Stockton Duathlon Festival 2019 – Sprint Distance incorporating ITU World Sprint Duathlon Championships 2020 Qualifying
Draft-legal racing. For a man with the bike-handling skills of a toddler, these words send shivers down the spine. They make you question everything you thought you knew about cycling. Reverting to a roadie, having to think about tactics, and not allowing the mind to drift off to zen-dom.
Much like many of us on the starting line, this was the first time I’d gone draft legal. There was plenty of time to panic about bluffing through this race as Stockton-on-Tees is a long way away. Wikipedia informs me that “Stockton is known to be the home of the fossilised remains of the most northerly hippopotamus ever discovered on Earth”. Historic.
After further reading about how hippos would beat humans in triathlons (thanks Reddit, although T1 and T2 would surely be problematic?), I switched focus to the race itself and how it was likely to pan out. It would be a flat course, a technical course on both run and bike, and the sprint race would have around 400 people in it. Should you run hard and mix it up with the leaders? Should you hold back and rely on drafting drag you through the field?
Questions quite swiftly erased upon the realisation that I would a) never trouble the leaders anyway and b) I have the bike handling skills of a toddler.
The event itself was a very well-run endeavour. An event village had been constructed with marquees and triathlon-related stalls, and with engineering works ongoing in the town the organisers did a fantastic job in ensuring a limited transition area would be functional for the three races on that day. It seemed that for a short while the weather wanted to pay homage to the organisers so Mrs B – who again didn’t drive – threw me her coat to enjoy the quite glorious sunshine. Wishing I could also enjoy these rare moments of sun in the North East I toddled off to transition to set up the bike and took my bag to the bag drop – secure and always manned.
An extended warm-up was undertaken as my Achilles issues continue to plague me, before donning the incredible Sundried men's aero skinsuit (simply, WOW) and feeling like I belonged on the start line. That was until during the race briefing, the Mayor of Stockton and another medallioned wight (in the most literary sense) decided to burrow into us for a photo opportunity. Some welcomed this political intervention but I considered it incredibly discourteous and rude to distract athletes from listening to course instructions. And until this Mayor approves the erection of a hippo statue on Stockton High Street, they will continue to incur my wrath.
The sun disappeared shortly before the race began, and it became very chilly with a cutting northerly wind. The first run passed by without incident. What was interesting was seeing certain groups of people running together, obviously preparing to cycle together. I briefly felt like a loner before I saw transition loom and, with trepidation, hopped onto the bike to try and avoid any issues.
The bike leg was very interesting. Blessed with technology we know how hard we are pushing, how fast we are travelling, and how far we have moved. But nothing can prepare you for the power of drafting. Watching my power drop and speed increase after finding a small group, I confused my simple mind. I then tried to increase power and speed to leave the group in my wake but couldn’t shake them off. Collaboration therefore was key. Working in the group was actually very rewarding as we picked off other groups and individual riders. But you always wonder if you were travelling quickly enough – after all, we were trying to qualify for Team GB!
T2 came and went, and relief set in. Drafting was actually quite fun and I learned more during those 20km than years racing on the TT bike and non drafting races.
The final run has always been a strength of mine (as it takes me a whole race to warm up properly – thanks body) and being relaxed and relieved helped the final 2.5km pass quickly. No sprint finish required and not much opportunity to as a final hairpin 50m from the finish line threw most people’s anticipation of a home straight.
As ever, a paler-than-usual looking Mrs B welcomed me on the finish line with an angry glare – I had submitted her to a 4am start, cold temperatures and a lot of standing up. It was ‘that’ look only a husband knows. Out of the fight and flight responses, flight seems to win every time with me. So instead of engaging with her I stealthily weaved through a crowd of people to pick up my results. 2nd automatic qualifying spot for the Worlds in the bag! Excitement and bravado overcame me as I announced this achievement to my shivering wife.
“My coat is in your bag”.
The walk to bag drop seemed longer and more painful than the race itself.
About the author: Matt Baldock is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
About 10 years ago I remember sitting in the lounge at the gym with a friend watching the London Marathon on TV. He joked and said, "why don’t you do a marathon?" I laughed and called him crazy. Back then, I was strictly gym and said "I can’t understand why anyone would want to run for that long". That thought stayed with me until early last year.
A friend and I decided to enter Beachy Head Marathon... just because. This was a marathon with a difference – described as “one of the biggest off-road marathons in the UK” and “a challenging event”. We knew it would be more of a hike than a run so we didn’t feel under pressure. I had also ruptured a bursa in my knee 2 weeks before so it was more of a fun day out than a serious race.
Once I had completed Beachy Head Marathon, I wondered whether I would actually be able to complete a road marathon. I now knew I had the distance in my legs, it was just whether I could run it, after all I am still very new to running (only been running just over 2 years). I looked up marathons for 2019 and “the UK's flattest major marathon with huge support on route” sounded like the best one to start with – Manchester Marathon.
