Report from Howard:
The Oulton Park duathlon is one of only two late qualifiers for the world championships in Aviles in Spain in June. With almost the ‘arrogance’ of Steve Ovett (see youtube ‘arrogance personified’) I had already booked to go to Aviles in anticipation! I am in Lisbon doing the Euro tri champs the previous weekend, so Jacque and I are making a holiday of the whole thing rather than come back. I knew qualification was going to be a tough ask on several levels. First the finals are geographically close, so a lot of people will want to go. There are only two late qualifiers separated by one week and there are often four, widely spaced and also the sport of du and triathlons is increasing in popularity exponentially. The last reason being I have had chronic bronchitis since last June, remember me complaining about a constant cough. I finally pressured the doctors, three of whom did not think I had a chest infection, into doing some proper tests. Guess what .. a chest infection! Anyway armed with the right antibiotics I made the start line without a rattling chest for the first time in 9 months.
On the drive over the Pennines the weather was doing weird and wonderful things. It was an early start so the sun came up like a spectacular desert sunrise and because the ground was cold and damp the hills were shrouded in an ethereal mist. It was like I was on my way to Avalon..no I told myself, I am on my way to Aviles! Then that all went away and the snow came down and the wind gusted and it was -5 going over the top. It was going to be a tough day at the races. It got so bad at some points that I thought it would be abandoned but when I got to the venue the sun came out and apart from the cold and stiff breeze not bad at all.
We lined up at the start on the racing circuit and off we went with the usual mad surge of people starting too fast. I found a steady pace straight away and did the first run leg of 4.3K in 18.33. This relates to 20.48 for 5K which is about as fast as I can manage at the moment. The cycle leg was the first time draft legal so I had been a bit nervous about inexperienced cyclists, including myself, causing problems. In the event it made no difference except to the front end racers. It did of course mean I had to go back to my trusty Boardman road bike instead of my fast TT. It was cool and the breeze was strong but I managed to get within a minute of my previous fastest bike time on this course, so I must be improving on the bike. I still felt good at the start of the second run and unbelievably did 18.33 for the second run as well, after a hard ride, so very pleased with that. The total time was 1.23.54 which was less than 3 minutes down on my best time here two years ago and I could not have done any more.
The first four in each age group get automatic qualification and two more provided they are all within 115% of the winners time in that group. I was 7th by about 35 seconds but I could not have even found another 3 but whether I had or not was academic as the winner in our group was ridiculously fast and set the bar very high with 1.10.20! Only three others were within 115% and I was about 118%. I got home and immediately entered the only other qualifier at Bedford aerodrome next Sunday to have another go. It will be a tall order again for the same reasons and I think the only way I will make it, unless I have a blinder next week, is by the discretion of the GB team management. I have hopes because there were only two qualification races and not the usual three or four, I have a solid track record and the winner in this race is obviously of a world class standard and set the bar very high which you might expect for a world championship anyway! I think the team management want as many people in the team for the finances but not to be embarrassed by too low performances. I am really looking forward to mixing it with the best next week but at the moment I think I have more chance of getting to Avalon!