Du It For You

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

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Throwback Saturday: ITU Duathlon World Championships, Pontevedra, 2014

In honor of the ITU Multisport World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain, this weekend, I thought I’d post my race report from the ITU Duathlon World Championships in 2014 – also in Pontevedra. I’ll always remember the smell of cigarette smoke and grilled meat as we ran through the cobbled streets of that lovely city. I spent an extra four days in Galicia and loved every minute. I kept a travel journal, and this post is one entry of several. Note: when I talk about my travel/camping kitchen, I’m referring to the single burner I brought so I could make coffee and hot cereal in my hotel room. I’m strictly gluten-free (gluten sensitivity, Celiac gene and all, and didn’t want to risk GI Hell around a big race.) Best of luck to everyone competing today and this weekend–run-bike-run swift!

Pontevedra 2014 ITU Duathlon World Championship

Galicia, Day Four: Race Day.

I woke up with a jolt at 7:55 a.m. I’m so used to racing at 8, that waking up at 8 feels like I’m oversleeping and late for something. I quickly fired up my electric burner to boil water for coffee and start eating.

I ate what felt like my usual size dinner last night, but was hungry when I went to bed and hungry in the morning. Partly due to nerves and partly because I had four hours until race time, I ate a little more than usual, but not too much.

Thanks to my hotel camping configuration, I learned that canned organic sweet potatoes, pureed, no extra sugar, makes a good pre-race meal option. I ate part of the can last night with my dinner and took the rest with me to race headquarters so that I could have a snack in a couple of hours.

Surprisingly, I easily found parking on the opposite side of the river, about a ten-minute walk from the Sport Performance Center. The infield of a track served as the transition area and the run course took us along one of the straights for each loop.

It was about 9:30 by the time I got to the race site and the sprint race (5k-20k-2.5k) was well underway. I found the bag-drop building (amazingly efficient) and the entrance to the transition area, which I was not allowed to enter until 11 a.m.

I had some time to kill. Most of those 90 minutes were spent chatting with a few familiar faces: woman from the Santa Barbara area, last name Ray, who was on my flight into Vigo; a man from Oregon that stood in front of me in line at the bike check-in; other random USA people.

They opened up transition a few minutes before 11 a.m. and a throng of athletes made their way to set up their spots. The race organizers gave us buckets that looked like small laundry baskets for our stuff. All items had to stay in the bucket.

Turns out my NorCal ally, Cassie, was my transition neighbor, which was a nice surprise. Both jittery, we warmed up together along part of the run course, following the rear ends of a pack of men from France.

ITU Duathlon World Championship 2014

From L to R: Cassie, Martha (from Cleveland) and me

At about noon, all the standard-distance athletes assembled for the cattle call. There were six waves: three male, three female, from youngest to oldest. We were in the last wave, women 40-plus, which started (we thought) at 12:24, but actually started at 12:30. Those 30 minutes in the holding area had to be the most nerve-wracking. With each sound of the horn the nervous stomach lurched one more time.

We’re Off!

With lots of “good luck,” “have fun,” “kick butt,” and other well wishes, we were off! Around the curve of the track, running clockwise, out the main gate, a hard right, over the timing matt, another hard right, a sharp U-Turn and almost immediately up the first and only real substantial hill.

As expected, our group took off like a rocket. The women I planned to keep in contact with drifted ahead. For past two to three weeks, my running has been minimal thanks to a fussy posterior tibialis tendon. My usual 10k pace felt much harder than it should after a restful taper week.

The first 2.5k loop felt long, and we had to do this four times! Wandering through narrow city streets—cobblestone, asphalt and cement—smells of seafood and cigarette smoke wafting through the air, past an ancient church and any number of bars and restaurants, I eventually found a good rhythm. It seemed as though women were passing me left and right. We also had men from other waves passing us left and right. The 10k alone felt like enough. But there was oh so much more to go!

Transition went as smoothly as it could for someone who is not very fluid in such things. A long run in grass to the bike mount area just outside of the track and away we go!

Immediately I heard an incessant click-click-click with every wheel revolution. Oh crap, what now? My bike computer sensor was hitting a spoke. An attempt to lean over while riding to adjust proved difficult and dangerous. After a few miles, it annoyed me enough so that I leaned over and gave it a good swat and it slid to some spot I couldn’t see. I wouldn’t know how fast I was going, but I wouldn’t hear the click-click. [Editor’s note: this was a couple years before I invested in PowerTap pedals!]

The bike course was glorious. For those familiar with the East Bay, imagine 40k of Bear Creek Road: enough uphill on the way out to allow me to pass a lot of women, and long descents on the way back that were steep enough to go fast, but not so fast that my bike blew around in the wind.

The second loop was more of the same. On the 1.5-mile climb near the beginning of the loop, a group of women were bunched up. I was working my way up to pass them when a race official rode by and decided to hover around for a while. I knew he was watching for drafting. I was passing as fast as I could on a hill – geez! The presence of the race official apparently lit a fire in my rear because I found another gear and left the bunched up group behind.

A hard left turn took us onto a road parallel to the river that was lined with spectators. Cool. The dismount happened and off I went to hang up the bike and run some more.

The second run is always the killer and can make or break a race. Sometimes it feels bearable, sometimes it feels like your legs will fall off. Today it seemed bearable, but by no means easy.

I reminded myself that this is only a 5k. Only two loops this time. Piece of cake. Just stay strong and don’t be a wimp. At the first water stop (they handed out little plastic bottles with the lids still on), I dumped more water on my head and down my back and got to it. My pace was decent, I think, and I passed a fair amount of people, both women and men from earlier waves.

The crowd support was phenomenal. For both runs, the streets of Pontevedra were lined with people, including friends of athletes, sprint racers and a lot of locals.

Along the course, I heard “Go Johnson!,” “Go USA!” and “Go Chica!” Near the end of the last run I also heard “Animal!” from a man with a Spanish accent. For some reason, this odd cheer gave me a boost! I focused more closely on catching the person ahead of me, and then the next one, and the next one. I couldn’t wait to get on the track for the final 200 meters. I know what I’m supposed to do on the track: run HARD!

The end result: 2:34:41 good for 12thin my age group (out of 29) and second American in my age group.

I’m happy with my result. Could I have run a faster 10k if I hadn’t had to back off for a minor injury? Maybe. But would my bike split have been as fast if I hadn’t gotten in some really intense workouts in those same two weeks? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I placed much higher than last year’s Worlds in Ottawa (19 out of 26), my first world championship. And I love saying that I’m something in the world.

Duathlon training plan: Here’s what to du

Alistair Eeckman Powerman Panama

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.

Practice transitions.

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.

Ride aero.

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)

The5KRunner

London Duathlon

Training Peaks (multiple plans by Phil Mosley and others. Some include email access to coach)

Buy Steve Jonas’s book for the fundamentals and Gale Bernhardt’s book for training specifics.

What are your plans for 2019? How du you plan to du it? Let us know in the comments below!


Planning your 2019 season? Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

dart board

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.

Specific

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!)

Measurable

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.

Achievable

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.

Relevant

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.

Timely

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!

(Photo courtesy of Richard Matthews, Flickr)

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.

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.

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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