Editorial Musings – Why Not Try 5k/30k/5k?

PROLOGUE: The following editorial is mostly speculation with a sprinkling of fact. Many references and suggestions on where to go from there are made to rumours that are still unconfirmed being true. This is an idea that I came up with for Championship/qualification races only, to ease the burden on race directors who have already invested time and funds to be a qualifier, and possibly help participation. Local races, keep doing your thing…the more of you there are out there, getting people excited about duathlon, the better! I also don’t propose any changes to the draft legal development. It’s small but growing, and needs a chance to mature. All duathlon distances in this article are quoted as Run #1/Bike/Run#2.

Details have started to trickle out about the Triathlon Canada Multisport Qualifying Series over the past several days, with TriBC and Triathlon Quebec officially releasing their calendars and whispers popping up about other races. (NOTE: we have updated our Events page, and will attempt to keep our 2018 Schedule and Results page as updated as possible as more events are announced). It’s already shaping up to be an interesting year of racing, with some intriguing quirks…but I’ll leave that for a later post, once more events have been announced (namely Nationals). Of note, there are currently 3 sprint duathlon qualifying events during 2018 (all in Quebec), but none are draft legal.

Earlier this month we posted about the new qualifying criteria for 2019 Worlds, as well as the plan for qualifying beyond that. Thanks to Alberta Triathlon Association Executive Director Calli Stromner, duathletes were able to take a look at the exact bidding criteria for Nationals and World Qualification races. This year, the provinces had a chance to buy qualifying spots for $750 each (as opposed to $250 previously), with a maximum number available to be allocated based on percentage of national membership base) from Triathlon Canada. This is a stepping stone to a potential “domestic progression” (photo from Alberta Triathlon Association Newsletter, November 2017), where athletes would qualify for Nationals at provincial championships, and then qualify for Worlds at Nationals.

Even with qualification occurring one year in advance (ie. qualify in 2019 for Worlds in 2020), this domestic progression idea would require two standard distance races (at minimum) in a year. And that would mean going into Provincials cold, without a tune-up race, or committing two years to the task to work out the standard distance kinks the year before. Alternately, TriCan’s bidding criteria told me this little golden nugget of information:

Click to enlarge. Taken from “2018 Bidding and Hosting Fast Facts” (Triathlon Canada, 2018)

This got me thinking: why not make the championships distance a 5km run/30km bike/5km run format for non-draft racing? Maybe not for Nationals at first, but definitely for the smaller, locally operated provincial championships. We’ll get into three reasons why this might work, but first…

LET’S TALK DUATHLON HISTORY
Fitness expert Dr. Steve Jonas had some interesting tidbits on the history of duathlon in Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals. Among them was a reference to the original duathlon distances, in the US at least, being a 3 mile run/18 mile bike/3 mile run format (which equates approximately to 5k/30k/5k). The USAT stuck with this format at their National Championships until 2016.

Powerman International (the world’s premier duathlon brand) also builds its races around the 5k/30k/5k distance format, with the “classic” long distance being twice that (10k/60k/10k). While 10k/40k/5k and 5k/20k/2.5k align better with the ITU standard and sprint triathlon distances, ask any duathlete and they will tell you that the toll of 10k/40k/5k is exceptionally high…it’ll definitely bring you to your knees more often than not!

One of the fairest courses I know in Canada is the Bare Bones Duathlon in Penticton BC, which combines a flat and twisty 5km run with a difficult lakeside 32km bike course. It’s difficult enough to break you, but short enough that you can bounce back the next day (perhaps to race the Blossom 10 Miler?). In fact, it was Bare Bones that got me thinking about this. Here’s why I think this could work:

1) Emergence of Draft Legal Sprint Duathlon – Before the ITU switched to draft legal for the sprint distance, there was a need for two championship distances. However, the advent of draft legal has eliminated that. Draft legal race options are going to be sparse while it establishes its niche, and even the USAT hosts only a single National Championship. So if there can only be one non-draft option, why not make it a more marketable distance that can be raced and practiced more often? At least for smaller Provincial level races.

2) Accessibility for Wider Athlete Ranges – Why more marketable? Duathlon is often an entry sport to multisport. With championship sprint racing now presenting a bigger entry obstacle, ambitious novices now have no option but to set their sights on an event that is twice the distance. If domestic progression is indeed coming, then it stands to reason that the events progress as well to present newer athletes who aren’t lacking in ambition an opportunity to start smaller and move up in distance as they progress through the stages.

The established longer distances surely won’t disappear from the local scene for to use as race day training. And Nationals should probably stay aligned with the ITU distance unless waning participation dictates a change, as there should already be a draft legal sprint option. This would help newer duathletes, especially those unaccustomed to the training load, ease into the sport and develop an enjoyment for it over time, rather than getting discouraged off the hop by a poor performance at a HARD distance.

