Articles




How to win races.
Written by Jez Cox, 2015 

This is an article for cyclists, runners and du/triathletes who care about being  better (even if they wouldn't admit it to others) and it's particularly aimed at those who start races (and may have done for years) without ever considering the concept of winning.

Okay. So maybe not everyone can and will win a race and it's critical to say that maybe not everyone wants to win a race but one thing I'm absolutely set on is that everyone should try to win a race.

Do bear in mind that 'winning a race' could mean being the first in your age category or race category. Categories are there to give you a level to aim at so take aim and here's how to move closer to winning:

1) Find your niche.



"Only dead fish go with the flow"

If I ask any one of the cyclists, triathletes and duathletes I work with why they compete in the sport at the distance they do they often struggle to tell me and then, upon digging deeper I tend to find that they started because friends had or they knew someone that encouraged them to. This is never more common than with triathlon since it's boom between 2000 and 2010 and then likewise road cycling in its current 'sportive' explosion. Very often, the reason for ending up doing what they are doing is along the lines of 'Well, everyone was getting into it and so I thought I'd see what it's all about'. Now that's a massive generalisation and of course the fact that so many who have recently 'converted' have actually transitioned from quite a sedentary lifestyle is something that should be celebrated. I certainly do just that. It's kept me in a job these past few years for one thing!

My point is, having got started, bought all the gear, done your first event and become 'one of us' it's then very easy to drift and simply either stick doing the same thing or just do the same as everyone else. As I say, only dead fish go with the flow.

Now, for some, doing just that will be fine, for others, they may actually have stumbled upon their niche straight away and started doing really well, winning events maybe but even then, how would they know?

I'm always quick to rubbish talk of, for example, Roger Federer being the 'greatest tennis player that ever lived'. He's awesome, don't get me wrong, but if you'll indulge my thinking still further, the greatest tennis player that ever lived almost certainly never held a tennis racquet. You just don't know. And in a way, stumbling into a particular sport and finding that you love it is as much half chance as having the genes that oddly enough make you potentially, (physiologically) the greatest tiddly winks player that ever lived.

Yes. It could be you.

Of course, not everyone wants to win.
Not everyone even wants to find out how good they could be and that's fine too. Sport and recreation can offer so much more beyond just winning but it's quite possible you're different to the masses. You're reading an article which I have deliberately titled in a very specific way. Chances are you're curious about your potential and I want to help you think about how to exploit that.

It starts with being prepared to be selfish and do things for yourself which may actually grow you away from where you started. It often involves having to go back to being bad at something again and when done correctly it should involve plenty of failing because failing is how winning is done. It's the only way you learn. Eventually, through a process of elimination and reckless experimentation you should start to find your niche and then you can start to think about winning.

"Far greater it is to dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs even though chequered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much for they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat"

Theodore Roosevelt


One of the greatest strengths of Great Britain's recent surge to the top of world cycling has been the insistence from the coaches on their young academy riders riding as many different disciplines of cycle sport as possible and indeed mixing them up. Until recently in fact, academy riders under the age of 18 were not allowed to specialise in one discipline. Experimentation and 'being bad at something' (relatively) was therefore something to be celebrated and in fact there were a whole string of academy riders who found their way into unexpected modes of cycle sport through this very approach of what I'd like to call 'niche mining'. It's a terrible term, I know, but go with me.

If you consider yourself a road cyclist, try mountain biking, if you're a track cyclist, try BMX, if you're a triathlete, try cycle speedway (yes, cycle speedway).

Play, experiment, fail. (Repeat). Learn.

Stop being such an adult and get back to being far more childlike. Attack what you are trying as new and fun and embrace being bad at it at first. Only afterwards when you've tried it should you analyse your performance.

Watch young children trying new games and sports for the first time and you'll usually find them living completely in the moment, focusing on whatthey are doing rather than on how they are doing. 'Present restrospectivism', as I'd like to coin it is a disease of adulthood and should really be fought if you're to find your niche. The best vaccine I've found thus far is that age old elixir called 'fun'. 

Get back to trying new things and remember, when you do,

Be
Here
Now.

.........

Then analyse.
Learn.
And go back for more fun.

2) So I've found my niche.  How do I win!?



I was blessed in that I stumbled across the sport of cycling by accident at the age of 12 when my parent's next door neighbour, my good friend Tilman Marsh, bought a mountain bike and allowed me to try it. It was about 1992 and the mountain bike boom was just catching light. It was a rigid steel Scott with Deore DX and Onza ski bar ends. I loved it. 
Once I had ridden a permanent figure of eight track into his lawn I was immediately hooked and cycling, through mountain biking, cyclocross and then road racing became my sporting obsession and then by way of hard work and blessings, my career.

- BUT - It took me a full 6 years to win a race despite racing lots. In retrospect, I now see that long wait as a big part of the reason why I'm still involved with the sport and why I carried on racing and then went on to win so much.
When I think back to my earliest racing experiences in my first races in the London Cyclo Cross league in the winter of 1992, I was being beaten soundly in every race by a good number of other youth riders. Of course, as so often happens with these things it was the same people every time and picking a winner was pretty predictable. 4 years later, only one of those regulars was still racing. And his name was Roger Hammond.

At the time, I could never have imaged that of these incredible riders who were seemingly destined for greatness and were without doubt light years better than me, hardly any of them were still racing (let alone winning) by the time they were 20.   

