If you want to shave 30 to 60 seconds per hour off your duathlon time, the aerodynamically obsessed say to invest in an aero helmet. An aero helmet smooths the airflow from the front of your head over your back, making you slice through the wind a little bit easier.
But to get those time savings, the helmet has to fit properly for your riding style and bike position. The long-tail helmets, like the Rudy Wingspan (which I have, purchased at a big discount on eBay), work great if you ride in a super-aero position with a flat back and your head positioned just so. (Which I don’t.)
Why? Because the tail has to effectively sit on your back for max aero benefits. If you look down at your Garmin every five minutes or ride with your head tilted to one side, you lose most of the aero benefits. Suddenly, the helmet’s tail becomes a sail. You don’t want a sail in your race.
Another downside: lack of breathability. In a hot race, you have little ventilation, sort of like riding in a car with the windows rolled up. And if you travel to races and plan to ride in the days pre- or post-race, you’ll have to either pack a road helmet or ride around wearing that silly helmet.
The new TT helmets
To mitigate many of the downsides to long-tailed space alien aero helmets, helmet manufacturers started issuing lids without a tail. Using computer technology to analyze airflow, helmet experts found ways to produce comparable aerodynamic benefits without a tail.
These newer helmets still smooth airflow over the head. They also help reduce drag in crosswinds caused by long tails. And they eliminate drag caused by neck fatigue or Garmin obsession. Bonus: they don’t look as silly when you’re on a sightseeing recovery ride the day after a race.
Here are a few new aero helmets that have gotten positive reviews. Since I haven’t worn them, or reviewed them, I’ll leave it to you to do your own research.
If you aren’t worried about a few extra seconds or don’t want to spend a bunch of money on another helmet, you *could* tape the vents in your road helmet. (I’ve done this.) The forums say you’ll get at least a fraction of the benefits of an aero helmet. Maybe you’ll get some funny looks, but so what?
What’s your favorite helmet? Give us your pick and why you like it in the comments below!
This is the time of year when many of us start ramping up training for our first duathlon or triathlon of the year. To get there in the best possible shape, it’s wise to follow a plan.
Whether you create your own training plan, download a generic plan or get a custom plan from a duathlon coach, a training plan keeps you accountable. At minimum, it ensures you will do some mix of speed, tempo, endurance and recovery.
However, just like there’s a shortage of duathlon races, we have a shortage of dedicated duathlon coaches. (Are you a duathlon coach? Tell us about you in the comments below!)
With that in mind, you may decide to self-coach until you find a good fit. You may also need to self-coach for budgetary reasons. Or, maybe you’ve been around the block a few times and know enough about training principles to write your own plan. I know high level athletes that coach themselves, and athletes that work with a coach. Choose what’s best for you and your life.
If you’re relatively new to duathlon, or you need a duathlon refresher, here are a few general training tips to keep in mind. I’ve also included links to resources to help you develop a plan that works for you.
Because I’m not a certified coach, I don’t want to give you an 8- or 10-week plan based on my experience. If you saw my own training calendar, which is often pretty intense and changes often due to work demands, you’d understand why!
Get used to running off the bike.
Become familiar with the brick. Brick refers to a workout that incorporates more than one discipline. I like to think it refers to what your legs feel like when running hard off the bike.
Incorporate a variety of brick sessions into your training plan. Start with easy bike-run and run-bike workouts and build up to bricks with portions of the bike and run at or near race pace. Du at least one brick per week. More if you can.
Mastering this one skill helps you save precious seconds off your total time without extra training. Duathlon transitions are relatively simple because you don’t have to shed a wetsuit.
Find an empty parking lot or some other safe spot and practice running into an imaginary T1 and T2, switching shoes and taking on/putting off your helmet quickly. I usually practice for about 15 minutes after or in the middle of a recovery ride. I also time myself to track my progress.
Dial in nutrition.
For any distance duathlon, figure out your optimal prerace meals. For standard-distance (10K-40K-5K) and longer, also figure out your optimal fueling strategy during the race.
Over the years, I’ve learned I can manage with Skratch Labs and a gel during standard distance dus. For anything longer, I switch to Gu Roctane (more calories) and more gels. Mind you, I’m efficient and only 105 pounds, so I don’t need as much as a 170-pound dude.
