My first attempt at Duathlon and much delayed (has everyone’s events have been) due to the pandemic. A beautiful setting, pretty good course, average organisation and a poor performance (from me!) sums up my overall thoughts about this event. Would I go back? Probably not…
So now lets get into the detail.
Starting from the beginning.
Why duathlon this time? I don’t enjoy swimming, and I’m not particularly good at it. And I certainly don’t care for weeds, jelly fish (or any kind of fish), being cold or god knows what underfoot. Despite everyone telling me that duathlon is a very different race and should not be thought of as a triathlon without the swim… Suffice to say I perhaps should have listened.
Seemed to me that dropping one discipline from my training schedule and focusing on running and cycling would be a huge improvement to my “multi-sport” habit.
I now now that Duathlon is far from a “triathlon without the swim”.
Setting my goals was a bit of an arbitrary affair: Run One (10k), don’t want to burn out too soon so lets not go crazy an hour should easily cover it and feel comfortable. Bike (40k), well I’m taking my road bike so the rolling course shouldn’t cause a problem. Might be a bit fatigued from the run so lets call it 1:30. Finally Run Two (5k) basically a park run right?!?!? Being pessimistic and kind to myself I’ll plan for a leisurely 30mins trot at the end.
Now for transitions. No wet suit drama involved, and nor will I be soaking wet (and traumatised) from swimming. Essentially I just need to change shoes and stick a helmet on… For crying out load, how long can that take? Lets give it two minutes and there will be two of them.
Bingo, a skeleton plan and some goals. Based on my fag packet planning this should take me a shade over three hours. Therefore a “good” result would be sub 3hrs, “OK” would be between 3hrs and 3:10. “Disappointing” would be > 3:10
So as you can imagine the reality of 3:18 did not fill my little heart with joy! How exactly did I manage to take so long?? Let me explain…
Castles, Hills, and Run 1
I spent much of the event pondering the reality that Castles were built on high ground… Notably hills! Cholmondely Castle & grounds are very beautiful and set against a backdrop that is most picturesque. But also at the top of a bloomin big hill. I only really appreciated this the day before driving up there, when I thought I would check out the routes and topography (I know… you couldn’t make it up!). Discovering that this was not a flat course was interesting and also far too late to do anything about it.
The event was “covid compliant” and “socially distanced”. It is fair to say that there was more space than normal in transition, but I think 2m spacing between racked bikes was optimistic and not what I saw. But certainly there was more space.
The content free briefings were delivered by pre-recorded video which was a bonus and hopefully a legacy of covid that we can retain! Only leaving the very briefest of “briefing” to listen too live.
Race start was in rolling pairs at 10 second intervals. These were self elected spots so I jumped in and went as part of the second pair. Overall worked quite well.
The weather was very kind! Forecast rain hardly materialised and from the point of entering transition to rack, the whole day was bright, and warm enough to race in a sleeveless race top.
Back to Run 1 – and I quickly realised that I as actually trotting along a bit too fast. Clearly tapering and chilling out had put me in a good place 🙂 But I wasn’t falling for that school boy error of going out too hot… After all I had already committed more than my fair share of school boy errors before even stating! Reigned in the pace a little, I watched pretty much everyone else shoot past me… But that was fine “run your own race”, “This is not a sprint, you have time”, OK and maybe a few “FFS – I HATE being overtaken – even if it is a well practiced part of my life!).
The run was two laps of what might have been a 5k course. Turns out that it was a little longer, not a problem of itself, but meant that my “carefully” planned racing times would be “wrong”. Bigger issue was a 600m hill through a little copse at the back of the Castle. First time through it was a notable little feature. Second time it felt more noticeable! Other than that the course was a mix of tarmac and trail, with one feed station.
Run 1 done in 1:01:20 for more like 11.5k. But lets not split hairs here! I planned to spend 1:00 and got into T1 1 minute late. Feeling good and on plan. Hello successful first Duathlon 🙂
Have you ever watched a small child getting it’s shoes on for school when it really can’t be arsed? If so then you will have essentially seen my first transition. Disorganised, fumbling and generally a bit c**p really. And yet still only 2:20. Only 20 seconds slower than planned… What’s 20 seconds between lycra clad friends. Hello successful first Duathlon 🙂
Bike – The Hero Mounts
I often delude myself by thinking that I am OK on a bike. I’m not, as my recent TT results quite clearly show. I know what I am supposed to do (I’m a cycling coach after all), but actually making it happen is a different proposition. I can teach people to swim too – but don’t have any desire to swim myself. It’s a funny old world! Anyway back to the duathlon and the bike leg.
Two laps of a 22.5k course so a bit longer than 40k, but that’s no biggie is it. I would say the course was “rolling” with one short moderate climbs (and I mean SHORT and only MODERATE). Chatting with people later, many thought the bike course was hilly… I did wonder if I had done the right course! But then, most of them had rocked up with super looking TT bikes and disk rear wheels. Lovely bikes, perhaps they hadn’t looked at the bike course maps either 😉 I was very happy on my road bike with gearing set up for proper hills.
