Duathlon. Running and cycling combined. My two favourite past times (active ones at least) in one event. What’s not to love about it?
Well, my blog from three years ago tells me that I didn’t have the greatest day there last time I tried it. I had a bad day then and now, three years later it was a chance to put the demon to rest.
Saturday evening was spent getting things ready, running kit and cycling required, also needed to pack spare kit in case the weather changed. I stuck to my usual pre race plan, a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and then a few of Shiraz with my lamb and couscous. Couscous being the carb of choice to be loaded.
Traffic on the M25 was very light on a Sunday morning and I made it to the park in well under an hour.
I was somewhat apprehensive as I got close to the venue, Richmond Park. I found a parking space close to Sheen Gate, I knew that Claire (being way more organised than me) had booked a parking space in the official car park next to the gate so at least we could meet up before the race.
I then heard a buzz on my phone, it was only the realbuzz tracking page springing into life! I was not alone at all! There was plenty of support to be found from the best teammates that anyone could wish for.
I felt better already and made my way to the event village now with a smile replacing the nervous look from earlier.
I met Claire who had already been and racked her bike and laid out her kit in the transition area. Again her organisational skills were to the fore.
I got sorted, met up again with Claire but then somehow managed to get separated before the start Claire was already in place at the front of the start area before I was even making my way there.
I had to queue for while before I could get over the starting line. Actually this was probably better than trying to stick together. Far better to concentrate on my own race rather than try to keep up with her and risk overdoing it to soon. I got through the 10k run without any drama, 50 minutes was a reasonable time, transition was reasonable too and then onto the bike leg. Over the mount line and I then had trouble clipping in to my pedals which seemed to be spinning freer than usual. Strange, so I stopped, got the right foot sorted and then pedaled to bring the left pedal up. Except it didn’t work, I pedaled and went nowhere. I stopped before I fell over. Glancing down I realised my chain was off and caught up. Damn! Or words to that effect.
I had to get off in the narrow start funnel, which didn’t make me popular with the others behind but I had no choice. A fumble with the chain and now black greasy fingers and I could remount and finally get going. Last time here I was on a borrowed bike and that was part of what gave me a bad experience. This time I was on my trusty steed and felt comfortable. The laps of the park are undulating, just one little hill that needs a low gear to climb but otherwise an enjoyable experience. Claire flew past me on lap two which meant that she was one full lap ahead of me. I saw her again as she was starting the 5k run while I still had a further lap on the bike to get around so I knew that she was doing well.
Lap 4 completed and back into transition, being careful to follow the rules. I have picked up a time penalty in the past for undoing my helmet too soon so know that judges are looking to enforce the rules.
Now the fun bit, running again straight after cycling. It feels like a shuffle, the legs just don’t want to work as normal. It’s uphill for the first half until the water station and at times I ground to a halt but knew I had to press on so started trying to move a bit quicker each time. Then I felt the start of cramp in a hamstring! This was my downfall last time I was here, that time I had got a lot wrong particularly with the hydration. How could this happen? I had been careful to sip water during the 10k and the bike ride and felt sure that I hadn’t made the same mistake. I said a few choice words and massaged the painful spot. At this point I tried something that I have learnt from the Head Coach himself. I told it to shut up. It worked! I got to the water station and drank more water, telling the cramp that I had a whole lot of support and I wasn’t going to stop no matter what.
Back to running and the final 2.5k, I was moving well now, able to feel my legs, the cramp had given up and I knew I needed to get a move on. I didn’t want to leave anything in the tank today, into the final 1k and I was passing people consistently. I remembered Kathy mentioning a ‘Kenyan finish’ the previous day at the Great Oggie Run. That is what I needed to do to make sure that I had given it everything. The last 150 metres or so is on grass and I was running as hard as I could, the finish was narrow at this point and it was hard to overtake but nothing was going to stop me. There were a few ‘excuse me’ moments then I turned the final left hand bend and ahead was the finish arch. Pushing it I got to the timing mats and it was all over.
I was so happy, this felt so much better than last time where I got to the finish but knew that I had had a bad day. Official time was 2:56:25, only 2:53 faster than 2015 which I was surprised with. It all felt better this time but maybe the disrupted training had made a difference. I don’t know but whatever I had enjoyed it. My aim of getting as close as possible to the top 20? Well I was 22nd so that put a smile on my face, it couldn’t have been a lot closer could it? I was only 5 minutes away from getting into the top 20, my original aim and I reckon that I could do that with a bit of luck, the chain coming off of the bike certainly added a minute or two.
As for Claire, she finished way before me. I met up with her in the transition area afterwards, she had showered, got changed, had lunch and walked the dog probably while waiting for me to finish!
She had run the 10k in 45 minutes, that is quick for her, I knew that she would have smashed it on the bike leg anyway. No surprise then that the official results put her in first place in her category some 10 minutes ahead of her nearest challenger.
The level of buzzer support was amazing, I am not used to being tracked. I had my phone with me during the bike leg and it was pinging away, I can only say thank you so, so much to everyone. It really did make a difference to my performance.
You lot are awesome!
Here's a couple of pictures, including my attempt at a Kenyan Finish!
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