Race Report – Stathern Duathlon – Sunday 23rd September 2018

After the Two Counties Half Marathon success I didn’t do a whole load of running – I picked up a few niggles and opted mostly for the safer world of cycling on Zwift, which served a twin purpose as I was set to take part in my first and only Duathlon of the year at Stathern on September 23rd. This was originally scheduled for March but was postponed when Beast from the East II struck the area and made it impossible to run, let alone cycle on most of the local roads.

I went into the race reckoning I had a chance of doing fairly well but knowing that I was a little lacking of Duathlon specific training i.e. I’d done nowhere near as many post ride brick runs as I have done in the past few years. I was looking to rely on my running strength as I reckoned my cycling was a bit down on my best, particularly as I’d not done a whole lot of cycling since the end of July.

(L to R): me with Adam Madge before the start of the race.
Picture c/o race organisers.

The hours before the race were fairly low key and thankfully stress free – my mind wandered back to the Rockingham Duathlon the previous year and the dramas with the punctured wheel shortly before the off. I was one of the first to arrive and rack the bike, I went on a two mile warm up which served to get an idea of the run leg. We then had the pre event brief, a final chance to visit the toilet and before we knew it it was ten am and time to race.

Me and Adam Madge on the start line before the start.
Picture c/o race organisers.

I didn’t know many of the field at Stathern – Adam Madge was a familiar face and at his best someone who could beat me, but his running is not at it’s best this year due to injury, although he is flying on his bike. I recognised a few cyclists trying their luck at Duathlon, mostly finding that running is harder than it looks!

The start (L to R): Tom Marshall; Adam Madge; Me; and third placed Richard Marshall.
Picture c/o race organisers.

From the off for the opening 5K run leg and it was swift, mostly because it was ever so slightly downhill. I sat in fifth before slowly moving to the front of the field to take the lead at around 2/3s mile.

Leading the race just over a mile in on the opening run leg. Race winner tom Marshall chases in second.
Picture c/o race organisers.

I felt good going through the first mile in 5:29, working hard on the quiet country lane to the turn around point, where I would get to gauge the competition. I kept the effort fairly high, running at around 10K HR, the second mile 5:40 and the third mile 5:46 as I began to prepare myself for the run and slowed a touch as we went slightly uphill.

Leading the race just under two miles in on the opening run leg. Race winner tom Marshall chases in second.
Picture c/o race organisers.

My ‘5K’ split was 17:05, but we ran only three miles so it was more like 17:30 – good but not amazing. Transition went fairly smoothly. Mindful of the trouble I had at Rockngham trying to get my feet into the shoes once on the bike, I opted to put shoes on at transition and run in them. This may have cost me a couple of seconds (At 53 seconds it was actually one of the quicker transitions) but 1. it kept my feet dry on the wet grass and 2. It took the stress out of a tricky manoeuvre made doubly so by the tight corner out of transition.

I reckoned I had a 30 second lead as I left transition. I had begun to get a little warm wearing a tri suit with thermal top, temperatures only around 10C, but this soon became feeling very comfortable as the bike ride commenced. The bike leg was just under 11.5 miles, the hardest bit coming right at the start with the ascent of Stathern Hill, which was easier on the road bike with clip on tri bars (I was one of the very few riders to use a disc wheel) that I was forced into using now that my TT bike has been written off. My legs felt fine up the hill, my bigger concern was the Garmin bike unit resolutely refusing to recognise any of my Ant+ devices, meaning the only data I had was GPS speed, distance, and average speed. Having got used to riding to power and always relying on my HR to gauge effort, this came as something of a major distraction and didn’t help my cause. At least my GPS watch was recording the data for me to look at after, although during the ride the information was not available.

Leading the bike leg race at Belvoir Castle with traffic to contend.
Picture c/o race organisers.

Once up the hill it was a gently rolling affair to Belvoir Castle before heading downhill to Long Lane and the long ride along a dead straight road back to Stathern. Being in the lead I gauged my effort as best as possible, waiting really for stronger cyclists to come and catch me. This one of them did as we approached Belvoir Castle, his cause helped by me being stuck behind some slow moving traffic trying to get into a new shopping complex that had opened since the Duathlon course was created. I didn’t know him at the time but the guy who passed me was Tom Marshall – more of whom later.

Leading the bike leg race at Belvoir Castle with traffic to contend. Race winner tom Marshall closes in!
Picture c/o race organisers.

Drafting wasn’t allowed at this race so I gave him the allowable distance and tried my best to hold onto his wheel as we went down Long Lane. We were fortunate this year as this has often been the scene of some very strong headwinds. Today there was virtually no wind and any there was was a side wind and had negligible effect.

By the time we turned left back into Stathern I had been passed by two more riders to sit fourth, but the gap to me and Tom in the lead was only around 30 seconds. I misjudged my effort slightly on the bike, thinking we had further to ride than we did, so could have put a bit more effort into it. The data after the event revealed a 21 mph average @ 246W which is not bad for me off the back of a run (albeit 5K was the shortest I had done in a leg one run at a Duathlon). Perhaps more tellingly at 33:00 I was only four seconds slower than Adam Madge, who was almost a minute quicker than me over 10 miles at the summer Witham Wheelers time trials, and less than three minutes slower than the quickest cyclist (who luckily for me wasn’t the strongest runner).

Me coming into transition at the end of the bike leg, feet out of shoes.
Picture c/o race organisers.

My second transition wasn’t the best, despite having successfully gotten my feet out of the cycle shoes before dismounting. I lost a few more seconds to those around me, especially leader Tom Marshall. Sitting fourth I soon got into my running, another 5K along the same route as the opening run leg. I quickly passed the third and second placed runners, giving me over just over two miles to try and catch Tom. Normally I’m one of the strongest runners on the second run leg of a Duathlon, but no matter how hard I pushed Tom just wouldn’t get any closer.

Coming out of transition on the second run leg in fourth position.
Picture c/o race organisers.

The first mile 5:38, having turned around at halfway it was 5:46. Despite encouragement from those I was passing in the opposite direction there was little more I could do and at two and a half miles I more or less admitted defeat, moaning to myself how the sun had come out on what was meant to be a cloudy day and I hadn’t worn my sunglasses.

Race winner Tom Marshall celebrates at the end of the race.
Picture c/o race organisers.
Me coming home at the end of the race in second position.
Picture c/o race organisers.

With a final 5K split of 17:43 I finished in 1:09:35. This would have won me the previous two Stathern Duathlons (albeit they were held in March in worse conditions) but Tom Marshall was 34 frustrating seconds quicker. We were quick to congratulate each other and analyse our performances. It turned out that Tom was fresh out of Ironman training and racing which what he lacked in outright run speed he made up in great endurance – his second run split was just a second slower than his opening. It also turned out he was a pretty decent runner – he was fourth in the Sleaford Half Marathon where I was second.

Me celebrating with race winner Tom Marshall.
Picture c/o race organisers.

I was nearly two minutes clear of the third placed finisher – Richard Marshall, meaning I was surrounded at the finish by Marshalls! – with my nearest Belvoir Tri Club competition Adam coming home fifth. This meant I was finally the BTC Duathlon Champion! It also meant the beginning and end of my 2018 Duathlon Season – having turned down the opportunity to take part in the European Championships this sport became little more than a footnote, which was a shame because I quite enjoyed my one and only foray in 2018, a little disappointed to have not won it but pleased to be second to an athlete who was simply better on the day.

