Kevin Glodava on the International Triathlon Union World Championships

Rocky Mountain Road Runner member Kevin Glodava recently competed at the International Triathlon Union World Championships held September 26-28 in Remini, Italy. Here’s his report on the event.

In November 2007, I received an e-mail inviting me to join TEAM USA’s Age Group Short Course Duathlon Team that was competing in the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship. This would be my second shot at the World Championships; my first attempt was last year in Gyor, Hungary.

For those who don’t know, the Duathlon is a 10k run, a 40k bike and finishes with an easy 5k (usually not so easy) run. To make the team you have to place in your Age Group in a qualifying race. I earned my place back on the team by doing well in the Duathlon National Championship in Mason, Ohio.

 Competing in last year’s event opened my eyes to a different level of competition. EVERYONE is good! Back home if you’re fast, you may do well; at the World Championship, if you do well, you still might be last.

I had about ten months to prepare for the race, which I took advantage of. The course was quite different from that of most races in Colorado — it was completely flat. I think it had a 6ft elevation change! That presents a whole new challenge for those of us used to the different elevations that Colorado provides.

This year my plan was to change my whole approach to training and racing. Instead of trying to place or even race at my best during training races, I had specific goals for each race. For example, I raced in the Aloha State Games (in Hawaii) with the intention of hammering the hills. It worked, and finished 12th overall. In another race, my strategy was to run with the lead pack as long as I could, and I finished 7th overall.

My job inadvertently helped me train for the race by sending me to Hawaii for the summer. On the Islands I found a bike course that closely mimicked the bike course in Italy. I also found some crazy training partners, such as Dave Carlson, Hawaii’s Athlete of the year for 2007, and a local champion runner from the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team (H.U.R.T. for short). On most Tuesdays we ran Tantalus loop, located just outside of Waikiki, which features 4.6 miles with 2100 ft of gain, followed by 5.4 miles of loss. Even thought the course at the Championships was flat, this is what I consider the ultimate training run. It lets you work on your lungs then your stride and turnover. I also got to meet Gerry Lindgren, former 6-mile world record holder, who offered some great advice to me, “race with your heart, not your logical mind.” His quote really stuck with me, since there have been so many races in my past where I felt I could of run harder, but didn’t.

I left Hawaii ready for the World Championships. When I got there I had wicked jet lag, Hawaii is 12 hours behind, but we arrived a week before the race to adjust to the time zone, and, of course, to try the pizza, pasta, and of course a little vino. Without a doubt the best pizza and pasta I have ever had. If you know me, I consider eating a hobby.

The atmosphere at the World Championships is amazing. Everyone has been working for one goal, one day, one moment to race at his or her absolute best. It gets intense. We had the opportunity to run and ride the course a few times. The run course offered 25 hard turns per loop, which would lead to calf cramps for many.

For the first run leg we had 4 loops, or 10k, which actually turned out to be anywhere from 6.9 -7.1 miles depending on how tight you ran the course. My plan was to run the first 10k in around 39 minutes. If you hammer too hard on the first run, you pay for it later, and many did. I wound up doing the first 7 miles (again supposed to be a 10k) in 44 minutes. I was happy; it was an easy 6:30 pace, not too fast, not too much work. I wanted to run progressive negative splits, with each lap faster than the previous. If I did it right, I would pass a good number of people on the 3rd and 4th lap and feel very relaxed for the bike. It worked; I ran into transition feeling like I just warmed up and was ready to ride.

The bike was going to be my biggest challenge – the course was super flat, with six laps. I followed the same approach: progressive negative splits. Again it worked; I passed a bunch of people on the 4th, 5th and 6th laps. When they were getting tired and cramping I was getting stronger. The race stared at 2:30 pm, in the heat of the day, and this presented problems for many of us. The second part of my bike strategy was to just go hard in the second half of the bike and hope I had it mentally to run in pain during the final 5k. Again, the plan worked, I was passing people and my legs were screaming to stop, but it’s the World Championships, so I had to go hard. All I had left was an easy 5k, which actually was a true measured 5k.

I transitioned off the bike, then the pain hit! The transition went just as expected, with no problems, and a great transition. But within the first 200 meters of the 5k, my legs let me know they were not happy. I started to cramp in both my quads. When I looked down I could see both of my quads were sinking in. Then both my calves started to cramp. I was in some kind of crazy pain. Then my glutes, of all things, started to cramp, followed by my chest. I have never cramped there before; I can’t even describe the pain. I think I was on the verge of locking, then something great happened: I went faster! The crowd chanting “USA,” or “Go Glodava” (our last names are on our uniform) just made me think of Gerry’s advice: “race with your heart, not your logical mind.” I didn’t care how much pain I was in — I was racing in the World Championships, where the world’s best amateurs are. You’re supposed to be in pain!

I was able to run a faster second lap and passed good number of people. The icing on the cake was the finish. I was running in a pack of five, and we all were suffering, we were all in pain, we all had cramps, but we all wanted a strong finish. A guy for South Africa made the first move, followed by the two Brits, followed by me. I beat them all to the finish, capping an incredible race. I finished 370th overall out of 1040 people, 64th in my age group and I had the 54th fastest time out of 216 Americans.

For me it was the perfect race, I raced to my potential; I achieved every goal I set for myself, but above all I left everything I had on the course, I couldn’t have gone any harder!