Why I Felt Like A Fraud As A Duathlete!

When I started in the multisport world of swim, bike and run in 2016, the swim was by far my weakest sport. I managed to be decent enough at it to complete several sprint triathlons, but I definitely didn’t love it. Playing in the pool is WAY different than swimming for distance. I started in 2014 with cycling and then added running and then swimming to be able to do triathlons.

By 2017 our family was dealing with some significant challenges and I ended up not training AT ALL for almost 3 months. Yep, zero training! Life happens and you do what you have to do to survive those times.

Well, by the end of 2017 I was ready to get back to training again, but knew I needed some discipline to kick start things. One way to do that? Sign up for a race!

I signed up for a half-iron distance duathlon (5K run-56 mile bike- 5K run) because I knew I couldn’t fake my way through it without being committed to the training process.

But why not a triathlon?? Because I knew personally that I didn’t want to invest the physical and emotional time and energy to get back into swimming to manage that distance for racing.

The number of times I’ve seen and heard people talk about how they HATE swimming is countless, but they force themselves to do it so they can do triathlons. Well guess what? You don’t have to swim if you really don’t want to swim! But you can still be in the multisport racing world!

I love duathlons! It keeps me involved in the multisport community and racing, but it didn’t require the boatloads of that it would have taken for me to get the swim to a point where I could do a 70.3 race. For the past 3 years I haven’t dreaded my multisport training like I did when swim workouts were on the calendar.

Unless you want to hear the specific words “You. Are. An. Ironman” you don’t have to swim to be a multisport athlete. You can even do a full distance race at Michigan Titanium in duathlon for one example. There are duathlons for all the same distances that there are for triathlons: sprint, olympic, half and full distance.

Here’s the secret too: you have much better chances of placing higher in races in duathlons compared to triathlons because not as many people do them! Yep, there you go…the untold secret of duathlons! In fact, I qualified for the Duathlon World Championships in September 2020 in the Netherlands! I sure as heck wouldn’t have done that in triathlon that quickly!

Does being a duathlete make someone less of a bada$$ than being a triathlete? 100% NOPE! They’re just different physical challenges. In fact, if you ask some triathletes, they’ll tell you that they think duathlons are actually harder than triathlons because running is harder than swimming and you have to run twice in a duathlon. To me it all depends on your perspective, skills, and experiences.

So for a while, I felt like I was looked down on by the triathletes as not being a “real” multisport athlete, but then I realized, “SO WHAT?” People will think what they want to think. I’m doing what I want and enjoy right now, plus what fits with my life goals in this season and that’s all that truly matters! I want to focus right now on growing my business to help other endurance athletes rehab and prevent injuries and optimize their training to cross the finish line faster and injury-free and not focus on swimming.

Does this mean I’ll never do triathlons again? Not necessarily, but for now, I’m seriously enjoying the duathlon scene and am working to have the finances to be able to go to the Netherlands and compete at the World Championships as part of Team USA!

So if you hate swimming or haven’t learned to swim, or swim well, as an adult, but want to experience the wonderful multisport world, consider doing a “DU!” Let me know if you have questions about duathlon! I’d love to chat with you!

Dr. Jeanne Williams, PT, DPT, OCS
We help endurance athletes (from beginners to pros) train and cross the finish line faster and injury-free!


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