USA Triathlon News Blogs Ordinary Mortals® My Last Race

My Last Race

By Dr. Steve Jonas | Sept. 30, 2021, 6:29 p.m. (ET)

Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 72, 2021/09)  

As it happens, the last race in my 36-year career in tri/duathlon occurred on the same course as did the subject of the previous column in this series, “My First ‘One More Tri’ Duathlon.”  It took place just about two years after that one, in September, 2018.  But it took me almost an hour longer to complete the course than it had done the first time (and I had been pretty slow on that occasion!).  While I did not know at the time that it would be my last race, but I suppose that there was a message in there somewhere.

As it happened, it was the only race that I would be doing that year.  Over the course of the season, I had registered for several other races, but for one reason or another I didn’t do any of them.  For example, the previous year, at the Age-Group Nationals at Omaha, NB, I had even qualified for the 2018 Age-group Sprint Triathlon World Championships to be held at Gold Coast, AU.  I had been to Gold Coast for the Age-Group Triathlon Worlds in 2009, I had enjoyed the place very much, and decided to go again. 

Although Gold Coast is more like Miami Beach than it is the rest of Australia, it is still occupied by Aussies.  And they are just great people, they run beautiful races, and they really say “G-dye, myte!”  And further, since I had never done any touring in Australia, this time I set up a post-race mini-tour for myself.  In the end, due to a family illness I didn’t go.  But then, irony of ironies, the race had to be cancelled.  The sharks that can come into the bay where the swim is held arrived early that season.  And so, I would have gone all that way for no race.  Ah well.  Back to 2018, in Asbury Park, N.J.

Of course, I knew the course, and I knew the people, starting with the great Jeanene Leppert, the Race Director, but more than that, the heart and soul of this race.  It was again a lovely day.  Because it was my first race of that season, I got to the transition area bright and early.  I wanted to make sure that I would have plenty of time to get set up, to try to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything.  And lo and behold, 36 seasons and 255 previous races does plant some things in your brain, even if that brain is almost 82 years old.  In the end, I didn’t forget anything, and I made it around the virtually flat, Sprint-length, course OK. 

As it turned out, as noted above, it took me almost 45 minutes longer than it had the previous time I did it, in 2016.  And I was so far behind this time, last of course, that even for this short, flat race, for the second run-segment I had a “sweeper,” that is a person who accompanied me for the whole of the lap, to make sure that nothing untoward happened to me.  It reminded me in a way of my experience in 1985 at the Vermont Steelman, which in those early days of long-distance tris had the 50-mile bike as the third segment.  I will never forget that one. 

While the sweeper at Asbury Park was accompanying me very slowly on his bicycle as I walked along, the sweeper north of Burlington, VT was accompanying me in a fire department ambulance.  He was a very nice gentleman, who turned out to be an inveterate liar.  For each time we had crested a rather monstrous hill in the mountains north of Burlington, VT., he would say “last one.”  Which was not the case until what really turned out to be the last one, a few miles north of Burlington, which was so steep at the top that I had to walk the last mile or so.  (And yes, I had figured out his trick some hills before I got to that one.)

At any rate, I did eventually make it across the finish line at One More Tri, again way last but again first in the 80-84 age group, with what was for me a very dramatic event.  As I approached the line, in what would turn out to have been my last race, the D.J. was playing the theme from “Chariots of Fire.”  And I have to tell you that I am beginning to cry as I write these words.  And I did cry as well as I crossed that finish line.  Why?  Because that was the music that was being played as I approached and crossed the finish line of my first Ironman, on Cape Cod, MA, almost 33 years to the day previously.  What a way to wrap it all up!

In my next (and likely last) column, I will talk with you about my retirement in the sport.

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This series of thoughts and recommendations about multi-sport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, 101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

Steve’s most recent multisport book is Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

His first book on multi-sport racing, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Steve has been racing tri’s and du’s since 1983.  At the end of his 36th season in the sport, 2018, he had done a total of 256 races.  He did not race in 2019 due to his own illness (from which he fully recovered), nor in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  For a variety of reasons, he did not race in 2021 either.

That reminded me of the time that I had qualified for the Age-Group Sprint Triathlon Worlds in Beijing, had made all the arrangements and then for some reason(s) that I now cannot recall did not go.  It happened that it rained on the day of my race, and since I do not ride in the rain, ever, I would not have raced