Fort Ritchie Duathlon

Duathlon?  Who runs duathlons? I am not sure I had even heard of a duathlon.  This duathlon was a 5k run, 24k bike ride and another 5k run.  If you don’t like to swim, a duathlon might be for you. I have been riding my bike but I am not a fast bike rider. My goal was to run 2 solid 5k runs and survive the bike.  I was joined by my mud run companion (Run For Your Lives, Warrior Dash), Emily.  She has more experience with triathlons so I needed any tips she would share.

History Note: Ft Ritchie is located near Cascade, Maryland.  According to Wikipedia: Fort Ritchie at Cascade, Maryland was a military installation southwest of Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania and southeast of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania in the area of South Mountain. Following the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, it closed in 1998.

Pre-Race: I signed up online months ago. If you are not a member of the USAT you will need to get a one day membership or a year-long membership. What I really liked about their website was a link to the competitors list so you could see who was in your age category in each race.  They also had turn by turn directions for  the run and bike for those who wanted to check out or practice the course in advance (you might want to drive the bike before race day). The race organizer also sent regular updates during the week leading up to the race.  The athlete’s guide had all the details you would need for a successful race. I wish every race came with an athlete’s guide since I am an information whore, but I realize that is probably not going to happen.

Race Day: I stayed in Thurmont over the weekend to be closer to Cascade, MD for the race.  We stayed at an old favorite, Sunny Maple at Old Mink Farm. My review of this little gem is here: The weather in the morning was cooler (for August) with some light rain.

I arrived at Ft Ritchie at 0530 and I had no problem with my parking/check-in. As the day went on, the parking lot got more crowded but I don’t believe it was an issue for the athletes.  After check-in, it was a short walk to the transition area where you could set-up for your changes.  This was a first for me.  After watching everybody else I realize I should have had a towel or a bucket for my stuff.  Live and learn… After setting up my transition area they mark you with your bib number and age and issue you a timing chip. Then you wait…

My First Transition

My First Transition

We had about an hour before the pre-race meeting so I had plenty of time to start re-thinking my choices.  With the wet roads should I have ridden my hybrid bike instead of the road bike I was not super comfortable with (people have all types of bikes: from real expensive bikes to mountain bikes)? Should I wear my glasses?  Should I wear my prescription sunglasses? Do I have to go to the bathroom again? To make things more interesting we had to listen to a gentleman nearby talk about how dangerous the bike course was and how he was just going to do the run and call it a day.  I don’t know if he believed the jerky crap he was spouting or if he was trying to psych people out. Either way it was annoying. I couldn’t wait for the trace to start.

After a short pre-race meeting, it was time to go.  (I decided I need to pee again but there was no time). Son of a bitch….

The Race: The 5k run went around Ft Ritchie which is in need to repairs or a bulldozer. The course was pretty straightforward with one medium-sized hill between miles 2 and 3.  I knew that medium-sized hill would be worse the second time around.  I finished the first 5k in approximately 25 minutes feeling good but apprehensive about the bike. My buddy Emily passed me during the transition and I only saw her from afar for the rest of the race.

The bike starts going uphill right away.  After the first mile going uphill, my legs were burning and I was huffing and puffing.  Then it went downhill through some sharp turns.  I took my time and wore down my bicycle breaks trying not to crash.  After another short hill you go down (and down and down and down) to the turn around point.  Being EXTREMELY skittish on the bike, I had a death grip on my breaks the whole way down.  I am not exaggerating.  I held on to my breaks for about 4 miles. My apologies to the other riders who had to wonder what was wrong with me.  I stayed as far to the right as I could to stay out-of-the-way.  Ever see that car on the highway doing 40 in a 60? That was me.

I already look uncomfortable and this is the first 50 meters

I already look uncomfortable and this is the first 50 meters

I was sooooo relieved to reach the bottom of the mountain and have to turn around.  I was much more successful heading back up the mountain. Having rested for the first half of the bike (I didn’t pedal for 4 miles), I had fresh legs for the uphill and I passed a lot of people during the return trip. I was so happy to get off the bike when I slowly rolled back in to Ft Ritchie.

Run Part 2. Much like the first 5k.  I ran almost the exact same splits and felt strong all the way through (even through the medium hill). I finished in 2:09:07.

5k – 24:41

24k Bike – 1:17:21

5k – 24:38


Post-Race: They had subs from Jersey Mikes, chocolate milk, and water.  They also handed out cold wet towels (like at the A10) which was a nice touch.  Even more awesome was the ability to instantly see your results.  They had a series of monitors where you could type in your bib number and see your results.  I was third in my age group (out of three). Super congrats to Emily who was 1st in her age group and the 2nd overall female.


The Big Results Board

The Big Results Board

To make things more awesome, the other two gentlemen in my age group won other awards.  One of them was in the top 3 overall, and the other was the top Master (40+)….So the age group  award went to the only guy left (me).  So I got a medal for my first duathlon. I couldn’t be happier.

1st / 3rd place?

1st / 3rd place?

Goodies: Technical shirt, Hammer Gel, and a men’s deoderant.

Shirt and 2 medals

Shirt and 2 medals

********My favorite duathlon.  The race logistics seemed spot on.  The perks were really nice. All of the volunteers were friendly and helpful.  Well done from start to finish.  My only word of caution would be for those folks who are not comfortable on the bike be prepared for a long/super fast down hill followed by a long climb back up.  I am not that guy.  I was not prepared for the steep decline.  Until  I get more comfortable with that part of my race, I will be looking for less extreme bike courses. Next stop for me will be a triathlon…

Organizer’s website:





One thought on “Fort Ritchie Duathlon

  1. Great race review! I HATE having too much idle time before a race to “re-think” my decisions! Your race strategy is exactly what mine would have been…solid runs, survive the bike! I’m terrified of riding bikes downhill too, I am almost positive I am faster going uphill! 😉 Good job on a solid race! 🙂

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