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So Close

By Bob Jones | June 09, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

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bob jonesWell the 2015 Duathlon Nationals are in the books, and it was another great experience. My wife, who was there competing for her second year met up with some friends from back home for dinner who were participating in their first Duathlon Nationals. After dinner we walked around town and I ran into a few of my friends that I’ve met over the past five years. The best thing about competing in this event has been meeting not only good athletes, but really nice people.

On Friday morning a group of us met to ride the bike course — it changed from last year’s event, and it’s always helpful to get a feel for it before race day. I had heard there was a pretty good climb shortly after transition, and some pretty fast descents later in the loop. You could talk to several people about it, but you’ll get many different opinions on the degree of difficulty, so I like to see it for myself. I actually like climbing hills, so for me this hill was challenging, but not crazy hard. After the ride and a short run we picked up our packets, and saw a few more friends we hadn’t seen for a while.

Race morning arrived and I noticed that I had been really calm for this event. I was really enjoying and taking in the atmosphere, and knew when it was time to compete, my competitive juices would start flowing. I headed over to transition, and again see some people I haven’t seen in a while, including my buddy William Jabour from Texas. We have started a tradition of doing our prerace warm-up together. It was a nice sunny day with just a few clouds and a bit breezy, and the temperature was perfect. I was in the fourth wave, which consisted of 50-54 and 55-59 age groups. In the past there have been some amazing athletes in these groups, and this year was no different. As I lined up, I noticed that I was still calm, but really looking forward to getting started.

8:15 a.m., and the horn sounds and we are off. As I expected these take off. I get out quick, but under control. We are doing two 2.5-kilometer loops for the first run, and during the first loop I remember thinking my legs didn’t feel that great, and I hoped they’d feel better soon, because this could make for a long day. On the second loop I felt much better and I came into transition in 18:35 and in ninth for my age group. I told you these guys were fast. After a smooth transition I hop on the bike, and this was the only problem I had all day, my left shoe closed and I couldn’t get it to open, so I had to pull over to open it up. During this I fell back into 12th place. Once I got back going we made a right turn and went up the hill. I gained a few spots back on the climb. On the rest of the first loop I held back to get a feel for course and took the downhills a little cautiously. For the next two loops I was more aggressive and was having fun seesawing back and forth with a couple guys, one of which was Bob Brown from Florida, who was encouraging during the ride. We came into transition a few seconds apart, and after another smooth transition it’s out on to the run.

I was now in 10th place and felt good starting the run. I passed a couple guys from my age group in the first 1/4-mile and got into a good rhythm. The second run is the same course as the first, so we ran down the bike path under the Wabasha Street bridge to a turnaround, went back under the bridge, made a right turn to go over to Raspberry Island, ran a “U” around the island, then back on the path toward the transition/finish. The few turnarounds were nice for seeing where your competition was, and seeing friends on the course. Jeff, William, Ken and Bob looked like they were doing well. By the time I came out Raspberry Island for the second loop, with less than a 1/2-mile to go I saw a guy from my age group that I was running near on the first run, and I was gaining on him. I pushed the pace but was only able to get within 6 seconds of him, and a sixth place finish, just off the podium.

So it was another awesome experience, and that night at the awards ceremony, it was topped off when 87-year-old Ed Maruna went up to receive his award and it was given to him by his son Dean. They are just two of the awesome people I’ve met this event. I look forward to doing this for as long as I can, and can only hope to be competing as long as Ed has.

Find more coverage from the 2015 USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships here.