Back in September, as part of my post-Ironman UK funk, I got an email from George via Twitter (it’s where all the cool kids are) with a link to the Jekyll And Hyde Duathlon taking place in late October. At that stage I didn’t have any races on the horizon post-Ealing HM, and I figured it a good way to get out and be a bit social, and also try my hand at duathlons, which given my desire to work on cycling and running off the bike seemed a smart decision.
Sat outside South Ealing station on Sunday morning in the pitch dark pre-dawn, faced with no tube for another hour and a race registration starting in around 30 minutes – I was regretting my decision to race.
It was hardly a faultless pre-race. The night before I had tried to switch wheels from my road bike to my TT bike unsuccessfully (how? Who knows…), and as such all I succeeded in doing was making my road bike feel strangely unreliable. I then woke up on time (the extra hour of sleep didn’t really seem to help) but then faffed around so much that I managed to make myself somewhat late and had to hustle out the door – forgetting my race belt in the process. So I found myself cursing the London Tube services early on a Sunday morning, surrounded by people equally cursing them. It was summed up by this observed interaction between a member of the public and the sole employee of TFL at South Ealing on Sunday morning.
“But the sign up there says that there is a tube arriving in 5 minutes.”
“You can ignore that. It’s a mistake”
“And I used the Trip Planner site and it said there would be one at 6:20.”
“Yeah. That’s a mistake too.”
Good times. So in the pitch black with no lights on my bike, I cycled to Hyde Park to register for my first duathlon and my first appearance as a Clapham Chaser. After much anxiety (and trust me, there was proper anxiety) I decided to go without a Halloween costume, because frankly I didn’t arrange one. I probably could have, but I didn’t, so here we are. What I really shouldn’t have done is stressed about it, because that was entirely unhelpful to the whole situation. Anyway, I arrived at Hyde Park (sans race belt), got myself registered (despite very puzzled looks from the race official at the Scotland Triathlon card I was carrying) and waited for the Chasers peloton crew to arrive. Once they did, I started to see Ironman bags everywhere, and intimidatingly (not a word) many ITU Worlds bags as well. I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. Thankfully, the Chasers crew were amazing – genuinely. I remarked later in the day that I really felt other teams were there in a purely competitive mode (not naming names), but that the Chasers team were there to compete, but to have fun doing it. This was evidenced by the ratio of laughter from team to team – which the Chasers won hands down.
After waiting about and laughing about people forgetting race belts (I wasn’t the only one) and even helmets (made me feel better about myself), we ambled down to rack bikes, take part in nervous wees, and then head back to the start. I had a minor hiccup when I was told I didn’t have plastic caps in the ends of my handlebars (I have them in my TT, but I never race on my road bike – oops) and could purchase them for the outrageous sum of £2. I genuinely said “Are you joking?” when the gentleman told me the cost, but I paid up and was on my way.
So we headed to the start line, had a good team cheer at the start line (that was only matched by a single ‘Go Crystal Palace!’ voice in return) and with the hoot of a horn, I was off in my Clapham Chasers/Duathlon debut. I had decided somewhat arbitrarily that I would aim for a sub 1:30 time because, well, I don’t know. It sounded right at the time.
Run One – 4km in 16:37 (72nd out of 162)
Argh. I absolutely hammered this, by my own standards. I didn’t look at my watch during this run, as I was too concentrated on keeping on the heels of a competitor (I don’t know who he was – he was just tall. He could have stepped on me and squashed me) and I figured that as long as I ran within myself, I could keep enough in reserve for the bike. My first kilometre was 3:52, which depressingly goes down as one of the fastest I have ever run. The whole thing felt like a massive sprint, begging for the end to come and the sweet relief of my bike saddle to save me from myself. I even felt a bit tight in my old man hips early on, which should have been a signal to take it easy. I held on for 4:09, 4:12 and 4:08 splits for the remaining kilometres – if it had have been a 5km run, based on average pace, I would have had a PB for 5km. Either way, I arrived a pool of sweat into T1 and immediately set about fumbling through my bike stuff. I don’t do ‘fast’ transitions, as frankly I’ve never had to being a long(er) distance triathlon doer. I like my transitions to be the leisurely type where you talk about how that previous experience was, and put socks on. This was shown up by a) my fumbling around with kit and forgetting my spare tyre kit the first time I tried to exit and b) the fact that I ranked 136th out of 162 for T1. It took me one minute and eight seconds. So yeah. Slow.
