Du It For You

Duathlon training and racing: stories, advice, and views from the top

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Exclusive: Q&A with USA Triathlon Duathlon Committee

Duathlon is the second-most populous sport governed by USA Triathlon (USAT). Yet, we represent less than 10% of its membership. Of USAT’s nearly 500,000 members, somewhere between 21,000 and 36,00 compete in duathlon.

In 2000, the USAT Board of Directors realized our small-but-passionate group of run-bike-run athletes warranted a Duathlon committee. For nearly 20 years, a revolving group of committed volunteers has worked hard on our behalf to support and grow the sport.

Duathlon Committee Cochair Dave Lasorsa agreed to answer a few questions about the Duathlon Committee, how it functions and its plans for 2019 and beyond. Lasorsa addresses many of the concerns I’ve heard in Duathlon Town Halls, on social media and in “real life” conversations. It’s worth the read.

I welcome your comments below. If you have questions, please also respond in the comments section. I’ll “du” my best to get them answered.

DuItForYou: The USAT site mentions the duathlon committee refined its mission in 2008. What is that mission?
DL: Starting in 2008, the Duathlon Committee began the creation of a Duathlon Master Plan. The mission of the Duathlon Committee is best described by the opening paragraph of the plan:

“The USA Triathlon Duathlon Committee was formed in an effort to grow the sport of Duathlon throughout the United States. Led by Committee Chair Tonya Armstrong (now co-chaired with Dave Lasorsa) and assisted by USAT staff liaison Tim Yount, the Committee works to implement best practices for the sport, innovates new and creative ideas to reach a wider audience, and is a voice for Duathletes nationwide.”

The plan is constantly being revised and in fact we are currently in the process of modifying the Mission Statement. One key point is that the Committee provides recommendations to USAT but is not involved in its decision-making.

How are committee chairs and committee members selected?
We currently have 14 members of the Committee, plus Tim Yount, acting as our liaison with USAT and Keri Serota, serving as the USAT National Board liaison. Members are chosen by invite from current members and from those who have approached USAT, asking to volunteer.

All members go through a series of interview questions, with USAT having the final decision on acceptance. Since the Committee serves as a voice for athletes nationwide, we strive to have representation from every USAT Region. Tonya Armstrong and Dave Lasorsa are the current Co-Chairs, although tasks are usually divided up into Sub Committees, each with their own lead.

How often does the committee meet?
We teleconference at least once per quarter with the entire Committee, although some of the more challenging tasks (such as choosing Duathletes of the Year) require weekly, sometimes daily conversations within the Subcommittees. Emailing and calls between members are done as the need arises, although rarely a week goes by without some topic being discussed.

Our most important event is the annual meeting held at Nationals, usually the day before racing. Here we set the priorities for the year and finalize topics for the Town Hall Meeting, held the last day of racing. Finally, quarterly reporting is done to keep all members and the USAT informed on the progress of our Action Items (see below).

What do you talk about?
The Committee responds to requests by USAT, as well as athletes, so the topics can vary. In the past we have worked on the Duathlon Series, distribution of duathlon grants, a sounding board for National Championship site selection and the recommendations for Duathletes of the Year (DOY). The DOY selection is particularly long, tedious work and the subcommittee responsible for this spent days (and many nights) combing through hundreds of well qualified athletes to narrow down the list to what we felt were the best of each category.

In the past we have set priorities for the Committee to strive for in the coming year. This year we formalized the process with the identification of Action Items—those areas where we felt we could best put our resources into helping grow the sport. These items currently are the backbone of our discussions.

