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My Endurance Sports Journey Part 2 – Duathlon and Triathlon

“How hard can swimming be, really?”

My first two years of returning to a more active lifestyle have come to a close. (If you missed my overview of those years, you can check out part 1 of my endurance sports journey.)

Duathlon and Triathlon

In 2002, I was moving on and my next challenge was the individual sport duathlon (run-bike-run). Duathlon is the close cousin of triathlon so it took about three weeks of multi-sport training before I was looking for pools to swim in and a book to help me figure it out. The book that prevented me from sinking to the bottom of the pool was Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin.

My First

First Triathlon

athens-tri-swimWith duathlon initially on the brain, a sprint triathlon event actually was my first race of the year. The Athens Triathlon (300 m pool swim – 12 mile bike – 5km run) is held every march in Athens Texas.

I was pretty much scared crap-less for the swim but survived it without drinking too much of the chlorinated water.

athens-bikeThe bike was a cold mofo with temps in the 40s and 20 mph winds. Riding with the wind – nice. Riding against the wind – not so nice. Returning from the bike I executed a typical rookie mistake and couldn’t find my bike rack spot for a while. So I performed a bit of zigzagging through the transition area.

athens-runMy running legs felt like lead. It requires a bit of training to get the legs used to switching from bike mode to run mode. Well, I didn’t have it yet. So I trudged along holding my hand in my side to try and hold back some stomach cramps. I held it together enough to average 7:37 min/miles for the 5 km which was fairly fast for me at the time.

My first triathlon was complete and I was all smiles afterwards! I Finished 17/43 in my age group and 78/230 overall.

First Duathlon

My first duathlon was one week later at the Fast-and-Furious (2 mile run – 10.1 mile bike – 2 mile run – 10.1 mile bike – 2 mile run). This was a special duathlon format versus the typical run-bike-run.

“Since it was an out-and-back run, I could see the leaders fly by me heading back towards the transition area as I was trying to make it to the turnaround. Run little legs run!” (avg 6:38 min/mile)


“…it was time to start mentally preparing for the first bike leg. As I ran through the transition area, I forgot what row I was in and ran past my stuff – oops! After a second or two, I found my bike.”

“The route was fairly flat with one slight climb. My goal was to keep a steady pace and not get too excited. I passed a couple and was passed by a couple riders. Getting passed was not part of the plan though.” (avg 20.62 mph)


“…began another two mile run. My legs were once again feeling like bricks when running after a bike leg. This is definitely one of the many areas I need to improve. Finished the two miles – yes. Happy with that run – no.” (avg 7:28 min/mile)

“This time I focused on where my bike was and did not go running by it, lesson learned. Myself and another racer battled back and forth for much of the bike leg. It was kind of fun to have a little interaction with another racer.” (avg 20.04 mph)

I hung up the bike and tossed the shoes back on and hoped the legs would work a little better this time. Unfortunately the legs were crying “No, No!” and I was crying “Yes, Yes!” Well the legs won out for most of the first mile. The last mile I was able to lengthen the stride and push to the finish line. Now where is the food, I am hungry!” (avg 7:05 min/mile)


Duathlons are a blast as well. I finished 13/19 in my age group and 43/109 overall.


From 2002 through 2006, I continued learning and growing in the duathlon and triathlon scene. As my fitness grew, my awareness expanded and I wanted to participate in longer and longer events. I really learned to enjoy the long stuff and my interest and focus accumulated in that direction.

Here are some of the experiences of these five years of multi-sport.

First Puke (2002) – Pushed too hard at the end of the Metroplex Sprint triathlon and puked in the chip bucket after crossing the finish line. I told them I would clean it up but they said not to worry about it. Felt bad about that.

Hi-Tec Adventure Race II (2002) –  One more go at this event. This year it was a night event. Tim, Bill, and I cruised through much of the course. During the final mountain bike leg, Bill and I took a wrong turn while Tim stayed on course. Bill and I eventually determined something was wrong, backtracked and found Tim waiting. Even with this drama we were able to make the podium and third overall male team. We were pretty pumped! Fortunately Tim didn’t kill us.



Do you see any other swimmers?

First Olympic Distance Triathlon (1500m swim-42km bike-10km run: 2002) – This was a long way to swim. Ended up breast stroking and side-stroking the last half of the swim. Not pretty. I was one of the last swimmers out of the water. Only five bikes left in transition.

Gaining Fitness – Dropped almost seven minutes in overall time from 2002 to 2003 Fast and Furious duathlon. Also took home a medal and third in my age group. Fun to see the progress.

striders-du-runFirst Long Course Duathlon (10 km run-74 km bike-10 km run: 2003) – The Striders Duathlon located in the arid land of San Angelo Texas. Biking in the middle of nowhere Texas with rolling road, vultures circling, and dead snakes scattered on the road was a rather interesting experience. The final 10 km exposed clay road was brutal for me. Temps rose into the 90s and I had bonked and was dehydrated. Med tent, fluids, and a blanket. Tough love in learning skills of going long.

First Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim-56 mile bike-13.1 mile run:2003) – Buffalo Springs Lake triathlon out in the arid, hot, and surprisingly hilly (due to canyons) Lubbock Texas. I survived the swim with the help of my trusty wetsuit. The canyons were a heck of a lot of fun to ride through. I held things together on the run course that had three tough climbs to finish the half marathon in 1:46:07 and finish my first Half Ironman in 5:25:41. I was extremely happy!


Poster Boy (2003) – To my surprise, when heading to the packet pickup of the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in my home state Minnesota, I found out I was their poster boy for the 2003 event. The race organizers must have taken a picture of me during the 2002 event and I made the cut for their 2003 promotional material. I also made it into Triathlete magazine as well. Kind of neat!


Surprise Run (2003) – At the Degray Half Ironman, I was able to average 7:11 min/mile (1:33:58) on the hot and humid Arkansas run course. Sometimes you take a chance and blow up, this time it worked. Stunned myself.

Fatigue Form – When I am tired my running form turns to crap and I get the head tilt thing going on. Yikes!


Racing with Friends – A few occasions, I was able to pull in a few friends to experience this sport as well. Those were always extra special races.



ironman-wisconsin-1First Ironman (2.4 mile swim – 112 mile bike – 26.2 mile run: 2004) – Ironman Wisconsin was my first Ironman experience and it couldn’t have been a better choice. I had a great support crew (wife, parents, cousin, good friend and his family) helping me through this unknown day. I was nervous and a bit scared with this distance.

I was such a deer in headlights race morning that my wife (Wendy) had to direct me where to go. All I could say was, “Where do I go?”, “How do I get down to the transition area?” with panic in my voice. It had to be a bit amusing for Wendy.

This is the only race I got a bit emotional while wading in the water right before the canon was shot. Wow, I am about to do an Ironman. To think about where I was at three years ago, barely able to swim, and biking 10 miles seemed plenty far. It was special moment of reflection for me.


ironman-wi-bikeThe flat swim course went great, and the rolling bike course was beautiful traveling through the Wisconsin countryside. The run went a bit ugly probably due to consuming too many calories. So the stomach stopped digesting and my heart rate when from the 140s to 117 and I bloated like a beached whale. Legs were lead. What to do? Eventually my body provided some guidance with a watery mouth. Shortly later I found a Spiffy Biffs and cleared the contents from my stomach. That felt so much better. With on-and-off running the last half of the marathon, I was able to get to the finish and complete my first Ironman in 12:37:23. Wow, did that feel good!


Best hairdo – Workin’ the wedge!


Fastest Ironman – In 2005, I was back for another Ironman. This time it was Ironman Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. Amazing location, challenging course, and a marathon (4:16:18) that had one tough patch which I was able to overcome. No puking this time! I crossed the line in 11:26:17.

ironman-az-runMost Disappointing Race – Ironman Arizona (2006). A new leap in fitness since Ironman Coeur d’Alene but had stomach issues on the bike and some bonking issues on the run. I had big goals for this race but had to settle for a 11:49:19. Regardless of how any Ironman goes, I celebrate like crazy going down the finish chute!

My duathlon and triathlon journey consisted of 9 duathlons and 24 triathlons. My favorite distances were the half Ironman and Ironman distances. I had reached new levels of fitness I never knew were possible for me. Going long was my endurance sports home.


My top resources in my triathlon and duathlon years:

Life Change

With our first child arriving in early 2007, I knew life was going to change. After some reflection, I simply decided to exit the sports of duathlon and triathlon and move my focus over to running (both road and trail). This seemed like the best sport for me on a lot of levels versus triathlon; less time, less energy, new challenges, less money, more convenient, and I could still go long and have a family life!

I told my wife the plan and she started crying because she was so used to the triathlon life. I was a bit surprised how easy I was able to detach from a sport that was embedded in our lives, but I felt so strongly this was the right thing to do that after making the decision I never looked back.

Part three of my endurance sports journey will include worrying about only one piece of equipment – running shoes. Of course, I found ways to make that a bit more complicated as well but such is my journey.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

4 Responses to “My Endurance Sports Journey Part 2 – Duathlon and Triathlon”

  1. on 16 Dec 2009 at 5:05 pm Jason

    3 full IronMan’s?…dude….much respect.

  2. on 16 Dec 2009 at 7:32 pm David Hanenburg

    Yes sir. 🙂

  3. on 16 Dec 2009 at 11:19 pm Joe @ Mountain bike holidays

    Amazing, you really are unstoppable! I don’t think I have ever heard of anyone doing three before.

  4. on 17 Dec 2009 at 8:59 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Joe – I have been stopped more than a few times but the Ironman was one heck of a fun experience. 🙂