Peter Persico

Oct 142014

By Peter Persico

It seems I may be developing a tendency to ramble, but hopefully, anyone reading this will make it to the end. Anyway… having first done this duathlon in 2013 along with Peter Leach and enjoying the experience, there wasn’t really any doubt about me taking part again this year. The duathlon takes place at Oulton Park, which is a motor racing track near Chester.


The standard distance duathlon was set to begin at 1300, and so gave plenty of time for me to get to the track since Chester was also hosting a full marathon and a metric marathon. Chester, it appeared had opted to host a few events on the same day yet again, since last year there was the duathlon, a full marathon, and a tough mudder event all on the same day. Anyway, on arrival, I went to register in the Chequers restaurant and collected my race pack. Transition was located in the pit lane. The marshals controlling entry to transition got a bit vocal about a few of us trying to get in without having our helmets fastened on our heads [a lot of us had them on our heads but unfastened]. So, after fastening them we were allowed access to transition, where we promptly racked our bikes and took off our helmets! The race briefing described the nature of the course and the rules. The first point made was about safety for runners and cyclists on the course, telling runners not to go from the inside of the track where the cyclists would be, and telling cyclists to avoid runners. Then came the talk on drafting. The official stated that this was a “no drafting” event and that it would be keenly enforced and penalties issued for violations. He said that, as well as having BTF ‘draft busters patrolling the track, since this was a race track, they had CCTV to monitor the whole course and would be watching! He then said that they would not accept any excuses, such as, “I got caught up in a peloton and couldn’t break away”. This got a laugh. Whilst he was talking about the ankle timing chip, I suddenly realised that I’d forgotten to put the one given to me on my ankle. I sneaked out of the race briefing to run the short distance to my car to get the chip before returning to the briefing. Luckily, I made it back before the finish, so none of the marshals at the briefing appeared to notice my absence. Of late, I’ve been trying to calm and relax myself before starting rather than psyching myself up. This rather rapidly increased my heart rate, and not in the best way.

The Course

Oulton Park duathlon course

Oulton Park duathlon course

I thought a brief description of the course would be useful at this point, which can be described as undulating. We would have to complete a total of 12 laps each of 2.69 miles or 4.31km. The first run leg consisted of 2 laps of the track making it 5.4 miles, the cycle leg consisted of 9 laps of the track making a total of 24.3 miles, and the final run leg was 1 lap of the track. I’ve put a little map of the track above to help illustrate the course.

After setting off on the flat starting grid, the course takes you round old hall corner and onto the downhill section called the avenue before a sweeping left turn at dentons [at least it is sweeping on the bike]. This leads onto a steady incline up to shell oils corner, which is a 180 degree bend. Next is a short flat section and here you carry straight on rather than round the chicane and then up another short, but sharp, incline [hilltop]. There is then a further flat section followed by a downhill section leading round knickerbrook and onto another incline called clay hill. This one is more of a sting because it is steeper than the previous inclines. After this hill, the course flattens out to go round druids corner and then, at lodge corner, there is a brief downhill section before the incline leading back to the starting grid. Transition was slightly beyond this hill in the pit lane. To finish, you had to head towards transition but turn right and run under the finishing banner. With the course being on a race track, the ground is very smooth, except for the odd pieces of rubber and small stones. Being a motorbike race track, the sweeping descents, sharp inclines, and tight corners appear to be standard issue.

The Duathlon

Setting off from the starting grid

Setting off from the starting grid

We all congregated on the starting grid but, unlike motorbikes, we were all huddled together. Then, the starting horn sounded and off we set. As usual, I set off a bit quicker than I would be running. I always joke that this is so that I can get into some ‘clean air’ to use some motor racing jargon, but in general it is because I still find getting the correct pace at the start a challenge. However, I soon managed to settle into what I hoped to be a decent and sustainable pace. The sun was shining and I exchanged a few social words with another runner before embarking on the second rise in the track. The first run was generally not that eventful, except for me having vague flashbacks when getting to the hills, but I knew that I was going to put in a quicker time than last year. When I came into transition after the second lap, I managed to find my bike with little difficulty. I quickly changed into my cycling shoes, again having chosen to use the mountain bike clips and shoes like I had in the triathlon 2 weeks ago so that I could run with my bike. I’ve yet to try and have them already clipped to my pedals like some do in these events. I then made my way out of transition in a decent time, and again quicker than the previous year; all was going well!

On the cycle leg

On the cycle leg

Overall, the cycle leg was not quite as glorious as I had hoped. Having told a certain someone that the cycle leg was 9 laps, this person described it as “soul destroying”. We were responsible for counting our own laps and the race booklet suggested we adopt a strategy for counting laps [but didn’t suggest any actual strategies]. Despite knowing this from last year, the only strategy I had was to keep repeating the lap number I was on until I crossed the line for the next lap. Nearing completion of one particular lap, there was a marshal at lodge corner just before the brief downhill and then uphill to the starting grid. The marshal was shouting for cyclists to be careful because there had been an accident at the bottom. As I carried on, I saw a female cyclist holding something to the side of her face whilst being seen by health personnel. The fan of motor racing part of me wished that the marshal had been waving a yellow flag as well. Unfortunately, whilst thinking about this, I lost track of my lap number. I found concentrating on my lap number and arithmetic challenging whilst also trying to focus on the track, so I ended up slowing down until I had it figured out. This did not last, and after a few more laps, I began wondering if I’d got it right. My watch showed total distance so far, so I had to subtract the first run leg, and then try and calculate how many laps the remaining distance indicated. Engaging in more complicated arithmetic, I again slowed down. In the end, these incidents as well as my neglect of cycling more recently, affected my total bike time, which annoyingly wasn’t a significant improvement on the previous year. There’s always something! There were also a few occasions when I unintentionally ended up as part of a peloton or pack of cyclists. This only happened at the top of certain hills when slower cyclists in front were caught by quicker cyclists coming up from behind, with both groups briefly slowing at the top of the hills. These moments did have me worriedly looking around wondering if we’d be penalised. Happily, I managed to complete the required number of laps, and did not get any penalties. All that remained was the final run.

I remember struggling last year on the final run leg, especially on all of the hills. This time, I was determined to make a better effort. I also saw a few people in front of me, some a fair distance away, and decided that I would aim to catch them. Through all the other training I do, I’ve found that transitioning doesn’t have the impact it once did on my legs. As a result, I was confident I could achieve this modest aim. Happily, I began gaining on those in front of me, and in the end, managed to overtake a few people, some of whom had stopped to stretch various leg muscles. My final run leg time was nearly 3 minutes quicker than the previous year. One of the photos below show the final hill, and the look on my face in the other photo below shows me at the top of that hill before the final run to the finish.

Final run leg - bottom of a hill

Final run leg – bottom of a hill

Final run leg top of the last hill

Final run leg top of the last hill

Many people put their hands up in the air on finishing any type of event, and some even smile. It’s similar to the Daley Thompson method where he finished a decathlon having beaten his opponents, but made it seem like he had done so without even breaking a sweat. I haven’t managed to get to the stage where I can follow this first part of his method yet it appears, as the photo below of me coming up to the finish line seems to indicate. Still, at least I didn’t look like I was going to collapse, so it still makes a good finishing photo. I did follow the other part of his method, which was to walk away nonchalantly whilst enjoying a few Jaffa Cakes, some water, and then some non-alcoholic Erdinger [there were a few joking complaints about it being non-alcoholic]!

Coming up to the finish

Coming up to the finish

The atmosphere at the end of these multi-sport events is still great. I ended up speaking with a few other people, commenting on various aspects of the course and the experience. Always a friendly atmosphere!

