Daryl LaRoche, #1, and Lynn Smythe, #2
I've posted up information, from time-to-time, on specific duathlon races that I've participated in. I've had a few people ask what it's like to race in a duathlon, and what are the steps necessary to get ready for your first race.
Here's some of the details of what I do at typical duathlon. I've also included a few photos of my races, most from the Mack Cycle Key Biscayne Trilogy #3, which took place on August 16.
Fist run leg of duathlon. Scenic port-a-potties, part of the glamorous life of the multi-sport athlete.
Locating Triathlon and Duathlon Races
Multirace.com is the site I go to in order to locate duathlon and triathlon races in SE Florida. This year I am participating in both the Ameriprise Financial duathlons races, and the Mack Cycle duathlon races. Most races, with more than one race in the series, offer some sort of package deal. For instance, I signed up for the 4 race Mack Cycle race series, and saved quite a bit of $$ as opposed to registering for each race separately.
Bike portion of race for duathletes and triathletes. Remember to remove your running hat before putting on your bike helmet.
Multirace has partnered with Active.com, who handles all their race registrations. In order to race in triathlon or duathlons, you will need a USAT license. A one day license can be purchased if you are only doing 1 race. A 1 day license costs around $10, and a yearly license is only $39. If you plan on doing more than 1 race per year, I highly suggest getting your yearly license.
Once you've registered for a race, you should get an email confirmation of your registration. I print out the confirmation of my registration, just to be on the safe side. You should also be on the race email list, and will receive a pre-race email approximately one week before the race.
The pre-race email will contain details on the race, including links to the race map, so you can get an idea of each leg of the race: run-bike-run if doing the duathlon, or swim-bike-run if doing the triathlon. The pre-race email will also contain directions on getting to the race, along with any specific parking instructions.
Most races require you to pick up your race packet the day before the race. The Multirace events allow race day packet pickup, but most races DO NOT offer race day packet pickup. Make sure you read all emails from the race director/organizer!
Second run of duathlon, same course that triathletes will run for the last leg of their race.
Here's what a typical race packet contains:
1. Race numbers. Small number which gets attached to the front of your bike helmet, medium number which gets attached to your bike, typically under your seat, large racing bib which must be worn on the front of your shirt during the run. I use a race belt, by Fuel Belt, to wear my racing bib, so I don't have to deal with pinning the number onto my shirt. Triathletes will also receive a colored swim cap in their packets. The color corresponds to which wave you will be in for the swim start. Duathlons have a mass start, for the first run.
2. Event t-shirt. When you register for your race, you will be asked what size t-shirt you wear. If you wait until race day morning to pickup your packet, it's the luck of the draw as to what size t-shirts will be available.
3. Goodies/samples. My last race packet contained a Hammer gel, package of Hammer endurolytes and a mini Clif Bar. Other packets have contained lip gloss and sun block samples. Larger events may include really cool swag like long-sleeve t-shirts, water bottles and running caps.
4. Keep the plastic bag that the race packet came in. I always bring a change of clothes with me to my races. While I'm waiting for the awards ceremony to start, I change into dry clothes. The plastic bag makes a good place to put your stinky race clothes in, so they don't contaminate/touch other stuff in your gym bag. Then you can just launch the bag of stinky clothes into your laundry room as soon as you get home and deal with washing the clothes later.
The second run of duathlons are almost always longer than the first run. Notice the stylish timing chips on both ankles - looks like I'm on house arrest or something.
Race Day Morning
Depending on where the race is, I will get up anywhere between 4 AM and 4:45 AM. I need approximately 1/2 hour to get ready before I can leave my house. I lay out all my clothes, equipment and gear the night before the race. I'm too dang tired at 4 AM, and would forget half my stuff if I didn't organize it the night before.
Most of my duathon races start at 7 AM. I like to get to the event site by 5:30, 5:45 AM at the latest, especially if I'm picking up my packet on race morning. Does that sound way too early to you? Well, there is a lot of stuff to do on race day morning. I don't like to be rushed/stressed out right before starting a race. Give yourself plenty of time.
My last race was at Tradewinds Park, in Coconut Creek, which is about a 15-20 minute drive from my house. I got to sleep in to 4:45 that day. My husband and I left the house by 5:20 and were down at Tradewinds by 5:45. There were lots of people waiting to get into the park and pay the $1.50 per person park entrance fee, then get directed into their parking spot by the soccer fields. That's another reason to leave yourself plenty of time, park entrances can get clogged up especially at the larger races.
