Guest post: How much training do you need?

Sure, you can spend 20 hours a week in duathlon training, but do you need to? For a standard distance (10K-40K-5K) duathlon or shorter, probably not. You do need to put in enough time to build a strong running and cycling base, and enough intensity on the bike and run to be able to push hard for the duration–especially on the critical second run.

Steven Jonas, author of Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals, takes the less is more approach. Here is his guest post on what it takes to finish a sprint or standard duathlon. (For the record, I have never heard the term “duathloid,” nor do I know any amateur duathlete that trains in the 20 hour-per-week range.) Have any training advice or comments? Please share below. Happy run-ride-running!

Cross Duathlon de Belfort, 3 Apr 2016
Wha? No time to train for a duathlon? Think again!

How Much Training Do You Need?

Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.

Is multisport racing for everyone? Are the “real” duathletes only those who go fast and train for at least 10-15 hours per week? Some of the spokespeople for our sport seem to think so.

One once defined a “duathloid” as “a bozo who prefers to survive, rather than train for, duathlons.” For this “expert,” training began at 6 hours per week, going up to 22-25 for a standard-distance duathlon. Yet another presented a training program for the “Beginning Duathlete” which requires a minimum of 11-12 hours per week (for an unspecified number of weeks). That’s the range, for 13 weeks, I recommended for an Ironman-distance triathlon. With even a bit less training than that, when I was (much) younger (I’m now 80 and still racing) I started five Ironman-distance races, finished three of them, and simply ran out of time on the marathon in the other two.

If you have read this far, you might be saying to yourself: “Why is this guy going on about this stuff?” Because I think that “good” in duathlon doesn’t necessarily mean “fast.” Because I am concerned about elitism in our wonderful sport. Because I am concerned about the witting or unwitting intimidation of potential participants in multi-sport racing. Because I think and feel, both as a professional in preventive medicine and a du-tri-athlete now starting my 35th season of multi-sport racing, that we have a great, healthy, fun sport. And it should be made available to everybody. Telling people that they have to train a minimum of 12 hours per week just to do an Olympic distance-equivalent duathlon closes entry to the sport down. It doesn’t open it up.

The average recreational runner in this country does 12-15 miles per week, taking two-three hours per week. That’s three to four hours per week. Well folks, experience has told us over and over again that’s all you need to do a sprint-distance (5k-20k-5k) duathlon. For the standard-distance duathlon, add another 1-2 hours per week.

Having been a 15-20 mile per week runner for two years, in 1983, I did my first triathlon, at the age of 46. It was the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon at Sag Harbor, New York. My training program for that race was the prototype for what became the program that I first published in my 1986 book, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals: five hours per week for 13 weeks, building on a base that averaged three hours of aerobic exercise per week for a minimum of three months. I have used it ever since and so have numerous readers of my book. There is a very similar program in my book Duathlon Training and Racing of Ordinary Mortals®. Unless you are unusually naturally fast, you aren’t going to win. But with the right approach to the sport you can have a heck of a good time, for a very long time, without ever having an age-group winning time in the race.

Having fun is always my first objective. If you are fast, and you can win, great. Then you will likely train more. But simply to enjoy the sport, safely, simply does not take that much time.

This column is based on one that originally appeared on the USAT blog, June 2013. Used with permission.

2017 marks Steve Jonas’ 35th season of multisport racing. As of the end of his 34th, he had done a total of 250 du’s and tri’s. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90s for duathlon. The second edition of his first book, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals® (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) is still in print. Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides) came out in 2012. All of his books on multisport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

 

Guest post: Why Du the Du? An Introduction

Regular readers of this blog likely know what duathlons are, but if you are just coming into multisport racing, it might be helpful to go over the definition. Duathlons are distance races with three separate legs but two sports: running and cycling. They come in a variety of lengths from short to very, very long. And in that regard, do you know what, for a duathlete, is a crazy duathlete? Why one who has done a longer race than the longest one she or he has done.

Why tri the du? Let us count the ways. Whether you already do a distance sport, you are looking for a new challenge in your life. Or you want to try it because it looks like fun (and, done right, it is). You are a cyclist, or a runner, and whether you already race in your sport, the idea of combining it with the other one in a race intrigues you. You are interested in getting into what’s called cross-training; that is, training in more than one distance sport at the same time. Cross-training reduces your risk of sport-specific injury in any one of the sports because you are spending less time in each one. Coss-training can also reduce the boredom that can come with doing just one distance sport. And so, if you are cross-training, why not do the racing event it was originally designed for? Duathlon also provides a great excuse to buy some new toys — like a bike — especially for runners.