Why?

I'm a firm believer that you need to learn to win but you'll learn nothing from winning.
Every time you don't win there's always something to learn.
I'm lucky in that, once I found my niche (Duathlon) I won 81 races but that wasn't the lucky bit. The lucky bit is that I came 2nd 50 times and those 50 times were why I won 81 races.
I learnt so much from those that beat me. Guys, if you're reading this, (You know who you are!), thank you for the lessons.

I now have friends who have children that have started racing, a couple of whom have started winning and winning lots and it's a great thing but because they've started winning so early it means that they haven't actually learnt much yet. All they're learning is that they're good (what ever that means).  The ones that they are beating week in week out who have the perseverance to hang in there will learn lots and eventually that bank of knowledge will pay out in those that work for it.
The problem is that if you don't have that bank of experience in being beaten, when it does happen and the young regular winner suddenly doesn't win, there's very little to fall back on. That's the stage when so many drop out.

So; got a talented youngster?  Find a way to keep them coming 2nd, 3rd and 4th (or lower) and you'll be paying into their longevity bank all the time. It can be tricky though if you have an early developer but there's usually a way.

Having said all that, and moving on from childhood now, you need to be ready to win. That's key. As you approach a point where you feel capable of winning I would strongly advise taking some time out to visualise it and see it from your 'mind's eye' with all its visceral quality and feel.

Conceive (in the imagined)
Believe (in your subconscious)
Achieve (between the start and finish lines)

CBA.

It's important groundwork to make sure you're ready.
Once I'd worked my way through a few years of my lovely Mum driving me to cyclocross and mountain bike races in order for me to take a good roasting I was lucky enough to have generous enough parents to encourage me to try yet another discipline and so I had a wobble around on my first road bike, a Graham Weigh in Columbus Thron with Campag Mirage. Yes, those that know me well, my first road bike did indeed have Campagnolo. I'm sorry.

I was lucky in that I started road racing in my late teens at the time when West London converted from using a road encircling Pinewood Studios as the go to 'cycle circuit' to the now massively popular Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. Sure enough,  I lined up there for my first in a long series of kickings but crucially this time I started to see that I was finding my niche. All of a sudden, my deficit in technical skill and recklessness as an off-roader didn't hold me back. Generally, fitness and hard training started to pay greater dividends and as it did, my mountain bike began collecting dust.

Of course, on the road, I still learnt lots by being beaten lots but somehow, in my distracted teenage life I had the forethought to do turbo training sessions in front of endless of recordings of the 30 minute channel 4 Tour de France coverage.
As I did, those 30 minute programmes provided me with the chance to 'race' each stage, including, as it's climax, sprinting to the finish line. That meant of course that although my VHS player depicted that Richard Virenque had won the mountains points, Big Mig has won the TT and Abdu had cleaned up in the sprint (and in green again), in fact, they hadn't.
I had won all those stages.

Now that I've gone through my sports psychology training (and studied the works of my guru Dr Dennis Wadeley) I can see that what I was doing was in fact 'positive mental pre-play'. I had lived the moment of winning in my mind over and over again and so when it came, I was ready for it.

C B A

So that same summer I crossed the start line of yet another Hillingdon circuit race, the format of which don't happen anymore sadly. These were irregular ones where all the riders used to start together and then after a set number of laps the 4th category (lowest ranked) riders would sprint to finish, then a few laps later the 3rd cats would too, leaving elite and 1/2s to finish off after them.

Something happened that day, I timed my 4th cat sprint perfectly and won by about half a tyre's length. What normally happens then is that the 4th cats drop out but I wanted more. This is not allowed but hey, I was on a roll. I hung in and also sprinted again with the 3rd cats, coming second in that race. I still refused to drop out and at the age of 17 went on to take 5th in the E12.

These were my three best road race results to date and they all came on the same day! Knowing what I now know about rules and so forth, what I did should have probably seen me suspended from racing but the organiser was my mentor and I'm thankful that he understood that I was having one of 'those' days.

Do you know what I mean?

I hope so.
I'd say they happen maybe once a year - if that - and they nearly always fall when they do on a training day or a recovery day but once or twice in an athletes life they'll fall on a day when you just happen to be stuck between two white lines with a bunch of other loons trying to outdo each other and you need to be ready for that. Lots of people aren't and that 'snapping cranks' / ' go harder and it just feels easier' moment passes them by because they'd never seen themselves winning.

So guess what, they didn't.

Of course, following my mentor's guidance, as soon as I'd won I needed to move on and up and keep trying to learn. And learn I did. I didn't win at Hillingdon again for another 5 years while I was abroad and expanding my road racing repertoire but all these years later I am proud of now having won a race there in 5 different disciplines : road race, time trial, duathlon, cyclo-cross and road running. I coach there now as well and get to watch my charges trying to do the same. If you're one of them, don't be hard on me for doing what ever I can to hold you back and stop you winning too soon. In the words of Rocky Balboa,

"It's how winning is done"

3) I've found my niche; I'm right at the sharp end but still can't win.


This is when you need to build your tactical repertoire.

