Another great report from Howard:
Last year I went to Horst in Holland to do the Euro Sprint duathlon championships and thought I would like to return this year. They had advertised this as the venue for the same races again and I did the training and qualified. The competition organisers decided to change the venue to Alcobendas (North Madrid) in Spain in two weeks’ time. Some people had already booked their tickets ( I was not one of them) so British Triathlon said they would reimburse unless the people wished to compete in the Long Distance duathlon which was now going to be held in Horst. I liked Horst so I looked into it and decided to go Long for once; not ludicrously long of course but still 10K run 60K bike 10K run. Having no track record or qualification for the distance I got a discretionary place; basically because I said I would turn up !!
The weather had been forecast to be good so I duly registered on Saturday morning and went into Horst in the afternoon. The wind got up to gale force and there was an absolute deluge. So bad, I contemplated buying an umbrella (the shop in which I waited sold them) to go back to the car not 500m away, with two brollies in it already! I waited a while and the rain eventually subsided. Wet cold and windy on the bike I just don’t do well.
Come Sunday morning I was up with the Lark as ever, scraped the ice off the windscreen, marvelled at the clear sky and hardly a breath of wind. I love the organisation that goes into these events and the foreign difference of it all. I had come through France, Belgium, Holland and missed my turn off for Horst so did a bit of Germany too!! I still got to the venue first.
The route is of course dead flat being in Holland. The 10K is 4 laps round a lake, onto the bike and three 20K laps out into the hinterland and then a repeat of the run. There were 12 in my age group and I thought I would be up against three others for the middle placings having looked at their previous performances. We shall call them Gunter the German, Phillippe the Frenchman and Graham from England, stereotypical, but actually their real names!
The sun came up in a clear blue sky and just a whiff of a breeze, it could just be perfect. I had a real spring in my step when warming up and felt in great shape. One of the GB ladies was asking what times for the 10K were anticipated as they wanted some pacing for 42 minutes which I said I was in shape to do so they said would follow me.
The Elite ladies set off at 9.00 am and the age group ladies and the mature gentlemen (55+) with them at 9.05. When the gun went for us I set off at the right pace and the 42 minutes target was out of the window as the lady in question sprinted off with her team mate, as did most of the rest of the field. As brother Mick has often heard me say in races I said you’re going too fast. She said something about going for a place (like there is not time enough in 80K) but all I heard was fiddle de dee, eat my dust!
I caught up with Gunter after about 2K and Phillippe at 3K at around 5K I passed a certain lady resisting the temptation to say I told you so (she eventually did 45.15). I continued to feel pretty good and got to transition in 40.20. Graham had stuck on my heels and we left a quick transition neck and neck.
On to the bikes and away at what felt like a measured pace but I pulled away from Graham quite quickly. 10 minutes or so of repeating don’t push too hard to myself (I have never even ridden let alone raced 60K before) and then I settled into what felt like a sustainable rhythm. Round lap one still feeling good round lap two actually in the zone! All that turbo training in the bedroom paying off I felt like a pro cyclist!
Where was Phillippe? He has a hundred years of the Tour de France in his legs and I have one Tour de Yorkshire to parry with! Half way round lap three and he cruises past effortlessly.
Shortly afterwards we turned into a stiff headwind (where did that come from?) and it suddenly feels like I am pedalling in tar, thighs burning, I feel sick and hollow… Oh calamity! The wheels are coming off the wagon. The voices in my head are saying this is why old men give up racing….your powers are weak… Not so! I have felt worse in training and in innumerable races ….If you’re going through hell, keep going… and with that negative waves were gone in an instant. I had a Frenchman to run down!!
I started to spin the legs quicker to get primed for the final run which was again uncharted territory after a sprightly 10K and another brisk 60 on the bike. I dismounted and could just about get the legs going into baby’s first steps mode!! Bike racked up and looking back no Graham, I never saw Gunter again and Phillippe had two minutes on me going into the run. Another great transition and back out onto the course.
I know I can run because I have been doing it for thirty years but for some reason my legs forgot for a while. Halfway round lap one and I had forced myself back into a rhythm. I did not want Gunter or Graham appearing on my shoulder as they ran me down! End of lap one, end of lap two, calves tightening inner thighs spasming, alter the foot strike, shorten the stride, relief. End of lap three back in a rhythm and at last through the finish in 3 hours 22 minutes. Tough or what?
Did I catch Phillippe?…Non, merde..La prochaine fois!! I caught up a minute on him and surprisingly managed 45. 40 for the second 10K, each lap the same time.
Our age group was won by Heinrich! Guess what nationality and he was 26 minutes faster!!! I’m gunna need a bigger turbo!! However I was 7th and as first Brit to finish in my age group I have prequalified for the next one and once again pleased I was able to do my best on the day.
Graham was the only other Brit in the group, so he does too. He was two and a half minutes behind. Our run times were basically identical so we should have a another ding dong at the Leeds half marathon if both fit.
Next run Fountains 10K next Duathlon? You guessed it Alcobendas (standard distance)…Mucho Calor!!