 October 14, 2014  Posted by at 7:57 am race reports No Responses »
Oct 032014

By Peter Persico


I’d always intended to complete a triathlon this year. That’s why I’d started swimming again, and even learnt front crawl. However, due to various reasons, none of which I can completely remember, I hadn’t actually got round to entering a triathlon. So, whilst I still had a few options, I decided to enter this particular triathlon. I bought a wetsuit and a new tri-suit, and entered. I have a bit of a tendency to do ridiculous things, and this, perhaps, is another example of this tendency. I say this because I chose to enter an open-water triathlon, despite having not properly been swimming in open water. If you’re going to do something, [generally] pick the more extreme option to wipe away those fears. However, I knew that there would be plenty of novice participants, so felt a bit better about my entry. I chose to enter the sprint distance rather than the super-sprint distance because the super-sprint sounded a little too simple.

The account herein is my take on the triathlon. For an alternative insider perspective, readers can also approach Amanda Rhodes regarding her experience of this triathlon. If anyone would like an outsider perspective, they can consider speaking with Martin Jones who got caught up in some of the cycle and run excitement whilst out on his long run.


Once parked up on one of the designated grassy areas at Harewood House, I made my way down into the entertainment village as it had been called. Registration was simple enough, as was putting things into transition. We were all given specific wave times. First off were the relay teams, and then the waves seemed based on distance and age group. Whilst in transition, I looked over my shoulder and saw both of the Brownlee brothers getting into their wetsuits with a cameraman by each as well as other associated people. Since they looked to be getting their ‘game face’ on, I decided not to say anything or inadvertently stumble into their photo. There were also lots of people around and lots of stalls selling various items, including food. Happily, the weather was pleasant, and I was generally enjoying the experience. A few worrying thoughts crept in about the swim, which wasn’t helped when I noticed an ambulance tearing away having collected someone who was brought out of the lake, but overall, I’d say I was looking forward to giving this triathlon a go.


Exiting the lake and going into T1

Exiting the lake and going into T1

The swim was 750m in the Harewood House lake. I made my way down to the starting area at the last minute to listen to the race briefing. The start would be a little way out in the lake rather than at the lakeside. Looking out, it seemed quite a distance to swim before turning around and coming back to exit off to our right. Whilst walking into the lake, I could feel sharp rocks underfoot, and then the floor became slushy. As I was wading out, I pulled my hands out of the water and noted that they were very dirty and had seaweed-type nature stuff on my fingers. Still having an occasional breathing issue with front crawl and not really having embarked on proper open-water swimming in such colourful water, I decided at this point that I was not putting my face fully in the water front-crawl-style. It may seem a bit weak and I still have that thought myself, but when it came down to it, I was a bit worried about getting some of that water in my mouth, coming up spluttering, and trying to carry on whilst convincing the people in kayaks that I could keep going. I would later try and convince a few people that I had swallowed some nasty bacteria that had sapped me of my vitamin C and left me with scurvy; no one believed me though. The lake remained shallow for quite a few metres of the swim, and my feet were often catching the bottom of the lake. However, as we got closer to the turn-around point, the lake got deeper, which was helpful. Overall, I managed to keep swimming, didn’t really swallow any nasty water, and wasn’t last out of the lake, which made me feel slightly better about not trying front crawl. Then again, I’ve heard it said that there is always one area in which you are not as competent; this would appear to be mine at present, with obvious areas in which to improve.

Coming into transition from the lake, I was attempting to take off the wetsuit as I ran. I’d watched a few triathlons on the television and Internet to see that this helped speed things up, so thought I’d give this a try. I was actually surprised at how well I managed! Once I’d got out of my wetsuit and put it aside, I immediately drank some coca cola that was in one of my water bottles. This was a bit of information I’d picked up a while back to help deal with anything swallowed during the swim, and would also provide a bit of sugar. Then, I put on my helmet, cycling shoes, and race belt, before heading out of transition. I’ve yet to try having my cycling shoes already clipped to my pedals as the professionals do, and didn’t think trying it out for the first time in an actual triathlon and on a hill start was the best idea; I guess I can still be a little sensible, but it is something I would like to attempt. Instead, I’d changed the pedals so that I could use my mountain bike cleats as they would allow me to run a little with the bike.


By Harewood House just coming off a hill

By Harewood House just coming off a hill

Once out of transition, we had to push our bikes up a grassy hill for about 200m to the mount line. We had also been told that the bike section had an uphill start and so we should pre-select an easy gear in order to get going. The hill was noticeable once on the bike, and it was part of subsequent laps, adding to the hill leading up to this hill. There were plenty of people milling around various parts of the course, including on these hills, so I had to make it look good. There was also another hill coming off the Otley Road and back into the Harewood Estate that provoked a few responses from various riders. There were some good flat parts to the course and some sweeping descents with sharp turns as well. Having previously fallen off my bike trying to manoeuvre around corners, I am pleased to report I never once came off the bike. I did see one cyclist in front of me misjudge a turning and go wobbling onto the grassy verge at one point, which made me feel better that I was managing, but I tried not to get too overconfident lest that bite me later on. I didn’t like cycling over the metal sheets that covered the cattle grills because at speed I worried they would do something nasty to my tyres; however, this never came to pass. I also became aware of the motorbike marshals hanging around me at various points on the bike course; happily, I did not pick up any penalties, but didn’t like being a focus of attention. At the dismount line, which was slightly off part of the first hill, we then had to run with our bikes back into transition. I was glad to get off the bike at this stage, and ready for the last part of the challenge – the run. This was mainly because I am reluctant to take drinks whilst cycling in case I have an accident. So, after a quick drink of water, racking my bike, removing my helmet, and change of shoes, I was off.


A short distance into the run

A short distance into the run

I’d made a little error in bringing my road shoes rather than my trail shoes to the triathlon, despite being fully aware that the run would take place on such a surface. Still, I thought, how hard could it be using my road shoes, even if they were flats with just 3mm soles? As it turns out, there were a few more uncomfortable moments on the run, but I managed to stay on my feet and not fall over. There was a cameraman shortly after starting the run section who took the photo above. As I was approaching the cameraman, I realised that I had forgotten to swivel my race number to the front, and remember being surprised this hadn’t been commented upon as I left transition because I’d once forgotten to do this at a duathlon and had a marshal shouting at me as I ran off. I quickly rectified this issue just in case and to help with photo identification. After only a short distance the route split depending on whether you were running the sprint distance or the super-sprint distance. The sprint distance run section had a few cheeky hills included at various points. On one particular hill there was a sign on a tree that said, “Dig in, this is Yorkshire”. I actually found this quite an amusing sign despite the burning undercurrent in my legs and lungs, but this was not true of everyone who read it, and I did hear a few choice words from people who were walking by this point up through the trees. Despite finding the sign amusing, I did not find the hills amusing, especially that particularly long hill, and they certainly tested my calves. I’d like to say that I’d taken in the atmosphere and environment to help me enjoy the run, but that would be a lie because as the run progressed, I was focusing more on keeping going than on how nice the view may have been that day. I believe there may even have been some animals around on parts of the course as well and other people walking, but I was only vaguely aware of such obstacles.


Coming up to the finish and about ready to finish as well

Coming up to the finish and about ready to finish as well

To finish, we had to run uphill with Harewood House in front of us, and then turn to come back downhill so that as we crossed the line, the House was behind us for our finishing photo/video. Seeing the finish was a welcome sight, despite having to go up another hill to get there, and the look on my face as I approach the finish is not what many people would associate with ‘happy’. When I knew the finish was approaching, I gave a little kick to finish faster and stronger, which is perhaps more apparent in photo than happiness. After crossing the line, I was handed a bag that contained various items, including the all-important t-shirt, water, and energy drink. I don’t remember much of what I did afterwards except for stagger around for a short while before deciding a drink and some food were a good idea. The BBQ-sauce pulled pork sandwich I bought was a little pricey, but well worth it I believe, and I could have eaten several such sandwiches.

