How to win the HellRider duathlon

Two time winner, Iain Payne shares his tips for success.

HellRider 2013 victor Iain Payne with his son
HellRider 2013 victor Iain Payne with his son

The incredible HellRider Duathlon returns once again to the Hambledon Estate on June 7th. Competitors will mountain bike and run around the off-road circuit for as long as possible in an effort to clock up the most laps in the 8 hour time limit. It can be tackled as part of a team, but the hardiest competitors out there take it on as a solo entrant.

Here is how to succeed at the Devil’s Duathlon.

Back to Hell

36 year old builder Iain Payne has won the HellRider duathlon solo category for the past two year’s running. Last year he completed an impressive 17 laps of the 5km trail run loop and 7.5km mountain bike circuit in 8 hours.

A back injury and baby son have made training for a third attempt even harder than normal but Iain’s still hoping to be on the start line in Henley on June 7th.

He gives us his winning tips…

1. Train with the HellRider course in mind

You’re looking at running around 50km and riding 75km in total on the day. My best preparation was the first year before we had our baby. I did two long, steady off-road runs of around 20km and two mountain bike rides around 50-80km during the week plus another at the weekend. Remember most marathon runners don’t go the full distance in training so you don’t need to be able to run 50k in one go.

2. Do brick sessions

Try and do runs and rides on the same day, back-to-back if you can, to get used to transition. But remember, don’t take it too seriously or you lose the enjoyment.

3. Set yourself a realistic goal

Try and look at the course and previous results and work out how many laps you think you can do. With that target in your mind you can tick off the laps. In my first year I targeted a top 5 position based on the previous year’s results and managed a couple more laps than I thought I would.

4. Pace yourself

I tend to start out too fast and then settle into a pace I can keep going at but it would be better to set out at a consistent pace. I always go through a really tough phase four to five hours in but you get a second wind, then before you know it, you’re finished.

5. Eat right from the start

Come back in from the first run and have a gel straight away. I was having a bar or gel every lap. I also had a few cereal bars and bananas but you don’t to eat anything too heavy, especially when you’re running. Make sure it’s easily digestible. Keep hydrated. Have plenty of water in your kit box and try and do a lot of your drinking on the bike.

6. Treats & distractions

Chocolate is good for a little treat and instant boost as is a can of coke (or Red Bull, if you’re a real man!). Distract yourself when the going gets tough. I listen to music on the iPod when I start getting tired. Don’t let your mind drift away to dreaming about having a beer – you can do that at the end when you’ve finished!

7. Practice makes transition perfect

The great thing about HellRider – unlike most triathlons or duathlons – is that you do transition over and over again so after about five laps you’ve got it totally sussed. Although the rules are much more relaxed at HellRider, it’s good practice to put your helmet on first because in most other events you get penalised.

8. Be neat and tidy

You see people with bikes and kit all over the place. I even came back one year and found someone asleep across my bike area! A lot of people come in, pull their trainers off and toss them down. Once you’ve got your helmet on, place your shoes down nice and neatly and keep all your food, drinks and tools organised.

9. Take a support crew

My wife was there with my little boy. You get to see them at the start and finish of every round and it helps a lot having someone back at the pits who can support you.

10. Don’t ever quit.

Even when you’re really tired and had enough, walk or push the bike. Always keep moving, even at a snail’s pace. Never stop in the pits and sit down. You’ll find the energy and come back.

The first year I sliced my tyre on the first lap. It was a total nightmare and I was about to quit but I went on to win. You have so much time and anything can happen. Last year I had no problems but Nik Cook (who came second) had a puncture. He’s a quicker runner than me and might have won if I’d have had any mechanical problems.

Even if you don’t win, it’s nice to finish and if you give up, you’ll always wonder what might have happened if you’d kept going.


Iain is supported by local bike shop Bike City T3 Wells in Somerset.

Hellrider returns on June 7th. Head to hellrider.co.uk for more info and to enter.

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