Last weekend I fought it out in the die-hard, take no prisoners BUCS duathlon. Fighting for a spot on the podium are the hundreds of eager young triathletes from universities across the country. Amongst them, some of the best rising athletes our sport has to offer.
The 2.1 mile run, 10 mile non-drafting bike and 2.1 mile run is as brutal as it sounds – especially when you can guarantee that this race is a 40-60 minute all out sprint! Yep, that’s right – it hurts. A lot!
Amongst my squad the grumbles begin in late September. After a long, hard race season and an end of season break that appeared to come and go in a flash, the chatter about the duathlon began with a moan. “I’m so unfit”, “It’s such a bad time of year”, “no one is on form for BUCS”… the excuses, the ‘what-ifs’ the ‘oh-buts’… you hear them all. It was the same after the race… “Its only November”, “That was brutal”, “I forgot how to bike”….
I am going to take a different perspective here. A perspective that talks more kindly of the ‘BUCS Chilly Duathlon’.
There is no doubt that winter is well and truly upon us. The woollies are out, numb feet on your rides, the rain jackets flapping in the track session and the iced up car windows before early morning swims. It’s the time of year when 3pm feels like 8pm and the skies are always grey. What’s more, it’s the time for the long, hard slog of base load training. Thousands of meters up and down the black lines of the pool, long hours on the bike and those lovely threshold runs where you contemplate just why the hell do I do this sport again?! Ouch.
We do all this, and we slog through in the name of improvements next race season. We do this whilst looking forwards to next summer.
Hold up… next summer?! You mean like 6-7 months away from now?! Seriously?!!!!
Winter can get tough. It seems endless and race day seems so far away. But when motivation wanes, so too does training quality. Note to self – don’t be the person who is saying “I’d wish I’d trained more/harder/smarter in winter” once that A-race turns the corner!
Ok, so what can I do? Well, winter is winter. Unless you are one of those lucky few who get to jet set off somewhere fancy and migrate for the dark months, you are going to be stuck with this grim old weather and short days. You can, however, add something to make it a touch better. What about a race?!
Whilst you build your base over winter, you can choose to work on different aspects of your swim – strength, technique, skills – in the pool, ready to put these all into practice come open water season. The bike and run on the other hand can sometimes be more tricky to work on (especially when the roads get icy and the evenings darker).
A duathlon is a perfect opportunity to brush up on your bike skills, your bike-run transitions, and trial out a few different tactics in both disciplines. For those of you coming from a swimming background, a duathlon also gives you focus in your training to build on the sports that might be slightly weaker for you. For those of you who are a natural runner like me, but struggle to hit the bike power, duathlons are a chance to see what you have got on your two wheels and highlight where you are weak.
Above all, a winter duathlon can help you keep the triathlon spirit alive during the off season. They bring focus and they reignite that competitive fire inside you. A chance to go out there. Show yourself off. Reflect on your training and home in on your skills.
Last weekend I was pleased with how hard I raced. I pushed into the pain and I held my own. I also learnt a lot. I ran well for where I am now and was pleased with it. I also identified what I need to work on for my bike leg over winter. I raced with a smile. I found the love and I enjoyed the fight.
I’d say go out and find yourself a duathlon. Train hard. Race hard. Become stronger. Go out there and find your winter fire!