Dial in a nutrition plan that gives you energy to last the distance.
Incorporate bike and run intervals.
To run and ride faster you have to practice running and riding faster. Makes sense, right? If you’re new to both, start with 4-6×100-meter strides at the end of your runs and some short pickups on the bike. Progress to more structured and longer intervals.
In a duathon, more often than not you’ll be riding on your own in the aero position. As race day nears, ride your race bike more often and du your training sessions in the aero position. Use your aerobars as much as possible. The more you use them in training, the more comfortable you’ll be on race day.
Duathlon training plan resources
Elite duathlete Albert Harrison is a Level 2 USATF coach. Steve Lumley, a UK-based coach, has coached multiple Powerman athletes. As a bonus, he also hosts a training camp in beautiful Majorca.
For lists of generic downloadable plans, both paid and free, check out:
Eric Schwartz, Duathlon.com (outdated website; training plans still relevant)
As one year closes and another one starts, many athletes start planning their 2019 racing season. (If they haven’t already.) That short-list of A races may come with goals: set a marathon PR, get an age-group win, qualify for the Duathlon World Championships.
As you imagine your best year ever, review your goals. Are they S.M.A.R.T.? Commonly used in the business world, S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting ensures your goals aren’t just fuzzy someday ideas. They’re goals that bring results.
Here’s how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, retooled for athletes: single-sport and multisport.
Set specific goals. Instead of, “I should drink more water,” try, “I will drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day.”
For your race plan, that might look like this:
• I plan to compete in at least three local duathlons this year.
• I will start training for the Quicksilver 50K in March 2019.
• I will qualify for Powerman Zofingen 2020.
• I will replace the batteries in my PowerTap pedals.
(Yes, those are a few of my 2019 goals and one task.) And notice the affirmative language. Will, not should or maybe or try. Remember the wise words of Yoda: There is no tri. Only du or du not. (play on words is mine!)
How will you track your goal? How will you know you’ve accomplished your goal? If you plan to run your first half marathon, you can track your training. You’ll know you’ve achieved your goal when you cross the finish line.
If your goal is to raise your FTP by 20 watts by June, you’ll know you’re on track by performing a 10- or 20-minute FTP tests. (Here’s a book about training with power.) You’ll know you’re there via a test in June and/or with a time trial on the roads.
The goal of “get faster on the bike” is less specific and measurable, and therefore less effective.
Set challenging but achievable goals. In 2005 and 2006, I ran the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon in 1:38 and change. For 2007, I wanted to best that time. I settled on sub-1:36. I didn’t know if I could hold a faster pace for 13.1 miles, but I thought if I put in the work, maybe. I finished in 1:34:32.
Had I set my goal at sub-1:20, my mind would have said, “no f ing way.” Set goals that get you excited, but aren’t rooted in fantasy. I know I’ll never race fast enough to get a pro card, so it would be silly to set that as a goal. To aim for All-American in my age group is challenging, but realistic with dedicated training.
Choose goals that matter to you. You’re investing 10, maybe 15 hours a week into your sport(s). Set goals that you’re passionate about.
Don’t set a goal just because your riding partner set the goal. Even if you want to beat him in a race for the first time ever, don’t set “beat Jim” as your goal. Keep your goals focused on your own performance. Consider sailing past him in the second run of a duathlon an added benefit.
Similar to Specific, make sure your goals have a time frame. “I will do x by x date.” Setting a time-specific goal increases the likelihood you’ll achieve it. It also helps you stay on track along the way.
Races are naturally time-bound, which is why they’re popular entries on athletes’ goal lists.
According to U.S. News & World Report, only 20 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions stick with them past February. Be like these outliers and set SMART goals for your 2019 racing season.
What are your goals for 2019? Let us know in the comments below!
Stumped on what to get your favorite non-swimming endurance athlete? These tidings will bring him or her great joy.
This duathlete gift guide includes stocking-stuffers, splurges and gifts in between. Add to your personal Christmas list or give to your special run-bike-run someone. Got something you’d like to add? Let us know!