Try to list 5 different ways someone  could win your event (or category) and have a plan for how you might execute each one in an average race. Then, as you approach race day, about a week out, choose 3 of them that are most appropriate for that event. An hour before the start, take in the conditions and the competition and decide on 2 of those 3. Settle on one as your plan A and one as your plan B should plan A fail or become impossible.
It sounds formulaic and not much fun doesn't it?  
Well, winning is fun, trust me. Or it is in the 10 minute aftermath. I'm yet to meet an athlete who, after those 10 minutes isn't thinking "what's next' and planning ahead.

So, what kind of tactics?

I'll give you an example of 5 based on a runner trying to win their local off-road 5k race.

5 Ways:

1) Pick the person who you perceive as most likely to win (based on past performances)  and try to run calmly on their shoulder for the entire race, ready to jump them with 50metres to go.

2) Start much harder than usual and do everything to then calm down and maintain position.

3) Surge hard with 1500m to go to get clear and then maintain form and do not look back.

4) Spend the entire race simulating being over tired and unfit to the other racers by breathing hard when close to them. Then apply numbers 1 or 3 to catch others off guard.

5) (Practice this often in training for it to be anywhere near effective) Once settled into a good quality group, try to aid the group in bunching up and running as a pack. With 3000m gone start surging hard and then easing and repeat this as many times as you can until the right selection has been made. This will only work if you have practiced this in training and others haven't. That's the whole point.

Of course, you've got to have the fitness and form to apply the above and get the win but that's the point : everyone trains their body but very few prepare their mind in line with it. Dear old Dr Dennis Wadeley's positive mental pre-play was something that worked for me as I prepared my mind for the expectation of winning and whilst doing so I built a handy toolbox of ways to win.

4) I won! What next...?


Congratulations!
As I said above, unless the victory is a career defining (or even career ending one) the majority of athletes won't take long for their thoughts to turn to their next race, next challenge or next chance to win. Hence, (as I've been saying all along) why we don't learn much from winning.

Note that I say much and not nothing though.

The most important lesson that you can learn from winning is that you can win and actually, for most people that's quite a revelation.

So the next step is key. Repeating a win in similar conditions and with similar competition is actually something I'd advise trying. You'll learn more from dealing with the pressure of being a past winner and having others watching you more closely and you'll be forced to cook up even more tactics in order to deal with just that.
If you're able to repeat the win (and it might take a long time) then once again it's time for some zoomed out thinking and some honest self talk : Are you ready to kick on and find some even tougher competition (if there is some) or perhaps it's simply your time to dominate and look to rack up even more wins.
Of course, if you're both super talented and a winner you may not have any higher to go.
My advice? Don't be afraid to win and win lots but try to find a way to keep pushing yourself.
In order to do this I'll prescribe what I do to so many triathletes and multisporters in particular:

Race more.

You train to race, peak to race, try to put everything in place to race well and so I still can't understand why so many triathletes only race 3 times a year. Some less.
The chance of everything going right across all three disciplines, not to mention the painfully long build up is actually quite slim.

"Too expensive" you say?

Then, going back to the start of this article: don't do what everyone else does. Use a definitive 'all races' race calendar online (tri247.com is the most complete) to find the best races that suit you at the best price. If you enter the races that all your mates are doing and that are all over the magazines and web then that's what we call hype.
Hype costs money which someone will have to pay for.  So dig deeper and you'll find some real gems and in turn you'll be able to afford to race more.

I came from a background as a road cyclist where as an elite I did two seasons of an incredible 72 and then 75 races in a year so that helped engrain me in that culture. Without doubt I carried that into my life as a duathlete where I worked my way though short course, long course, drafting, non drafting and then cross and trail duathlons. My regular racing saw me racking up a lot of wins across the 10 years in duathlon.

Don't get me wrong, among them were some races which I won easily but there were bags of others that nearly killed me as well.
Because I raced in a relative minority sport which has two defined seasons a year I employed a simple tactic : race everything I possibly could.

I was lucky that I had the time to and I was also quite clever about usually trying to squeeze a free entry to a subsequent event from most organisers of races I'd won so that way entry fees weren't really a major concern.
Either way, the penultimate take away point on your journey to the winners enclosure is : Race More.

Reading of my successes I can imagine it would be easy to think I am a super talented athlete and it was only a matter of time before I started winning but genuinely, it couldn't be further from the truth.

I don't feel I have any particular physical attributes that make me any better than average and that played out for me early on at school. I'm just determined and insightful. Every single person that was beating me I could learn from and trust me, I was a very very average junior and youth athlete.

And I'm glad I was.

In my roles as a coach and also as a GB team manager I regularly meet athletes over the age of 70 who wish they'd started when they were 15 rather then 65 but I see in them that same dogged determination to become 'world champion'.

World Champion!?

World champion of themselves, in this time, with these life constraints and with their body. Even if that just means in their local race.

Some of them have gone on to become actual ITU World Champions while others have smashed PBs, times and race positions beyond what they ever thought possible.

My point is, and to conclude with this, don't be constrained by doing what others do. Be a freak. Dare to be believe in your ability.

Conceive, Believe. And if you are tickled to put what I've said into practice then remember this:

One race will be your last ever. You may not get to chose which one it is.
In fact, it may have already passed.

There's a lot more important things in the world than racing, not least in our current world climate, but when you do next find yourself between those two white lines, believe it is everything.

Don't accept limitations that others or past experience put on you and greet failure and elated success the same because you are part of the 1% of society for whom mediocrity just won't do.


