I am on my way home from Ibiza, Spain from one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I just competed in the 2023 World Duathlon Championships where I proudly participated with Team USA. Here I will share my experience from a whirlwind of activities over the last week.
I just came off of the USA Duathlon National Championship last weekend in Irving, TX where I placed 2nd in my age group, having my best performance at a National Championship (recap linked here). I arrived home early in the morning Monday, quickly refreshed my gear, and headed to Ibiza Wednesday evening in pursuit of my race Sunday morning. Wednesday, I drove five hours to Miami where my flight took me through Madrid and eventually the incredible island of Ibiza in the Mediterranean Sea. I met a USA teammate in Miami by chance and another in Madrid waiting to board our flights. I quickly connected with Jim Rollette, who is quite the accomplished athlete. We shared our journey to this championship and other background stories.
When we touched down in Ibiza, we met a few other Team USA athletes who were sharing a shuttle to our Team USA host hotel. When I walked into my room and opened the balcony sliding door, I could hear the waves crashing on shore. I couldn’t see what was out there, but it sounded great. When I woke up Friday morning and walked to the balcony, I couldn’t believe my view. I was overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with several shades of water that was breathtaking. I was in paradise getting ready to compete in the biggest race of my life.
Friday was a busy day. I met fellow Team USA athletes at 7:00 AM for a run on the event run course. This was the most complex path of a run course I’d ever seen and could not make sense of it on maps and a virtual demo, so this was a much-needed mission. After the run I grabbed breakfast in the hotel and headed to packet pick up on the other end of the island. I did not rent a car but a great friend and teammate from Florida, Ed Vasquez, did and he took us there. In addition to picking up our race packet, we strolled through the Expo and took a few pictures. We headed back to the hotel where we got ready for the opening ceremonies including the Parade of Nations. This was a great experience where all countries and athletes met in the village and walked through the vivacious streets full of spectators. Here I also caught up with a great competitor in my age group, Mark Witmer, where we shared several stories along the parade route.
Saturday morning, I went to watch the Sprint race and picked up some valuable tips through observation and hearing stories from others. Jim, Ed, Mark, and other Team USA athletes were competing in this race. It was great to watch and cheer as teammates this time. The bond was true…we were representing USA.
As the race was ending, I completed my pre-race workout and headed back to the hotel for breakfast and prepared my race gear and nutrition. I also realized a cap on the end of my handlebars broke in transit so I spent a couple hours seeing if a bike shop or our Team USA mechanic could help with the result being there wasn’t a matching cap on the island. I always carry electrical tape for these types of issues, and it came in useful as I taped the two broken parts together attaching to the handlebars and then tested outside the hotel on a ride to ensure I could still change gears as it was a cap that surrounded my electronic shifters. All was good and I was confident it would work.
I then found a restaurant that served acai bowls, my favorite pre-race meal, and grabbed two as I was eating the first one a bit early. I had one task left to do and it was from stories I heard from the race. A lot of the run path consisted of very slick tile and competitors were slipping and a few going down, so I put on my race shoes and did a test knowing my race shoes were very smooth on the bottom. It was a great test as the shoes failed. I also packed my trainers I use to run track and tempo runs so I made the switch without hesitation. I then walked down to the water behind the hotel where I sat in the 59-degree water in attempt to freshen up my quad muscles as they just didn’t freshen up since the Nationals race. It seemed to help a bit. I turned in for the night, got a great night sleep for a race night, and felt ok.
When I woke, I finished my final preparations, and headed to transition to prepare my area around the bike and do walk throughs of both entry and exit points. I spoke to fellow teammates, left for my warmup, and finally reached the starting line. It was time… I felt like I belonged. A phrase I heard and love from Olympic Gold Medalist, Kerri Walsh Jennings, “I just want to be unfuckwithable,” meaning believe in yourself and don’t worry about anyone else. I trusted everything I’ve done over the years and the training to get me to this day. I had no expectations for a finishing placement. My plan was to run my race, my plan, and run the race of my life…no holding back. The race consisted of a 10k run – 24.5 mile bike – 5.2k run.
