From 5K to Duathlon in 6 Weeks

By Scott Fliegelman, Executive Director & Head Coach of FastForward Sports:

Do you like to run? Have you completed a 5K? Own a bike? Then you too can do a DU! Duathlon is a lot like triathlon, but instead of starting your race by dipping into icy cold water in a rubber suit, you get to do a run... and you love to run! Then, you ride your bike for a bit before going for another run. That's two runs and one bike... marvelous!

So, now that you are fired up for your first duathlon, let's look at how to go from your current 5K fitness to completing a standard distance duathlon in six weeks: 5K Run, 30K Bike, 5K Run.

First of all... keep running! Three days a week is great with the goal of including one run with intervals that include some faster running at about your 5K pace (do no more than 5K total of fast running). Another day should be long and slower (about 90 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace), perhaps including some proactive walk breaks to help you go longer... 1:00 to 1:30 is great. Lastly, try to include a hilly fartlek run, which is an unstructured 'speed play' session on somewhat hilly terrain, which builds strength, cardiovascular conditioning, and form.

Time to ride your bike! Any bike is fine... road bike, tri bike, or even a mountain bike, which has its very own division in the Mile High Duathlon Series! Shoot for three sessions if possible, which can be on the same day as a run if you are time constrained, or on a different day if you like. Similar to your runs, shoot for a long ride at a comfortable pace for up to two hours. Another day head for the hills to develop strength and shifting technique, and lastly plan to include a 'skills' ride that includes some practice improving your cadence (pedaling between 90 - 100 rpm) and single-leg drills for neuromuscular patterning. Include your drills in the middle of a one-hour ride, where you focus on the cadence or one-leg drill for 6 x 30 seconds... relaxing for 30 seconds in between each. Note- you can do the one-leg drill with both feet still attached to the pedals... just focus on using only one leg at a time while the other just 'goes along for the ride'.

Lastly, come the 'brick' workouts when you get to 'stack' one sport on top of another in the same workout. Here are three effective Brick workouts to help get you ready over the final three weeks of training:

  • Bike Focus Brick (three weeks out)- Ride for one hour; include 3 x 10 minutes of 'hard' riding with 5 minutes easy in between. Then park your bike, put on running shoes and head out for a 15-minute run... the first 5 minutes go easy, the next 5 are moderate, and the last 5 minutes go hard.
  • Run Focus Brick (two weeks out)- Ride for 30 - 60 minutes all at a comfortable pace. Then park your bike and run for 30 minutes... the first 5 easy, then 20 minutes moderate, then 5 minutes hard.
  • Race Rehearsal Brick (one week out)- Do 3 x Run-Bike-Runs (R/B/R) with each segment last 5 minutes and a 5-minute break in between each 'duathlon'. Begin by setting up your Transition Area (check out this helpful video). Do your first R/B/R at a very comfortable pace, with a focus on smooth and efficient transitions. Following your 5-minute break and with your TA set up properly again, do another R/B/R (5 minutes for each piece) at a little swifter pace, but still aim for flawless transitions. Lastly, do one final R/B/R as fast as you are comfortable and get your body accustomed to transitioning when out of breath, as well as learning how and when your legs will adjust during the second run... they will!

That's it! Do your best to run and ride three days each per week, then with three weeks to go replace one of those with one of the Brick workouts above. See you at the races!

Scott Fliegelman and the coaches at FastForward Sports offer year-round training programs for all ability levels in Boulder and Denver. They also offer online coaching for those who live outside the Boulder/Denver area.