All in all, I think it was a successful first triathlon with a few areas on which to work for next time, and, perhaps more importantly, I did enjoy the experience.

 October 3, 2014  Posted by at 1:21 pm race reports No Responses »
Jul 072014
10651 - SUN_0502FREE

After day 2 with my beer and other memorabilia!

I did the Total Warrior run on both Saturday 21st June and Sunday 22nd June, in what they called the Super 10 weekend. Why would I do such a thing? I’m not entirely sure I know, but perhaps the account below will shed some light on the matter or my state of mind.

Total Warrior was advertised as a 10km+ obstacle run with 25-30 obstacles designed alongside ex-military personnel in order to test strength, stamina, and mental determination. The organisers had also stated that, “For anyone crazy enough to attempt both days – Super 10 Weekend – we are offering up to a 30% discount. Less than 2% of the 6000 competitors accepted this challenge in 2013!” How could I resist? As time drew closer, the organisers announced that the actual distance would be 12.5km, indicating that now we knew exactly what the + meant. Still, what was the worst that could happen I thought, even if I was to do it on both days?

Day 1

I turned up on the Saturday and managed to register with a bit of time to take in the atmosphere. The sun was shining and there were loads of people sitting around as spectators or getting ready to start. Since people set off in waves, there were also some who had finished, so I could get an idea of just how muddy and tired I might get by the end. Most people were wearing some form of t-shirt or vest, but I had decided to work on my tan and not wear a top. It would also help avoid extra laundry! When I crawled through some tyres and into the starting pen, those around me were getting psyched up by the starting official. I didn’t bother with any of that nonsense. It’s worth pointing out now that my memory of exactly what I encountered and where may be slightly inaccurate because I had other things on which to focus, including fun, rather than memorising the exact course.

I heard 3, 2, 1, and then we were off amidst yellow smoke. First up we had to run up and down a grassy, uneven hill 4 times before running into some trail-type area. It was steep and even at this point, people were either taking a walking break on the way up or at the top on the way back down. After this, came another grassy hill, but this time, we were crawling under a cargo net until the top. I suppose wearing a top would have reduced some of the scratching on my back, but that was all part of the experience. We then went back into the trees and then into some water going under a small bridge, followed by thick mud through which we had to stomp whilst not losing our shoes. This mud was quite deep and thick in places, sometimes making me feel like I was sinking, which made it all the more challenging. Some people fell over and others needed a hand to get them going again, it seemed a bit like thick treacle, only not as tasty or pleasant smelling. Crawling through some pipes that came out into a bit of muddy water helped clean me off a bit though because otherwise, the mud would have been weighing me down as I ran along more trail paths. I realise saying the water helped clean me off seems strange since it was not really clean water, but rather muddy water, but still, it helped. There was more mud and a muddy steep and slippery hill before we came out to a more open area where it was possible to run a bit quicker. It was at these points that I decided to keep going to achieve a good result, rather than slow down and recover by walking as a lot of others were doing in such places. I think the phrase might be ‘active rest’! We then climbed over some haystacks before hitting the woods again for more running. Upon leaving the woods we ran towards some horizontal logs at varying heights. We were instructed to crawl under the low logs and to climb over the high logs, which was made harder because they appeared to be greased. My foot did slip on a couple of occasions, and I also seemed to scratch my stomach at several points whilst twisting over these logs. Once over these logs, of which there were about 8, there was a bit more running before we came to several fences of varying heights, some about 8 feet and some a bit higher. There were no footholds and so it was a case of jumping up and then pulling yourself over the top before jumping down – good job my ankle is better! The final fence was a little bit cheekier because it was angled towards you as you approached and about 8 feet high with about 3 foot grooves. You could put your feet in the grooves, but owing to the angle, it was harder to get over, and several people around needed a boost on this as well as some of the earlier fences. After pulling myself up and over the previous fences, this one was a test. Again, there was more running on grassy fields until we encountered a water station. I decided since it was warm to refresh myself with some clean water rather than rely on any dirty water that I may have inadvertently swallowed, and then carried on running another kilometre or so before the next challenge, the traverse. This was a wall with footholds and handholds that you used to move horizontally across the fence. The footholds were at varying lengths apart, and I do remember having to stretch what seemed to be quite an uncomfortable distance on one occasion, and almost jump a little to get a secure handhold as well. If you fell off the fence, you landed in dirty water of an unknown depth. The next item I faced only a short distance after the traverse was an extremely dirty pond with plants and other things floating along the top. It did make me wonder exactly through what I was passing, and I was sure to not take too long a step and risk getting any water near my mouth. Once out of this pond, I came upon the log carrying area. Here we had to pick up a little log and go up a hill and then back down, before depositing the log and moving on. The picture below shows me running up the hill carrying the log.

10651 - LOGSUN_2007

Wet and a bit muddy running with a log!

It may look small, but considering all the previous activity, it was still somewhat heavy, and because it didn’t have a smooth surface, it was a little uncomfortable to carry. Some people carried the log up on their shoulder whilst walking, but I found that to be cumbersome whilst running, so opted to carry it down by my stomach. More running followed before I got to crawling through tyres and then through more pipes partly filled with muddy water where I encountered a few slugs.

10651 - PLM_1404

Trying to look good for the camera!

After more, brief, running, it was BBQ time. I noticed some logs up ahead that were on fire in front of some muddy water. Obviously, I decided that speed and height were required. As I was running towards the logs, I shouted a question at one of the marshals, basically asking him how deep was the water. His reply was, “You can have some fun with it!” Therefore, I added fun to the speed and height formula. What I discovered was that the depth of the water was more than I had thought even based on the marshal’s comment, and I ended up totally immersed upon landing. The photos below show the jump and result!

3781 - BBQ_168410651 - BBQSUN_0751

My muddy cleanliness was only short-lived, however, because there were more muddy trenches through which I had to wade, with people falling and getting a bit stuck as well. This was followed by a bit of trail running and onto the ice dip. Yes, we climbed into a skip filled with icy water, had to dunk ourselves under the beam that ran across the skip, and then climb out. I passed one woman who was trying to psyche herself up to dip her head under the water, and this did not appear to be very successful, taking several attempts it would seem. After another kilometre of running or so, there was more muddy trenches and muddy water before we came to the dangling electric wires through which we had to run. Best take this at some pace, I thought! I don’t remember feeling that much, but what with the speed and adrenaline, perhaps this helped. I then ran up a rather steep hill and got to the water slide. I discovered at this point that I had caught up to people who had set off about 1 hour before me. After getting down the water slide, the monkey bars were next.

10651 b - monkey bars [Sun] - BUYFalling off would have meant falling into more deep and cold water, so this was not an option. With wet hands, though, this proved complicated, and plenty of people were falling into the water. This only left the final obstacle, called ‘peaks of pain’. It was basically some wood at an angle with rope hanging halfway down. You had to run at the wood and up it before trying to grab the rope and pull yourself to the top. Some people who had made it to the top were offering others help, which generally seemed much appreciated. After all I had been through, this one particular obstacle was the most difficult for me to surmount. Once at the top, you climbed down and ran through the finish line to collect a beer, a t-shirt, a bottle of water, a protein bar, and a buff.

