Introduction to Duathlon

I spent this morning on an Introduction to Duathlon training course held at the Lee Valley VeloPark in the Olympic Park. Four other ladies from my triathlon club joined me for the session, as we are all eager to practice for our upcoming triathlons. 

The VeloPark

The women-only event was aimed at female athletes looking to learn specific duathlon skills and techniques in a practical way on the road circuit. I’ve signed up for my first triathlon- the Tri Together sprint distance in August, and my cycling skills are seriously lacking so today’s session was a perfect chance to get in some practice. 

I hired a road bike and helmet from the venue, as I don’t have one of my own yet. It was my first time riding a road bike (or any kind of bike), so I must admit I was terrified when I first hopped on and started to pedal. I felt very wobbly and unsteady, and wondered what I had let myself in for. 

My bike for the day

Our coach Beate Vogt, talked us through the rules of duathlon racing- there was such a lot to learn! We covered the fundamentals of ensuring our equipment is road-worthy, setting up a transition area and the etiquette when overtaking other cyclists. I learned that it is good practice to allow a 7 metre gap between the cyclist in front, and a 1.5 metre gap when overtaking, as well as warning the cyclist you are about to pass. 

We rode a couple of laps of the VeloPark to familiarize ourselves with mounting and dismounting the bikes. I tried to relax into the cycling, as Beate explained efficient pedaling technique and the different hand positions. Those ladies who had cycling shoes were able to practice clipping into the pedals whilst mounting the bike. It was fantastic to be able to practice on traffic-free smooth asphalt roads, to build my confidence on the bike before trying to cycle on the streets. 

Mounting the bikes

Next we experimented with gear changes, I did find the gears a little tricky, but after a little practice I managed to get to grips with them! The rolling hills of the VeloPark circuit gave us the chance to try switching gears for uphill and downhill sections. 

Setting up our transition area was the next thing on the schedule- we learned the most efficient way to lay out our kit in order to make a smooth transition. Most importantly you must put on your helmet and fasten it, before touching the bike to avoid risk of disqualification. 

Cornering technique was the next skill Beate introduced us to- the most effective way to round a corner in a road race is to press your weight into the outside foot (with leg straight), point your inside knee into the turn, and drop your inside shoulder. Lean with your bike into the corner and accelerate out of the bend. We took turns at cornering before putting aside the bikes to move onto the running technique section of the course.

I felt relieved to be off of the bike and back on my feet! I think I’ll always prefer running out of the three triathlon disciplines. We went through a series of drills including high-knees, skipping, heel kicks and side steps. Our coach explained that running after dismounting from the bike will feel uncomfortable, and it is important to learn how to power through and adapt running technique until the ‘heavy legs’ feeling dissipates. 

The VeloPark circuit

We finished the session by putting all of our skills together with a mini-duathlon, consisting of single lap run-bike-run around the circuit. I managed to complete the duathlon fairly smoothly! There was a moment of panic when I almost lost control of the bike on a downhill and veered into the cyclist to the side of me! 

The 2 hour session was really worthwhile, we packed so much into the short time at the VeloPark. There was talk of running an Intermediate event for those who want to spend more time on the techniques- I’d definitely like another chance to practice. There are more beginners events on 13th July and 31st August- I’d really recommend these if you are a newcomer to duathlon/triathlon.

I’ll soon be getting my own road bike- two members of my tri club have offered to sell me their old bikes- so I’m spoilt for choice between the two! I’m going to check out the bikes and make a decision this week. 

Havering Tri ladies

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