Duathlon: 12 do’s and don’ts

Moving to duathlon? International athlete Matt Barnes, winner of his age group in the 2017 Bala Tri, and duathlon world champ Claire Steels share their top tips on how to run and bike faster, and avoid commonly made mistakes


Matt Barnes, a former four-minute miler who won his age group by seven minutes at the recent Bala Tri has this advice:


1. Don’t go out too hard, and pace your effort. The amount of people who go charging off on the run is amazing. Most of the top guys will run just as quick on the second run so pace your effort accordingly and you won’t fall in a heap off the bike.

2. Do train specifically for that tough bike/run and the run/bike transition. Do some prep in advance to get used to running off the bike. A good place to start is in the gym, which has an exercise bike and a treadmill. Try really working hard for 5 mins in a heavy gear on the bike and then do 2 min efforts at 5k pace on the treadmill straight after. Repeat 4 times. That will pay dividends in the race.

3. Do get a good transition, especially from the first run onto the bike. This is where the race can be won and lost. Practice in advance having your shoes clipped into the bike and jumping on as quick as you can.

4. Don’t be tempted to wrap up warm. Most duathlons are in the spring/autumn so they can be a bit nippy but if you race hard you will soon warm up, so don’t be tempted to wear a big flappy jacket – you wont thank yourself for it when everyone else disappears down the road in streamlined tri suits. If you are worried about the cold, protect your extremities by wearing thicker socks and gloves. The first run will warm your core up though so its unlikely you’ll get too cold.

5. Don’t over estimate how much you will drink. For sprint races you shouldn’t need too much fluid so don’t be tempted to load your bike with half a dozen water bottles all over the frame. Why spend money on a light bike and then weigh it down with drinks, especially if you only have time for a few sips. A better option would be to keep bottles in transition and take a quick slug when you come into change run to bike.

6. Do check your equipment’s legal. Some events are draft legal so you can only use road bikes. Don’t turn up with an aero bike and disc wheels when you can’t use them!

7. Don’t assume everyone else there knows what they are doing. You will not be the only one who doesn’t really have a clue what is happening so just ask someone! Everyone is very friendly and most people will go out of their way to help you.

8. Don’t go too hard on the first run. Unlike triathlon, there are 2 runs in a duathlon and whilst you might feel as fresh as a daisy for the first one, your running legs will remember it for the second run and they won’t thank you for running a PB!

9. Don’t go to the toilet with your race belt on. I can’t tell you how many times I have pulled my race belt down to thigh level, undone my Tri suit, sat down on the toilet and then ripped my race number. Sometimes more than once at the same race! Just take it off!

10. Do make sure you put your tri-suit on the right way. (Yes really – this was a genuinely a mistake that someone has made!) This has happened to a friend of mine and he only realised at the end of the race when he had finished and had a VERY sore bottom!

11. Do remember where your bike is in transition. Before the start of the race you will rack your bike in the transition area with your helmet and anything else that you will need on the bike. After you have done this take some time to look around. Look for something that you can use as a marker (a tree, lamppost etching line with your bike) to help you remember where your bike is. When you run into transition after the first run, look for that marker, it will be a lot easier to spot that your bike.

12. Do familiarise yourself with the transition area and make sure you know where the run in / out and bike in /out areas are.

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