3) Centralized Participation and Competition – One single distance for championship racing centralizes the talent and participation into one race. Having it be 5k/30k/5k eliminates the choice of distance, and forms a great compromise between a fast-twitch sprint battle royale, and a grind-it-out endurance test. Sprint specialists move up a bit, long distance athletes move down a bit, everybody is put a bit out of their element, and we meet in the middle to find out who truly are the best athletes on that particular day. I’ll bet the added competition will help participation numbers and foster more of that atmosphere of camaraderie we know and love.

The other upside of this is for the organizers of the small local races who sacrifice so much so that we can have these races. This would eliminate the logistical challenge of holding two separate races and cut out little costs like extra signage, water and on-course nutrition, permits for extended stretches of road and trail, and police for traffic control (due to shorter races), which could be saved or shifted to create a richer athlete experience. The organizational effort could be much more streamlined with one event, right down to not having to ask “which event?” at registration. A definite win-win for both athletes and race directors alike!

IS IT THE ANSWER TO RACE DILUTION IN CANADA?
I’m not sure, but I’d sure love to find out. Duathlon is small enough that 5k/30k/5k provincial championships could qualify for both standard and sprint distances (unless TriCan goes the open registration route like the USAT does for duathlon), giving athletes the choice at Nationals if the events are the same weekend, or the chance to double up if they are held separately.

Some of the most competitive races I have ever been in were 5k/30k/5k. They were the perfect blend of speed and endurances, and in that small sample size they always seemed to bring out the best in athletes. Plus, they were fun to watch! Don’t agree? I’d love to hear about it. Hit us up on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments!

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

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“MoSports Madness” – Overdrive Race/Triathlon Ontario Championship Recap

The moment you’ve been waiting for! It was such an interesting day, that we had to take some time to digest it. But with the results now offical, it’s time to recap! We planned to do a group-by-group analysis similar to what we did for Boucherville, but only finishing times are available from the timing company. No matter, because the day turned out to be a spectacular one (ie. of or like a spectacle).

Mens sprint duathlon start at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville ON

A post shared by Derrick Mckay (@overdriveraceandrelayseries) on

FIRST, LET’S TALK ABOUT THE RACE COURSE
Picture an auto racing track. Then throw everything that you (probably) thought out the window, and instead picture a silky smooth road surface (probably from years of embedded motor oil and tire rubber) that winds through 8 corners down ~60 metres to a tight hairpin, and then climbs all the way back up. Now picture having to ride a road bike around that course 5 (for the sprint) or 10 times (for the standard distance race). Add to your mental picture a tough, undulating run course full of twists and turns, slick pavement and loose wet gravel, that is circumnavigated 3 times in each race.

Had enough? Because just when you thought that was it, the standard distance athletes also had to run the bike course twice before they even got onto their bikes! Add in steady rain and temperatures that dropped into the low single digits and you have yourself one difficult day, especially for athletes nearing the end of a long(er) season. We would be surprised if very many left Bowmanville without an experience they would never forget!

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE RACE – FIRST UP, THE SPRINT!
Garrick Loewen got a chance to show everyone just how much he loves duathlon-ing, as he took the sprint duathlon win in a tactical see-saw battle. Loewen used his cycling prowess to close an early deficit on the difficult parcours, before going straight on past in an effort to enter T2 alone. When that failed to materialize, he put the pedal to the metal and ran his way to a negative split second run on the deceptively difficult run loop to stamp his name on the championship trophy.

Peter Schindler added another line to his stellar season by claiming 3rd (2nd Ontarian). Peter was exceptionally consistent all year, and is hands down our Rookie of the Year for his impressive string of results. Cameron Mitchell held on for a strong 3rd Ontarian after a solid first run to build on his success of the past two years.

1. Garrick Loewen – 58:48
2. Jesse Bauer – 59:14
3. Peter Schindler – 1:05:38 (2nd TriOntario athlete)
4. Cameron Mitchell – 1:05:50 (3rd TriOntario athlete)

Jennifer Schindler capped off a strong year with a provincial championship. Executing on her game plan to “run hard and bike conservatively”, she opened up a lead on the first run that she never relinquished. As far as we can tell this is her first foray into duathlon, with this the best of a trio of strong results (4th OA female at MSC Gravenhurst and 3rd OA female at MSC Bracebridge, both sprints). That intriguing potential has us eagerly looking forward to what is to come as we follow her progress in 2018!

Conservative cycling was the name of the game on a course that claimed three athletes to crashes, and Karri Beck, despite being out of her preferred element, continued a strong season by securing the silver. Soo Owens grabbed a surprise bronze (the best kind of medal) to punch her ticket to the World Championships in Fyn, Denmark a year earlier than planned.