One of my friends is a triathlon coach so I contacted him to ask if he could coach me for running. All of a sudden, my Training Peaks was filled with four runs a week, Wattbike training, swimming, strength and conditioning, and stretching. Of course, as soon as I saw it I thought ‘no way am I fit enough to train two or three times a day’ but of course I got on with it.
I had already entered 5 half marathons for the start of 2019 so they were incorporated into my training. These were meant to be training runs but with all my training I was able to set new personal bests for my 5k, 10k and half marathon times.
It was during one of these half marathons I noticed a ‘niggle’ on the inside of my left thigh. As most people do, I got on with it and thought it would go away – it didn’t. Possible tendonitis! During London Landmarks Half Marathon I could hardly run and I decided I wouldn’t be able to run Manchester Marathon – how could I if I couldn’t run 2 miles without stopping to walk?
I had a chat with my sports therapist and asked him honestly if I could still run and he believed I could still do it. My coach agreed.
So at 9am on Sunday 7th April I was on the start line. To say I was nervous was an understatement. Although I knew I had completed the distance before on an injury, this was different. I wanted to run as much as possible and to enjoy it not just complete it (if I could complete it that is).
The weather was perfect – around 14 degrees Celsius and clear skies. I had my gels in my race belt and felt ready to go. I had met up with some friends from the running club that meets at my work. We decided to run together – to take it slowly and just enjoy it.
We were off!! 20,000 people running the streets of Manchester all with the same goal in mind – to complete 26.2 miles. We admired some of the costumes around us, a giant strawberry, Bert & Ernie, dinosaurs, rhinos, and Spiderman. Massive kudos to anyone who can run any distance in a costume – I overheat in just shorts and vest!
The support of the crowds is amazing, I didn’t have headphones on so was able to take in the atmosphere and hear the cheering and encouragement. They really do get you round the course! The course is marked out with mile markers. You always hear the same comments from runners when you get to a marker. At mile 1 “only 25 to go” – yeah thanks for that mate!
I was running comfortably with Louise and Clive, we were chatting away and Louise was keeping an eye on pace to make sure we weren’t speeding off to quickly. At mile 12 I had lost them, I think I just got caught up with my own pace. At this point I’m usually nearly finished so the thought then come into my mind ‘I’m not even half way there’
Luckily, I then saw Alison on the side of the road. “Come on, I'll run with you,” she said. Alison is a lot quicker than me, so all of a sudden we're sprinting past the 13 mile halfway point. We stayed together for around 4 miles, then she dropped back into a walk. I’m normally always ready to walk with someone, but I knew if I stopped my leg would start hurting so I carried on running.
I let the crowds carry me round and continued to just enjoy my run. 19 miles in I was getting close to that 20 mile mark! But all of a sudden I felt nauseous. It would pass, I’m sure it would pass, but it wasn’t going away. I didn’t know what to do – this hasn’t happened to me during training and I was now at the point where this is the longest run I had done without walking. I slowed into a walk, my head went fuzzy and my legs turned to jelly. I started to walk it off. “Well done Vinny you’re looking good” said a supporter as she handed me a jelly baby. I’m a pescatarian so I don’t eat jelly sweets but I needed something. So now I just had to make sure the gelatin didn’t affect the last 7 miles!
I continued walking half a mile and Alison caught up with me. She told me how she really wasn’t feeling the race and said that if she had seen a tram stop she would have just got on and dropped out. I told her my leg was hurting so I would probably run/walk the last 7 miles and she said she would join me.
At mile 22, someone put their arms round the back of us ‘am I glad to see you both’ – it was Clive. His calves had seized up so he had ran/walked up behind us.
We were nearly there – none of us cared about a time we just wanted to complete it.
Mile 23 ‘just a Parkrun to go’ – again thanks for that.
Mile 25 – we're nearly there – it’s nearly over. “I can see the finish line” it was one straight road down to the end – this road was never ending. I even commented that it looked like it was getting further away. But all of a sudden there we were – hands in the air, smiles on our faces, relief!
I DID IT! I completed Manchester Marathon in a time of 5:07. I was over the moon!
We walked over to grab our medals, finishers t-shirts, Soreen loaf (one of the best things ever) and headed to bag drop. It was all over, how did I feel? So so happy. I had managed to run for 19 miles straight without stopping, I had managed to complete the course with an injury, I had made some great memories and I had a new medal for my medal rack.
The trainers come off – the blisters were impressive – where did this extra toe come from? The flip flops went on and I was shuffling towards the tram station back to my hotel for a soak in the bath.
The smile still hasn’t left my face and I still can’t believe ‘I’ve run a marathon’.
So to answer my question earlier – why would someone want to run for that long? – well why not! The training gave me something to focus on, to keep me active and got me fitter, the race itself was fun, it was something not everyone can or will do, I made great memories with great people and I now have a massive sense of achievement! The main thing for me was to not get caught up on times – I’ll get over the finish line when I get there I just want to enjoy it – and I did!
About the author: Emma Vincent is a personal trainer and Sundried ambassador.