Full disclosure: author Steven Jonas, MD, is a guest contributor to Du It For You. He also wrote this definitive guide to duathlon. In it, he covers everything from the basics, such as what the sport involves, to training principles for duathlons of varying distances.
Gale Bernhardt wrote this multisport guide 11 years ago, but its principles remain relevant today. Her book provides training plans for triathlon, duathlon and Xterra, as well as tips for getting faster at each.
Zoot is a market leader in triathlon gear, so naturally they have a shoe made for triathlon, and by extension, duathlon. The Ultra TT has race-friendly features such as elastic laces and little loops to help you pull the shoes on and off. And the seriously bright color means you’ll easily find them when you come into T2. At 8-ish oz., these aren’t the shoe for a competitive athlete that races in super-light flats. But if they prefer long-course dus, or they don’t care about shaving an extra two ounces off their footwear, this could be a good choice.
Unless you live in Miami, it’s cold right now. These wool socks help keep feet warm(er) on the bike. They might still freeze; they just won’t freeze as much. Cute too!
Scratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix
Scratch is my favorite electrolyte drink. It’s made with all-natural ingredients, with the right balance of carbs, sugar and salt. It keeps me hydrated and keeps my GI system from rebelling on the second run.
linden & true coffee
Coffee is an athlete staple, as necessary as oxygen to some of us! Don’t let your favorite duathlete drink crappy coffee. Get them a bag of beans roasted by athletes/coffee freaks. Pro athletes Desi and Ryan Linden and Ben and Sarah True teamed up to form this low-key speciality coffee company. I’ve tried two of their roasts and they are heavenly. They even have four holiday packages. I’ll take The Rudolph please!
Roll out those kinks before or after a workout with the Stick. This handy, effective massage tool is a favorite among runners and cyclists. Bonus: unlike a foam roller or a massage therapist, you can fit it in your gym bag.
Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer
I told you I’d include a splurge! Here it is! The 2018 Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer is reportedly the Cadillac of indoor bike trainers. You can “climb” with it; connect it to your phone or GPS device; measure speed, distance, power and cadence; and connect it to Zwift and TrainerRoad. They say it’s whisper quiet. Is any trainer whisper quiet?
Lastly, give your runner, cyclist and/or duathlete friends a FREE gift that keeps on giving all year long—a subscription to this blog! Plug in their email address where it says “follow blog via email” and they’ll get notified every time there’s a new post.
Most endurance athletes finish their season by October or November, with no significant racing until next spring. What you do during those long winter months can make or break your next block of training.
Train hard all the way through and you risk going into 2019 injured, fatigued or overtrained. Sit on your rear all winter and you risk starting the next season overweight and void of all gains you made.
There is a happy medium! Here are a few suggestions to help you maintain your fitness during the off season and start your next training block stronger than ever.
Take a well-earned break.
Did you finish your year at the ITU Multisport National Championships in Miami in November? Or with the New York City Marathon? Celebrate your victory and take some well-earned time off.
Take a couple weeks off. Really off. Let your body and mind rest from the stresses of hard training and racing. Do some yoga if that’s your thing, get a massage, sit in the sauna and do small bits of activity other than running and cycling. Enjoy your newfound free time with your friends and significant other.
After your R&R time, spend a couple weeks doing light activity. Check with your coach on what’s appropriate for this phase.
Take care of the little things.
Did you tough out the end of the season with tight hamstrings, a painful heel or a fussy IT band? Now is the time to get it checked out. Visit a chiropractor, a physical therapist and/or an athlete-focused massage therapist to work out the kinks. Do those silly exercises the PT prescribes.
I’m doing this myself to address some issues with my running form. Over the past few months, a couple friends pointed out I run with a “limp” or a “hitch.” I haven’t been injured and wasn’t aware I was running lopsided. I’ve had two visits so far with an excellent PT—Ada Jauregui of B.I.O. Consultants—with positive results. I have exercises to improve hip stability, back flexibility and balance. I had no idea my balance was so crappy!
It’s my belief duathletes, triathletes and other endurance athletes don’t spend enough time in the gym. Hang out with the gym rats during the off season and build strength you can use come spring.