Day 2 brief highlights

Arriving at the same course on the following day, some 22 hours after first embarking on the course, I seemed strangely calm. There were a few areas of my body that had taken a bit of a battering and I could feel them protesting. The calmness started to change a little when I was in the starting area and, looking upon the first hills I thought, “What am I doing?” My brother was also running in this wave with a few friends [they had only chosen to do it only on this day], and I had joked about some of the obstacles. I do remember briefly on guy who came up to me before the start and said, “you did this yesterday didn’t you?” I confirmed I had, and we briefly spoke before the start. I don’t remember this person from the first day, but I must have stood out somehow. I later manage a hi-5 and “hey” as I passed him coming back along a certain part of the course. Despite some lingering nerves, I set off full of vigour. I managed to stay ahead of my brother and his friends until just after the 5km mark when they passed me helping each other over one of the fences. If I’m honest, I don’t really remember much about the second day on the same course. Throughout the course, I did encounter a few other people who commented that they had done the course the day before as well. Overall, I improved my performance on this day as opposed to the first day by 23 minutes. It may sound difficult to fathom, but I think it can be put down to a few factors. One factor is that even though I couldn’t exactly remember where every obstacle was located, I generally was more aware of what I was facing. In addition, I probably wanted to get the experience over as quickly as I could. Finally, I think I managed to zone out more on the second day. One interesting and I suppose amusing problem looking back occurred on the water slide though. This time, I had decided to go down feet first on my back rather than face first on my front as I had on the first day. However, partway down, I somehow got spun around going head-first on my back. Since this was likely to end in disaster, I managed to spin myself around so that I was going head-first on my front. It must have looked quite a site to the spectators! The other amusing occurrence was on the final obstacle. This was the wet angled fence that we had to run up to grab the rope halfway up and pull ourselves to the top. I ran at it ready to jump slightly and take a few steps up before grabbing the rope. My heart and head was full of bravery, it was just my legs that let me down. Instead of complying with my plan, they did nothing and I ran full on into the fence. That certainly got the adrenaline going!

Am I glad I did both day? I have to answer yes. Did it hurt? Again, I have to answer yes. Indeed, my chest was quite sore over the next few days, and I had a variety of new cuts and scrapes on various parts of my body. I guess it was the hardest event I’ve done, not least because it was the longest, but also because it was done twice in one weekend. Still, I’d do it again because it was fun and only slightly ridiculous, and the beer went down well!

 July 7, 2014  Posted by at 6:05 pm race reports No Responses »
May 102014
The Two Peters [Photo courtesy of DTImaging]

The Two Peters [Photo courtesy of DTImaging]

The report herein contains two accounts, the first written by Peter Leach who took part in the sprint distance duathlon, and the second account written by Peter Persico who took part in the standard distance duathlon.

Of his experience in the sprint distance, Peter Leach writes:

All of us want to run faster. That’s partly why we are members of Abbey Runners and we usually take note of our finishing race times, or perhaps we just want try to climb that hill in front of someone else?  I used to run 10K road races twenty minutes faster than I do now, and as ever, it is not for the lack of me trying!  As I have reached my late sixties I needed a new challenge and Duathlons have really brought that buzz back.

There are novice, sprint and standard races at most of the events, and this tends to generate a friendly atmosphere as competitors prepare their machines and themselves ready to race.

The Stockton Duathlon was a road event and many competitors were riding their hybrid and mountain bikes, so you don’t have to buy an expensive road bikes to compete.  There are some off road Duathlons which have yet to be sampled by Peter and myself.

Peter Persico has a lot to answer for, for introducing me to the Duathlon and getting me back on my bike!

During the cycle section of the sprint distance

Peter Leach

Of his experience in the standard distance, Peter Persico writes:

One of the run sections [Photo courtesy of DTImaging]

This would be my fourth duathlon, and the second time I had undertaken the Stockton standard distance duathlon, having done it in 2013, which was the inaugural event and my first ever duathlon. Leading up to this event, I’d still been experiencing weakened ankles, but there was never any doubt of me going to take part. The start time for the standard distance was 1300h, with registration from 1030, so I had the opportunity to get a little extra sleep that morning. Travelling up to Stockton was fairly uneventful and, once there, I took in the atmosphere and had some lunch after putting my bike in the transition area. This year, I’d learnt from the previous year, and pumped up my tyres sufficiently, as well as oiled/lubricated the chain, cassette, and derailleur. Peter Leach had been taking part in the sprint distance for the second time, and I had the opportunity to watch him run into the finish to complete the distance. He didn’t actually see me until after he had cleared the finish area because his face seemed to have a stern and concentrated disposition. He managed to approach a photographer just before I was due to go to the start line in order to take a photo of us together, a man called Denny of DTImaging. This photographer also managed to capture a picture of me during one of the run segments of the standard distance. It had been raining a few hours earlier, but seemed to have dried as my start time approached. It was a good atmosphere in the starting area, and it was great to speak with others at that point about a variety of related issues. I have to admit that I’d been slightly nervous that morning about the whole thing, and this was most likely due to having had dodgy ankles for a few weeks, meaning I was somewhat worried about my performance. Then, the horn sounded, and we were off!

Run 1

The first run consisted of 2 x 5km laps, making a total of 10km [6.2 miles]. The route started by the transition area on the riverside, and took us round the river bank, over the Tees Barrage footbridge and the Millennium bridge, taking in the riberside walkways on the University side of the river. I did try to keep a regular pace during this run instead of doing what I have in the past, which is start off too fast. There were various places where people were watching the event, but also other areas where there were no other people, and it was quiet and relaxing. For the first 7km, I seemed to go pretty well, but then I began to notice my ankles getting weaker and not being able to keep me going at the same pace. All I could think was to make it to the transition area because then I’d have the opportunity to cycle and allow my ankle to get some sort of rest before the final run. Those last 3km were quite tough. Coming into the transition area, I tried to move as quickly as possible, putting on my helmet and cycling shoes, and getting to the mount line. My total time for this run was, unfortunately, slower than the previous year, but quicker than I’d done recent 10km runs, so perhaps not all bad considering I had more to do.


The cycle portion of the standard distance duathlon was 40km [24.85 miles], and meant cycling 6 laps on closed roads. The cycle course was on a fully closed road circuit around the riverside and University, and it contained some ascents and descents, as well as several twists and turns to make it all the more interesting. Shortly after starting the cycle part, the rain began to fall making some of these sharper turns a little treacherous. Despite what some might call my apparent fondness of falling, I managed to stay on the bike, but I did notice a few people on the floor in places being tended to by first aid personnel. This means, I have no new cuts or scrapes to show. The headwind made some of the open stretches that bit more challenging, and it would have been nice to be able to draft other cyclists at times, but with both static and mobile marshals keeping watch, it was best to avoid this action. Indeed, some people ended up being disqualified for several drafting infractions. I was glad when I noted the approaching transition area on my final lap where I could leave my bike and embark on the final run. I’ve not yet practiced the skill of taking my feet out of my cycling shoes whilst still on the bike so that I can move through and out of transition at a quicker pace, like some of you may have seen people do in triathlons. This means I still get off my bike and run with the cycling shoes on my feet. Up to this duathlon, I was using mountain bike cycling shoes that would be classed as “walkable” because the clips are within the sole rather than stuck out from the sole. I had figured that this would make transitioning easier and quicker; however, this comes at a price because the shoe is much heavier and less firm, resulting in reduced power. Happily, my cycle time for this distance was a faster than the previous year.

Run 2

The final run portion was 1 lap of the route for the first run, which made it 5km [3.1 miles]. I had hoped that the cycling would have given my ankles some time to rest and recuperate so that I could run this last part at a decent pace. In actual fact, the final run was a bit rubbish, and in the last 1.5km, I began to struggle enough that my time was not as good as it had been the previous year. There were still people out on the course watching, and I had a clear enough gap that no one came close to overtaking me on this run. I was also glad that no one said, “You’re almost there” during the run because, having run 2 laps beforehand, I was well aware of exactly how far I had to go at any point. Crossing the line, there was no photographer in sight, which might be a good thing because I really don’t know how I looked, but I did grab my chocolate bar. I chose a snickers bar because at the time I thought that since it contained nuts, it would be a healthy option following this amount of exertion, so perhaps I wasn’t really thinking straight.