<><><><><><><> Jez Cox 2015 <><><><><><><><>








                     The history of Duathlon : 7 Classic victories

In a sport that is still so young and which doesn't benefit from the coverage or funding of the Olympic sport of Triathlon it's vital that we remember and record the history of Duathlon which is being written every day.

Here's my pick of some classic victories from the early 'noughties', highlighting great athletes who wrote their names indelibly in Duathlon's growing and glowing history


 1)    World Championships 2003.  AffolternSwitzerland. 
Athlete in focus: Edwige Pitel (FRA) Female elite winner

The 2003 worlds were being billed as the hardest ever with the course zig-zagging its way up and down the Mountainous valley sides stretching their way out of the idyllic Swiss town of Affoltern. The womens’ race in particular was being billed as a clash of the bikers and with the likes of France’s Edwige Pitel, Switzerland’s Karin Thurig and Britain’s Vicki Pincombe all close as they headed out onto the bike leg there began a series of vicious attacks and counter attacks in the pouring rain which had rendered the course a virtual skidpan. Pitel and Thurig, having distanced Pincombe both tried in turn to drop each other but to no avail. Exiting T2 Pitel appeared to deliberately ease slightly and allow Thurig to surge in an attempt to drop her. No sooner had she done this than Thurig began to suffer a number of painful cramps over the final run as Pitel kicked away to victory before later admitting that she had seen Thurig cramping towards the end of the bike leg and it was then that she had hatched her plan. Interestingly both have now forged careers in pro cycling. Thurig has been double world time trial champion and Pitel remains one of the world’s oldest professionals at the age of 42.         

2)    European Championships 2004. SwanseaWales
Athlete in focus: Jurgen Dereere (BEL) Male elite winner.
 
Those who watched the European championships around the ever twisting and meandering dock side will remember the Mens’ winner Jurgen Dereere of Belgium as the king of the surge.  Coming off the draft legal bike leg which had made its way up and down the seafront stretching out to MumblesBay things were still predictably close. Dereere set about using the twisty and narrow quay-side run to his advantage by repeatedly surging out of the corners and turn points and visibly easing back to recover having done so.  It was a tactic that Britain’s Tim Don and the Netheland’s Armand Van Der Smissen couldn’t quite live with. Were it not for his countryman, the late Benny Vansteelant,  Dereere might have added many more illustrious titles to his name and so it was on the cobbled quayside of Swansea that in Vansteelant’s absence Dereere used his relentless surging to take his place Duathlon’s history books.   

3) World Long Course Championships 2005.  BarcisItaly
Athlete in focus: Benny Vansteelant (BEL) Male elite winner.
 
The 2005 World long course championships will be remembered as the day when Benny Vansteelant confirmed his undeniable status as the greatest Duathlete of all time. His performance on the day resembled more closely a ritual humiliation of the competition and his tactics simply confirmed what many had thought for some time –he only had one: Go harder than anyone else for the entire race.  By the end of the first run he was alone and out onto the 80k bike leg he simply continued to ride away from the chasing pack to build a 10 minute lead going into the final run. Such was his regal superiority that he spent much of the first half of the final 11k run waving to the crowd and hand-slapping as he cruised along before turning on the afterburners to finish still 5 minutes ahead of Marcel Zamora of Spain in 2nd place. Benny’s death following a road traffic accident in 2007 robbed the sport of not just its greatest ever champion with 9 world titles to his name but of a likable character with a smile that transcended sport.

4) Powerman World Cup 2001.  Venray, Holland.
Athlete in focus: Benny Vansteelant (BEL) Male elite winner.
 
No Duathlon roll call would be complete without the greatest Duathlete of all time, the late Benny Vansteelant. The Dutch round of the Powerman world cup illustrated perfectly what many had thought for some time –he only had one tactic: Go harder than anyone else for the entire race. And it worked!  By the end of the first run he was alone and out onto the 75k bike leg he simply continued to ride away from the chasing pack to build an unassailable lead. At the age of 25 Vansteelent had already won 3 world championships of the 9 that he would win go on to before his untimely death following an accident while out cycling. The sport was robbed of not just its greatest ever champion but an infectiously effervescent character with a smile that became the sport’s iconic image.  


 5)    European Championships 2006.  RiminiItaly
Athlete in focus: Vanessa Fernandes (POR) Female elite winner.
The seafront in the Italian coastal resort of Rimini can claim, alongside Geel in Belgium to be one of Duathlon’s spiritual homes having been host to multiple World and European championships. The 2006 event saw a much anticipated showdown between the World’s finest female Duathletes and the hottest new prospect in women’s Triathlon, Vanessa Fernandes of Portugal.  By September that year she had already won 7 Triathlon world cups in one season.  Amazingly, she hadn’t competed in Duathlon at a world level since winning the junior World title in 2003 and after the results she had already achieved that year she could have been forgiven for ‘sitting in’ in the pack and looking to take control on the final run. Instead, in what was remarked by many as being a ‘Benny-esque’ performance she set about demolishing the field from start to finish to hold a two minute buffer over Spanish Olympian Ana Burgos who finished 2nd.

6) European Championships 2007. EdinburghScotland.

Athlete in focus: Catriona Morrison (GBR) Female elite winner.
 
