By Peter Persico
On run 2
Since I’d started cycling again in 2012, 7 years after a serious road traffic accident on my bike, on top of running and general training, I decided to enter a duathlon in 2013. Simply put, a duathlon is a run followed by a cycle followed by another run. There were 3 distance options: Novice [2km run, 10km cycle, 1km run], Sprint [5km run, 20km cycle, 2.5km run], and Standard [10km run, 40km cycle, 5km run]. This being my first one, and with very little persuasion and encouragement, I entered the standard distance. At the time, I’d also discussed my intention with Peter Leach who subsequently entered the sprint distance along with Jane Oughton.
As the date drew closer, I had done various training sessions, picking up further cuts and scrapes along the way, so generally felt ready to go; however, I did have a few residual concerns, such as this is my first one and I’m doing the full distance that is probably full of experienced people. I arrived in plenty of time at about 0900 [the start of the novice distance]; the sprint distance started at 1100, and the standard distance at 1300. After racking my bike in the transition area, I spent some time soaking up the atmosphere, drinking water, and eating bananas [by the end of the day, I was fed up with bananas]. The weather was not as pleasant as the previous day when I had collected my race number. On this day, it was windier with no cloud break or sun. Just before the race briefing for the standard distance, I exchanged a few words with Peter Leach who had recently finished the sprint distance. When at the race briefing, some of my concerns appeared justified because all I could see were people who looked like they absolutely knew what they were doing, and I was trying to remember how many laps I had to do on the bike and some of the rules.
The first run was 10km and was 2 laps that went round the river bank, over the Tees Barrage footbridge and the Millennium bridge, and round some of the other roads near Durham University Queen’s campus; after the second lap, we would enter the transition area. I had set off nearer to the back to build in a bit of confidence though passing people. I was going at a fairly decent pace considering what was still to come, and tried to remember the advice given to me of not being afraid to race. At times it felt like I was floating along, but that could have been lack of oxygen to the brain. I didn’t pay too much attention to the view unfortunately, but when I did focus, the route appeared relaxing and calm with a few people out rowing on the river. There were plenty of people in various places along the route either out for their own walk or watching, and who shouted words of encouragement. When I entered the transition area and got to my bike, I grabbed a quick drink as I made my way to the mount point to begin the cycle portion; I think the transition went fairly smoothly overall.
The cycle route was 6 laps on closed roads and we were supposed to count these ourselves; a challenge by the end. There was some noticeable headwind throughout the cycle, especially on some of the uphill sections. I soon realised that a bit of extra preparation may have been useful, that being oiling my chain because it appeared quite dry. It was at about lap 4 that I began to feel uncomfortable in the saddle. This is not something I’d experienced over such a short distance, having managed to cycle a lot further without this problem. I’m not really sure as to why this occurred, but someone later said that it may have been due to my speed. All I know is that it resulted in me slowing down, and I got overtaken on the final lap by someone I had in mind earlier to beat. He, therefore, became the person I wanted to catch on the final run. The cycling route appeared very busy and it was important to keep attentive, especially with all the cones and other cyclists. There wasn’t really much in the way of scenery, and perhaps this was a good thing because I didn’t want to crash having heard about such things in these type of events. I remember seeing several people with those blocked out wheels designed to make them go faster, and some with those aerodynamic helmets, so I felt a bit basic. When I came back into the transition area, I was definitely glad to get off the bike [I don't think my legs fully agreed at this point though]. I got briefly confused trying to find my rack area, but it wasn’t a major problem, and then I was off on the final run, grabbing a bit of water from one of the water tables just outside of the transition area to rinse down the gel I’d just taken on board.
The final run was just 1 lap mostly covering the same area we’d covered in run 1. I’d started this run slower because my legs had still to get the idea that I was running. I was happy when I saw that I was catching the person who’d overtaken me on the last cycle lap, and I soon passed him. We exchanged a few sentences, which allowed me a bit of time to gather myself for this final push. Perhaps I should have just carried on through to get a quicker time, but still, I think it helped my mind as well. Halfway round this lap, the muscles in my quads began to do something strange – cramping a little. I decided to slow down a bit more, but when that didn’t help, I thought what the hell, and went a little faster again, which did eventually help. I came across the bridge and onto the final straight so kicked a little, which was about all I could manage, and crossed the line. My name was read over the speaker along with my finishing time, which was a nice touch I thought. When I think about this final run, it was by far the hardest run I’ve done, and that includes the mud runs and obstacle runs. Happily I didn’t collapse after crossing the line, but I couldn’t have done any more, which means I’d pushed myself. [On a side note, the Bradford 10k was unfortunately scheduled for the week after this duathlon]. I waited for the person I’d passed to finish and we exchanged handshakes and brief words about our experience, which was a nice way to finish this event.
My total time, according to the website was 3:14:58. I had set a goal of beating the time for my final training session that was of a shorter distance by just over 3 kilometres, which I’d done in 3:19:35. My run 1 time according to the website quite different to what my Garmin said, by just under 4 minutes. Peter Leach noticed some timing and pacing inconsistencies as well, including that I was cycling at double his pace for double the distance, so perhaps this is accounted for by technological issues. I don’t know if this can be considered a good time for a first duathlon of that distance, but despite a few differences in timings, I was glad I’d done this and generally pleased with my time. It was definitely a challenge and something I would definitely do again only better. At the time of writing this, there was only one photo of me [attached] on the second run. I’m not sure if there will be more photos of me put up at some point, but at least I’m featured. When captured on camera, I look a little tense, which is likely due to me trying to get my legs to work better. It’s a shame I didn’t get a photo crossing the finish line, but by that point, I’m not sure what I’d have looked like, so perhaps it’s a good thing!