Guest post: Want a pretty medal? Wait for it.

Here’s another great column from legendary duathlon “mere mortal,” Dr. Steven Jonas. Funny he should bring up this very important topic. Last weekend, I volunteered for the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon, a race my running club, Pamakid Runners, puts on each year.

My teammates and I manned a booth at a local race expo. The number one question? What will the medals look like? It’s a beautiful, flat course? That’s nice. What about the medal? When can I see the medal? Can I buy a medal? Medals are a big deal in today’s running community. They’re also a big deal for age-groupers competing in big multisport events. Here’s Steve’s take on his well-earned inventory. Enjoy! –Du It For You

ITU Duathlon medal

Are you slow, but want to get a medal? Well, hang in there. Hey, you never know. I am a very lucky man to have found multi-sport racing. I reached the age of 46 having been able to do only two sports reasonably well. They were downhill skiing, which I got into during my first year of medical school at the age of 22, and sail-boating, which I got into in my 30s.

I fell in love with skiing on my very first day, even though I spent almost as much time down on the snow as I did actually standing up on my skis. But not being good at any of the usual school sports, I felt that I had finally discovered one I could do, if I took lessons and practiced. Eventually I did it well enough to become a Level I Certified Ski Instructor.

As for sailing, I was a good seaman and a safe sailor and just loved the “sailing sensation.” But I was never much at making my boat go fast in the club races I regularly entered. And in sailboat racing, if you’re not first, second, or third overall, fuhgeddaboudit (as we say in Noo Yawk). But then came triathlon, at age 46.

My-oh-my! Here was a racing sport which required only the ability to swim some distance, ride a bike, and then manage a run. My very first race was the 1983 Mighty Hamptons Triathlon at Sag Harbor, New York. In it, I discovered that unless you were fast, and competitive, it didn’t really matter where you finished, as long as you finished (and in my view, I did that happily and healthily, a phrase I coined the very next morning, when I went out for a little unwinding trot).

Then it just happened that my third race overall, held the following May, was what Dan Honig, the now-retired President of the New York Triathlon Club (nee Big Apples Triathlon Club) and I have concluded was the very first biathlon ever held. Dan thought up the event as a “season-extender” for multi-sport racing in our region. (FYI, “Biathlon” was the early name for our run-bike-run sport, before the application for inclusion of triathlon in the Olympics came up. Then, because biathlon is a winter Olympic sport consisting of cross-country skiing and target shooting, the Greek prefix was exchanged for the Latin one.)

Dan’s race was held at the old Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. (That airfield, now long-closed, I had known in my New York City childhood as a Naval Air Station. Before that it was New York City’s first commercial airport.) For my first few years on both variants, that’s what it was in its entirety: racing for the pure fun of it.

But then, at what was already a relatively advanced age for getting into a new sport, in my region (New York Metropolitan Area), my age-cohort started to shrink a bit when I turned 50. And lo and behold, with the Mighty Hamptons back then giving age-group awards ten deep, I got my first award, an 8th, in 1987. I took my first age-group 3rd in 1991. I really started reeling them in in both duathlon and triathlon when I entered the 60-64 age group in 1996. Why? Was I going any faster? Why no. As I have gotten older, not one for speed-training, I have gotten steadily slower. But in this region, my age-cohort has continued to shrink while I have continued to race. Now 80, in my 35th year in the sport, I have 250-plus multi-sport races under my belt, including 90-plus du’s. At my age, I am almost guaranteed a plaque if I cross the finish line.

Would I still be racing if I weren’t getting plaques? Because I love the sport so much, I’m sure that I would. But I must admit that I do like getting them. That’s because I view them, for me, as a reward for staying with the sport for so long, especially since I am so slow (and now for the most part walking the run legs). And so, my message here is this: do you enjoy du-ing the Du for its own sake? Great! But even if you are slow like me, if you stay with run-bike-run long enough, you may eventually end up with some plaques too

*This column is based on one that originally appeared on the USAT blog and is used with permission.

2017 marks Steve Jonas’ 35th season of multi-sport racing. As of this writing, 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 90s for duathlon. He has raced up to the ironman distance, but now at 80, he is sticking to the sprints in both duathlon and triathlon. Steve is a prolific author of books on multi-sport racing. His first (originally published in 1986) was 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 multi-sport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. He is also long-time writer for various multi-sport periodicals, most recently, and happily, joining Du It For You.

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Guest post: Are You A “Real” Duathlete?