The horn went off and the energy was amazing! The cheering of spectators and vibe from competitors was outstanding. I was racing with the fastest duathletes in the world…how cool! I ran a fast first mile and felt pretty good. That changed in mile two. My quads just didn’t have the freshness they did in Irving the week prior. But, they weren’t a trainwreck either. I thought to myself I could still muster out a good pace, then do my thing on the bike, and figure out the final run like in any race. I just didn’t want to have a slow first 10k. It was a very technical 10k meaning there were a lot of turns and u-turns along with running on multiple surfaces including black top, tile, wood planks, gravel, and sand. It felt like a cross country run at certain points. Coming into transition from the first run I was happy with my effort and pace. I was estimating I was in the top 20 at that point but it was hard to tell. I was 16th I found out afterwards. At this point also I knew I was the second American as our leader took off fast fright from the start and ran a 37:50 compared to my 40:10. I was 2:20 down after the first leg.
On to the bike where it was out-and-back three times to make up the 24.5 miles. The first four miles out were mostly a steady climb. After a 10k run, that feels horrible as the quads and hamstrings felt like they were shredding. I began picking off racers but none in my age group going out but I was gaining on a lot of riders. When we made the first u-turn we headed mostly downhill back so that gave the legs an opportunity to recover slightly but I was still pedaling hard. When we made the u-turn to start lap 2 I saw and passed our lead American and shortly thereafter passed a racer from Great Britain in my age group. It felt like a shot of adrenaline went through my body. I smoked my 2nd lap continuing to pick off riders and I then had a back and forth battle with another Great Britain competitor as we pushed everything out of each other in the battle to transition.
During the final four miles of the bike my lower back and entire right leg had a numbing sensation with the bottom of my right foot about fully numb. I then concentrated on driving my left leg a bit more and it seemed to help slightly which was all I was hoping for. I was curious what I was going to feel like hopping off the bike as it could have been really bad with that issue…but it wasn’t. I got off and raced into transition feeling like I could certainly manage the issues for the final run. I made up a lot of ground on the bike as I had the 6th best bike and was in 9th going into the final run.
The final run was really rough. The effort I put out on the bike took any elasticity out of my legs but that was the plan. I don’t and didn’t hold back on the bike effort knowing it could or would impact the run. We pick our strategies for various reasons and that was mine. I had the 20th best run on the final 5.2k. As I was coming to the final left turn to go up the blue carpet through the finish line I peeked over my shoulder to see if anyone was behind me within catching distance and there wasn’t. As I approached the finish line I felt so proud and accomplished.
I didn’t have an idea where I was in placement at the time but I knew I just raced the best I could on that day in the most important race of my life. I came through the finish with what I usually do, a fist pump going back and forth and this time there was a yell, “YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!” One week after racing the best race of my life at the National Championships and placing 2nd in the country, I just ran a great race to place 11th in the world and 1st American.
It was an emotional period post race reflecting on what just happened, how this all started, thinking of my family and friends supporting back home, and all my teammates, staff, and friends that were at the race. I met one more Team USA teammate in transit from Ibiza to Madrid, David Dillingham, and we really connected. Both of our bikes were delayed coming home…better that direction than going to the race for sure. I know we will stay in touch several states away. What a positive experience.
As I reflect back now writing this I wouldn’t do anything different in my preparation leading up to this race. With the one week turnaround from Nationals and all the travel, I got my body in the best shape I could to respond and although not at 100%, I was pretty darn close and figured it out. No excuses, no hacks. I raced my ass off and I am so proud of that. I had nothing left in the tank. Race like Prefontaine…
I am looking forward to some chill time for both my mind and body. It’s vital I take down time to let the body heal and mind to recharge. I will know when it’s time to get back in the game. I do have a big race in December so I will work backwards from there building that plan. I also have a few things I will change for next year’s training plan in an attempt to enhance my performance a bit more at Nationals and Worlds for the Olympic distance. Always keep learning and figure things out to get better.
I do not take any of this for granted. I just had the experience of a lifetime…
– Add Health to Your Life
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