The Ballbuster Duathlon is one of the longest-running multisport events in the UK, having started way back in 1990.
The notoriously tough duathlon event concept is now in its 28th year and remains one of the toughest endurance challenges in the UK; a ‘must-do’ race for every competitive multi-sport athlete in the country, it will test your fitness and stamina to the max!
Set in the picturesque setting of the Box Hill National Trust site, the Ballbuster course takes you on five laps of an 8-mile long loop of Box Hill and the undulating hills of the North Downs.
BTS has been competing at Ballbuster for years and over that time we have picked up a few pointers along the way. Below are our best hints and tips for making the most of your day.
- Train as a long-distance runner. This is a runner’s race. 16 miles of running isn’t that bad if you’ve done the hard yards
- But, add hill sessions into your training both on the bike and run to find your Power/HR pacing for the event.
- Join a club like Berkshire Tri Squad! Every year we have several club members willing to forget the ridiculously early start, the cost, the long drive, the bad weather, the mud, and the pain to give Ballbuster another go! 🙂 We have a specific training plan available to all members that will ensure that you get to the start line in the best shape – regardless of whether you are a completer or a competer!
ON THE DAY
- Arrive as late as you are comfortable getting away with. Parking is a nightmare, so that way you’ll be first out of the car park
- Bring the kitchen sink – plan a change of clothes for every leg including before and after the race. It can often be quite wet and wild weather (you are on top of a hill) so a dry pair of gloves and dry jacket at the start of each leg means you could go through five sets/changes of clothing. It’s worth the transition time to try and stave off hypothermia.
- This is a great race for women – it’s 86% dudes so there are no queues for the ladies toilets (no portaloos). It’s worth registering just to watch guys queue for a change….and yet they still run out of toilet paper so bring your own!
- Bring several bin bags with you! You will need somewhere to put all your kit for each section and perhaps to keep warm early on.
- Be an onion! layers are the key, so you can keep cool on the first run, and then keep that warmth for the bike and then peel off again for the second run! Zips, arm warmers, and overshoes are all your friends!
- Think of the first run as a warm-up. Adrenaline and being fresh will mean you’ll go quick enough. If you go too hard on the first run (even just 3 minutes quicker than a comfortable pace) you’ll be adding 10 minutes on your second run time. If you know your HR zones etc, stick to a comfortable ‘Tempo’ level effort.
- In recent years, Human Race has started employing a rolling start, sending a few people off every few seconds, rather than a mass start of all competitors. This means people are spread out over a wider period and there is less of a rush at the beginning. Have in mind where you might ‘fit in’ on pace and group up with others of a similar ability.
- If you know your Half Marathon time for a flat event, then take your time for 8 miles at that pace and expect to add around 3 minutes to this for Run 1.
- Despite the above – the run isn’t as bad as it sounds, it’s 10km of mostly downhill with 3km of climbing, so don’t neglect some DOWNHILL run practice.
- If the weather is particularly bad, transition and the run-in (200m) will be muddy (pic below), consider how this will affect your cleats Maybe even take some old socks to put over them, discarding them at the road, or even consider using MTB pedals and shoes.
- Plan to eat your body weight in food while on the bike. Sweet and Savoury, Ballbuster is the same time-frame as you might run a marathon so consider your own nutrition preferences and when you might fit this in.
- The best place to take on gels etc on the bike is as you go along the undulating section of road through Box Hill village. With the climb and also fast descent for a large part of the course, you might not have the chance elsewhere.
- Gloves!! If you get cold hands and if it’s raining go overboard on gloves. You’ll need to be able to brake, change gear and get your helmet off at the end of the bike. Even if they get wet on run 1 think long and hard about removing them, getting cold wet hands back in dry gloves can be impossible.
- Make sure your bike is in perfect condition good brake pads and good condition tyres, so many people DNF on the bike!
- If you have the choice, the accepted wisdom is to ride a road bike and NOT a TT bike! The course is slippery, technical and even the fast sections have corners! If you really want to get aero to consider some clip-on bars, but you won’t get much use from them.
- Though everyone talks about the 2.5km of Box Hill itself, the climbing continues for another km at least up towards the village. Think of it as a 3.5km climb and you will power past those who take a mental and physical break after reaching the car park area.
- The long downhill section through the trees along Lodgebottom Road and Headley Lane can get slippery and is quite tight in places with some poor road surface. This is preceded by a tight downhill left on Leech Lane which is easy to run wide on – so be cautious on your first lap if you have not had a chance to ride the course in advance.
- Consider the possibility of a second pair of running shoes for the 2nd run. Again if the weather is bad, putting wet back on shoes with cold hands (remember GLOVES!) can be hard work and unpleasant. A nice dry pair in the aforementioned bin bags makes all the difference.
- There is no getting around it, the 2nd run will be hard, and likely you will be 3-5mins slower than run 1. Set off a comfortable pace after T2 and let your heart rate settle for the first 1km uphill until you find your running legs again.
FINALLY – There’s no need to actually do the race. They give you the famous Ballbuster hoodie at the start, so you can go home then! 🙂
Check out the full BTS Report on Ballbuster 2016