What is the committee’s plan to grow the sport?
At the end of 2017 we identified the following goals or “Action Items” to pursue for 2018 and 2019:

  • Du50. Based on the success of the Tri60 program, we are engaged with USAT on expanding the number of venues to offer a Du50 program. We hope this will work well for those fitness centers and Ys that may not have access to a pool, but that can host an indoor Du50 (30-minute bike/20 minute run). We have a goal of 8-10 events in 2019 (although the organizational goal is five events).
  • Social Media. We are creating a Facebook page specifically for Duathlon, “All things Duathlon” and hope to launch it in the coming months. We intend this to be a place where athletes can discuss such topics as upcoming races, training tips, nutrition, and engage in constructive conversation on the status of the sport.
  • Duathlon E-Flyer. This will be an online advertisement for Race Directors. We hope it will be something that duathlon race directors can place on their sites and even consider placing in packets if budgets support it.
  • Kid’s Events at Nationals. In the past we have encouraged Race Directors to add more youth and novice races into their events, as well a relay division, to drive interest by creating a more family-friendly atmosphere and hopefully attract more athletes into the sport. We are setting an example by adding a youth fun run to Nationals at Greenville, to be held Friday April 11th.
  • Great Grandmaster Category for Duathlete of the Year. The number of older athletes in this sport is increasing. For 2018 and beyond, we are recognizing this this by adding a category in the DOY award for females 65+ and males 70+.

The Subcommittee Leads for each of these Action Items submit quarterly reporting on the status of progress. In 2019 we will evaluate these and decide what new Action Items to undertake.

Duathlon is the second-largest sport under USAT’s umbrella. How has participation changed over the past few years? I’m encouraged that the nationals in Greenville, SC this year had record participation. But I’ve also heard reports of a gradual, slow decline.
Duathlon saw tremendous growth in the late 80s and early 90s with the Coors Light Series and up to 2004 with the Dannon Duathlon Series. These races attracted thousands of athletes.

Yes, the sport did show decline in numbers after those years, with the rise of other endurance and multisport events. In 2008, USA Triathlon sanctioned 400 duathlons in 48 states. In the years that followed, USAT sanctioned 441 events in 2009 and 475 events in 2010. Since 2011 the number of events sanctioned by USAT held steady between 610 and 660 events, although 2017 did see an anomaly with only 541 events.

Since 2012, the number of athletes competing in duathlon has fluctuated between 21,000 and 36,000 per year. Nearly a decade ago, the 2009 and 2010 Nationals in Richmond had 1700 and 1805 athletes while last year’s Nationals had great attendance with 990 athletes. Finally, the Team USA at World Championships is typically one of the largest of all countries. We are encouraged by this participation and hope, with well-planned and ideally-located races, we can attract those kind of numbers in the future.

What are the Duathlon Committee’s short and long term goals?
The overall long-term goal remains to grow the sport. To meet this, the Master Plan identifies the following:

  • Support more duathlon events nationwide by encouraging Race Directors to piggyback with existing events.
  • Increase the number of athletes that participate in duathlon through strategic positioning of the sport at running and cycling events (expos, registration booth, packet pickup, etc.).
  • Create new education platforms to train existing race directors and triathletes on the sport of duathlon.
  • Promote the sport of duathlon to single sport specialists (Triathletes, Cyclists, Runners).
  • Create alliances and fruitful collaborations with community organizations (i.e. local sporting organizations, health centers, recreation facilities, YMCA, therapy groups, hospitals).
  • Look at different race formats to keep the sport fresh (i.e. Formula-1).
  • Create high-end deliverables for USAT development staff to secure corporate partnerships/sponsorships.
  • Look at Collegiate Duathlon options as extensions for growing the sport.
  • Create duathlon high school clubs similar to existing High School triathlon programs (of which 130 exist).
  • Encourage Team in Training (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) models that exist for running/cycling and related disciplines as arms of recruitment.

There’s a “chicken and the egg” issue in duathlon. People interested in getting into duathlon have a hard time doing so because there are very few races compared to triathlon. Race directors don’t put on duathlons—and don’t often include them as a choice in triathlon events—because of low participation. How do we stop spinning in circles here?
While triathlons are still the dominant multisport race, we are seeing more Race Directors hold “Festival Events” where a variety of multiport options are offered, such as Aquathons, Aquabikes, Novice, as well as sprint, standard and long distance triathlons and duathlons.

Individually, Committee members have reached out to Race Directors in their regions, encouraging them to add more duathlons to their triathlon events. I think you will see more of these combination events, since the cost is relatively small to add a duathlon to a triathlon.

