Ride bikes. Have fun. Feel good.

London Duathlon

Roy Brown writes…

Last Sunday saw the fourth London Duathlon held in Richmond Park. We always enter one or two teams from work (a school) and take it semi-seriously – we probably won’t win the team prize but we aren’t there just for the “fun run”. In fact, it was doing this event four years ago that made me get back into cycling, and this year joining EGCC and doing the evening 10 series.

The duathlon is a 10k run/22k bike/5k run, which can be done by an individual, or as we do in a relay team. The event is very well organised, and each leg and transition is recorded with a timing chip. So participants can be as serious as they like – and of course I was hoping for a PB. And boy, are there some serious people there. I don’t know much about running kit, but there were plenty of disc wheels and pointy helmets…..

For those who don’t know, Richmond Park is quite undulating, and roughly quadrangular. The “east” side from the start is roughly level, the south side has a long, drawn out up-slope which kicks up and is evil. This is where I suffer. Then it’s gentle until you turn north and it’s up all the way to the north side ( which is the best bit – mostly down and a really good place to catch up some time). However, the bike leg is 2 laps, so you pass transition, and hit the evil hill again.

So, we met up early, signed on, racked the bike and then off went the 10k runners. We knew roughly the time they expected to be in, so at about 40mins myself and the other team’s cyclist (pro tennis coach) went to transition to wait. My team-mate (chemistry teacher) came in at 47mins. After swapping the race number and timing chip, it was a short run out onto the road and off. I decided to pace myself for 20mph (I know, doesn’t sound a lot, but more of that later) and the bike was already in the right “evening 10” gear so off I went spinning. Within 3 minutes I was at the hill, so I dropped down the gears as it got steeper, and was in bottom (39×23) as I stood up to conquer the last 150m. The next few minutes was recovery time after the hill (I’d be no good in a road race) and then it was onto the west side – a long gentle climb that just stops you getting up any real speed. This lasts about 7 mins, then you come to the final turn to take you back to the start. This is the bit that should be good, a long steady downhill, just enough to keep on top of the gear but really fly down. However, on Sunday there was a headwind, so I didn’t really fly that much. Shame, because that’s where I make up time usually. However, I did the first lap in just over 20 mins, so I was around schedule. But then the second lap started.

Passing transition was a boost because the rest of the team were there to shout as I went by, but then it was back concentrating on the rhythm. Down on the tri-bars for a good fast bit on the flat, and then I eased a bit knowing the hill was coming up. Second time around was even worse, and I struggled to the top. A welcome anonymous guardian angel was standing at the side near the top yelling “good rhythm, dig in, like it” which made a difference – whoever he is, thank you. The rest was a case of trying to stick in the right gear and finish before my legs stopped. I passed a reasonable number of people, and a few who passed me earlier but obviously blew because of the effort.

Transition rushed up, and being careful to unclip and dismount before the line I jumped off, only to stumble and almost come a cropper. Fortunately I didn’t, but then I had a long (about 150m) run back to my rack. Legs don’t seem to work for running after they cycled hard, and it was a real effort not to stop and walk. But I reached our rack, and the number and chip were snapped off, and our last runner (PE teacher) was gone before I could even say anything.

So that was it. Just a bit of a wait for her to return (27mins) collect medal and go home for a bath and recover.

It was a great day, and I always look forward to it, and enjoy it afterwards, but suffer during it (bit like the 10s). But the results came in and we were chuffed that “my” team was 71st out of 180 with a time of 1:58:28. Our other team was 127th with a time of 2:13:14. But the best bit for me was my individual result – I was aiming for 40mins, and did 44:20 – not a PB but it placed me 47th out of 180 bikes, so I’m really pleased. Not world beating, but better than I expected.

Just to put it in perspective, the top bike was 35:11, which is about 22mph. Had I hit my 40min target, I would have been in the top 12, so maybe that was a bit unrealistic. (just think what you fast guys could do though….) Four years ago I did a long 48.

So, the lessons are a)more base cycling and b)do more hills in training. Without doubt the club 10s had a lot to do with my personal time – I’m sure I would have been much slower without those regular intensive efforts. So next year, I’ll do some Open events, do the evening 10s and see what happens. I don’t suppose I’ll pose much threat to Steve D., but maybe I’ll be a bit faster than this year…….