My Duathlon Debut adventure and race review!
On Sunday 15th October, my partner and I made our Duathlon debuts at Collier’s Wood in an event organised by Liberty Leisure.
I have always enjoyed running and cycling, but have never put the events together in a single race. Today was a chance to dip my toe in to see what a duathlon was like, over a relatively short distance.
The organisers offered two events to adults; a beginner’s event which involved a 2km run, then an 8km bike, then a 1km run, and a challenge event which involved a 4km run, a 16km bike and a 2km run to finish.
My partner chose to do the ‘beginner’s event’ and I participated in the ‘challenge event’.
Preparation and kit
On Saturday night, after a huge portion of spag bol (my preferred pre-race evening meal) we spent a bit of time checking the race information, finding a good place to park and getting our kit ready. This was all new too, given that I was used to only preparing for running events prior to this!
My kit choices were all thought through. I do tend to take racing quite seriously, researching the event as best as I can so that I can give myself an idea of what time to target. I do like to compete with myself because it gives me some additional accountability, especially when those voices inside your head start to hit you with negative thoughts and temptations to ease off the throttle.
As I was going to spend more of the race on the bike, I opted for compression clothing for aerodynamic reasons, but knowing that I needed to run meant I discarded using my cycling kit. (Surely it’s impossible to run with a padded bum area?!). I also didn’t want to spend a great deal of time faffing in transition, so I made the decision to stay in the same kit for the whole race (check out those transition times below!). Therefore, the kit I used was as follows:
- Skechers Go Run Sonic 2 trainers (comfy, light and with a thick enough sole to be comfortable on my pedals).
- Karrimor running tights (it was a misty day and I didn’t have compression shorts either).
- Karrimor running waistbelt to carry my phone (more on this later).
- Nike compression top (aerodynamic and to keep the chill off).
- Long Eaton Running Club vest (well, I was representin’ after all!).
- My Trek 1.2 road bike.
- My Fdx cycling gloves for the bike leg. I figured that I was going to be travelling at a decent speed, so I wanted to keep the chill off my hands too.
- My TRAX bike helmet.
- Two Zefal water bottles fully loaded (just in case).
The sun only came out once we got home, so no need for my Duduma sunglasses during the race, which was a shame because they are awesome!
After an overly long race briefing which effectively repeated the race information we’d been sent, I felt exhausted just listening to what lied ahead.
We’d put our bikes in the correct positions in the pen and stuck race numbers to our bikes and to our chest and back areas. Have I ever praised the role that the humble safety pin has in sporting events?! Not yet perhaps, but that gives me an article idea…
Now all we needed to do was meet our last minute duties of warming up, heading to the toilet/ a bush and line up on the start line.
The first 500 metres went without issue and then we ran straight into a wall of confusion, or at least, a marshall who had no idea what was going on and no authoritative answer as to which way we should go at a T-junction on the footpath. It turned out that our lead group had completely missed a turning to the left off the footpath to ascend a farmer’s field. I must state here and now that the signposting for the rest of the race was clear, perfect and well thought out. This, however, was an almighty clanger to drop at such an important part of the event. There was no signpost and no marshall to direct us at the first major turning point of the race. It took the frontrunners until more than halfway through the bike leg to overtake me.
After this issue and an ensuing bottleneck through the narrow gate, the race was on, emotions were running high and people were either struggling to get back in the zone, or were on fire with anger inside (yes, this was me) and trying hard not to blow up as I ran up the hill probably faster than I should have done due to the newly injected adrenalin coursing through my veins.
The rest of the 4km run was a bit of a blur as I tried to forget the chaotic start and focus on keeping up with the two guys in front of me at this point. They seemed to be slowly getting away from me but I couldn’t run any faster. Given my exploits in the Cross Country race I ran yesterday (Event write-up coming soon), I was feeling surprisingly good. My only issue was that with all the extra gear I needed for the race and trying to be helpful by sorting out my partner’s kit too, I had made the extraordinary error of forgetting my Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS watch, which I knew was happily fully charged next to my bed knowing full well I’d forgotten it (I don’t have a name or gender for my running watch…do you?!).