I’m beyond excited that my duathlon season has FINALLY started after a long winter of training! My season kicked off last weekend at Oulton Park Duathlon which was great to blow away the racing cobwebs and identify areas that need work ahead of my target races.
It was a stressful start to the race to say the least… I arrived at the venue with less than 15 minutes to register, rack, and get to the mandatory briefing. A great test of my ability to stay calm and not lose my head!
The first run leg was interesting to say the least as my legs didn’t want to move very quickly which was unsurprising given the lack of warm up. Around 2km into the first run, my legs started to play ball and the final part of the run was a far better reflection of my current form. I ran into T1 in first place and got on the bike ready for a very lonely ride around the race circuit.
Despite it being a draft legal race, I spent the entire bike alone which is never fun! I always love the drafting races because of the interaction you get with other riders and the chance to get tactical in a race. Coming into T2, I had extended my lead and just needed to keep my cool and push on the final run.
The last leg of a duathlon is always the most challenging… Your legs are heavy from the first run and bike, your pace has slowed, and every stride forward is pure pain. It’s often at this point, I really have to dig deep and focus on getting to the finish.
Very pleased to have taken the win at Oulton Park Spring Duathlon and I have definitely identified some key areas that need work… my transitions weren’t as fluid as I would have liked, and my run-bike and bike-run legs still need some attention. But all in all, a pretty successful first race!
Next up for me is the British Duathlon Championships where I hope to equal or better my bronze medal from last year! Wish me luck!
About the author: Laura Smith is a Team GB Triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Southend Triathlon is returning for its third year on Sunday 16th June 2019. The route is reverting back to that of the 2017 race with an open road bike course around the quiet country lanes of Great Wakering and Barling.
For 2019, Southend Triathlon will be capped at 400 competitors and the race will be set off in waves of 50 competitors according to ability with the faster athletes starting first. Registration will be available the day before, Saturday 15th June, as well as on the day. The first swim wave will start the race at 10:30am and all competitors are expected to have finished by 2pm.
The swim is a 750m route in the open water of the Thames Estuary. Wetsuits may not be mandatory but they are very strongly advised as wearing one aids with buoyancy and could increase your speed! The swim starts at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Shoeburyness and is an out-and-back route parallel to the shoreline.
The bike is a 20km cycle out from Shoeburyness and into Great Wakering and Barling. All participants must adhere to the highway code. There will be marshals on route and anyone caught flouting these rules will be instantly disqualified.
There is a set of traffic lights on the bike course which will be marshaled throughout the race. If you are stuck at a red light, don't worry, you will be awarded a time bonus at the end of the race.
The run follows the same route as the 2018 race and is 3 laps of Gunner's Park on the Garrison. A beautiful, traffic-free run will take you to the finish line back by Uncle Tom's Cabin.
For more information and a full FAQ please visit www.southendtriathlon.com
Having caught the duathlon bug back in October last year I’ve been taking part in the winter duathlons hosted at the Lee Valley VeloPark, the most recent being the East London Triathletes Winter Warmer.
The day started, as it usually does, with my two children waking me up at around 6:30am asking for breakfast so once I’d served them it was a hearty bowl of porridge with mixed fruit and a strong cup of coffee for me.
I’m an organised person and so my bag had been packed, unpacked to check I’d packed everything, and re-packed the night before as well as my TT bike being checked and double-checked to avoid any mechanicals so all I needed to do was get everything into the car and get on my way from Southend to East London.
On arriving at the venue the conditions looked perfect, a gentle breeze and sunshine, so I racked my bike and headed to the changing rooms. On race days I always wear my Sundried men's trisuit and race belt and I’d recently treated myself to some Sundried running socks – there's nothing quite like the simple joy of fresh socks – so once I was changed into my race kit and wrapped-up warm I headed to the registration area to sign in and collect my numbers.
With numbers applied to bike, helmet and race belt it was time to warm-up, take in the race briefing and then get to the start line for the first run. The race format was two laps, ten laps, one lap, with each lap being one mile, so I knew I could go out quite fast and was pleased to be near the sharp end once we reached the first transition.
Onto the TT bike and the conditions were so good I knew I’d take a fair chunk of time out of previous races on this course and I was happy to complete the ten laps in 27:32, nearly two and a half minutes better than my previous best – all that winter training must be paying off!
The last run was a flat out sprint to the line for one lap, leaving nothing behind. At the line I had no idea where I’d finished but was quietly confident I’d do well in my age-group. After collecting my bike and kit from transition and getting changed it was time for the medals to be handed out. I was delighted to hear my name called for the silver medal in my age group and later discovering that I’d finished 17th out of a field of 87.
After the awards it was time for a quick coffee in the Velodrome and some reflection on the race. I’m really pleased with how my fitness and race technique has improved since my first duathlon and it can only bode well for the bigger events I have planned later in the year. My Sundried kit performed brilliantly on the day and I can’t wait to get back into race kit for my next duathlon.
About the author: Dan Walsh is a duathlete and Sundried ambassador.