Duathlon: How to ace the second run

Duathlon second run

Nothing brings more lead-legged discomfort in duathlon than the dreaded second run.

After five years of duathlon racing, that bike-run transition hasn’t felt any easier. I’ve had second runs where I’ve almost threw up my drink, runs reduced to a relative shuffle and runs where—oh happy day—I ran well and passed several competitors.

With proper training, pacing and fueling, you can improve your run off the bike and cruise to a successful finish.

Master the brick

To run well off the bike you have to practice running off the bike. Incorporate at least one bike-run brick a week into your training. When you’re just starting out, don’t worry about pace. Just run.

Froome run off bike
It’s safe to say Froome didn’t practice his off-the-bike run before stage 12 of Tour de France, 2016.

As you progress, add intensity to your brick. Try a one-hour bike with the last 10 minutes at race pace, followed by a short run with the first five minutes at race pace.

Jason Digman, former head of Dig It Triathlon and Multisport Coaching, recommends what I call the “multi-brick.” After a warmup, perform three sets of one-mile run, 10-minute bike, with no recovery in between. Keep your first multi-brick at race pace plus 15 to 20 seconds. Over the course of four weeks, progress up to race pace.

Play with the distance of your run and bike intervals depending on your goal race’s length. Bonus: you get lots of transition practice!

Du second-run strides

Albert Harrison, a USA Track & Field Level 2 Coachand a USA Triathlon national champion in both the standard and long-course duathlon, recommends a set of short intervals right off the bike. Running fast right away helps your body overcome that jelly-leg feeling and—surprise surprise!—run fast off the bike.

Harrison suggests 20-second strides or 400-meter repeats faster than goal race pace. “Be careful though,” he wrote me via Twitter, “you’re more susceptible to injury while running on tired legs.”

Jesse Bauer, an elite duathlete based in Edmonton, Canada, agrees. Why? Because short, fast efforts promote a high leg cadence off the bike.

Bauer’s favorite second-run speed workouts are 200-meter repeats at faster than goal race pace, or 5x 30-seconds, followed by a 30-second walk/jog recovery, straight into a 1-2K race pace effort.

“Paid off big on the steep hill out of T2 on Friday,” he told me via Twitter, referring to the recent ITU World Multisport Championships in Fyn, Denmark, where he competed in the elite men’s standard duathlon.

If it’s early in your season or you haven’t done much stride work, build intensity gradually to avoid injury. Start with a couple sets of 30-second strides, with a full recovery jog in between.

Focus on form.

Top age-group competitor and multisport coach Suzanne Cordes keeps her focus on good form during the second run—that time when you see many runners hunched over, shuffling along or walking.

During your interval or faster running workouts, focus on how you hinge your hips, how you run tall, how you maintain good form. Think about that powerful stride when you bolt out of T2, she says.

magnet

When you settle into your second-run pace, use the magnet trick suggested by sports psychologist and Your Performing Edge author Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter:

Imagine your competitor has a magnet on her back. Let it pull you toward her. If there’s no one in eyesight, put the magnet on a tree or the top of a hill.

Don’t start out too fast.

Repeat: don’t start out too fast. When you’re well-rested and well-trained, it’s so easy to fly through the first run as if it’s a standalone race. Don’t. You’ll pay for it in the second run, if not on the bike.

The goal is to hit even splits—or as close to even as possible—on your first and second run. I accomplished my best races when I ran the second run pretty darn close to my first.

Endurance coach Eric Schwartz suggests the following: if your race involves two 5Ks, plan to run them about 30 to 60 seconds slower than your standalone 5K time. The faster your race pace, the less time you should add.

Digman suggests something similar. Add the distance of your run legs together and pace according to a run distance one step longer. For example, if your duathlon involves 10K of running, race according to your 10-mile race pace.

Your competitors may run away from you in the first run, but with smart pacing and training, you’ll pass them back in the end. Remember, Digman writes, “they don’t give away the medals for the first athlete into T1.”

What are your second run training tips? Let us know in the comments below!

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Guest Post: Thoughts on the mental aspects of multisport racing, Part 1

winner medal

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

Renowned American inventor Thomas Edison supposedly said: “Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.”

Taking “inspiration” to mean mental work, back in 1992 when I wrote the original version of this column (see my note below at the end), I thought the ratio in triathlon racing was almost the opposite (even on a very hot day) —99 percent mental work, 1 percent perspiration.

I recall reading an article in an issue of Triathlete magazine back then in which one of the original “Fabulous Four,” Mark Allen, described winning the Hawaii IRONMAN as a “mental exercise in pain management.” (The other members of the group were Dave Scott, Scott Molina, and Scott Tinley. All four are members of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame.)

Back then I noted that except for those folks at the front of the pack who are technical riders or fast swimmers, there is little physical or athletic skill involved in the primary triathlon sports: swimming, cycling and running. Left, right, left, right is the name of the game. And while we all perspire profusely on a hot day, it is not the perspiration per se that gets us through the race.