One of the positions that we take with Race Directors is that the time to do a 1.5km swim is nearly equal to a 5km run. Essentially that means you can do both at nearly the same time if you want to reduce the footprint and save time…so that athletes then enter the same bike and run courses with more ease. Many have done this successfully. We just need to do a better job of explaining how those that do this, having done so with great success.

Finally, the addition of the draft-legal sprint category to Nationals and World’s opens up duathlons to a new type of racing, attracting a wider audience.

What is being done to encourage more elites to compete in duathlon?
The Duathlon Committee has not historically spent much time on elite athlete recruitment although doing so would present some challenges for us because the ROI is probably too small. We are charged with the task of growing the sport and leveraging the contacts and resources that we have.

With that said, if we were to help USAT in this capacity, our focus would be on the creation of a recruitment and talent identification plan similar to USAT’s current Collegiate Recruitment Program that Barb Lindquist has successfully created and developed. You should note that the Powerman Series will return to the U.S. in 2019, with several races on the calendar, and a healthy purse. Powerman Zofingen still remains the premier long-course World Championships. In 2018, the U.S.’s Albert Harrison placed 6thin the elites for this race.

Why doesn’t USAT promote duathlon in its marketing efforts? Can something be done to change that? For example, I see consistent social media posts mentioning triathlon and triathlon only. I see many articles on the USAT site related to triathlon training. Duathlon? Rarely. If they have an interest in growing duathlon, wouldn’t it make sense to give it some attention? Ditto to poor Aquabike and Aquathon.
There is a very delicate balance with USAT between what drives their bottom line and ways that duathlon can help create supplemental/incremental revenue for USAT. We won’t change the model, which supports what 95% of USAT constituents support, but we can certainly create some very positive and forward-thinking additions to what they are doing to drive more business.

As noted previously, the Committee recognizes this as a major issue and is trying to expand the sport’s exposure by creating a Duathlon-specific Facebook page. In the past we have created USAT flyers focusing on Nationals, and provided these in RD goodie bags. This year we have created a Duathlon “E-Flyer”, which can be used for any RD employing an online goodie bag, and/or use with advertisements.

We are also going to be having discussions this next year with USAT on how they can create additional soft goods with duathlon as the leading brand, produce additional giveaway items for members like stickers, and support duathlons with soft good purchase options through USAT partners (signage for example).

Part of the issue is finding people who can contribute good duathlon-specific articles to USAT Magazine, Triathlete [Ahem: Here’s an oldie but goodie from yours truly. — Ed.] and local race publications. Maybe this is a good “Action Item” the Committee can take up in 2019?

“I feel the strongest asset we have is the dedicated athletes who show up to their local races, support their Race Directors, and encourage them to continue.” — Dave Lasorsa

What can we, as duathletes, do to help keep the sport strong?
I feel the strongest asset we have is the dedicated athletes who show up to their local races, support their Race Directors, and encourage them to continue. Reach out to your local fitness center, parks and recreation department, hospital, YMCA, Chamber of Commerce, high school, etc. about hosting a duathlon. Many of these local organizations are looking for events to dovetail in with a community event (i.e.,  4th of July and Memorial Day celebrations), and want to attract people to stay for a weekend, adding to hotels and local retailers.

Additionally, if every duathlete promised to bring one new athlete to an event in 2019, that would double the duathlon population in one year. Imagine how fast that would grow the sport.

One area of additional focus might be to build on those duathlon markets that are currently drawing well for us. If we did that with a laser focus, these markets could essentially drive the sport for us, and would support our initiatives of strategically growing the sport both in athlete participation and event numbers.

Imagine what the Race Director response would be for those races where participation increases double digits? It would be hard to NOT move on the idea of a duathlon as part of the growth continuum. Key will be for this slow build to gain momentum, which we know is not always seen as a viable option for Race Directors who are trying to build their businesses.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Duathlon remains an active, popular sport. Whether it’s a triathlete seeking early and late-season racing, a novice trying to break into multisport, or a serious competitor competing at Nationals and Worlds, the sport is available anyplace with a road (no water needed) and in many areas of the country, year-round.