Having won Silver Medals in both World long and short course Duathlon championships in 2005 and 2006 the tough Scottish athlete had stamped her mark as one of the Worlds finest Duathletes.  By June the 16th 2007 Morrison already had one eye on an eventual switch to long distance triathlon and the Ironman circuit (where she is now flourishing) and at the foot of Arthur’s seat with a home crowd baying for Morrison to take the title under the leaden skies and intermittent rain she lined up with the heavy weight of expectation on her shoulders. By the end of the first run she was comfortably away In a lead group of 4 but it was on the second accent of the brutal Arthur’s seat that Morrison moved into a solo lead. Local knowledge of the tricky climb and decent will no doubt have helped her but anyone who was there will surely never forget the entirely partisan crowd draped in sodden macs cheering for her to bring the title home as she rounded the corner by Holyrood Palace for the last time.

7) Benny Vansteelant Memorial World Cup 2008.  

Athlete in focus: Joerie Vansteelant
 
It seems entirely fitting that our 7th pick of classic Duathlon wins should bring us full circle. The summer of 2008 saw a brand new world cup on the ITU calendar and it was held in the fairly ordinary Belgian town of Torhout. Nothing out of the ordinary seems to happen there. It’s no different to any other small Belgian town really.  Except, that is, for the fact that it is home to the Vansteelant family and seemingly every living inhabitant is a member of the Vansteelant fan club along with all their relatives and pets. During his years of world domination Benny Vansteelant had a band (in the musical sense) of supporters who came and banged drums and blew trumpets with ‘Benny’ painted across their foreheads and so it was that on the day of the anniversary race to mark Benny’s sad passing the stage was set around the tight town centre course for his younger brother Joerie who was already a world champion himself by this stage to win what was probably the most emotional race of his life. That’s not to say that he was gifted anything. With world cup points and substantial prize money up for grabs he was pushed all the way to a tearful victory.   


Getting started and training for Duathlon 

( including a free training program)


WHAT?
Duathlon differs from tri in that it takes a run/ bike / run  format.  It has been around as long as Triathlon and has in the past been labelled as ‘triathlon for non swimmers’ but the sport has developed into so much more than that over the last 25 years to the point where there is now an established world series and world championships at both short and long distance.
The UK has a great number of sprint Duathlons which start at around the 3k/20k/2k distance and beyond this these are the ‘classic’ distance races which are 10k/40k/5k.  Those who want to try something longer will be attracted to the Powerman world series which is effectively Duathlon’s version of Ironman and these are usually around 15k/60k/7k in distance.
Duathlon has it’s own stars and a growing number of professionals who race exclusively in ‘Du’s’ but it is also becoming increasingly popular with triathletes. British Elites Tim Don, Paul Amey, Catriona Morrison and Michelle Dillon have all won world titles in Duathlon and the GB Age Group teams have consistently been the worlds best over the last few seasons.  Duathlon’s appeal does not stop there though- every year throughout his 7 years of winning the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong competed in off road Duathlons as part of his preparation.  Those who have completed a triathlon will know the feeling of starting the final run can be likened to running with a bear on your back. Well, with Duathlon, because you have already run prior to biking the effect is greater. This time the bear has his mate hanging on to his back and he is liberally pouring treacle over your shoulder for you to run through. The feeling does go though – trust me!

WHY?
 Duathlon can form a highly beneficial part of any Triathletes training. The fact that the first run is a mass start will mean that there is a greater chance of athletes being drawn on to faster times by running alongside others. This contrasts greatly with Tri where athletes are commonly spread out and may feel like they are ‘hanging on’ during the final run.  The fact that Duathlons are run throughout the year means that they can be used as a vital racing trial in the build up to triathlon goals and they also help to extend a triathletes season by allowing competitive racing in the spring and autumn when tri’s are scarce. Triathletes who have been competeing in spring Du’s tend to enter the tri season much better prepared.  Many first timers find the final run of a Duathlon harder than in a tri and it is in overcoming this that triathletes can build their confidence in their ‘off the bike’ running which will transfer nicely into faster running in triathlon.  Of course, there are also a growing number of triathletes who try a Duathlon and never look back. The sport is now at a stage in the UK where it provides a full season in it’s own right.  Offroad duathlons with a cross country run and a mountain bike leg are now growing faster than any other area of the sport due to their simple and safe format where they are often held in closed rural settings which are devoid of traffic and these provide an excellent cross training benefit along with the additional bike handling skills to be gained from racing off-road.  

WHEN?
As Du’s tend to be organised by clubs and associations who also organise Tri’s in the warmer months it is no surprise that the majority of events are in the Spring and Autumn. However, over the last 5 years more organisers have been putting on summer Du’s and are finding they are well attended. That said, Autumn is a particularly popular time for them being when most athletes are at their fittest after a summer of training and competing and it is the time when some of the best known UK Duathlons are held.

