Duathlon has allowed me to overcome obstacles I might have let drag me down and give up. At age 13, I was diagnosed with systemic lupus; by 14 I hit a weight of 200 pounds. I tried every diet out there and even made up my own. My only mental relief would be when I would run. Running was my therapy for years. I would compete locally at events and I was always trying to better myself. My No.1 competition was me. This is what I believe started my passion for running.
After my second child born, I developed two blood clots in my lungs post cesarean section, and two months later I was diagnosed with diverticulitis. I thought to myself, I don’t want to ever come back to the hospital again. I’m going to do everything possible to be the healthiest I can be. This is when I really got serious about my health; I wasn’t going to focus on just exercise, but the whole package. I thought I was eating healthy, but when I really looked at what I was eating, it wasn’t nutritious. In addition, I have two girls ages 2 and 5 and I want to be the best role model for them.
In the past I’ve done countless triathlons and single run races but I always come back to duathlon. It is my favorite activity to compete in. There is something about combining two runs and a bike — and that second run being on tired legs — that is very challenging to me. I am very passionate about duathlon and I try to get people in my community involved in the sport. This is my story and every duathlete has a story and a reason they run bike run. I get excited to go to the Duathlon National Championships because you get to meet like-minded people from all over the country and hear the different athletes’ stories. What brought them there and goals, such as crossing the finish line, top 10, world qualification or podium. Whatever the goal is we are all here for an experience and a challenge. That is what a National Championship race is all about.
Fast forward to July 19, 2014, in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s the race venue for the Duathlon National Championships. This race was extra special because my husband, Nate, was racing too. This was the first time we both raced Nationals together since our second child. We share a mutual passion for duathlon but with two little ones we don’t get to race together a lot. It felt like old times.
We arrived in St. Paul the Thursday before the race and we stayed at the host hotel, Crowne Plaza, which made things very convenient. It was a nice short walk to the race venue, restaurants, grocery store and Raceday Transport. “We need to pick up our bikes,” I said urgently to Nate when we arrived. “I am OK once I have my bike.” We walked down to Raceday Transport. They assembled our bikes and explained something happened to my wheel during shipping, generously lending me a replacement. Talk about great customer service!
I was really excited to see my duathlon friends. We rode the course Thursday and Friday with a group of people led by national champions and friends Celia Dubey and David Morrow. They are fun and full of positive energy!
Race day was finally here and excitement was in the air! I could see the standard course athletes racing from my hotel window which created a lot of excitement and increased the nerves, as I am not familiar with racing in the afternoon. After the standard-distance athletes finished the event I asked them what they thought of the bike course, and everyone said “it’s faster than I thought it would be.” The athletes were excited to give me feedback. Some people I knew and some I had never seen before. Another reason I love duathlon, the athletes are competitive and supportive. We understand each other and the camaraderie is top notch especially at the National Championships.
It’s go time! The best of the best from 44 states line up to race. I say to myself, I am going to DU my best, run my own race and execute my race strategy. The horn goes off, a little sweat, blood and a rush of adrenaline and the next thing I know I hear, “Elizabeth Sylves from Hockessin, Delaware, you are National Champion 35-39!” To make the victory even sweeter, I heard Nate came in second in the 35-39 age group. I was so proud of him, I started to cry. It’s so awesome that we can share in something we both have a passion for. I thought to myself all this hard work and sacrifice is worth it, but it isn’t hard work and sacrifice when you love it!
Relive the excitement of the 2014 Life Time USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships by checking out the live blog, highlight video, photo gallery, articles and more on the coverage page.