Saturday, June 7, 2014

2014 Duathlon World Championships, Pontevedra, Spain

     Wow, just noticed that its been five years since I posted anything on this blog.  Yes I have been busy, but I just had to document my Team USA experience in Spain.  How did I get on Team USA?  Well, based on my performance at some local mid-Atlantic region duathlon races, USA Triathlon invited me to race in the 2013 US Duathlon National Championships in Tuscon, AZ last fall.  At that race the top eighteen finishers in each age group qualified for 2014 Duathlon Worlds.  I finished eighteenth in my age group and thus qualified for worlds (It was a little more complicated than that but the complications aren't important).  BTW, a duathlon is a two sport competition where athletes run a specified distance, then bike a specified distance, and then run again to finish the race.  

     Qualifying for worlds was my main goal for 2013 so you can imagine how excited I was to receive my invitation.  BTW, this isn't the first time I qualified for Team USA in duathlon.  In 2012 I qualified for the Long Distance Duathlon World Championships in Zofingen, Switzerland but turned it down because I felt that I could not finish the race (10K run, 150K bike, 30k run  ***Note the words Long Distance in the title).  At the time I turned down the invitation to Zofingen,  I decided to try to make Team USA in either the sprint distance or the standard distance duathlon.  I tried to qualify in the sprint distance for the 2013 Duathlon Worlds in Ottawa, Canada but missed qualifying by one spot.  In 2013 I switched to the standard distance and made it!  OK, a sprint distance is typically the shortest race.  Standard is also known as Olympic distance but it is usually twice as long as the sprint distance at a certain race.  Long distance is just insane.

     My Pontevedra odyssey began on Memorial Day.  My daughter, Hannah, asked me, "Daddy, before you go to Spain can you weed whack these vines by the play set.  We think its poison ivy and we don't want to go near it but we want to play while you are gone."  I said "sure" and on Memorial Day I put on a long sleeve shirt, gloves, eye protection, and hat and pulled out the vines by the root.  I wore shorts which was a mistake but I swear the vines only slightly brushed against me once or twice.  I was fine at work all day Tuesday and while I packed my bike and things for the trip that evening for my flight out on Wednesday.  However, I woke up in the middle of the night itching all over and bursting with rashes on my wrists, legs and torso.  Both of my wrists were swollen as were my legs just above the ankle.  On the way to the airport I stopped at CVS and picked up some Ivarest to take with me on the trip. 
Hotel Peregrina

Opening Ceremonies
    I arrived at my hotel, the Hotel Peregrina in Sanxenxo, Thursday afternoon.  It was a great place to stay and very reasonably priced.  Plus, the staff was super nice.  Friday there was a team meeting at the Team USA Hotel, the Palacio Galicia, from 3-4 pm and a preview ride of the bike course at 4:30.  We had team photos at 6:30 and the Opening Ceremonies were at 7:00 pm so it was a busy afternoon.  I went to the Team USA doctors at the team hotel to get something for my poison ivy and the team docs told me to keep using the calamine lotion and they gave me Benedryl telling me that it could make me drowsy and dehydrate me.  I told them I understood but began taking it to rid myself of that all over itchy/tingling feeling.   

      Saturday the elite, junior and paratriathlete races were held.  The Tea USA manager negotiated with the ITU to allow Team USA to run a preview lap of the run course between the aforementioned races.  So we met at the venue, the Universidad de Vigo track stadium, at 2:15.  We ran our run course preview between the paratriathlete and elite race.  The run course was packed with spectators waiting for the elite race so it was pretty cool jogging through the crowd.

On the bike!
   The age group races were Sunday, June 1, 2014 and the standard races started at noon.  The sprint races started in the morning at 8:30.  I got to the venue early so I could check in my bike and set up my transition area.  At 5:55 a.m. I arrived at the venue and was first in line.  There was a university gym/locker room for age group athletes to rest/relax/recover, get a massage, check there race bag etc. so I hung out there and watched a little of the sprint races while I waited for high noon.  I donned my "uni" at ~11 and went for a warm up run with Mike Lupini before heading to the starting corrals where we were supposed to be at 11:45.  It was fun just hanging out and chatting with all the athletes in my age group.  Everyone was really nice.  My race started at 12:15 and consisted of a 10K (4 laps) run followed by a 40K (2 laps) bike, followed by a 5K (2 laps) run.  The picture at the top of the blog is me on the first run.  Unfortunately, I was thirsty (thanks to the Benedryl) standing in the starting corral and never seemed to be able to drink enough.  I carried a water bottle from the aid stations quite often.  I actually ran faster than I expected for the first 10K   My time was 46:40 and I expected something higher than 47:00.  The bike course was really hard.  After leaving transition it was more or less a six mile rolling climb with a fairly steep mile toward the end and then a rolling descent on the way back.  The wind was also in our face on the rolling climb so that didn't help.  I struggled through the bike but finished.  The second run was difficult. I was in a lot of pain from dehydration and the heat but was able to suffer through.  I still was thirsty and got water at every aid station.  The Team USA manager (Tim Yount) gave me a mini USA flag to carry while I ran on the first lap so I carried it and a water bottle for the second lap. 

Last lap!
On my second lap as I passed the team manager he told me "you can pass two more, two more!"  There were a couple of runners in sight but I knew we were coming to the stadium so I didn't have much time left.  As I entered the stadium I picked up my pace because I saw two Spanish guys ahead of me by about 80-100 feet.  I was closing the gap quickly but ran out of room.  I ended up finishing less than ten feet behind them at the finish line.  I was in a lot of pain and felt like I was going to hurl but I finished! Even though I was in pain and struggled, I met my goals for the race so I was pleased.

    After the race there was a Team USA post-race party at the team hotel which was a great event.  I got to talk with all the new friends I made.  I want give a shout out to the Hedwall's (Insomnia Tom and Shaula), the Lupini's (Mike and Geraldine - World Champion in the sprint distance female 50-54 age group), the Pierce's (George and his wife both who I almost dined with at the Hotel Peregrina), Janos (pronounced Yano) Mako and his daughter, Randy Culver, Bill Gunter and the many others who were so nice but I don't recall your names.  I had an early flight in the morning so I skipped the closing ceremonies so I could pack.  I wish I could have gone to them though because the photos looked awesome.

    Representing my country at the Duathlon World Championship is something of which I am extremely proud.  It was both memorable and enjoyable.  The 2015 Championships are in Adelaide, Australia and the qualifying race is in St. Paul, Minnesota this July.  You never know!