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Nationals: Always Worth the Trip

By Jason Karavidas | June 30, 2016, 1:49 p.m. (ET)

No regrets from a memorable trip up to Bend, Oregon, for the USA Triathlon Sprint Duathlon National Championships — what a perfect host location for a multisport event! Great roads, trails, parks, food and beer could be found everywhere (hoping those last two didn’t slow me down in the race), and it appears that residents may even be required to own a vehicle with a bike rack. Awesome. To make it even better, we were fortunate to have great weather to go along with the incredible scenery, which took away from every athlete’s nervousness about the elements throwing a wrench in well-rehearsed race plans.

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon exhausted from two long days of driving from San Diego (read about that here), and were eager to settle in and explore. We opted for a small rental cottage within walking distance of downtown Bend, which was a great call to allow us to eat a couple meals in and bring along Striker (that insane dog that you may have seen at the race on Saturday afternoon). Sparing everyone an in-depth Yelp review, I’ll say that every restaurant (and brewery) we hit is worth visiting, and that Bend has some awesome off-leash dog parks, so Striker gives his five stars as well.

JASON KARAVIDAS

Not your typical San Diego dog park!

Between exploring the town and scouting the race course, time went by pretty quick. On Friday morning, USAT hosted a very cool Team USA reunion breakfast for past Worlds athletes and put the hard sell on why we should want to go to Penticton, Canada, in 2017. It’s not a hard sell. I want to go.

Being used to early morning races and workouts made our 1 p.m. start time a bit interesting, especially when I wake up before 6 a.m. What do I do? What do I eat? We ended up heading to the race venue early to do a little spectating and cheer on those still out on the course. The cold morning was quickly giving way to a hot, dry, breezy afternoon (which later turned into a twister that took out the finishing arch and some porta-potties).

JASON KARAVIDAS

Trying to play it cool.

Like all duathlons, the first run starts off at a blazing and unsustainable pace. The first wave of athletes (Men under 40) proved to be no exception, and I was pulled into running a lot harder than I should’ve. I was sucking air by the second lap of the 5k course and well off the lead coming back into T1, and in my head, thought I might be in trouble. Was this elevation seriously making it this tough?

JASON KARAVIDAS

Always thank your photographer! Rich Cruse catching great shots on course.

The bike course certainly doesn’t give you the chance to recover and catch your breath. Aside from a couple short flats, the out-and-back course was basically an up-and-down course, with all the climb coming on the front half. I was able to track down five athletes on the climb, then made the turn back downhill to enjoy a very fast 6 miles toward transition. The out and back also showed the gap I’d need to close on the two leaders (spoiler alert: that wasn’t happening!).

I felt like I was running at a snail’s pace on the final 2.5k run, but evidently it was just fast enough to hold my position through the finish. USA Triathlon’s Tim Yount provides some pretty motivating home stretch inspiration on the mic, and the red carpet was a welcome sight coming through the finish line – second in my age group and fourth overall!

JASON KARAVIDAS

One of Tim’s many high fives at each event.

After a long-awaited stop at food truck heaven, we enjoyed a great and packed presentation and awards ceremony. Really inspiring to be around so many incredible athletes, and exciting to see the buzz around the Team USA spots awarded for Worlds in 2017.

In all, 40 hours in the car and countless hours of training were well worth the one great hour of racing. A huge thanks to my patient wife and not so patient dog, to USAT and Bend for hosting a great championship event, and to my friends and RIDE Tri Team for providing such great support — see you in Canada (this time we’re flying).

Follow Jason on Instagram (@jasontri) and Twitter (@hey_jmoney).

Visit the 2016 USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships event page for more coverage.