A faster duathlon transition: Experts share their top tips

duathlon transition

Want to shave a minute or more off your duathlon time without much effort? Master your transition. With a seamless, speedy transition, you can get a jump on your competitors and place a few notches higher in your age group. If you’re trying to qualify for Team USA, every place matters.

The duathlon transition is less cumbersome than triathlon—no wetsuit to peel off, no wet clothes. Helmet, shoes and bike are your three key components to master. Here, age group aces (and one pro) from across the United States and Europe share their tips for a faster transition.

 Alistair Eeckman, professional athlete, Berkeley, CA

“Practice, practice and practice will help you improve your T1 and T2 times. I prefer to use rubber bands on my cycling shoes. Like this video shows, for example.” (Read more about Alistair here)

 Albert Harrison, Moscow, Iowa

“Practice at home and rehearse on race morning by running through the transition area. Running out barefoot may give you a fast T1 split, but if you’re fumbling with your shoes while you’re getting going on your bike, you’re likely to lose some time.”

“Be sure to look at the last half mile of the bike course and make a note of when it would be safest/fastest/easiest to get your feet out of your bike shoes. If it’s uphill or technical, it may be best to dismount and run in to T2 with your bike shoes on. Click, clack…”

Jim Girand, Palo Alto, CA

“Get power straps [for your bike] and wear your racing flats. With training they will be just as good as cycling shoes.”

Wolf Hillesheim, El Sobrante, CA

“Make sure your bike is in the right gear when you mount. In sprint races, use the [Power Grips] or Pyro Platforms—if you can find them! Then you can use your racing flats—no bike shoes. It’s quicker, and there’s less chance of cramping on the second transition.” (Read more about Wolf here)

Steve Fung, Orinda, CA

“Little things matter in the bike transition. I always try to ride my bike before setting up in T2. Make sure the wheels are smooth, no rubbing. Check skewers a couple times to not stress about it when racing. Make sure brakes are pulling correctly and air pressure feels right.

“Shift through gears a couple times to make sure rings and cassette shift smooth. Make sure it’s in the right gear for a speedy departure and crank arm is at the three o’ clock position.

“Make sure your helmet fits comfortably—check straps and clip. Make sure glasses are the right tint. I have a couple different tints depending on terrain and lighting. I frequently use high-contrast yellow for shadowy rides. Make sure water bottles are tight in cage, bottles open, and tool kit [if you carry one] is in place and complete.”

Claire Steels, Steels Fitness, Mallorca

“Practice makes perfect. Look for an easy way to spot your bike, such as a tree or bin. Make sure you leave your bike in an easy gear—you only make that mistake once!”

duathlon transition
I use my bright orange spike bag in transition. If I can remember what row I’m in, then the orange bag makes my bike easier to spot.

Bradley Williams, Westland, MI

Speed laces in shoes. Little or no extra gear at your transition spot. Practice, practice, practice.”

Mark Griffin, Suffolk, England

“Don’t rush and don’t try anything you haven’t practiced in training. It’s far easier to gain 30 seconds on the bike or run over panicking and messing up in transition looking for single seconds.”

Nate Deck, Raleigh, NC

“Keep it simple. The less you have to do, the quicker you will be. Lay everything flat: race belt, helmet with straps open, shoes… Also, run through transition mentally on race morning when you set up your transition area.”

Pamela Semantik, Cleveland, OH

“I do not do a flying mount or dismount. I have seen all kinds of bad stuff happen, and it’s beyond my skill level. The way I see it, if I take a couple extra seconds to dismount the way I know how, I may have just saved myself some time (and embarrassment, and possibly injury) if I flub the flying dismount.”

Angie Ronsettler-Ridgel, Cleveland, OH

“I use a ‘cross dismount technique after I get my feet out of the shoes. I have not perfected the shoeless remount, so I put my cycling shoes on in transition.”

Got any transition tips? Share them in the comments below.


2017 year in review: success in spite of myself

I started mentally reviewing my 2017 racing season well before the holidays, but it took until now to get my thoughts on the page. In between, contributor Dr. Stephen Jonas provided helpful questions to ask when reviewing your racing season. Take a look!

For most of 2017, I criticized myself. My performance on the bike wasn’t up to par. I didn’t practice my transitions, which would have saved me precious seconds in important races. My running performance started off strong, but faded halfway through the year. I considered 2017 a wash.

But when I shifted my mindset and thought of my goals, I realized I had a pretty darn good year in spite of myself. Here are four things I’m proud of.