It’s common for endurance athletes to have a weak posterior chain. If that’s you, focus on that. Again, consult with a trainer or your coach to determine what’s best for you (because I am neither). Here are some very general tips if you haven’t picked up a weight in a while:
• Start with bodyweight exercises or lighter weights and higher reps
• Transition to heavier weights and lower reps.
• Focus on single leg exercises
• Think sport-specific
• Choose free weights over machines
• Don’t ignore your core. (You can do core exercises every day if you really want to.)
Mix it up.
If you’re a dedicated road rider, do some mountain biking in the off season. Off-road riding is a great way to improve your bike handing skills and, depending on where you live, get in some killer hill-climbing.
If I lived in a colder climate, I would take up cross-country skiing. It gives you a full body workout and gives you a ridiculous VO2 Max workout without impact. If you can find one, try a biathlon! So many people confuse duathlon with biathlon, might as well see what it’s all about.
photo courtesy of will_cyclist, Flickr
Don’t ignore speedwork.
After your R&R phase, and after a base phase (consult with your coach on how long this should be), get some speed back in your legs with short intervals. I follow Jack Daniels’s philosophy of starting with a phase of shorter reps and longer recoveries—200s and 400s on the track, for example.
Short reps help you build running economy. They also give you an opportunity to think about and improve running form. You can also do short reps on the bike—think 30-second to two-minute intervals.
Coaches have different philosophies of how to approach this transitional phase. Personally, I keep a little bit of intensity in my plan year-round. How much and what depends on many factors: the races on the calendar, my fatigue level, the weather, and my workouts from previous weeks.
Du some fun races.
A lot of competitive cyclists I know use the off season to do a century ride with their friends. Follow this lead and sign up for a trail race, a century ride (or metric century) or a mountain bike event. It’s a great way to enjoy your favorite sports without getting caught up in the competitive mindset.
What do you “du” in the off season? Share your tips in the comments below!
Are you a runner or cyclist interested in trying something new? Or have you recently started exercising regularly and want a challenge outside the gym?
Many budding athletes turn to triathlon as their first multisport event. But nearly as many say they either struggle with or just really don’t like to swim. More skip multisport altogether because they can’t fit in the time to swim, don’t have access to a pool and can’t afford all the extra gear.
There is a way to get your feet wet (figuratively speaking!) in multisport without sticking a toe in the water.
What is a duathlon?
Duathlon is a run-bike-run event, with distances ranging from 2-mile runs and 7-mile rides to longer events that incorporate 10K runs and 25-plus mile bike rides. It’s like triathlon without the swim. Racing Underground has a good primer on the sport. Check it out.
Don’t you have to ski?
No! That’s biathlon, a totally different event that involves XC skiing and shooting.
Why is duathlon good for beginners?
Let me count the ways!
You don’t have to swim.
I like the water. I like splashing around in it, floating in it, even kinda-sorta swimming in it. But I’m no good at swimming laps. To improve, I would have to spend money on lessons and spend regular time in the pool.
To compete in triathlon, I’d have to invest in a wetsuit (or rent one for each race), some good goggles and a swim cap. I’d have to spend a time each week fighting traffic to drive to a pool, swimming, and driving again. Who has that kind of time? I don’t. I’d rather spend my free time on sports I like—cycling and running.
Duathlon is more affordable and time-efficient. You can run or ride right from your front door. Or, if you don’t live in an area where it’s safe to exercise outside, you can do both at the gym.
It’s better for your health.
How many times have you heard about triathlons canceling the swim due to polluted water, hazardous bacteria, or strong currents? In other cases, athletes struggle with hypothermia, heart palpitations, or injuries from getting kicked by aggressive swimmers.
International events organized under ITU must adhere to water quality standards. You can read all about the risks and water quality standards here.
Locally, health departments aren’t required to post warnings about bacteria unless levels exceed EPA standards. And don’t forget to consider pollution caused by fracking, oil spills and human inconsiderateness.
Don’t put yourself at risk of some nasty illness or infection. Stay warm and run.
You can fit it into your life.
Like I mentioned earlier, if I had to factor swimming into my training schedule, it would cut into my job. My career is more important to me than flopping around in the pool, so I don’t waste my time on swimming.
