“The race was canceled.” That’s what Mike Rymsza told me as he walked into Whole Foods Wednesday evening at the RunVie and Total Fitness Winter Season Kickoff. There were a few of us signed up for the Christmas Triathlon and Duathlon in Naples on Sunday (four days away). The look on Mike’s face told it all. He was not joking. I’m sure the look on my face matched Mike’s as it felt like someone just vacuumed all the energy out of my body.
Here I will share the roller coaster of emotion from the experience. One thing I have learned over the last several years racing is to adjust to changing circumstances and figure it out.
Backing up just a bit, I had just mapped out my race schedule through mid-April 2019 culminating with the Duathlon National Championships in Greenville, SC. Having only competed in triathlons and run races, my plan was to complete three duathlons leading up to Nationals with the first one being at the Christmas Triathlon and Duathlon December 16. This would allow me three attempts to learn the nuances and make adjustments.
When Mike gave me the news I determined I would search for another race when I got home. If there was another one in the state on the same day I would do it. Bingo! I found one in Fort Pierce, FL called the Treasure Coast Tri. They offered multiple races including triathlon, aqua bike, and thank goodness – duathlon. I registered and moved my hotel to Fort Pierce.
Many things were going through my head that evening. If I couldn’t find another race, what would this do to my plan? Could I find another race in early January? How would this change the remainder of the week? month? Could this mean one less race to learn how to race duathlons before Nationals? Could I find a run race this weekend to at least race since I mapped my week out in preparation for a race?
If I hadn’t found a replacement it would have been OK (really? ha). I would have tweaked the schedule somehow to make it work. This is what I have found is just part of the game in these sports. We all have races canceled, portions of a race modified or eliminated and many with zero or little notice. I am thankful I found an option to fill the void here.
With the Treasure Coast Duathlon now in play, I finished my training week preparing for the race. Saturday morning I put the race wheels on the bike, did a quick tune up, packed my gear, and headed ventured out to Fort Pierce after lunch. I arrived around 4pm to Packet Pickup at Jetty Park and who do I see – my good friend Leo from Outspoken Bicycles (pic below). This guy is everywhere! We took a quick picture as it was raining and I did some recon on the bike and run course. It looked like a great venue for a race right on the Atlantic Ocean and A1A Highway.
Doubt creeps in…
I met another racer at the hotel who hinted at a bike rule I was not familiar with for a duathlon. I needed to validate what I was thinking was incorrect information so I reached out to the experts- Coach Celia Dubey, teammate Dave Morrow, and triathlon and duathlon powerhouse Enrique Mercado. I needed some clarity to clear my head and make any changes I needed to make if the rule was in fact true.
This was Saturday night and Celia was hosting the team holiday party so I knew she was a long shot for a quick response. Both Dave and Enrique responded confirming my thought that the hotel racer had his information incorrect. I felt relief for sure…
Support and Guidance
While I had Dave and Enrique on a string of text messages, I asked them for any last minute advice. Let me set some context here. Dave has four – 1st place National Duathlon Championships in the last six years. He is a World Champion (2014) and finished in the top four two other times. We ran together a few weeks ago and he gave me tips on the nuances of duathlon vs. triathlon and let me tell you, he was specific. Dave is the nicest guy and one fierce competitor, hence a World Champion (check out the pics below and the one with the large podium is of Dave being awarded Word Champion). Dave being the humble man he is said all the tips he shared with me he learned from Celia. Thank you Celia for all the advice in this space as well…always adding in a nugget to consider.
I met Enrique in Siesta Key at a triathlon in 2016 where we both stood on the overall podium but Enrique stood taller than I. We had a great chat post race and got to know each other. We have kept in touch, following each other’s accomplishments in full support. Enrique whipped my butt once again last year at the Singer Island Triathlon. No races together this year as Enrique had a terrible crash and has been unable to compete but did race the Challenge Daytona a couple weeks ago. This was the inaugural year of the race where the triathlon and duathlon were held on the Daytona 500 Speedway. How could he pass that up? Enrique won the Overall Duathlon and when I asked how he could do that with the issues he was having, he responded by saying, “I was in so much pain but I wanted to do that race…my knee was on fire but I pushed through the pain.” And that says it all about Enrique…
These two continued to fire last minute pointers to me throughout the evening. I’ve said it before, but what an incredible community of people to be around. On to race morning…
After having a good warmup on a spectacular morning at Jetty Park I had my game plan ready and the gun went off. I raced out to the lead….first part of game plan already in conflict. I was hoping to not be the lead pace guy but I settled in after a quick start. All was good…
After a good first run (one mile), I entered and left the first transition on the bike in the lead. I knew at least one of the competitors was very strong on the bike. I was thinking to myself if I got passed to keep it as close as I could as I was hoping my run could take over on the final leg of the duathlon. At this point in my training plan my run is much farther ahead than my bike. I kept the hammer down on the bike and entered and left the final transition with a lead but only 13 seconds with three miles ahead.
Game plan on the final run was simple, run fast and endure pain. I did have a tactical game plan for the three miles and it was starting out as planned. When I got to the turnaround point half way through the run (1.5 miles) I could then see my lead had lengthened to what I guessed to be around 30+ seconds. At that point it was simple once again – go faster and “embrace the suck!” I’ve only been in one other race (triathlon) where I had the opportunity to win the overall so I knew this was an occasion to push the limits. My fastest mile was the last…
I took a quick look back with about 200 meters remaining and I was in the clear. As I approached the tape (yes this race had tape!!!) I relished crossing the finish line grabbing it (pic below). I didn’t want to give it back…ha! I did ask for the tape back to take a more polished picture which you see above (blog photo). Well, maybe not polished…
This was a small race and I’m a long way away from being ready to compete at Nationals in April. Midnight rule – I celebrate this win and feel fortunate to be healthy. Back at work tomorrow.
Thank you Michael, Anthony, and Elia for making my run what it is right now. Just trying to keep up with you boys made the final run what it was.
– Add Health to Your Life
Dave Morrow – Duathlon World Champion (2014)
Enrique Mercado – Challenge Daytona Duathlon Overall Win
Treasure Coast Duathlon Pics