A duathlon is a run followed by a cycle followed by another run. I did the Olympic distance duathlon which is a 10k run, a 40k cycle and a 5k run but there are shorter Sprint and Super Sprint distances too.
I’d never done a duathlon before but I’d definitely do it again. It was tough but with training it’s definitely manageable. From my perspective it’s also a lot more enjoyable than the triathlon I did last year. It turns out swimming is so not my thing!
So, if you’re thinking about having a go, I’m hoping you can take something away from the following 7 thoughts that ran through my head on that chilly February morning…
For a first timer there’s a lot to get your head around. The run course is separate to the bike course and the ‘transition zone’ (where you keep your kit and transition from run to bike and vis versa) has a variety of different entrances and exists depending on which leg you’re on. On top of that there were 3 different races going on at the same time which meant different competitors were doing different numbers of laps throughout. Confused yet? I was.
I would really recommend getting to the venue early so you can figure out where you’re supposed to be when. The Windsor Duathlon was based around Dorney Lake in Eton and registration opened bright and early at 7am, so there I was at 7.04 (semi) raring to go…
Getting there early also meant I had the pick of the bunch when it came to choosing where to rack my bike in the transition area as it’s done on a first come first serve basis.
Naturally I chose THE best spot, much to the amusement of all the pro duathletes that had to take up second best position. Which leads me nicely on to my second thought…
The downside of turning up early is that I had time to ogle at the ridiculous amount of kit some people had. There were a lot of very serious athletes with an even more serious amount of kit. Stuff I’d never even seen before, like aerodynamic water bottles that slot onto your bike frame…I didn’t even know that was at thing.
In comparison, I pretty much rocked up with a wicker basket and a bell strapped to the front of my bike. It was a little intimidating but I reminded myself that I was there to have fun and that no amount of carbon on my bike would help me do that…ok well maybe a bit of carbon might help.
All three distances started at the same time and were on the same course so there were a lot of people that sprinted off ahead as they were running shorter distances. It would have been very easy to get carried away and shoot off with them but I kept trying to remember to pace it.
I still found myself going quicker than I usually would but I think that was a good thing as I made it round the full 10k in my fastest ever time (44 mins) with a little bit of gas still left in the tank for the cycle (thank God!)
I had to do 8 laps of the cycling course to make up 40k, just keeping track of which lap I was on was a challenge in itself.
I knew it would trip me up so I actually (don’t laugh!) stuck 8 strips of masking tape to the handle bar of my bike so that I could peel one off after each lap. No I’m not joking.
There’s a surprising amount to think about when you’re transitioning from run to bike and from bike to run. Especially when you’re out of breath and running like a mad thing like I was. I tried to visualise and think about exactly what I needed to do in the lead up to each transition.
Speed is the name of the game here so I tried to be as organised as I could. Before the start I laid out my kit in the order I needed it in so I could fly through transition, well that was the idea anyway.
I cant quite describe how my legs felt when I got off my bike and had to start running. The closest analogy I can think of is like Bambi on ice in slow motion. They felt as though I was wading through thick mud in full battle armour and that I wouldn’t make it round the final 2 lap run course.
The first lap was by far the hardest, it felt like I was lugging lead around with me. It took at least 10 minutes for them to feel remotely normal (I use the word ‘normal’ in the loosest sense of the word, to be honest I was shattered!)
I tried to mentally break the final run down into lots of smaller runs. I literally pinpointed a tuft of grass or a sign up ahead and aimed to reach it before I chose my next marker. Mentally breaking the final stage down into manageable chunks really helped me. It’s a technique I’ve used before on long rides and runs and is something I would definitely recommend trying to see if it works for you.
I ended up 4th female and finished in 2 hours 25 minutes which I definitely wasn’t expecting and was super pleased with.
Naturally I made sure I rewarded myself with a big plate of fish and chips in Windsor afterwards before hobbling home to lie on the sofa and watch films all afternoon. An extra big thank you must go to my support crew, bike packer upper, cameraman and boyfriend, Sam. Sorry for ruining your Sunday morning lie in to make you stand in a muddy field.