Nancy ITU Duathlon World Championships

After my race in Buffalo, I flew to Boston to stay with fellow professional triathletes Chris Baird and Brianna Blanchard for a few days. I had never been to Massachusetts before and I was anxious to see why my mom raves about it. She began racing the Boston marathon in 2004 and pretty much became a Boston fan overnight. She even cheers for the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics now. 2013 will be her sixth edition of the Boston marathon, which will be extra special with my sister Jaclyn joining my mom for her first time! Basically, Boston has turned into a destination for the Pedersen’s.

Chris and Brianna have a great apartment in an old building in the financial district. I went riding in some of the suburbs of town and went running along the Charleston river, through Cambridge and onto Harvard???s campus. While Chris was grinding away at work, I went with Brianna to MIT for a couple of swims. I got to see a bit of the city as I walked to the ???shipping dack at the John Hancack building by Capley pack??? to try to intercept two UPS packages with our Duathlon Worlds uniforms that wasn???t scheduled for delivery until after our departure for the airport. I found the shipping dock at the John Hancock building by Copley park without too much trouble and grabbed our packages.

Boston struck me as a very clean city, especially compared to other big US cities I have been to like Los Angeles and New York. The city is very young and active thanks to all the universities and paths along the river. While I am in no rush to move there and see what the winter months have to offer, I can see why Chris and Brianna like it (as well as my mom) and appreciate their hospitality.

I had some great meals in France. This oversized crouton with canned tuna was not one of them.

On Tuesday night, Chris and I began our journey to Nancy, France. Flying to Europe from the East coast is so much easier, and I would be reminded of this when I returned on my non-stop flight from London to Los Angeles. A six hour flight had us in London???s Heathrow airport on Wednesday morning where we boarded a plane to Luxembourg. Once in Luxembourg, Team USA coach Jim Vance picked us up and we drove a couple hours south to Nancy. We arrived around 1 pm, and weren???t scheduled to do any training until 5, so Chris and I went for a walk to try to find something to eat. We found a market and picked up a few snacks, including the delicious spread called Speculoos. At first we were disappointed when we discovered it wasn???t peanut butter. After spreading it on a couple cookies, however, we forgot about the peanut butter and began a dialogue on why this stuff doesn???t exist in the US!

First look at the race venue in Stanislaus Square, Nancy, France.

Over the next few days we got to see quite a bit of the city. The necessity to always be searching for places to ride or run (or swim) can be a pain, but it affords you plenty of opportunities to explore. I get to see miles and miles of these foreign places that I would not have seen otherwise, which is certainly one of the perks of being a professional triathlete.

Chris and I grew very close in France. In fact, we only slept about 6″ from one another!

In addition to the sights, we often see more of the culture as well. On Thursday, I walked to a local pool with one of the elite American female athletes??? boyfriend. At the front desk of the pool, we each paid 3.80 euros and showed our swim cap and bathing suits ??? men must wear brief or square-cut style ???Speedo??? to swim. Thank goodness I don???t go anywhere without mine! We then went to the coed changing room, which was a bank of cubicle-like stations with a door on one side for entry and a door on the other side to exit to the pool. I entered the cubicle and latched the ENTER door close. I turned around and found the EXIT door was open, so I closed that one and latched it shut. Just as I did that, I saw the ENTER door swung back open. Must have not closed it properly. I moved to the ENTER door and latched it shut. Now the EXIT door swung open! I realized the latches on both doors were linked, to prevent people from leaving the cubicle out one door and leaving the other side locked, which is smart. However, because the doors naturally swing open, this also prevents people from successfully closing and locking both doors without a 7-foot wingspan. Being the clever engineer that I am, I improvised by closing one door with my right foot, closing the other door with my left hand and latching it with my right hand, all while balancing on my left foot. I felt like there must have been a hidden camera on me with a French audience watching, laughing and saying, ???Stupid American!??? After stretching both my mind and body in the changing room, I rinsed off in the shower and headed to the pool. In the hallway between the showers and the pool, there was a 5m section sunken 15cm or so with a puddle of water that you had to walk through. I shook my head, bewildered, and thought, ???It???s all part of the experience, Russ.??? Finally, we made it to the pool! It was a very nice, white-tiled pool with four lanes FILLED with people doing breast stroke! I ended up getting a crappy 1500m workout in, which was ok as I wasn???t expecting to get in any swimming in France.

Stanislaus Square in the distance.

The race took place in the beautiful, ornate Stanislaus square, surrounded by old buildings with exquisite fa??ade, black iron fences with gold leaf trim, and polished cobblestone. The run course went through an adjacent park, which was flat with lots of sharp turns. The bike course had a small hill on it to bring you up to an elevated highway and had some very technical sections coming by transition. The men’s elite race wasn’t scheduled to go off until late afternoon when the park and square were completely packed with spectators and age group athletes waiting one more day for their chance to race.

