Yesterday I became a duathlete.
I competed in my first ever multi-sport race, running 5K, cycling 11K then running a further 5K. And it was tough. In fact, it was probably the toughest race I’ve ever completed- both mentally and physically. I have never felt like I’ve earnt a medal more (maybe the London Marathon, but that had months of training behind it).
My day started at 6.45 to eat breakfast with Tom, making sure he was all ready for his Sprint Duathlon. He had to be at Richmond Park to set up his transition at 8am. There is so much more to think about when you’re competing in a cycling event, with stickers for your helmet, handlebars and seat, not to mention your race number for your top!
Whilst Tom made his way to Richmond Park, I set out on a 10 mile run, leading me to the Duathlon village. I ran along the Thames from Richmond to Kingston.
The weather at this point was absolutely gorgeous, and I enjoyed running in just a tank top, probably one of the last times I’ll be able to do that this year. It felt so peaceful running along the Thames so early, with only a few other morning runners out and about. My route then took me away from the Thames and in to Richmond Park.
The views from Richmond Park always amaze me, I can’t believe you can see so far. In the distance you can just make out The Shard! Once in the park, I followed the Duathlon course up to the village, and got there in time to see Tom finish his first run lap- 10Ks in 57.48 before his first transition.
Looking strong. I was too busy cheering him on the bike course to get a good photo, whoops!
There was quite a lot of hanging around between spectating, so I was really glad that I had a number of friends that were taking part or spectating. I bumped into Charlotte from Lunges and Lycra who was taking part in the relay, as well as Laura who was competing in the Classic race, and Mollie and Beki were in my Super Sprint! My Mum and Stepdad came along to cheer us on too.
Tom crossed the finish line in 2.40.36, finishing his 5K in 32.37. (He later told me that he went for a wee 3 times on the course!! It’s so much easier for boys!)
As he came out of the finish area, I tried to give him a hug, but all he wanted to do was lie on the floor! He said that his knee was agony and he was suffering from cramps in his legs. Apart from the London to Brighton bike ride, it’s the longest endurance event that he’d ever done. And his personal running distance record before the event was 5 miles! No wonder he was hurting!
Once Tom had recovered sufficiently we went and set up the bike in my transition area. After a little mis-hap at work with a mean security guard and no security pass, my bike was firmly locked in my office car park, which meant that I needed to use Tom’s bike for the race. Luckily we have the exact same bike, although his frame is just a little bigger. Plus I didn’t even need to adjust the seat as apparently our legs are actually the same length! The staff at the Duathlon did a great job, and were checking everyone’s brakes and helmets before allowing you into transition, this meant that there was a bit of a queue for some people, but definitely worth it to make sure everyone was safe out on the course.
Clearly I am not a duathlete pro, and didn’t have clip-in shoes which rather limited the amount of gear I needed in transition. I had a lucozade, some Cliff-shot blocks and my helmet, and not much else! I went for a location near the run exit and next to a pole to make it easy to spot my bike!
It was freezing by this point, so we headed to one of the cafes in the park to keep warm and to scoff down some baked potato!
At 1.45 I began warming up and entered the starting pen with Beki and Mollie. They were letting people start in groups of 20 with 2 mins between each group to keep the course from getting too congested. It wasn’t done in predicted times though, so there were some super speedy people in our group. My goal was to start out slow and steady on the first run, and not burn out too early!
The first 2km were tough, it had just started to rain as we set off and there was a gradual incline, culminating in a steep slope for about 300m. With no music to distract me, I started thinking about how far I have come in terms of fitness and running in the last few years, how strong I am that I can even contemplate running 10 miles, let alone before competing in a duathlon! As I came into the final bit of the first 5K run, I saw my Mum, Stepdad and Tom cheering me on, and I thought about how lucky I am to have people that are willing to watch me run, waiting in the rain to cheer me on. I chatted with Mollie for a little bit during the run, before telling her to run ahead as I knew she was faster than me, and I didn’t want to burn out too early!
5K run- 28.49
I came into transition, easily found my bike and whacked on my helmet. I learnt my first transition lesson though, open up your gels/energy sweets so that you can easily grab them and go. I spent a good minute trying to get a shot blok out of the packet! Fail.
Transition 1- 2.27
By the time I set out on the bike the road had got quite slippery, so although I was aiming for a sub 30 min bike leg, I was prepared to slow right down to stay safe. Infact, I did see a girl that had flipped over her handlebars on a downhill bit later on.
Tom had warned me that there was a major steep slope on the bike course, with a few other undulating hills. He told me that when I saw the sign for the slope, to kick it up to a high gear, stand up and just go for it. The hill itself was short but steep. A girl and I cycled along side by side up to the top, and congratulated ourselves and each other on reaching the top. We also commented on how glad we were only to have to reach the summit once!
The bike part wasn’t too bad after the hills, with long stretches of flatish. It was a little cold however, with the rain still coming down. As a lady cycled past me (this happened a fair amount on the bike, I am weak on the uphill and scared on the downhills!) she started speaking to me, saying ‘how are we meant to run after this?’. My thoughts exactly.
Bike 11K- 31.19
Getting off the bike and running it into the transition area was hard. My legs felt like lead and I struggled to get them moving properly. My ankle on my left leg, which had twinged a little during my 10 miles, really started to hurt and I seriously considered pulling out. However, after seeing Tom cheering me on, I knew this wasn’t an option. I mouthed some expletive about my leg and kept going. My Brick training session had helped prepare me for this portion of the event, and I knew that my legs would eventually warm up. Knowing that the first 2K of this final run was uphill was mentally challenging, and I really wanted to walk up the big hill. It didn’t help that at this point the heavens really opened and we got drenched.
Transition 2- 00.57 (much faster!)
Again I started to think of things to distract myself, and began cheering on the Ultra runners that were passing the other way, as well as people that were passing me from the Classic race. It sounds weird but it really motivated me to keep going, knowing that they were enduring far more!
With no music, only the slap of people’s trainers on the roads, I kept motivated as we came down for the downhill/flat final 3K. I actually really enjoyed this part, despite the rain and the pain. When I passed people that were walking or limping, I would ask if they were ok, as I think I would like someone to ask me if I looked like I was struggling. I found that the duathletes were far friendlier than many runners I’ve encountered in races previously, and I spoke to a good 10 people out on the course, either about the weather, the hills, the course or how tough it was. It certainly helped to know other people were in the same boat.
Soon I was coming up to the final 1KM marker, and the home stretch. It felt so good to see the Duathlon village and know the finish line was close by.
5K Run- 28.18
I crossed the finish line in 1.31.50, and gladly recieved my medal and goody bag. I felt like I had really, truly earnt the medal, and felt proud to call myself a duathlete.
Overall the event was really well organised, and the course wasn’t too crowded whilst I was running. It was slightly annoying having to wait after Tom finished his for my start, and there didn’t seem to be any starts between 11.30-2. I suppose they needed to have some of the Classic’s and Relay teams off the course before we started!
I am so proud of Tom for finishing his first real endurance event. I’m not sure how much he actually enjoyed it, but I hope he feels really proud of himself, and that it won’t be his last. I’m hoping there’s a marathon in him somewhere!!
Have you ever tackled a multi-sport event? Would you consider it? I’ve always thought that one day I’d like to do a triathlon or maybe even a half-ironman but now I’m not so sure!
I was given a free media place in the London Duathlon, however Tom paid for his entry, and all opinions are my own. You can enter the London Duathlon 2014 now!