“I’m never ever doing that again.”
My first few words as I crossed the finish line as first lady overall at the Anglian Water Standard Distance Duathlon 2018 ITU World Championships Qualifier. After a 10km run, 40km bike and final 5km run it was safe to say that I was truly exhausted. The race was a mental battle right from when we arrived in the car park for registration at 7am in zero degree temperatures. I did not want to get out of the car, let alone strip off my millions of layers to run and cycle around in a thin piece of lycra for over 2 hours. However, I got on with it; assembled my bike, stuck my numbers on and did my pre-race ritual of at least 3 toilet trips.
Whilst racking my bike, I was slightly unnerved by the £4,000+ super duper TT bikes with deep rim wheels surrounding my little blue road bike with clip on bars. However, whether these people could actually ride these bikes well in these conditions was another question..
After a quick warm up in the icy car park we were called to the starting line and off we went. The run route was an out and back course on a narrow path/trail that hugged the lake. I had a great start and fought my way through the field to get good positioning on the narrow course (my cross-country racing this winter had taught me well). My study of the route suggested that the course was flat as a pancake, however, I was surprised to discover that in reality it was so undulating I don’t think we actually ran flat at all! Whilst the undulations weren’t huge, the run required considerably more focus than I had anticipated! Additionally, icy, muddy puddles had accumulated in the dips; whilst most people tried their best to run around them to avoid wet feet, I used my cross-country instinct and ran straight through them…hmm!
I felt really good for the first 3 miles, I had no idea where I was in the field but I felt strong, my splits were good and I felt like I could run forever. Then I reached the turnaround point and experienced the headwind, ah. The 3 miles back were tough and I had to battle hard to maintain my splits. However, I soon entered transition, clocked 38:47 and was currently 4th female overall (not that I knew this at the time). The prospect of mounting my bike was looming. I hadn’t had a chance to fully practise my mount since my last duathlon in November. I am relatively new to the ‘keep your shoes on the bike with an elastic band’ trick and so it can be very hit and miss as to whether it is successful. Transition was very narrow here with speed bumps and an uphill segment to navigate whilst trying to get my feet in my shoes. However, I just about achieved it and made it on to the bike course.
My first few miles on the bike were a little wobbly as I tried to settle down in to a rhythm with my legs burning from the run before. I spotted my boyfriend Hugh on the bike looking very strong and we cheered each other on. I then picked off a couple of girls as I approached the first turnaround point and soon realised that due to seeing only one girl cycling back my way, I must have been in second place overall. Wow. My bike legs suddenly kicked in to action and I was off on a mission to catch the girl in front. It didn’t take long. When I passed her she appeared to be struggling and I knew this was my opportunity to put more power down, increase the gap and give myself enough time not to be caught on the final run.
As we started the second loop, my plan was going well until a different lady came out of nowhere and tried to overtake. Nope, I was not having that. I put a little sprint effort in and pulled away from her. I then spent the next 15km hoping that I was putting enough power down to maintain a good gap. My final bike time was 1:09:56. Pretty pleased with that.
T2 came along and it was a disaster. I left it far too late to get my feet out of my bike shoes and as I approached the dismount line I knew my beautiful ‘touch down’ dismount was not going to happen. I ended up carrying one shoe across the line with the other attached to the bike. The official on the line shouted “well done you’re first lady, keep it going!”, all I had going on in my head was “oh cr*p”. I got my bike back on the rack, slipped my shoes on and headed off for the final 5k struggle to the finish.
My legs were gonners, but all I had pictured in my head was me crossing the finish line in first place, taking my first big duathlon win. I had to push and make it to the end. I saw Hugh early on in the run about to finish and knew he must have been doing well, hopefully good results for both of us if I kept this going. I soon reached the 2.5km turn around point and knew I would soon be able to work out how close the other ladies were behind me. It took me about 30 seconds to see the next lady so she must have been about 1 minute behind me. If I held it together I knew I could do it. There were some excellent spectators and other competitors on the final stretch cheering me on which definitely helped to keep me going. I passed a man who was about to start walking and cheered him on too. The buzz pushed me through the pain, I glanced at my watch- ½ mile to go. Right, that’s two laps of the track- that’s your track warm up. I started to stride out my legs and up the pace. I could see the finish line and hear the loud speaker calling me in. My first standard distance duathlon was completed. My first big duathlon win and another age-group qualifier accomplished.
My overall time was: 2:11:30. I beat the next lady in my age group by 14 minutes which definitely secured my spot on the GB Duathlon team for the World championships in Fynn, Denmark in July. However, this qualifier was very much intended on being a ‘back up’ option for the sprint distance event. I did not expect to do well in it at all! However, Oulton Park sprint distance duathlon this Sunday 18th March will be my world championships qualifier for my preferred distance so I am excited to see what happens there!