The Unexpected Duathlon

What is a duathlon? A mini triathlon? Swim, bike? Run, swim? Ski, Shoot?! Like a triathlon, but for wimps? In fact, a duathlon has a run, cycle, run format. Sounds easy right?

Here’s Steph again with the journey of her first duathlon –

You may need to revisit my story if you said yes. But this is a race report, so I’ll start with race day.

Saturday morning -2C, dark, cold, but I had my pro Sophie with me and I had the confidence of my mini mock duathlon in my mind. F3 events do not get the best reviews, but they happen to do duathlons regularly just round the corner from my house. F3’s Eton Dorney Duathlon’s are low key and based at the beautiful Eton Dorney home of the Olympic Rowing in 2012.

In the run up to the event, things started to add on the pressure. The council decided to repair the road between me and the venue, the Oxford and Cambridge varsity match was scheduled for my event and members of my new sports clubs were signing up (more on this in another post). But these worries were a good distraction from race worries for the duathlon and my spring marathon the following week.

With a small venue and field, arrival and set up was as easy as you’d imagine with freezing cold hands. Having only ever run a running race before, I had a lot of questions, mostly around transition, so Sophie and my rapidly increasing crew – Chief Photography Cathy and Cheer Squad Extraordinaire Sarah and Jonny – walked me through transition, mount lines and any bits and bobs I needed to be wary of. Some fellow club members arrived and it was lovely to huddle with coaches and friends in the start gaggle before the horn went off.

Running is my sport – well it has been for 6 years now – so starting with a run was perfect for me, 2 x 2.5km loops, I’d get to see my cheer squad and warm up before the next section. All three distances started together, so it’s impossible to tell who you are racing against – you could be chasing someone doing 2.5k or 10k – but I tried not to worry about what everyone else was doing and just settle into a pace that would keep me warm. I thought I might as well ‘go for it’ as I could catch my breath on the bike.

Run 1: 5km, 21:35

I ran into transition saying ‘helmet first, helmet first’ over and over again in my mind. One benefit of being a crap cyclist is that I didn’t have to worry about changing shoes. However, with it being freezing, I did spend just under a minute putting my puffer jacket on, much to the amusement of other competitors. I was pretty worried about getting in the way, so I wheeled my bike over the mount line, took it to one side, sat down and pushed off.

‘Here we go, my first ever bike race’

Any benefit I’d gained on the run, I immediately lost. Everyone, bar a guy on his mountain bike overtook me. Funnily though, as my club mates passed me and encouraged me, I felt cheered not disheartened. Here I was, the kid who had to sit on the pavement during cycling proficiency, in a cycle race! My pacing was poor, I kept losing grip on my pedals and some horrible girls passed me so close, they made me wobble. Side note: the boys all gave me loads of room and even verbal warning when passing, all the girls were surprisingly inconsiderate.

Cycle: 20km, 41:05

During my last lap I realised I needed to get across from my safe position on the left, staying out of everyone’s way, to the right to get into transition. Considering the speedsters passing me, this was a concern. I slowed down as I approached the last 3km, got stuck behind a girl (woe) as some boys in aero helmets passed me and surprised myself at how much I could look over my shoulder without crashing. I spotted a gap, moved over to the right, Sophie shouting at me to break gently and get off slowly. I did so hoping off by the marshal on the dismount like and the jelly hit.

“I can’t feel my legs” I said, the marshal replied “keep running, you’ll be fine”, “okay” I replied and my addled brain attempted running through transition with my bike on jelly legs, which I’m sure looked like the tin man having a seizure.

Luckily there is no evidence of this. Unluckily, some numpty had stolen my bike spot. So I found a gap, racked my bike, took off my helmet and wrangled myself out of my coat. As I trotted out of transition trying to feel my legs (or anything beneath my waist), Sophie was there shouting at me…

“this is just running Steph, you can do this, it’s easy”

Two more 2.5km laps, the sun was shining (I had my shades on) and Sophie was right – I’d done all the hard bits, I came through the first lap and feeling had returned to my legs, Cathy and Sophie were cheering, my face was grinning, 2.5km to go. Easy, easy, easy. My team mates were miles ahead of me, I couldn’t catch them, but I had fun on the run, chipping away at each runner ahead of me off, one, by, one. It was a great motivator as I passed those who had passed me on the bike. In the last km I saw those girls who passed too close, a rare competitive streak hit me, gonna get them… And I did! Mwhahahaha. A few hundred metres to go, one foot in front of the other and then I could see the archway, my eyes teared up a bit, and I sped up.

Run 2: 5km, 21:32

I crossed the finish line, took my medal and water (no other goodies unfortunately) and bounced around hugging teammates and friends.

You are never too old to try something new and fear is the only thing holding you back.

Well, it was kind of easy, when you’ve got a pro with you and the best real life and virtual support crew. Thanks to you all.

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