For decades, duathlons have introduced the world to some of the most talented endurance athletes, including the highly successful Natascha Badmann. The sport’s reputation is held in high regard throughout most of the globe; however, for whatever reason, in the United States, it’s mainly only viewed as a sport for triathletes or athletes who don’t like to swim.
Now is the time to change that outlook and experience a sport—once considered more popular than triathlons—for yourself. It won’t be easy. Despite its lack of a swimming component, the duathlon is an extremely challenging sport, one that requires regular training.
But, regardless of whichever challenges you may encounter, duathlons are well worth your time and effort. Not only will you have an opportunity to participate in a new sport, but you’ll also likely become a stronger and more versatile athlete than you were in the past.
Brick Workouts are your New Best Friend
Duathlons, which are conducted in a run-bike-run format, typically begin with mass starts and immediately transition between each discipline. Typically non-drafting events (which require racers to maintain a certain distance between one another: three bike lengths), duathlons’ distances range considerably, from Sprint—a 5K run, 20K bike and 5K run—to Olympic—a 5K run, 40K bike and 10K run, or a 10K run, 40K bike and 5K run—to the Powerman series—a 10K run, 60K bike and 10K run, according to the USA Triathlon’s standard formats.
“Don’t discount duathlon athletes. Duathlons are tough,” says Jennifer Harrison, a USAT triathlon coach, owner of JHC Triathlon Coaching and head triathlon coach for the University of Illinois. “Riding hard after completing a 5K or 10K beforethe bike makes for a very hard race.”
To prepare for such a grueling race, athletes must prepare their bodies well ahead of time, particularly by participating in open run races like 5Ks, followed by long bike rides to simulate how their legs will feel afterwards.
“Athletes can also complete repetitive exercises. For example, they can ride on their bikes for five minutes three times in a row,” she adds. “After every five-minute segment (building to race effort), they would then run 800 meters on a track, building to their race pace goal. This repetition is a great simulation for the intensity of duathlons.”
This workout is a form of a brick workout, which involves working on both disciplines in the same session. Guy Petruzzelli, a professional duathlete and personal trainer, recommends doing brick interval workouts, which consist of multiple sets of short runs and bike rides at a time, with rest in between.
“The objective is to really get a sense as to how that second run will feel under a lot more lower body fatigue,” Petruzzelli explains.
To conduct these workouts in the easiest way possible, Kenny Krell, the national events director for 3Disciplines, believes athletes should find a track or loop course and repeat the run-bike-run format for as long as they can.
“The lactic acid buildup in legs is significant, so you want to learn that feeling, how best to cope with it and how you will personally flush that out the most efficient way,” he says. “The only way to do that is to practice it, preferably through brick workouts.”
Chris Mosier, a USAT Level I coach at EDGE Athlete Lounge, as well as a Team USA and All-American duathlete, thinks that access to brick workouts will, above all else, prepare athletes for the second runs of their duathlons. Petruzzelli agrees with Mosier, advising athletes to “really get used to the second run”.
“It catches people off guard,” Petruzzelli continues. “And, without practice, it will be difficult to run the pace you want.”
Dr. Julie Logan, a well-versed duathlete with seven years of experience, highly recommends that athletes, regardless of their experience levels, work with coaches as they conduct their brick workouts, preferably at least a few weeks prior to race day.
“Coaches will give you a routine and a structure to your training,” she says. “They’ll monitor your adaption to the training load and make sure you’ll achieve your goals at the pace that’s best for you.”
Race Day Considerations
Aside from brick workouts, Petruzzelli believes athletes should participate in strength and conditioning training to help prepare their bodies for the rigors of duathlons.
“I’d focus on squats, deadlifts and kettlebell swings, as well as upper body exercises like strict press and bench press,” he states. “Movements that encourage core or midline engagement, particularly to help with proper position on the bike and run, should also be considered. With two runs, it’s important to be able to run strong from start to finish.”
Of equal importance, athletes should also practice their race day nutrition well in advance, especially what they’ll eat and drink before and during race day. Even triathletes trying duathlon should re-experiment with their foods and drinks before they race, as their bodies will react differently when they run than if they had swum instead, according to Mosier.
“Also, remember that transitions will involve removing running shoes for the cycling portion (if you have clip-in bike shoes) and then putting your running shoes back on for the second run,” Mosier says. “Ensuring your lacing strategy and gear placement are well rehearsed will help greatly on race day.”
Just Du It
The bottom line, according to Krell? Everyone—of all ages and abilities—can participate in duathlons. All they need is a bike, a helmet and running shoes.
“If you’re a specific runner or biker, the multi-sport benefit is second to none in terms of making you a stronger athlete and much, much less prone to injury, as you’ll be using the supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons you normally wouldn’t,” he states.
Krell continues, “Don’t like to swim or are intimidated by water? Duathlons are for you. Looking for a challenge that doesn’t require a gym bag or jumping in the pool? Duathlons are for you. And, best of all, everyone in the family can do the du.”
Furthermore, according to Mosier, duathlons are ideal for cross training or warming up for triathlon seasons. They’re also a terrific option for triathletes who aren’t strong swimmers, but talented runners.
“Duathlons are a great way for runners to make the leap into multisport, as swimming is often the barrier for runners or even cyclists who want to take on a new challenge through triathlons,” he adds. “Not to mention, duathlons are unique events that will challenge any single-sport athletes in new ways.”
At the same time, according to Beth Baumgarten, a USAT Level II coach and the director of coaching for Sportfit Lab, multisport racing builds balance and improves overall fitness more than single-sport racing, all while providing participants a fun, exciting and supportive atmosphere.
“Duathlons can be very competitive within age groups and genders,” she says. “But, for most races, athletes will come together and support one another.”
“Duathlons really are for everyone—triathletes, runners and cyclists,” Petruzzelli concludes. “It’s a great sport that, in my opinion, is definitely on par with the triathlon.”
A Duathlon Near You
Have we convinced you? Check out these local duathlons coming up this season:
- July 27: 2019 Manteno Duathlon, Manteno, IL
- July 28: Splash, Pedal, Dash Duathlon, Schaumburg,
- August 4: 2019 Naperville Sprint Duathlon, Naperville, IL
- September 26: Try The Du Duathlon, Bourbonnais, IL