I made an effort to do more of a warm up than I typically do for a triathlon. I got in a good 20 minute run and a short 3 minute tempo before heading over to the starting area. The final 15-20 minutes were a bit confusing, not knowing exactly where I needed to be. As a result I think I spent too much time standing around. My heart rate had come down considerably and I think I was just a little too relaxed.

Run #1

30th in 32:43, 1:39 behind the fastest

At team meetings before the race, Coach Jim Vance made it clear that he would give one guy the green light to try to run with the leaders and make the front pack. The rest of the team would try to stick together and work as a group on the bike to move their way up. I was the one chosen to go for it. I was excited at the opportunity and felt like I had nothing to lose here.

Photo: Janos M. Schmidt /ITU Media

Because duathlon is more of a fringe sport even than triathlon, most competitors came into this race with no ranking. Outside of the first dozen or so athletes, starting positions were given at random. I randomly received number 58 out of 59, but didn’t think this would matter much because it isn’t a mass-swim start — it’s just another mass-run start like I have done hundreds of times before. I was wrong, however. For some reason the start line was quite narrow, and only fit maybe a dozen athletes across. By the time my number was called to the start line, it was already 4-men deep!

When the race started, I immediately began to work my way up. It felt much like a cross country race, which made me feel pretty comfortable. Only now, I was trying to get myself near the front. I did a lot of weaving and dodging guys to work my way up, and after one 2.5km lap, I was in a pretty good spot, maybe 15th or 20th place and 4 or 5 seconds off the lead. The quick start soon caught up with me, and within another 800m I saw a gap ahead starting to form. As I went by Coach Jim, he yelled, “You gotta decide now! Either go with them or ease up.” It was sound advice and in hindsight it was definitely one of those important moments that happen in every race that effect the outcome. Considering there was a 40k bike and 5k run left after the conclusion of this 10k, I decided to ease up. I just didn’t have it in me to go with that front group on that day.

USA Teammate Dan Hedgecock passed me soon after. By 5k I was a little worried that my aggressive strategy was already catching up with me. At the 180 degree turn around halfway, I saw Ryan Giuliano and Josh Merrick weren’t too far behind. Once they caught me, I focused on staying with them and took a little comfort in knowing that I would have them, at the very least, to work with on the bike.


33rd in 54:59, 3:03 behind the fastest

As planned, Josh, Ryan and I got going on the bike and starting working together right away. There were some real studs behind us, and soon a group of five guys or so caught us. This group was led by two Belgians and a big Russian guy. I got in the rotation with them and we were all working well together. The group ahead was coming back to us. I was working pretty hard, but nothing that didn’t feel unsustainable, especially when I was able to sit in for three to four pulls. That’s a lot more rest than I ‘m used to!

About halfway through the bike, my calves were beginning to pulse a little bit coming in and out of some of the sharp corners. Pulses turned into small cramps. On the 5th or so lap, just as we were headed towards the elevated highway, my right calf completely seized. My foot was completely flexed with my heel being pushed all the way up. I tried to force my weight onto my foot and drop my heel down to stretch the cramped muscle, but it just wouldn’t let go. While all this was happening, I stopped pedaling and was coasting. The bunch went around me and left me behind. Eventually I was able to get a normal pedal stroke going again and I settled into a less intense time trial effort. Any chance at a good performance went out the window. The group that I was riding with bridged up to Dan Hedgecock’s pack less than a lap later, showing me once again how big of an effect small lapses can have at this level of racing.

Eventually I bridged up to Josh, who had also been dropped by the bunch. We rode together for the last lap and went into T2 as just the two of us.

Run #2

30th in 17:23, 2:11 behind the fastest

I was a little timid to get the run started after those bad cramps on the bike. In the past when I have suffered with cramps, it has always been on the run and never on the bike. The huge gap ahead didn’t help much, and I quickly settled into a pedestrian pace. I kept turning over mediocre kilometer splits, one after another, until a Spanish guy caught me. With about 800m to go, he opened a small gap on me and I began to feel even more sorry for myself. We made our last turn, and at about 400m left, I finally told myself to “SACK UP” and threw in a surge. The Spaniard was hurting too, and barely made an effort to go with me. I had a spectacular finishing kick to seal the deal on a 31st place finish.


