Oulton Park Duathlon 2019

Rachel Cliff

It’s fair to say, I was apprehensive in the build up to this race. I was honest with Rodger and explained that it was probably down to a combination of it being my first race since September, my second only duathlon but mainly because I felt I was no longer racing ‘anonymously’.  Previously I had just been trying these events out and seeing what I could do . Although I know much of the ethos with Racepace is the same as my general approach to my previous sporting endeavours (i.e. make great decisions and do the best that you can), what was at stake this time was whether I’d be able to translate all the good stuff I had learnt in the past three months into the race. I know Rodger wasn’t putting any pressure on me and just wanted me to do my best and enjoy myself but there was a lot of ‘noise’ in my head and I just wanted to get it right for both of us.

To ensure I gave myself the best chance to get rid of that ‘noise’, I made sure I arrived in plenty of time. I was able to do some transition practice, get set up in transition, ‘spot’ the mount and dismount lines and made sure I practised the approach to where my bike was racked. Once that had all been done, I think a weight lifted and I was able to warm up around the car park without the worry of checking anything else.

So, to the race…. 

I could start by saying I crossed the finish line disappointed and frustrated (10mins slower than when I raced in September without all the skills I had learnt since) but I now realise I had done everything I had asked of myself and had stuck to my brief (conditions withstanding).

Run 1: This was one of the areas I was most concerned about. I had got some good running training under my belt but had not done a full distance run at ‘race pace’ so was a bit of a mental hurdle for me. Was my perceived 10km intensity (well 8.6km) right? However, I stuck to the plan. I got myself on the front of the start line and just let everyone go and settled into my running. 

Although I wasn’t ‘racing’ them at this point, I kept my eye on two particular ladies that were in front of me (one had come past me within the first 1.5km huffing and puffing). On the second lap another lady came past me and again I resisted going with her. I stuck with my pace and soon overtook ‘huff and puff’ lady.

I came in off the run 4th lady with ladies 2 and 3 in my near sights (Lady 1 had flown round). However more importantly I felt that I had managed the run well and my legs felt fresh. Mental hurdle ticked off.

Transition 1: Having not yet tried out the skills I had learnt in race conditions, I was worried the adrenaline would result in me overcooking things. However, I ensured I spoke to myself with every step and kept it controlled. I absolutely nailed it and was buzzing as I set off on the bike.

Bike:

I was really looking forward to this as I wanted to test how I would get into a rhythm on the aero bars for a good distance in traffic free conditions.

I knew I’d overtaken lady 3 in transition and then spotted lady 2 passing me and so I must have overtaken her too. Lady 2 looked like a good rider but keeping at my intensity she was still in my sights and not too far ahead. I could see I was handling hills better too 

Then the race changed for me……. 

I am not sure when it happened exactly and whether it was a slow release but my bike started feeling twitchy and people starting passing me with relative ease despite keeping at my set intensity level. Lady 2 was well ahead now and it was finally made clear when, on lap 3, someone passed me and said “You know you have a flat don’t you?” 

That’s when the debate started, do I quit or ride it out? I decided to take one lap at a time and use it as an opportunity to practice what I could (getting into aero when it wasn’t too twitchy, practice smooth legs and gear changing and taking on fuel/water at sensible points). It was all now about seeing if I could get another event under my belt and only once did I think about whether I’d be damaging my wheel!

It was quite disheartening watching people go past (with them reminding me about my flat). However there were two ladies that I was now playing ‘cat and mouse’ with that helped me keep my focus. I was flying past them on the hills (without changing my intensity, but they just eased past me on the straights).

Laps 5,6 & 7 were the hardest mentally, but once I’d got through them I made my mind up that I had committed to completing it.

It turns out I ended up going into transition in 6th place (I don’t know when Wendy “Stealth” Drake had passed me, but I knew she would have done).

Transition 2: On dismount I saw Rodger and I was going to shout to him about my flat but quickly decided that it would not achieve anything so focussed on my transition. My left calf had a twinge of cramp as I took my foot out my shoe but hoped that if I ‘landed’ smoothly and took it easy I’d run it out. Again, I was pleased with everything and ran out of transition knowing that I’d complete the race.

Run 2: I don’t know whether it was the relief of surviving the bike under the circumstances, the fact that I’d eased passed one of my ‘cat and mouse’ bike ladies in transition or that I was very pleased with how smooth my transitions had been, but I just switched straight into doing the best I could for the last lap. I saw the second ‘cat and mouse’ lady a few hundred metres in front of me but she was labouring a bit and so I knew I could reel her in.  Everything felt smooth and I’d already decided that once I’d got a couple of hundred metres past the last climb I was going to put that last gear in and leave it all out there. It hurt, but I was angry and managed a sprint finish across the line – a good 4th overall!

So a final thought (as Jerry Springer used to say). It was somewhat bitter-sweet crossing the finish line. I was completely gutted about my tyre and took a while for me to take in the rest of the race. However, as it happens I am proud with how well I executed everything that was within my control. 