Overall, my time was quicker than in 2013, despite the run portions not being as good, so I was still a little happy. There are a few things I will try to develop before the next duathlon, which includes working on transitioning quicker, as well as managing my nutrition and hydration a little better. Looking back, I’m still glad I did this duathlon, and would still recommend them to others. There were plenty of people watching and cheering, which is always helpful and adds to the experience. At the time of writing, there was only one photo of me during one of the runs [see above]. I am hoping that I may have been captured on camera at other points, and that they will appear in due course, if only because I want to see what I actually look like at different points. I hope others will consider partaking in these interesting and inclusive events, and if anyone wants more information, I’m sure one of us will be happy to talk you into taking part!

Peter Persico

 May 10, 2014  Posted by at 4:27 pm race reports No Responses »
Apr 142014

Near the finish [0828_71730]Finish 3 [0828_49435]

By Peter Persico

After reading the most excellent reports already written, I thought I’d briefly write of my reflections on the Manchester marathon, which would also be my first marathon.

My physical state in the weeks leading up to the marathon was not good. This was due to external factors that caused muscle cramps and muscle pain. I will not go into the details here, but this was perhaps then made somewhat worse due to me trying to continue with training. As a fan of doing ridiculous things and, despite some people actually recommending that I don’t actually run the marathon, I chose to go ahead and leave doubt at the start line. Besides which, I had paid to enter and wanted the t-shirt! On waking that morning, I didn’t feel too bad, and thought that I may be able to pull this off in a decent time. I had planned to start out with Dave Rayson and Laurence Lennon with whom I had done many runs, and thought that I may still be able to manage this at least for most of the marathon. However, after a few miles from the start, I realised that I’d need to slow down a little because my ankles were not as stable and strong as I’d need them to be to keep up the initial pace. I reluctantly drew back and settled into my own run.

When I got to the 10km mark, I thought I was going pretty well, but then a little after 7 miles, things started to deteriorate a bit more – one of my ankles became more problematic, and I no longer felt that it was supporting my weight as it needed to do to keep me moving at the speed I had been running. As a result, I slowed a bit more, but also varied my speed, going a bit faster when I could, but then slowing down more at certain points to allow my ankle time to take a break. I decided that I would keep moving forward though. Between the half-way point and mile 20, I think were the hardest part for me at least. I remember catching up to a Wetherby runner at about mile 15 or so and speaking to her for a little bit whilst moving forward. This was her 8th marathon, but she too, had an on-going foot problem and so was intermittently walking. We also talked briefly about multi-sport events since I had done a few duathlons and she had taken part in a few triathlons. After this pleasant interlude, I carried on forwards during this more difficult patch.

At mile 20, there was a fire engine. When I saw this, I thought that they might be spraying water at people, but it turned out that bubbles were being produced instead. I suppose it may have been a bit bad for them to be using water since Sheffield didn’t have any for their half-marathon run! At this point, they said “Keep going, only 6 more miles left”. I’d generally kept my mind focused on where I was in the marathon, not thinking about how far I’d come or how far I’d left to go. However, when I heard this, I thought that I’d give an extra push. I know I’ve heard it said a few times that the marathon begins at mile 20, but at this point, despite the dodgy ankles, I felt I could push a little bit more whilst I varied my speed, and still keep my mind on where I was at the time. From early on in the marathon, I had passed people walking, but from mile 20, there were considerably more people walking that I managed to pass, and some stopping to stretch or just to rest. Each time I passed someone either walking or having stopped, I thought, “I’m doing better than that one”. I admit, it’s perhaps not the nicest thought to have, but at the time it reminded me of an ex-soldier I met through work several years ago. He had entered the Berlin marathon with some others and they had been out drinking the night before. He said that each time they passed other runners that had either stopped or collapsed, he had the thought that he was doing better than them. I have to say also that whilst keeping my mind focused on where I was at the time, it was great to hear people shouting words of encouragement, especially using my name since that was on the race number. This gave an extra boost and helped keep me moving a bit quicker than I might have done. When I realised that the end was close, I decided to try and push it a bit more so that at the very least I’d get some good photos out of the marathon despite the slower time. The photos above I hope show that I was able to get some good photos and give a bit of a push at the end. After crossing the line, one of my first thoughts was slight annoyance that I’d been slower that I wanted and not quite quick enough at the end to get even a slightly better time. This was then followed by the thought that I’d do this marathon again next year and do it properly, do more longer runs, and avoid any external factors that would affect me. I would also definitely recommend this marathon to others. In fact, when speaking to one of the guys at the following day in their shop [they produced the Abbey cycling top], he said I’d convinced him to do a marathon next year, and he hasn’t been running for several months and has only run 5km – bonus!

Below are other sayings and quotes that went through my mind at various points during the marathon. I am pleased though that at no point did I entertain pulling out of the marathon!

  • “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” [Winston Churchill]
  • “Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute or an hour or a day, or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take it’s place. If I quit, however, it will last forever.”
  • “He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right.”
  • “Don’t cry to quit. You’re already in pain, you’re already hurt, get a reward from it.” [Eric Thomas]
 April 14, 2014  Posted by at 11:10 am race reports Tagged with: ,  1 Response »
Mar 272014
The 1st official outing of the New Abbey Runners cycling top [a.k.a. Abbey Riders]

The 1st official outing of the New Abbey Runners cycling top [a.k.a. Abbey Riders]

Wake up time of 0400! Some may think that this isn’t necessarily a problem, others may think that at this time one should still be sleeping, and some may fall in-between these 2 views. Whatever my or your view on this matter, that was the time I had to wake up and, somewhat to my surprise, I didn’t feel too bad; perhaps this was due to my brain not yet realising what was happening! I’d generally prepared everything the night before, so after a decent breakfast I loaded the car and set off. Part of the reason for getting up so early was so that I could register that morning from 0730 rather than going up the day before and then leave the necessary items in the transition area before 0900. Having a poor performance the week before in a 10k run due to painful and cramping muscles that started a week earlier, I was hoping that my legs would have recovered enough, but I was still slightly nervous about this issue.

Stokesley is a small market town near Middlesbrough that had set up the transition area and start/finish area by the town hall. There was music playing and plenty of onlookers about for a Sunday morning. All those taking part appeared to be busying themselves with preparation, including the all-important bathroom stop. Whilst standing in the starting area, I was shivering whenever the wind stepped up, but figured I’d eventually warm up. This event was the first official outing of the new Abbey Runners cycling top [a.k.a. Abbey Riders], which can be seen in the photo above. It is quite snazzy, and I hoped it made me look as if I knew what I was doing.

Run 1

The first run was a simple out-and-back 5km course. The route went briefly along the small riverbank before heading out to the industrial estate where the turn-around point was stationed. I set off amongst the crowd and seemed to be going quite well. At one point I glanced down at my watch and noticed the time, and thought I better slow it down just a bit. Maybe I should have just run rather than have some concern about my pace so early on, and I am trying, but I also didn’t want to blow it following my previous muscle difficulties. Whilst out on this run, I encountered some people wearing Valley Striders tops, and we exchanged a few words; I’d seen at least 6 of them at the start. The run was generally uneventful and quiet. There were a few people out walking and a few cars passing by, but since it was near the industrial estate, there wasn’t much going on and not much scenery unless you count the many varied garb of other runners. Coming back into the transition area, the noise was louder and it was time to focus intently in order to transition as effectively as possible. This aspect is something that I’ve not really practised, but in my mind, I knew what I had to do, that is, quickly switch from running gear to cycling gear and crack on! My time in transition 1 was quicker than the previous 2 duathlons that I have completed. My run time was only slightly slower than my quickest time in a parkrun in the last quarter of 2013, so that made me quite pleased, especially since I had to cycle and then run again, and because I still felt strong.


