Sundried ambassador Paul Suett had to move from triathlon to duathlon after a debilitating shoulder injury. He gives us an update on his plan for this year and qualifying as a GB duathlete for the first time.
Time for a change of sports
The end of last season ended in pain with a foot and a shoulder injury which had to be worked on at the local private hospital. My foot got fixed pretty quickly but because I raced all season with an injured rotator cuff in my shoulder, the damage needed a lot of rehab. It’s now been 5 months of injections and physio on my shoulder and it's only just starting to feel slightly normal again but a lot of time in the pool has been lost which I cannot make up, so I decided it was time for a change of sports and looked into qualifying for Team GB again but this time in duathlon.
I looked up all the qualifying races that I would need to do throughout the season and two are at the beginning of the year and two at the end. Realistically, I thought to myself that the last two would be the ones I need to aim for as I have no real experience in this discipline and the start of the year would be all about learning and reducing mistakes in prep for later on in the year. We had a local duathlon race a few weeks before the first qualifier so I decided this would be a good opportunity to start the adventure
Gravesend Cyclopark Winter Duathlon 28th January
The day was windy but not too cold and the event was on a closed road bike circuit so this was a good opportunity to race without the worry of cars on the road. The run was 6.5km partly on the bike circuit and then onto the roads. This was followed by a 20km cycle then a 3.5km run to finish it off.
I was ready to race and unusually not very nervous but I think this was because I didn’t have to swim. The race set off at a frantic pace and I initially went out way too fast so I slowed up a little after the first mile and got used to the feeling of racing again for the first time this year. The first part of the race twisted and turned around the race track and then out onto the road up a steep hill for 1.5km before turning back around and down toward the bikes. As I ran into transition, my girlfriend Cassie shouted encouragement and let me know what position I was in.
A quick transition and onto the bike with the thoughts of “I need to now catch some people up”. The track was damp and the first lap I took relatively cautiously as the bends were fast and I didn’t want to end up sliding off. Suddenly it hit me that this was a race and I needed to risk it all on the bike so I put my head down and started to power through the corners and around the circuit. I started to overtake people and lap others that were streaming onto the course after me. Shouts of encouragement from friends racing and best friend Joel as I left the circuit for the final run gave me the final push to give everything till the end of this run. The run was straight back up and down that hill again which had my lungs bursting but soon I was crossing that finish line and collapsing in a heap. It was over and I finished overall in 7th and also picked up a podium place for 2nd vet. The race had been tough but gave me the confidence that I was at least competitive in this discipline going forward to the first qualifier.
Anglian Water Standard Duathlon 18th February
This was my first qualifier ever in this discipline so I had the normal nerves of not knowing if I would be good enough or if it was just too early on in the season with little preparation. I thought back to the last race and that combined with what training I had done I was confident that whatever the outcome, it would be the best I could do.
Transition was icy and a cold bitter wind whipped through the car park where we warmed up and I finalised my plan of attack in my head. I knew what pace I wanted to go on the run to give myself the best chance of attacking the bike and the second run. We all got to the start line and chatted nervously before the race start and then suddenly the horn went and we were off.
The start of the run was tight along a country pathway which was uneven and muddy but this was race time and I love to race. The run course undulated up and down hills which ultimately gave me a stitch with a mile to go. I kept powering through the pain knowing it should stop once I got on the bike and I raced into T1 and up to the bike.
Previous experience played to my advantage in transition as people were slow getting ready to ride. I had this worked out perfectly and was in and out super quick, overtaking at least 5 people. I love my bike and straight away we were speeding along to the first turn around point. I was making notes of who was ahead coming back the other way and used them to target to catch up. The bike course was mainly flat with only a few hills so it was a case of head down and really put the power through the pedals. I started to overtake a few people and the targets I had were getting closer and closer. The miles ticked off and I was feeling good that the ride was going well, there were a few people up ahead in the distance taking advantage of low numbers of marshals so they decided to draft which was a bit unfair but nothing I could do about it.
I flew into T2 with my routine of transiting into the final run phase going around my head so I didn’t forget anything. Once again I overtook people and I was out onto the run. The second run I knew would hurt a lot but I also knew it wouldn’t last too long as it was only 5km, these are the times that really make or break qualification when you really want to slow up but you know every second counts.
The final few bends were ahead and I could see the finish line and with 400m to go I felt someone behind me catching. I didn’t know if they were in my age group but I didn’t want to take the risk so I started to sprint towards the finish. This final burst left them behind and I crossed the line in 2:05:25. I didn’t know if this was a good time or not but I was confident I had given my all.
After the race I found out it gave me 5th place in qualification out of a possible 20 slots with 2 races to go, this was my strongest start to a campaign so I am confident with also my best time percentage that I have a very good chance of qualifying for the Europeans and Worlds next year.