I’m a cyclist, not a runner. But last year when cycling in Richmond Park I saw the London Duathlon being set up and thought it looked a lot of fun, so signed up. Being a ‘non-runner’ I signed up for the half Duathlon distance as a good first multisport challenge. I knew I could run a 10km and the cycling distance was only 22km, so it would be more a case of bringing it all together…
Before the race…
Having spent my summer cycling up mountains, my base fitness was pretty good. So about five weeks ago, I thought I’d better start a bit of run training knowing this was in the diary!
For my first run in months I did a gentle 5km, averaging around 5.27 minutes per kilometre. Over the next three weeks I focused on upping my distance, mixing that up with brick training sessions (multisport training sessions): either a run then cycle, cycle then run or cycle and swim (sometimes I just didn’t fancy running lol!) I quickly reduced my time to 5.13 per km and within two weeks did an 8.5km jog. I was comfortable I could do the distance so started to think about times. I decided to do a trial run (5km run, 30km bike and 3km run) to test the legs and my fuelling strategy a week before the event, which paid off as it gave me confidence and a good idea of my energy levels and pacing. I decided I’d aim for sub-2 hours, based on never having done a transition before and honestly not knowing how I’d feel on the day!
What a fun event! For someone who had never done a multisport event before, the London Duathlon was a great entry race. There was a bit of waiting around at the start, but once the race waves started rolling, we were quickly off. I find I always naturally run and ride quicker in a race, but noticed I was averaging sub 5 minutes in the first km so slowed down for fear I’d run out of beans! The 5km loop of the London Duathlon has a minor incline for the first 2.5km, then a lovely descent which precedes a very minor incline towards the transition pen. I easily got a new PB in the first 5km, which was a great feeling.
The first transition was straightforwards. I switched my trainers to cleats, my visor to my helmet and I was off. I quickly wolfed down some fuel and headed towards Broomfield hill, a short but steep climb which ranges between 4 and 12%. Perhaps due to the number of others walking/struggling, I felt like I flew up it. It was a great feeling and lovely racing on home turf. The second lap was less straight forwards; my chain came off on the same hill and I had to fix it quickly, cross over the road then do a hill start! After a mechanical, I checked my time and as my legs felt fresh decided to put my foot on the gas. I quickly caught up some people I recognised and before I knew it was on my last 5km…
I’d mentally prepared for ‘jelly legs on the last run, especially as I’d gone harder than planned on the bike to make up time. I whipped a quick caffeine gel and was surprised to find my legs weren’t too bad. The nice thing about a half distance is you’re done before you know it! I decided I’d pace myself a bit slower than the first 5km and have a little sprint to finish. It was a fab feeling crossing the line and hearing them call out my name.
What I learnt?
In my view, Duathlon is a runners game, but if you’re a cyclist the great thing is, cycling provides some recovery in between the running! Even when you have to ride fast to make up time!
The London Duathlon is a fun event. You’ll get a range of serious duathletes aiming for a time or doing it for fun to novice runners and riders, most of whom are not technical riders. Be patient, overtake safely and call out. Whilst headphones are banned, people don’t pay attention to their surroundings, particularly when they are tired riding uphill. Call out to help those around you and keep right if overtaking/keep left if chilling!
Fuelling properly is everything. Eating well, well before the event is crucial. Allow enough time to digest too. I ate light snacks on the bike (half a clif bar and a gel), allowing some time to absorb a bit more energy before the next run. I also used caffeine before and throughout the race, which gave me a little boost!
Get elastic laces, comfy shorts and a race belt. Elastic laces mean you can slip your trainers on and off quickly in transition (a tip from triathlon friends!)
Buy comfy shorts, by which I mean cycling shorts for triathlon with a thin chamois or a trisuit. As a newbie, I went for shorts rather than all out. Tri shorts give you some padding, but mean you can run comfortably without a bulky chamois bouncing around and looking terrible!
My friend leant me a race belt on the day. I’d never used one before, but it means you can quickly flip your number to the front for running and the back for cycling. No more pin holes in jerseys! Plus, I felt like one of the gang lol…
And the result?
1 hour 41 minutes, 20 seconds – 3rd in my age category. Not bad considering the mechanical and that I’d never done a duathlon before! Job done 👊🏻
And the next challenge..? Conquering the infamous Col du Tourmalet.