Instead, I’m up by 4:30 a.m. to run, ride the bike or a little of both before work. For you, it may be easier to train after work, eat a healthy dinner and chill out a little before bed.
If it’s logistically not possible to get out on your road bike before or after work, put in some quality time on the spin bike at the gym. You’ll get aerobic benefits and generally work the same muscles as you would on a road bike. You can also invest in a bike trainer. These handy devices let you ride your road bike indoors.
You can find good, reasonably affordable trainers for a few hundred bucks. Search on Craigslist for even better deals. Because they take up space in the closet, and because so many people give up on using them, you’ll find a lot of used trainers for sale.
The races are less complicated.
For a triathlon, you’d have to pack up stuff for three sports the morning of the race, including a bike, a wetsuit and various shoes and clothes. In T1, you’ll have to manage slipping out of a sticky wetsuit and goggles, into bike shoes, helmet and whatever else you need. After the race, when you’re tired and stiff, you’ll have to gather up all the stuff, pack it back into your car and lug it into your house. To accomplish this, you might need a bike rack. Or a bigger car.
Why not keep it simple? With duathlon, you only need stuff for two sports. Because I have a smaller-frame bike (I’m 5’4″) I can fit my bike into the trunk of my Honda Civic. I fit everything else into a duffel bag and go. Admittedly, standalone running events are way easier to manage, but duathlon is also pretty low on the hassle factor.
If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one for $35 to $50/day or borrow one. In transition, all you really have to worry about are the shoes and the helmet.
This is all I have in transition. I’ve got my helmet balanced on the handlebars, running shoes on my feet and sunglasses on throughout.
You don’t need fancy stuff.
Look at the lead groups in any triathlon or duathlon and you’ll see them hunkered down on amazing machines. Those high-end time trial bikes can cost more than a new Honda Fit!
Don’t be intimidated by those pricey, beautiful machines. You can perform quite well on a regular road bike. If all you have is a hybrid or mountain bike, use it! The power in your legs and your lungs account for 95 percent of your speed on the bike. Some races even have categories for fat tires and old-school setups (regular bikes, no aerobars).
Duathletes are a friendly bunch. With a few exceptions (which you’ll find in any race), you’ll find a supportive community that wants you “du” well and come back.
You’ll also enjoy a low-key atmosphere. It’s way less intimidating to do your first du with a group of 80 than a field of 3,000. (And no one will kick you in the head!)
My first race was the “Du For Fun” duathlon in the middle of nowhere, northern California. There were 50 people maybe in the race.
My first duathlon in June 2012. That I finished first female made it fun too!
Not knowing any better, I went out like a rocket. Near the end of the second run, I was spent! But I had a great time!
I loved the challenge, the friendly atmosphere, and the opportunity to combine two sports I loved—running and cycling—into one mondo event. I competed in more duathlons after that, including local and regional races and national and world championships. I became part of a close-kit community that’s passionate about duathlon.
So. If you want to try something new remember my slogan. “Don’t just tri. Du.”
Du it for fun. Du it for you.
See you out there!
PS: Any questions about duathlon? Anything you’d like to add or share? Share it in the comments below!
You’ve recovered from your final “A-goal” triathlon or duathlon. You’re looking forward to a lengthy off-season where you can let go of “training” mode. You may even use your gym membership.
If you love to race, it won’t take long before the urge to compete returns. Instead of waiting until spring to shake off the cobwebs, incorporate a fall duathlon or two.
Because it is the off-season, take the pressure off yourself. Don’t focus on a PR or a certain place in your age group. Frame any off-season races as hard training days or as time to sharpen skills. Focus on improving your transition time. Improve your cornering and descending skills. Practice good running form. When the New Year hits (and it will be here before you know it!) you’ll be prepared for an even better 2019.
Fall is an ideal time for duathlon. It’s too cold to swim anyway, so why not run-bike-run? You may find, like I do, that you love the relative simplicity and challenge that duathlon brings.
Fall duathlons from coast to coast
You can find duathlons almost anywhere you can find triathlons. Some cold-weather states (Minnesota comes to mind) have even more robust duathlon scenes because, well, swimming is cold most of the year.
