For some strange reason, I’ve entered in for a standard duathlon in March, I wanted you to witness some of the ridiculousness of my duathlon training so next time I tell you I’ve done a brick session at the weekend – you’ll understand just how crazy the whole thing is!
The problem is this: I have acquiried this new found self-confidence from doing a sprint triathlon last year in Portishead and think that I’ll be able to smash out a standard duathlon in Windsor next month, despite the fact that the whole thing will probably last 3.5 hours and my legs will be on fire for a large majority of this time. Why did I enter in for such an intense race? Well, to put it very simply – I love multi-sporting events but I can’t stand swimming so the appeal of doing a race with just cycling and running is far too appealing.
Duathlons constantly need to be elaborated to other people, no it’s not a decathlon, triathlon, pentathlon or even marathon. It’s a multi-sporting event which involves running, cycling and then running again. Sprint duathlons are usually 5k run, 20k ride and then 5k run. Standard duathlons are 10k run, 40k ride and 5k run and if you’re really bonkers then you can increase the distances of all three and see what happens.
I think Duathlons are overlooked because they are seen as a warm up event for competing in triathlons in the Summer time but they are equally very quick and there are still key transitions between run clobber to bike clobber that need to be taken care of. The benefits of duathlon training are amazing, you will develop great cardiovascular endurance, lose weight, tone up and get glutes of steel.
Now I’m about 5 weeks into Duathlon training and there are a few helpful tips which I wish I knew from the beginning.
Learn what a brick session is
Okay, so I knew what a brick session was from last year’s sprint triathlon but I never properly did a full brick session with swim/bike/run. Duathlon brick sessions are a bit more accessible as long as you can either lock up your bike/gear in a secure place or get a friend to mind it for you. Brick sessions also help settle nerves as you begin to feel more confident as time goes on and your time gets quicker. Keep these sessions to ONCE a week during an average 8 week training plan.
TOP TIP If you have a car, then drive out to nearby open spaces in well-lit/easy access areas, this means you can chuck your bike into the car before and after a ride. If you don’t have a car, find a nearby gym or car park where you can lock up a bike directly outside the main entrance – you may be able to keep some stuff in the gym if they’re nice enough.
Use the outdoors
Initially my duathlon training started indoors, I cycled 30k in an empty spin studio and found the biggest battle was my boredom. IT WAS SO DULL! I fully encourage you step outdoors to train, it’s tricky if your training programme talks about maintaining specific RPMs but I have found that measuring cycling session training based on time spent riding, ascent climbed or average speed is just as effective.
TOP TIP Get used to the elements, I trained in Richmond Park during 20mph winds which made me slow down on my bike because I was convinced the wind was going to topple me over. The wind provided some resistance which basically gave me a great training advantage.
Preparation is key
Ok, now you know about brick sessions which is wonderful, but now you need to know how to prepare for it. We have found this checklist works the evening before a duathlon brick session:
- What are you going to run in and is it ready to go?
- What are you going to cycle in and is easy to change into?
- Do you have cycling gloves?
- Socks for your cycling shoes?
- Are the bike tyres pumped?
- Do you have all your nutrition ready?
- Do you have warm clothes for before and after?
- Do you have protein for after? I’m talking chocolate Nesquik, people!
3 duathlon training sessions a week
It’s important to realise that duathlon training is all about quality training so keep to three sessions a week, maybe four if you want to factor in a recovery run after a difficult brick session. 3 sessions a week make things nice and easy and gives you plenty of time to recover from each session and plan your nutrition and routes for the upcoming brick session.
Train anaerobic and aerobic endurance
Factoring in interval or fartlek sessions which incorporate longer intervals such as 800-1200m or 4-6 minute intervals at a steady effort is key. Throughout a duathlon you will be covering fast sprints and strong powerful strides and spins for longer than 2 hours so you need to be good at working even when you feel lactic acid building up in your muscles.
The second leg where you’re on your bike gives you a chance to recover aerobically so get used to exercising for long periods of time to train your body at handling the replenishment.
In other words: cover a total distance of 5-7k whilst doing a combination of longer intervals at 7/10 effort and quicker intervals at 8/9 out of 10.
Get good at re-fuelling during long training
You won’t be able to get very far if you can’t consume nutrition whilst on the go. I use TREK Cocoa bars and Hi5 Iso energy gels alongside electrolyte powder mixed in to my water to ensure I’m staying hydrated the whole time and to attempt to replenish glucose and carbohydrate stores.
The timing in which you take this nutrition is key is something you need to figure out for yourself, personally, at the end of the 10k run during transition I have the TREK bar, I then have two gels during the ride – one in the first 45 minutes and the second in the last 30 minutes before the final transition. This gives me time to digest the TREK bar but also gives me the immediate glucose hit to tackle powerful efforts on the bike.