In 1825, the world’s first non-freight railway carried people from Stockton to Darlington. Almost two centuries later, there was no room for passengers as 255 athletes lined up for the Stockton standard distance duathlon. With qualification for the 2018 European championships at stake, a strong field was expected. It was also my first race in Leeds & Bradford Triathlon Club kit!
This was part of my preparation for the European duathlon championships in Soria, Spain next week. I felt prepared and relatively fresh but I’d already cycled 100km and run 35km this week so knew I might not be quite at my peak. I’ve also had a dodgy gluteus maximus (technically, a lazy arse muscle) since smashing out some 5ks in February and I harboured painful memories of limping around Adelaide in the world championships as my body gave out on the final run. Will it hold out this time? Let’s see…
After a warm up in the sunshine I bump into a few other LBTers (there were seven of us in total). Everyone looked great and agreed that conditions were almost perfect. The weather is bright with a westerly breeze along the river. Tailwind out, headwind back.
And we’re off. I keep checking my Garmin as I’m way down the field, at least 30 people are ahead of me but I’m doing 3:30/km pace! There is a tailwind but this is too quick. Another guy from Newcastle uni agrees: “waaay too fast”.
This works to my advatage as we turn into the wind, plenty of guys to tuck in behind and I pick them off one by one as I work my way to a 36:49 10k. PB and 17th position. Hmm, how will the legs be after that?
On to the bike, my strongest discipline, and it’s six laps of multiple switchbacks and roundabouts. A few lumps and it’s interesting but this isn’t your typical duathlon route. I overtake a few people and no-one comes past me but it’s six laps and very soon I’ve no idea how far ahead the guys ahead are. Just got to hammer it then!
I aim for 40km/h average. Starting at 38 it gradually creeps up as I hit it hard down the back straight with the wind behind me. Not for long though as the roundabouts and U-turns make it tricky to keep rhythm. Fortunately, my bike training comes in handy and I can take the corners quickly and put the power down as I exit.
After a few laps of caning it, I ease off a little so as not to burn out my legs for the final run. That run in Australia keeps flashing up in my mind. I manage fourth fastest bike overall covering 36.8km in 56:58 with an average speed of 38.8kmh. Not my best by any means but not too shabby considering all the twists and turns.
Onto the final run and I’m nervous as to how my glutes will handle the final run. Apparently the transition to running from the bike puts massive strain on the hamstrings. Ah well, if it doesn’t work I could give up running, I think. Maybe I shouldn’t have got that accidental 10k PB…
Out of tranistion and I’m feeling strong. It’s always surprising how fresh you can feel after a 10k run and an hour on the bike. I guess it’s because the body is fully warmed up and you’ve got fuel in the system. Anyway, I reel in the first bloke with a 3:38km and just hover around this pace, knowing I’ve got a tailwind on the way back.
I put in a burst to gain a few seconds on the next guy just before the turnaround thinking I can sit behind him a bit. However, as we go over the river through some twists and locks I take a wrong turn! Nightmare. I lose a few seconds and it’s starting to hurt now. 8 minutes to go. Hang in there. Can you catch that guy now? Reeling him in… slowly… slow… ly…
The final straight and it’s all out sprint. Two guys in my sights and it’s sub 3:30/km pace but it’s not enough. I cross in 18:30, which is the 10th fastest of the day.
Overall, I manage 12th place in 1:55:18 and with an age group win also nab qualification for the ETU champs in 2018. Happy with that. 🙂
I was impressed with the organisation by Tri Hard Events and the whole event (or festival as the organisers called it) was well managed, neat and friendly. I’ll be back next year, when maybe I won’t have a wrong turn!
Full results here.
Featured skyline image used under Creative Commons courtesy of srhphoto.
Featured train image used under Creative Commons courtesy of Bill VanderMolen.