1. Jennifer Schindler – 1:17:02
2. Karri Beck – 1:21:58
3. Soo Owens – 1:22:32

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE DEFINITION OF “TOUGH”
Matt Straatman capped off a fairy tale season (that also featured a 3rd overall finish at the ITU Age Group World Duathlon Championships) by taking his first Triathlon Ontario championships over the Standard Distance. There really never was any doubt, as Straatman took the lead from the start, lapped nearly all of his competitors on the bike and brought it home for a comfortable win in tough conditions. The temperatures dropped precipitously during the race, and athletes were pulled off the course at around the 1:40 mark of the race. Straatman was one of 4 athletes to finish the whole course, while several athlete succumbed to hypothermia and were unfortunately unable to finish the race.

Chris Schindler once again impressed on the bike course, riding his way from 7th after the first run to 2nd at the finish line (side note: what an outstanding year from the Schindler brothers!). Andrew McLeod followed up his M40-44 bronze medal from Worlds with a bronze medal here as well and a special shoutout to Jeff Haig, the 4th and final athlete able to finish the whole course.

1. Matt Straatman – 2:06:24
2. Chris Schindler – 2:08:37
3. Andrew McLeod – 2:10:09

A small group of determined women took to the start line for the standard distance race, which was a fun back-and-forth battle despite the confusion of the shortened bike portion. Miriam Young took the early lead on the first run, but Tara Lapstra steadily reeled her in until she was leading heading out onto the bike course. Young’s bike prowess quickly shone through, however, as she powered around the course and through the corners. She quickly overcame her deficit and began extending her lead before being pulled from the course after 8 laps.

Lapstra was on the run course first despite finishing one less laps of the bike course, due to relative positioning when the decision was made. Lapstra was initially declared the winner after a strong final run, but helped ensure that Young’s exceptional performance was properly recognized for what was truly a unique and exciting day of Canadian duathlon racing. Eventual bronze medalist Sue Lin Holt was steady all day to wrap up the final podium position, and the chance to represent Canada in Denmark that goes with it.

1. Miriam Young – 2:20:06 (8 laps completed)
2. Tara Lapstra – 2:14:12 (7 laps completed)
3. Sue Lin Holt – 2:20:32 (7 laps completed)

So what can we say about this one that we haven’t already said? Not much. Everyone who made the trip to Clarington deserves kudos for doing their part to support this great sport. The weather wasn’t great and the forecast sure didn’t hide the possibility, but you showed up anyways. This sport doesn’t continue to grow without steadfast support from athletes like yourselves!

An additional congratulations to everyone who punched their ticket to Denmark this past season. As a reminder, the window to claim your spot ends this Tuesday, November 14. Follow the link in the email you received to claim your spot, and do it before general registration commences on November 15! Any additional entries for other events can be secured during general registration as well.

Until next time…keep Du’ing it!

“Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” – Revamped Championship Qualifying Criteria from Triathlon Canada

We know that you’ve been patiently waiting for our Overdrive recap. With the results just being finalized in recent days we were waiting to post it. You’ll just have to bear with us a little while longer.

NOTE: The Boucherville recap was made possible by the availability of splits for the individual disciplines of the race. Unfortunately, due to the inclement weather and the lack of timing mats on course, we were not able to do the same analysis for Overdrive…instead it will be a more qualitative analysis.

BUT LET’S TALK ABOUT OVERDRIVE FOR A MOMENT

Before we dive into the fun, we’d be remiss not to talk about what a spectacular day it was at Overdrive. The forecast looked dreadful the whole week leading up to the event, and the day started off challenging for the sprint athletes. They were asked to exceed the demands of the average competition by an already challenging run course, a stunning but demanding bike course with 8 slick corners per lap, and difficult conditions…all while navigating the complex tactical world of draft legal racing.

Overdrive Duathlon
Slippery when wet
Standard distance athletes, we can’t give you enough kudos. One lap of the bike course was demanding enough, and you had to navigate it 12 times (twice on the first run, 10 times on the bike). Temperatures that started the day around 12 for the sprint dropped to single digits in the afternoon, and the rain just kept coming down harder. It got to a point where the temperature was so cold that the officials started pulling athletes from the bike course, and athletes ended up completely various numbers of laps.

Because of that, the results and qualification information took time to finalize. Regardless, you are all incredible athletes just for showing up on the day, knowing what was probably to come…Duathlon Central Seals of Awesomeness for everyone! Results and congratulations to come with the full recap.

Reminder: General registration for Worlds in Fyn starts at 10am PST on November 15. If you secured an automatic spot for the race at a qualifier and plan to go, make sure you claim it by November 14 using the unique qualifier code in the email you should have received. If you wait, you run the risk of your spot disappearing to the general registration crowd even though you auto-qualified. If you missed a qualifier, November 15 is your last chance to be a part of the ITU World Multisport Championships Festival through general registration (albeit with a higher team management fee).