How do you find a fall duathlon? Search USA Triathlon‘s website for a list of sanctioned races. TriFind also has a good race calendar that lets you search by sport, state and date.
Here’s a sampling of good stuff I found:
• On the west coast, you’ve got the Catalina Island Duathlon and the Marin County Sprint or Olympic Du on November 3. Note: Prepare to shell out a whopping $155 for the Marin County sprint du or $250 for the Olympic distance. Ridiculous. On second thought, skip this.
For SF Bay Area folks, my first and only choice for an early 2019 race is Du 3 Bears on Jan. 26. Choose from a short or long course or a relay. It’s managed by Wolf Pack Events, veteran duathlete Wolf Hillesheim’s company, which hosts duathlons and runs throughout the year.
• Florida, which has lots of warm water, likes duathlon too. There’s the Bill Bone sprint du on Nov. 4, in Lake Worth, and the Half-Iron Duathlon in Miami—aka the USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship—Nov. 11. Clermont has a sprint duathlon series that runs through November.
• Louisiana: Check out the River Roux Duathlon in New Roads, Nov. 10. Or, the Dust-buster Duathlon on Jan. 6 in Shreveport.
• If you live near Navasota, Texas, check out the Dirt in Your Shoe Du on Dec. 8. It’s short, but it has a great name!
This is just a quick scan of races across the U.S. What are your favorite fall races? Tell us in the comments below!
This my third essay in a series on the mental aspects of multisport racing. For the first two, I talked about mental discipline being central to both training and racing: understanding why we are doing what we are doing, being rational about how we go about it in our training and our racing, and staying focused on what we are doing in both. That is, rationally staying within our limits, even as, over time, we may expand them.
I talked about the power of the mind on a day-to-day basis and over time. Understanding that power and using it effectively are both necessary to stay in control and to stay safe; to manage both our race training schedules and the races themselves.
And then we have the mental aspects of our relationships with others, in both training and racing.
How “du” you keep your relationship thriving while training for duathlon and/or triathlon? Share your advice below!
Duathlon involves give and take
Multisport racing is, as anyone who does it knows, time-demanding. We have to train regularly in two or three sports. While I do two workouts a day only on days when I do my weekly swim (yes, you read that right: I only do sprint tris now. One swim workout a week suffices), and my training program—still the one that I wrote for “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals”—averages just five hours a week, some of us do double workouts 2-3 days a week.
Travel to races usually takes a minimum of four days over race weekend. Out-of-town races also require significant expenditures. Depending upon how many you do, and their cost, you might not be able to take straight vacations.
All of these considerations have an impact—sometimes major—on relationships. Those of us who have been in the sport for some time know how physically and mentally rewarding multisport is. But we also have to be aware of what we give up.
Many years ago, I gave up an otherwise lovely relationship because my partner became totally jealous of my racing and training. She essentially wanted me to cut way down on both my training and my racing. I simply was not ready to do that. Further, I could not convince her that doing what I was doing actually contributed to our relationship because of it made me feel better about myself and it made me healthier, which made me a better person for our relationship. And so, it came to an end.
On the other hand, there is give and take on these matters. Looking back, I sometimes wonder if there were other reasons why I wanted to leave that particular relationship and used triathlon and duathlon as an excuse to end it. Of course, no one will never know.
Find balance in training, racing and relationship
A true partnership: Kieran Modra with his cycling pilot and wife, Kerry Modra, during the 1 km Time Trial at the 2000 Summer Paralympics. Photo by Australian Paralympic Committee
What I do know is that if one wants to participate in triathlon/duathlon and be in a relationship at the same time, whether a marriage or another, one does have to find balance in one’s training and racing. Fortunately, I was eventually able to do that. That is a major reason why I am now looking forward to beginning my 36th season in the sport.
I have been married to my current wife for seven years and we have been together for 19 years (half my total time in the sport). I do fewer and shorter races that I used to, which means that I need to train less than I used to (although part of both those factors is age-related). When it made sense to, especially on foreign travel races, she went with me.
But she has also made some give-ups, in terms of my training and racing time, because she knows how important both are to me, both physically and psychologically. As I have said before, perfectionism is the enemy of the possible. On the other hand, if you stay focused, balanced and prepared to make some give-ups along the way, you can find happiness in both your training and racing and your relationships.