The top three at the end of the race (L to R): Richard Marshall, third; Tom Marshall, race winner; Matthew Kingston-Lee, third.
Picture c/o race organisers.


Race Report – ITU World Duathlon Championships, Aviles, Spain – Sunday 5th June 2016

If you don’t want to read all the background and preparation, you can jump straight to the race report by Clicking Here 

How I Qualified For The World Duathlon Championships:

Back in early March I took part in the Dambuster Duathlon, which counted as a qualifying event for the Age Group World Duathlon Championships in Aviles, Spain. Being a total novice at the sport I didn’t hold out any hope of qualifying but, as something of a passing thought, I paid the £10 fee to allow myself to be considered for qualification.

The Dambuster is reported on elsewhere, it was by no means the best race I have ever taken part in – too many rookie errors, suffering in the cold, and struggling with sciatica. I finished ninth in my age group. I understood that only the top three qualified by right then, if you also finished within 115% of the winner’s time in your age group, you may be considered for selection on a roll down policy. I had finished around 112.9% of the winner, so satisfied that criteria, but reckoned I had finished far too lowly to ever be considered.

And so I went about running half marathons, training for the London Marathon and carrying on with the cycling, readying myself for the time trial season. Disillusioned by the way in which I was passed so effortlessly by guys on fancy time trial bikes at Rutland Water, I opted to buy a fancy time trial bike when the opportunity arose in March to purchase a local one second hand at a very good price. By no means cheap (More than double the value of my car…) but far less than to buy the equivalent new.

It sat, unridden, until at least the middle of April, the intention being to begin riding it once the London Marathon was over and done. I’d heard nothing about qualification for the World Duathlon Championships, so just over a week before the London Marathon as April came to a close, I booked my family a caravan holiday for the May / June school half term holidays.

The very next day I received an email stating something along the lines of “Congratulations Matthew, you have been selected to represent Great Britain for the 2016 Age Group World Duathlon Championships, to be held in Aviles, Spain, on Sunday June 5th!” My first thought was bugger, what about the holiday?! I then looked at the cost of flights and accommodation, which, assuming my wife was to join me, was looking at being in excess of £1500. I quickly dismissed the idea as madness.

I then mentioned it to my wife who seemed genuinely thrilled that I had been selected to represent my country at a World Championship event. She was the voice of reason – I may not have the opportunity to do this sort of thing again, and how many people get to represent their country at a major championship event? She was, of course, right. The issue was: how were we to be able to afford this?

We had just over a week to sort out the entry for the race and, ideally book flights and accommodation. Fortunately I was able to cancel the caravan holiday without financial penalty. Fortuitously too I was unable to stay at the official Team GB accommodation nor use the official flights so I was forced to think outside the box and attempt to minimise costs, but not make the trip unbearably complicated.

Using the wonder of the internet and with an afternoon to sort everything out, I firstly booked the flights. Rather than fly locally to Asturias I opted to fly, using Easyjet, from Stanstead to Bilbao. A three hour drive away from Aviles, but 1. flights were available and 2. flights were cheaper than those to Aviles. With my wife’s parents very kindly offering to look after the kids while we were away, I opted to fly out on the Wednesday morning and return on the Monday evening. Flying out a little early would allow some decent acclimatisation and also the opportunity to enjoy a little holiday with my wife for the first time since the kids came along. Return flights £180 for the two of us.

Accommodation: As we would require a hire car I saw little need to stay on the doorstop of the event. When taking part in events in the UK I am often happy to drive for nearly two hours if necessary on the morning of a race. If I could find somewhere within half an hour then this was absolutely fine. After a little searching the choice was one of two – a hotel with stunning views or some rural apartments that were twenty minutes from Aviles along the Autovia A-8. I went for the apartments – they looked great, got super reviews on Trip Advisor and, most importantly, had a kitchen where I could cook my own food – most useful before a race. £190 for 5 nights seemed very reasonable too.

Although I wasn’t using the official flight and accommodation there was the option of having my bike shipped to and from the event using Shipmytribike. £170 for the privilege seemed a lot of money, but then I did some calculations: to ship the bike using Easyjet would be £140. I would need to hire a bike box (my soft one not being appropriate for a bike costing twice the price of my road car) that would cost around £100 (And I’d need to take the bike apart, shipmybike stated that only the front wheel would need to be removed). Moreover I’d need to hire an estate car or at least a large car, which was coming in at £70-100 more than hiring a small one. Also I’d be able to put a bag of additional luggage with the bike free of charge.

The choice was therefore straightforward – have the bike shipped. Finally the hire car was booked. All the hire car companies were fairly similarly priced. I disregarded Holiday Autos as they weren’t based at the airport and went with Budget. £70 for a small car for 5 days. Bargain!

Add to that the cost of entry £180, and £80 for the compulsory Team GB tri suit, and I was £700 poorer for the potential of representing my country. But this was well under half the price it would have been had I done things officially, so there was a slight contentedness as I went about not running very well at the London Marathon, knowing that after that effort, there would be just six weeks to prepare for Aviles.

Preparation And Training

London didn’t go to plan, but there was little opportunity to dwell on my misfortune as I had to focus on Duathlon training. I don’t have a coach to turn to so had to ask a few people some questions before concluding that, much as I’d done in preparing for the Dambuster, the most important thing is to practice running straight after being on the bike. I decided to go a little further based on how I felt at Rutland and try to practice running, then cycling, then running – as the ride following a hard run I felt was almost as hard as running straight after the bike (Which is what most people find really tough). Hardly ground breaking stuff (I’ll struggle to publish a book based on my revolutionary training methods), but it works, so why complicate matters?

Moreover, I’d had the chance to ride one or two time trials on my new steed. While there was definitely potential for good speed, I was really struggling to hold the TT tuck position for more than a minute or so – my arms and shoulders killing me. A little tip from the guy I bought the bike from was to do lots of plank exercises. So I downloaded a free plank app and went about a daily ritual of doing five different plank sets.

It normally takes me around a month to get over the effects of a marathon, so I reckoned that minimising hard run efforts would be a good idea. This was easy enough in the week following the marathon as I’d come down with a stinking cold. Sundays would remain a cycling day – when there wasn’t a Grand Prix to be spent working I would ride long with Witham Wheelers; when there was a GP, I’d get out and ride around 40 miles in TT position – either on my road bike with clip on bars or my TT bike itself.

In every plan there is a session or two that not everyone would recommend. That came 11 days after London when Ben Smith, who is aiming to run an unbelievable 401 marathons in as many consecutive days, came to Grantham. I’d committed many months earlier to take part in the run and, despite the possible folly of running 26.2 miles (nearer 27 as it turned out) I wouldn’t have missed it for the world as a group of 50 or more at times visited 19 schools to unbelievable amounts of support. It was a run I will never forget and one I’d never regret doing, even if it did leave me with a sore shin for a few days – the legacy of running a little slower than I usually do.

A few days later I was going to take part in the Grantham Sprint Triathlon, mainly as a practice in transition, but missed the entry deadline by a few hours. Instead I rode 80 miles with Witham Wheelers to Woodhall Spa in glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid twenties. I then went on a brick 5k run, very satisfying indeed to cover it without any stress at 6:05 per mile pace.