I only realised this error about 5 minutes from arriving at the venue. Fortunately, there was a solution. I’d had the foresight to bring my running waistbelt with me so that I could carry the car key safely with me during the race as I wasn’t sure how secure our bags would be. Therefore, whilst it wasn’t ideal, I did want to be able to record and reflect upon my performance after the event. So, I fired up my Strava app on my phone and once we’d started the race, I hit ‘record’, locked the phone and buried it in my waistbelt, hoping I would be able to hear my split times at least a few times during the race to have a marker of my progress.
As I ran towards transition, we moved from footpath to grass. It suddenly felt to me that I’d stopped running and was now walking, the grass was so sapping. It reminded me that I’d spent the whole of yesterday’s 9.6km cross country race running on grass, which made me realise just how well I’d done in the hot conditions!
I talked myself through transition. ‘Helmet on first, don’t touch the bike till you’ve fastened your helmet!’ as per the directives from the officials. With no change of kit required, transition was as smooth as Dairy Milk chocolate. Despite my body telling me to stop, I forced myself to run with my bike just past ‘the line’, hopped on and shot off in pursuit of the guy just in front of me. Within minutes, a few cycling-specialists sped past me in their cone-head helmets and high-tech TT (time trial) bikes, looking like a cross between robots and the Brownlee brothers! I kept my head down, pulling and pushing hard on the pedals as we soon started the long slog uphill. By this point, the weather was taking a turn for the worse and it started to rain! We’d expected bright sunshine this morning, but were greeted with a fog that made the nature reserve eerily quiet. I slightly misjudged a tight corner at the top of a loop and my back tyre momentarily slid to the right as I turned left. Fortunately, I controlled it and was back to full speed quickly.
The bike section was definitely the toughest, given that I hadn’t had much opportunity to get out on my bike (due to illness) in two of the last three weeks leading up to the race. Undulating terrain meant that I did what I could on the downhills to make up time and was spinning hard on the uphills. I knew I didn’t have the power I know I’m capable of though.
Then, the moment I feared most. Transition 2, coming off the bike and wondering if I could even walk let alone run again! My legs felt so unstable, a jelly-like sensation, weak at the knees. As I tried to run my bike back to my numbered transition area, I felt the sensation of not feeling like I knew how to run.
The first kilometre of the two felt so strange. Having been pedalling quickly on the bike, the rotation of my legs whilst running again felt incredibly slow. The only things that helped were the knowledge that I was gaining on the guy in front of me and that my Strava app was telling me my split was 3:27/km – a cracking pace given how I was feeling! As I turned round for the final kilometre back to the finish line, I realised I was now running a slightly uphill gradient and was closing on another competitor. I now also realised that I was breathing like an asthmatic baboon but there was nothing I could do about it. I needed oxygen, my mouth was dry and I felt my heart beating madly. I had to dig in for the final push. All I wanted to do was sit on the shoulder of this guy I was approaching and settle for him bringing me home. It is demons like this that you’re constantly fighting when you’re pushing yourself on a run or a ride.
As we started going downhill and estimating we were probably in the last 500 metres or so, I resolved to be more ambitious and made my move to pass him, using the downhill to help me power forward because I didn’t feel like I had anything left to give of my own. Another guy in front of me caught my eye further ahead, a quick glimpse, and that helped me focus on him rather than the guy I’d just passed. It was difficult though because his heavy strides just didn’t seem to be slowing or quietening behind me. I passed a couple of ‘beginner event’ participants and then I saw the finish line. I was so elated to see it, and catching a glimpse of my partner there waiting for me, cheering me on was the icing on the cake. I could see the medal round her neck and it was such a great feeling to know that she’d finished her challenge too. As is becoming customary, I cartwheeled over the line, immensely happy at having completed my debut duathlon! The cartwheel is just an impulse of elation and joy!
I finished 9th out of 124 finishers, in an official time of 56:43, for 22.7km. If I’d not gone the wrong way at the start like the rest of the field, I would have gone sub-55 for 22km, which was my aim for the race. My split times were given to me on a handy print out.
I really enjoyed the event, and especially the bike section having never ridden a bike competitively before. I would definitely do another one, perhaps over a longer distance next time. Have you ever taken part in a duathlon? How did you find it?
Visit us here again soon for a new Runner’s Profile and a breakdown of my first Cross Country race of the season!