Guelph Lake Subaru Duathlon Recap + 5 tips for newbies

pre-race with Jess

The fact that there is a post here this morning means I survived my first ever bike race! Yesterday morning was the sprint duathlon that I’ve been talking about for the past couple of months, and I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by since I declared I was going to do one at the start of 2014.

Subaru Guelph Lake Triathlon registration 2

My alarm went off at 5:15 yesterday morning but I’d been tossing and turning for 2 hours in fear that I’d sleep through it and be late. I got up, got dressed, and ate a bowl of dry cereal while waiting for Jess to arrive. She signed up for the sprint triathlon (750m swim, 20KM bike, 5KM run) whereas my sprint duathlon was a 2KM run, 20KM bike, 5KM run.

marked calves

We arrived for registration, picked up our numbers and kits, got our bodies marked with our age categories and race numbers, and set up our stuff in the transition areas. Then we waited, went to the bathroom, waited, went to the bathroom again, and by 9:00, I was more than ready to go.

Jess lacing her shoes
Jess lacing up her shoes

The swim waves started at 9 sharp, and the women’s duathlon wave went off at 9:13. I felt a bit nervous at the start of the 2K run, but it was over really quickly. I came into the transition area, put on my helmet and gloves, swapped my Asics Gel Noosa Tri 9s (which have bungee cord/quick laces so there’s no need to tie them) for my cycling shoes, and grabbed my bike. You can get DQ’d if you take your bike off the rack without your helmet on, so I was careful not to make that mistake.

Subaru Guelph Lake Triathlon

The bike course was an out-and-back route with speed bumps as we left the conservation area, which I slowed down for. The first long stretch was quite gravelly and hilly, but the other 2 roads had some gentle rolling hills and were very manageable. In fact, I never thought this would be the case but the bike portion was my favourite part!

After getting into T2, I racked the bike, helmet and shoes came off, and running shoes came back on. I didn’t feel like I needed anything to eat so I just took a few swigs of my Vega electrolyte hydrator bottle and took off. Around half way through the final 5K run, I caught up to Jess. Although we were in different events and had different start times, we’d been passing each other a couple of times earlier in the race. We pushed through the final 2KM and crossed the finish line together, and although I haven’t seen the race photos, I’m pretty sure it’ll be my favourite one yet!

jess and I pre-race

My fueling strategy was pretty simple and looked like this:

  • Breakfast: dry gluten-free cereal and a few strawberries (wasn’t hungry in the slightest). This was at about 6am, and we left my house at 6:30 in order to arrive at registration for 7:15. The race didn’t start until 9, so I knew I’d have plenty of time to digest
  • Pre-race: Vega sugar-free pre-workout energizer
  • In the transition area: I had an apple and a banana ready in case I wanted them during transitions, but didn’t feel the need for either
  • On the bike: Water in one bottle, Vega electrolyte hydrator in the other
  • Within 1 hour post-race: Water, Vega recovery accelerator, 2 apples. Again, I wasn’t hungry at all but knew it wouldn’t be smart not to have anything.

Duathlon racing gear

I had zero expectations for this race, aside from giving it a go and just saying that I finished. Really, I just wanted to be able to do the whole thing without falling off my bike! My final time was 1:11:04, and miraculously, I won my age group. WHAATT????

podium for guelph lake duathlon

The race itself was great, and another huge highlight was meeting some of my blog/Instagram followers, Lisa, Sylvia and Rachel. Lisa and Rachel both had great tris, and Sylvia had a killer win in her age group too!

meeting a blog reader
Meeting Sylvia, an Eat Spin Run Repeat reader and age group winner!
meeting an instagram friend
Thanks for the tips, Lisa! (PS. How awesome does she look!?)

I can’t believe how much fun this whole experience was, and even though I did well, I know there’s still so much to be learned from other duathletes and triathletes. This race taught me a lot about myself and about duathlons in general. If you’re thinking about doing one as well, I’d love to help by sharing some advice from a first-timer.