The remainder of the month was a mix of elliptical trainer; time trials and brick runs; running to the gym, spinning, and running home again; a couple of parkruns (one with a rather stiff hangover); a couple of semi-quick runs; a long bike ride; and, aside from the Ben Smith run, not a long run in sight.

Ten days out from Aviles I was working hard on the Monaco Grand Prix and didn’t get out to run until too late to run with the club. I went on a solo off-road run which was great until I took a wrong turn on a footpath and found myself being stung to bits by nettles, long grass, and anything else that was growing in the ground. My legs didn’t take well to this, especially when trying to sleep. For the next few nights I found myself tossing and turning to around 2am, then sleeping fitfully. Not ideal preparation. I also came down with a chest infection, perhaps caused by hay fever, which meant that on Saturday I just plodded six miles rather than the planned long run and by Sunday I had to hand in my sick note and do nothing at all (except work for 15 hours without break on the Grand Prix).

Monday was a bank holiday, I’d hoped to put in a long run in the afternoon. I headed out at 3pm. Half a mile into the run I was hit by the dreaded weird cramp in my right thigh that has afflicted me sporadically for the past 18 months or so. After two miles it had spread to the left leg and I was hobbling pitifully. Luckily I was outside the Meres Leisure Centre, so I was able to sit for 40 minutes on their elliptical trainer before they closed, in an attempt to will away the lacitc. It kind of worked, I had to stop a couple of times, but was able to limp four miles home before the legs cramped up again as I approached home.

On the Tuesday – the day before flying to Spain, somewhat despondent, I bloody-mindedly attempted. at the fourth time of asking, to complete my long run. Things went swimmingly until around nine miles when the right thigh began to cramp. Given that I was six miles from home I had little choice but to ignore the discomfort and run home as well as possible – which I, thankfully, was able to do. Other than the cramp, the cough, and the lousy weather, the pace was pleasing enough for the 15 mile run.

May’s training had been, until, the final few days pretty pleasing. The final ten mile time trial saw me take nearly forty seconds off my previous best time (and be able to assume the TT position for the entirety of the ride) and there was signs in the final 5k run that there was some pace in the running legs. Still though the main doubts were whether the cramps that were becoming more common would strike again and whether the by now pretty heavy cough, would clear in time for the race.

Aviles – Pre-Race Build Up

My wife and I left for Aviles on Tuesday evening, staying close to Stanstead airport with her sister before taking off shortly after 7am for Bilbao. The flight was uneventful, the baggage arrived in its entirety, and when we collected the hire car was rather pleased to see that it was a rather snazzy red Audi A1 1.6 diesel.

The Audi A1 hire car.
The Audi A1 hire car.

The drive from Bilbao to our apartments in Ovinana was, once the satnav had clocked that we were in Spain, rather delightful. Blue skies, no kids in the back, and the entire journey on the recently built A-8 Autovia which, for the most part, was about as busy as the M45 on a quiet day. We stopped at just after half way to tempt my wife with the delights of Tortilla de Patatas, a dish that, in my opinion, is crying out for tomato ketchup. At the airport on the way back she would get to try the mind blowing potato and egg brick in a baguette, which is €5 of tastelessness almost unparalleled.

Tortilla de Patatas - a lunch in need of ketchup!
Tortilla de Patatas – a lunch in need of ketchup!

We arrived at the apartments at 3pm to locked gates and no sign of life. Not a good start. I called the number on the reservation and was told someone would be there at 4pm. Then I remembered that 2-4pm or thereabouts is siesta time in Spain. So we wandered about for a while before we were allowed into our apartment.

Our apartment in Ovinana
Our apartment in Ovinana
The church in Ovinana.

And what a great apartment it was. Immaculate. Well laid out, kitchen fully equipped, and we were greeted with a gift of a sparkling bottle of, not champagne, nor cava, but of the local speciality – cidre, or cider. I’m a big fan of cider so this was about as good an opening impression a host could ever make.

As good a welcome you can offer me - Cider!
As good a welcome you can offer me – Cider!

I thought about getting a little late siesta but failed, so  went outside to be mesmerised by the Auto-Mower and then remembering they had free bikes. So, much to my amazement, my wife and I went on a short bike ride to the coast and back. I’ve never seen my wife ride a bike in the 22 years we’ve known each other, so this alone made my holiday. Despite initial reservations, she confessed to enjoying it ‘more than she should have’. My dream cycling holiday in the Alps may yet happen one day…

Emily on her bike!
Emily on her bike!

I then went for a four mile leg loosener. This involved running down a steep track to the beach, which resulted in the familiar cramp in both thighs, one though which I could run through. I had excuses this time – long journey, tiredness etc.. But three cramps in as many runs did not inspire confidence.

The coastline in Ovinana. I should have stayed on my bike...
The coastline in Ovinana. I should have stayed on my bike…

It was my intention to not get too stressed by the prospect of the World Championships and to enjoy the time away as much as possible. Where we were staying Duathlon fever had not quite hit the village so we were able to pretty much forget about the upcoming race that evening and subsequent evenings for that matter until the night before the race. Forgetting about the race entailed basically drinking a fair amount of the local cidre, the local red wine, and the local white wine!

Come Thursday morning however and there was no escaping the need to head to the Team GB hotel and begin preparations for Sunday’s race. The drive there was happily very straightforward, less than half an hour away and no traffic. The first port of call was reuniting myself with the bike that had been shipped separately. Kudos to Shipmytribike, the thing was there ready and waiting, all exactly as I had left it.

I was at the hotel to take part in a Team GB recce of the bike course. There were around 40 of us. It felt a little odd cruising along at no great speed in a group on a TT bike complete with pointy hat, but I at least wasn’t the only one in the same position. The conclusion having looked at the course was that it was fairly flat with a couple of climbs that weren’t particularly taxing, one or two technical turns and, barring a couple of tight hairpins, a pretty quick course in the making.

The quads felt distinctly tired during the ride and I took up the opportunity of seeing one of the team physios for a 20 minute massage. Within moments of assessing my cramp afflicted build up she seemed pretty shocked at how tight my quads in particular were. The prescribed medicine was plenty of massage and loads of stretching before Sunday.

Getting some Duathlon fever in Aviles.
Getting some Duathlon fever in Aviles.

It was then time to head back into central Aviles, firstly for some lunch, then a wander around the historic and rather picturesque town center before heading to the registration area, which opened at four after the obligatory siesta.

Lunch in Aviles.
Lunch in Aviles.
Scenic Aviles.
Scenic Aviles.
Scenic Aviles.
Scenic Aviles.
Scenic Aviles.
Scenic Aviles.
Finish line fever.
Finish line fever – on a Thursday too.

The whole procedure was a relaxed affair – I received a wrist band that wasn’t to be removed until after the race, and then in inquiring over the cost of a t-shirt, found myself bestowed with freebies! Most impressive was the official rucksack which will become my race bag of choice – festooned with pockets galore and ample storage space. Inside the rucksack was more cider and, somewhat bizarrely, what turned out to be a liter of chicken broth. This turned out to be an inspired free gift, for while many of my team mates took to dumping their broth at the hotel, I used it to make a rather delicious risotto that evening!

Stacked with Duathlon freebies!
Stacked with Duathlon freebies!

Having spent far too much of Thursday with Duathlon related affairs, I was keen to make Friday a day devoid of any contact with the event. I’d spent though a good part of Thursday evening stretching and massaging, so was keen to test the legs on the Friday morning.

