellent. The course marshall at the bike turnaround had a booming voice that she used very well to tell us to either turn around or head left to transition. I heard that a few others missed the turnaround altogether and kept right on going! But they didn’t get far.
Crowd support was pretty good too. I saw a couple friends cheering us on, which was much appreciated, and Elvis gave words of encouragement at multiple spots on the course.
The sea of bikes.
My race was not my best, but I met my very revised goal: finish without embarrassing myself. I also managed a miracle. Because of an injury this spring that derailed my running, I told myself if I finished in the top ten of my age group it would be a miracle. I finished 8th. Viola! Friends of mine had great days, podium days, while others had worse experiences than mine — a dropped chain, cramps, nausea.
The awards ceremony. Sorry I was too lazy (or tired) to take podium pictures.
Bend made a great host for the Du Nats this year. And lucky us, we get to go back in 2017!
PS, if you decide to compete in next year’s nationals, consider staying at Shilo Inn. The rooms are large (I had a kitchen!), reasonably priced (before all the prices go up in advance of the race), and the staff is super nice. They serve a pretty good free breakfast too…I discovered…the morning I drove home.
Did you race in Bend this past weekend? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!