It’s 6am on Sunday 15th March (Mother’s Day in the UK) and I have just woken up in a very uncomfortable position on my sofa. It must be time for the Portsmouth Duathlon.
Before anybody jumps to any conclusions, I was on the sofa simply because I fell asleep watching TV and never moved. Having a newborn means that wherever I fall asleep I tend to sleep much more soundly than usual. I am assuming this is because I am generally knackered pretty much constantly. It’s not bad sleeping on the sofa, except for the fact that it is cold not especially comfortable. Still I had racked up at least 6 hours sleep and that’s pretty good in my book!
Breaking from tradition, I had done a little bit of preparation the night before this race, so my bike was ready to go. I quickly checked the tire pressures and then set about eating breakfast and double checking my bag.
Half way through breakfast my oldest daughter Niamh woke up so I fished her out of bed, stuck her in with my wife and gave her the rest of my porridge to keep her entertained. Having decided on wearing my tri suit with shorts and my Grazing Saddles cycling top I put my clothes on, gave the family a goodbye kiss and was on my way.
From my house it is a very short bike ride to the start, where I grabbed my race numbers and went about the now familiar process of attaching them to my bike, my helmet and myself. I saw Anthony (who comes to my triathlon training sessions) and had a quick chat with him and Darby from the Pompey Triathletes before racking my bike, assembling my gear and then heading out for a quick warm up.
I bumped into a few more people from triathlon club (Simon, Andrew, Emma) and had a brief chat with each of them. The overall consensus was that it seemed to be too early for the first race of the year and that people felt a little under prepared. As far as I can tell, this is entirely standard for any sort of race. Nobody gets to the morning of the race and thinks they have done enough training. Everybody seems to doubt themselves. Perhaps it is human nature. Or just that everybody actually hasn’t done enough training. 🙂
Quick warm up completed, I joined the queue for a pre race wee with about 10 minutes left until the start, scheduled for 8.30am.
One of the cardinal sins of competing is to do things differently on race day to what you would do in training. Only stupid people will do this. Things like wearing different clothes or shoes, eating or drinking differently etc. Usually doing this will have negative effects on your performance as your body undergoes new experiences whilst at race pace.
Naturally, I had decided to ignore the above and made the decision to try a different energy gel product before this race. I had brought a ZipVit Nitrite Gel with me for pre race consumption. The theory is that ingesting nitrites allows your blood vessels to open up more, getting the blood pumping round your body more easily. The science behind this is fairly sound so I was keen to try a product that supposedly helps. Ripping the gel open I slurped down the bright purple liquid inside. It was the consistency of wallpaper paste and tasted like how I imaging licking a compost heap must taste.
Having eaten my delicious nitrite gel I headed towards the start line, where I saw my friend Greg (another person I met through tri club). Greg is almost always enthusiastic and smiling, so I wandered over to start next to him and absorb his positive vibes. We had a brief chat and just as Greg was starting a very promising little story with the words “I got completely hammered on Friday night” we were off. Somehow we had missed the start. The lady in front of me was tying her shoe and had also missed the start, so I deftly avoided clattering into her and set about the business of running the first leg of the race, totalling 5 kilometres.
Normally you will run more quickly than you should at the start of a race as the euphoria of running in a group sees everybody set out quickly. Glancing at my watch I noticed we were at about 5min/km pace as the big pack proceeded down towards Southsea Castle. 5min/km would give me a 25 minute 5k time. My personal best 5k is 24min 56sec, so I was thinking that this pace was probably a bit ambitious for me. Never the less I carried on and surprisingly I felt good. Sticking at around 5min/km pace I even started to overtake a few other runners. I have never, ever overtaken somebody running before and I must admit it did feel quite good.
Soon the kilometres clicked by and I was almost back to the start with 4km run and 1km to go. I still felt OK. I was amazed. A minor hamstring niggle was in the back of my mind, but I always have some sort of leg pain when running and have gotten used to ignoring it. At this point in the race I couldn’t help but smile. I was competing in my first event of the year. In less than 6 months I would be in an entirely different race at Challenge Weymouth and it felt fantastic to get my event season off to a start.
