London Duathlon

After months of training, hard work, ups and downs it was finally time for the London Duathlon, 10km run, 44km ride, 5km, how did it all go…

The lead up to the event had not been the smoothest with a slight pull to a calf muscle and then aches and pains in the groin and knee in the other leg the week of the event.  That was probably as a consequence of the pull to the calf as I would have sub consciously adapted my running.

All of my training had been set by coach Tom Craggs and I put my faith in the plan.  There were times when I thought things would be too tough for me or during the taper too easy, but Tom knows more about training and preparation than I do so I stuck with it and what a good move it was.

For me I need structure in my training, if I don’t then I will either over train, not train enough or train without focus.  Having a coach really does help me and I would not have been able to do what for me was a marathon level effort.  I am very unlikely to do a marathon due to the amount of time it would take to train and I also doubt my body would stand up to the rigours of the running.

With all that in mind I knew I had prepared as well as possible for what was going to be a massive effort.

On the day of the event I woke up and the groin and knee were still uncomfy, but I was going to the start and see how things felt.

I had packed the car up with all the kit the night before and had my drinks bottles all lined out for filling with water so it was just a case of having a good breakfast and heading off to Richmond Park.

A nice drive early on a Sunday morning and I arrived in good time, parked, set the bike up and went to the event village.  It was only then that the nerves started to kick in.  I had not had any at all until that time.

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I got the bike racked and my kit set out ready for transition and was ready to start.  I checked out the transition area and where I needed to go for each phase so that was all prepared.

At this point all the competitors must have been very thankful for the weather.  Mainly cloudy, cool but not cold and not a breath of wind.  Perfect racing conditions, so that had removed any excuse of the weather affecting the race!

I took in some of the sights around the event village and did some very gentle jogging and stretching before the start and then it was time to head to the start funnel.  As normal this was quite lengthy and it was about 20 minutes, before we were ready for the off, but I was keeping stretching and it was good to chat to a few others and get some inside tips on the course.  Mind you, sometimes not knowing is a good thing.

Groups were being set off with about 35 people in it every minute or so.  A good idea as it meant the field was stretched out.  We were then ready, final briefing and our mini wave was set off.

I had a pre-set plan for the race, work to set pace and effort and not worry about anyone else.  Normally it is very easy to get caught up with how others race and you can go too fast, but this was going to be different, I was going to stick to the pace!

Overall I had a plan to beat 3 hours, but ideally I wanted to be as close to 2:45 as possible and as such was wanting to run at 5 minutes per km pace and do the ride at just under 32kph.

Setting off on the run I settled straight in to the right pace, fractionally under 5 minute pace and as the course was gradually going uphill this was very good indeed, the right level of effort.

The staggered starts had worked really well and the course was not too busy.  I was happy to stick to my pace and let people pass me or me pass them and I went through the first 5km in just under 24 minutes.

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The last 5km was all about staying in control and in the rhythm, which I did, and came home in a very similar pace completing the 10km in 48:40 (officially), not that far away from some recent 10km races.

Running in to transition I had remembered where everything was and was trying to get a few moments of recovery before heading out on the bike.  Helmet and shoes on and it was time to go.  Running in road cycling shoes is a nightmare, but I moved as quickly as I could in them to get to the mount line.

Getting on the bike and starting to pedal I had the intention of taking the first couple of km nice and steady to get things going, but the legs felt great so I just went straight out at my target pace and power.  I was cautious initially as coming out of transition you filter in to the riders that are coming round after completing a lap so I made sure that I did this nice and safely and then went about my business.

You can definitely tell the more experienced or better cyclists and luckily this is where I would put myself.  Therefore, I was able to maximise the ride.

As with the run I had a clear idea on what to do.  I knew there was a climb, but it was short and steep.  I am not a climber so the approach was to take it steady up this on each of the 4 laps and then take full advantage of the parts of the course that I am good at, descending and long flat sections.

For me this is definitely the best approach and I think on such a course other riders should consider it.  Most put in lots of efforts up the hill, pulling away from me a little or passing me, but as soon as they got to the top they had to recover, whereas I just went through the gears and really accelerated.  Coming off the hill on all 4 laps I made net gains against everyone around me.

What made the hill good was the fact there were spectators there and very vocal cheering with one lady there every lap encouraging every single cyclist and telling them not long to the top.