You may already be thinking about multi-sport racing, and you may well have heard about triathlon than duathlon. Yes indeed, you could try the tri for whatever reason or reasons pull your chain. But, let’s say that you don’t like to, want to, or just cannot, swim. Well then, it is definitely time to look at duathlon. Although there have been just run-bike events (and I did several of those years ago), the most common format is run-bike-run. There are four standard distances (although variants of them can be found to accommodate various course lengths and settings). There is what is generally called the super sprint, 2.5km run,10km cycle, 2.5km run, the sprint 5km run, 20km cycle, 5km run, standard distance: 10km run, 40km, 10km run, and a variety of truly long ones, like Powerman Zofingen, 10km run, 150km cycle, 30km run event, held in Switzerland.

So, if you are thinking about getting started in multisport racing but don’t like the idea of swimming, or you are a triathlete who is getting tired of training in the three sports, or you are looking for shorter combo events that are still a challenge but not as demanding as the usual triathlon, or you are most comfortable on the bike and perfectly happy to do the bulk of your training on it, or what have you, it might be time to “think duathlon.”

When duathlons were first developed by Dan Honig, President of New York Triathlon Club in the mid-1980s, the run-bike-run events were called “biathlons.” In the mid-90s the International Triathlon Union moved to get triathlon added to the Olympic Games. As many readers know, “biathlon” is also the name of the winter Olympic sport that combines cross-country skiing with target-shooting. Understandably, the winter biathlon people didn’t want another event in the Olympics associated with one that had the same name as theirs. So, by substituting the Latin prefix for the Greek one, the official name of the event was changed to “duathlon.” Whatever it is called, I do them on a regular basis throughout the season, and in my 35th season coming up, continue to do so.

By Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.

This column is based upon an earlier column of mine, “Why Try the Tri and Why Do the Du?” which appeared on the USA-Triathlon Blog on April 25, 2013. It is used with permission.

Du’ing it as a pro: Alistair Eeckman

Alistair Eeckman has stood on a lot of podiums since taking up cycling at age 13. But when the 22-year-old from Berkeley, California crossed the line at Powerman Panama in January 2017, he had an even bigger reason to celebrate. It was his first win as a professional triathlete/duathlete.

Powerman Panama

It was only a matter of time before Eeckman, a top finisher since his first multisport race, would claim an elite license. He earned it in 2013, the year he won age-group gold and placed in the top 10 overall at the ITU Duathlon World Championships in Ottawa, Ontario. He also won the Junior USAT Standard Duathlon Nationals that year, at age 19. He had college to think about, as well as a potential future in triathlon. So he waited.

The opportunity came again in 2014 after he won the competitive Challenge Penticton Half by 11 minutes. Again, he passed.

USA Triathlon offered Eeckman a pro card a third time in 2015 after he took the age-group win at the Wildflower Long-Course Triathlon by a whopping 14 minutes. This time, he said yes.

“That race was an eye opener,” he says. “I did the whole race by myself with no one around to push me. It would have gotten me 15th in the pro field. With more competition, I thought I could get top 10 in a pro race. So I decided to take it and see what happens.”

As a newly minted pro, Eeckman has competed in both triathlon and duathlon, the latter giving him an early chance to compete on an international stage. At Powerman Florida, held in December in Silver Springs, Florida, Eeckman ran out of real estate as he closed in on the leader, France’s Gael Le Bellec, a two-time Powerman world duathlon champion, to take second in the elite field on the 10K-65K-10K course.

At Powerman Panama, in January, Eeckman patiently moved up from sixth to second in the first 10K run. He took the lead on the 60K bike and held it though the end of a hot (between 77 and 90 degrees F), humid race. You can read about both races on Eeckman’s blog.

Powerman Panama
Alistair Eeckman opened up a gap on the bike.

“Several people took it out pretty fast on the first run,” he says. “You have to be careful—it’s easy to go out too fast on first run, and if you go out too quick in hot races, you’re going to pay for it pretty bad.”

Powerman Panama
Especially in hot, humid weather, don’t go out too fast!

Eeckman knew that about duathlon from his first race—the 2012 Golden Gate Du in El Sobrante, California, just a few miles east of his Berkeley home. With only two weeks of running under his belt, Eeckman won the race. From then on, he’s focused only on multisport and hasn’t looked back.

