Clumber Park 2023 Sprint Duathlon

Today I was back at the very scenic Clumber Park, where I raced (ok… participated) in the Sprint Distance event. This year the Sprint was the nominated qualifying event and you have to be in it to win it! Well ‘win’ I did not, but read on for the gory details of what happened. Organisation…

Today I was back at the very scenic Clumber Park, where I raced (ok… participated) in the Sprint Distance event. This year the Sprint was the nominated qualifying event and you have to be in it to win it! Well ‘win’ I did not, but read on for the gory details of what happened.

Organisation

Before I talk about the many positives, I do have a bit of a moan to get off my chest. If you have read any of my other blogs you will know this is not totally without precedent. Last year I was underwhelmed by the ‘post event swag’ that basically amounted to a neck buff and a medal. This year I was bloody annoyed to find that, for the not inconsiderable entry fee, post race swag has been pruned back to just a medal. Coupled with “post race refreshments” consisting of a cup of water or some hyper diluted High5 (cheaper than Value brand squash), I think someone needs to seriously think about the experience they are delivering. Not so much as a banana or bit of mediocre flapjack insight.

More “concerning” was the presence of Outlaw and in fact they seemed to be the race director. If this is now an Outlaw event I shall not be entering again… even if they start giving away hoodies and a full on buffet post race. Outlaw is just one of those organisations that I still detest from their behaviour through CoVid, specifically their attitude towards refunds.

As it stands I probably won’t enter next year, because they have (IMHO) nickel and dimmed this event and basically I considered it a VERY poor experience all round (from the incompetent check-in, lack of swag, lack of atmosphere and a reduction in numbers making it feel like a few people in a field).

Race Plan

I actually had one. Actually I usually do but I just never think about it on the day 😉 This time out I tried to make it useable and realistic. I know… is there no stopping me.

Last time (Oulton Park in March) at this distance I was 1:36:46 so my bronze goal (as it were) was to be no slower than 1:36.

If I was having a fabulous day (Gold goal right…) then my first 5k would be 28min, the bike would be 42min for 20k (21min 10k splits is how I track it), And then I figured I would be somewhat tired for the second run 2.5k so lets say I did that in 6min/k = 15min. Are you following??? The headline is that if both transitions took 0min (highly unlikely!) and I went to plan then my best race time would be 1:15

Reality is that transitions do take time. The course is quite significantly ‘undulating’ with a crap road surface for bike leg. I would be on a road bike not a TT rig and my running has slowed down. So if I could get under 1:25 that would be a “good day at the office” as they say! Essentially a 10min window between Gold and Silver.

Run 1 (t) 27:35 (plan 28:00)

Yes – it is undulating and as I trotted over the bridge it all came back to me. More hilly than you think Ed. However I ran my own race and didn’t worry about what anyone else was doing. Made a lot easier by having wave starts. Controlled the 1st 1k and just tried to adjust my pace to 5:30m/km regardless of terrain. Despite my whinging introduction, Clumber Park is a very pretty location. Good start, and feel I nailed the first run.

T1 (t) 1:24

Not great and certainly not 0min! Going down the wrong side of the row didn’t help. Leaving my shoes in a waterproof back was pointless and unhelpful. But helmet, number, shoes worked and hold onto the bike don’t sit down helped (its the little things). Not a long distance (small numbers racing!), there was time to have been save here probably 30s realistically.

Bike (t) 40:51 (plan 42min)

We didn’t get off to the happiest start as the power peddles didn’t wake up (dead batteries), so no power or cadence. Disappointing as I have been very focused on power based training and its race day obviously when you need that data the most. On the other hand, I didn’t waste any time on it. I knew what my 10k splits needed to be and had some idea about HR. At the end of the day, the bike was going to be the difference (longest part) so just push as much as you can.

A return to the halcyon days of over taking people. Really felt like it all came together and rode well. The structured indoor sessions 3 times a week can stay on my plan – they have made a proper difference.

Certainly a ‘rolling’ course but some of the drags could be described as muscle sapping. Notoriously poor, but (although all credit to the event team) well marked surface. Couple of very slow neutralised sections the first of which was long enough to be material. And finally a 90 degree left turn on the way back in, with a crowd barrier and very slippy from the overnight rain. Again a pretty location for a bike ride, I see it as a road bike course (some took TT’s at the pointy end) and many put clip-ons on their road bike (which I still think is laughable and pointless behaviour), but all told it’s not a fast course (IMHO). So I was proper chuffed (I was only there a day and I have already absorbed the local lingo) with my time.

T2 (t) 1:09

Drama free and better. What more is there to say. Kept focusing on ‘more haste is less speed’. Just did each step calmly and as efficiently as possible. Could have travelled faster though from dismount.

Run 2 (t) 14:27 (plan 15min)

I was tired actually. Certainly had burned some matches on the bike. I have never suffered with jelly legs off the bike, and today was no exception. Just seemed to be feeling physically tired, but first check of the watch indicated that actually this was looking good. Motivated and “back on it” from that bit of data, switched my phone to time of day for the final effort.

I know from previous experience that when I am knackered at the end of a race, trying to do any mental maths is just a joke. The final piece of genius to my race plan was to note what time it should be when you cross the line allowing for the planned wave start time. 10:30 would work. 10:21 would be Gold standard.

Whilst it was obvious that I couldn’t get done for 10:21 it certainly seemed that there was everything to race for to hit a Silver time.

I finished in style (he says in all humility). Hit a sprint finish with a final segment average pace of around 4:30 and crossing the line at a tidy 3:45min/km I think. Happy days… Once I could start breathing and the feeling of nausea had passed.

Conclusion

It was a good day with a time of 1:25:27. Yes I missed my Silver goal by 27seconds, but I am cool with what I did on the day and know I can find a bit more. 1:15 still feels like a long way off.

Trouble with Qualifiers is that it draws a good standard, which gives me a dose of reality and means I am certainly never causing a problem at the pointy end! 167/220 overall. 120/143 Gender and 18/22 in Category. Not last and I don’t think I embarrassed myself either.

What next? I have a TT as part of the Tour Of Cambridge next in late May. But actually, nothing else committed. That will change and probably find something later tonight. Criteria: I fancy a crack at another standard or potentially a middle distance for the sheer challenge. It won’t be a qualifier (let’s see how I do against a more “lower quality” field… probably get my arse kicked now!) And I will definitely be checking out the Swag situation and trying to find an event organiser that understands they need to make it a great day for the athletes not for themselves.

Would I still recommend Clumber Park Duathlon? ABSOLUTELY NOT

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