The cycle route was 30km on open roads. Although I’ve cycled a lot on open roads, both the duathlons I’d entered previously were not on open roads; Stockton had closed roads, and Oulton Park was round a race track. This meant I would need a broader focus. The cycle route left the town along the High Street and headed out to Hutton Rudby, with a nice drop and then a short, sharp climb to get into the village green in Hutton Ridby.  The route had several fast descents and sharp climbs. During the safety briefing, we were told to be careful on the descent into the village because at the bottom of the hill on the corner where we turned was a church and it was a Sunday morning. Apparently, some cyclists in the past have collided with church-goers despite there being plenty of signs up stating that a cycling event was taking place! At the end of the village, the route headed out towards Potto and onto more hills; the scenery was quite good though! We continued until we joined the A172, which did not have a slip road, but did have fast moving traffic. After 3 miles, there was a left incline junction leading back into Stokesley. On the first lap, we had to turn at this point before starting the 2nd lap. On the 2nd lap, I began thinking that I know exactly what is coming up – those hills. Instead of turning off as we did on the 1st lap, we were to continue straight on along the A172 for a further mile or so before turning into Stokesley at the roundabout and into T2. I’d bought some aerobars for my bike to also help make me look like I knew what I was doing, and also because it does help with aerodynamics. I did enjoy using them on the descents and the long stretch of A172, although I was a bit wary using them on some of the descents. During the cycle ride, there was a chronic headwind, which made the cycling that bit harder. If there was any tailwind, I didn’t notice. Despite this, I think I had a pretty good cycle except for one point after a descent, there was an incline, and I shifted the wrong gear lever a few times in quick succession before realising my mistake! I managed to pass quite a number of other people, especially on the uphill sections and on some of the flatter bits. Going along the main road did make passing other cyclist more challenging. The rules of drafting and overtaking say you can enter the drafting zone of 7m and then have 15 seconds to make a pass, otherwise you have to drop back. If you are caught drafting, there are severe penalties, which include time penalties and disqualification. Trying to pass people whilst avoiding traffic coming from behind you was definitely a challenge. During the whole cycle route, I didn’t actually take a drink; I was worried about falling off or crashing. However, I didn’t particularly feel I needed to consume water. Some people had been more creative, and strapped a water bottle to their aerobars and had a straw angled up so they could sip water. This seemed a good idea, but I wonder if some of the water bottles I saw on the route belonged to these people having fallen off. Thankfully, as I was coming back into Stokesley, I managed to time my pace to miss the red light at the pelican crossing; another cyclist wasn’t able to do so and had to stop. The photo below shows me coming into T2 having just dismounted. I was not looking at the camera, but was more focused on my time and efficiency, at least that’s what I think/hope I was doing.

Arriving into T2

Arriving into T2

 Run 2

Charging out of T2

Charging out of T2

The 2nd run was the same as the first, that is an out-and-back 5km run. Prior to leaving T2, I did have a very quick drink of my water. I’ve not done any proper brick sessions for a while to help me transition from running to cycling and from cycling to running, but my training in the gym does include a lot of leg work that serves the same purpose, just more intensely and effectively. As a result, having racked my bike, taken off my helmet, and changed my footwear, I was able to run out of transition without any major difficulty. The photo above shows me charging out of T2. Again, I’m not looking at any cameras, but quickly checked the time because there was some running to be done. Shortly after this picture was taken, I realised I’d not turned the race number round to the front as you should, so I slowed whilst I began fiddling with this for a few seconds before speeding up once more. Unfortunately, at just after the turn-around point, my muscles began to hurt. I was annoyed by this, but glad that they had not gone off earlier in the event. My muscles are still recovering, but weren’t quite there yet. Still, I managed to keep going and was only 3 minutes slower on the 2nd run than I was on the 1st run over the same course. I suppose this means I can’t overly berate myself for this little difference. Coming up to the finish line, I was focused on just one thing – getting across the line. The photo below shows me running towards the finish. I was subsequently told by a marshal that the photographer had tried to get me to smile and/or give a thumbs-up as I got to the finish line. I didn’t even notice the photographer as I was approaching; like I said, I had only one thing on my mind, so I hope he wasn’t too annoyed or disappointed. Or perhaps I need to work on celebrating finishing and a suitable pose!

Finish line in sight

Finish line in sight

The End

Overall, I was pleased at the finish. This was my best performance out of the 3 duathlons that I have completed, and I did actually enjoy the event. Whilst in the transition area after finishing, I spoke with a few other people about the event. I do find it good that these events have a friendly atmosphere between entrants, not unlike the obstacle/mud runs that I have completed. The buzz you get from this and from crossing the finishing line are great, and it it amplified because of others there who are generally feeling the same way. The next duathlon I’ve entered is at the end of April, 3 weeks after the marathon, so I hope to enjoy that one as well.

Video footage

Just in case anyone is interested, I can be seen coming into the finish at 9 minutes 35 seconds of this video. I’m not running as smoothly as I could [or at least think I can], but like I said, by this point my muscles were causing me some discomfort.

 March 27, 2014  Posted by at 12:11 pm race reports Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Nov 152013

By Peter Persico

painbarrier 2014 - location 2 - PB2_0563

Hello again! A mere 2 days after running the Chevin Chiller [the Halloween night run on Otley Chevin], I embarked upon this particular run for the second year in a row. The Pain Barrier at Parkwood is described as a 10km mud race set amongst 100 acres of off-road wood and parkland.  The course twists and turns across a variety of terrain so you find yourself running along muddy tracks and open fields, through woodland, across ponds and water obstacles and tackling steep hills and ravines.  The ponds and streams are cold, wet, and very muddy.

Parkwood is located in the village of Tong, Bradford, and only 4 miles from both Leeds and Bradford City Centres. Last year, the Pain Barrier run at this location was at the beginning of December [2012]. During this run, we had to go through water filled with ice and deal with much colder temperatures. This year, the run had been moved forward to the 2nd November meaning that it was slightly warmer. Despite this, there had still been a fair amount of rain in the days leading up to this run resulting in plenty of mud and water.


Course detail

The Pain Barrier is not the same as the obstacle runs that I have completed. In this particular run, the challenges were all natural, whereas in the obstacle races, there tends to be a mixture of natural obstacles and man-made obstacles. There were 8 specific natural challenges as well as the challenge of running through woodland and mud. The map below gives a brief indication of the course.


The run

On arriving, I collected my race pack and visited the portable toilets before returning to my car to stay warm because, despite a long-sleeved top and t-shirt, as well as gloves, I was cold. Whilst getting myself ready and staying warm, I exchanged several words with the people in the car next to mine. They had opted to use gaffer tape to affix their trainers to their feet and ankles due to having a trainer come off in the mud the previous year. They even offered me the use of their tape, but I declined because I wasn’t sure how to go about strapping my shoes to my feet and prevent the tape from coming loose and then annoying me later on in the run. About 15 minutes before the race start, we walked the short distance to the starting area. Only a very few were brave enough to wear just a vest and shorts. Some were less brave, wearing a long-sleeved top and t-shirt, as was I. Most were even less brave with thermal tops and long bottoms. Finally, there were those dressed up, including superhero costumes and full 3-piece suits. Overall, a  good mix of colours and garb. As is often the case in such runs, the atmosphere in the starting area was jovial and friendly. Then we were off!

