A baptism of fire

People often ask me what keeps me motivated to train and my answer is simple. Racing. I can’t say I partially enjoy a whole lot of what makes up the training for what I do but I certainly don’t hate it either and as I’ve got older I’ve found myself enjoying it a lot more but the vast majority of the time there is still something else I’d rather be doing. I regularly find it hard to get out the front door but I always do it and that is because I love racing so much.

And when I say racing I mean exactly that. The definition of a race is ‘a competition to see who is the fastest in covering a set course.’ Pushing myself to finish as fast as I can and beat as many other racers as I can on that given day is what I thrive upon. It’s what makes me tick and what all the hard work is for.

I’m now just over a month into my training for Ironman UK so I felt it was time for a race. I couldn’t find a triathlon at this time of year so I opted for a duathlon (Run/ bike/ run). The Gratham event was on a convenient day, not too far to travel and of a good distance to challenge me without being too much too soon. It consisted of a 10k run followed by a 40k bike then a 5k run to finish.

Duathlon 1

I had little idea of how I would do but I expected to be quite near the front after the first run, lose quite a few places on the bike & gain a few back in the last 5k. I turned out my predictions weren’t too far off the mark.

On arrival it was obvious straight away that this was a strong standard competition. Everyone looked like they knew exactly what they were doing. They had all the gear on show and everywhere I looked were top of the range bikes. Then there was me. Opening up the racing belt from it’s packet that I had rushed around to buy the day before after reading in the race brief that I needed it and having to make a last minute bodge job of fixing one of my peddle holds that had came unfastened. Unsurprisingly to regular readers of the racing diary this resulted in me being one of the last to rack my bike and get to the start line.

I started the 10k run at a decent pace sitting in just behind the four early leaders before the field started to string out. After mile two I wasn’t feeling great which I put down to my lack of warm up. As my pace began to decrease a few runners started passing me but after a dodge mid race spell I managed to pick up again in the last couple of miles to come into the first transition in 10th place. It was at this point I got my first experiences of how strict the rules are. As I lifted my bike down from the rail I was firstly told to rerack it as I had to put my helmet on first. Then, just before I took to the saddle, I was told to do my jacket up. I had no idea why put complied as I didn’t want to risk any time penalties or disqualification.

Duathlon 5

I knew it wouldn’t be too long before my lack of cycling was exploited and sure enough one by one I was beginning to be overtaken. The wind was howling at a strong rate making what I already find a tough exercise even harder. The roads remained open but each time I thought a car was coming passed me it turned out to be a cyclist at top speed. This continued for the remainder of the ride. I did however take some degree of satisfaction in the fact that it took quite a while to several of the athletes wearing Great Britain kit to catch me up.

The bike course was two 25k out and back laps on exposed county roads. There was little to no rest bite from the 30 mph winds that a times made it a task just to keep upright.

Duathlon 2

I can’t say I was enjoying myself, nor have I on any of my four training cycle rides so far but the good thing was that the hour and a half went fairly quickly and my legs felt ok.

As I entered the tradition area again it was slightly disheartening to realise that quite a few of the top guys had already finished their days work and upon starting my 5k run, also on an out and back route, I could see many others closing in on the final stages. It was more encouraging though to find myself overtaking several competitors who had gone passed me in the final five miles of the cycle. I went passed 15 or so runners, one who even had GB kit on, admittedly she was an elderly female but still they all count.

Duathlon 6

Although I was moving considerably slower than my normal 5k pace it seemed to be over so fast. Those 19 minutes felt like five and before I knew it I was crossing the finish line.

Straight away I was able to check the live results to find out I’d finished 11th in my age category, 94th male and 101st overall from just under 200 finishers. I was pleased to have got it done and knew it would all be good experience and training for the main event in July. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t feel stronger on the 10k run as that didn’t do my performances in my training runs of late any justice and I was surprised at just how many places I lost on the bike but having done so little practise perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

Duathlon 3

I later found out that this event was one of only three qualifying races for the 2017 European Duathlon Championships which explains the high standard and made me feel a bit better about my overall position. Clearly my cycling needs a lot of work but I suppose I already knew that anyway. There’s a long road ahead to Ironman UK and this was really just the first step of the journey. Next up is a 2.5k swim in March. In the mean time I’d better get on my bike.

Duathlon 4