HOW?
The kit needed for Duathlon is not that different to tri. Most events will allow any type of bike to be used so long as it is road worthy and then of course a hard-shell helmet is essential. Clothing for Duathlon can be a bit more relaxed than tri as it doesn’t have to stand up to a swim as well so many Duathletes will go for the added comfort of a pair of cycling shorts with extra padding and on top of this, most will wear socks for the entire event.   For those using clipless pedals on their bike the most common practice is to have a pair of run shoes with elasticated laces and a pair of bike shoes with velcrow straps which can be quickly changed in transition. However, some Duathletes prefer the slight time saving gained from wearing just one pair of trainers and using toe clips or a devices known as ‘platforms’ which are essentially a rigid plastic plates with a strap across them which sits on top of your pedals and when wearing trainers simulates the feel of a rigid cycling shoe beneath the foot.  Most Duathletes will, of course, fit and then remove their helmet either side of the bike leg. There is however one well known English Duathlete who likes to save a few seconds by wearing his helmet during the first run. Although this is allowed it has to be said that he does receive a fair bit of ribbing for it!   From a training perspective one of the most important aspects is preparing an athlete for running as strongly as possible ‘off the bike’ and this involves completing ‘brick’ or back to back training sessions which will simulate the feeling of the second run. Like most effective training they are no fun at all at first but as always – hard work before the race makes the race so much more fun and they will go along way to reducing the size of your Bear(s).

My pro tips:
1) Try to run off-road on soft varied terrain as much as possible. This will not only go along way to helping prevent injuries from the jarring associated with tarmac but it also helps to simulate the heavy legged feeling often associated with the second run.

2) Whenever you can when returning from a bike ride try to pull on a pair of trainers and just run. Even if it’s to the end of your road and back. 3-8 minutes is sufficient.  Eventually it will be something that your body simply expects.

3) Most people start a Duathlon far too quickly and many then fade on the first run as a result. Pace out your effort over the whole event and try to look around you for other athletes who are following a similar sensible pace. 

4) A lot can happen in 3 legs! Duathlon, just like tri, is an adventure in itself and you can and will find yourself going through bad patches. Very often, if you stick these out and keep going, trying to relax and be positive you will recover and end up feeling better. I recall the Scottish national Duathlon champs where I competed in 2005 and ran so poorly on the first run around Arthur’s Seat that I walked into transition in about 20 place ready to pull out. I suddenly thought “no- I’ll see what happens” and out of the blue I felt great on the bike and rode my way up to 3rd before running really strongly to finish on the podium. There’s a lot to be said for keeping going!   Obviously in the case of injury or illness it is always best to stop.

4 Week training programme:
I use the terms 1. Easy 2. Steady 3. Tempo 4. Hard 5. Max
DAY                Beginner  (5-7 hrs)                                      Intermediate  (8-12 hrs)

Monday
Run 40 mins Easy. Off-road is best.
90 minute steady cross country run.
Tuesday
Bike 30 mins Easy and then 20 mins Steady before warming down.
Bike 90 mins steady with 4 x 8 mins tempo/2 mins easy in middle. 
Wednesday
Gym- Conditioning and core work.
Gym- conditioning and Core work.(run there if possible)
Thursday
1 hour of continuous 10 min bike, 5 min run repeats all at easy pace.
90  mins of continuous 10 min bike , 5 min run all at steady pace after a 20 min easy Bike warm up 
Friday
Rest
1 hour steady Run.
Saturday
1 hr Steady Cross Country Run
2 hr steady Bike followed by a 40 min/  1 hr steady Run. Eat / drink well when riding.
Sunday
2 hr Steady Bike ride with a 10 min Easy run straight after. 
3 hr steady ride with the middle hour being ridden seated using only 3 biggest gears.
Monday
Gym – Conditioning and Core work
90 min cross country run concentrating on technique
Tuesday
1 hour Easy Run with 3 x 5 mins Tempo/ 2 mins easy in the middle.
Gym- Conditioning and Core work.
Wednesday
1 hour Bike with 10 mins easy and tehn ride every 5th minute hard for the whole minute. Continue up to the hour.
Run 20 mins steady before 20 mins at tempo, then Bike 20 mins tempo and 20 mins steady. Warm down well.
Thursday
45 minute steady ride with 20 mins tempo, seated in the middle. Run 10 mins steady straight after.
1 hr steady ride with 4 x 8 mins hard/ 8 mins easy in the second half and then run 10 mins tempo straight off the bike. Warm down.
Friday
Rest
Rest
Saturday
Ride 30 mins steady on a rolling circuit and then ride 30 mins in a big gear staying seated and turning smooth pedal circles, then run easy for 40 minutes in a hilly area concentrating on relaxed but fast downhill running.   
 90 minute steady Ride which includes 8-15 seated Hard hill repeats on a steep climb in the middle. Then return home and Run steady for 1 hour concentrating on maintaining an even, steady pace.
Sunday
2-3 hr ride. Easy for the first hour and then steady. Eat and drink well.
2-3 hrs bike with the last 15 mins of each hour ridden at tempo (race pace) aim for 3 of these efforts.
Monday
1 hour steady run focussing on good technique
1 hour incremental run: 10 mins easy, 10 mins steady, 10 mins tempo, 5 mins Hard, 5 mins Tempo, 5 mins Steady, 5 mins easy and warm down.
Tuesday
Rest
Rest
Wednesday
 40 min Run with 20 mins of 20 secs hard, 40 secs easy running in the middle.
90 mins – 2 hour Bike in racing position. 30 mins easy and then ride for 1 whole hour using only your 4 biggest gears and staying seated on a rolling (not too hilly) circuit. Try to maintain a steady pace and turn smooth pedal circles. Run 8-10 mins easy straight after.
Thursday
1 hour ride with 8-12  seated hard hill repeats on a steep climb in the middle and then a 20 minute steady run in which the first 8 minutes are run tempo (race pace) 
1 hour steady Run with 6 x 100m max efforts spread out throughout Then, on bike, Ride for 15 mins easy in a low gear and every 5th minute ride the entire minute in your lowest gear trying to spin as fast as possible while seated. 
Friday
Gym- Conditioning and Core work
Gym- conditioning and core work
Saturday
Simulated Duathlon – warm up and then complete 20 mins tempo run on road, 45 mins tempo bike on road and then another 20 mins tempo run off road. 
Simulated Duathlon – warm up and then complete 30 mins tempo road run, 50mins tempo bike and then 20 mins  tempo run with the last 5 mins as hard as possible.
Sunday
2-3 hour sociable ride with friends
2-3 hour sociable ride with friends
Monday
Rest
25 min easy Run on grass practicing perfect run form
Tuesday
40 min ride with 4-6 x  1 min hard 1 min easy in middle and then 20 min run with 4 x 30 secs hard/30 secs easy in middle.
40 min easy ride with 6-8 x 1 min hard 1 min easy in middle and then 20 min run with 6 x 30 secs hard 30 secs easy in middle.
Wednesday
40 min easy off road run focussing on relaxed, light and upright running 
40 min easy off road run focussing on relaxed, light and upright running 
Thursday
1 hour easy Ride with 5 second sprint accelerations out of any corners/bends.
1 hour easy Ride with 5 second sprint accelerations out of any corners/bends.
Friday
Rest.- check over all race gear and chill.
Rest
Saturday
Run 20 minutes with 3x 10 secs hard spread out.
Bike 40 mins easy with 3x 15 secs hard and Run 20 mins with 3x 8 secs hard spread out.
Sunday
                        RACE
                           RACE

