On May 7, UVA Professor of Radiology and Medical Imaging Dr. Jaime Mata competed for Team USA at the World Triathlon Powerman Middle Distance Duathlon World Championships in Viborg, Denmark. We asked him a few questions about the race, representing the United States and Team USA, and why he trains and competes in duathlons and triathlons.
First things first: what are triathlons and duathlons?
Both are races with multiple segments. The triathlon is swimming, cycling and running, whereas the duathlon is running, cycling and then running again. People usually compete in both races.
There are four different triathlon and duathlon distances: sprint, standard, middle and long. I competed in the middle distance duathlon, which is a 10km run, a 60km bike ride, then another 10km run.
I have competed in all distances, including full Ironman triathlons before, which is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a full marathon (26.2 miles). That is a challenging and long race that requires a lot of training!
When did you start training and participating in these races?
I started running 10k and half-marathons when I was 15 years old. I did several triathlons between the ages of 19 and 25. I kept running after that but didn’t do the other components because the training demands were high and I didn’t have much time.
But later in life I started doing triathlons again because just running can be hard on your legs. By training for triathlons, you run only 3-4 times a week and do cross training with cycling and swimming. So your legs don’t take as much of a beating. My knees really appreciate that I do some bicycling and swimming.
You represented Team USA at the 2022 World Championships in duathlon. How did you qualify and become a member of Team USA?
Team USA Triathlon has an Olympic team, an elite/professional team, and an age-group team, which is where I qualified.
To join Team USA, you first compete regionally to qualify for the national championship. From nationals you can qualify for the world championships and a chance to represent the United States internationally.
At the most recent national championship for middle-distance duathlon in Florida, I finished second in my age-group. That qualified me for the world championships.
Tell us about your 2022 World Duathlon Championship experience.
The race was held in Viborg, Denmark, a small town about 3.5 hours from Copenhagen. I got there a few days in advance to learn the course and adjust to the jet lag.
It was really amazing competing with people from all over the world at a very high level, and not just against people that you know. I had trained a lot before going, so as for the race, I hit the time I was planning to hit and everything went according to plan. I was a little sick, so I probably would have been stronger if I wasn’t, but I still did as well as I planned to.
Team USA organized the hotel, meals and group activities. We stayed at the same hotel as the team from Great Britain and it was really nice to have meals together and do things together.
What races and qualifiers are next for you?
In September I will go to the national championships for the middle-distance duathlon in New York to attempt to qualify for the 2023 world championship. In April I will go to another national championship, this time in Irving, Texas, to try to qualify for the World Triathlon Championships in 2024, which will be held in Australia.
What does training for and competing in these races bring to your life?
It’s a way of keeping myself motivated, waking up earlier, training every day and staying in good shape. It’s more challenging to race at this level because you need to qualify, and so you have to plan ahead and upgrade your training. That keeps me motivated, as does being surrounded by people who have the same interests as I do.
Locally, I’m part of the Charlottesville Triathlon club and we train together and go to regional races together. This is the next step—traveling nationally and internationally with Team USA to compete. I didn’t know anyone else on Team USA when I got to Denmark, but now we know each other, we stay in touch and so for future races I have a group of people I can share those experiences with.
In the end, it’s also one of the main reasons why I do this: it’s a way to meet other people and to travel around the world doing something I like.