31st in 1:46:38, 5:58 behind 1st

31st is clearly not where I had hoped to finish. Even without the cramping on the bike, I was not ready to compete with the top guys in this race. Coming from a competitive running background, the whole experience was a little eye opening. The top ITU guys can run, and I’m not going to be able to compete with them if I’m not focused on being a better runner. I don’t regret coming on this trip — I think I learned a lot — but I know that I won’t be returning to Duathlon Worlds unless I know I am ready to roll a fast 10k, and I have the mileage in my legs to keep going after.

With that said, I wouldn’t change my training prior to this event. I am focused on becoming a better triathlete, and right now, that means swimming faster. I need consistent, hard work in the pool, and I’m glad I didn’t let this race derail my focus on that.

Dan Feeney being fed a post race dessert by a French waitress in a German restaurant.

After the race, Coach Jim Vance told me that I was one of the athletes that he would like to compete in Sunday’s mixed team relay. The relay format includes two females and two males all completing a 2km run-8km bike-1km run course. The order is female-male-femal-male, and I was picked to be the first male to go for Team USA. D’Ann Arthur led the team off, but couldn’t finish due to some injuries incurred from a bike crash in her individual race, so I never got the hand-off to start. This event sounded like a lot of fun, and I hope I get an opportunity to do one of these mixed relays at a duathlon or triathlon in the future.

The rest of the trip was basically a lot of travel. Driving from Nancy to Luxembourg; flying to Heathrow; flying to Los Angeles; driving back to Simi Valley. I got to meet Andreas Raelert in the international terminal while we waited for our bikes to be delivered. He was headed to Westlake to do some pre-Kona training. Very nice guy and it was cool to meet him.

Finally, some thank you’s. Big thank you to ENVE for helping me get to France for this race. Thank you for supporting my professional career thus far. Also, thanks to USA Triathlon for selecting me for this race. Jim Vance did a great job in teaching me the in’s and out’s of duathlon. I had a couple of opportunities to talk to him about training and coaching in general, and I appreciate his solicited advice. And of course, no trip would be possible without my great parents. This time, my dad gets a special mention because he had to battle the 405 traffic solo and came to LAX to pick me up. (Mom was out of town on business, otherwise I am sure she would have come too!)


USAT Blog: Reliving the Team Experience

In case you haven’t had enough of my FISU experience in Taiwan, you can read my blog posted on USA Triathlon’s website:

This one has more of a team focus as this may have been the last race I do competing on a team.

Thanks for all the encouragement you all have given me these last few months. I have received some very nice words about this race especially. I try to reply to everyone, but in case I missed you, THANK YOU! You make it so much easier to get through the hard yards day in and day out.

FISU World University Triathlon Championships

Race morning started cool and calm, but heated up by the start.

As with the previous days in Taiwan, I woke up race morning quite early. At around 3 or 4:00 am I had a little snack and then laid around until 6:00. Before I left for Taiwan, Barb Lindquist told me a story that her swim coach told her years ago. After a poor night’s sleep, Barb’s coach told her, “You’re too good of a swimmer to let some lost sleep affect your race.” Now I’m certainly not too good of a swimmer, but I knew I was well prepared for this race and didn’t worry about a couple of hours of sleep I may have missed.??Dustin McLarty and I headed to the breakfast buffet, which opened at 5:00 for the race instead of the usual 7:00. I had a fried egg over-medium, a bunch of toast, and some frosted flakes. The rest of the morning was spent packing our things and cheering for the women outside our hotel as they began the bike.

The race was set to begin at 10:30, so at 9:15 I headed down to transition with the rest of Team USA. After being sent all over the race venue, we eventually found the athlete’s lounge and were able to check in. I was able to set up my transition and finished up at 9:50. Swim warm up was 9:45-10:15, and since I did not have a chance to swim the course the day before, it was important to swim an entire lap. The course included a pontoon start and a straight out and back around one buoy. I quickly dropped off my things at the athlete’s lounge and jumped in the river. By this time the wind had really picked up and there was quite a bit of chop when heading back in after the turnaround buoy. There was also a noticeable current pulling from right-to-left heading out.


33rd in 20:56 (2:15 behind the fastest)

A look at the swim venue the day before the race.

I was ranked 7th going into the race, so I was able to line up pretty much anywhere I liked. Since there was a bit of a current, I went over to the right side and picked a spot about 15 spaces from the end. The plan was to have Dustin McClarty (#15) and Kalen Darling (#18) to line up next to me. They were far and away the quickest swimmers in the field and were planning a two-man breakaway. They were both lined up to my left, so I knew after 25m or so there would be an opening to my left that I could swim in with clean water.