How to use Pressure to your advantage.    Jez Cox 2011

'Installing your own Optimism force-field'

What alternatives does an athlete have when under pressure?

                       When under pressure, the athlete is (whether they know it or not) able to be in control of their reaction to pressure.  With that in mind the informed athlete who is tuned in to their ‘mental radio station' is then able to decide if they want recognise and credit an awareness of the pressure in the first place. If they do, they are then faced with the empowered choice of how to use that pressure.  Do they let it guide them into a state ruled by the fear of failure or do they at least try to use it as an accelerant, something to inspire them to an even more effective performance?  In doing so the aim is to get beyond fear and negativity by entering a state of 'Flow'.   Of course there is also the option to simply try to ignore it and maintain the status quo as if the stimulus had not occurred but it is widely accepted that the recognition and acceptance of stimuli leads to a more empowered and centred athlete.

So what is the result of a positive response to pressure?

                      The athlete who responds positively to pressure is then empowered by the recognition that these feelings of 'pressure' are merely a thought process stimulated by an external event. The recognition that the event is often nowhere near as bad as the effect of the negative thought processes is the first step towards the athlete being able to ‘disengage’ from those thoughts and re-focus their mind on the component parts of performing their skills correctly with optimistic enthusiasm.  
                     The successful athlete who has been able to do this repeatedly over a long period of time should start to find that those stimuli which were originally stressors actually start to serve as accelerators which shift the athlete into the autonomous state of 'flow'. As always, it sounds so easy but like all elements of training, it takes time and the perseverance to turn persistent behaviour into habitual behaviour.

How can an athlete face the choices they have when under pressure?

                     The athlete that courageously faces their choices will become empowered through the knowledge that they were able to effect a decision over what they had previously thought was ‘not up to us'.   That empowerment through initial courage and then the resilient behaviour in the face of challenging stimuli should begin the process of setting the athlete free from both the pressure of fear and the fear of pressure.

When does that progress stop?

                       The athlete who is unable to recognise or train their ability to take over their 'mental radio station' and start broadcasting their own messages when faced with a pressurising stimulus is likely to be unable to progress further and keep improving in their field. It may even prevent them from being able to finish what they are doing at that key moment. So often, the manifestation of the negative thoughts generated by the stressor cease to be a manifestation and instead become an infestation which clouds the judgement and ultimately, can simply halt progress and indeed execution altogether. An example might be the batsman in a game of cricket who first comes out to bat in front of hundreds of people, if that person is only tuned into the negative ‘pre-played message’ that “the audience will jeer you if you are out first ball” then, without being able to rationalise the possibility of that happening (based on past positive experience) and then not being able to chose to refocus on executing the skills perfectly as they have in training  they face the crippling grip of pressure where they feel powerless and remain focussed only on that negative possibility.

                      In some, this becomes too much to handle and it may even result in them withdrawing from the game altogether. Of course, this action merely provides another negative experience which is to be re-played at the next pressure spike in the next game. (That's if they return for the next game!) It's a viscous cycle that can only be broken by the athlete themselves taking ownership of their own reactions.


What can occur as long as you accept pressure?

                     The recognition and subsequent acceptance of pressure should, with time,  lead to the athlete feeling positive about upcoming challenges and motivated to see what they will be capable of even with the pressure that they will feel. The athlete who recognises and accepts pressure will be able to return to the situation where they feel that pressure and continue to operate progressively in that environment. 
                    Another positive by-product of that acceptance is the empathy that comes with accepting that all athletes and team are affected by pressure and the reactions to it are part of the fascinating physiological testing ground that is ‘sport’. 

