How To Prepare For Your First Duathlon
A Duathon is typically an event consisting of two short runs and a cycle. The majority of these multi-sport events start off with a 3-6km run followed by a 16-30km cycle with a 3-6km run to finish.
They are a great challenge and require no specialized skills. If you have never done one before, a small bit of preparation is required.
Obviously you will need a bike, cycling helmet, drinks bottle and running shoes. Try and get a racing style bike rather than heavier models like mountain bikes. If you want to go more advanced, you can use a TT bike and two pairs of running shoes.
From a clothing point of view you should use cycling shorts and a light top. The top you wear can be dependent on conditions but don’t plan to change tops during an event as it will waste a lot of time.
Choice of bike shoes is a contentious issue but not something to worry about for your first event. Try and get plastic cages for your pedals but avoid the use of straps which may get in the way. You can change from running shoes to cycling shoes but I recommend you practice this a lot.
If you have done some running and never cycled or vice versa you should combine both prior to participating in an event. Try doing a 5km run followed by a 15-20km cycle. See if your body can cope with the transition. A trial run also gets you used to what they call the transition. This is where you go from running to cycling in the shortest time possible. Do not worry about speeds or times, this is so so important.
Most duathlon type events offer early bird registration prices so you will save money by booking in advance. Booking in advance also prepares your mind, once you spend your money you will be spurred on to complete the event. If this is not possible you can always register on the morning of the event but be sure to give yourself plenty of time.
Make sure you have a good meal the evening before your event. Hydrate well for the 2 days prior to the event, this will get your body ready.
Check your bike over the night before. Make sure tyres are pumped and nothing is lose. I have included a video below which is a good guide for checking over your bike.
The day of your first Duathlon
Most duathlons start off early in the day to give everyone a chance to finish. Make sure you have an adequate breakfast at least 2 hours before the event start time but make sure you don’t overeat or you may see it again mid event.
Arrive at the registration centre at about an hour before the start time. Get your timing chip, race numbers and affix to your running top and bicycle. Them make your way to the transition area and mount your bike on the racks provided. This is easy enough, you just perch your saddle on a metal bar.
Leave your helmet hanging from your handlebars and leave your drinks bottle in your bottle cage. Before your leave the transition area, get familiar with the surroundings. Find out where you enter and leave the area and visualize what you will do when you come in from your run.
Go for a short warm up run once you are happy that everything is in place. Aim to be at the start line 10-15mins before the start so that you can take in the race briefing.
Participating in your first event
The starting line can be a crowded place. Avoid the front row unless you are planning for some fast running. Athletes of all abilities will be participating so don’t feel like you are the only beginner. Many participants will be at the same level as you.
Once the event starts, the run always appears to go at a blistering pace. Watch out for this and don’t get carried away or you will burn out. Find your pace and stick with it, this is really important or you will struggle later in the event.
Slow down a bit going through transition and listen to the stewards. Before you touch your bike, put your cycle helmet on. This is really important, you may get disqualified if you lift your bicycle first. Once your helmet is secure, wheel your bike out to the starting line of the cycle. You cannot mount it in the transition area.
If you need a drink, get up to speed first and then quench your thirst. Try and spin your legs faster than normal but not so much as to make you breathless. This is especially true when you are coming near the end of the cycle. Fast spinning in the pedals can help prevent cramp on the second run. Take a drink as you come near the end of the cycle if needed.
You must dismount from your bicycle prior to entering the transition area. Do not touch your bike helmet until you put your bike back on the rack. Once it is in place, remove your helmet and hang it up on your bike handlebars.
The start of the second run can be the most difficult part of a duathlon. Your legs will be screaming and may cramp up a bit. This means you may be off to a slow start but stick with it, you are nearly there. The second run on most duathlons is typically shorter than the first so the pain will be over before you know it.
Once you cross the finish line, grab a drink and some post event goodies. Don’t forget about your warm down routine. A structured stretching routine will help you recover much quicker.
So, get out there and do one. You will not regret it and in no length you will be signed up for another!