Ten best ways to improve your duathlon time

Bucks County Duathlon competitors enjoy a fast, scenic bike segment during the 2015 race.
      The “autumn’’ multi-sport racing season is nearly upon us, so what better time to review the best ways to improve your performances in upcoming races such as the Bucks County Duathlon.
      Some of these recommendations are technical, some just common sense.
      But even the most experienced runner/biker can probably learn something by perusing this “Top 10’’ list of ways of chopping precious seconds off your performance clock.
      With a tip of the hat to experts such as Ben Tisdall of Sportiva Events as well as ideas from “the5krunner.com,’’ here are 10 things to consider as you prep for the BCD and other races of similar distances:
      >1. **Bike safety check:** Make sure your bike is in good running condition. A quick check by experts at places such as Guy’s Bicycles (Bob Burke) in Feasterville, Newtown Bike Shop (Harry Betz) in Newtown or Firehouse Cycles (Mike Joseph) in Yardley will guarantee your two-wheeler is performing at top speed.
      >2. **Know the course:** If you live within comfortable travel time distance of the course, do a quick practice tour of the layout. Complete the two runs as well as the cycle segment to familiarize yourself with hills, turnarounds, questionable pavement, etc. Take mental notes.
      >3. **Practice transitions:** While this only involves about two-three minutes of an hour-plus race, only a few seconds can make the difference between going home with just a finisher medal or a coveted age-group award. A couple reminders: Set up a command post at your bike in the transition area – with an open, second set of shoes for the second run. At home, engineer your own transition area and practice getting on and off the bike. This includes clipping your shoes into their lock pedals. Anything under one minute (including run-in/run-out) is good; anything around 75 seconds acceptable.
      >4. **Aero bars:** Veteran racers will tell you aero bars for your bike are quite helpful in making you more aerodynamic on the roads. Bars can be installed on most bikes for a reasonable price.
      >5. **Nutrition/hydration:** Like any long distance event, it helps to have the right amount of stuff in your system heading into the race. Many multi-sport athletes use energy bars, gels and the like, plus sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade to keep up their levels of electrolytes. Best way to find the right mix is to experiment beforehand.
      >6. **Check and pack all your gear the night before:** There are very few last-minute Larrys and Lindas on the awards stand. Make sure you fill out a checklist the night before, including bike tire patch kit, helmet, shoes, gloves, fluid bottles, etc. Bring a towel to place near your bike to lay out all the necessary accoutrements.
      >7. **Proper bike tire pressure:** For most racing tires on road bikes, 120 pounds per square inch will more than suffice. If you go as high as 140 (which I do for some unknown reason), you risk a higher chance of a blowout, or so I’m told.
      >8. **Most efficient clothing:** It would be great to have enough time to change from running shorts to bike pants. But there isn’t. So find a pair of “hybrids’’ which have a little less bike seat padding than usual and allow you to run at high speed. If you cycle a lot, a pair of regular compression shorts will suffice for the amount of time you’re in the saddle.
      >9. **High-tech wheels:** Yes, going back to that every-second-is- precious thought, better bike wheels do make a difference. They’re lighter than conventional wheels and, while they cost a lot (ranging from $600 to $3,000 per pair), they make your bike a much more efficient machine. If you can only afford one wheel, make it the front, because this is where most wheel drag occurs. Replacing just one wheel can improve your overall time as much as three percent!
      >10. **Get to the race site early:** Parking for races such as the BCD opens up to two hours before the official starting time. Try to get to the parking lot at least 90 minutes ahead of time. This will give you enough time to rack your bike, stretch, do a quick run/bike warm-up and be ready for the race of your life.
      If you’re planning to do a duathlon in the upcoming months, best wishes and safe travels.
      Race calendar
      Ivyland 5K, 8 a.m., Ivyland. Contact www.ivyland5k.org
      Sunday, Sept. 4
      11th annual Bucks County Duathlon, 7 a.m., Washington Crossing Historic Park, Washington Crossing. Contact www.buckscountyduathlon.org
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Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.