Rounding the final corner back into transition I glanced at my watch which said 25 minutes. I had a run a close to PB 5k on the first leg of the Duathlon and was feeling good. Well in all honesty I was more shocked than anything. Perhaps my watch was wrong? Quickly putting on my cycling shoes, helmet and grabbing my bike I was out of transition and onto the road, where I set about the business of cycling 15 kilometres.
I really like cycling and I had a game plan. Whoever was in front of me, the plan was to catch them, overtake and then chase down the next person. Setting about this and quickly getting up to race speed I was battling into a strong headwind but consistently catching those in front of me. After about 5 minutes I ended up riding with two other guys and we kept overtaking each other. The great thing about this is that it inspires you all to go faster and in the back of my mind I knew that when we would soon turn around and head back the way we came. This would mean the wind would be on our backs and it would be time to put the hammer down.
Sure enough turning around and no longer riding into a strong headwind was amazing. I dropped a few gears, got myself as low as possible and pushed hard. Quickly passing 40kph (25mph) I was flying past my fellow competitors and loving it. As we rounded the end of Southsea common it was back into the headwind for a bit, then a lap of the common again and once more into the headwind towards transition to complete the 15k.
Just as I had got close to transition I had heard my wife call out my name and was ecstatic to see that she had gotten Niamh and Mia into the double buggy to come down and support me. Not a bad effort for a woman who had a C-Section less than 4 weeks before. I was in and out of transition quickly, saw my girls standing by the exit and ran over to give them a kiss. Niamh (my 2 year old) gave me a big smile then shouted at me “RUN”. This was all the motivation I required and I headed off into the last leg of the race with a huge smile on my face. Only a 5k run to go.
By this time the pack had thinned out a lot and I was running pretty much on my own. Using the same method I had on the bike, I lined up the person in front of me and ran. Usually as a race progresses you slow down a bit (or sometimes a lot), which is a real indicator of a lack of fitness. Glancing at my watch I saw I was cruising at 5:15/km pace, only 15 seconds slower than my first 5k and pretty quick for me. Soon I was overtaken by a much quicker runner; however I stayed about my task and slowly reeled in a few people in front of me. I was amazed that I managed to maintain a reasonable pace and was still feeling good.
Soon enough the 4km marker appeared and I knew I had only 1km to go. There was a young lady who had been in front of me for a while but remained stubbornly difficult to catch. I resolved to catch her and kicked hard. She had also sped up for the final push and try as I might I just couldn’t catch her. Following her over the line I checked my watch and it said 26 minutes. I had just run around 26 minutes for a 5k, having already run one 5k and cycled 15km. 6 months ago I couldn’t even run 100metres. I was feeling quite pleased with myself.
|L-R Greg, Emma, Me, Stella, Simon|
Reunited with the family I had a quick chat with some of the triathlete guys, my friend Rachel took an excellent photo of us and then it was time to go home, very happy with my performance and glad to be injury free.
Once the results came out it was time to have a look at how I had done and compare this to last year.
In the 2014 Duathlon I ran my first 5k in 28:16, took 32:39 on the bike and then the second 5k was 31:38. Total time (including transition) – 1:32:35
In 2015 I ran the first 5k in 25:19, took 31:32 on the bike and then ran the second 5k in 26:01, for a total time of 01:24:54.
Although my bike was only slightly quicker than the previous year, 2014 was much better conditions and the wind was not close to as strong. The thing I am so pleased about is the improvement in my running. Also I was competing at around 85% of capacity as I have the marathon in April and picking up an injury would not have been a good plan.
So all in all 1 year on from my first ever multi-sport race there is no doubt I am fitter. I also ran a sensible race, got my preparation right and am slowly inching towards some sort of competence in this sport.
Next event, Brighton Marathon on 12th April. GULP!