2018 marks Dr. Steve Jonas’ 36thseason of multisport racing. He began the season with a total of 255 dus and tris. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90’s for duathlon. He has raced up to the Ironman distance, but now at 81, he is sticking to the sprints in both duathlon and triathlon.
Steve is a prolific author of books on multi-sport racing. His first (originally published in 1986) was The 2nd Ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) is still in print. In 2012, he published a book exclusively devoted to duathlon: Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It(Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012). All of his books on multi-sport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. He is also long-time writer for various multisport periodicals, including the USA Triathlon Blog. He very happily joined Du It For You in 2016.
The first aspect of mind work is knowing your body. For example, knowing that the pain you feel is from muscle use, not an injury, and knowing that when you finish, or perhaps even when you go on to the next race segment, in a few minutes it will go away. Knowing your body is being able to act on that knowledge and keep going.
Several times in long and ultra-distance events I have experienced a great deal of knee pain on the bike. I could deal with it because I was pretty sure it was just from exertion. I was almost certain it would go away on the run, when I would be using different muscles. And indeed, it did. So it was okay.
In that type of situation, the pain doesn’t worry you. It doesn’t cause apprehension of a future negative event. It just hurts, that’s all. You go with it, and put up with the pain, because you know what finishing means and you have the mental power to do that.
Keep your wits about you
Second, success in triathlon and duathlon depends upon your ability to keep your wits about youduring both training and racing. To stay alert, and out of harm’s way around traffic, natural hazards, and other racers, even when you’re tired, you need to be able to think clearly.
You also need to remember to drink and eat at the required frequencies. In hot weather, drinking fluids on a regular basis before you get thirsty is, of course, vital. (It is often said that if you wait until you get thirsty, it’s too late.) It requires mental discipline to notpass a water stop when you’re feeling good, and not thirsty, and to remember to drink water anyway.
Monitor your pace
You also need to use your mind to hold yourself back from going too fast at the beginning of a race segment. Or, to power all the way through the bike leg because you are a good cyclist, you feel good that day, and you get caught up in some person-on-person competition.
How many times have you heard someone say: “If only I held back a bit on the bike. I had nothing left for the run.” You need mental discipline to control that urge.
Keep putting in the work
The power of the mind in multisport is nowhere more evident than it is in training. Day after day, week after week. Sticking to that schedule. Knowing what you need to do to achieve the results you want. Being able to go out when you’re very sleepy, as well as when you feel full of vim and vigor. Being able to go to the pool at the end of a hard day to put in the yards or the minutes you need for the swim.
As I have said many times since I first started writing about triathlon back in the 1980s: “The hard part of regular exercise is the regular, not the exercise.”
The power of the mind is also evident in the mental discipline you need to not overtrain. Knowing when enough is enough to achieve the results you want. Being aware that overdoing it can be more harmful than underdoing it in terms of potential long-term damage to your body and your racing career.
Even when training is going well, and so is your racing season, you need mental discipline to say to yourself, as you should from time to time, “let’s take it easy this week. I know that my conditioning won’t disappear overnight, and my muscles sure could use some rest.”
Know when to keep fighting and when to stop
In races, the power of the mind comes in knowing when to take a DNF if you have to. Being able to recognize that it’s just too hot, or that you don’t have enough time left in the race to make the time limit. (I have experienced these more than once in my 35 years in the sport.) Just in terms of your health, you must be able to stop before you get heatstroke, hypothermia, or a serious musculoskeletal injury.
Remember, in the scorecard of life, no one was ever declared a failure for not finishing a particular race on a particular day. There’s always another race.
[How do you get it done? Share your mental training tips in the comments below!]
* This column, as recently published (see below) is based in part on an article I wrote in 1992 for my then-regular column, “Triathlon for Everyman,” that appeared in the June issue of Triathlon Today! It was entitled “Some Mental Aspects of Triathloning.”
2018 marks Dr. Steve Jonas’ 36thseason of multisport racing. He began the season with a total of 255 dus and tris. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90’s for duathlon. He has raced up to the Ironman distance, but now at 81, he is sticking to the sprints in both duathlon and triathlon.
