Report from Howard Jeffrey: The rain in Spain falls mainly on the ETU Standard duathlon championships!! I watched the sprint distance in the morning when the weather was not too bad. The road was wet which made the white paint on the crossings treacherous and I saw many a heavy fall as the wheels just zipped out from under people. Note to self: ride between the white bits.
The sprint completed, the forecast thunderstorm and winds came on with a vengeance. My start time of 12.20 came and the rain had stopped (temporarily!). Warm up was good and I felt the adrenaline surge to tips of toes and fingers: always a good sign. I expected to finish in around sixth position given the known form of the rivals and a couple of Spanish unknowns who I thought were likely to be good.
The 10K run was four laps of an undulating course kicking off up a steep drag. On your marks and go; steady away up the hill then into a nice consistent pace round the four laps (39.58! getting quicker). Onto the bike for four laps of just less than 10k each round an undulating course that took in no less than 22 roundabouts each lap each with an entry and exit of white line crossings. Careful!!
Lap one comfortable pace, rain increasing, wind picking up. Second lap rainwater pouring off my sleeves, can’t see for running water blurring my vision. Wind gusts coming thick and fast and buffeting the bike so it seemed like the wheels were loose. End of second lap thinking this is quite tough and noticing a lot of wounded souls waiting for pick up after crashes. Lap three the temperature was forecast for 17 degrees so I only had my long sleeved lightweight shirt on. Hail stones pelting down for a while on the third lap and thinking this actually feels like about 2 degrees and I am cold. Lap four ‘come on Howard you’re doing great ’ I hear from the wayside ‘only one lap to go’. I get half way round lap four and am aware there appears to be no-one else on the bike route. The conditions are as bad as I have ever seen them and I guess people are abandoning. Not Me! Survival of the fittest and all that goes through my mind. I get to the next hill and my thighs are telling me ‘you can’t get up this hill; you’re too cold’…..I am up out of the saddle not so much cycling as grinding my way to the top. Coast down the other side, spinning fast to warm up. I don’t think I can get up another hill it is impossible! No that just takes a little longer!! Get over the brow and coast down past a GB lady stopping on the next incline and stepping off the bike, unable to pedal. Game Over! I found out afterwards that upwards of 35 people had pulled out with hypothermia some of them hospitalised!
You have to make the start line and then you have to finish to get a time and position. The odds are going in my favour if I finish. No question. I get to the transition, thankfully only 5K to run. Definitely feeling a bit disoriented when I finally get my running shoes on and hit the hills on the run again. You’re not running up these hills my thighs are telling me again and again I ignore them and force my way into some kind of rhythm. Probably not pretty but I got going for the second and final lap to finish in 24 minutes for the 5K which in the scheme of things was OK. One guy got off the bike in transition and the next thing he knew was waking up in the emergency room!!. A couple of seasoned cyclists said they have never been out in such bad conditions so it was good just to finish.
There were never the less 10 finishers in my age category (not the Spaniards) a Frenchman first, a GB second and them me, to claim the bronze medal and my first podium finish after seven attempts!! A good work-out for the Keswick half at the weekend and Leeds half after that.