Eeckman’s physiology and personality make him ideally suited for multisport. As a junior professional cyclist, he excelled in time trials and hilly courses. In races with lots of attacks that only a sprinter’s DNA can cover, he struggled. Besides, he likes to race for himself.

The fitness gained from an active childhood and years of cycling allowed him to easily transition to running. It didn’t take long for him to build up to a 33-minute 10K in an Olympic distance tri. He continues to work on his swimming. In the meantime, he mixes it up by competing in both tri and du.

While some of his 2017 races remain in flux, Eeckman says he will toe the line in Bend, Oregon, for the 2017 USAT Standard Duathlon National Championships. And he plans to keep the run-bike-run format in his racing calendar moving forward.

“It’s something I’m good at,” he says. “I feel I have a good chance to win the Elite Duathlon Nationals and unfortunately, I couldn’t race it last year due to an injury. I also want to stick with duathlon because another goal I have is to get on the podium at Powerman Duathlon World Championships some time in future.”

 Follow Alistair on Twitter @ajeeckman, and on his blog and his website. For triathlon or/and duathlon coaching (he does that too!), you can email him at: ajeeckman@comcast.net.

Got a question for Alistair about training for Powerman duathlons, training in brutally hot races, or training as an elite? Ask us in the comments below!

Duathlon’s humble beginnings

Welcome Du It For You guest contributor Steven Jonas, author of Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides 2012).

Duathlon for ordinary mortals

Now in his 35th year of multisport racing, Steve, age 80, has completed more than 250 duathlons and triathlons. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and expects to join the Duathlon Century Club this year.

Here, Steve takes us back to duathlon’s beginnings: who started it, why, and how it got its name. Got questions about duathlon’s early years? Post them in the comments below. Enjoy!

Duathlon: A Historical Perspective

The racing sport that for quite some time has been called “triathlon” originated sometime back in the mid-1970s in San Diego, California. No one is absolutely certain of when the first such race was run, who thought it up (although there are a variety of claimants to that honor), and under whose auspices it was put on. But we can be fairly certain of the original history of what is now called “duathlon” and who came up with the idea.

Daniel Honig was an early organizer and promoter of triathlon in the New York Metropolitan Area. I first met him at my second triathlon, a race held on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, at the end of September 1983. Right next to the transition area, Dan had set up a table for what he then called the Big Apple Triathlon Club. An inveterate joiner, who had actually fallen in love with triathlon during my first race two weeks previously, the second running of the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon (then held at Sag Harbor, New York for the first time), I jumped at the opportunity to enroll.

The next spring, when I received a notice from Dan of a race to be held in May 1984, something he called “biathlon,” I was intrigued. For there was a race one could do locally well, before the water at any of the then-available triathlon venues was warm enough for swimming. And that was the idea that originally inspired Dan to come up with biathlon. How about a variant of triathlon that could extend the season in the colder climes? It would still have three segments, but the swim leg would be replaced by an opening run.

Other two-sport variants of triathlon appeared around the same time under a variety of names: “Byathlon,” run-bike, “Cyruthon” (cycle-run). But the run-bike-run format, as developed by Dan, in the first instance quickly came to be seen as an entryway into multi-sport racing for weak or non-swimmers, some of whom might then stay with the form indefinitely (as do many of the readers of this journal).

“When I was a boy” in multi-sport terms, I did my first biathlon in May 1984 at the old Floyd Bennett Field (a former Naval air station) in Brooklyn, New York. It was a cold, wet day, but I was determined to do what then would be my third (what we now call) multi-sport race. I hadn’t raced in the rain in a very long time, for reasons both of safety and comfort. But having looked forward to the race for a couple of months, nothing was going to stop me on that day. Furthermore, it was on a flat, closed course, which made it somewhat safer than being out on a road with traffic. I don’t know what the distances were, but in my race record I do have that I was out on the course for 1:38. That first full season I stayed with both tri- and biathlon, and have done so ever since.

Of course, we now know the sport as “duathlon.” Internationally the name change from “biathlon” came about in the mid-1990s, when the International Triathlon Union applied for the inclusion of triathlon in the Olympic Games. As the campaign got under way, even though there was no idea of including the run-bike-run biathlon in the Olympics as well, the need to come up with a new name for triathlon’s two-sport offspring became appar­ent. In the Winter Olympics, there is a well-established Nordic event that combines cross-country skiing and target‑shooting. It is known as the “biathlon.” Understandably, the International Biathlon Union did not want an­other event in the Olympics, summer or winter, that was associated with the same name as theirs. So, using a Latin rather than a Greek prefix, still with the Greek root, the name “duathlon” for the run-bike-run races was created.