Happy Faces
Candid…ish (Photo: Overdrive Race and Relay Series/Triathlon Ontario)
WAIT, WHAT? SPEAKING OF QUALIFICATION…

Triathlon Canada released their new qualification criteria for the Age Group World Championships, and there were some interesting tidbits in the new policy. You can check it out here. There are some good pieces in here, and some interesting ones. Here’s the skinny:

Triathlon Canada is going to a “Qualifier Only” model for the Age Group World Championships starting in 2018 for the 2019 championships, essentially eliminating rolldown qualification and general registration. In fact, it looks like rolldown is going the way of the dodo immediately, as the auto qualifier window closes on November 14 with general registration opening on the 15th and no mention of the “Stage 2” qualification that was administered last year. This means that if a race has a certain number of qualifying spots, the only WC spots awarded will be to those who finish in those places in their age group and no further.

The last vestiges of general registration survive in the 35 charity slots available for purchase 1 month after the last qualifier, with proceeds going to support the National Development team and Kids in Triathlon Canada. Why those causes? Because Triathlon Canada gets their funding from Sport Canada and Own The Podium, who put a high premium on Olympic events and medals. Oversimplified, the more success a National Sport Organization can put forward (ie. Olympic and World Championship medals), the better positioned to receive funding that NSO is. Additional funding from other sources helps bridge the gap and identify that one extra athlete who might just develop and mature at the right time to snag that Olympic medal in 2020 that bumps us up a funding bracket.

The system was built on feedback from the member surveys sent out to Age Group Team Canada after Penticton and Rotterdam. Just over half of athletes answering that particular question voiced a desire for a “Qualifier Only” system that preserves the prestige of competing at (and possibly travelling to) a qualifying event. Feedback given to us echoed that sentiment (small sample size alert). What’s REALLY interesting is this little tidbit that went out in the Alberta Triathlon Association newsletter this week, hinting that this is only a transitional step:

ATA Newsletter
ATA Newsletter hinting at details about future changes to World Championship qualification. 2 spots being allocated to Alberta would mean that Alberta races may only be allocated up to two spots per age group. Alberta athletes would be welcome to race Nationals or qualifiers in other provinces to obtain other opportunities to qualify.
If true and applied across all multisports, this is BIG. Even the USAT with its large membership base sticks to open registration for all events other than sprint and standard distance triathlon, though the triathlon numbers are so high that qualifying for Nationals has become almost as prestigious as qualifying for Worlds.

They also offer a secondary option to get into Worlds, through the USAT Rankings. This doesn’t seem to leave any alternatives to showing up and qualifying…which may or may not be a bad thing for athletes and the races themselves (see editorial below).

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Foremost, it means that racing at Nationals is about to become REAL important. Without rolldown, the days of showing up to a duathlon qualifier and probably punching your ticket (or giving yourself a pretty good chance at a rolldown) are numbered. If they stick to the past framework during the transition year, Nationals will have the most available spots in each age group.

Nationals definitely becomes more important in future years, where it sounds like athletes will have to attend a provincial event to qualify for Nationals, that you then have to attend to try to qualify for Worlds. As a reminder, racing at Nationals is also the only option in North America for a Canadian interested in racing as an elite to score ITU points and obtain a ranking if Worlds are abroad.

Editorial opinion? We’re reading a story with no ending right now. Whether this is a good or bad system can’t really be determined until we see the distribution of qualifying events, which will be released in early December. The transition year system actually sounds like a pretty good system in itself, allocating the bulk of the spots to Nationals and giving PSO’s an opportunity to add a number of spots to provincial races based on membership base. I’ll reserve judgment on that aspect until the qualifier details are announced.

What’s “interesting” is the all or nothing aspect of this. Without rolldown, if it’s another year like this year (particularly in the sprint duathlon) then there is a really good chance of ~25% of the spots going to athletes who have no intention of claiming them. While maintaining a rankings system may not be feasible in a small organization, I would have loved to see at least a capped rolldown by percentage of AG winner’s time (ie. qualification rolls down X places as long as they are within Y% of the AG winner’s time).

If that’s not feasible, then maybe another idea taken from USA Triathlon: everyone lines up after results are official and puts down $50 to claim their spot or it rolls down to the next person in line. “Day of race” rolldown ensures that you at least eliminate the athletes who race a qualifier but have no intention to claim a spot on Age Group Team Canada. That would likely go a long way to ease some of the dissonance already popping up on social media, so hopefully more details are coming.

Discussion in the comments, on Twitter or on our Facebook page. As always with a policy, if you feel passionate about the new criteria, I encourage you to provide that feedback to Triathlon Canada in whatever way you feel comfortable.

Until next time (hopefully with more information)…keep Du’ing it!