5 tips for your first duathlon from a fellow newbie - Eat Spin Run Repeat

1. Familiarize yourself with the course. This is probably my biggest, most important tip. If you’re scared about competing in a new-to-you event, learning as much as you can about the route can be super effective in putting you at ease. The race location was only about 40 minutes from my house, so Jess and I went out last weekend to scope things out. We printed out the route map, rode about half of the 20km bike course, and familiarized ourselves with the park area. I also had one of my amazing Instagram followers (hi Lisa!) offer some tips about the bike route, which was what I was most scared of. She told me about the hills, where to watch for potholes, and the speedbumps that we’d cover on the way in and out of the park.

If going to your race location ahead of time isn’t an option, read the race website to learn more about the routes and if possible, check out forums to see what people are saying. The more you know, the more you can simulate in your training.

lineup for bathrooms

2. Know the rules. The duathlon I did was a sprint distance, and there were plenty of newbies there. I was super thankful for the guy in the tent at the front of the transition area who kept repeating the rules and going over the routes, but I also checked the race website ahead of time to learn what was allowed and what would get me DQ’d. For example, taking my bike off the rack without my helmet on my head and fastened would have had me booted from the race, as would taking my helmet off before re-racking my bike in T2. Drafting on the bike (riding really close to the person ahead to benefit aerodynamically) generally isn’t allowed, so it’s important to either keep right or quickly pass on the left of the rider you’re overtaking.

KHS bike with duathlon sticker

3. Practice your transitions. In my mind, this was sort of like a third sport. To be honest, I wasn’t that worried about the run or bike portions because I knew I’d be fine once I got going – it was the getting on and off the bike I was most concerned about! As the race got nearer, start planning out how you’ll come in and out of the transition area. The first thing I grabbed in T1 were my bike gloves which were in my helmet, then my helmet, then my cycling shoes. The last thing was my bike. In T2, the first thing I did was rack my bike. Then I took off my gloves and shoes, took off my helmet, then put on my running shoes. Some athletes leave their shoes clipped into their bikes and take their feet out of the shoes as they approach the dismount line, but I’m not quite this skilled yet! You should be able to lay all your gear down next to your bike in the transition area (remember to bring a towel for this in case the grass is really wet) so that it’s easily accessible when you come in and out.

Subaru Guelph Lake Triathlon

4. Do a few brick workouts. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a brick is a bike/run workout that helps you get more accustomed to running as soon as you hop off the bike. You simply do a bike workout (it could be anything – whatever you’ve got planned for that day), immediately followed by a run. I did a few of these in the gym and 2 on my bike outside. Ideally, the more you can do in conditions similar to race day, the more comfortable you’ll be. My legs felt surprisingly ok after leaving T2, but there’s always room for improvement!

5. Have FUN! On Saturday night, I tried not to think about the race too much because I knew negative thoughts would start entering my mind. Instead, I did what many of my Instagram buddies told me to do and framed race day as an opportunity to try something new, to reach a new goal (compete in my first-ever bike race) and above all, to have fun with it. I had no time expectations, nor did I even do any research to find out what a decent time might look like. I tend to overanalyze things, and if that sounds like you too, my advice would be to focus on having fun, smile, and just soak up the atmosphere and the experience.

duathlon hardware

And last but not least, an informal 6th tip: Ladies, if you want to know where all the hot guys are hiding, go to a triathlon/duathlon. It didn’t take us long to realize that there were some exceptionally good looking male competitors, and now that I think about it, maybe that’s part of what made it so much fun? 😉

So tell me…

  • Do you have any tips for a first time duathlete/triathlete to share?
  • Have you competed in a duathlon or triathlon before, or do you have aspirations to?
  • Do you have any burning duathlon/triathlon questions? If so, feel free to leave them below. I’ve got lots of very experienced triathlete friends so if I can’t answer, I will be sure to ask them for you instead!

25 thoughts on “Guelph Lake Subaru Duathlon Recap + 5 tips for newbies

  1. HA. Love tip number 6. Man, yesterday was a treat, both physically and visually. 🙂

    I am so so SOOO proud of your incredible work yesterday. You are a natural and I can’t wait to attack a duathlon with you again. And to see those wicked race photos!

  2. Thanks so much for the tips! The Athleta Espirit de She Duathlon is coming to Dallas in late October and I was thinking about signing up. It would be my first. I only own a hybrid bike and I’m a regular spinner. Do you think I could get by with training on my hybrid and in spin class and renting a road bike for race day, or is that a no-no?