[Editor’s note: In my view, anyone who competes in a run-bike-run format event is a duathlete. There is no “real.” Everyone, no matter where they finish in the pack, is an athlete that’s doing their best. As Steven Jonas writes, not everyone agrees. The situation he describes reminds me of many conversations I’ve had with non-runners about my weekend activities. I tell them I’m racing on Sunday. “How far?” they ask. 5K, I tell them. “Oh,” they say flatly. “That’s not so bad.” Really? Had I told this person I was running a marathon, their eyes would light up. As if anything less isn’t a “real” race. Tomorrow I’m racing a mile—just one mile!—one week after competing in the USAT Duathlon National Championships (standard course) in Bend, Oregon. That mile will feel as much like a “real” race as the two-and-a-half-plus-hour effort in Bend, for sure! So whatever, wherever, however you’re du-ing it, be proud of yourself for du-ing. You are a duathlete. And now on to Dr. Jonas… – Du It For You]

As you are sure to know by now, duathlons come in a variety of distances and levels of difficulty. I’ve been reading duathlon/triathlon literature for a long time. And every once in a while, I come across something like this [modified] quote from a letter that appeared back in the October 2008 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine:

“Some time ago, I participated in a sprint-distance duathlon. The race took me a few months to prepare for, was a lot of fun, and got me excited about mul­tisport…Here’s my problem: Some say that I didn’t really do a duathlon and that I’m lying whenever I tell people I did, even though I always use the ‘sprint-distance’ qualifier. Some say that only something like the Powerman Zofingen—a 10 kilometer run, a 150 kilometer bike, and a 30 kilometer run—is a ‘real’ duathlon. Am I misleading people, including myself, when I say I did a duathlon if the race was only a sprint?”

Kenny Souza
Kenny Souza in 1993, a duathlete if there ever was one. But you don’t have to wear a Speedo to be a duathlete.

So, let’s see. Is there some absolute standard for what qualifies a particular race as “real?” Well, as of this writing, I’m about to start my 35th season in multi-sport racing and have done over 250 duathlons and triathlons.

And no, I don’t think there is some absolute standard for a “real” multi-sport race. If, for the person who told the letter-writer that the only “real” duathlon is something like Powerman Zofingen, all that means is that the only “real” duathlon, for him or for her, is such a race. For what does the word “real” really mean, in personal (not scientific) terms? It means something that you experience objectively, something that you can see or taste or hear or feel, that has an actual existence for you, not necessarily to anybody else.

So whether the race is long, short, or in between; done on a hot, cold, windy, calm, or in between day; hilly, flat, or in between…was it real for you? Did getting to the start line and then crossing the finish line, whether you went fast, or slow, or in between, mean something significant for you? That’s all that matters. Then for you it was a real race, a real experience.

Then how about doing a sprint duathlon or a standard-distance duathlon that the quoted letter-writer put down? Are none of the folks who compete in them real duathletes? What does that make age-groupers who compete in the annual USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships like I did last year at Bend, Oregon? Or the International Triathlon Union Sprint-Distance Duathlon World Championships, which I hope to be doing at Penticton, British Columbia in August?

Over the course of my career, I’ve raced up to the Ironman distance (started five, finished three, ran out of time on the marathon in the other two) as well as several ITU World Championship triathlons at both the Olympic and sprint distances.

Every race I have done, whether an Ironman or one of the sprint-distance duathlons that I do a couple of times a year in New York City’s Central Park, has been, as the word is defined above, “real” for me, in the context of that race, on the day of that race. Regardless of your finishing time or the length of the race, if you’ve had a good time at the race, if you feel good and feel good about yourself after the race, then you are a real duathlete.

This column is adapted from one that appeared on the USA-Triathlon Blog in 2013 and is used with permission.

 

2017 marks Steve Jonas’ 35th season of multi-sport racing. Steve is the author of Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®. The 2nd Ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) and 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 multi-sport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Race Report: Cary Du Classic – USAT Long Course National Championship

Race Report: Cary Du Classic – USAT Long Course National Championship

For the second year, Cary, North Carolina hosted the USAT Long Course National Championship on April 29. This was my first visit to Cary, located just outside of Raleigh, and my first long course national duathlon. That I won my age group had as much to do with luck as skill. Had I competed in this event last year, I would have finished eighth! But it’s not last year. It’s 2017, and I earned my first age group win in a national championship du. Woo Hoo!

The trip didn’t start well. I arrived ridiculously late—it was 1:30 a.m. Thursday night/Friday morning by the time I arrived to my hotel, and around 2:30 a.m. when I flopped into bed. I slept fitfully for about five hours. As someone who deals with occasional insomnia, I value sleep! I don’t function well when I’m deprived of it. But I pressed on…

The first order of business (after coffee) on Friday morning was a short, easy run; ideally on the course, if I could figure it out. I happened to show up just as a guy on a fancy aero bike rode into the parking lot. “Do you know the run course?” I asked. He kinda did, but his friend Bert knew it better. They were planning to run it also as soon as Bert finished his ride. I asked to tag along and they politely agreed.

