5km run/45km bike/5km run/45km bike/5km run
This was a tough one and the first event this year where I had a long internal dialogue about pulling out of the race. How I would write and explain it on the blog and how understanding you would all be….
But, in the end I finished. Here’s how the day went.
The day started very early, around 4.45am. I have been quite spoilt these past few weeks with the late marathon starts of 10am. I don’t mind getting up early but it does make it harder to plan my nutrition. I can’t stomach food first thing, so I made my porridge and put it in my little food flask. I had over an hours drive to the venue so I would eat when I got there.
The drive was very quiet and I even got to see where Ian would be doing his own event at 8am that morning. A ten mile bike time trial on the A30! …. he did very well, coming second in his age group.
My satnav took me to a field, unfortunately not I field with an event in. I had seen some cars with bikes on before I had turned off so I retraced my steps and headed in their direction. It wasn’t far away and I got there in good time to register, get a coffee and eat my porridge.
It was a small race, around 90 people. I saw my friend Jo from our tri club. Until recently she was a pro triathlete and is super fit, I was not sure we should be in the same event. I asked her a few questions about which shoes to wear – trail or normal trainers, and whether she was carrying her running shoes with her on the bike. I’ve not done a duathlon before and was a bit nervous. This was also quite a tough one, with run/bike/run/bike/run sections and different locations. Usually duathlons are just run/bike/run.
Anyhoo, all was explained in the race briefing, although it was hard to take in all the details. The main thing that concerned me was the cut off times – there were none YAY!!! I had been worried about this, being a slower athlete, but they said that as this was the first time they had run this particular event there would be no cut off. I could take all day, although Jo advised me not to stop at a cafe for coffee lol!
With my bike already in the transition area, and my race bib on, I headed to the start line.
GO… it was a small race so no big gun or hooter. The man said GO…. we went…and within less than a minute I was at the back where I stayed for the rest of the race 🙂
The run was 5km, made up of one and a bit laps, on a gravely trail through wooded area by the side of a lake, all very pretty…and hilly. I was already starting to get quite warm and it seemed like a long day ahead. I completed the 5km in around 32 minutes which given the hills was a good pace for me. The guys at the front were literally twice as fast as me and I was lapped by quite a few of them.
Easy to find my bike in transition as there weren’t many there. A few people were still getting their bike gear on. T1 (transition one) I changed into my bike shoes, put my helmet on and then put my trainers in a rucksack and on my back. The next transition was 45km away. We did have an option to send our trainers ahead in a bag but I was worried about possibly not getting them and then, not getting them back. In the end about half the racers carried their trainers and half took the bag option. They were light and I was fine with them on my back.
45km on the bike. I’m going to be kind and say it was undulating, up and down, up and down. Only one short steep hill and given this was Devon and Cornwall it could have been much much worse. The wind was also favourable but I found it hard going, possibly due to the hilly run I had just done!
I was at the back with another lady called Sharon. We took turns being at the very back. I would get ahead up the hills and she would come sailing past going down. Just before we reached the end of the bike leg I decided to stop for a quick wee – basically I spotted a good hedge – I was quick but it meant that Sharon got ahead and I was at the back again. I hadn’t noticed up until now but there was a a tail driver bringing up the rear of the race. It was actually a man in an ambulance car. As I appeared from behind my hedge he was waiting for me. I was a little embarrassed but mainly relieved that the official car I saw was an ambulance and not a police car lol! He asked if I was ok and then followed me for the final 5km down to Tamar Lake and T2.
By now the fast people had already got to the lake, done their run and were heading back out on their bikes. I racked my bike, got some water and headed out for my 5km run which was actually 6km – we had been warned that it was longer than advertised in the race briefing. That was all I needed!
I tried to run but my legs weren’t really working, and it was hot – I’m guessing around 24C and with no shade. I was honestly a little worried about whether I would get round. The lake however was beautiful and very quiet, only a few fisherman and a few walkers. I could just about see Sharon up ahead and a couple of other ladies.
It was hard and my head, which is usually strong, wanted to give up, my legs were tired, I was hot and the trail although sort of flat was very gravely had little tiny uphills which seems huge in my fatigued state. I started thinking about possibly stopping when I got back to my bike and getting into the support van, I really couldn’t imagine getting back on my bike and cycling again…oh and then running AGAIN! I’d had enough.
I finally got back to T2 – just my bike there on it’s own. They were starting to pack up and basically just waiting for me to come in. But the support crew were awesome. They rushed over to me with water and flapjacks and sweets, offered to fill my bike bottles and said encouraging things. “You got this” is the one I remember. I’m so grateful for their positivity. I changed into my bike gear, trainers back in the rucksack and headed off on my bike ……with my trusty ambulance man following me again 🙂 Nice to have your own personal support vehicle.
The bike course was the reverse of the one on the way there and headed straight up a long hill. It had looked really steep coming down, but in the end wasn’t too bad. I was just relieved to not be running any more and be back on my bike. It was also much cooler on the bike. After a short while I caught up with Sharon and she stayed just behind me all the way back, with the tail car just behind her.
The whole ride back was into a strong head wind which made even the downhills an effort. But it was still better than running round a lake in the hot sun. At one point I passed a police incident – a car smashed up in a hedge. I found out later that the car had hit one of our cyclists – he is ok, but the driver was arrested at the scene. Made me very pleased to have our friendly ambulance driver just behind us.
Sharon caught me up at the end and we rode into T1 (T3?) together. My spirits had lifted now as there was only 5km between me and getting this day over, and now I had a friend to run the last leg with. Another gear change back into our running shoes. A quick hello to Jo who had finished ages ago – she was 2nd lady!
Everyone was cheering us as we left transition. I grabbed some more water and a few sweets – races are the only time you can eat sweets guilt free – and we headed off back onto the trails for the last time.
As we started the first lap a lady called Lisa joined us. I had seen her near the end of the bike leg with her husband – he had decided not to do the final run, so she came along with us. The poor lady was recovering from a recent illness and was still quite wheezy, we had to stop and help find her inhaler at one point, obviously something I understood. She was great fun and the three of us staggered round the course together. Running when we could, walking when we couldn’t, Sharon and I both finding the down hills painful with our dodgy knees – what a crew lol!
On the final lap Lisa had a burst of energy and ran ahead. Sharon and I were not far behind and crossed the finish line together. We were last and finished in just under six and half hours, nearly three hours after the winner. But happy.
What it is they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Let’s hope so.