Posts Tagged ‘Duathlon’

I haven’t done one of these in a long time, primarily because I’ve barely been doing any running. I picked up an injury in Killarney which put me out of action for three weeks, then just as I was easing my way back into things the World Cup came along. I know that needn’t necessarily have been detrimental to my training but I have a neighbour who (a) was on an extended work break for the duration of the World Cup, and so was watching every match and (b) who is firmly of the opinion that you have to drink when you’re watching football. When you add that to my love of themed nights, eg home made tapas and loads of rioja for Spain matches, hot dogs, burgers and loads of Pabst Blue Ribbon for USA matches etc, and then throw in the number of late kick-offs and extra time/penalty shoot-outs it means that my ‘training’ has been shambolic for the last four weeks.

I was originally intending to do the Marathon des Escargot in Portarlington this weekend, but once I picked up my injury in Killarney I thought better of it. I really didn’t fancy going into a marathon half cocked, and potentially pick up another injury which might put me out for another block of time. My Hamburg partner had somehow managed to wangle a bit of free time from his job so was making a flying visit home this weekend, and he’d mentioned doing a duathlon or something short while he was here. It so happened that Donadea duathlon was on, is quite close to us and is a race I’ve done a couple of times before and really enjoyed. A few more said they’d do it – my good wife Brid, World Cup aficionado Benny, fellow Killarney competitor (and colleague) Claire and her husband and friend of ours of many, many years, Old Man Pony.

I had no real target for Donadea, other than fitting into my tri-shorts and top without looking like an overstuffed sausage. As I said, I’ve barely been training of late, but at least no matter how painful it might be it’s only a short race – 3km run, 21km cycle, 2.75km run. I had been hoping to beat last year’s time but when the official at the start made an announcement to say that, contrary to the race briefing two minutes earlier, drafting would not be allowed in this race I didn’t think there’d be much chance of that. I was part of a chain gang last year for almost the entire bike leg, everyone (bar one freeloader) putting in a really good shift and we did a cracking time. Taking turns like that, and drafting, also meant that you were able to get some respite and able to go into the last run leg with slightly fresher legs. It didn’t really make a difference to me either way though, if you could draft, great, if not that was fine too. I just hoped that whatever the rules were that they’d be applied fairly and equally.

Benny of course lined up right at the front with all the really quick folks (which in fairness he is too), I was a little more circumspect and realistic and lined up a little further back. It didn’t stop a huge wave of people all coming storming past me right from the off, and I was already going far quicker than I wanted to be. Still, I’ve done enough of these now to know that that’s always the case, so I just ignored everyone else and ran my own race, which at this point just consisted of me getting my breathing and heart rate under control. Having not ran anything like this fast in a long time it definitely hurt but I as I said, it’s a nice short run leg so I knew I’d be out on the bike soon enough.

Out on to the bike then and I was able to make up quite a few places very quickly. I’m not a particularly strong cyclist, but I do have a pretty cool bike, which definitely makes a difference. The very pro looking black bar tape I got on it at the last service is good for at least a couple of km/h too. That didn’t stop a couple of people from coming past me though, a girl on a Specialised with some very nice wheels and a gentleman who was right on her tail, passing her I presumed as we were clearly told no drafting before the race started. I then presumed he mustn’t have heard that particular part of the briefing as he sat on her tail, right in her slipstream for some time. Either that or he was just shamelessly cheating. This annoyed me a bit so I upped the pace sufficiently to catch, and then pass them, only to see them, in tandem, coming back past me.  So I passed them again only to have them come past me again, but now there were three in their little group. Until we passed another group and another couple of people latched on to their little train.

I pulled wide or in to the side when they passed me so as not to be drafting off them, but it was bloody tiring up there on the moral high ground so I ended up falling back a bit, consoling myself that at least I was racing under my own steam and abiding by the rules. I was just wondering where the bike marshals were at that point when one went passed me and caught the little breakaway group up the road. He pulled right alongside them for a minute, I thought to admonish or warn someone, but he must have missed that part of the briefing as well and as soon as they were round the bend they’d been approaching he cleared off into the distance. The rest of the bike leg turned out to be quite a lonely affair, I felt like a sprinter who’d been spat out the back of the peloton after the first day of the Giro in the Pyrenees. I was caught by another group just before the end of the bike leg and felt like I must have been the only eejit who wasn’t drafting. It’s something that bugs me in any race that has a bike element to it, and I know it’s becoming more and more of a problem in triathlon, but at least my time was my time and entirely down to me.