Bike – 21km in 40:14 (77th out of 162)
This was the strangest bike course I have ever been on, though to be fair I’ve not been on many. We did 10 2km loops (ish) up and down and around by the Serpentine. It was the narrowest course I’ve ever seen, and that is a bit of an understatement, because I think it was the narrowest course any of us had seen. On my road bike I tried to stamp on the pedals a bit, but it was always undermined somewhat by poor-handling TT riders braking late into the U-turns and forcing me to take really wide lines at those corners. A number of times we went through corners three-wide, which was all rather ill-advised for everyone concerned. Frankly it’s a miracle that I didn’t careen into someone, or have them crash into me. Anyway, I got on the drops and tried to hold a steady pace, and it’s apparent that I achieved that, given my slowest lap was a 4:11 and my fastest was 3:52 (and there were three 3:53s), so a fairly tight grouping there. I looked at my watch a little more this time, but mainly to count laps – which was helpful. Nine participants did an extra bike lap, and three of them only did nine laps and as such were given a DNF. One inexplicably turned before a timing map apparently and was DQd. I was grateful for my Garmin, even though I still doubted it. Given the distance covered, the bike really was over before I knew it, and at this stage my hips were screaming at me – but I had recovered from the first run to hopefully knock out a decent second run and perhaps slide under 1:30. Once again in transition I proved my aptitude for faff though; this time forgetting to take off my tyre changing kit belt, and as such my one minute and one second transition time was only good enough to rank 124th out of 162. At least I improved on T1.
Run Two – 7.59km in 34:20 (89th out of 162)
Ouch. This really hurt, in that way that forces you to run somewhat bandy legged (I think that’s a thing) because your hips and hamstrings aren’t working properly any more. I really gritted my teeth for this run and tried to reel in as many people ahead of me as I could during this run – but some just got away from me. Not many, but some. I had a couple of Serpentine Club women go absolutely flying by me at stages – but I was spent. I opened up with a 4:27, and resolved to try to hold at around 4:30 pace, which is half marathon pace for me. I promptly went 4:36, 4:34, 4:33, 4:38 and 4:45 to miss my goal pace by a wide margin. I couldn’t get into a comfortable stride and just couldn’t extend my legs properly because they were seizing up so much. Thankfully by this stage though, I had managed to stop singing the theme song to ‘Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures’ which had been bugging me for the preceding hour. So that’s something. The second lap actually felt better than the first one in parts, and I managed to break into a slightly faster run for the last straight section (it wasn’t a sprint – I can’t justifiably call it that) and crossed the line in 1:33:23.1, good enough for 81st overall, 13th for my category (out of 20) and most importantly – not the last placed person, nor the last placed Chaser. Debut complete.
So I missed my random and arbitrary goal by 3 minutes, of which 2 minutes were spent messing about in transition, so I don’t think that was all bad to be fair. I’ve started taking the philosophy that I’m happy with a race if I feel I couldn’t have gone any faster. I would be frustrated if I knew I phoned an effort in, or cruised, or held something back for whatever. Could I have gone any faster at this race? No way – transition aside. Perhaps on the bike – especially looking at the power data (averaged 199w, which is around 87% of max), though I was significantly affected by the impact that first run had, so I doubt it. I also went at 92% of max heart rate on average on the bike, so I think I pushed it as much as I could, knowing I had a 7km run leg to follow.
Positioning wise, I finished literally in the middle of the field – I was Mr. Average – 81st out of 162. I think that is fair, and representative of where I am at. I don’t race or train regularly, so frankly 81st is actually pretty good, given that the calibre of a club race is going to be higher than that I usual face in more casual surroundings.
And that is my season 2016 in the bag. Once I start to regain feeling in my legs again I will start to think about my training programme that starts on 14th November with some fairly intense base building if everything goes to plan. For now though, my right knee is not as painful as it was yesterday (when it was proper hurting), but my hamstrings, quads and hips are pretty cactus. Thankfully I am off to New York next weekend to indulge in eating myself into a comatose state, and perhaps to jog about Central Park a few times.
It was a great way to finish my season, and in the evening I was invited along to the Chasers end of season party. I had a great deal of fun, and probably a couple too many beers, but it was fantastic to sit down with Joe and George (amongst others) and talk shit for a while.
I’ll have to go out and get myself some Chasers kit and race some more next season – it was too much fun not to. So this season ends with many promises for next season. Can’t ask for more.
Listening To: ‘Black Math’ by The White Stripes