In another of my not from the traditional taper text book exercises, I headed to the hills that surrounded us on the other side of the motorway. I had originally planned to just run 10k or so, but was enjoying so much a continuous 7km climb on an immaculately kept, but totally empty road, which bizarrely led to a single path gravel track, by the time I’d got back to the apartment, I’d run ten and a half miles and climbed over 1000 ft. Happily though there wasn’t a sniff of the dreaded cramp in the legs. This confidence booster I reckoned was worth far more than any possible physical tiredness resulting from the run.

The rest of the day was relaxed – a short trip to a couple of beaches and then to the very pretty fishing town Cudillero. More exciting than all the fish themed restaurants was the small pizzeria that ensured I could have my traditional pre-race meal. Friday night was spent still enjoying the local beverages, still stretching and more massaging. There was the option of heading back to Aviles to take part in the opening ceremony but I declined the offer – the thought of potentially spending several hours late into the evening on my feet didn’t seem a sensible prospect.


Come Saturday morning the legs felt really good, the chesty cough was still there but getting better by the hour. We had to head back to the Team GB hotel for a day of duathlon themed events. First off was the Team GB briefing, which was impressive by the sheer volume of Brits taking part in the sprint and standard distance events (Enough to fill a moderately sized hall). The event had some useful information, some less useful questions, including one from yours truly ‘What language do the officials speak?’ (To be fair this was a dare between me and my wife to try and ask the silliest question) and some motivational speeches by competing athletes, including one by Lee Piercy, who explained he was a former Age Group duathlete who turned pro at one point and was a multiple World Champion.

Half of Britain seemed to be taking part...
Half of Britain seemed to be taking part…

Any wild fantasies of securing gold in my Age Group were scuppered when we gathered for the customary group photos, where I found myself standing alongside my fellow 40-44 year olds by the aforementioned Mr Piercy. He still looked every inch the pro he once was, the gold medal looked almost to be hanging already around his neck.

The 40-44 standard distance group photo. Spot the good one...
The 40-44 standard distance group photo. Spot the good one…

Once the photos were taken there was some time to kill before we could take our bikes to transition to be racked for the race. Rather than sit around in the hotel we headed back to Carrefour for some more food shopping and to buy some gifts for the kids. Then it was a short cycle ride to transition before some very British patient queuing as bikes and helmets were checked before we were allowed to rack up.

Unlike a triathlon there isn’t really a lot of gear left at transition – a bike, a helmet, a second pair of trainers if you are really keen (I’m not), bike shoes, possibly some bike gloves, and that should really be about it. Ultimately due to the threat of rain I left just the bike there, assured that we would be allowed into transition the following morning despite what one or two officials were saying. I then pfaffed around with the rest of the competitors, taking pictures to ascertain exactly where the bike was among all the other bikes. This caught me out badly at Rutland where I was left running around in circles trying to find my bike. I was determined not to make that mistake again. I decided to use the markings of a boat moored as a reference point as many others were doing. We joked how funny it would be if that boat wasn’t there in the morning…

Top tip: Never use a moving vessel as a static reference point!
Top tip: Never use a moving vessel as a static reference point!

With the bike on the rack there was no more that could be done. We headed back to the hotel on the Team GB coach and headed back to our apartment. We were soon off again for my pre-race pizza, which wasn’t the best I’ve ever had but certainly did the job. We took a slow walk back along the harbour front before heading back and slowly to bed, missing the cidre, the white wine, and the red wine, but thankful I was able to get to sleep relatively quickly.

The obligatory pre-race pizza.
The obligatory pre-race pizza.

Race Day

I woke at 7 am, showered, changed into my tri-suit (Which I confess to not having worn while training, simply trying it on to see if it, more or less, fitted), had coffee, and then went about consuming four of the five cereal bars that is now my traditional pre-race breakfast. I made a final check of the bag I was taking to the race and we left at shortly at around 8:15. We were at the team hotel at 8:40 and straight onto a waiting shuttle bus, which took us to the start. I headed straight to transition and found that the boat we had all used as a visual reference point was gone! I was half expecting it, I reckoned that as the numbers on the racks were pretty large and in a fairly predictable descending order, I should be able to find my spot, as long as I didn’t panic nor rush in too quick.

I also decided on the morning, despite having practiced the art (once) I would not be attaching my bike shoes to the pedals for a flying mount out of transition. I took this decision after talking with several other competitors. Basically I was less than 30 meters from the transition line, which I could cover fairly easily wearing my bike shoes. Chances were any time made up going barefoot out of transition would be lost attempting to fasten my shoes when cycling. I did though decide that I would remove my feet from the shoes before entering transition, as it was around 200 meters of running to get back to my racking station.

All in order in transition I left to prepare for the start. There was over two hours to kill so I spent a little while watching the sprint races, paying particular attention to how they entered and exited transition. I then found myself sitting at the venue cafe passively smoking plenty of fumes before nervous energy meant I killed time by visiting the toilets, checking my timing chip and number, slowly getting changed and, finally, an hour before the start, I began to warm up.

There wasn’t an awful lot of room to warm up so it was little shuttles up and down around the back of the cafe. The legs felt… okay. Not amazing, a tiny twinge in the right quad, which I was sure was in my mind. What was noticeable was that the promised cloud cover was missing. The sun was out, the skies were blue, and temperatures felt like they were beginning to sky rocket. I’d already drunk the bottle of water I’d brought with me and, to my surprise, there wasn’t anywhere obvious where competitors could get hold of some. Eventually, in desperation, I managed to down a few swigs of a bottle I was fairly sure had been discarded.

The pre-race 'just in case I didn't look too good at the finish' photo.
The pre-race ‘just in case I didn’t look too good at the finish’ photo.

There was little else to be done except put my bag in storage, make several visits to the toilets and attempt to keep nerves to a minimum. Five minutes before the planned off at 11:25 I made my way to the start. This was it! My debut in a GB vest was about to happen!

 The Race

The Age Group World Championships has competitors starting in waves based on age – youngest first. I was in the third wave covering the 40-44 and 45-49 age groups. Things were running a few minutes late but at around 11:35 we were finally called to the start line. Although I suspected I could be one of the quicker runners I placed myself nearer the back as I’d heard plenty of chatter from English speaking competitors that going off too hard and fast was a common occurrence in Duathlons.

After a long minute countdown we were called to our marks and were off. The opening km was a frantic affair as we ran around the event headquarters, past the start line and off towards the footpath along the river that would form the bulk of the opening 10km run. There was at least one faller in the opening few minutes and I was mindful to allow myself plenty of space to avoid mishap.

Once onto the footpath, although quite narrow I was able to begin passing those who had, as predicted, gone off a little too quickly. My first mile was a solid 5:30, a couple of seconds slower than my 10k PB (34:10) average. I paid half an eye on the heart rate, it had risen to half marathon levels which I had hoped it would. It was warm (around 22C, rising to a maximum of 25C) but I just focused on picking off runners and tried to ignore the warmth.

Lee Piercy heads the lead pack at the start of the race. Picture c/o Pete Bracegirdle.
Lee Piercy heads the lead pack at the start of the race. Picture c/o Pete Bracegirdle.
On my own behind the lead group. Picture c/o Pete Bracegirdle.
On my own behind the lead group. Picture c/o Pete Bracegirdle.