Little did I know I was running with the overall male winner, Albert “Bert” Harrison, and the masters men’s winner, Tom Woods. What luck! When I wasn’t falling behind, I learned they were from Idaho and Nebraska, respectively, and none of us had any recent experience with heat and humidity.

Cary Du
Bert (left) won a growler (empty, sadly) for his efforts.

Post run, I headed to race sponsor Inside Out Sports in hopes they could fix my bike, which I thought got damaged en route. A cable came unplugged, which I learned was an easy fix. The mechanic went above and beyond: he fixed the cable, checked the derailleur hanger, assessed the shifting, and adjusted an aero bar that got knocked off kilter. The Magic Bullet was ready to go!

Race morning gave us more warm, sticky weather. It was 73 degrees and humid when I arrived at 5:40 a.m. I finished my two-mile warm up drenched. I put some ice in my sports bra (yowza!) and waited.

Cary Du
Me and the bike are ready as can be.
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Hot bike alert! Very patriotic
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Another pretty bike
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It was a sea of pretty bikes

The race started in three waves: under-40 men, 40-plus men, and all women. The run course started on a bike path, wound around and through the Team USA Baseball Complex, through a parking lot, back on a bike path, out-and-back on Green Level Church Road, and back on the bike path to the start. The long course did this 2.5-mile sorta-out-and-back twice.

The course was relatively flat, with some gentle rises/false flats and one tiny hill of about, oh, five meters. Typically for this type of course, for this distance, I should have been able to click off 6:50 to seven-minute miles no problem. On race day, it was a problem. The heat? I finished the first run averaging about 7:20s.

I curse when I’m riding. Sometimes. Under my breath when cars do stupid things. My first four-letter word came at the bike mount, which was on a little hill. I was about to take off when suddenly a swarm of people came around from behind, tried to mount their bikes, and proceeded to weave and fall all over the ground. One woman fell right in front of me. That’s when swear word Number One came out. People, please! If you’re going to race your bike, learn how to ride your bike! And that includes learning how to clip in on a hill!

The bike course was relatively flat and fast, with about 1,100 feet of elevation gain over 31-ish miles. Athletes from flatter regions called it hilly. For someone used to the East Bay hills and Mt. Diablo, it was about as flat as you could get!

After the short course duathletes turned off around mile seven, the rest of us had lots of room to spread out. There were long stretches where I had no one behind me, and only one person visible in front of me—a spec of blue jersey far ahead. We rode by Jordan Lake, which is much bigger than I imagined, and along lots of quiet shaded roads. At one point I saw a turtle on the road. Bad sign? A symbol of my speed, for sure. When you ignore bike intervals for eight months and then do them only sporadically before your first big race, you don’t get the best results.

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Jordan Lake. Photo courtesy of Flickr

The second run repeated the first-run course, but this time, we had miles of fatigue in our legs and more heat—about 80 degrees. I saw lots of people walking. My pace, which was slower than the first run but still persistent, felt like a slog. I dumped water on my head and sipped what I could at the water stops. That little bitty hill became a beast! I told myself when I got around the final turn, I would pick it up to the finish. Okay, when I got to the first/last water stop I’d pick it up. Oh, well, just finish like you mean it. That I did.

A few days before the race, I saw there were very few women in my age group. I thought maybe, if I had a good day, I’d have a shot at the podium. I didn’t expect to finish first. Now I have a pretty medal, a cool national champion jersey, and had a $20 gift certificate to Inside Out Sports (spent that later in the afternoon).

Cary Du
Me and the second place woman, Alisha Woodroof
IMG_0300
Big shiny medal. The blue national champion jersey is pretty cool too.

All in all, I give Cary and FS Series a big thumbs up. The volunteers and staff were all super-friendly and supportive. The event had a local race feel (because it was), but with a big USA Triathlon arch and finish line chute to make it official.

There were a few glitches, such as one water stop running out of water, but glitches happen in just about every race. We had an abundance of finish line food—sandwiches, fruit, bagels, gummy bears, and Mountain Dew (Yep, I had one. Probably my first Mountain Dew in about 15 years!)—and lots of nice people. I met athletes from Nebraska, Idaho, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and, of course North Carolina.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some of them in Bend, Oregon in June for the standard course nationals and in Penticton, BC, in August for the ITU World Championships. In the meantime, quality time on the bike!

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