Ten Reasons to Try a Duathlon

This was originally published in Cat Tales, the newsletter of the now defunct Capital Area Triathlon Club (TriCats) in the fall of 2007.  I thought I’d offer it again here to celebrate my new found love of swimming.


Done every tri in the region? Done most of them twice? Looking for a different kind of athletic challenge? Consider including a duathlon or two in your race plans for next year.

1. There is no swimming involved. Many athletes I have met express a profound horror of having to run twice for God’s sake, instead of having to swim once. But you only have to take one look at the Eagleman competitors clambering out of the Choptank, faces black with toxic sludge, and running a second time starts to seem like an eminently sane option.

2. Take Back Your Life. As we all know, multisport training is time consuming.
Duathlons allow you to push yourself and experience the challenge of bridging different competitive disciplines … but you only have to train two sports instead of three. Bike training, as we all know, is fun. Run training is fun. Oddly enough, however, I’ve yet to meet anyone who tells me they enjoy swim training … So if you are looking forward to spending more time with your family (genuinely looking forward to doing so, and not simply because you’ve been caught with your snout in the political trough) or wondering what it would be like to have a life outside training, do the Du.

3. Experience a more relaxed style of competition. Duathlons are typically smaller scale events (even when they are coupled with a tri), and as such have a more relaxed feel to them. Athletes who specialize in duathlons are well aware that they constitute a rather oddball minority in the multisport community, so there is a degree of camaraderie often evident at
events. In every race I’ve been in, competitors routinely compliment, encourage and motivate one another, often going out of their way to do so if they see another athlete flagging.

4. Experience a more intense style of competition. Duathletes race sprint dus in particular at a very high level of intensity, with an effort more typical of an extended time trial. Arguably the intensity is even greater than sprint tris. With no neoprene to shed, both transitions tend to be brutally fast, and without the swim heaviness in your legs, you hit the bike leg with an elevated HR and your legs fully warmed up.

5. There is no swimming involved. Let’s face it, most of America’s bodies of swimmable water are by now polluted messes, however idyllic they may look on the surface. As a result, duathletes save a small fortune on visits to the ear, nose, and throat specialist. So if you don’t like wondering whether that object you just glimpsed beneath the water’s surface was a giant Kielbasa or something worse, give duathlon a try.

6. Experience new bodily sensations. And I mean that in a good way! Triathletes are familiar with that distinctive feeling of the transition from bike to run, the heaviness in your legs, the sensation as if you are moving in slow motion. You still get that, obviously, in duathlons. So don’t worry, the suffering is not lessened. But you also get something else. In every duathlon in which I’ve competed, the transition from run to bike is almost the inverse feeling. You get this indescribable feeling of suddenly flying, of having been released from
your earthly bondage and at last being able to move as fleet and fine as nature intended.

7. Level Up! Long course duathlons, although they are few and far between, can be a useful bridge between Olympic distance tris and longer distance events, such as a half Ironman. While long course distances tend to vary, the
Powerman distance (currently raced in Alabama, Ohio, and (intermittently) in North Carolina) typically feature two 8K runs and a 35 mile bike ride. Long course dus also seems to favor rolling or hilly bike courses, increasing the
challenge level.

8. You can never do too many bricks. In most parts of the country (with the exception of the South where, inexplicably given the temperatures involved, they race duathlons all  summer long) duathlons tend to be confined to the spring and fall (most major sprint duathlons in the mid-Atlantic region are over by the beginning of May, and don’t begin again until late August). Duathlons are, then, excellent preparation for triathletes contemplating races in the Summer. At the other end of the year, they are a fun way to begin to wind down your competitive season without going completely cold turkey.

9. So what is it that you do again? Because they tend to be smaller scale, more intimate and (often) more spectator friendly, duathlons can be an excellent way to introduce bemused loved ones—or, just as important, people who are contemplating becoming involved in the multisport lifestyle—to the sport. Events like Columbia are wonderful spectacles, but they are often a little overwhelming and it is often very hard for spectators to get round the course and see their athlete in action. With duathlons, spectators typically can get a good view of each and every athlete in the transition area, and move around the start/finish area very easily.

10. There is no swimming involved. The swim leg in triathlon is an odd concession to a completely different kind of sporting tradition. It is the moment at which a sport which is supposed to be about isolated, individual effort, suddenly and inexplicably becomes a fully body contact sport. So if you would rather watch World Extreme Cage Fighting than experience it, head on over to duathlon.com and start planning a less confrontational season.

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