In this column, I will share with you some duathlon thoughts, experiences, and recommendations that I have had over the years. I hope that you will find them useful, and please, if you would like to get in touch with me, don’t hesitate to do so.

This column is drawn in part from Chap. 1 of my book, Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It. © Steve Jonas, All rights reserved

What to “Du” When Your Training Route Collapses

Understatement of the year: it’s been a little wet in the San Francisco Bay Area this winter.  Most of the region is well above normal in rain totals this month, and it seems like most of  it came in a three-day period last week. As a result, almost half of the state is no longer in drought. This is good! But we’ve also had a lot of flooding, fallen trees, sinkholes, and muddy crud and debris in the road.

One of the biggest rain repercussions occurred on a section of Alhambra Valley Road that’s one of the East Bay’s popular riding routes. A creek that passes under the road rose higher and higher, and eventually washed away a hunk of the road. Check it out: It’s a canyon! Too wide even to bunny hop, unless you’re especially talented.

alhambra valley road
photo courtesy of Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

Obviously officials have closed the road until they can fix it. Who knows how long that will take.

Bear Creek Road
Elsewhere on the course – Bear Creek Road. Photo courtesy of Ryan Masters, Santa Cruz Sentinel

On any typical day, motorists and cyclists can choose another route. But when it’s the most logistically feasible bike leg for a popular duathlon series,  what to do?

That’s the dilemma Wolf Hillesheim faced the past few days as he figured out how to hold his next event, Du 3 Bears, on January 28.

Here’s what he’s come up with: He cancelled the USAT-sanctioned short- and long-course duathlons. The five-mile run will go on with a new start time and location. Wolf will bring his transition racks for any athlete that wants to ride an out-and-back route after the five-mile run. He will time and hand out awards for the run as usual, but the bike is self-timed.

If you decide to “du” this modified run-bike, he asks you to pre-register via the printed entry form. Run-only participants can register either online or by snail mail.

Race directors face all sorts of strange last-minute challenges: no-show volunteers, signs and course markings blown away, extreme weather conditions, construction, you name it. It’s not everyday your road disappears! Kudos to Wolf for making the best of a bad situation. He could have canceled the entire event. Instead, he got on the phone with city officials and park officials and figured out a way for the show to go on. And a loyal duathlete following is ever-grateful!

What is your strangest weather-related race experience? Let us know in the comments below!

— GoRunBikeRun

How to master the duathlon transition

Want to shave 30 seconds off your duathlon time without training, and without spending a week’s wages on gear? Improve your transition.

Just like we train to run and ride faster, we should also train to transition faster. I know it’s boring. And people stare at you like a loon when you hop around in your driveway or in front of your apartment building. I’ve been there! But consistent practice on the simple art of putting on a bike helmet and switching from running to cycling shoes will save you precious seconds in your next race.

duathlon transition
My beautiful bike, the MAGIC BULLET, ready to go in transition.

USA Triathlon published a comprehensive article on how to master the fast duathlon transition. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I guide you to it here.

Note: one common tip is to keep your cycling shoes attached to your bike. When you finish your first run, slip off your shoes, run barefoot or sock-footed to the mount line, and mount the bike cyclocross style. I’ve watched elites do this. Do I do this? Heck no. I’m clumsy and scared of biting it on the pavement. In time, maybe I’ll get up my nerve to practice this trick, but for now, I practice changing my shoes very quickly.

duathlon transition
My shoes, not clipped into the MAGIC BULLET, but ready for me to get into them quickly.

For added edge, you could invest in Pyro Platform pedals. Pyro pedals resemble toe clips, but with a longer and stiffer base. Fans say they save loads of time in transition with little to no loss of power. I’ve seen everyone from professional sprint-distance athletes to top-ranking age groupers use them. They eliminate the flying-mount-crash risk, which may be worth the investment!

ITUbike
Suzanne Cordes, Pyro pedals user.

For an upgrade from running shoes with Lock Laces, Pierce Footwear introduced the first laceless, sockless, tongueless running shoe for duathlon and triathlon. Pierce Footwear claims you can get in and out of the shoe faster than traditional shoes with elastic laces. They retail for about $130—about the same as a pair of Hokas.

Do you have any speedy transition tips? Tell us in the comments below!