The second mile saw us head out to a bridge we crossed then headed back on the other side, albeit with a little extra loop which was extremely narrow. The second mile was slightly slower (5:35) but I was still passing runners and was by two and half miles the first runner who wasn’t in a main pack of around 10 runners. The third mile was a 5:33 and, although there were no distance markers 5k was covered in around 17:16. By now we were back at the event headquarters, running past the finish line and beginning the second lap to vociferous support from a large crowd, including many, many Brits.

I could see from my watch that the course was going to be a fair bit over 10 km so just prepared myself mentally for some extra distance. The second lap was very different from the opening lap in that we were passing numerous runners – some younger runners from earlier start pens who were running slower, some older male runners who had just begun their race and likewise some young female runners who had been sent on their way. This made it particularly tricky on some pretty narrow paths navigating my way through the field and impossible to determine what position I was in the race.

Running in my own little group on the opening leg.
Running in my own little group on the opening leg.

Despite the travails the mile splits rattled off with satisfying monotony, albeit a touch slower than the opening 5k: 5:38, 5:39, and 5:37 for miles four to six. A post race check shows that I went through 10k in 34:51, which, considering the heat and the twisty nature of the course I would have been most satisfied with in a standalone 10k, let alone the first leg of a Duathlon. Post race analysis indicates the official spilit was 36:04. Lee Piercy, the ex-professional was leading with a 34:44 split. I was lying fifth after the run. At the time I had no idea I was placed so highly, actually assuming I was way outside the top ten. The only indicator I had I was doing reasonably well was I had all but caught fellow Belvoir Tri Club member Adam Madge, who had started in the wave before me.

Still, there was little sign of the transition approaching. Finally, around 350 meters after we should have entered it and with the tummy giving the first pangs of distress, we were in transition. I continued to run full gas as we ran down the middle of all the racked bikes before turning sharp right at the end and entering the lane where my bike was somewhere near the other end. I deliberately slowed to a jog, not only to better spot my bike, but to ensure the heart rate had dropped a little to minimise the risk of transition panic.

Approaching the end of the run leg. Robertson would finish 3rd. The Argentinean met an uncomfortable demise at the start of the final run.
Approaching the end of the run leg. Robertson would finish 3rd. The Argentinean met an uncomfortable demise at the start of the final run.

To my immense relief I found my bike. I calmly removed my shoes, placing my sunglasses in one of them as my TT helmet has a handy tinted visor attached. I put the helmet on before my bike shoes, so as not to risk touching the bike beforehand – which is an instant penalty. Thankfully I got the strap on without fuss and put the shoes on swiftly. I took the bike off the rack and made my way to transition exit. It was by no means the fastest transition – the whole process took 2:08, good enough for just 36th fastest. A fair few runners I had passed, re-passed me, but, compared to Rutland, it was a massive improvement, especially as once I had mounted onto my bike, I was straight into my cycling rather than fiddling with helmet straps, gloves and trying to fasten shoes.

Unlike at Rutland where the bike ride felt really uncomfortable on the legs from the off, here I felt much more at ease with the bike. I kept the cadence fairly low for the opening section which was flat and fast. I passed Adam. A few guys came flying past me but, as drafting is strictly not permitted, there was nothing I could do but ride my own bike leg. After a few miles of riding I allowed the cadence to increase, and as it did the heart rate came down to a level just below what I had been reaching on the ten mile time trials. I was comfortable with this as and made a point of attempting to ride as hard as possible without feeling as though I was pushing the legs too far into the red zone.

One thing I wasn’t comfortable with was the lack of ventilation on my helmet. Anticipating temperatures around 18C and cloudy to boot, I’d made the decision to keep on the plastic aeroshell which blocks the vents with the supposed benefit of making the helmet more aerodynamic. With temperatures nudging 25C and the sun beating down this was turning out to rapidly be the biggest mistake I made in the race. I had on board 750 ml of energy drink which I was rationing to some every ten minutes just as I do when on my elliptical trainer. This though was clearly not enough as I felt a rather nasty headache brewing – a clear sign of dehydration and overheating.

Assuming the 'stretch the arms and shoulders' position during the bike leg. Picture c/o  Pete Bracegirdle.
Assuming the ‘stretch the arms and shoulders’ position during the bike leg. Picture c/o Pete Bracegirdle.

My only salvation came at a drinks station we passed twice on the far side of the circuit. They were handing out bottles of Powerade, which were a bugger to try and take of the volunteers at speed, and even harder to try and consume the contents of before the litter zone ended after around 30 seconds of cycling. On each occasion I managed to take on board around 80% of the contents – each time the tummy not thanking me for the rapid consumption of blue liquid.

Other than the helmet venting woes, the ride was fairly unspectacular. I passed plenty of cyclists, less passed me. Those who did in the latter stages drifted slowly ahead rather than blasted off into the distance. I tried my best to maintain the TT position, but used any excuse, such as a small rise or slight bend, to sit up and rest the arms and shoulders a little. I made full use of the two or three climbs on each lap to catch back up those who were a bit quicker than me on the flat, making sure though not to stress the legs too much.

Still not in TT position. A fairly tight bend is my excuse this time... Picture c/o Assuming the 'stretch the arms and shoulders' position during the bike leg. Picture c/o  Pete Bracegirdle.
Still not in TT position. A fairly tight bend is my excuse this time… Picture c/o Pete Bracegirdle.

The whole issue of how many mini laps of each circuit we did was frankly a little confusing. All I knew was that, when 25 miles or so ticked over on my bike computer, it was time to peel off towards transition when instructed rather than begin another lap. The 25 miles duly arrived and so it was that I was guided off down a little access road towards transition. There was a nice length of straight tarmac to reach down and loosen my cycle shoes and remove my feet from them. I felt my left hip flexor tighten a touch but otherwise no dramas. I stopped my cycle computer as I came to a halt and climbed, drama free from my bike. My official time was 1:09:38 which was the 25th fastest time. Lee Piercy was again fastest, clocking by far the fastest time of 1:01:45. Only one other rider in my age group went below 1:06:00, meaning that a three minute or so improvement on my part would see a dramatically improved position on the bike.

Running through transition with the bike was a little tricky but I was able to find my rack position fairly easily, which is more than can be said for one poor competitor ahead of me who was frantically running back and forth desperately trying to find where where was meant to be going. I got the bike on the rack without drama, the helmet came off easily, and the sunglasses were on in a flash. I put my right trainer on and in stretching down just sensed a mini cramp in my calf. I quickly pulled my toes back to stretch the calf which dissipated any further cramping. I took more care with the left shoe to make sure there was no repeat. Seemingly seconds after arriving in transition I was back on my way. The reality was it took 2:10 (a couple of seconds slower than T1) but being the twentieth fastest transition time it was, relatively speaking, a far more successful transition.

The second run leg in a standard distance Duathlon (And longer distances I imagine) is something that has to be experienced to be properly appreciated. It is a little like the run leg in a triathlon, after swimming and cycling, but arguably harder as the legs have been weakened already by a hard run session. The nearest equivalent is perhaps imagining you are jumping straight into a road race with legs feeling like they do at around 23 miles of a marathon – that is to say they don’t generally feel very good. I set off and I got the usual sensation of the legs not feeling like they are working. They were working better than an Argentinean competitor who I had last seen at the end of the first run leg, who managed around 300 meters of running before pulling up sharply in agony with what looked like hamstring cramp.

