Brain training: how to find that extra gear

Do you start out strong in a race, only to slog through the final few miles? Blame it on your brain.

Samuel Marcora, director of research at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at England’s University of Kent, reports that the brain can have as much impact on performance as muscle exhaustion.

According to an article in Outside magazine, Marcora started researching mental fatigue’s impact on physical performance in 2009. He’s tested rugby players and he’s tested himself. Analyzing mountains of data, he concluded that the brain tells us to stop or slow down even when we have more gas in the tank or an extra gear to push.

What can you do about it?

Train the mind as well as the body.

If you tend to slow down too much in the second run of a duathlon, practice running hard when tired. Incorporate bricks with a hard bike followed by a fast 5K, for example.

Do you let yourself slow down in training? Stop it! What you do in training, you’ll do in racing. If your mind starts telling you, “I’m too tired. I’ve done enough. I can jog this last mile,” tell it to shut up. Replace that thought with something positive, such as “I’m a winner; I’m strong; keep pushing; etc.” Focus on your form: your foot cadence, your posture, your arms.

Use a magnet. Imagine that the person in front of you has a magnet on her back. The magnet pulls you closer, until you’re right behind her, and then when you confidently pass her. Put a magnet on someone else’s back and repeat.

Keep it positive. If you’re off pace, don’t beat yourself up, especially in a race. Criticism doesn’t help performance. Instead, say something like. “Okay. 7:05? Just a little more.” If you think you can push harder, push harder. But if you know, through consistent training, that your 10K pace is about 6:45 minutes per mile, don’t start running 6:15s because you think you can push harder. Otherwise  you really will be whining at the end of a race!

For more mental toughness tips, check out this article by JoAnn Dahlkoetter, PhD. A well-known sports psychologist and longtime runner, JoAnn has worked with a slew of professional athletes, as well as regular folks—like me! JoAnn helped me for a couple sessions leading up to the 2014 World Duathlon Championships in Pontevedra, Spain. The magnet trick? That’s her idea.

What do you do to stay strong late in a race? Share your tips in the comments below!



How to master draft-legal racing

For most duathletes, draft-legal racing is a new opportunity this year. Drafting, riding in a pack, forming or chasing a break…most bike racers know these skills, but “du” you?

Draft-Legal Duathlon

If you want to compete in the ITU Draft-Legal Sprint Duathlon World Championships in Penticton, Canada, you’ll need to know some basic pack-riding skills. Otherwise, you may find yourself time-trialing at the back of the pack, and what fun is that?

To help you your quest to ride assertively and safely in a draft-legal race, duathlete and coach Eric Schwartz put together a podcast on that very thing. Check it out here.

Still got questions about draft-legal racing and skills? Ask them here. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you. Du It For You at your service!

Oh. And if you do have your eye on Penticton, you’ve got to qualify. In the United States, the place to do that is at the USAT 2017 Draft-Legal Sprint World Championship Qualifier in New Orleans on November 6. Place in the top 10 in your age group and finish within a to-be-determined cutoff time, and you’re in!

If you’ve got New Orleans on your race calendar, I wish you the best race ever.

My duathlon season has come to a close, so no run-bike-run for me until early 2017. In the meantime, I’m running ridiculously hard in USA Track & Field-Pacific Region’s cross country series, which takes place along Bay Area hill and dale until mid-November. It’s a nice change to take part in a bunch of no-frills races—no transitions, no fancy bikes, no aero anything. But the level of intensity is like nothing else.

Happy running-riding-running,

–Du It for You


Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon Worlds-news from the U.S.

USA Triathlon reported that United States duathletes claimed two world titles and eight total medals at the Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships in Zofingen, Switzerland last weekend.

Steve Sloan, from Berkeley, California (not far from yours truly in Oakland), earned gold for his 7:21:33 performance on the extremely long, difficult course. At age 19, Steve was also the youngest athlete in the race. He’s certainly got a long, successful career ahead of him.

Jenny Hay, from North Richland Hills, Texas, also topped her 20-24 age group with an impressive 10:42:46.

Read the USAT press release and get full results here.

I’m fascinated with Zofingen and intimidated by it. I’ve heard Ironman triathletes say it’s the hardest race they’ve ever done. Yikes! I think of the hilly 10K-150K-30K course as the pinnacle of our sport. When I talk to someone that’s finished Zofingen, my eyes get all big and I have to know more.

Soon, I hope to have my own stories to tell. My goal is to compete in this race before 2020. 2018 will be Powerman Zofingen’s 30th birthday. That could be my year!

Free speed: ride faster with these aero tweaks

In a duathlon, a few seconds can mean the difference between a podium spot and a forgettable place in the age group ranks.

Smart, consistent training is really the only (legal) way to get faster on the bike. But with a few adjustments to your equipment, clothing, and position, you can shave several seconds or more off of your duathlon time and reclaim your spot on top.

Jonathan Lee, a professional cycling coach, bike fitter, and Cat 1 racer based in Santa Rosa, California, has few equipment suggestions to help you get more aero on the bike. Even better, you don’t have to spend a few thousand dollars on a new set of wheels to reap benefits. Even taking off your gloves can save precious time!

Do you have any aero tips or favorite gear? Share in the comments below!

In order of priority, here are a few highlights from his aerodynamic checklist.

  1. Aero helmet. Several companies make helmets that will help you cut through the wind like a jet. Louis Garneau and Giro are popular choices. I’m partial to my Rudy Project Wingspan. If a new helmet isn’t in the cards right now, you can tape over the vents on your regular helmet. Lee says it really does help! I’ve done it!
  1. Front wheel. A good set of wheels can save up to 50 watts, according to John Cobb of Cobb Cycling. And the front wheel takes all the wind, making it a more important aero swap than the rear. Zipp 1080, Hed Stinger 9, and Zipp 808 are a few of Lee’s top choices. Be sure to pair your wheels with good tires that offer low rolling resistance.
  1. Aero bars. Straight extension or S-bend aerobar extensions will allow your hands to lay flatter (and more aero) than the J-bends that are popular with triathletes.
  1. Aero fork. A more aero fork will reduce drag from the front wheel without much drag on your wallet. Jetstream, Aerus, and Easton are a few brands to consider.

Other easy tweaks

  • If you bike doesn’t have internal cable routing, secure cables to the frame with zip ties.
  • Mount your water bottle (aero of course) on the seat tube rather than the front tube.
  • Swap quick-release skewers for bolt-on skewers. Lee says this simple change will save a few seconds off of a 40K time trial.
Me at a duathlon in Folsom, California. Am I aero enough?


  1. Get the skinsuit. They really are faster. Find one that allows for minimal air flow without compressing you like a sausage. One side-by-side test showed almost a two-minute savings in a 40K time trial compared to a standard jersey and shorts.
  1. Ditch the gloves. Those Velcro straps hang out in the wind, costing you precious time. According to MIT wind tunnel tests, wearing regular cycling gloves in a time trial will slow you down more than riding without an aero front wheel. If you race in the cold, invest in a pair of aero gloves.

Body tweaks

  • Make yourself “small.”
  • Keep your arms and elbows as close together as possible without restricting your breathing.
  • Roll your shoulders forward like a turtle.
  • Keep your knees close to the bike.
  • Keep your head down low so that the tip of your aero helmet touches (or almost touches) your back.

The best time to rethink your aero equipment is in conjunction with a professional bike fit. Your body accounts for 70 to 75 percent of the aerodynamic drag created during forward movement. If you can get more efficient, aero, and comfortable on the bike, you can gain more power. Even modest power gains can lead to big results!

To find out more about Jonathan Lee’s coaching and bike-fitting services, email him at