The duathlon season is upon us and there are a few tweaks you can still make to ensure sure you race faster than ever without actually having to be any fitter. Duathlons are the perfect way to get race fit ahead of the tri season but they also make for an incredibly rewarding challenge in themselves. In fact, ask most experienced triathletes which mode is harder and most will say duathlon. The reason for this is almost certainly due to the feeling induced by having to return to running for a second time. It has been described as not unlike running with a bear on your back at first but thankfully, with time, the imaginary bear will lose its grip and the final run can become more enjoyable as you start to relax into it. The following duathlon-specific tips should see you get a head start on your amphibious competitors.
1. Don’t start too hard
The massed run start of a duathlon is like a red rag to a bull for many duathletes who, all of a sudden, are offered the chance to be in the lead even if just for a few seconds. However, all too often they spend the rest of the run paying for it and end
up being slower overall as a result. It is a problem rarely experienced in triathlon with its swim start. For novice duathletes the start can conjure memories of school running races all over again and the nerves can get the better of you. Start calmly; measure out your effort in order to finish strongly and leave the glory chasers to fade later in the race.
2. Always think ahead
Once racing, never ever look back or even think about those behind you. It’s amazing how many people focus on those behind them rather than those ahead. Looking back ruins your running form and gives hope to those behind you but more importantly it’s negative. Whether you are winning or you are in last place, looking back or even just thinking about those behind you serves no purpose at all. Think of those ahead of you as tracks that you are literally eating up over time. Even if in reality you are slipping backwards, always think ‘ahead’.
3. Practise your transitions repeatedly for 40 minutes
Set up a mini transition area somewhere safe and mark out an entry and exit line. Once warmed up, repeat running in, changing shoes, putting your helmet on and running out to mount your bike. Each time you exit or enter hit the lap timer on your stopwatch or have someone time you. You only need to ride or run gently for a short distance out and back and as you do, think over what went well and what didn’t in the last transition and then aim to keep getting quicker and quicker in transition during the session. For really fine improvements, see if you can film yourself doing it. You would be surprised how much ‘flapping’ we all do.
4. Use two pairs of trainers
To shave even more off your transition times, a duathlon-specific trick is to use a separate pair of shoes for each run. That way, your second pair will be open and perfectly positioned in transition to be slipped on rather than thrown where they were left after the first run as often happens with just one pair. It goes without saying that having elastic laces in both pairs of shoes is an absolute must in order for this tactic to fully pay off.
5. Run, then bike
Going for a short, sharp run straight after a bike ride is a common add-on session for many duathletes and it should be a regular part of your training. However, most athletes don’t think of going for a short run just before a ride so that you get used to riding having run already. It’s all about making sure your body isn’t caught out on race day and if your body comes to expect to ride after a run then you’ll be much more efficient in the race.