1) The vast majority of duathlons are in autumn and spring, so wearing your summer tri kit usually won’t be enough. This is where a good quality wicking base layer and a ‘get out of jail free’ windproof gilet will come in handy.
2) Wearing lightweight waterproof gloves for the whole race is sensible as I’ve actually witnessed people unable to undo their helmet with frozen fingers.
The first run
3) If you’re new to duathlon, then the first run is littered with opportunities to get things wrong. Most people start far too fast and then pay for that later in the race. All of a sudden everyone has the chance to be at the front of the race and triathletes may not be used to the feeling of running when feeling fresh so start steady and pace it out.
4) Try to think of your running on the day as a fuel tank. Every time you accelerate hard you’re eating into it. If you’ve started the run sensibly then there’s no reason to ease up ahead of the bike leg.
5) Make sure you’ve got used to running with elastic laces. They are by far the quickest in transition but more importantly they allow a natural foot movement when running.
6) Don’t risk a puncture by riding up and down the car park to warm up. Instead, rack your bike early and, for 15mins before the start, use a gentle jog followed by some short sprints or ‘strides’ to rev your racing engine.
The bike leg
7) Make sure you leave your bike in a small gear to be able to spin the pedals faster that usual for the first minute of the bike leg. This’ll help your muscles adapt to the action before then shifting up a few gears and relying on strength.
8) The vast majority of road duathlons still aren’t ‘draft legal’, which means you can’t stay riding within seven bike lengths of the rider in front of or alongside you. By all means try to maintain that gap, but use others as a target to draw you on.
9) In the last minutes of the bike leg, repeat the lower gear spinning to prepare you for a high cadence running action. Make sure you’ve practised a ‘rolling dismount’ in training and don’t just try it on race day!
The final run
10) All of a sudden it feels like a tri again! No, it’s worse and you’ll feel like you’re running with a bear on your back. This is what makes duathlon even more challenging. The fact that you’ve already run hard will mean your muscles will protest at this point, so it’s crucial to ‘negotiate’ with them.
11) Start more steadily than your ego would like, as you’re more likely to cramp in those first few steps. I’ve walked out of T2 in World Cup races in the past and still finished in the prizes.
12) Try to break the whole final run down into chunks by telling yourself just to get to that next tree or sign. Remember that feeling on the final run and, if you want to reach your very best as a duathlete, you’ll need to recreate it in your training in order to keep getting faster on those final runs. That way, your body expects it and that back- clinging bear will become your friend.