Ass on Bike = Wear Your Helmet
Once we were parked, we had to get our bikes out of the car, and put our front wheels back on the bike, then we had to walk our bikes and bag of racing gear to the race trailer. You could ride your bike to the race trailer, but make sure to wear a helmet. If a USAT race official sees you riding your bike anytime before, during or after the race, and you are not wearing a helmet, you could be DQ -disqualified. So yeah, you need to wear a helmet even if you are just riding from the parking lot to the transition/start area. You never know where the race officials will be, why risk getting DQ - wear your helmet! I personally walk my bike and bag of gear to the transition area, it's still dark out, lots of people trying to park, I'm still asleep - why take any chances.
There are usually bike racks near the race trailer, so you can put your bike on the rack, then head over to the packet pickup area. Show your ID to the security angel, who will let you get in line to pick up your packet. Read the signs to locate which line you should be in according to first initial of your last name. Show your driver's license and USAT license to the volunteer - let them know if you are doing the triathlon or duathlon - there are separate lists for each sport.
The volunteer will locate your name on the list, check your driver's license and verify that your USAT license # matches the number on the list. They will then hand you a packet with all your race numbers. Find the table with the t-shirts and goody bags, you can skip this step if you don't want your goody bag and/or event t-shirt.
Crossing the finish line.
Find the timing chips, usually on the other side of the race trailer where you just picked up your race numbers/goody bag. Multirace had been having some problems with their timing chips. Now all racers are required to wear 2 timing chips, 1 around each ankle for the duration of the race. You will need to show one of your race numbers to the timing chip volunteer so they will grab the right timing chips for you. DO NOT loose your timing chips. If you fail to return your timing chips at the end of the race, you will be charged $70 per chip!
Find a body marker. Body markers are usually right by/in front of the timing chip area. They should be wearing an event t-shirt, or volunteer t-shirt so they are easy to find. They will need to see one of your race numbers so they know what number to mark on your body. They will write your race #, using a sharpie marker, on both arms, one or both thighs, and place your racing age on the back of one or both calves. Your racing age is how old you will be as of December 31st of that year, that way you won't switch age groups in the middle of the year.
Rack Your Bike
Get your bike, and hustle over to the transition area. You could go straight to transition as soon as you get your racing numbers, then go back for your t-shirt, goody bag, timing chips and body marking, if you are concerned about getting a good spot in transition. The end spot of each bike rack is the prime spot - instead of having to squish in between bike racks, you can actually place your gear at the edge of the main transition shoot. Lots more room, and you don't have to worry about other people hogging your area. But at all the races I've done, I think I've only gotten the end spot once, so you might as well get used to having to rack your bike wherever there is space.
Look for the race numbers on the end of each row of bike racks to locate your bike rack. All the duathletes are usually placed together, must be a club or something!?! Don't allow too much space between your bike and the bikes that are already racked, or someone will probably squeeze another bike in there. My husband and I try to rack our bikes next to each other, but at the last two races, someone squeezed a bike in between our bikes.
Put your bike on the bike rack. Bikes are typically racked by their seat, although occasionally you'll see a bike racked by it's brake levers. It is usually still dark out, you might want to have a small flashlight or headlamp with you so you can see what the heck you are doing in the transition area. I bring a small, hand sized towel with me and place it right by my front wheel. I place my bike helmet, and bike shoes on the towel. Triathletes would also have their running shoes on the towel. But duathletes start out running, so we are already dressed in our running gear.
Once you've got all your gear placed out, try to figure out where your bike is in relation to the run entrance and to the bike entrance. You can count how many bike racks in you are, or just look for the race numbers at the end of each rack. Some people tie balloons to the rack their bike is on, do whatever works for you.
Once all my gear is setup, I leave the transition area and look for the duathlon start. Triathletes will need to look for the swim start. There will be large flags and orange safety cones marking all the areas, so it shouldn't be too hard to figure out where you are supposed to go. Also, at the Multirace events, they have maps of each leg of the race by the race trailer and online, so you shouldn't have any problem finding the race start. If you are really having problems figuring out where you are supposed to go for the race start, ask someone, we don't bite, usually.
I also visit the bathrooms/porta-potties about this time. Lines can get pretty long at the bathrooms, so go early. And I've been to more than 1 race where they've run out of toilet paper - fun times.