The run began as most do with a mass start and everyone attempting to get some space and find some clean air to use a motor-sport phrase. We began by running along an open field around the little lake and then looped around to enter the woods. As planned, I did not go tearing off too quickly and noted a couple of runners in front of whom I wanted to finish. The open start also allowed me to spot a couple of runners whom I might stay close to until the end. Even though we had just started, things seemed to be going well; however, we were yet to encounter any more challenging aspects of nature. The expected mud and water, and slippery conditions interspersed with hills and trees came once we entered the woods.

Out of all the eight challenges, my least favourite was the dips of despair. As can be seen from the map above, this involved scrambling up a steep ravine and then sliding back down the ravine a bit further along a total of three times. I struggled to get up the first ravine due to the slippery terrain, and this is where I lost a bit of time. I tried getting up on my hands and feet to no avail, so then tried crawling, but again was unable to get to the top of the first ravine. In the end, I took to grabbing hold of a tree and pulling myself up, then repeating this method. Sliding down, resulted in a few cuts to my forearm. The difference between the earlier ravine climb and the dips of was one of steepness and slipperiness. The other hills were also of shorter duration so I was able to power up these hills. The water features were of different depths. Some of them were ankle deep, some were knee-deep, and one was shoulder deep. The streams contained generally clear water but slippery rocks, whereas the deeper water sections generally contained muddy water. On one of the deeper water sections, I remember a marshal recommending that we keep to the middle because it was safer. Doing so, however, resulted in me staggering and struggling to keep my balance, which is part of the reason for there being mud on my face – I went under a little. Maybe it was just me, or maybe it was the marshal trying to have a bit of a laugh, who knows, but I think I took it in good humour.

Throughout the race, I traded places with two runners up until one point where they left the racing line to avoid the mud and water, and run on safer ground. As a result, they missed some of the cut-backs and pulled ahead of me. I became a bit annoyed by this move and began thinking how I might catch them up, at which point, with my concentration otherwise engaged, I slipped and had an encounter with a large tree – I basically cracked the right side of my head on a tree [see the photo below]. I was slightly dazed and further annoyed because up until this point, I had not fallen over, which is something that some other runners will note has been a frequent occurrence for me. I tapped the area with my glove to see if there was any blood, but only noticed mud. I quickly decided not to rest and lose further ground, thinking how bad can it really be, and carried on running to try and catch my target runners, albeit a bit more carefully for a little while until I was less dazed.

painbarrier 2013 - cut head 2

It is worth pointing out that the comfort and relief section involved running across an open field towards the finish, but it also included some short, sharp, muddy hills. As a result, it wasn’t really comfort and relief. I managed to catch the two runners during this section whilst they were walking. This gave me some confidence because I was still running. We exchanged a few words as I passed them, and then I was away. I made a good finish, picking up speed for the last part, but was disappointed to see the photographer taking a break as I and a few others crossed the line. So much for trying out one of my best pushing through the pain poses.


Post-run musings

I was definitely glad to finish, not least because there had been further rain during the run and my legs were tired. Having said that, I also felt great pleasure in having completed the run that, by it’s definition, is designed to push you and hurt. However, one aspect on which I need to work is getting up steep and muddy ravines in a more timely and less awkward fashion. I’m not sure how I will go about this as yet, but I know that doing so will help me next time and improve general performance all round. Another musing I had on completion of this run was not wearing my sealskin socks. As they are generally waterproof, they hold water. I obviously did not consider this when putting them on that morning, but when taking them off by my car, there was a fair amount of water inside each sock. I’m not sure what I was thinking because with that amount of water, the socks would be useless at being waterproof. Overall though, I had a blast, and one other thing I like about these types of runs is the banter you get to have with others who are embarking on the same challenge. No more of these now until next year!

 November 15, 2013  Posted by at 5:20 pm race reports Tagged with:  1 Response »
Oct 182013

By Peters Leach and Persico

Advertising Abbey Runners after finishing

Peter Leach writes:

Earlier this year Peter Persico asked me if I was interested in having a go at a Duathlon.  To help with aches and pains, I have being cycling more and running less, so this persuaded me to compete in the Stockton Sprint Duathlon.   I got such a buzz from the event that I then began looking for another race!  I have always followed motor-sport and when the chance came to race at the Autumn Oulton Park Duathlon in Cheshire, it just couldn’t be missed.  Peter and I had a great time competing in this European qualifier for the Duathlon [see attached photo], and neither of us were last to cross the finish line!  I knew the likes of motorcyclist Carl Fogarty had raced at Oulton Park, but actually Stirling Moss had also raced on this hallowed track.  We are now hoping to race a Duathlon at Silverstone in 2014, so if you own a bike please come and join us!




Peter Persico writes:

Earlier this year, I entered my first duathlon, this being the Stockton standard distance duathlon [see my earlier report].  Having had tremendous fun with this challenge, I was always looking to do more duathlons.  So, when the suggestion came to enter the Oulton Park duathlon on a smooth track, I happily accepted the opportunity [how could I refuse?].

Since the first duathlon, I had worked on my cycling as well as general strength and fitness, and at times joined Peter Leach and a few others on various cycles.  When I arrived at Oulton Park, it was beginning to warm; the sky was quite clear and the sun was shining.  It turned out to be a warm day, and so, despite bringing my Abbey Runners top, I chose not to wear it for the event, instead keeping it visible in the box by my bike.  Unfortunately, I forgot any sun cream, so caught the sun, and had a record of my race number on my upper arm and calf where I caught the sun round my race number stickers.  I had no idea exactly what the course would be like, only that it was going to be a smooth track, which would be a welcome change from all the potholes we have encountered on our cycles.

The duathlon consisted of a 2 lap run, a 9 lap cycle, finishing with a final 1 lap run.  Each lap was 4.31km or 2.69miles, meaning run 1 was 8.62km [5.4miles], the cycle was 38.8km [24.3miles], and the final run 4.31km [2.69miles], making a total distance of 51.73km [32.4miles].  During the first lap, I discovered that there were 3 quite challenging hills [you may get an idea from one of the pictures below]. I don’t know how I was smiling for the camera during the first run at the top of the 2nd hill.  About 100m after the 3rd hill was the pit lane where transition occurred.  This made it an extra challenge because we were basically finishing up a hill with a short flat run to the actual finish line.  Our finishing pictures seem to indicate the extent of the challenge!  As Peter has written, we had a great time at this event.  I was quite pleased with my performance because , although about 2miles shorter than the Stockton duathlon I had done earlier in the year, I was quicker by about 45 minutes.  In addition, I had done a 10km obstacle race the previous weekend

I would definitely recommend this duathlon to others due to the great atmosphere and great organisation, and I do plan on entering it again next year, as well as looking at other options, including Silverstone as Peter has mentioned above.  Any other takers?

Run 1 – smiling due to the effects of heat?

Cycling – a steep hill

Run 2 – Finishing


 October 18, 2013  Posted by at 8:49 am race reports No Responses »
Oct 102013

majorBy Peter Persico

The Major Series are obstacle races [yes, this is a report about another obstacle race]. They are designed by the British armed forces personnel for British Military Fitness. The suggestion to enter the Major’s northern event had been made by the happy people at Motiv8 North and, not needing that much persuasion or encouragement these days, I readily entered the 10km run.

This run was held in the stately grounds of Bramham park on the 29th September 2013. There were several starting waves, and we had opted to enter wave 2, which started at 0945. This would be the furthest obstacle run I’d attempted to date, so I did briefly have some nervousness, but managed to set this aside by deciding to just enjoy the experience and attack the course.