    1. Hmmm that’s a good question! I’ve been teaching spin for 5 years, but I was amazed at how different riding a real bike on real roads was. (Sort of sounds obvious, but really, it was a big adjustment!) One of the most important things is to have a good bike fit (both for comfort and injury prevention purposes), which is why I had mine fitted a few months before my training started. If you can get your hands on a road or tri bike any earlier, I’d definitely recommend it. Like I said, it took a while for me to feel good on my own bike and I think riding anything else on race day would have thrown me off a bit! No matter what you decide, if you sign up for the duathlon, I’d love to hear about it! 🙂

  3. I’ve done probably 15 triathlons, including 2 full Ironmans, 3 half Ironmans and multiple sprint/Olympic distance races. I love tris! It feels great to push myself. I’m pretty much on auto-pilot with tris now. I just know what has to be done and my body just does it.

    Way to go on wining your age group! 🙂

    1. Wooah, that’s amazing Ann!! Congratulations on all of these accomplishments – I’m truly inspired! I’ve never done anything quite as big as an Ironman (or even a half) but I know what you mean about how great it feels to push yourself. It’s that I’ve-emptied-the-tank-and-have-nothing-left feeling that sounds crazy to people who aren’t as into endurance sports… keeps me coming back every time! Again, congrats! 🙂

    1. Thanks Ami! And trust me, all it takes is a bit of perseverance. I only started cycling this year, and it’s amazing how much progress you can make when you’ve got a race to hold you accountable. You can do it! 🙂

  4. Congratulations!! I admire your determination to kick butt in all these ventures you undertake and am slightly jealous of your speediness 😉 I’ll be doing my first sprint triathlon July 13 and I go through phases of feeling super confident and phases of feeling absolutely petrified…right now is a petrified stage haha. I think I’m most worried about the swimming (which I’m sure is normal) as well as riding a bike in a group, which I have yet to do. Like you though, I have no expectations and no time goals so my plan is to hang behind the crowds whenever possible!

    1. Thanks so much Ariana! That’s awesome that you’re doing your first tri soon, and don’t you worry because I felt the same excited/petrified combo of feelings for the weeks leading up to the duathlon! If you can get into open water to swim, I’m sure that would help ease your nerves. And as far as the bike goes, I thought the same thing when I was riding with the local cycling club, but found that the way we rode during the race was much different. The one thing that scared me most back when I was taking part in the group rides was being right up near the wheel of the rider ahead, which isn’t even allowed in most duathlon/triathlons! Trust me, you can do this! 🙂

  5. Shoot, I feel really bad that it’s now Friday and I am only getting around to checking your blog! Things were super busy lately in my life 🙂

    No worries at all! I am so glad that my tips helped. I really hope you continue racing! I might see you again at another race and maybe running around town 😀

  6. I’m hesitant to try for my first duathlon, it’s a short one 2mile, 5.5, and 2. But I have never learned to accept my postpartum body (the babe is already 9 months!) and at this point I’m willing to try anything in order to gain confidence. Running has always been my weakness and I’m terrified to register for a local duathlon. Part of me thinks it’s such a great goal – part of me says who are you kidding. Any advice/encouragement would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Dana!
      Thanks so much for sharing your situation. I can’t say I know what it’s like to have a postpartum body, but what I can tell you is that it’s never too late to learn something new. I’m not sure if you’ve read my About page yet, but I went from being 200lbs to my current ‘healthy happy’ size by rediscovering my love for exercise. I didn’t know if I’d like running but ended up falling in love with it because it was something I could do on my own without having to rely on a team or a coach or any other external factors to do. Getting into duathlon and triathlon was also something that scared me, not because of the run but because of the bike. I’d been in a really bad cycling accident in my childhood and that fear is still in me, even to this day. The thing is though, that you’ll never know until you try and if your experience is anything like mine was, it just might be one of the most rewarding, proud moments you’ve ever had.

      If a duathlon is something you know you want to do but feels a little too intimidating right now, would you consider perhaps starting a beginner running program – maybe even just for a month? It could be a great way to get yourself comfortable with the sport and build your confidence, and on the days when you don’t run, you could use that time to cycle – all the while, building strength in both disciplines. Let me know what you think. I’m happy to offer some more coaching and suggestions if you like!

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