Hmmm… rubbish performance at a very average event, I think sums up my thoughts for the 2022 St. Neots Duathlon. Admittedly from a social point of view it was lovely to catch up with some old friends. And yes, I made some new friends too. So why so miserable about it?
What was it all about?
A madcap idea of Age Group qualification (keep chasing the dream right) and the fact that this race is on my doorstep were the main reasons I was attracted to it. But as events go it’s located in a very dull location, the run is 2.5k laps around a public park (complete with the public and their dogs roaming around) and the bike is an out and back on some quiet A and B roads. Nothing to write home about… In fact (in my opinion) this is to Duathlon what Park Run is to running events. Yes, it really is that unimpressive. And certainly no teeshirt or even post race food other than some children size bags of Haribo and small bottles of water. Unimpressive, tending to disappointing! Admittedly it is cheap, but then you aren’t exactly getting much for it.
Quite a lot of effort had gone into the physical training for this. But unfortunately I turned up in completely the wrong state (work stress) of mind – negating the physical prep!
One small up side to Active World events is that they actually pay their marshals, or at least give them entries to races. This leads to people that are often athletes themselves looking after you… And that makes a HUGE difference. Mostly because they aren’t asleep on the job or playing on their phone ignoring you… As you race in towards a junction they are supposed to be marshalling!
Run 1 – 54:40
This was 10k arranged as 4 laps around a park. Nothing horrible (other than the public) and because it was a short lap you were never far away from the main event and some crowd support.
Terrain was either grass or asphelt foot path. Either was fine. I’m not a great fan of multiple laps…
Having said all of that, the actual run was good. Pace felt sustainable and my plan was to try and finish in 59mins (to give myself 1min in transition. Therefore sub 55mins (whilst never going to put me at the sharp end of the race) was a fairly good run for me.
It’s interesting, even though I (and probably you) know better, its easy to start thinking and benchmarking as a runner or cyclist and not thinking like a Duathlete. In a 10k standalone race I would not think 54mins was pushing the boat out. Yet given that this is the first event or the day… It’s a multi-sport endurance race not a running race
T1 – 1:16
Small transition so no drama finding the bike. Uneventful really! Just got in, shoes on, helmet on and go. Nothing to see or change here.
Bike – 1:38
38k ride that was extended out to 42k due to roadworks. But here dear reader is where the whole thing fell apart and I broke rule number one: “don’t be shit”!
As you will know if you know me or have read previous race reports, I don’t suffer with jelly legs either way. But, for some reason I just could not get going on the bike. Seriously could not get going. The more I have reflected on this the more sure that I crippled my physical performance purely because of my mental state and lack of focus. And in the same way an aeroplane crashes after a chain of events, so my ride fell apart in the same way.
Firstly I was still stressing and thinking about “work” (I properly need to get that nonsense sorted out, and my priorities back in order). This meant I wasn’t focused on the main job of cycling. I quickly noticed that I was actually “pootling” and I needed to get my arse in gear and start racing.
Whilst thinking this I was overtaken by a few people that in my mind I should easily have been beating and pulling away from. NOT being overtaken by. This added to my bad mood, which distracted me further from the job in hand. I normally am overtaking on the bike so this was new and unwelcome ground.
As the ride progressed, slowly, it became blindingly obvious to me that I had picked the wrong bike. This was definitely a TT and deep section wheels course and in still dry conditions was even more set up for a fast aero bike. I had misinterpreted the course profile and rocked up with a road bike. I live around these parts… How did I ever imagine I would need a road bike around here. More mental distraction and cause for anger.
Few idiot car drivers just added the final garnish to what was a particularly poor showing on the bike. Ironically (fatefully?) the photographer didn’t take any pics of me on bike. Perhaps he didn’t realise I was even in the event (!!) Anyway, it is as if it never happened… Good.
Never underestimate the importance of mindset.
T2 – 1:06
Nothing to report in T2 itself, all very normal and perfectly adequate (I give myself 1min and hope that it’s not too spread out!). However, whilst speeding (it’s all relative to the rest of the ride) into the dismount line, some patronising bureaucrat decided to tell me that I had to stop and get off the bike before the dismount line (which I was absolutely going to do – my bicycle has brakes and I know how to use them). “No shit Sherlock!” Unfortunately I chose to say that out loud which got me some real dagger glares from said bureaucrat from hell!
Run 2 – 27:41
Another two tedious laps of the park to bring the day to it’s inevitable rubbish end. But the Duathlon Gods were not quite done with me yet. I lowered my zip (at the front of my Tri-suit) maybe six inches to let some air hit my upper chest. Unfortunately the bureaucrat from hell spotted this as the run course looped near her domain at the dismount line.
Loud blast on her whistle. A sharp finger pointed. And a shout of “get that zip DONE UP”. Made her day didn’t it! I knew better, and knew that I should have kept it done up so she was right. But I was so close to the back of the field, really!!! Was it necessary?
Apart from the increasing heat, dull run course and being virtually last – my time for the final 5k was OK and inside my 30min goal.
Total time 3:03:04 – Not fallen outside of a 3hr time for a while and I’m better than that! Some of the people that beat me… well lets just say shameful!
Overall 109/120. Category 23/25. Gender 84/91. Very disappointing.
One of my friends tried some of the usual platitudes we give people that are (often new) and have completely failed “…but did you enjoy it? It’s the taking part and you got here and did it… You are only competing against yourself!”.
Of course dear reader you and I both know that is utter rubbish! We do it to be better than other people. Ideally better than everyone, but if not that then better than as many as possible… And that’s where the fun is and why we do it. Not to finish 109th out of 120 🙂
There are a few things that I can improve in the details of my training to better prepare. Focusing on the bike was a sound plan (despite the outcome). Being on the right bike will make a difference and doing less TT and more Tempo long rides will also be the way to go.
Next up is a Middle Distance at Box End (with another VERY dull run course). Very familiar course and local. The distance is more of a challenge, but all doable; especially if I get my head sorted out!