My guide for participating in The Land of The Giants Duathlon.
The Land of the Giants Duathlon is now an annual event which is based in Claremorris. Now in its 5th year it has grown in size year after year with over 255 participating in 2015. The event is normally scheduled for the end of December so weather conditions can be challenging but it never puts off any of the participants.
The format has remained unchanged from the start which is a 5km run followed by an 18km cycle and a 2km run to finish. Most competitors complete the full course although relay teams can also participate.
I have participated in every event since it was launched and I’m happy to have improved on my time each year. Most of my time gains have been on the cycle stage but my run times have improved each year as well.
What to do in advance of the event
While I do not prepare for months in advance I do make sure to get a few runs in and I work on my cycling. We are lucky in Claremorris in that we have a top class running track so you will find me down then in the weeks leading up to the duathlon. I am well familiar with the Duathlon running routes so I don’t bother with trial runs. If you a planning to do the duathlon, I would recommend that you check out the course prior to taking part.
When it comes to cycle preparation prior to the event, I used Zwift training sessions when I could not get out on the road and I found them to be excellent. I do a lot on the bike during the year so I am normally in good shape for the cycle. Don’t forget to get your bike checked out in advance of the event, if you can’t do it yourself get a bike mechanic to give it a quick check-over.
The organizers of the duathlon do offer early bird prices for the duathlon so watch out for these during October and November on their Facebook page. For 2016 they also offered a league price which included the 5 duathlons in the Ireland West Duathlon Series.
What to do on the morning of the Duathlon.
While you can pay for the event online, you still have to register on the day. Registration typically opens at 8AM and closes at 10AM so make sure you get there on time. For the first three years registration was at the D’Alton hotel but this was moved to the McWilliam Park Hotel in 2015. I’m not sure if this is going to be the permanent fixture so make sure you check. At registration you will get your race number and stickers for your bike.
The bike transition area is on the west side of Claremorris on the Ballinrobe road. You must park your bike there well in advance of the 10:30AM duathlon start time. Due to the numbers taking part you have to rack your bike in a specific area based on your race number. There are normally plenty of event staff on hand to help out.
You should then head up to the town square to warm up. As the event takes part at the end of December you don’t want to be standing around too long. I normally go for 2-3 laps around the square with the plan to be at the start line at 10:15AM. If you plan to get into the top 20, make sure you are up near the front at the start.
My tips for participating in the Duathlon
As I mentioned earlier you should aim to be near the front for the start if you are targeting a top 20 finish. The duathlon starts in the town square and if you start from the back you have to navigate yourself around a Christmas tree and war memorial.
Once you get going you will find yourself caught up in a fast pace down through the town. I normally keep to the right to avoid getting caught up in groups of slower runners. The only thing you have to watch out for is the sharp left hand turn into the town park. You wont miss it but just watch your footing.
The park has a nice surface for running on, mostly flat with a few tiny hills. Regular running shoes are fine. Watch out for slippy surfaces on the bridges and timber boardwalks. The transition area is in a car park so watch out for potholes, nothing major but just be aware where you are putting your foot.
I don’t bother with a shoe change. Maybe I am loosing time on the bike but I really need to practice changing shoes, every time I do it I mess it up so I will stick with cycling with running shoes for the moment.
The cycle course is well suited to TT bikes if you have one. There is a small hill to start and for me I get to the top of it before I starting thinking about where I am. Once you get this hill out of the way you can get down on your aero bars if you have them or just power on if you don’t. Watch out for a sharp right hand turn after 1km which is followed by another small hill. I normally take a drink when heading up this hill as there is a long push after this.
The rest of the route comprises of three straight(ish) sections where you just get your head down and push. I aim to be up around 38-40kph on my TT bike with an aim to have an overall average around 36kph.
You have got to make use of the straight bits, forget about looking around, drinking, eating, etc… Put your head down and push hard, this is where you will make up the time. It is the top tip I have for participating in this event.
The course is well marshaled with two sharp left hand turns to watch out for. You arrive back to the same transition and you should rack your bike back at the same place. Check out the video below which shows on board footage from Irish Para Cyclist, Jerry Towey.
The second run is short at 2km but as with the second run in most duathlons it will feel a lot longer. Once you park your bike you go back running in the park but you only complete a smaller section. You then leave the park for the final 500 meters through the town to the finish line at the town square. For me the most difficult part is the first 500 meters of the run as I try and coax my legs to go running again.
Watch out for the slight uphill finish through the town to finish, you may not even notice this with the amount of people around cheering you on. Nothing major to catch you out on the second run except for the sharp right hand turn out of the park.
I finished in 9th place overall in the 2015 Land of the Giants duathlon. Most of my time was made up in the cycle. If you have any tips for participating in this or other duathlons, please use the comment box below.