On reflection, I can also say that I very much enjoyed the majority of it too. With that one under my belt, I am very excited about the season to come...


Wendy Drake

Oulton Park duathlon is one of my favourite races, and I was very much looking forward to starting my 2019 season by racing there. Having bought a new bike over the winter I was relishing the prospect of putting it through its paces on the smooth tarmac of the race track.

I arrived with plenty of time to spare, so after registering and racking my bike, I still had time to go for a coffee for half an hour before warming up.

I warmed up along the length of transition, which gave me a good opportunity to practice locating my bike, suss out the mount and dismount lines, and rehearse the run in and run out. Then, following the race briefing we were allowed out onto the track for the start of the first run. I placed myself at the front, which is a bit out of my comfort zone, but it is something that I have decided I need to be better at, rather than lurking at the back!

As soon as the race started, I set off reminding myself to start steady, and find a good sustainable rhythm. I could see fellow Racepace athlete Rachel Cliff and my friend Janice ahead of me, but I was comfortable that I was only thinking about my own run, and not worrying about anybody else.

As we got out onto the race track, and turned around the bottom corner, we were faced with a strong headwind, so I decided to tuck in behind another lady and see if I could get a little bit of shelter. This worked for a while, but I was starting to feel that the pace was a little bit too fast for me, particularly so early in the race, so towards the end of the first lap I reduced my pace slightly and dropped back. I completed rest of the two lap run and headed into transition.

The bike course is 9 laps of the circuit, equating to approx. 38km. I was confident that I would be able to put in a good ride, and I got straight onto my aerobars and started to enjoy myself. My plan was to have my first gel after the bottom bend as we cycled up the first incline. I did this, and then reached for my drink. This was when disaster struck. I somehow managed to squeeze the lid off my bottle, which flew off onto the track, and the content of my bottle poured all over me. Although I didn’t mind getting wet, the more critical implication was that I would not have any water for the entire bike leg, and I hadn’t had a drink during the first run either. I decided that I had to not worry about it, and just get on with riding my best.

Towards the end of the lap there is a short climb, and I approached it, I decided to use an easy gear, so I dropped to the little ring on the front to spin up the climb. That was fine, but after the climb my bike would not go back to the big ring. My electronic gears weren’t working. Trying not to panic too much, I checked that I could still move gears along the back cassette, which thankfully I could. So I would just have to make the best of it, and accept the fact that at some points on the course I would not be able to go as fast as I would like, even with a higher than usual cadence. 

So, on completing lap one of nine, my main thought was “bloody hell that was a bit too eventful”. Thankfully the rest of the bike was stress free, albeit a little frustrating when I couldn’t take advantage of the wind on my back on the straight and down-hill sections.

As I came into T2, I had a shout that I was in the position of 3rd lady overall. I had no idea how far behind me anybody was, so I set off on the second run determined to give it everything all the way to the line, and see where I ended up. Thankfully no women passed me, so I was able to hold on to third place. I was pleased with the result, despite a couple of mishaps on the bike. It definitely makes me excited for the rest of the season. Bring it on!!


Robert Cassidy

This was a chance for me to put into practice some good winter training and start off the season on a positive.

The weather was decent for this time of year, just a chill in the air but the sun was out and dry conditions. At short notice the race had been changed to draft legal which was ideal preparation for me because in April I am racing this format in Spain which is an ‘A’ race me for me. So, with this race and another in a few weeks I should be well prepared for the race in Spain.

I was targeting a fast first run and having done the same race back in September wanted to knock some time off my first run leg. In the moment I felt I was running well and on target to achieve what I set out, however when I got my splits, I had only knocked 4 seconds off so not as quick as I thought. Something I will be discussing with my coach in the coming days. I came into transition 5th but down on the front 4, at a guess I’d probably say by about a minute. An extremely quick T1 (can always do better though) and I was out running down the pit lane and on my bike. Unfortunately, I was a little in no man’s land with no athletes behind me and the group in front out of site. I was not going to wait for someone to catch up, but if they did then I could hope to work as a team and share the workload – this never materialised. I did 5 laps on my own effectively doing the bike leg as a TT. A strong head wind on many parts of the course really did stop me in my tracks, I had to adapt to this and the conditions but also tell myself that plenty of other athletes would be feeling it the same. Overall, I was 5mins slower on the bike than the previous race in September, but I knew it had been a tough leg.

Off at the dismount line and another quick transition and I was out on the run again. Just me and the tarmac with no visible targets in sight, so it was a case of running as fast as I could to the line. Occasionally, the track brings you into view of where you have been and I could see there were no other athletes behind me – I think this had a negative effect on my mental state, instead of running the leg as fast I could I have questioned weather I managed myself and the leg (and still thinking about this now), in other words not as fast as I could. Something I will again chat about with my coach. 

To summarize I came 5th overall & won my Age Group in the first race of the year. Did the race map out how I wanted? No. However, a decent outing, a good opening shot for the racing season and things to be worked on over the coming weeks.