The ride was OK. First lap was uneventful and in fact good fun as I “played” with people in the upward gradients 😉 Shot past at least half a dozen people that had shot past me on run 1 – that pleased me! Watched some blatant drafting… Situation normal there then. Generally had a cracking time first lap.
But what’s this… You know that feeling when a muscle is starting to threaten to cramp up. This was the “sensation of lap two” and not something I am used to! But both legs, calves and quads, not good. They didn’t actually cramp but were not happy. I wasn’t dehydrated and it wasn’t super hot. I have no idea… But I certainly “played” less with people on the upward bits. Bugger.
So the bike, the bit I am “good” at 1:40:28 Ahhhh… That’s like ten minutes down. That’s not good. Hello disappointment?
Knowing I was behind schedule I decided to get my arse in gear. But, most inconveniently, my legs didn’t work so well coming off the bike. Hobbled back to my rack position, but looking on the bright side at no point did I get lost in transition. Something that has been a feature of so many previous triathlons! Decided to “get on with it” and got through T2 in 1:25 so a bit faster – not 10 mins though.
The big finish – Run 2
5k. It’s only a bloody park run. You can do anything for 5k. Just get going get the first 3.5k done “like you mean it” and then get one’s derrière up the hill. After that it’s all done and cruise in… NOTHING COULD HAVE BEEN FURTHER FROM REALITY.
“Usually” I can run off the bike. It is NEVER a problem for me. Until now. I felt like I was doing some kind of “IronMan marathon shuffle”, I found discomfort in the teeny tendons that help my quads hang on to my knees. My calves kept issuing warnings of cramp. My form… Well I needed to have a proper word with myself about that! Actually the only thing that didn’t hurt was my right Achilles which has been “troublesome” for the past five / six weeks. Clearly it was drowned out by everything else hurting. I still have no idea how this all fell apart so badly off the bike, other than the obvious!
It’s times like that when a “handy motivational mantra” is just the ticket. I went for “the only difference between the winners and losers today will be those that are willing to tolerate more pain”. Quickly decided that I was very comfortable with being a loser 😉 But you got to get back to the event village somehow. No point walking as that just adds humiliation to what is looking like a crap second run… It’s only a park run for crying out load!
All you have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other… See you can do “running” Now do that a little quicker and we can get to the end a little sooner. Just run properly for 1k then you can hobble all you like!!
And so it carried on to the hill. Well you are here now… No point being a failure, just pop up the bloody hill and smile at the people that look like they are in pain – see that makes you feel better!!! Oh look, you are at the top of the silly old hill now. So just nip down to the finish and we are done for the day…
(admit it – you have secretly had exactly the same “chat” with yourself!)
But wait, what’s this? Your left calf and hamstring have both simultaneously cramped AHHHH. A minute of hopping about, self administered massage and no shortage of imaginative swear words and they had eased off enough to run again.
The finish line. “Run” as hard as possible. Nice comment from the race compare about “foot down to the end and a strong finish” (he had no idea what was happening in my head – but still it looked good I guess).
After all that 32:52 so basically three minutes slower than planned. Let’s not split hairs this must be all good?
What an anti climax : 3:18
How did that happen?!?!?! So it turns out that a minute here and 90 seconds there actually do all add up…The big problem was being complacent on the bike and not staying focused on the numbers. But everything was off a little bit. For a first go, and all things taken into account I don’t think it was a disgrace, but it certainly wasn’t good enough either 🙁
In conclusion and in context
24th out of 29 finishers (6 DNF). 5th out of 5 in my category = last! Bugger. To put some context to that; the winner of my category did a 2:25 and the person in 4th finished in 2:58. So quite clearly one has to do these things in sub 3hrs. I don’t know, but I suspect they had done a duathlon before 😉
Low points of the day
Have to say that I was not impressed with the meagre “treats” available to eat on crossing the finish line. In fact p*** p*** was my actual thoughts as I tussled with the choice of a banana , a non-descript cereal bar or a biscuit (singular). Whooo Hooo. I think “covid’ is sometimes used as a good excuse for cutting costs. As normal with Castle, no finisher tee-shirt. As normal I absolutely did NOT buy one as I firmly believe they should be part of the finish pack given the entry price. Pretty rubbish feed stations and a bottle exchange that really did not work in any useful way at all. Would I go back next year or recommend it? Probably not.
Have another go and do better. I have five “proper” races this year and the next one (race 2) is Castle Howard. Surprisingly I have already looked at the course maps and started planning my preparation WEEKS in advance. Five weeks to go. Till then – cheerio 😉
Coach & Founder
Founder BitFitter, an innovative easy to use Training App.
L3 Personal Trainer, British Cycling Coach, England Athletic Run Coach & Swim England L2 Instructor
When not Coaching, he competes in Duathlon and plays golf very badly!