Report from Howard:
The latest adventure to finish in front of as many Germans as possible on their home patch in Kalkar started at 5.00am on Thursday at the Wetherby motorway services followed by a 15 hour coach journey! Not quite as gruelling as it sounds as it was one of these long haul ‘luxury’ (a bus?) vehicles which had facilities on board and acres of space. The ferry crossing was also super smooth and the accommodation, when we got there at midnight, was in a converted power station that (they say!) had never been commissioned. It is now some kind of family theme park with snow-capped mountains (a nice touch) painted on the cooling tower, in an otherwise pancake flat but pretty landscape by the Rhine. Well organised event as you would expect in Germany and all the usual routine of picking up numbers, reccying the course passed Friday. My event started at 6.00pm on the Saturday so I watched the Standard races from 13.00 to pass the time. The weather was grim with strong gusts of wind and some wicked squalls one or two of which appeared to be hail ( I was watching out of my hotel window by that time!). Nothing like as bad as the event last year but enough for me to be glad I was doing the short race.
Come 6.00 pm the rain had gone and the wind was a bit less strong and I lined up feeling about as sharp as I could given the reduced training schedule of late. The first 5 K went out and back along the bank of the Rhine and I managed 21.35 and was within myself comfortably for that. The transition was indoors so although ideal my transition was a bit sluggish compared to some of the others (time to re-evaluate), had a pretty strong 20K bike leg and was upper middle of the group in terms of time. There were two laps of flat smooth tarmac with a couple of technical corners but the wind was strong, cross, face and gusting, so I was glad again I had chosen the short race. Another ‘leisurely’ transition for me again and I was struck with a calf cramp whilst pulling on my running shoe. Disaster? I thought oh no I have not had cramp in a race for 20 years and I am going to have to limp to the finish after getting to this point quite solidly. As luck would have it I was able to stretch and massage the wooden calf back into life and had a brisk 11.36 final 2.5K to the finish.
How many Germans did I finish in front of?? None… in my age group (one from a younger age group though, so that counts), a solitary Belgian and half a dozen other Brits. This time I was 16th out of 23 but half the field was spread over less than 4 minutes. I can gain those by shedding the 8lbs over race weight I have been carrying because of the lack of training and discipline, plus a bit more focus (and practice) in transition without any more actual training which I hope to gradually increase over the summer so looking forward to moving up the field a bit.
Next weekend is the English National Championships for the Standard duathlon at Stockton (no Germans there!) and then the European Long distance duathlon in Copenhagen (flying to that one) the following weekend to lock horns with some more of our Euro-brothers.