1. Top 10 in USA Track & Field/Pacific Region Road Grand Prix, short and long series.

USATF has annual team and individual competitions in road, cross country, mountain/ultra and track events. My club, Pamakid Runners, competes in all of these except track.

One of my 2017 goals was to earn “comped” status in both the short- and long-course road series. This requires placing in the top 10 in my division, 40+ women. Result: nailed it! I placed seventh in both. That means I receive free entry into 2018 short and long Grand Prix races. Yay, free! I got comped for the short series (10th) for 2015, but thanks to an injury, didn’t get to take advantage of the benefit.

2. USA Triathlon Duathlon National Champion

One of my all-time duathlon goals was to win my age group in a national championship race. Unexpectedly, I accomplished this at the USAT Duathlon Long-Course National Championships in Cary, North Carolina, in April.


I had a lackluster race. (Can you tell I’m hard on myself?) My bike split was minutes slower than my expectation. I had acceptable run splits considering the heat and humidity. But I did my best on the day. Result: Age group win! Bonus: a “national champion” bike jersey that I’m a little embarrassed to wear.

3. Came out of half marathon hiatus

In February, I lined up to race the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon for the first time in 10 years. In between, I ran some trail halfs as training races, but didn’t specifically train for a half.

Why? After the 2007 KPSF 1/2 I ran a big PR, and then ended up with a stress fracture a week later. I became gun-shy about racing the half and focused on races from 5K to 10 miles. I soon got over my fear, but training for a half just didn’t fit…for a long time!

In 2017, I not only ran the KPSF 1/2, but also the Clarksburg Country Run in November (part of the road Grand Prix), where I placed third in my age group. Result: barrier broken. Bonus: I stayed healthy and still am!

4. Pamakid Runners Female Runner of the Year

Well this was unexpected! Each year my club hands out awards for male/female runner of the year (road and ultra), most improved and most inspirational. It also gives out an overall “Pamakid of the Year” and “Volunteer of the Year” award for members who go above and beyond to help the club and the running community at large.

I missed the club’s Christmas party, where they present the awards, only to discover a couple days later I won one! And here I thought I had a crappy 2017.

Pamakid Runners
At the Christmas Relays, belatedly receiving my award. Thanks Pamakids!

For most of 2017’s second half, my motivation to race took a nosedive due to caring for and losing my beautiful feline companion, Soleil. From the time I learned she had a tumor, in August, through the worst of the grief, I had no passion for racing or much else. I raced to keep my skills sharp and to spend time with my Pamakids family.

my cat
My pal for 15 and-a-half years and a sock monkey she didn’t like. Isn’t she the most beautiful cat ever?

I criticized myself (can you see a trend here?) for slower race times, but in spite of myself, I ran a lot of races and placed fairly well in them. I also volunteered a fair amount for my club. Taken all together, Pamakids saw something I didn’t. I’m grateful.

As 2018 picks up momentum, I have my enthusiasm back and my health intact. I’m working toward my 2018 goals with a renewed sense of commitment.

What are you most proud of in 2017? What did you learn? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Guest post: Revisiting Your Goals

Here is the latest article from Steven Jonas, MD, MPH. As you reflect on 2017, reflect on your racing season. Did you meet or exceed your goals? What can you do differently in 2018? — Du It For You


The multisport racing season has come to a close in most parts of the country. Some of us are quite happy in the sport, know where we are going, look forward to next year and have possibly started to plan for it. But perhaps you have come to the point, after just one, two, or many years in the sport, where you’re not quite sure of your place in it.

To help you focus, to help you make sure that what you are doing is right for you, I would suggest that you think about the following questions: “Where am I now?” “What am I getting out of the sport?” “What, perhaps, am I not getting out of it that I thought I might?” “What should I be doing this winter?”

Whether you are gung ho for next year, or perhaps a doubting Thomas or Thomasina but still in an exploring mood, with these questions I am suggesting (surprise, surprise for those readers who know me) that first and foremost you take a look back at the goals you set for yourself, either last year or way back when. Did you come into multisport racing from a non-racing background out of curiosity, with the goal of simply satisfying it? Did you come into multisport from another racing sport in which you did well in terms of speed, looking to do well in this one also? Did you look at doing the sport as an opportunity to get into cross-training on a regular basis with the primary goal of improving your health and physical fitness, using racing as a motivator? Did you know something about multisport racing from a friend or two before starting out, and then say to yourself, “this looks like a good way to have fun?”