Major Series - North Autumn 2013Surveying what lies before me

When I arrived, the sun was shining, and there was plenty of activity going on. At the appointed time, those of us in wave 2 moved to the starting area and we were taken through a bit of a warm-up prior to starting the run. This basically involved running around in a circle and occasionally squatting or laying on the floor as we ran in a circle.  I’d agreed to wear a top for this run due to having difficulty deciding what to do with my race number.  I’d discussed the options with a work colleague, and one of the suggestions we considered was to attach it to both nipples and a cod piece with a chain.  The other option was to write it on my body.  The top appeared to be the easiest option and one that would not unduly affect my performance or time.

The run had pretty much everything you’d want to experience really:

  • Mud
  • Hills
  • Wading through waist-high water
  • Ducking under floats in the water
  • Crawling through water under low barbed wire
  • Crawling through mud under camo nets
  • Crawling through tunnels
  • Zig-zagging up and down more steep hills
  • Climb and jumping over walls
  • A 30m mud trench
  • Climbing over a series of vaults
  • Electric wires over which to climb
  • Marshals firing cold water at the runners

Major Series - North Autumn 2013Dancing through the mud

At one point, I stopped paying attention [something I unfortunately do too much], and followed some other runners down a long but refreshing hill.  When we reached the bottom, we realised that we had gone the wrong way and so had to double back.  We initially thought that there were no signs to indicate the correct direction, but once we’d made it back up that long hill, which was not so refreshing by this point, we noticed that there was  an arrow indicating the correct direction in which to run, and we had all stopped paying attention.  As a result, we all probably ran at least an extra 800m, and the hill took a bit of a toll; I had also lost time and had to catch up to all the people I’d recently passed.  However, on these types of runs, there really isn’t much time to feel annoyed or sorry for yourself, because you have plenty of other things on which to focus your energy.  Despite this error, I managed to finish with a big push but, unfortunately, the photographer at the finish line must have been on one of his mandatory breaks the result of health and safety, because I didn’t get photographed crossing the line with a glorious finish.  For those who have noticed or commented on some of the cuts and marks on my lower legs, I am happy to report that this run provided me with a few new additions.

Overall, the event was nicely organised and good fun, with a great mix of running and physical challenges, meaning that it wasn’t just the legs feel the burn.  Also, there were lots of people there cheering and being supportive, which added to the atmosphere and fun.  The only downside to some of these runs is that there can be bottlenecks at certain obstacles.  This is less likely if you are brave and fit enough to enter an earlier and more competitive wave, but it can impact your time.  Another benefit of these types of runs is the camaraderie and friendly banter amongst the participants, which helps when there is a bottleneck or someone is struggling with an obstacle.  This is something that I’m not sure is often apparent in regular runs.  There were many different types of people doing this run, and so it is definitely one I would do again and recommend to others.  There is a 5km option in case people don’t care for the 10km option!

 October 10, 2013  Posted by at 9:42 am race reports No Responses »
Sep 242013

By Peter Persico

fire jump [1300-1330] 102 of 362 barbed wire [1230-1300] 250 of 267

For those unfamiliar with the Spartan events, they are described as an event of pure primitive craziness [or in the words of John Ward, “Ridiculous”]. Basically, they are obstacle runs. The Spartan Sprint is roughly a 5k distance [but actually slightly longer] with up to 25 obstacles, and this would be my second time of doing this event, but this time I had convinced one of my younger brothers to run it as well [the only person I’ve managed to convince so far].

The run took place [as it did the previous year] just out side Ripon at the back of the army base. This time, I had opted for a later starting wave of high noon since my brother was coming along. On arrival, there was music playing and a very energetic atmosphere, with all types of people milling around the general area. After a quick and painless registration, I too wandered around enjoying the atmosphere whilst waiting for my starting time, and sneaking in a bit of water and a banana. Just before midday, we moved to the starting area where many of us were warming up, and then came the psyching up courtesy of one of the race officials dressed in Spartan gear. This basically involved shouting at us not to quit, that we were all in it together, and to enjoy ourselves. I don’t normally go in for all this sort of stuff and would have been happy enough to just set off, but actually, it was quite invigorating.

Anyway, when the hammer fell, we all set off. I decided to immediately attack the first bit of trail through the trees to get some space. After running through some trees and jumping over fallen branches, etc., I came to a very steep descent. Once at the bottom, we turned and then headed back up the steep hill. We had to do this 3 times along a horizontal plane. It is fair to say that it was quite tough, and lots of people appeared to be struggling even at this early stage. My brother had fallen slightly behind as well, so, since we had planned to keep together, I held back for a short while so he could catch up. As soon as he got to the top of the last hill though, I yelled at him to keep going; he was unable to answer due to trying to catch his breath. After a bit more trail-type running, we came to the first 10-foot fence over which we had to climb. After a few of these, I had again pulled ahead of my brother, so not wanting to spoil my run, I left him behind and pushed forward.

In order to save time and space, I’ll basically just list some of the obstacles that we encountered:

  • Climbing over 10-foot fences
  • Climbing through fences
  • Crawling under fences
  • Jumping over flames [see the photo]
  • Scaling a 30-foot high cargo net
  • Wading through muddy ditches
  • Crawling under cargo nets in muddy water
  • Crawling under barbed wire in muddy water [see the photo]
  • Climbing a 15-foot rope
  • Pulling up a concrete block on a pulley rope
  • Hand-walking across bars
  • Monkey bars
  • Carrying heavy objects [ammo crates, sandbags, full buckets, and a tyre up and down slopes and through mud
  • Dragging a big tyre on a chain

Should you fail an obstacle, the punishment is 30 burpees before you can progress. You don’t get a second chance, and the slightest slip or mistake, and the marshals pounce to demand the burpees. I suppose with the amount of people around, you may get away with a few less than 30, but where’s the fun in that?

I was having so much fun [as you may be able to see from the smile on my face while jumping over the flames], that after a while, I began to catch up and overtake some of the runners from the wave in front of me, which gave me a boost. However, this also caused me some delay due to the nature of the conditions at times making passing somewhat difficult. Just before crossing the line, you have to get past 2 people with rather large pugil sticks whose job it is to give you a good whack. I again decided that it was best to just run full on and get it over with, and don’t remember getting too many hits [or is that a consequence of the hits I sustained?] Upon crossing the line, I got a medal, a cup of water, and a protein bar. I then waited and watched for my brother to cross the line. We then had a bit of a chat about what we’d just done, including our favourite and less favourite obstacles. I think my least favourite obstacle involved the rope pulley since I got several rope burns on my forearm due to the thin muddy rope and my muddy hands.

The organisers advise that you bring spare clothes to change in to after this run, but interestingly enough, don’t provide any type of changing facilities. This results in a swift change in the car park area or somewhere in the gathering area near registration. However, they were thoughtful enough to provide “unheated water” to help remove some of the mud. Basically, “unheated water” meant cold water.

I fully intend to do this particular run again, and make sure I do the longer distance versions [7-8mile and 13mile runs] next year, and pick an earlier wave. Who knows, maybe I’ll have convinced others to join me for at least one of them. I think it is good to do these type of runs not least because it reminds you that you can’t really complain about a steep road hill when you have to carry heavy objects up muddy hills. If anyone does catch me complaining, then perhaps they would be kind enough to remind me of what I have just written. I’ve got at least 2 more ‘ridiculous’ runs this year that, no doubt, people will hear about. In the meantime, I’ll carry on running [and cycling], and occasionally you may see me throw in a few press-ups or burpees; if so, feel free to join in!

 September 24, 2013  Posted by at 2:30 pm race reports No Responses »