How should the athlete proceed once they start to accept pressure?

                      Every performer would benefit from working wholeheartedly to make the positive response to pressure habitual.  It has long been said that the performer who performs a skill with the same technique 7 times in close succession will have planted the seeds of habitual behaviour. Of course these seeds need to be watered with practice and then monitored to ensure they are growing (developing / improving) in the desired way. A massive part of this concerted effort to habitualise positive responses will come from exposure to the stressor when the performer(s) have the calm, measured use of specific goals as a means to deal with that pressure. Some of that testing ground may well come in lower ranking tournaments and events where the athlete feels that the stakes are not as high. It is widely acknowledged that those who compete regularly generally have a more positive reaction to pressure at events simply because they have become partially anaesthetised and numb to the feeling. Of course, this can be dangerous in some performers because once the buffering of pressure has become partially subconscious the athlete may well lose some of the positive and motivating effects that come with arousal through pressure. Therefore, paramount throughout this habit forming phase must be an objective awareness of the process and feelings associated with it.

What is the most important ingredient for success on top of physical attributes and 'talent'?

                   How the athlete feels about pressure is often cited as the most important ingredient for success regardless of the athlete's perceived level of 'talent' or physiological attributes. Basic statistics would point to the fact that some of the world’s most gifted athletes and performers never made it through to being successful senior athletes. The biggest step for any young performer is making the jump from settled junior athlete to progressively adjusting senior athlete and this is complicated still further when the athlete or team has developed a habit of winning prior to that jump. The best coaches and managers will find competitive opportunities to put those performers into competitive arenas where they are exposed to that 'next level' with the minimum of pressure (in a light hearted practice session perhaps) so as to build resilience to pressure and an understanding of the 'pressure processor' concept. Without the tools and habits needed to deal with that pressure then the talent may well be wasted as is so often the case.

What can pressure be converted into?

                        The athlete that is aware of their 'pressure processing' powers has two options when it comes to processing that pressure. It can be converted into positive, achieve-orientated and productive tensions which drive the athlete to shift up a gear in performance ( think Jonny Wilkinson's last second drop goal to win the Rugby World Cup). It can however be converted, most commonly under subconscious processing into negative, limiting and destructive tensions which will inevitably lead to sub-optimal performance or even the destruction of the process entirely (Think David Beckham's world cup sending off for kicking the player that was continually getting the better of him under pressure)   



What is the most important step when dealing with pressure?

                      The recognition of the fact that you are in charge of your 'pressure processing' and the subsequent reactions to that pressure is cited in this discussion as being the most important step towards sustainable success because that recognition of yourself as a 'processor' is critically important in the athlete being able to separate stimulus from response and in doing so to feel empowered and confident in their ability to absorb and then process a calm response to the stressful situation. 
                     One way to enable this empowered process recognition is to internally question how you feel like reacting before you react. Asking "what is happening?”  “What seems to be happening?” And finally “what do you think may happen?" Will enable the performer to actively put themselves into the mode of actively aware and objective 'processor'. 

How can athletes avoid the destructive effect of dwelling on negative performances?

                      A powerful and effective way to avoid the destructive effect of dwelling on potential negative occurrences is to build such a powerful armoury of positive images and resilience of positive spirit that as the negative occurrences arise those feelings or thoughts themselves become obscure in the athletes own inner sea of positivity and optimistic self-imagery. Of course, as has been the common starting point for all the positivity in this discussion, the athlete should not ignore those negative or destructive thoughts because the stimuli that affect them will still be there.  In effect, the recognition of those feelings as they start to be felt should allow the athlete to view them objectively and then enable a process of detachment, where the athlete feels empowered to conceptually 'unplug' the negative thought pathway to their ‘superego’ (as defined by Sigmund Freud in his 1933 Psychodynamic Theory).
                   In recognising and then detaching the thought it effectively becomes 'emotionally quarantined' and, just like ‘spam’ mail it is ready to be sent to the recycle bin.  Of course, the 'force field' which allows this detachment and quarantining of thought does not actually exist but it's cloud of positivity and the resilient shield of optimism is visceral for everyone else to see and it is highly effective too.
                  It all sounds so easy doesn’t it?  Of course, both stimuli and responses as well as those experiencing them are equally complex and multi-faceted.  When some of that negativity is getting through and adversely affecting the athlete a more structured quarantining approach might be needed. One such technique is for the performer to write down the negative thoughts on paper and then dispose of them. An extended version of this would be to use the same paper to then annotate the negative quarantined thought with rationalising notes about why the thought or response is irrational or counter-productive. Different methods will work for different individuals. 
                 So far I have only discussed the use of the 'optimism force field' as an individualised paradigm but its use can in fact be amplified through the institutionalised reinforcement of it. A team or training group who are immersed in that bubble of optimistic enthusiasm will stand an even greater chance of its individuals being able to avoid dwelling on the negative and this is due, in part to the infectious nature of that mind-set but also due to the individuals’ feeling that they are part of a bigger sporting machine.  This 'ensemble' feeling is not normally something that independent sports people will have to fall back on and it does have to be said that the team environment is also something that can be extremely stressful for individuals who thrive in their sporting solitude.   

                                Jez Cox 2011.   www.howgoodcouldibe.com