Friday, January 16, 2015

The Ins of a Duathlon

I'm not new to long format multisports. In 2010 I finished a 130 mile bike ride followed by a full fledged marathon in the Finger Lakes region and I thought that was fun. But it wasn't until 2013 that I took part in my first Duathlon in Dubai.

Duathlons attract me because I can't swim for nuts but I'm a fairly decent runner and cyclist. It is also a fascinating optimization problem for a guy who likes numbers.

Below is a plot from one of my actual races, a Sprint distance duathlon featuring a 3K run 20K bike 3K run format. The flat plateau's in the beginning and at the end are Run#1 and Run#2 and the middle is my biking leg.

My goal over the course of several races is to make this plot look more even. If I overlayed a red line over the blue, it would look like :

However, goals should be specific. In this respect, it's nice to know a little about the competition I'm against.

I've crunched the numbers and realize that to be competitive in my age group category, I've got to be able to do Run#1 at around 6:10 min/mile, the biking at about 23mph average and the Run#2 at about 6:30 to 6:40 min/mile. Each transition should be limited to sub 50 seconds.

So if I placed those benchmarked figures over the previous plot, I get a perfect race :

Theoretical things aside , what does it take me to achieve it?

1) The first and major challenge was coming to grips with a dirty reality that my flexibility was shabby on the bike. To move at 23 mph from what is currently around 21mph ave (no super skin suit, no TT bike, no super helmet), power is forward velocity cubed which means I have to get more aerodynamic to beat drag. Unfortunately, my hamstrings limit the ability to tuck in and produce power from the glutes and I'm working hard on changing this.

2) Secondly, short duathlons demand energy from predominately from carbohydrates.

Years of sporting activity has taught me that I'm naturally inclined to high heart rates. My internal engine can rev up quite high when racing. In 2012, my heart rate was at 94% throughout the Mount Washington Hill climb in New Hampshire and I was just minutes short of placing Top Notch category. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted but I was also in peak shape for it.

Some years ago, a laboratory testing when I was in an untrained state showed that my natural state of affairs is to rely on anaerobic energy production to run anything less than 8 min/mi and a caloric intake upwards of 700 kcal/hr. I don't know how this may have improved over the course of training, however the message was telling in two ways.

One, I needed more energy stores for shorter races.  Secondly, perhaps my body was more inclined towards shorter bursts of high intensity exercise than longer endurance formats, where I could use the natural ability of my body to kick into anaerobic mode and be comfortable there for periods of up to an hour.

Currently, I'm fixing up the flexibility and nutrition issues. My marriage to a loving and supporting wife has been a blessing. She teaches me yoga and fixes up some good meals where I try to get upto 3000 calories while training.

Our idea is to try and achieve a daily energy balance that looks like the following figure (courtesy Advanced Sports Nutrition Table 17.4) where I can get 2800 calories and hit a anabolic:catabolic ratio of 1.4. In layman's terms, eat small meals more often and when it matters most. Growing up in a culture where eating 3 big meals a day is the modus operandi, it's been a challenge to fight it but if you want something, you go get it.

3) The most challenging task I suppose has been dodging the day job with the requirements of training and a part time on going college education. Time management is so essential in this business. That's why I love the short workouts necessitated by the Sprint Duathlon. No longer do I have to tool around on my bike for 4 hours pretending I'm training myself. Time is a luxury.  People ask me why I can't sleep till 11am on a Friday in Dubai. Brother, it's because I've got some goals in life and I'm bent on achieving them. How about you?

4) Finally, one important word. Over-training. It happens with me every so often, and like everyone else dabbling in this sport, I have learned a lot about when to rest. Schedules are just that, goals. But trying to become a slave to them is a surefire way to failure. I've been there, done that.

Anyway, that wraps up my short Duathlon career. I've a few more races to go and if I really like doing this, I'll look into a TT bike. But before that, its the Indian and not the bow.

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