I was a little bit disheartened starting the second run leg. My legs were that horrible combination of numb and on fire that you only get trying to run off the bike, and all I kept think was that I’d had to use loads more energy on the bike than the last time I did this race. I’d been hoping to beat last year’s time of 1:11:08 but couldn’t see that happening now. My first run leg this time was 13 minutes something, considerably better than my previous time of 15:27, helped no doubt by being there on time and actually being able to start with everyone else and not a minute after they’d all gone. With the cycle though I was sure I was probably slower than last time out and for the last run leg it felt like I was kind of plodding. Every time I looked at my Garmin too it was saying 4:40/km or slower, which was way slower than I needed to be if I wanted to get near last year’s time. With a few hundred metres to go though the course opens up, comes out from under all the trees and all of a sudden my Garmin was reading 4:00/km. I remembered then how tree coverage can play havoc with GPS, and how my readings in Killarney were all over the place because of it. I got a bit of a wiggle on then, the finish line was just round the corner and as it came into view I saw the clock tick over to 1:09, which came as a huge surprise. I legged it to the finish then managing to get over the line in 1:09:18, a time I was absolutely delighted with. After staggering around for a bit and gathering my breath I saw Benny who’d turned in a fantastic time of 1:05:14 for 37th place.

We headed over the bike rack area to cheer on the rest of our crew, the first of whom through there was Brid who was after putting in a great shift on the bike and leaving the others trailing in her wake. A couple of minutes later I saw Pony mooching around the bikes, but not the other two. Apparently Claire ‘Notions’ Lee and Skippy were engrossed in a conversation about cheese so Pony had left them to it. The three of them set out on the last leg of their ambling tour of north Kildare while I accompanied Benny back over to his favourite place, the post race refreshments stall. Brid was the next one of our group across the line in 1:36:41, while a few minutes later it looked like the other three were going to cross the line in unison until Claire snaked ahead in the last five yards to finish in 1:39:03, Pony and Skippy coming in one and two seconds later respectively.

Grumbling about drafting aside it was a really good race. I always like doing Donadea, it’s a good course, not too far from home, great refreshments afterwards and a good way to shock the body back into action after a period of inactivity.

Donadea Duathlon July 2014

Donadea Duathlon July 2014

 

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It’s hot out there today. Damn hot. I’m reminded of this when I see Rory, one of the guys from my triathlon club, slathering sun cream all over his head. Considering Rory and myself look like slightly less butch Fairbrass brothers it occurs to me that I really should be doing the same but unfortunately sun cream is one thing I didn’t think to bring.  I got here early so as to register and also to make sure I had time for an extensive warmup. I know everything went fine yesterday but it’s still in the back of my mind that both calfs are still a little tight, not to mention my right hamstring.


I hopped on my bike for a quick spin around the car park where everyone is getting ready, checking to make sure brakes and gears were working correctly and tyres were at the right pressure, then spent around twenty minutes jogging and stretching. After stopping for photos with some fans* it was time to make my way down for the race briefing. The course consisted of one lap around the perimeter of the race course, a cycle to Blessing ton and back, before finishing with another lap of the race course. The race directors also detailed the rules around drafting, ie there was none allowed. You had to leave a box of 3m x 10m around the rider in front of you and if you were passed the onus was on you to drop back and leave that much space to the rider in front.

After that it was time to make our way to the start line and prepare for the off. As I usually do in this situation I look around at the other competitors, or the guys at the front at least, and notice how lithe and lean they all look, far more than me anyway, and how much faster they’re inevitably going to be. I was standing at the start with Rory and Alan, another guy from our club and another guy I know is a quicker runner than me (Dave, our club chairperson is there too but he’s one of those superfast guys right at the front) and the plan is to go off at a pace slightly slower than them. The race starts however and instantly everyone shoots off and as usual I’m torn between haring off with everyone else and running at my own pace. I had planned to do the first run at 5mins/km pace but right now that feels way too slow so I tried to ignore my Garmin and run at a pace that felt comfortable.

By the time we got around to the back of the course, just under two kilometres in, the field had thinned out quite a bit. The only slight hill on the run course was there too and I tried to do what I usually do with hills, which is speed up a bit. It doesn’t really do much in the overall scheme of things but people generally slow down a bit going up hills and it feels nice getting to overtake a few people. I don’t get a huge amount of opportunities to do that so I’ll take it whenever I can get it. I finished the first run in 14:18, an average pace of 4:25/km and was confident that all my preparation and practice would stand me in good stead for transition.

I ran in following the marshal’s instructions and kept repeating to myself “helmet on before you touch bike” so stuck on my sunglasses and then put my helmet on. Or at least tried to, but the bloody thing didn’t seem to fit. I tried to close the buckle but it wasn’t close to closing. In a bit of a panic I took my helmet off and looked inside it, seeing if there was anything on the inside or something had changed on it before telling myself to cop on and reminding myself I’d put it on and taken it off half a dozen time already today. I put it on again, pulled the straps and of course it closed properly. Putting the delay out of my mind I ran to the end of the transition area before hopping on my bike and beginning the cycle to Blessington.

Out on the course I was again very conscious of the race director’s instructions regarding drafting. As well as leaving the ‘box’ around other cyclists you had just fifteen seconds to pass someone, otherwise you had to drop back outside of the area behind them. For the first five or six kilometres I found myself skipping back and forth a few positions, avoiding getting too close to anyone and easing off when anyone passed me. I realised after a while of doing this though that it meant I was going pretty slowly, so I forgot about giving people quite so much room and instead concentrated on getting a wiggle on. After we turned around at the halfway point I realised that at least one benefit of the relatively leisurely first leg of the cycle was that I had plenty of energy left, so the remainder of the way back I just went as hard as I could. Normally in races as short as this there’s not to many opportunities to take stock of things and really enjoy what you’re doing (for me at least) but there was a definite moment on the return leg of the cycle where I was on a bit of a downhill, pedalling as fast as I could to reach the guy in the distance ahead of me, and I was just loving being where I was, doing what I was doing.