My bet is that whether your goals were one or more from the above list or not, if you are feeling good, feeling good about yourself, and feeling good about the sport, you most likely set an appropriate goal (or goals) for yourself and achieved it (them) in one way or another. I would also bet that if the opposite is true, you chose one or more inappropriate goals, in terms of your skill-level, available time, and life- balance. I suggest that you consider these ten words: “Do my goals work for me? Why and why not?”

For example, have you chosen the right multisport? If you really don’t like to swim and you have chosen triathlon for the “challenge” and you’re having fun, time to re-consider. There are duathletes who never touch the water and have a great, long, fun career in the two-sport variety.

If you are not inherently fast (like me) and you have chosen to engage simply to have fun (like me), and you are, you have achieved your goal. However, if you are not inherently fast but nevertheless have set as your goal going fast, and you spend hours on speed work getting nowhere, I suggest thinking again about why you are in the sport and perhaps change your focus to—that’s right—simply having fun.

To achieve the latter, you need train a lot less and a lot less intensely (just like I do). On the other hand, if you are doing speed work and you are picking up the pace (the good news) but feel like it’s something of a struggle (the bad news), you should take a look at your particular program and consider others, either in print or at a fall clinic. You might also consider hiring a personal coach.

And so, as the season comes to an end, I suggest that you take a deep breath, literally and figuratively. Life is long and so can your stay in multisport racing. From the beginning, setting out to have fun and while becoming a regular exerciser, going slowly all the time, I just finished my 35th season in tri/duathlon, having fun and exercising regularly the whole time. To repeat: The key to staying with it is to make sure that you set goals that work for you and work for you now. You should also know that as your life circumstances and your athletic abilities change, you can always change your goals and continue to stay—happily—in your sport of choice.

A version of this column originally appeared on the USAT blog in 2013 and is used with permission.

2017 marked Steve Jonas’ 35th season of multisport racing. He has done a total of 255 du’s and tri’s. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90’s for duathlon. He has raced up to the ironman distance, but now at 81, he is sticking to the sprints in both duathlon and triathlon. Steve is a prolific author of books on multisport racing. His first (originally published in 1986), Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®. The 2nd Ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) is still in print. In 2012, he published a book exclusively devoted to duathlon: Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012). All of his books on multisport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. He is also long-time writer for various multisport periodicals, most recently, and happily, joining Du It For You.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Team USA, it’s not goodbye. It’s see you later.

I am officially on Team USA Duathlon sabbatical until at least 2019. Maybe longer. Maybe until I turn 50 (2021), or maybe I’ll revisit the hiatus in 2018 if I get ridiculously excited about an event. Regardless, I am a one-sport athlete for the time being.

USA Triathlon Duathlon

I didn’t make this decision lightly. The duathlon burnout tugged at me all year, despite ambitious goals. My original plan: USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championships in April, standard course nationals in June and the World Championships (standard course) in August. I felt the first two would prepare me well for the worlds in Penticton, which was my “A” goal.

I didn’t train as specifically as I could have for the first of those three races. I could blame it on the deluge of rain that hit the Bay Area through last winter and early spring. Really, it was lack of interest.

I was ready for a break from duathlon and the demand of my time it required. I looked forward to competing with my team at local running races, but rarely looked forward to intervals on the bike and long brick workouts.

By June, I had fit in more duathlon-specific training. The malaise stuck with me, even in beautiful Bend, Oregon. The voices in my head during the bike leg were the loudest they’ve ever been. You’re so slow. Everyone is passing you. You’re going to be the last one out here. Just quit now. This is not fun. I finished, and only about a minute slower than the previous year (all on the bike). So I wasn’t last, but dang it sure felt like it!

I ran well and had a great time at a one-mile race in late June and a Fourth of July 5K. No transitions, no lugging the bike here and there, no goofy one-piece outfit. I worked on getting excited about the ITU Multisport Championships in Penticton, BC, but the feeling wasn’t coming. I trained anyway.


And then, something happened on Fourth of July that sent my motivation for everything plummeting into the abyss. My cat, Soleil—my companion for the past 15 years—got sick. Not the sniffles or coughing up a hairball. Serious sick. On July 5, the vet put her on antibiotics for 21 days, which didn’t help her condition.

And so began a long journey of cat worry, combined with a seriously heavy workload, and training for and planning for a trip to Canada. As the days went on, Soleil got more tests, and I got more overwhelmed about this trip.

