How do you win a duathlon after COVID? Do things right, not push yourself hard

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How do you win a duathlon after COVID? Do things right, not push yourself hard

This is how you bounce back from COVID: Win Titan 77.7 Philippines in your age group

Photos courtesy of Don Velasco

In my previous article, I discussed how I got COVID-19 and my experience with the disease. Over the week or so after my isolation (with my doctor’s approval), I gradually regained my fitness. I had to be extremely patient though as the body wasn’t responding well at first.

Luckily, I still had some fitness leftover from my Ironman 70.3 race in Cebu so despite “undertraining” for the Titan 77.7 duathlon held in Clark, I was able to finish strong. Here’s how the race went:

Pre-race

I wasn’t able to do my normal taper for this distance since there wasn’t much to taper from. I did shorter workouts for a few days prior to the race and tried to get the legs going in the process.

I didn’t reach 100 kilometers in training but I did try to surpass 21 kilometers for a long run (total run was 25 kilometers for Titan 77.7). I felt okay with this since I didn’t have any choice. I just told myself I’ll dial back on race intensity and see where I’m at in terms of ranking

I didn’t reach 100 kilometers in training but I did try to surpass 21 kilometers for a long run (total run was 25 kilometers for Titan 77.7). I felt okay with this since I didn’t have any choice. I just told myself I’ll dial back on race intensity and see where I’m at in terms of ranking.

My other concern was that my measured carb dependency was extremely high because of the hiatus from training. I knew I had to load up with fuel before, during, and after.

The first run

The first run was more of a warm-up, a four-kilometer run that I initially planned to finish in 16:30. Legs felt great and we were able to clock in sub-16 mins. I knew this was irrelevant in terms of the grand scheme of things as the bike was 100 kilometers long. I took one Maurten Gel 100 here and replenished my hydration levels with a few cups of water.

Don Velasco's fitness level from Ironman 70.3 in Cebu
Don Velasco’s fitness level from Ironman 70.3 in Cebu “carried over” to his Titan 77.7 performance | Photo by Kaya Shots

The Titan 77.7 bike leg

The bike leg was a monster. Not only was it 100 kilometers long, it was 100 kilometers with close to 700 meters of climbing. This was thanks to the 4x climb up the infamous “wall” of Clark. While it’s not particularly steep, the length and gradual increase in gradient saps you of speed and motivation. Add the lack of foliage and shade and it was like an oven out there.

The rest of the course was rather flat but with up to four U-turns each loop, you’re forced to slow down and accelerate. This not only drops average speed drastically, you also burn a lot of matches if you don’t approach it intelligently.

My goal during this race was to avoid going above my aerobic threshold for extended periods. This, paired with the undulating profile of the course, meant my normalized power was rather low. However, this gave me the best chance of running well off the bike.

The bike leg was a monster. Not only was it 100 kilometers long, it was 100 kilometers with close to 700 meters of climbing

To also aid my chances of finishing strong, I loaded up with nutrition that works well with my gut. I usually take Vitargo for long races but I opted to use this for my carb-loading and pre-race drink and shifted to Maurten’s Mix 320 for this race. The main difference is that the sense of satiety of Maurten is a lot lower.

While this isn’t desirable, it was perfect for me in this scenario. In doing so, I was able to consume up to 120 grams of carbs per hour. This was crucial as it’s easier for the body to absorb nutrition on the bike versus on the run. I didn’t need to play catch-up on the run as compared to my race in Cebu, where I crashed on the bike leg.

The second run

The last run was a doozy. It consisted of three loops with three U-turns per loop; there were also multiple turns along the course which, as mentioned, killed average speed. The change in speed/direction also makes you more susceptible to cramping if you overdo it.

Despite his labored breathing, Don Velasco stayed patient and kept a steady pace
Despite his labored breathing, Don Velasco stayed patient and kept a steady pace

The goal was simple: Hold a comfortable pace all throughout. I let my legs settle down off the bike before I decided on the pace I wanted to run at. I felt pretty strong after the bike (despite some chafing and sore feet). I tried to hold around 4:30 to 4:50 minutes/kilometer and it felt manageable. The weather cooperated since there was an overcast but there wasn’t any discernible wind. I had to lift up my sunglasses multiple times to feel the sensation of the wind and this helped with perceived exertion.

I walked all of the aid stations to make sure I was drinking enough and that I was taking enough fuel. The close proximity of each aid station meant I was able to down one Maurten Gel 100 every 15 minutes. Its jelly-like texture made it easy to swallow. I was no longer gagging or had that sticky sensation in my throat (unlike other brands). I also had some pickle juice anti-cramp drinks handy for that sense of available “insurance policy.” Luckily, consuming enough nutrition and fluids staved off any semblance of cramps. I didn’t even need to take extra electrolytes.

For my first post-COVID competition, I lowered my expectations and instead focused on doing things right. It worked for me as pressure was less pronounced (maybe except for the second loop on the run)

My laps were steady for each of the three loops. I didn’t really expect to land on the top of the podium but I was lucky enough to do so. For my first post-COVID competition, I lowered my expectations and instead focused on doing things right. It worked for me as pressure was less pronounced (maybe except for the second loop on the run).

At the end of the day, this was a great way to bounce back after my mishap in Cebu. The tough course and difficult predicament I had surrounding it made this race all the more sweeter.

Have some training questions, feedback or suggestions for future articles? Drop a note in the comments section below or on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.  You can also get in touch with Don directly here.

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