For Rick and Suzanne Cordes, age is simply a number.
The Daytona Beach couple has been married for 32 years and competing in duathlons at the worldwide level for the past eight years.
“Usually, when one is competing the other is the support system,” Rick said. “We got to stand next to each other on the podium at our last race and that never happens. It’s a rarity.”
Duathlons, triathlons and … CompuTrainers?Suzanne, 61, has a background in exercise physiology — the study of the acute responses and chronic adaptations to exercise — and has been competing at a high level of running-sports since high school.
After college she got into distance running, beginning with 5k and 10k runs progressing into duathlons and triathlons. A car accident kept her off the bike for a while, but she returned to training indoors in 2005 using a CompuTrainer — a premier indoor bike training system.
“We decided to try duathlons because we were fit from this indoor training program and we did really well,” Suzanne said.
Rick, 60, grew up an avid runner. When the two married, it was only natural that they started training together.
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Now, the couple competes in three different duathlon events a year. Most recently, they placed in the top three of the 60-64 age group in their respective races at the USA National event in Tuscaloosa.
Those finishes qualified them for the World Championships over the next two years, starting with this year’s competition in the Netherlands in September.
What is a Duathlon?The endurance sport is similar to a triathlon, but instead of a swimming leg, the athlete completes a running leg followed by a biking leg and then a second running leg.
Types of duathlons range from a sprint distance, which consists of a 5k run, a 20k bike and then a 2.5k run. The furthest is a 10k run, 150k bike and 30k run.
The Cordes compete in the sprint distance and standard distance events.
In the past, Suzanne placed second in the 2019 world standard distance in Spain and Rick finished first in a sprint distance world event in Australia.
Competing during COVID-19Like everyone, the onset of the pandemic last year changed everything for the running couple.
The races stopped, but the training didn’t.
“Our personal training kept us on a path that was enough to get by,” Suzanne said. “It takes the body a long time to reach the peak physiological level before a race, and intensity picks up from off-time to training with a race planned for the near future.”
After a few down months, certain events began to return, albeit with a different, socially-distanced format. Still, something was better than nothing.
“One of the races they put a timing pad out and gave the participants twenty minutes to start,” Suzanne said. “You could be completely by yourself and then run the course. It was hard to race that way.”
A return to racingLuckily, things are looking up as the world returns to pre-pandemic norms.
“The attendance at the national race in Tuscaloosa (last month) seemed higher than normal,” Rick said. “Those who qualified came out from all parts of the country to compete.”
To the couple, the environment was at an all-time high. The turnout not only welcomed more competition, it also allowed them to return to the social aspect of the events that they’ve always enjoyed.
“It was almost more like it was about being able to be together again and see people … that was probably, in some ways, more important than the race,” Suzanne said.
“The energy was off the charts,” Rick added.
Next up, they await official confirmation on the status of the September World Championships in the Netherlands.
The country has begun to slowly reopen, with stage three going into effect June 5, meaning sporting events can be held with no more than 50 people spaced out.
But a travel restriction is still in effect for individuals out of the country.
“Nobody knows if they should be training real hard so we are back to holding this base-level of fitness waiting for the green light,” Suzanne said. “If they let athletes in we can be quarantined for 10 days prior to the start of the race.”