Duathlon is a great multisport for people who are not as competitive swimming or just don’t like to swim. The Duathlon Committee is an all-volunteer organization that feels it can contribute to keeping this sport strong. Most importantly we have the full support of the USAT National office staff. They allow us to integrate our desires with their day-to-day operations.

Thank you for the opportunity to answer some of these questions and I hope to see you at the next race!

Dave Lasorsa
Co-Chair, Duathlon Committee

…USAT Chief Operating Officer Tim Yount contributed to this report.

The Only Duathlon Holiday Gift Guide You’ll Need

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!

Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals (R): Getting Started And Staying With It

duathlon training ordinary mortals

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.

Training Plans for Multisport Athletes: Your Essential Guide to Triathlon, Duathlon, Xterra, Ironman & Endurance Racing

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 Men’s Ultra TT 7.0 Running Shoe,Safety Yellow/Green Flash/Black,10.5 M US

zoot ultra

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.

DEFEET Woolie Boolie Baaad Sheep Socks, Charcoal/Neon Pink, Medium

Woolie Boolie Bad Sheep Charcoal/Pink

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!

The Stick Marathon Stick

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

wahoo kickr

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.

Happy December!

 

6 things you should “du” in the off season

winter cycling

photo courtesy of Edmund White

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!

Get stronger.

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.

cross country skiing

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!

Why Duathlon is the perfect multisport for beginners (and anyone else)

SF Double

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.

Duathlon.

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.

duathlon transition

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).

Smaller fields.

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.

Du for Fun

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!

Why you should “du” a duathlon this fall

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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!

 

Powerman Zofingen: Race reports and updates

What’s considered the toughest and most prestigious duathlon, the ITU Long Distance World Duathlon Championships, Powerman Zofingen, took over that lovely Swiss city the first weekend of September.

On Twitter, I promised I’d compile race reports for an upcoming blog. To date, there aren’t many full reports, but I did find some good nuggets of info about this epic event.

From ITU

First, here is the official report from ITU. Switzerland and France took the wins, with Petra Eggenschwiler (SUI) claiming the women’s title and French athlete Gaël Le Bellec winning the men’s race for the third time.

Powerman Zofingen winners

Check out the full report for photos and a list of top finishers.

One thing I noticed when perusing the results (particularly in my age group): the times appear to be faster this year than last. Is the new bike course faster than the old? If anyone has insights, please share!

Here’s the profile of the 2018 bike loop, which athletes complete three times:

2018 Powerman Zofingen bike course

A view from the top

In his inaugural Zofingen race, dominant U.S. athlete Albert Harrison finished sixth in the elite men’s race with a blazing-fast 6:25:52.

He published one of the few race reports I could find, and it’s a thorough one. He starts with the training, shares his goals and continues with his thoughts on the race and USA Triathlon’s lack of support for its duathletes.

He was on TV too. A lot.

Albert Harrison 2018 Powerman Zofingen

Most inspirational athlete

One of the most inspiring tidbits I found came from the Twittersphere. Blind athlete Fernando Raino didn’t just finish Powerman Zofingen. He finished strong.

For random info about Powerman Zofingen, including its history and a general course description, check out my post from September 1.

Got anything to add re: the 2018 Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships? Please share in the comments below! We’d love to hear your story.

Guest Post: On Relationships and Multisport Racing

couple jogging

By Steven Jonas MD, MPH

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

Kieran Modra

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.

** A version of this column originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog, Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 51, 2018/03), March 1, 2018, and is used with permission.

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.

Powerman Zofingen: what to know about the longest ITU duathlon

powerman zofingen

Photo by Ozzymate [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Michael McCormack, a former professional Ironman champion who won Ironman Canada in 1991 and 1995 and broke the course record, once told me Powerman Zofingen was the hardest race he had ever done.

Considering McCormack trained with and raced against some of the best in the world in both triathlon and duathlon, that’s a statement not taken lightly. His words echo the sentiments of most athletes that complete this grueling race. It doesn’t seem so bad on paper, but executing is a different story.

What is Powerman Zofingen?

