On The Hunt – Maryland Olympic Duathlon

Guess what’s on Sirius’ New Wave station at 3:30am? Duran Duran in concert from 1989! My drive to Woodbine, MD last Sunday took me back to when I was 17 and Simon Le Bon was hot. πŸ˜‰ I was never a huge Duran Duran fan (much preferred Def Leppard and INXS) but certainly appreciated the band’s looks music. So I spent a very enjoyable 90 mins listening to Wild Boys, Rio, The Reflex, and of course Hungry Like The Wolf, which sorta became my mantra for this race as I chased down every athlete in sight. (Yeah, I know that’s not what the song’s really about…)

I signed up for the Maryland Olympic Duathlon to see how I could do without my weakest event in triathlon – the swim. This event was a USAT Regional Championship and so I had to choose whether to race as a Elite or an Age Grouper. I suppose I was chicken when I went with the Age Group division, but since I had no idea what the course was like and most likely wouldn’t see it until race day, I thought I’d best play it safe. πŸ™‚

While getting set up on race day I was very glad I hadn’t entered as an elite as it would have made me super nervous, racking my bike on the elite rack and walking around with a single digit number and an E on my calf. There’s no hiding in duathlon. πŸ™‚

I did, however, plan to win my age group. But, as the race progressed, I realized I could win my entire wave (women under 45) and so I stepped up my game and went after it.

The race went like this: run 2 (super hilly) miles, bike 26 (super hilly) miles, run 4 (super hilly, same as before but two loops) miles. In my daily training I do not encounter hills like the ones I saw in Western Maryland on Sunday. I have to go out of my way to find hills like those. On the first run, my first mile was 6 flat (I run a mile on the track in about 6:30), all downhill, while my second mile was 7:20 (all uphill), giving me a 6:40 average for two miles. So yeah, it was hilly. Did I mention that already?

The race started in 6 waves. The first two waves were elite men and women, then women over 45, then men over 45, then women under 45 (my wave), and finally men under 45. So when my wave went off I was racing mostly against women younger than me. And to be honest, it was kinda cool to kick the butts of ladies 10 years younger than me. πŸ˜‰

The bike was two 13 mile loops, so I basically learned the course on the first loop. It was, um, hilly. I used a lot of gears. I tried to stay in aero except on the really scary turns and going up the biggest hills, where aero was of no benefit. I almost crashed when I braked too hard taking a downhill left turn too fast; I felt my wheels lock ever so briefly, tried not to panic and they thankfully released. Only about 7 guys passed me the entire 26 miles, so I figured I was doing ok. I also passed a lot of people. πŸ˜‰ After the race I was walking past a guy saying to his wife, “Only one girl passed me….and it was YOU!” pointing at me. I smiled and told him I remembered passing him! I was passed by one girl on the bike, not in my age group but she was in my wave. I hunted her down on the run and passed her with a “good job.” People think I’m heartless when racing but see, I am encouraging…while showing no mercy! 

The second run was interesting. There were guys strewn out all over the course grabbing their hamstrings. I guess the hills on the bike followed by the run were too much for them. On one of the hills in the second half of the first loop I felt a twinge from my calf. That had me a little worried and so I had to be sure to put my heel down on the hills, rather than running on my toes, to protect it. Thankfully that was enough to do the trick and didn’t really slow me down. I thought I was running 7 minute miles on the second run but I was having some Garmin issues (thankfully the only malfunction of the day); multisport wouldn’t work and I had to manually switch the Garmin from run to bike and back to run. The race timing has me at 7:23 pace for the second run, significantly slower and honestly a bit disappointing. Still, it was faster than Hilary Cairns’ 7:28 pace, and she won overall. (She was much faster on the first run and the bike.) I don’t think I could have picked up the pace much even if I had known this, because I was pushing pretty hard.

I actually found that while the race wasn’t super painful, I was up against my own physical limitations, especially on the bike. I allowed my legs to go lactic several times because I had the downhills to recover, but not having biked more than 1 hr since Raleigh Half Ironman six weeks earlier did not help me at all. I have all sorts of excuses for that, including one ride on a particularly hot day that I had to abandon after 40 mins as I had a blinding headache and was seeing double, but the truth is I needed more 30 – 40 mile rides, and more Woodburn/Thomas Mill (hill) repeats. If I race this event next year I vow to do that.

Results: so as it turned out, I not only won my age group, and finished first in my wave, but I was also first non-elite female and even beat two of the elite women, coming in 5th female overall!

Maryland Duathlon

So next year I will man up and race as an elite. πŸ™‚




  1. Oh wow!!! So proud if you!!! I love how professional and calm you sound about it all. You destroyed the field and still say you’ll do better next year. Very nice work destroying the boys and the elite girls (gotta feel amazing when that happens!). Congrats!!

  2. Awesome job! You are having such an incredible year–good for you! Yes, we like our hills here in HoCo, don’t we?
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    • Alison Gittelman says:

      HoCo?!!! Ha ha ha! I think I need to do training camp in HoCo, have a feeling IronGirl Rocky Gap has a few hills, too!

  3. It was fun to hear the details of such a great race! You must be so proud, what a huge accomplishment Alison! Congratulations!
    Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..Extreme North Dakota Racing: The End Wet 27 mile swimMy Profile

  4. Dawn Szarek says:

    Congratulations on an awesome race. If I’m not mistaken (I recognize your tri suit) you were next to me In transition and chatted a bit about the course and then when I was starting the run and you were finishing I recall you cheering me on and remember thinking to myself how nice it was of you. So nice to have friendly fellow athletes out there! I managed to pull off first in y AG but may not have if it weren’t for all the support in the course πŸ™‚
    Congrats again! See you next year! πŸ™‚

    • Alison Gittelman says:

      Hi Dawn! Yes, that was me. Everyone on the course seemed to know you – you are quite the celebrity! I love how friendly the triathlon/duathlon community is! People are always happy to give tips in transition and cheer each other on during the race. Congrats on your first in AG and see you next year!

  5. Fabulous account of the race, you are inspiring! I’m doing the MD Women’s Sprint Duathlon that they are running in a couple weeks. Now I’m nervous about the hills…
    Cynthia @ You Signed Up For What?! recently posted..Friday’s Run Left Me In a Stitch – a Side Stitch…My Profile

    • Alison Gittelman says:

      Hi Cynthia! I thought about doing the women’s sprint but too many races on the schedule already. Good luck, just prepare for the hills and you will be fine! I think knowing what’s to come is key…sometimes it doesn’t seem as bad!

  6. Hi Alison. Just read your blog from last year’s race. Will you be joining us again this year (2014)?

    -Danny Serpico, Race Director, Rip It Events
    MD Olympic Duathlon

    • Alison Gittelman says:

      Hi Danny, yes, I will be racing this year, already signed up…and I did man up and sign up as an elite! Thanks for asking!

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