I finished the 18km in 38:50 and for some reason decided to try to head into transition like all the fast guys, ie slip my foot out of the bike shoes while still cycling, leaving the shoes still attached to the pedals and then run the bike in in my socks rather than cleated shoes. One of the cardinal rules of racing is never try anything in a race that you haven’t tried in training, but thankfully I managed to avoid making a complete balls of this. I did however have to try to avoid looking like a complete blouse as I almost let out a little “ow” when I trod on a little pebble on the way in. That aside T2 passed without a hitch and then it was out on to the road around the racecourse for the second run.

I dread to think what would have happened if I hadn’t been out for a trial run yesterday as the first kilometre of the second run was just horrendous. It was really hot at this point, I was sweating buckets and someone, somewhere was holding a small doll that roughly resembled me over a naked flame. My legs, though I could barely feel them, felt like they were on fire and some horrible little bastard inside my head kept on trying to persuade me to stop. I really had to remind myself of yesterday’s run and the fact that the feeling would come back to my legs. I looked at my Garmin and although it felt like I was barely moving I was actually doing just over 5mins/km, plus all the people around me were running even slower than me so I knew I was doing fine.

There was a small incline at the one kilometre mark where the two people I was running with slowed down quite a bit but right at that point, almost as if by magic, my legs suddenly began to feel like my legs and I began to run. I kept my pace steady for the next kilometre and then pushed on as hard as I could. I’ve finished races in the past still with plenty in the tank and it’s not the way to go. I wanted to feel completely spent, knowing I gave everything I could for the duration of the race. After just a kilometre of hard running though I was really beginning to feel it. Every breath I took felt hot and miserly and nowhere near sufficient to fill my burning lungs. The visions of a magnificent, Chariots of Fire/Rocky III style sprint finish that had been coursing through my mind just a kilometre ago were now replaced by thoughts of Cartman in the 100m just going backwards. I tried, and managed, to pick off a few people in front of me over the last few hundred metres but got passed myself about one hundred metres from the line. I could hear the guy coming, and he passed me going only marginally quicker, but I had absolutely nothing left to respond with.

I finished the second run in 16:25, 2:07 slower than the first, which wasn’t too bad. Overall my time was 1:12:23, which was ok. You always want to go quicker, and I definitely can, but considering the lack of running over the last six weeks, and the slightly ill advised mini-duathlon yesterday, I should be satisfied. Of the other guys from the club both Dave and Alan won their respective age groups, however Rory was incredibly unfortunate to see a puncture ruin his race. He did however finish the race, thanks in no small part to a good Samaritan out for his own Sunday cycle who stopped to repair Rory’s puncture.

All told I was really happy with the way the day went. It was a beautiful day, I was back racing again, I had given my sexy new gear from McLoughlins Cycles it’s maiden voyage and I had a slice of cheesecake from my niece’s Confirmation party yesterday sitting in the fridge at home waiting for me.

 

*Actually my wife and eldest son.

Seeing as my calf was still giving me some trouble I decided to play it safe and not race the trail half marathon in Kerry I was supposed to this weekend. That meant I was (relatively) free today so I volunteered to act as marshall for my triathlon club’s test duathlon. The duathlon was taking place on The Heath, which is roughly fifteen kilometres away, so by cycling there and back I could even get some training in myself.

 

What had started out as a miserable morning brightened up considerably as I was cycling over, and by the time I got there it was a beautiful morning. Still a bit windy but bright and nicely crisp, almost perfect conditions for racing. Seventeen people from the club lined up to race, ranging from national level atheletes to people attempting their very first race. The set up was surprisingly professional for a club race, we had plenty of marshalls, bike racks and even a timing transponder with a watch for each competitor paired with it. We even managed to get the whole thing started just about the time it was due to start.

 

This was my first time meeting a lot of people from the club and seeing them in action some of them were seriously impressive. It’s really encouraging seeing how good some of them are though, as I know that I’m getting a lot of the same coaching that they are. Obviously there’s different ability levels and some of them are it it for some time now, but it shows you that the guys up the top at the various races I’ve been to aren’t super human, they’re just regular guys from clubs like mine that are dedicated enough to put the time and work in.

 

Naturally as soon as the racing started the sun disappeared completely and meant it was pretty chilly standing around out there. Thankfully though everything moved along quite quickly and we were finished within a couple of hours so I hopped on my bike and set off for home. I was initially pretty disappointed about not racing this weekend, either in the trail half or this duathlon, but you have to take the positives from the situation. I still got to train, I managed to help out the club as well as meeting some more of the members and I got a look at what sort of effort is required to get closer to the guys who’d normally have collected their medals and been halfway home by the time I finished my race.