I had a good reaction to the gun and the plan with Dustin and Kalen worked great. It was probably the smoothest start I have had at an ITU race. At the turnaround buoy it got much more crowded and I just tried to stay on the feet in front of me as we came into the chop. Just before exiting lap 1, I saw fellow American Chris Braden to my right. Chris is not know for his swim necessarily, but I know he has made the main bike pack before, so I thought I was in a good spot. We raced around the pontoon and jumped back in. The second lap had much less contact as things had strung out a lot more. Coming around the final buoy there was one guy ahead (Martin Novak CZE) and I did a good job of latching on his feet. Unfortunately, he was gapped ahead and we came out of the water alone.

In hindsight, I probably should have followed Chris after the first lap and tried to stay on his feet. I knew he was capable of being a main pack swimmer and may have been able to stay on his feet. Still, I am actually pretty happy with this swim(although I wasn’t during and shortly after the race). I was in a good position after the first lap, which is more I can say about my previous ITU races. I also did a good job of sticking on feet in front of me — I just chose the wrong feet.


10th in 1:35 (:05 behind the fastest)

The run to transition was quite long, over 300m, so there was some hope that I could bridge up to the main pack and get in the bike pack. As I came into transition I saw that terrible sight, empty bike racks and the trail end of the pack mounting their bikes. There was one more guy in transition, Luke Watson of Great Britain, giving me some hope that we could bridge up together.


28th in 1:05:09 (2:13 behind the fastest)

I sprinted with my feet on top of my shoes to bridge up to the British athlete. After maybe 600m, I got in his draft and was able to get my shoes on. After making a sharp turn, I took a pull into the headwind. It was clear that he was not going to be strong enough to bridge up, so I took off on my own. The pack would be able to ride much faster than me solo, so I had a very small window to catch them. I was never able to get the time under 45 seconds, and would slowly lose time to the bunch throughout the 40 km.

Riding solo in that wind and heat was really tough. I drank two bottles and had a GU out there, but was still on the limit nearly the whole ride. Thanks to my new ENVE SES 3.4 Clincher and Team USA mechanic, my bike rode very smooth and I was actually able to close the time gap to the guys that began the bike at the front of the bike pack.

After looking at the results, the last guy to make the bike pack swam 20 seconds faster than me, and after T1, was only 18 seconds ahead. If I had swam 15-20 seconds faster, I am certain I would have made the front pack and would have come off the bike more than 80 seconds quicker, with likely a lot more left in my legs. Draft legal racing can be harsh.


32nd in :30 (:06 behind the fastest)

World Triathlon Series-style transition

I was feeling pretty cooked after that bike ride, so that is why my transition wasn’t the best. Heading out on the run my legs weren’t feeling all that great, but I knew in these conditions there would definitely be guys fading.


5th in 35:06 (1:57 behind the fastest)

The run course was flat straight out and back on a bike path. There were trees lining the path, but they offered no shade under the noon sun. Less than a kilometer in there were guys already coming back to me. Around that point I got in a decent rhythm and kept focusing on the guy ahead. Unfortunately we began lapping athletes coming off the bike on the 2nd (of 4) laps and after that point it was very difficult to tell where I was in the field. I was able to continue to move through the field, passing Kalen to become the 2nd American, and finish strong to pass a few more guys in the last kilometer.


11th in 2:03:18 (3:21 behind the fastest)

Initial thoughts were to cool off! The heat index apparently had reached 105?? F, and after a swim in 87??, we were all well-done. Once my body recovered a bit, I became pretty disappointed with how the race turned out. I came in ranked 7th, and was hoping for a top-8 here, and only finished 11th. It was pretty clear that my swim put me in a??deficit??that was too big to overcome, once again.

A few hours later, after going over the results and speaking with some of my teammates and coaches, I had a more positive look at the race. Sure I missed the main pack on the swim, but from the swim exit on, I had a great race. I didn’t lose too much time on the bike in harsh conditions and still managed to put together a solid run to help Team USA. My swim was actually the closest I have ever been to making the main pack, which is a huge improvement for me.

Finally, I considered the trip as a whole and not just the results at the end of the race. It was my first international experience and I learned a lot. If I get to the level that I want to achieve in this sport, this trip will be the first of many. This was also just my 4th ITU race. At this point it is important to keep racing and gaining experience, regardless of what kind of shape I may be in.

In the end we tied with South Africa for 3rd place, but lost the podium position on a tie break. A little disappointing, but I think all five of the men that traveled were thrilled with the experience we were given and will no doubt have a special bond from our five days spent together in Taiwan.

Team USA on top!

Congratulations to the women’s team for finishing 1st! Very excited for Kaitlin Shiver, Jessica Broderick and Julie Rechel. I also want to thank the Team USA support staff Steve Kelley, Brent Hamula, Jennifer Hutchison and Brian Hughes. They did a great job and made the trip easy for us athletes.

Team USA Support Staff

Results | Facebook photo album