The 2011 USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championship is coming up this weekend on April 30th in Oro Valley outside of Tucson, Arizona. This is the first year that the race has traveled here, so it is with great anticipation that many athletes are arriving in town this week. We had a chance to preview the bike and run courses over the last two days and we found that they will be challenging, even difficult, and will favor all-around athletes more than athletes who are strong solely in running or cycling.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about both courses is that they have almost no flat ground in the them. In fact, the two trips on the run course will feature are large downhill and a steep uphill to the finish. This combination will require runners to pace themselves on the downhills and could provide strong hill-runners an opportunity to make substantial gains on the closing hill. The cycling course is equally challenging will one long uphill section, a high speed section that ends with a hard right turn, and then another downhill section that will have riders reaching for their biggest gears. The sweeping arc of the cycling course also will move any wind around the riders, giving them a dose of wind equally from every direction.
For course maps, click here.
The first run course begins across the street from Ventana Medical Systems in Innovation Park and heads about ¼ mile north-west on Innovation Park Drive toward Rancho Vistosio Blvd. This opening quarter is just slightly inclined. Reaching the right hand corner onto Rancho Vistosio, the course flattens out for one of only two flat stretches on the course for less than ½ mile and then does a u-turn back toward the start. The outbound section is running roughly south-west so runners will be facing the sun. The course retraces backwards, hitting the first mile mark just about at the corner of Innovation Park Drive and Rancho Vistosio (note: mile markers are not shown on the course maps. Mile marker references are best guesses based upon where it appears the turn-arounds will be.).
The section on Innovation Park Drive will be absolutely critical. The course is gently downhill at first, flattens slightly and then heads steeply downhill toward the two mile mark. Runners need to be very cautious here not to push too hard down the hill, especially as there could be many spectators cheering them on near the transition area and then gravity will start pulling up their pace down the hill. Once hitting the bottom of the hill, there is a left turn and then a short inclined section of less than 100M. Those runners who have pushed too hard on the downhill will pay for it on this short rise after the turn, feeling like their pace will have dropped by minutes per mile (it won’t be that dramatic, but it will feel like it). The smart move is to cruise the downhill, recovering slightly, and then push past your panting competitors on the this very short uphill roller.
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