Thanks to everyone for your feedback. It turns out quite a few of you are looking for some tips on giving Duathlon a go. So grab a cuppa and have a quick read…
How I got started
Rather than getting drunk on my 30th birthday I decided running a marathon would be a good idea (as you do) and a few years later I did exactly that. At this point taking part in multi-sport had never entered my head, in fact I’d never even heard of Duathlon! 5yrs later after a bout of running injuries I took up cycling as a way of cross training. I loved how much stronger cycling made me feel and I seemed to run better for it.
At this point my 40th Birthday was fast approaching so what better way to celebrate than to put a run and bike together and have a go at a Duathlon. 4 races for my 40th was the plan! The running part didn’t concern me but I’d not been riding a bike very long so I had a lot to learn. Thankfully I had a triathlete friend to train with and he shared his experience along the way. Thanks Preston 🙂
Oulton Park 2013
All (except for the last) of the photos shown are from my first Duathlon at Oulton Park. Set on a closed road looped circuit I thought this might be the safest option. Safe, yes. Easier, absolutely not! What I didn’t realise was that it was a European Championships qualification race so packed with some of the best multi-sport athletes in the country. At this point I had no idea what Age Group racing meant, I just wanted to get round so was shocked and delighted to find out I’d come 2nd in my Age Group and 9th woman overall! Because I hadn’t registered with British Triathlon my qualification didn’t count, but at this point I knew I’d found the sport for me and my goal was to race in GB kit.
So there you have it, I did my first Duathlon for my 40th Birthday, and from the very second I crossed the finish line I was hooked.
Whatever your reason for getting started I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.
I thought it might be helpful to share my top 5 pitfalls and mistakes, (most of which I’ve made) in a bid to help you get prepared for your first Duathlon, no matter what your goal.
1.Wearing new kit/trainers for the first time on race day. If like me you have a thing for Lycra then the temptation to buy lots of fancy new stuff will probably be too much – I know it was for me – but always train in your kit before you race in it! Try and replicate race conditions if you can too. Kit can feel very different going easy compared to going harder and for longer periods. Test it all… Helmet, shoes, glasses, gloves and your race belt!
You might feel like a bit odd going round your local village in full kit but you’ll be happy you tweaked that strap on your helmet or changed your glasses because they fogged up when it rained. Do as much as you can to test under the conditions you will race in so that nothing catches you out on the day.
2.Getting lost in transition. Transition was probably the bit I dreaded the most about doing a Duathlon for the first time, but on the advice of a triathlete friend (thanks Preston) I practiced over and over again in training. Again, trying to replicate race conditions helps so doing it off a brick (run/bike) session when you are fatigued works as it’s amazing how disoriented you can get!
Starting with racking your bike, firstly get it into a really easy gear and check all of the gears. After a 5k plus run you’ll want to spin your legs a bit to get them going! If you use a watch or Garmin, make sure it’s in the right setting or on auto start. Find the best place for your helmet, depending if it’s a road or TT bike might depend where you position it. I used to rest mine between the TT bars, until the wind blew it off once! So now I loop my chinstrap over a bar – whatever works for you!
Shoe choice is important. For the bike, Velcro tri shoes are great for giving a secure fit whilst on the go. For running, swapping out regular laces for elastic laces is a top tip – this means you can slip on your running shoes without having to fiddle about tying your shoes! I’ve practiced removing my feet from the shoes leaving them attached to the bike like the pro’s do, but it’s more difficult than it looks and I actually ended up slower than just taking them off and leaving them in transition. After my Cyclocross training, I’m hoping to give flying mounts and dismounts another go!
In smaller races, finding your bike is a lot easier but if you are doing a large event, make sure you find a marker (tree or sign etc) for where your bike will be and practice running to it during your warm up. It’s only happened once but I have run down the wrong bike lane before and jeez did I panic! Oh and there was that time that the marker flag I was using blew off in the wind… is now a good time also to mention I put my pointy helmet on back to front and started running out of transition once!?
3.Forgetting to refuel. This is a topic that I’m definitely not an expert in as I’ve made more than a few mistakes but the tips I can offer you are based on the things I’ve learned the hard way… Eat and drink enough in the days leading up to your race, train with the products you will be racing with, practice taking onboard fluids and gels/bars and don’t sacrifice refueling for 5 secs gain! I’ve got 2 out of 3 of these wrong before. I always train with and practice refueling in training but when it comes to race day, I never want to break my rhythm so I’ve skipped a few times and paid the price. Not crucial in a sprint, depending on how long you are out on the course, but essential in standard distance. The general rule is to refuel over an hour. As an example for a standard distance (10k/40k/5k) race I’d grab a gel as soon as I get onto the bike and then sip a carb drink throughout and take another gel 20mins before getting off bike for final run. Refueling is so much easier with the Liv Avow hydration unit as I barely have to move, but it took a lot of to practice to avoid sticking the straw up my nose!!!
4.Not racing your own race. Easier said than done but you’ve got to the start line and you are all fired up so it’s easy to get sucked into the mad sprint at the start. Well don’t! Start over conservatively because you can always speed up and passing people is much more satisfying that getting passed.
Try to forget the drama of those around you, just focus on you. This is your race, whatever your goal. Remind yourself how hard you’ve trained and tell yourself how good you’ll feel when you cross that finish line. Everyone is different but I tend to break the race down in my head and if something isn’t going exactly as I’d like I focus on getting to the next marker and closer to that finish.
5.Forgetting to enjoy it! It sounds so obvious but you can get so obsessed with wanting to do well that you forget to enjoy it! Take confidence in the fact that you’ve done the training and you’ve practiced everything. Racing should be the easy part. I know I race much better when I don’t put too much pressure of myself. We do this for fun remember!
It’s never too late to give something new a go! Completing your first Duathlon is a huge achievement and you’ll feel so good afterwards. I hope by giving you an insight into how I got started and what I’ve learnt along the way has given you the nudge you need to get signed up now.
Wishing you a fun and safe race and don’t forget to let me know how you get on!
Duathlon Girl x
Disclaimer: I’m not a pro or in any way an expert but I can share my experiences… the good, the bad and occasionally ugly. If I reference a product or service it’s because I like it not because I am getting paid to mention it!