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Arlington racer reaches top with duathlons

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Local,Melanie Ciarrone

Anne Viviani started running so she could catch up.

"I guess running is something I've always done because I'm always late," she said.

Viviani started running in her early 30s and began racing 16 years ago, training for triathlons and duathlons with her husband, Donn.

Now 59, she has competed in both national and world championship races and has raced in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii -- which features a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile marathon -- three times.

She races in both triathlons and duathlons, which is like a triathlon, except it substitutes the swim for a run at the beginning of the race.

"Duathlon actually doesn't get the kind of press that triathlon does ... but it's maybe a little bit harder because your muscles are already spent from having gone out on the first run and then you have to go back a second time," she said. "But the races can be in every bit as exciting a place as some of the triathlon events."

Most recently, the Arlington resident competed in the Duathlon World Championship in Concord, N.C., where she placed second in her age group. She qualified for that race by winning her age group at the Richmond National Duathlon Festival this summer with a time of 2 hours and 51 minutes despite the 90-degree temperatures. That race involved a 10-kilometer run, a 40-kilometer bike and a five kilometer run.

Viviani works as a part-time substitute elementary school teacher in Arlington and has four grown children. She also works part-time at Bonzai Sports Center in Falls Church and holds clinics for people who are interested in triathlons.

She trains on her own during the week, fitting her workouts in midday or later. On the weekend, she and her husband work out together.

"I think it's better to work out with other people because working out with someone who's faster than you makes you work a little bit harder to get faster yourself," she said. "I'm a little bit better on the bike than he is and he's a better runner."

But her run is slowing down as she gets older, she said. And she wants to become a better swimmer.

Although she enjoys all the sports in triathlons, "I'm usually glad to get on to the next part."

One of Viviani's best races was the Race Across America in 2002, the cross-country bike race that begins on the West Coast and ends on the East Coast. She was on the winning women's four-person team and that year, they biked from Portland Ore. to Pensacola, Fla. At one point, she was joined by some unexpected competitors.

"We were riding in the Rockies and I was riding a 30-mile downhill, so I was just screaming downhill for 30 miles, and a car came along and they said, 'Don't be alarmed, but there's a herd of cows coming down and we're going to try to get them off the road before you get there.' But I ended up biking into a herd of cows."

For her next race, Vivani and her husband are considering a duathlon later this month in Virginia Beach.

"I think I do get all the endorphins that they say you're supposed to get because I always feel much better after I've exercised," she said.

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