race reports

Stokesley Spring Duathlon 2014

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.

Cycle

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.

http:www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a4UoMVNmxo&feature=youtu.be

race reports

The Stockton Duathlon

By Peter Persico

On run 2
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.

Run 1

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.

Cycle

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.

Run 2

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 result

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!