Time to Race
Here's a super condensed version of racing a duathlon. Once all my gear is setup and I've gone to the bathroom, and found the duathlon start, it's time to do a warm up run. Just a short, slow run to get your legs moving and the blood pumping. Make sure you're finished with your warm up, and back at the race start a few minutes before the race start. You will hear last minute instructions from an event volunteer, and they will count down the race start. GO - RUN!
Run to Bike
The first run of the sprint duathlons I've done are between 1/2 and 1 1/2 miles. 1 mile is the typical distance. At the end of the first run, you will be entering the transition area under the archway/banner that says RUN. Run into transition, find your bike, put your helmet on, take off your running shoes, put on your bike shoes, unrack your bike and run down the transition area exiting the archway/banner that says BIKE. DO NOT mount your bike yet, look for volunteers directing you to the sign that says MOUNT BIKE HERE. Get on your bike and cycle your ass off. The bike portion of a sprint duathlon is usually between 8-12 miles long, 10 miles is the most common distance. The bike portion may be 1 loop or 2 loops around the course.
Exiting the run end of transition, starting duathlon run leg #2
Bike to Run
At the end of the bike course, you will be directed back towards the transition area. Watch out for the volunteers and sign that says DISMOUNT BIKE HERE. Slow down, unclip your shoes and get off your bike. Run from the dismount area, towards transition, enter transition through the BIKE banner and find your bike rack. Rack your bike, take off your helmet, put on your running cap if you're wearing one, take off your bike shoes, put on your running shoes and run out of transition through the banner that says RUN. The second run leg of the sprint duathlons I've done are anywhere between 1.5 and 3.25 miles.
Run your butt off and grab water at each of the water stops. I grab at least one cup of water at each water stop even if I'm not taking a drink. South Florida is freaking HOT, I usually dump the water on top of my head, or the back of my neck. Towards the end of the second run, you'll see signs directing you towards the finish line.
Sprint to the finish line, if you've got any gas left in the tank. Try and look happy, or do a victory salute or something interesting, there are official event photographers all over the race course. As soon as you cross the finish line, look for the volunteers trying to hand you a cold bottle of water - grab one. Look for another volunteer that will take the 2 timing chips off your ankle. Don't bend down to get the chips yourself, or you may pass out when you stand back up. I am freaking dead when I cross the finish line and can barely function. Continue down the finish shoot and look for the food tent/tables. I stay away from the breads, bagels, pancakes, I just want to puke after a race. But I load a plate up with fresh fruit - watermelon, orange slices and bananas. And there is usually another table loaded up with coolers of electrolyte drinks - such as HEED by Hammer Nutrition.
Then I head back to transition to get all my gear and bike and bring it back to the car. I have a set of dry clothes and shoes waiting for me in the car, so I do a quick change in the parking lot. Then I head back to the race trailer to see if they've updated the race results and wait for the awards ceremony to start.
A look inside my trophy case, showing 2 of the 4 shelves full of medals, plaques and trophies.
I've done 8 sprint duathlons so far this year, here are my race results:
- 3rd place Female Masters - 2 times
- 1st place Female 45-49 - 2 times
- 2nd place Female 45-49 - 3 times
- 4th place Female 45-49 - 1 time
Overall and masters are awarded 3 deep. Age groups are awarded 5 deep. I'm an old fart, anyone over 40 years old can qualify for masters. The 3 fastest athletes, over 40 years old, are taken out of their age group and placed into masters. The masters awards are a lot bigger than the age group awards - SWEET!
When I get home, I look for the email from Multirace which contains my official race results, a link to all the official race results, and a link to the official event pictures. It usually takes a few days, and up to 1 week, for the official photos to be posted online.
Enjoy your time on the podium.
Special Race Categories
Women over 150 pounds may register for the Athena category. I'm trying to loose weight, but I've been at Athena weight at a few of my races. However, I've never registered for the Athena class. Age group class is more competitive, so I always register for my age group. Larger men may register for the Clydesdale category.
Triathlons, due to the higher numbers of competitors, have 6 Clydesdale categories, while duathlons, with fewer competitors, only have 1 Clydesdale category. If you are not a roadie, you may also register for the Fat Tire category, if your tires are over 1 1/2 inches wide. You'll see mostly triathlon and road bikes at the races, but I've also seen quite a few hybrid bikes, mountain bikes and even a pink beach cruiser at one race - NICE!
If you have any questions about duathlon racing, leave me a comment, and I will get back to you ASAP.
Lynn Smythe AKA the Run Diva