I’ve only raced one Duathlon this year, since then I have really prioritised running and had some fun with time trialling. I’d not yet committed to returning to Rockingham for their Duathlon, but with that in mind, the opportunity to take part in a local, low key race was too tempting to ignore.
Sleaford Tri3 club are celebrating their their fourth birthday and to celebrate they were hosting a Duathlon, with the promise of free food and cake to follow. Sounded good. I held off entry to the very last minute; Storm Brian was coming across the country bringing with it the promise of some very strong winds. The prospect of being battered by winds on the Lincolnshire fens didn’t appeal; it was only when the forecast shifted somewhat, so that the strongest winds would arrive in the afternoon, did I commit to entering.
Joining me at the race was my time trialling nemesis Stpehen Hobday. We time trialled together at the opening Witham Wheelers 2-Up, where he carried me the entire way. I’ve got better over the course of the year since then, but he is at least two minutes quicker than me over a 25 mile course. His running continues to improve, but I had the comfort of knowing that over 5K I was at least 90 seconds quicker than him at our bests. Given that the Duathlon comprised a 5K run, a 40K bike and a 2.5K run to conclude, the prospect of an equally matched race was the stuff of much pre-race conjecture.
Not getting enough sleep thanks to an early morning finish working on the US GP at Austin, I arrived at Heckington a little later than planned with Stephen. Badly prepared, I was lucky that Stephen had a spare number belt for me and that the organisers did not insist on showing our race licences, as neither of us had ours on us. By the time I’d racked the bike, got changed and as ready as I could be, listened to the briefing and visited the loo, there was less than five minutes to the start. Normally I like at the very least a mile of running warm up – I got just two minutes.
Knowing that I was planning to race the Thoresby 10 mile race the next day, I knew that my game plan had to change somewhat, with compromises needing to be made. Rather than go flat out hard on the opening 5K, I would have to easy myself in as best I could. With around 40 taking part over the sprint and standard distances, we set off at 9:30am, the stiff wind blowing us along the opening half of the 5K run. I briefly sat in second place before taking the lead, with Stephen and another runner on my tail. I was running well within myself, clocking the first mile in 5:45, not that quick considering the tailwind and it being slightly downhill for the opening half mile.
Over the remainder of the run I was able to eek out a gap over Stephen and the other runner, but I knew it was nowhere near as much as it needed to be. The second mile was 5:56 and the third 6:01 as I battled with the headwind and the effects of not warming up properly. I ran the opening 5K in a relatively pedestrian 18:54. Transition was trouble free; I didn’t have time to elastic band the cycle shoes to the pedals so lost a few seconds putting them on, but I was soon into my cycling.
Perhaps thanks to the strengthening wind blowing me along, perhaps the new bargain Huub tri suit that I was wearing for the first time, but the cycle legs felt good from the off. Staying on the bike was proving much harder though with a gusting rear side crosswind making it extremely difficult to stay on the road. For the opening section I had to ignore the TT bars and hold on to the handlebars for dear life. Stephen came steaming past benefiting from being able to be in a TT position, and revelling in his rear disc wheel excelling in the winds (I hadn’t time in the morning to fit mine).
Knowing he’d past so soon meant that realistically the race was over. All I could do was try and hold onto him as best as possible, knowing that drafting was illegal, and perhaps hope that he’d pushed too hard on the run or that his new TT position that he was racing with for the first time, would prove to be too painful to hold. This though proved to be wishful thinking as he slowly but inexorably pulled away. We both enjoyed the run to North Kyme, the precursor to Storm Brian pushing us along at 32mph with barely any effort. We were both held up briefly by some inopportune roadwork traffic lights, but we were soon back into our own riding.
The two lap course meant that we would be faced with some headwind for part of the course. I was pleased that in my TT position I was able to maintain a relatively good pace. The second lap saw me once again nearly blown off my bike approaching a junction where the gusts were being whipped and funnelled into differing directions, making it really hard to hold onto the bike. By now I’d decided that survival was the best course of action with a healthy gap behind me and an insurmountable gap ahead. On the second lap I was held up for 70 seconds at the traffic lights, but even then I could see no one behind me. Knowing that this delay would be factored into our times, I relaxed and headed back towards the finish, happy that my NP watts of just under 240 was pretty much spot on what I had hoped to be riding. The average speed of 21.9 mph was also one of my best for a Duathlon bike leg.
There was a brief moment of pain when I tried to loosen my bike shoes before the second transition, the left hip briefly going into spasm. Fortunately nothing came of it and another smooth transition saw me off and running, attempting to close on Stephen. That we crossed paths on the out and back course well before I turned around confirmed that, although he was running fairly slowly, he wasn’t going to be caught. I pushed relatively hard, mainly as preparation for Rockingham, clocking 5:42 for the first mile and averaging 5:50 for the slight uphill drag to the finish.
I came home second. Stephen was a deserving winner. I was around 45 seconds quicker on the second run. I finished 1 minute 50 seconds behind him. It was probable that even if I’d run my quickest on the opening 5K run, he would have just had the better of me. At the time I was relieved to have survived the bike leg intact and with legs that felt like they hadn’t been overly taxed.
After a warm down and some cake and presentations, it was time to head home, back to work, and to prepare for Thoresby in less than 24 hours time.