My wife, was there near the finish line that we passed to cheer me on. She took the photo below, clearly I was still enjoying the experience more than others. The head though was still suffering the effects of not enough ventilation. Thankfully on the 2 x ‘2.5 km’ run course there were two water stations we passed twice. On each occasion I would grab a bottle of water, take a small sip, then pour the contents over the top of my head. This did wonders to cool the body.

Clearly I love running on legs that don't want to work more than others!
Clearly I love running on legs that don’t want to work more than others!

I sensed the final run could be quite good when I passed five or so runners within the first couple of minutes of running. Encouraged I continued to push as hard as I could while not wanting to risk a cramp in the calf or quads. When the mile split flashed up on my watch I was amazed: 5:35! That was quicker than my final mile in the opening 10k! It felt laboured and slow, but somehow it wasn’t.

Getting down to business on the second run leg. Picture c./o Still not in TT position. A fairly tight bend is my excuse this time... Picture c/o Assuming the 'stretch the arms and shoulders' position during the bike leg. Picture c/o  Pete Bracegirdle.
Getting down to business on the second run leg. Picture c/o Pete Bracegirdle.

Enthused I pushed on. I looked less at my watch and more on runners ahead, seeing how many I could pick off before the finish. I had no idea if those I was passing were in my Age Group, but it didn’t really matter. I was just loving the feeling of running well and receiving the encouragement of supporters, many of them commenting on how strong I looked.

Passing another runner in the final stages of the race.
Passing another runner in the final stages of the race.

The second mile was slower: 5:40 but others around me were slowing more. I pushed on more as we rounded the top bend on the second lap and headed down the long straight for home. I began to labour a touch with half a mile or so to go, but the gauntlet laid down by a spectator of Go on! you can catch them ahead of you! proved too tempting and I put on an extra effort to catch them down, and then a couple of others before the finish.

Approaching the finish.
Approaching the finish.

The third mile was 5:48, but there was still nearly another half mile to run, which I covered in an average of 5:35, despite numerous twists, turns, and some confusion about how to tackle the finish chute. I forgot to collect a flag at the finish, the runner in me instinctively sprinting to the line rather than lapping up the adulation of the crowd as many triathletes seem to do. I crossed the line with a little celebration, then took my customary 20 or so seconds before I felt fairly recovered. The same couldn’t be said for the Age Group winner Lee Piercy (Second overall) an unfortunate member of Team GB who was seemingly bringing back up the chocolate milkshake he had just consumed at the end of the race (Thanks to Lee for pointing out the case of mistaken identity!)

Crossing the finish line, mistakenly assuming I had won.
Crossing the finish line, mistakenly assuming I had won.

My final run split was 19:28 and it seems I tackled the 5k in 17:42. I was pleased with the run at the time. I was even happier when I got back to the apartment and was able to crunch the numbers. 19:28 was one second slower than Lee Piercy and the second fastest time in my Age Group! It was just 20 seconds slower than the clear overall winner and only one other runner in my age group broke 20 minutes (and by just one second). It seems I have a little hidden talent for being able to run after a bike ride.

A fine example of prompt medal engraving.
A fine example of prompt medal engraving.

My finishing time was 2:09:30 as indicated on the engraving rapidly etched into my finishing medal. At the venue I had no idea where I had finished. At the Team GB hotel, the Aviles Duathlon phone app indicated I was tenth in my age group which I was thrilled by. Back at the apartment and looking on the website, it turned out I was seventh! I was elated! Lee Piercy had won with 1:59:26, well clear of Philip Cruise the second placed finisher. Iain Robertson was third with 2:05:37. Iain and I were well matched on the opening ten km, I was nearly two minutes faster than him on the final 5 km.  It’s the three or so minutes I need to find on the bike before I can think about chasing medals. But I think that is a possibility, a dream that is attainable.

Posing after the race with the flag.
Posing after the race with the flag.

With some post race photos taken and some debriefing with fellow competitors, the World Championships came to a end. The rest of the afternoon was spent collecting the bike, heading back to the hotel (I managed to ride back, the legs feeling fairly fresh) dropping the bike with the Shipmybike guys, heading back to the apartment and drinking to my debut World Championships!

It was there I realised I had made another big mistake: I had applied factor 50 sunblock to everything except my back and shoulders. The shower was a painful experience! I later found out I wasn’t the only one to make the error. It won’t be one I’ll repeat!

It was quite an event, an amazing experience. Whether I’ll be able to attend next year’s championships in Canada is doubtful for many reasons. I’m very tempted to attempt a long distance Duathlon to see how I fair over longer runs and rides.

For now it is back to time trialing and running for the rest of the summer. The first post race run came the next morning, a delightful affair along the Spanish coastline. The first time trial the following day. Not a bad performance considering I didn’t arrive home until 3 am on the Tuesday morning. The body feels good, the mind enthused after the downer that was the London Marathon. Not many actual races planned but I look forward to what lays ahead.

(L to R): Gerry Hyde, myself and Adam Madge, having completed the 2016 ITU World Duathlon Championships.
(L to R): Grantham’s Gerry Hyde, myself and Adam Madge, having completed the 2016 ITU World Duathlon Championships.

2016 London Marathon Training – Week 12 (21-27 March)

The week began much as exhausted and tired as it ended on the Sunday following a monster week of work covering the Australian GP. I headed out on Monday for an easy paced run. The pace was okay, unspectacular. Around two and a half miles into the run I began to feel little cramp in the right quad, similar to what I experienced on the Saturday previous. I stopped at a bike shop for a couple of minutes to discuss a little business before recommencing the run. At around four miles the cramp feelings dispersed and I felt okay to try and commit to my normal ten mile loop rather than cutting it short.

At around six and a half miles, from out of the blue, severe cramp hit both legs in the upper quads. I hadn’t experienced cramp like this since I won the Maverick trail race back in the Summer – where again an inexplicable bout of early cramp hindered me severely. Several miles away from home I battled on but the cramp got worse, not better, and around a mile away from home, coming down a hill, I had to stop and admit defeat. I did under a tunnel arch for a couple of minutes to recompose myself before hobbling slowly home.

I’m not entirely sure what caused the cramp but I reckon it is a combination of tiredness, dehydration, and possibly the consumption of an Indian takeaway the night before. I may be wrong, but I reckon that is now the third or fourth occasion I’ve had this attack of severe cramp following a takeaway the night before. It may be totally coincidental, but there has to be a reason for these early onset cramps.

Anyway, initially I thought that was it for the day, but at around 6pm I remembered I had booked onto a spinning class which I couldn’t cancel, so I hobbled there and sat myself on the stationary bike. I was expecting to be barely able to turn a pedal, such had been the discomfort earlier in the day, but actually the spinning wasn’t too bad. Indeed I reckon it did a good job of helping to shift the excess lactate in the quads.

Tuesday morning saw an early hour on the elliptical trainer, which was a tired affair, especially with the after effects of the cramp still felt in the legs. A few hours later I ventured out on a crap clearing run to try and help loosen the legs. I think it worked, the miles getting progressively quicker to the quicker side of my easy run zone. I was still very tired though – at one point I nearly got lost and disorientated running a route I’ve done near constantly for the past three months!

