Stockton Sprint Duathlon
2nd race of the season at Stockton Sprint Duathlon and I wanted to come away from the event having produced one of my best performances – put some wrongs right from my first race of the season. My alarm went off at 4.25am (forgot what it is like in racing season – always seem to be getting up at daft o’clock) and surprisingly I had slept well which normally before a race is a struggle for me. An early drive up with my coach and we arrived in plenty of time which allowed me to recce all the transition areas and have a good warm up before the start which was 9am.
It was a bright morning weather wise but a bitter wind at times, so I chose to wear a base layer and it was the right choice. There were over 400 athletes on the start line, a very big turn out due to it being the 2nd World Qualification race for next year’s World Champs which are in Holland. It was always going to be a quality field. It was also great preparation for my trip to Spain where I am competing in this years Duathlon World Championships and the distances were exactly the same and it was the draft racing format for the bike leg. 5km run, 20km bike and a short 2.5km run to finish. Fast racing from start to finish and every minute and placing counts at these events.
The first run was hard, and I wanted to make it that way. Really trying to push my boundaries of comfort and get everything out as I wanted to execute a race that I might have to carry out in Spain. If the distances are right, then for the first 5km I did a PB in 18.44 – so chuffed with that. On entering transition, I was quick to find my bike and put my helmet on. When I got to the mount line it was a little chaotic, so I ditched the idea of a running mount and did a stationary one – there were people in front of me and I was not sure what they were doing.
As I looked forward to see what was happening in front I was already pedalling and trying to assess what riders I could join up with and by the first turn I was homing in on a small group of riders who I stuck with for a while. I then started looking for other riders in front whether they be in a group or on their own, even if it was just 1 guy, I could take a couple with me to form a quicker group. It played out like this over the duration of the first lap and a half, finally getting 3 of us together for the remainder of the 3 laps who were stronger and leaving the others behind.
Into T2 and another quick transition and I ran out on to the run in a god place mentally and ready to put as much into this last 2.5km as I could. Legs did not come to me straight away and they did feel a little jelly like but tried to block that out and put one front in front of the other. Had to make sure I was as quick as I could and get over the finish line asap. My time for the 2.5km was 11 minutes bang on.
Total time was 1hr 2mins 36sec which put me in 37th overall. More importantly I was 4th in my Age Group and the top 4 automatically qualify for the Worlds next year, so it looks like an April trip to Holland is on the cards in 2020. Still waiting for the official Q next to my name but I am 99% sure it will be there over the coming days.
As I stated earlier, I wanted to have one of my better if not best performances. You can always look for improvement and normally there is some, even if it is just little decisions that cost you seconds in the race. To put this in perspective if I had been 6 seconds quicker, I would have been on my age-group podium having finished 3rd instead of 4th.
Stockton Standard Duathlon
Sun 14th April, my first Duathlon and my first race while being coached by Sarah. I decided to travel up the night before and I'm really glad that I did. Sarah took us out on a reccy of the course and it was really good to see how the course was laid out. Race morning, a few of the guys were racing in the sprint event in the morning which was really good to go and watch. I enjoyed supporting but was also watching how people were taking the bends around us, picking up tips. After the race the benefits of staying over came into their own as I went back to my room to relax and have some pre race food before beginning the stretching of my problem psoas (hip flexor) I headed down to transition an hour before the race to get set up, moving around the area to plan my different entry and exit paths for the run and the bike.
Once satisfied I was ready, I head out onto the road to warm up. Soon enough, I was at the start, surrounded by athletes all keen to go. The hooter sounded and we were off, I set off on the 1st lap of 2 a little faster than my normal pace but it wasn't long til I eased myself down. I settled in with a group who all seemed equal paced and I felt good. On lap 2 I started moving up the field a little, sticking at my perceived effort so the others must've been tiring. I approached transition and all was good. The transition practice with Sarah paid off and I was soon out on the bike. This was my favourite part of the race. I've only had a tri bike for a couple of months and ridden it possibly 10 times so this was a real test. I'd like to think that I passed the test. I moved up the field by a long way over the 6 lap course, learning on each lap how quickly I could throw the bike into the corners. I wasn't sure if I got carried away, setting off so well but felt I kept my pace steady to the end. Approaching transition was my first mistake of the day, right foot out of shoe ok but too much messing with my left and had to unclip and run into transition, one shoe on on off. I didn't let it affect me, racked the bike, trainers on and I was off for run 2.
I'm not gonna lie, my legs didn't feel like my own as I ran up the small hill out of transition but I settled into a decent pace, went passed a couple, I'm on it. Then the dreaded moment came, the stomach cramp kicked in, gutted. I slowed slightly, massaging my stomach until, thankfully, the cramp eased. The next 3 km I tried to pick up speed but didn't seem to get anywhere. I wasn't gaining on anyone but the people behind weren't gaining on me. The last km I decided to pick up the pace, the cramp came back. The last 500m I was in agony and I could hear footsteps behind, I just didn't seem to be able to pick up any more speed. 150m to go, I was overtaken by a way older guy. There was no way that was happening so I somehow mustered some kind of a sprint finish to get back in front of him. Overall, apart from the cramp. Really happy with how it went. The training I've been doing was definitely apparent in the race. Looking forward to my first triathlon now in three weeks!