There were stretches of the course where the road is narrowed as it shared with runners in the other direction.  This did mean that it got tight and on laps 2 and 3 I had to slow quite a bit as it was too congested.  In reality this may have been good as it gave a breather, but I could have taken time off the ride if I could have had a clear run.

Mind you, having said that the power outputs were right at the top of what I can do (let alone after a hard 10km run) and the speed was amazing me.

Getting to the end of the 4th lap I knew I was on for a great time and ahead of schedule for the ride and eased off a little bit in the last km to start to get a bit of recovery, but it was only easing a bit, not much.

When I got to the dismount line I was off the bike as quick as I could and was then running in the cycling shoes again, it really is awkward!

After racking the bike I was trying to get the shoes back on and sorted out for the run, but I was slower than I wanted to be and have learned some lessons for next time on how to be quicker.  I think across the 2 transitions I can shave a minute off.

So with the shoes back on it was back out to the run.  When I have done sprint (half this distance) duathlon before the legs have been horrible on the final run so I hoped this would be better.  It was not the legs though that were the problem, it was the feet!  They had been static in the cycling shoes for 80 minutes and felt horrible when I started to run.  Not sure if it was lack of circulation but it almost felt like the shoes were on the wrong feet, which they weren’t!  All I could do was hope that the feeling and sensation would return properly.

The plan with this run was to run at the same target pace as the first run, 5 minutes per km.  As I said with previous attempts the final run has been bad and the last one (which was a 5km final run) was run in 5:08 pace and that was after a shorter run and ride before.

This was going to be the biggest challenge!

Filtering out of transition and joining up with other athletes starting their event it was again about focus on me and my effort.  The first part of the run is on the same course as the 10km, but just before the 1km mark you turn off on to a different part of the route and then you go up hill!  Not really what you want at this stage but I surprised myself and was able to cope with it ok and at the 2km mark my pace was spot on again.

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The final 3km were more downhill and then flat, but the final 2km were tough and I was getting tired.  I had been really disciplined with the drinking and nutrition through the event so I was fuelled enough, it was just that I had been going at around 90-95% of max effort for 2 hours 20 minutes or so by this point.  I was not the only one though, everyone around me looked tired so I actually took heart from that.

I was not going to give up though and carried on running, it felt like plodding but the pace was still on target.  It was also the point when the muscles started to show the first signs of the effort with the right quad being a bit painful, but with only 2km to go I think it would have needed to be a broken leg to stop me!

Getting in the last km I knew I was ahead of the overall schedule, and for this run, and for the first time I allowed myself to have a look at the total elapsed time.   I knew roughly what it was but I was amazed and happy that it showed 2:36 and I was down to the last couple of hundred metres.  The target was going to be smashed!

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Coming off the road and on to the grass towards the finish I was trying to lift the pace a little and then turning and seeing the finish line I managed a sprint finish.  OK, let me put that in to context, it was quicker and a sprint for me.  I am rubbish at a sprint finish, but I was so happy to get to the end.  I did everything I could to do one and I crossed the line with both arms in the air, total relief and elation, I had done it!  My first (and maybe last) standard duathlon.

It was then time for the bling.   Getting that put round you neck is what it is all about!

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It took several minutes for me to bring the heart rate down and to start to catch my breath but when I had I did the one thing that I had been wanting to do since the 6km mark of the first run, go to the loo!  Not an easy thing to do with a cycling top and tri-suit on so I had just had to live with the need until then!

Luckily the groin and knee had held out and not caused any problems after I was up and running in the first few km.

So that was it, I was done, back to transition, warm clothes on and the recovery drink I had brought with me consumed.   Time to pack up, but not before chatting to some of the others.  It seems that everyone had enjoyed it and I can see why.  A great event, the marshals were great and the lady on the hill was there cheering people on every lap, I bet her voice was gone at the end!

Now for the result, 2:37:36, the first run in 48:40 (4:52 pace), 1:20:13 for the ride (32.9kph) and the final run in 23:44 (4:45 pace!).  Even the transition was quicker than my target of 5 minutes, it was 4:59!  So all the targets that had been set had been well and truly beaten!

Really pleased with the placings as well, 22nd in my category (45-49 Men)

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It had taken a lot of hard work and I pushed the body to the absolute max and I know there was nothing left in the tank and I had given it absolutely everything, but it was worth it!

Author: The Mr Smith

Photographer, Gourmet, Cook, Oenophile, Traveller, International Athlete, Investor, bit of a Geek and observer of life

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