I’ve not been racing much this year. My wife and I had our third child back in December, we had a baby girl who is very cute, and a massive distraction from cycling.
I also started a new job, which is going so well that a group of my work colleagues (Stewart, Phil and Ian) and I decided it’d be a good idea (!?) to enter a multisport event together. The original idea was to give triathlon a go. However, it was the wrong season for giving tri-a-try. I remembered that one of my Bigfoot club mates had had some success at duathlon, so I suggested this might be a more accessible stepping stone from which to dip our toes. The four of us took the plunge, and entered the Chilham Castle duathlon. Only 6 weeks away, it was enough time to prepare a little, but not too far off in the future so as to lose focus. Ian and Phil had to acquire road bikes and I had to buy some running shoes having not run in over a decade. I was not-so-quietly confident that I would boss the bike leg, but knew there was a massive disparity between my running and cycling abilities. Better do some training.
A week later, thanks to Phil, I got a half price discount on a proper pair of running shoes. I discovered that running generally sucks, especially if you’re a cyclist with massive cycling muscles, a half decent cardiovascular system, puny running muscles and awful or no running technique. I found that I had quite the capacity to destroy my legs on pretty much every training run. After three weeks training and three weeks to the event I decided to have a race distance dress rehearsal. It wasn’t too bad, but instead of being happy with my progress and letting my body recover I then went for another run the next day. Bad move. My legs did not like this abuse one little bit and I was put out of action for over a week. Then, when I should have put in a bit more training, my busy life meant I was either away from home on business, or too tired. I did at least manage to stop myself from over compensating in the week before the event and managed to do something along the lines of a taper.
I woke up an hour before my alarm at 4am. Knowing I’d not be able to fall asleep again I got up soon after and made coffee. Stewart picked me up just before 6am. During our journey there the heavens opened. The forecast had been for rain but I was obviously hoping it’d stay dry. Thankfully the rain stopped as abruptly as it’d started, and as we arrived at Chilham Castle the sun was starting to rise on a beautiful morning. The cross country terrain we’d be running on was pretty damp from the morning dew, but the road was dry. There was a slight wind blowing to the east, but nothing to worry about. Almost perfect conditions.
We went and got our race packs and stuck our numbers on our bikes and helmets. I then went for a solo warm up ride and recce up Molash hill. The driveway out to the road was gravelly and treacherous. On the road, I made a note to take it easy past the flattened fox and field of sheep so I didn’t implode on the steep bit of the climb. The climb up the driveway at the end of the ride was going to be tough too. I racked up my bike, drank some water and told the others about the fox.
To the start
The fastest group of 10 runners formed straight away. I thought about seeing if I could keep up with them, but opted to keep pace with a couple of guys nearer my level. We kept the fast group in sight up the climb, but they steadily increased the gap. My body wasn’t enjoying the run very much. To get through it I mentally broke it into chunks – 2.5k you’re halfway, 4k just one more to go etc (cruelly the 4k marker board only came after 4.3k so I had to repeat the only one kilometer to go internal monologue, but this time with more swearing). During the run every time I looked at my HR it was at 180bpm. The last time I tested my FTHR was 169, and my max about 182. There’s no way I could maintain 180 for the whole race, so I made a conscious effort to slow down a bit, but my HR average was still on the high side.
The respite of T1 was a bit too welcome, which reflects in my slow transition time. I lost a minute to the people around me in both transitions. Where the fastest guys took just 30 seconds to put their helmet on and pick up their bikes I was taking one and a half to change shoes, drink some water and regain some of the use of my hypoxic brain. Should’ve bought those elastic laces.
Jumping on my bike was a massive relief. This was the moment I had been looking forward to for 6 weeks. I was in 11th place, time to sort that out. I safely descended down the shocking drive and on to the road. I spent a few seconds spinning the legs to see how they were and let them recover from the run, then gently ramped up the power. The climb up to Challock was great fun as I overtook cyclist after cyclist. I was conscious that I still had another run to do, so held back from giving it the full beans that I would have if it was a cycling time trial. Approaching the first turn around I counted 3 people coming the other way with one other just ahead of me. The guy in the lead was probably too far up the road to catch now, but thought I might still have a chance for a podium place. 4th place guy made it round the roundabout a few seconds ahead of me, seeing me so close to him seemed to spur him on and he increased the gap. I ramped up my effort and started reeling him in again. I went past him about halfway down the hill whilst also seeing my friends going the other way, still gurning their way up the climb. Phil on his borrowed bike was in the lead, then Ian on his new road bike closely followed by Stewart on his homemade TT bike. At the bottom of the descent the terrain is rolling. As I tried to carry my speed up the inclines I felt the twinges of cramp in my calves. On the flat section heading to the second roundabout I tried to measure my effort to avoid cramp, and drank the rest of my water and lightly salted water/OJ mix. Approaching the second roundabout I saw that the gap to third place had come down to under a minute, a podium might still be possible. I made it to the roundabout and took a fast line around it making use of the drops on my road bike, but when I went to start pedaling again my left leg seized in a very painful spasm. I tried pedaling through it but it wouldn’t release and hurt so much I almost crashed into the curb. Nothing else for it, I had to stop and stretch. Just as I stopped another rider went past the other way. A few seconds later he’d made it around the roundabout and took 4th place from me. As soon as the pain went and my leg would move I started pedaling again and felt OK, but still on the verge of cramping again. I’d lost about a minute. Quickly I caught up the rider who’d just passed me and regained 4th. I limped back to the castle, again passing my friends going the other way who looked in just as much pain as me. Making use of his aero TT position on his bike Stewart had overtaken Ian and was making headway into the large gap up to Phil.
I just about made it up the steep and potholed drive and on to T2. Whilst I was slowly changing my shoes I lost my 4th place to the rider I’d yo-yod on the ride. I knew that the hardest part of the race was the start of the second run so I probably wouldn’t be catching the 4th place. Feeling more twinges of cramp I went into a damage limitation pace. I didn’t dare look back and tried to keep 4th place in sight, just in case he started walking. After a kilometer it was actually me who needed to have a little walk. After 10 or 20 seconds I regained my composure and managed to get the legs moving again. I even managed to pass some runners who were doing the 10km running race. A couple of hundred meters before the finish line the course goes up a slight incline and it was at this point I became aware of some heavy breathing getting closer behind me – someone was catching me up! I wasn’t about to let myself be overtaken in the finishing straight, so I dug extra deep and upped my pace. HR at the highest its been all year (188), and my pain level well over any sort of threshold, I crossed the line in 5th. All I wanted to do was collapse on the floor, but the collapse had to wait as I had to stumble around whilst someone put a finishers medal over my head.
It took me a little while to recover, and then spent a few minutes chatting to the other finishers. I got to cheer my friends from work on as they started their second run, then again as they all finished not too much after that. Shouting mild abuse at your friends as they are suffering is so much fun.
I managed to finish in 5th place overall in 1:30:48, Phil was 1:46:27, Stewart and Ian both managed to come in in less than two hours 1:55:28 for Stew and 1:58:01 for Ian. I won my age category, which considering it being my first duathlon I am very happy about, although the chap who beat me for 4th overall is older so props to him. Hopefully I’ll get some more training in before the next one, plenty of room for improvement – especially with my running and transitions.