Stockton Standard Duathlon
After getting the Oulton Park Duathlon under my belt last month, my mindset in approaching my second race as a Racepace athlete was a lot more positive in terms of knowing I could survive/execute the runs and transitions fairly well irrespective of my limited experience. However, on the flip side I had the niggle of my flat tyre from Oulton Park in the back of my mind coupled with the fact that I’d not ridden a closed road circuit before and it was clearly more technical than the Oulton Park race track.
However, I “had a word with myself” as I realised that there will always be something different in each new race I do and that I shouldn’t let that deter me or be an excuse; I should focus on what I can control and prepare as much as I can do.
I therefore made sure that I warmed up well and spent a lot of time practising the approach to my bike racking spot in transition (from both the run-in and bike- in approaches); there weren’t too many points of reference so I counted fence panel stands. I asked a marshal to point out the dismount line as it wasn’t entirely clear and he eventually found it; a little disconcerting!
After a bit more of a warm up on the route of the run which was useful in terms of understanding the wind direction and the turns from the bridge on the different laps, I was ready for off.
The race briefing seemed to go on forever, but I got myself to the front of the start line and when the hooter went, I had Rodger’s words in my head “Less is more” “Let it come to you”. I set off focussed and steady, let the pack go and just got flowing into my run. I felt really comfortable with my intensity level, unfazed by the number of female competitors that had gone past me as I was running at my pace, but for some reason my legs felt heavy for the first 3-4km. I quickly put this out of my mind and just kept going at what I felt was right and comfortable. Although I was listening to my body and reacting to that, what was reassuring was that I spotted some familiar runners in front of me that weren’t pulling away and I was slowly ticking off runners that had gone off too hard.
It was lovely to have all the Racepace support on race but also very useful! When coming over the bridge for the first time at c5km and heading into the into the second lap, although I was starting to feel a lot more comfortable, I heard Rodger shout “Breathe”. I took two or three deep breaths and immediately felt so much better. It was as if by trying to manage control and focus that I’d forgotten to relax my breathing and restricted it to my nose!
The second run lap seemed to go a lot quicker than first and before I knew it, I was into the transition. This in general went well, although could have gone a bit better as I fumbled a bit with my helmet strap and then when I got to mount line, two blokes literally stopped in front of me and blocked me. In hindsight I should have run around them before attempting to mount the bike but they threw me a bit and I just got on my bike and started from a fairly static position. However, my feet found my shoes fairly quickly and so I didn’t dwell on it and focussed on getting up to a good flowing rhythm before the first corner.
I loved the bike ride. I was pleased with all cornering practice I’d done in the week up to the event. There is still plenty of room for improvement as the cornering was in the main where I lost ground, but the practice had given me a certain amount of bravery and I was able to get in reasonable positions and take roundabouts better than I might have previously. This also improved with every lap.
I knew there were plenty of women out in front of me off the run, but noticed during the course of the laps I was slowly picking a number of them off. The course with the return off the roundabouts meant I could see them up the road in front of me and I could focus on slowly reeling them in. After the familiarity of the first lap I knew which stretch I wanted to use to fuel on (a slowish ‘climb’ up to the Splash swimming pool) and was pleased with my decision in that regard. At one point however I had a little bit of a loss of focus when my mind was playing tricks on me in terms of number of laps I’d done and I was somewhat unsure, but I thought it back and worked it out. I don’t know whether I lost time whilst I was dithering but once I decided on the number I quickly mentally moved on again.
Other than getting calf cramp again dismounting my bike and then having to shout at a random spectator to move (for some reason she was in the transition area stood right in front of my racking position), I felt really good in setting off for the last run. Whether it was because I was relieved that I’d survived the bike unscathed or that I knew I’d overtaken several ladies on the ride without anyone overtaking me, I felt good (It turns out I made up eight gender places on the bike ride and didn’t lose any on the last run).
I saw Rodger and Robert Cassidy as I was leaving transition; their shouts of encouragement resulted in me doing a fist pump which I immediately thought was a bit unlike me as I was heading off, but I was clearly in the zone. I’d already decided I was going to keep steady again until I got past the slight climb at the canoe centre and then start to slowly ratchet it up on the return end of the loop. I could see I wasn’t making too much headway into the runners in front of me but equally only two men had passed me and so was happy with how I was managing it. The end of the run arrived quicker than I was expecting and so as I was crossing the bridge for the final time I put in my “leave it all out there” push. I’ve seen the video of my finish back and it’s not at all glamorous and could do with some refinement but it is clear I gave it what I had.
It was such a different feeling crossing the line from Oulton Park. I was so pleased that I was able to race without any hindrance and see what I could do. I felt I’d controlled myself really well and my run splits were testament to that. I am not the fastest runner but my final c5km on the last lap was broadly half my c10km time. The 2nd in my qualification age category and 6th female overall was the icing on the cake.
On the journey home, I posed myself the question what would I change about my race if I could? I came up with the following;
Run around the chaps who’d stopped on the bike mount line before mounting my bike
Try to avoid the lap counting mind games!
I’ll take those three for now.
Equally, what I am excited about is what I can see myself starting to do when I up-skill myself further biking wise. A very pleasing performance and excited to develop more …