It’s our minds.

Today, while I think that’s still true for the most part, there is much more emphasis on technique in all three sports than there was back then.

For myself, as a Golden Oldie (age 81), who, as I describe myself, started out slow 35 years ago and has been getting slower ever since, it’s never been much about technique. I needed a lot of discipline and, indeed, technique in both teaching and writing in my work as an academic. I also needed it in my other sport, downhill skiing, in which I eventually became good enough to become a certified ski instructor.

In order to teach proper technique, essential to good (and safe) skiing, I had to be able to do it myself. But for our sport it’s always been to do what I do in all three sports to a) get through the course and b) not get injured, having learned just enough technique in all three sports to do just that.

Nevertheless, what is it that enables triathletes to finish, especially in the long races (whatever is a long race for you—sprint-, Olympic-, long- or ultra-distance)? Technique, for sure, to help you go as fast as you want to go, bearing in mind that you have to be able to finish the race.

But primarily, in my view, it is mental discipline, dealing with both technique and speed. It is the ability to focus, to concentrate. As well as staying with your technique, it is the ability to keep your eyes on the prize (which for most of us is finishing at or around our time objective).

It is the ability, as Mark Allen put it, to put up with the pain, to manage it, even adjust your speed to it: “I can take the pain that speeding up will bring with it.” Or, conversely, “It’s okay, I can take a minute-a-mile less on the run. It’s going to hurt a lot less and that makes slowing down a bit worth it.”

For me, much more important from the mental standpoint is knowing why you’re in the sport. Multisport racing, over time, is tough, more for the training than for the racing. To stay with it for any considerable period of time, you have to be doing it for yourself, for how you feel doing it, for how it makes you feel about yourself, for how it makes you look, to yourself, not to someone else.

If it makes you feel good, and feel good about yourself, you are going to stay with it, as tough as it is, physically, mentally and time-wise, over the long haul. If not, then you will not stay with it. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Hardly. But to stay with it, you definitely have to know why, and what are the goods, for yourself, that you are getting from the sport.

Next time, we’ll deal with some of the specifics of the mental aspects of the sport and the power of the mind.

* This column, as recently published (see below) is based in part on an article I wrote in 1992 for my then-regular column, “Triathlon for Everyman,” that appeared in the June issue of Triathlon Today!It was entitled “Some Mental Aspects of Triathloning.”

** A version of this column originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog, Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series,(No. 49, 2018/01), Jan. 29, 2018, and is used with permission.

2018 marks Dr. Steve Jonas’ 36thseason of multisport racing. He began the season with 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 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 multisport periodicals, including the USA Triathlon Blog. He very happily joined Du It For You in 2016.

Guest post: Spring is here: what to “du”?

Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H., duathlete and triathlete, shares his tips for getting out there after winter hibernation.

bike in snow

Spring is coming. Really? If you, like I do, live in a part of the country that has had a pretty rough winter, especially during the past month of March, you might not actually believe that. But yes, spring will eventually get here and where you live too, and we will be able to start racing again. And so, what to do for getting going for the upcoming season, in light of the really miserable winter weather many of us had?

We are all, of course, all anxious to get back to racing. Some of us ordinarily do work out outdoors during the winter. While I used to when I was much younger, my winter routine is now primarily found indoors—riding the stationary bike, stretching, and lifting in my own gym in my basement (lucky me!) But if you have routinely spent some of your winter training time outdoors, you may have had to cut back because of the weather. And if you are like me, running and riding outside again will be delayed, or at least cut back some, because of the weather.

What are my main words of advice?

Caution and patience.

Don’t push it, either in your training or in your early season racing. The season is a long one. You don’t want to get injured at the beginning of the season. And yes, you may have your heart set on an early-season duathlon, but if you can’t get in enough training for it, it is much better to skip it than to go out there and get hurt.

Until four years ago, I skied during the first two weeks of March. While skiing for the most part isn’t aerobic (or shouldn’t be, if you know what you are doing, and as a retired ski instructor I can say that if you don’t know that, you don’t belong out there), it does get the blood circulating and the muscles limbered up. But since I am no longer skiing, that part of my preparation is not there. Now, early in the season, in any race that I do, I will take it even easier than I usually do these days.

I’ve got a long, good season planned. You may well have one too. Don’t ruin it by trying to defy Mother Nature. She will have her way, and if you go with the flow, you can have a great season, even if it means either missing or taking it very easy in that first race or two.

###

This column is based in part on one that originally appeared on the USA Triathlon blog and is used with permission.

2018 marks Steve Jonas’ 36th season of multi-sport racing. He began the season with 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 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) 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, including the USA Triathlon Blog. He very happily joined Du it For You in 2016.

Photo courtesy of Francisco Daum, Flickr.

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.

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.

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.

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.