Steve is a prolific author of books on multi-sport racing. His first (originally published in 1986) wasTriathloning for Ordinary Mortals®. The 2nd Ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) is still in print. In 2012, he published a book exclusively devoted to duathlon:Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It(Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012). All of his books on multi-sport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. He is also long-time writer for various multisport periodicals, including the USA Triathlon Blog. He very happily joined Du It For You in 2016.
Nothing brings more lead-legged discomfort in duathlon than the dreaded second run.
After five years of duathlon racing, that bike-run transition hasn’t felt any easier. I’ve had second runs where I’ve almost threw up my drink, runs reduced to a relative shuffle and runs where—oh happy day—I ran well and passed several competitors.
To run well off the bike you have to practice running off the bike. Incorporate at least one bike-run brick a week into your training. When you’re just starting out, don’t worry about pace. Just run.
It’s safe to say Froome didn’t practice his off-the-bike run before stage 12 of Tour de France, 2016.
As you progress, add intensity to your brick. Try a one-hour bike with the last 10 minutes at race pace, followed by a short run with the first five minutes at race pace.
Jason Digman, former head of Dig It Triathlon and Multisport Coaching, recommends what I call the “multi-brick.” After a warmup, perform three sets of one-mile run, 10-minute bike, with no recovery in between. Keep your first multi-brick at race pace plus 15 to 20 seconds. Over the course of four weeks, progress up to race pace.
Play with the distance of your run and bike intervals depending on your goal race’s length. Bonus: you get lots of transition practice!
Du second-run strides
Albert Harrison, a USA Track & Field Level 2 Coachand a USA Triathlon national champion in both the standard and long-course duathlon, recommends a set of short intervals right off the bike. Running fast right away helps your body overcome that jelly-leg feeling and—surprise surprise!—run fast off the bike.
Harrison suggests 20-second strides or 400-meter repeats faster than goal race pace. “Be careful though,” he wrote me via Twitter, “you’re more susceptible to injury while running on tired legs.”
Jesse Bauer, an elite duathlete based in Edmonton, Canada, agrees. Why? Because short, fast efforts promote a high leg cadence off the bike.
Bauer’s favorite second-run speed workouts are 200-meter repeats at faster than goal race pace, or 5x 30-seconds, followed by a 30-second walk/jog recovery, straight into a 1-2K race pace effort.
“Paid off big on the steep hill out of T2 on Friday,” he told me via Twitter, referring to the recent ITU World Multisport Championships in Fyn, Denmark, where he competed in the elite men’s standard duathlon.
If it’s early in your season or you haven’t done much stride work, build intensity gradually to avoid injury. Start with a couple sets of 30-second strides, with a full recovery jog in between.
Focus on form.
Top age-group competitor and multisport coach Suzanne Cordes keeps her focus on good form during the second run—that time when you see many runners hunched over, shuffling along or walking.
During your interval or faster running workouts, focus on how you hinge your hips, how you run tall, how you maintain good form. Think about that powerful stride when you bolt out of T2, she says.
Imagine your competitor has a magnet on her back. Let it pull you toward her. If there’s no one in eyesight, put the magnet on a tree or the top of a hill.
Don’t start out too fast.
Repeat: don’t start out too fast. When you’re well-rested and well-trained, it’s so easy to fly through the first run as if it’s a standalone race. Don’t. You’ll pay for it in the second run, if not on the bike.
The goal is to hit even splits—or as close to even as possible—on your first and second run. I accomplished my best races when I ran the second run pretty darn close to my first.
Endurance coach Eric Schwartz suggests the following: if your race involves two 5Ks, plan to run them about 30 to 60 seconds slower than your standalone 5K time. The faster your race pace, the less time you should add.
Digman suggests something similar. Add the distance of your run legs together and pace according to a run distance one step longer. For example, if your duathlon involves 10K of running, race according to your 10-mile race pace.
Your competitors may run away from you in the first run, but with smart pacing and training, you’ll pass them back in the end. Remember, Digman writes, “they don’t give away the medals for the first athlete into T1.”
What are your second run training tips? Let us know in the comments below!