Wednesday was a busy day outside of training, which meant I had an early wake up and depart for my ten mile run with eight miles at marathon pace. The body and legs didn’t really want to know for the two mile warm up; the first mile at MP was a real struggle, 6:16. Thereafter things got significantly better, averaging around 5:58 for the final seven miles, but I never felt that fantastic, and indeed tired a lot in the final mile or two. The cramp had more or less gone from the quads, the right calf though ached a bit, as did the hip.

Thursday morning saw a routine hour on the elliptical trainer – no issues other than feeling tired. That evening was a ten mile run with Grantham Running Club, with the unexpected guest runner in the form of my brother, who had come over with his family from Germany. He has just begun his training for an autumn marathon and this was comfortably his longest run in several years, but he ran well – as did the entire group, to average comfortably under 7:30 for the eight miles at the marathon pace. I felt fairly comfortable and all in all it was a most pleasing run.

Friday was a day of rest and a day with my brother and his family at a very busy day as we celebrated Food Friday. I felt distinctly sub-par for the most part, feeling like I was fighting a cold – so much so I took a couple of flu and cold capsules mid-way through the day.

Saturday morning and I had to push aside any thoughts of feeling unwell as I had my last realistic opportunity of putting in the long one before London. The 24 mile run is a staple of pretty much all my marathon campaigns, the time spent on feet usually the same or a little bit longer than the actual time spent running in the marathon. I could have done loops of town, but with the calf pain feeling much diminished since the work done on the hip (with more done during another massage on the Thursday) I decided to map out a run which took me out of town and up and down some hills – which I’ve been a little lacking of during training in late.

I was out at 8 am – the weather was cloudy and the wind strong. The first few miles were lethargic and not that quick – over seven minutes per mile as I felt the effects of cold fighting on the body. I had a pit stop at five miles and thereafter felt a bit better, especially once I’d tackled the big climb of the day on the A52 pass the barracks. A spanner in the route plan came as the road I’d intended to run down was closed due to the initial Grantham bypass construction. This meant I had to run a section down the slightly dodgy High Dyke before taking a right hand turning which took me back on to my intended tracks. I had to then make some calculations as to how much extra I had run and how best to revise the route so as to get back to 24 miles.

The following three or four miles through to fifteen were tough as they were mostly slightly uphill and into a head / cross wind which, at times had me near dead stopping in my tracks. However once I came to the peak of the hill and turned direction I had the wind at my back and the pace picked up significantly to around 6:30 per mile. I made it down a steep hill without the feared bout of cramp in my quads. My calf felt good and I worked on clicking down the miles as efficiently as possible as I took to the canal path and back towards Grantham.

The heavens opened a few miles before home but that didn’t disturb me as I reveled in feeling fresh at 23 miles despite having taken on the run with no water, no gels, no breakfast and just a cup of coffee to see me through. I ended up running a bit over 24 miles – 25 and a quarter to be precise – in 2:54. I felt pretty good, certainly no worse than when I was doing the long 20 mile runs with a parkrun in the middle. With that in mind I headed to the Belvoir Sportive website to enter for the following day’s ride. Alas, they closed the entries at 10am!

Undeterred I headed out on Sunday morning to see if I could fit in a 160km ride that may have had similarities to the Belvoir Sportive without actually taking part in that event itself. As it happened I chanced upon meeting up with several members of Witham Wheelers, who were taking part in the shorter 100 km ride. I rode with them for around thirty miles before going my own way and riding the vast majority of the remainder of the ride solo. It was hard going with plenty of tough hills around Rutland and the Vale of Belvoir and a nasty headwind to contend with for the opening half of the ride and for all of the final hills. Despite this I felt relatively strong, taking it fairly easy on the flat stuff and pushing as best I could on the hills.

I rode a few extra miles at the end to confirm that I had ridden over 100 miles and came home tired, but content that another week’s training was in the bag – 67 miles of running, 105 miles of proper riding, around 25 miles of spinning, and a couple of hours on the elliptical trainer. This will likely be the biggest training week of the marathon campaign – hopefully it will see me in good stead come race day.



2016 London Marathon Training – Week 8 (22-28 February)

Having enjoyed a near uninterrupted run of being able to train whenever I liked, Monday 22nd February brought an abrupt end to all that fun with a 5:45 am alarm call to see me at my desk a couple of minutes later. Formula One had lurched back into life with the opening test of 2016 and I was about to enjoy perhaps the busiest few hours work of the year as an F1 Picture Editor.

Thirteen or so hours later and I was able to let go of the mouse and consider the day’s exercise. The usual spin class had already commenced so I headed out for an easy paced run. The left hip grumbled for a mile or two, thereafter it was a mostly trouble free affair, albeit with a lengthy stop at the Meres for a pit stop and a natter with GRC runners who had just finished their run.

At eight and a bit miles I had the option of turning right to head straight home or carry on forwards for a two mile loop to conclude. The legs feeling good I opted for the latter. All felt good until I reached the same turning on my return when I just felt the outside of my right calf tighten. It grumbled for the final half mile, then on finishing tightened significantly all over the calf and high up in the hamstring. It was essentially a repeat of what first occurred at the Chester Marathon in last October and again on two or three occasions subsequently.

This put running out of the equation for a couple of days at least, although the continuing F1 test meant this was not too much of an issue. I’d always planned weeks 9 and 10 to be fairly minimal on the running front because of work and three races on consecutive weekends. On the Tuesday I was able, during quiet moments at the test, to put in two hours on the home elliptical trainer. The calf felt fine on the trainer, as it always seems to. The stop-start nature of putting in 10-20 minute efforts around work coming in made the session quite tiring, but it was better for the body and mind than dong nothing at all.

Wednesday turned out to be another really busy day at the Circuit de Catalunya so it turned out to be an enforced rest day. Thursday I was able to do an hour in the trainer during the morning in two chunks and I was just about able to finish work in time to head to the club for the marathon paced session I was due to take. As it turned out only two other runners turned up to run, my right calf had already begun to ache a fair but by the time we reached the club. Coming down the first hill of the run the calf began to tighten a lot and I decided to cut the run short when we ran past our house.

Disappointed to have only covered five miles I headed straight onto the elliptical trainer for quite a charged hour long session, pulling higher RPM on higher resistance levels than I had done previously on the relatively new machine. The calf ached a bit but as with previous occasions, it can’t be a pull or a tear as there is no real searing discomfort.

On Friday morning there was no test but I was in charge of looking after the family so I put in another fairly high intensity session on the elliptical trainer, this time for 90 minutes. The right calf was again a bit achy, but otherwise I felt fairly strong.

Saturday was the National Cross Country Championships which is covered in another piece on this website. Suffice to say that the effort had me fairly whacked on Saturday evening and I had no problems getting to sleep hopefully ready for Sunday morning’s bike ride.

Heading to Witham Wheelers for the eighth Reliability Ride of 2016 I could sense immediately that the body was still quite fatigued from Saturday’s race. The last group to set off was a Group 3, 4, and 5 combination. I put in a stint at the front from the off and I could feel that while I was okay on the flat stuff, the first hint of an incline and I was in trouble. This is the total opposite of what is normally the case when I am one of the stronger riders on the hills and struggle to keep up on the flat stuff.

I made it to Melton Mowbray okay but I was dropped on a climb out of Melton. I was able to get back onto the group but 20 minutes or so later there was the longest climb of the ride and I was out of the back door within seconds. There was simply nothing in the legs for me to be able to keep up with what was really quite a modest pace. I dug deep and was able to keep the group sufficiently close to be able to catch them back up once the climb’s summit had been passed.

