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Run Asia Kemensah Duathlon: Training and Racing Tips From Jessen Lee

Duathlon is a growing sport in Malaysia. There are more duathlon events today versus just five years ago, and the number of participants has swelled too.

However, the duathlon that we typically associate with would be a road duathlon event: running on road shoes and cycling on road or triathlon bikes. An off-road duathlon – such as this upcoming one by Run Asia Kemensah – would need you to use trail shoes and a mountain bike.

ToughASIA spoke to Selangor-born 35-year old coach Jessen Lee, the 2017 age-group XTERRA overall Asia Pacific Tour Champion. From 21 years experience in mountain bike racing, Jessen then gravitated towards off-road triathlon in 2013, with FRIM and Putrajaya Challenge Park being his favourite training grounds.



ToughASIA: What are your training tips for participants of Run Asia Kemensah Duathlon?

Jessen: Off-road duathlon – when compared with a road duathlon – is very different; it is a lot more dynamic in terms of your bike skills requirements. Also, you need lots of strength ad punchy power output throughout the race. Therefore, take your time to condition your body to meet the demands of uneven terrain, steep climbs and fast descents.

Be sure that you have a solid fitness base before you take on any high intensity activities. Spare 6 to 12 hours of weekly training, depending if your schedule permits. If possible, try to work out in the mornings for 45 minutes to an hour. A 4-to-6 training session week would be ideal for you to work on the different training intensities.

Here is a simple weekly training plan to prepare you for Run Asia Kemensah Duathlon. This plan is for a fairly conditioned to seasoned athletes. Do not attempt if you are starting out from fresh. And do not forget to sufficiently warm up for 15 to 20 minutes.


For short rides 1 – 1.5 hours

  • Easy trail or road riding for 30 mins
  • Include efforts after 30 mins riding:
    • 6-8 times (30s – 1 min 90% effort; rest for 1-2 mins)
    • cool down and continue on easy trails or a road ride

For long rides of 2-3 hours

  • Find some hills and and include efforts for
    • 2-5 times (a gear or two heavier than usual and hold it for 100 – 300m; then rest for 3-5 mins spinning easily going back downhill)

Trail Running

Short runs: 45 mins – 1hr (trail or road)

  • If you do not have access to a trail, try running at a place where it is undulating with different gradient
  • Rest is taken during running down hills or run down at a lower pace to recover
  • Run and maintain 80 – 90% of your max heart rate (you should feel it is difficult to speak in a full sentence)

Long Runs 1.5-2.5hrs (trail or road)

  • Run at 55 – 80% of your max heart rate, usually to maintain you can run or even hike up the steeper climbs.


ToughASIA: Where or how can participants practise their brick sessions on off-road terrain? What is a good alternative assuming that practically, participants can only train on-road?

Jessen: There are a few places around Klang Valley to practise off-road brick sessions. Some of them are Putrajaya Challenge Park, FRIM and Bukit Ramlee trails.

If you cannot get to a trail, try looking for any road that has climbs and downhills or find a large park that has some staircases to run up and down on.


I would love to inspire more people to change their lives through mountain biking. It has really helped shape my views on life and gave me a chance to inspire and live the life worth living.”


ToughASIA: What are the race safety elements or precautions that participants should take note of before the race?

Jessen: Safety should be any athlete’s top priority especially in off-road multi sports.

  • Helmet should be strapped on at all times while on the MTB
  • Gloves help tremendously too by protecting your hands and offering sufficient grip with you get sweaty
  • if there is any obstacles like a drop, or extremely rough terrain, do not attempt it if you are unsure (or get a coach to show you the proper techniques on trail riding before the race)
  • Learn how to understand your fatigue levels. If you find yourself losing concentration, you should lower your pace at technical sections and try to maintain composure
  • Being unstable is dangerous in the trails. Common practice is to do a recce ride or run a few days or weeks before if the course is accessible; so you will be aware of difficult sections and can practice it before race day.

ToughASIA: What are the basic equipment and safety elements that participants should have? What kind of tools should participants carry on race day?

Jessen: Besides helmets and gloves, one should carry enough nutrition and hydration using bottles or a hydration pack.
Tools needed, especially on the bike should be a multitool kit, spare tube, tire lever, hand pump or CO2 inflator, and some cable ties.


ToughASIA: How should participants prepare in terms of nutrition and hydration?

Jessen: Nutrition is something quite individual, everyone consumes at a different scale due to body type and fitness levels.

  • A good source will be from energy bars or even foods like homemade rice cakes, dates or potatoes.
  • Choose foods that consist of carbohydrate base as that’ll be your primary fuel source.
  • Eating during long races (2 – 6 hour event). You’ll need to consistently take small bites from your bar or other foods every 30-45mins.
  • Hydration is also key, take a sip every 15 – 20mins. You should have some energy drink mixtures that are sufficient with electrolytes and sugars.
  • Because as you’re racing or training, you want to consistently top up your body’s glygocen stores. Usually we only have 2hrs worth of glycogen stores before it depletes.
  • So practice your nutrition on training days, so you’ll know what to expect and understand roughly what you will need during race day.


“Patience and consistency is key to anything in life and in sports.”

Back to the upcoming Run Asia Kemensah Duathlon, Jessen will be taking part and hopes to finish strong. A podium finish would be a bonus for him, as you would never know what to expect with a new race and a new route. His ultimate goals would be to get more people into mountain biking and hitting the trails, and change the perception of this sport in a positive way.