Du It For You

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

Tag: training tips

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!

Guest post: Spring is here: what to “du”?

Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H., duathlete and triathlete, shares his tips for getting out there after winter hibernation.

bike in snow

Spring is coming. Really? If you, like I do, live in a part of the country that has had a pretty rough winter, especially during the past month of March, you might not actually believe that. But yes, spring will eventually get here and where you live too, and we will be able to start racing again. And so, what to do for getting going for the upcoming season, in light of the really miserable winter weather many of us had?

We are all, of course, all anxious to get back to racing. Some of us ordinarily do work out outdoors during the winter. While I used to when I was much younger, my winter routine is now primarily found indoors—riding the stationary bike, stretching, and lifting in my own gym in my basement (lucky me!) But if you have routinely spent some of your winter training time outdoors, you may have had to cut back because of the weather. And if you are like me, running and riding outside again will be delayed, or at least cut back some, because of the weather.

What are my main words of advice?

Caution and patience.

Don’t push it, either in your training or in your early season racing. The season is a long one. You don’t want to get injured at the beginning of the season. And yes, you may have your heart set on an early-season duathlon, but if you can’t get in enough training for it, it is much better to skip it than to go out there and get hurt.

Until four years ago, I skied during the first two weeks of March. While skiing for the most part isn’t aerobic (or shouldn’t be, if you know what you are doing, and as a retired ski instructor I can say that if you don’t know that, you don’t belong out there), it does get the blood circulating and the muscles limbered up. But since I am no longer skiing, that part of my preparation is not there. Now, early in the season, in any race that I do, I will take it even easier than I usually do these days.

I’ve got a long, good season planned. You may well have one too. Don’t ruin it by trying to defy Mother Nature. She will have her way, and if you go with the flow, you can have a great season, even if it means either missing or taking it very easy in that first race or two.

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This column is based in part on one that originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog and is used with permission.

2018 marks Steve Jonas’ 36th season of multi-sport racing. He began the season with a total of 255 du’s and tri’s. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90s 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 multisport 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 multi-sport periodicals, including the USA Triathlon Blog. He very happily joined Du it For You in 2016.

Photo courtesy of Francisco Daum, Flickr.

Welcome to my Duathlon blog!

Hi there,

Thanks for checking out my brand spankin’ new blog devoted to my favorite sport – Duathlon. The run-bike-run format presents a challenge like no other. By sharing more information about the sport, I hope to encourage others to get out there and “du it.” Instead of babble on about my training rides and runs all the time, I plan to incorporate Q&As with successful duathletes of all ages, training tips from coaches and others that know a thing or two, race reports from myself and others,  and much more.

As soon as I figure out how, you will see links to some of my favorite Duathlon-related sites and blogs.

To get things off the ground, here is an article from Triathlete magazine on how mixing duathlons into your training can give your running a boost.

Until next time, I leave you with the wise words of  Yoda: “Du or Du Not. There is no Tri.”

Heather J

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