Meade Airman competes in duathlon World Championship
Perez among top 9 percent of world's best duathletes
By Brandon Bieltz
Perez finished the International Triathlon Union's Long Course Duathlon World Championships, held Sept. 2, in 10:44:48 for 113th overall and 11th in his age group.
The competition began with a 10K run, followed by a 150K bicycle ride and concluded with a 30K run through the hills of Zofingen, Switzerland as the top 1,224 endurance athletes from more than 30 countries competed for the world championship title.
Perez, a technical sergeant with U.S. Cyber Command who was competing in only his second dualthlon, was part of the 19-member Team USA.
"The experience was unlike anything I could describe, from the opening ceremonies to the pre-race dinner to the actual event itself and closing ceremonies that followed," said Perez, 31. "It was amazing to be part of 30 countries and their top endurance athletes representing their perspective flags."
Perez qualified for Team USA after finishing Maryland's Blackwater Duathlon in Cambridge on June 3 in a little more than four hours. Following the Blackwater event, Perez began training for the grueling course in Zofingen.
"This course is considered the toughest duathlon course in the world," he said. "It is considered the toughest for several different factors: high altitude, inclines, humidity and technicality."
The course through the rugged terrain of the Northern Switzerland town that was the home of an ancient monastic settlement totaled almost 118 miles with nearly 25 miles on foot and 93 miles on bicycle.
According to the event's website, the first run consisted of two 5K laps: "The course is demanding -- one half is on asphalt streets and the other half on paths through the forest."
Following the run, competitors transition to cycling for three laps of a 50K course through the hilly town. Athletes then complete one final run on a 30K "hilly running course," according to the website.
A few days before the event, Perez flew to Switzerland to acclimate to the climate and altitude, as well as train with Team USA for the first time.
On the day of the event, he said, the atmosphere was "thick" as competitors prepared for the intense event.
"Everyone was giving the 1,000-yard stare," Perez said. "Everyone was focused and ready to go."
Perez finished the 10K in about 47 minutes and then transitioned to his bike, when his troubles began. During the 150K ride, the bike had two flat tires and the chain fell off.
"When it comes to these types of races, it is much like a NASCAR pit crew -- how quick can you fix it and get it out -- because every second someone passes you, it's negative time," Perez said. "Overcoming something like that isn't easy. It's a matter of mentally being tough and staying focused and in the game."
After finishing the ride in 6:17:51, Perez rounded out the race with the final 30K.
Ultimately, Perez crossed the finish line at 10:44:48 to earn an 11th place finish in his age group, but narrowly missed finishing in the top 100.
Despite the challenges, Perez said he is pleased with the results and looks forward to earning a spot on next year's Team USA.
"I will definitely try to qualify for Team USA again next year and represent our country even better than this using my experiences," he said. "This was my first competition at this level, so I was a rookie. But I was very successful with my rookie debut."
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