Thanks for asking! Launched in 1989, Powerman Zofingen is the longest championship duathlon. It’s also the most prestigious, as many call it the “Kona of Duathlon.” It’s one of the few duathlons that attract spectators. I’d say it’s one of the most competitive, and it is, but everyone from front to back suffers in equal measures. It’s the ITU Long Distance World Duathlon Championships as well as the International Powerman Association duathlon final.

The event consists of a 10K run-150K bike-30K run. Much of the runs traverse up and down through forests, while the bike goes up and up and up (and down) through hills, valleys and villages.

Here’s what I know about the course, until they changed it for 2018:
The first 10K starts with a steep 1.5K climb (about 8% grade) and continues up and down gravel trails. You do one 5K loop twice.

The bike consisted (until this year) of three 50K loops. Each loop has/had three solid climbs ranging from 5 to 3K-ish, which grades up to 10 to 15% on the Bodenburg ascent, as well as sweeping descents and a flat stretch. After 93 miles of riding, you get to “du” a 30K run.

For the final run, once out of transition you head(ed) up a long climb and then run up or down to complete three or four loops, depending on the year (the course has been tinkered with through the years).

Powerman Zofingen: a few historical tidbits

• In 1989, its inaugural year, the event was still called a biathlon. Yet, it was a three-legged sport: a 1.5K run, 150K bike, 30K run. In 1990, banana-hammock-wearing American Kenny Sousa won the men’s race.

Kenny Souza

Kenny Souza in 1993. Hope he wore more clothes in Switzerland. It can get chilly in September!

• In 1993, the prize money in Zofingen totaled $200,000—more than Ironman Hawaii.

• In 2000, attendance started to fall in Zofingen and at other duathlons worldwide. Why? Triathlon became an Olympic sport, which means the major players started swimming, biking and running for what became the more lucrative sport. [Biting my tongue here]

• On the 25thanniversary, in 2014, combined Powerman Zofingen events attracted 1,480 participants. (That includes PowerKids, charity and long and short distances)

• In 2018, nearly 700 athletes will line up for this incredible race (that’s not including PowerKids and charity, only long and short). About 383 athletes will do the full long-course event, according to today’s start list.

Powerman Zofingen today

Due to what were essentially permitting issues, Powerman Zofingen changed the bike and second run course. (Honestly I can’t remember if they altered the first run.)

The 2018 bike course is still 150K, but traverses through different villages and takes athletes over one of the hills in a different direction. It still has a comparable overall elevation profile—from a little over 1800 meters of climbing to a little under1800, depending on who you talk to.

The new course also features about 300 meters of cobblestone. The race directors promote this as a perk (oh yay! Like riding Paris Roubaix!). I see it as a potential tire-puncture risk. The descents are either technical or sweeping, depending on who you ask.

 

Best of luck to all the Powerman and ITU competitors. By the time this posts, I hope you are all sleeping soundly and wake up early in the morning feeling fantastic and ready for the path ahead. I’m cheering for you all!

CODA: Powerman Zofingen will be missing a bright light this year: professional triathlete/duathlete Alistair Eeckman. He died when a bus collided with him while he was on a training ride in Austria. He had just finished sixth in Powerman Austria and was gearing up for Zofingen. He is deeply missed.

Guest post: The Mental Aspects of Multisport Racing, Part 2

winner medal

By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

In Part 2 of this column, we deal with some further dimensions of the mental aspects of multisport racing. (Read Part 1 here.)

To get the most value out of mind work for multisport racing you have to know why you’re in the sport, which I discussed in a previous column.

Know your pain

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.”

Avoid overtraining

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.”

** A version of this column originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog, Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series,(No. 49, 2018/01), March 1, 2018, and is used with permission.

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 Triathloning 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.

Duathlon: How to ace the second run

Duathlon second run

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.

With proper training, pacing and fueling, you can improve your run off the bike and cruise to a successful finish.

Master the brick

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.

Froome run off bike

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.

magnet

When you settle into your second-run pace, use the magnet trick suggested by sports psychologist and Your Performing Edge author Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter:

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!

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