So it’s Monday 30th September around 6pm, I’m scrolling through my emails and see one for the Dirty Duathlon 2019 on the 6th October. A 2 mile run followed by a 9 mile bike followed by another 2 mile run, all off road. I thought to myself “I can do that” so I get online, buy myself some trail shoes that evening and get entered. The shoes arrived on Tuesday, I did a quick run on Wednesday and then before you know it’s event day and the day of my very first Duathlon on or off road!
The event was taking place at my local training ground and great venue, Cannock Chase. This was about my only trump card, as I knew the trails well, but there were plenty more unknowns. How do you run off road? How fast do I go? How do I transition? What does it feel like to go from run to bike and vice versa? well, we were about the find out........
I arrived at the venue a couple of hours before the start; giving me time to sign on and have a look around whilst trying to familiarise myself with the course and transition area since there wasn’t any allotted course practice. With under an hour to go I had some lunch, prepped my kit and loaded it up into the transition area. Although I’d not done this before, I applied some logic to this, placing the bars towards me so they were easier to grab, leaving the bike in a low gear and leaving my shoes undone so they could be slipped on easier. It was now time to warm up and line up!
I bagged myself a front row start on the inside of the first corner and eagerly awaiting the start call. From the whistle there was a short sprint to the first corner during which I lost a few places, but post corner it opened up onto a fire road where I made those places back and led as we entered the single track sections. The single track was off-piste mountain bike trails, littered with holes, roots, rocks and puddles, so I was concentrating so hard on where to place my feet whilst maintaining a good pace. I led until roughly the half way point where I was passed by a couple of guys. Over the course of the second half I gradually lost time but kept them in sight clocking in 20 seconds behind as we entered the first transition.
I didn’t think the first transition went to badly, I stayed calm and focused whilst changing my shoes, although I didn’t transfer directly from one to the other, instead taking one pair off before putting the other pair on, which was a mistake as I got gravel all over my feet which wasn’t comfortable at all!! Once the shoes were on, I put my helmet on ran to line and jumped on the bike. I’d lost more time in the transition so I had some work to do!
The mountain bike course was made up of a good mixture of fast fire road, technical single track and pro longed climbs. Needless to say I felt at home on the bike so I started to make time up straight away, passing second place halfway through lap 1. The course was already quite muddy when we started, but halfway through the bike leg the heavens really opened and I mean torrential rain! This made the course a mud bath and even more technical which was awesome.
At this stage I could see the leader in front of me on the long climbs, over the final lap I made up some more time despite being held up by lappers, so as we entered the transition area for the final time I was under 10 seconds back. Unfortunately my lack of experience showed; I noticed the leader had removed his shoes before getting of the bike, I hadn’t done this and further more I hadn’t undone my running shoes from the first run. These rookie mistakes cost me most of the time I had made up on the bike!
I finally got everything sorted and set out for the final run. I was feeling surprisingly good actually and not at odds at all with running straight of the bike. I settled into a nice pace and got my head down for the final 2 miles of pain. At certain points of the course I could see the leader in front of me but again he was pulling away slightly, so I just kept my pace and focused on the finish. As we crossed the line I was 27 seconds back but managed to bag second place. Not bad for my first go.
The result was made even better considering the winner was Doug Hall, a professional triathlete who races ITU long distance and X terra events, so to be under 30 seconds back from that level of athlete, I was pretty chuffed to say the least.
There are however a few things to improve on for the next time I decide to put on my duathlon shoes. I lost my time in the run and transition phases of the race, hopefully my running will improve as byproduct of my training for mountain biking and the odd run I do as cross training. However, I could make up a good amount of time by simply practising and streamlining the transition phases, something I will definitely focus on for next time.
Overall though, I had a great time and experience. The event was well organised and the course was awesome so a big shout out to Run and Ride and Mayer Active for organising such a good and enjoyable event; allowing me to dip my toe into the discipline of duathlon. I shall certainly be entering the next one. Finally, Congratulations to Doug for the well-deserved win and Harry Yates, a Run and Ride athlete, for closing out the podium. Good job guys!
Until next time.