I canceled the whole damn thing. On August 20, the day I *should* have raced in the Duathlon World Championships, I took Soleil to the vet to have a tumor removed from her bladder. The tumor was cancerous. Now, two months later, she’s on what the cat oncologist calls “hospice care;” which, in this case, means TLC and pain meds. My heart breaks every day.

I officially started my duathlon hiatus when I called Tiki Shores hotel in Penticton to cancel my reservation. I’ll return when my excitement for the sport returns. Until then, I’m a runner that rides her bike a lot.

USAT, you could do better

I absolutely love duathlon, the challenge it brings and the community of people dedicated to this demanding multisport event. I don’t love a lot of what USAT requires to compete in major events. Its demands also played a role in my hiatus, though burnout definitely starred in the decision.

USAT talks about making multisport accessible to everyone. Yet, national championships, and especially world championships, are not accessible to everyone.

They’re accessible to people that meet or exceed the current median USAT athlete income of $100,000+ per year. They’re accessible to people that can afford to take off a few days from work, travel across the country for a race, and invest in an expensive TT bike, an “aero” helmet and other garb. If the average middle-class aspiring athlete scrapes up the cash to acquire the gear and travel to a big race, and lo and behold qualifies to compete in the worlds, they’ll have to pay dearly. Again.

USAT doesn’t make it easy, or affordable in any way, to compete as part of Team USA. The “travel packages” assembled by its travel agent partner are a joke. I compared the costs one year of booking my own travel vs. working with their travel partner and saved well over $1,000 by planning myself.

If you choose to stay in the “host” hotel, know it will likely be one of the most costly in town. In Pontevedra, Spain, for the 2014 worlds, USAT chose the only four-star hotel in the city, while the rest of the countries stayed in nearby, slightly more modestly priced hotels.

Uniforms? You pay for them. About $220 for a uniform, which changes every few years. In 2017, they also started pushing Team USA athletes to buy a “parade kit,” which was a small $200 (approx.) collection of Team USA apparel it supposedly “required” athletes to wear when they weren’t racing. I assume this was another way for USAT to make money off its amateur athletes. I would never be seen in public in this stuff.

Oh–don’t forget the race entry fee. That sets you back another $200 to $300. And don’t forget airfare, hotel/Airbnb reservations, meals, bike transport fees, and other costs. Start doing the math, and you’ll see anything beyond a local duathlon is not accessible to most people.

Want diversity in the sport? Make it affordable to a more diverse population. Consider at minimum, a discount off uniforms, membership fees, race entry fees and the stupid parade kit for people that meet certain income criteria.

Study USATF’s requirements for regional and national championships. The difference in monetary requirements and pain-in-the-you-know-what factor is remarkable.

Some of the costs associated with national and world events are unavoidable. Race organizers pay a fortune, I’m sure, in insurance, permitting, security, police support, venue reservations and other expenses. But really, a “required” parade kit? After all the athletes sacrifice to compete in a dream of an event, requiring us to wear stuff we’ll never wear again (and pay for it) is like swatting us upside the head with a racing flat.

Having said all that, will I compete in regional and national USAT events again? Absolutely. Do I plan to fulfill my mission of competing in Powerman Zofingen, the ITU long-course duathlon world championship? Absolutely. I don’t know when, but when I do, I’ll be physically and mentally “all in.”

Do I think USAT does a few things right? Yep. It promotes a sport that welcomes beginners. In a country faced with an obesity crisis, the more people we have engaging in healthy activities, the better.

It offers a wealth of training tips through its website, newsletters and magazine that athletes of all ability levels can learn from. It sanctions races all over the country, ensuring a greater chance we’ll participate in reasonably well-organized, safe events. It established solid programs for college and youth. It established a complicated rankings system so competitive age-groupers like myself can see how we stack up.

And it hired COO Tim Yount. I don’t know everything his job entails, but I know he is passionate about promoting and growing duathlon, and I know he works hard for USAT’s membership body. He travels all over the U.S. and world as a USAT liaison. I’ve seen him lead course preview rides, town hall discussions and rules briefings. I’ve heard him emcee big races. I’ve seen him stand near the finish line for hours to hand little American flags to athletes approaching the finish line of world championship events.

What do you think? How can USAT make duathlon more accessible to all? To keep the sport going, it has to bring in more participants, and to bring in more participants, it should be more accessible to more people. Please share your thoughts in the comments.