Happy running-riding-running…

Heart racing? It could be more than race jitters.

Many athletes, especially longtime, high-intensity endurance athletes, have heart-racing stories to tell—in more ways than one.

In 2009, Australian professional triathlete Erin Densham had to be rescued from the water during the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa. Doctors diagnosed her with supraventricular tachycardia, or periodic rapid heartbeat. She had surgery to correct the condition and won bronze in the 2012 London Olympics.

American pro triathlete Justin Park was diagnosed in college with a congenital heart defect that causes heart palpitations and can lead to sudden cardiac death. He struggles with endocrine dysfunction and thyroid issues because of the condition, yet continues to regularly place in the top three in Ironman 70.3 events.

Triathlete
Photo by Bobby Ketchum, Flickr

If you experience an irregular or rapid heartbeat during training, racing, or even at rest, you may have some type of heart arrhythmia, or erratic heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of arrhythmia. It happens when the heart’s upper chambers beat chaotically and out of sync with the lower chambers. Most of the time, AFib comes and goes. In some cases, it lingers for months or permanently.

AFib is one of a handful of common arrhythmias among athletes. Bradachardia, or low heart rate; sinus arrhythmia, where the heartbeat fluctuates with breathing; and premature ventricular contractions (PVC), or extra beats, pose no cause for concern. AFib, however, increases your risk for stroke (only slightly in healthy individuals). Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a rare, genetic heart disorder worth noting because it puts affected individuals at risk of sudden death, especially during heavy exercise.

Stronger hearts, higher risk

Older adults, heavy drinkers, and people with high blood pressure, underlying heart disease, and a family history of AFib have a higher likelihood of developing AFib. Oddly, so do the excessively fit. A 2013 study out of University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland reported a five-fold increased risk of AFib in middle-aged endurance athletes “with a striking male predominance.” (Women, take heart.)

Excess inflammation from training, nerve reflexes, a larger heart, and bradycardia are all proposed contributing factors to arrhythmias among endurance athletes, but true causes remain speculative. “We still don’t totally understand it,” says Michael Emery MD, a sports cardiologist and medical director for the Indiana University Health Center for Cardiovascular Care in Athletics.

It’s also unclear just how much exercise leads to increased arrhythmia risk. Will one marathon up your odds? Or does it take repeated Ironmans over decades? “Researchers are working to understand the mechanistic approach and what kind of lifetime ‘dose’ these athletes are exposing themselves to,” says Emery.

One thing is certain: the endurance athlete lifestyle—exercise, healthy eating habits, healthy weight and body fat—reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. So while long-term endurance exercise may increase your risk of an arrhythmia, healthy habits reduce your risk of many other health conditions.

Will AFib end your athletic career, or worse? Probably not. “It’s usually not life-threatening because most athletes are so healthy,” says Emery. “It can be annoying; however, if it becomes disruptive to your lifestyle it could require a procedure or medication.”

If nerves cause your heart to race at the start line, don’t assume you have AFib. It’s difficult for even doctors to determine the difference between race jitters, starting too fast, and an arrhythmia.

One key sign, Emery says, is noticing your heartbeat. “Most people aren’t aware of their heart beating, even during exercise,” he says. “It may be nothing, but if you notice something unusual, it’s worth talking to your doctor about.” If you feel one little flutter, it’s probably okay to keep going. If you experience something more noticeable (see below), stop.

Park monitors his condition regularly, but hasn’t stopped racing. Most athletes with arrhythmias shouldn’t either. “If you want to lower your risk for heart disease and mortality,” Emery says, “lifelong endurance exercise offers the most bang for your buck.”

Arrhythmia warning signs

If you experience any of these symptoms while training or racing—stop. Doctor’s orders!

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Heart racing or skipping
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain or pressure (This is a medical emergency. Call 911.)

How to decrease your risk

Put less stress on your heart by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

  • Limit caffeine and other stimulants (check your supplements for hidden sources).
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation. (You’re already doing this, right?)
  • Get adequate recovery. Overtraining stresses the heart in more ways than one.
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can precipitate some arrhythmias.
  • Reduce stress. Intense stress and anger up the odds for heart rhythm problems

Du It For  You note: A magazine editor assigned me this story. The magazine’s then-new editor-in-chief promptly killed it. Because I haven’t found a home for it yet, and because I think it’s worthwhile information for veteran endurance athletes, I’m publishing it here. If you’re an editor and interested in this story, get in touch!