Winter brings icy roads and even icier open waters to the UK, which means triathlon is really only suited to our self-styled summer. But that doesn't mean your competitive juices have to dry up when the cold settles in - the UK hosts a growing number of off-road duathlons, and the tricky conditions only add spice to these events.
Taking part in the occasional grimy, frosty duathlon will leave you primed for next season. But you have to know what you're doing.
A Shoe In
Appropriate footwear is essential for off-road running. "Trail shoes give you good grip and good grip gives you confidence on what can be an otherwise uncertain surface," says Chris Robison, a former GB cross-country international. "There is a wide range of quality shoes on
the market. Shoes with solid-rubber studs on the sole are great for a variety of conditions."
Spencer Barden, another GB cross-country international, stresses that your shoes should match the terrain.
"One challenge with cross-country and other off-road terrain is that you are running on an uneven surface, so you need to prepare your body for that," says Barden. "If you were to do all of your training on the road, you might initially feel OK in a cross-country race, but your body will fatigue a lot quicker as it's not used to the surface."
Barden offers Paula Radcliffe's experience in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics as an example of what can go wrong. "She had not done much road work - she was forced to cross-train due to a leg injury - and she suffered because of that."
Barden says that some of your sessions should be off-road. Try a long run of 70-90 minutes in the park, on forest trails or undulating countryside, and a faster 45-minute session, including a speedy 20-minute segment "to get your legs used to turning over at race pace".
To replicate the type of terrain you'll be racing on, Robison suggests incorporating both uphill and downhill training sessions into your preparations: "Try to find a stretch of road or trail that is steep enough that a car could just about drive up. Run up it for 60-80 seconds and jog back to repeat. Start by doing about six repetitions and build it up week by week.
"A lot of people neglect downhill reps but it is well worth incorporating them into your training. This is something that many hill racers do and it is an important skill that can make a big difference in races."
Away from the hard sessions, Robison offers another handy tip: "Whenever you get the chance - and it is safe to do so - walk barefoot on the beach or on grass.
It will help strengthen the muscles in your lower legs and feet."
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