Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

- T.S. Eliot -

Althorp duathlon 2013

Having broken my knee earlier in the week I felt there was little to no chance of me making this event, let alone racing. Multi event races normally have an earlier start than other events. This is largely due to the organisers wanting to get bike riders off the roads before the shopping masses leave their pits, head to the shops and try to kill a few lycra clad individuals on their way.

The early race start dictated an early exit from the warmth of my bed, I’d laid everything out the night before and the plan was to jump out of bed, slip into my race gear and silently slip out of the house with disturbing wife and / or daughter. As usual, after some crashing and smashing around downstairs in the part-light of the early morning, wife and daughter were awoken by a strange man in tight clothing. I was making a cup of tea when a little person appeared next to me in the kitchen, giggling with excitement that she had got out of bed and downstairs undetected. After a quick cuddle and placing the aforementioned little person back in my bed I was away and on the motorway heading north.

The race was the normal ‘tent in a field’ effort with a big transition area, stacked with some super expensive bikes (more of that later). Car parked up, registration complete, bike parked in transition and I was left with about 45 mins to kill. For once in my life I did a complete warm-up, after the injury based shock from earlier in the week I wasn’t taking any chances. My knee felt OK, not great but OK. I had promised my wife that I would stop if my knee was hurting too much, and truth be told, I was only expecting to get around the first 5km loop and probably have to call it a day. However, after my new found warm-up thing, I was feeling considerably better.

The event format was pretty simple really, run 10k, ride 40k, run 5k. The 10k consisted of two 5k loops and the bike was two 20k loops, simple! There was a sprint event (5k,20k,5k), which guaranteed there would be people to chase on the bike (hopefully) starting a few minutes before the rest of us. There was also a strange staggered start for British Triathlon members and non-members which put the largest part of the field 2 mins down as a result of not being an annual member of a remote association.

Having watched the majority of the field start before my group, the gun fire and we were off. An uphill start allowed the field to spread out a little and hitting the first off-road section there was plenty of room to watch my footing. My knee felt fine and I gradually put the hammer down a bit. 9k later my knee remained painless and I was thinking about transition – essentially a process of getting my bike gear on quickly. A task which caused utter confusion for me. Road cycling shoes are not suitable running attire and therefore have to be attached to the bike throughout. The theory for a fast transition to to collect the bike, jump on, turn a few pedal revolutions with foot rested on the shoe uppers, slide foot into shoe, fasten shoe, repeat for second foot and head out on ride. I got the first bit right and then fell sideways as I struggled to get my foot in and the fastener done…much swearing later (and climbing off the bike) and I was finally away and picking off riders on the uphill sections. It was particularly satisfying to pass riders on mega-expensive tri specific bikes, particularly on the flat!

The bike laps passed in bit of a blur. I was focused on catching the next rider up the road, being worried about passing other riders and not getting penalised by the drafting marshals All was well and in the blink of an eye I was back in transition and making a better job of getting my running gear back on. The uphill start was bit of struggle but my legs eventually came back to life and 20 minutes later I was finished. 2hrs 25 mins of running and riding done.

I think I finished about 43rd and 7th in my category. Given the problems I had with my knee earlier in the week, I’m pretty happy. A few lessons have been learnt; I need to practise getting my shoes on and off for the bike leg, I need to go a bit faster on the bike, aero bars might help and I can run relatively faster than I can ride.