I think the fact I was able to regroup when it seemed that all hope was lost helped me mentally for much of the rest of the ride as I felt more comfortable thereafter. A long fairly flat section certainly helped matters, as did two small packs of Haribo consumed during a brief stop. The group worked well together riding in and off as we battled with a headwind. It was only at the short sharp hill at Skillington did I once again lose contact with the group, although I was once more able to dig deep on the flat bit after the hill and catch up with the group. We then had a bit of fun on the closing section ramping up the pace and having a mini sprint finish which I opted not to take part in as there seemed little point.

This all meant that the 62 miles was covered in 19 mph, which was pleasing considering that at 25 miles I thought there was no way I was going to be able to finish the ride. I rode home after a quick hot cross bun break, and to my surprise was able to muster a 5k brick run. The right calf was aching a bit but bearable, the pace was very similar to the week before, where the legs felt fresh in the final mile to run 6:30 or so.

A bit of a frustrating week, but it was always going to be a compromise with the F1 test to be covered and if there was a week to suffer an injury that minimised running, then it was a good week to have. It is likely to be more of the same in week 9 with a four day F1 test, a calf which is still sub-par, and a race on the Saturday to consider and taper for.

2016 London Marathon Training – Week 6 (8-14 February)

The sixth week of marathon training began on the Monday with an early morning hour on the elliptical trainer. Was feeling tired and the right leg was feeling a bit tight at times, but otherwise there were no issues.

The evening session has more than a nod to the forthcoming Dambuster Duathlon in mind, as I warmed up for the normal gym spin session with a progressive run on the treadmill. I don’t run much on the treadmill; when I do I tend to run a progressive paced run as I find them arguably more beneficial than interval sessions and easier to perform on a treadmill where pace is modulated more accurately than on the open road with undulations and junctions to tackle.

This progressive run was an easy reintroduction to the session: beginning at a leisurely 6mph, I increased the pace by 0.2 mph every minute until I reached 7 mph then by 0.1 mph every minute until I reached 10.5 mph. The legs felt good and I felt comfortable as I stepped off the treadmill and literally straight on to a spin bike.

I then got off the first spin bike as it was broken and moved onto another. Embarrassingly for the gym it transpired almost half of them had defects of some form or another and I was lucky to remount on one of the good ones. The good feeling from the run continued on the bike as I ploughed through the session with the legs remaining strong throughout. I was rewarded by a PB equaling 4.0 w/kg average and a couple of watts short of 260 for the average.

The Tuesday morning elliptical trainer session was a little tiring but I found myself pushing instinctively quite hard – still some energy in the legs. The lunchtime 10 mile easy paced run was a familiar tale of being a little weary in the opening miles before loosening off and running the final five miles or so comfortable at around 6:40 per mile pace.

Alarm bells rang on the elliptical trainer early on Wednesday morning, as the hour long session felt like an eternity and really hard work, if only to try and keep the eyes open with excessive tiredness. One of my daughters had been looking a little woozy for a couple of days and had complained of feeling really tired, so I concluded I had what she had.

I contemplated long and hard about not running at lunchtime but guilt got the better of me and before I had time to stop myself I was out and running. The first few miles felt truly rubbish, as if my mind was in a haze. The heart rate was really low, suspiciously low. I had 7 miles at marathon heart rate planned, as I forced my legs to pick up the pace at mile 4 it was obvious that running to heart rate was going to be impossible, averaging 14 beats below what I would normally aim to be running. Instead I was running to pace. It felt like an ugly run, the legs not really wanting to know and the form feeling pretty poor. That I averaged around 6:00 for the seven miles was relatively pleasing considering.

A good night’s sleep on Wednesday and I felt a million times better on the elliptical trainer on Thursday morning – the hour whistling by with no ill effects from the problems of Wednesday. The evening was the Grantham Running Club 7:30 paced run aimed at those targeting a spring marathon. As with my own run on Wednesday, we had 7 miles at pace planned. It was chilly, just above freezing, but with no wind and feeling fresh the run felt effortless – the only difficulty trying to keep the pace down. Once the main run was done I ran three extra miles to make it a thirteen and a quarter mile run in total – a decent midweek long run total.

Friday morning saw an easy hour on the elliptical trainer coupled with a a strength and conditioning session – almost as good as a day off really. Saturday morning’s run was an ambitious one and I wanted to be in good shape for it.

As with the previous week I had a long run planned with a parkrun stuck in the middle of it. Last week I ran twenty miles; this week I had twenty two miles planned. This meant waking early and being out of the house at 7:20 am, which the body didn’t much care for.  The first three of four miles were fairly sluggish. I stopped at the Meres for a semi-planned pit stop and thereafter felt much better. The pace increased from just under seven minute miles to six thirty miles by the time I reached Belton House with a half marathon under the belt.

I had to use the facilities again just before the start of parkrun – something is bothering my stomach at the moment – and made it to the start line literally seconds before the off. I had the dubious honour of battling Barry the Beaver and a bunch of CaniX dogs for the opening hundred yards or so before the run settled down. Barry quickly lost enthusiasm, the dogs were keener but slowed after a mile or so. In the mix of runners with human power only, I found myself third behind a guy I didn’t recognise who would go on to come first by thirty seconds or so and Adam Madge, clearly representing Belvoir Tri Club for the morning.

Adam pulled out a five to ten second gap by the end of the first lap. I didn’t know exactly what pace we were running but could sense it wasn’t bad as the first mile was 5:41 and the second mile was quicker again at 5:33. I was feeling surprisingly fresh and on the bumpy back stretch into the cold headwind slowly brought Adam back to within spitting distance.

On the closing stretch back to the finish we began lapping back markers and I was able to catch Adam. Not thinking twice over whether to sit in his tow, I passed and made a surge to the finish. I didn’t look at the third mile split until I got home but it was 5:28. I had no idea of my final finishing time and contented myself with a strong second place finish.

I still had six miles to run so I ran another lap of the parkrun course before meeting a fellow GRC runner. We shared a mile or so back towards Grantham before I parted company and picked up the pace for the final three miles, back down to sub 6:40 miles. I finished the 22 mile run averaging 6:41 and feeling fairly comfortable. A good long steady run, all things considered.

Sunday morning was another Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride. The wind coming from the north made for a quick run to the club house. I knew that it would make for a tough final section of the ride proper as we would face a bracing head wind. The efforts of the Saturday run appeared to tell early on as I felt distinctly average, feeling the need to take my emergency gel well before half distance.

The gel helped and the middle section of the ride saw me helping near the front with a good section of shared pace making. I got a bit carried away on the hill at Wymondham. That over enthusiasm probably accounted for being dropped from the main pack a couple of miles short of the finish when the pace was stepped up a notch and I found my legs bereft of any remaining power.

The ride complete I headed home and straight out for a 10 km brick run. It felt very similar to the previous week – legs quite stiff and unresponsive for the first couple of miles but not lacking pace, thereafter feeling quite positive and able to maintain and slightly increase the pace in the closing miles.

Another week done, and another positive week of training. Week 7 coincides with half term so the workload will likely be reduced a little as opportunities to train will be restricted. That said, the following two weeks see plenty of work with F1 testing and a succession of races at the weekend, so there is the desire to put in another solid week of training before an enforced cutback.