Report from Howard:
I well remember the words of the witty Nick Hancock (remember him) when he said ‘Birmingham City have discovered there is no such thing as an easy game of football…..especially when you’re shite’! By the same premise I discovered that there is no such thing as an easy ‘long’ (it is actually ‘only’ a middle) distance duathlon. Whilst perhaps not actually shite I am competing at the absolute limit of my level of training allows. No amount of hours on a turbo trainer in the bedroom is adequate preparation for a hilly bike course. Likewise I can cope with a hill or two in a 10K run but any more and the power has gone from my legs but more of that later.
I set off for the venue on Thursday morning and stopped overnight in France. It had rained constantly on the journey and the following day as well and vast swathes of Germany were under water. Half thought it might end up being an aquathlon! I registered and racked the bike on Saturday afternoon and the rain had stopped and the sun was breaking through so there was hope for Sunday. I also did the bike recce on Saturday since I had not even been out on the bike or on the turbo for a week. Likewise recovering from the Leeds half took until Saturday morning when I went for a ‘jog’ but that was uphill ( with hindsight a little unwise) through a beautiful silent forest in the pine fresh air and complete silence apart from a few birdsongs. As I felt good I followed the signs up and up and up to the Hunting lodge which was typical Germanic wood building where I expected to bump into Little Red Riding Hood.
The bike recce was a slow 20K plus lap and even though we were going slowly the hills were a bit tough and plenty of them. Oh dear! I did not recce the run route (glad I did not) but the reports back from those that did was that it was going to be a tester. For those of you that run fells all this probably sounds a bit wimpish but my preferred courses are undulating and on tarmac and it is what I train to do. This year was going to be more of a race than previous years in that there were 15 in the age group, mainly Germans with representatives from GB (2 of us), Italy, Denmark Belgium, Austria and France (the eventual winner by a long way). Having struggled to even finish the last one success today was going to be a finish in the top ten, thus pre-qualifying for the next one.
The forecast was for clear sun and a temperature rising to 24 degrees and a very mild breeze so pretty OK for me. When I drove to the venue the temperature was 3 degrees! The sun was coming up and the valleys were shrouded in mist and I was on my way to Avalon again, fantastic. I had taken gear for all combinations of weather so had the right combo’s for the day. It got very, very hot as I was out on the course for 4 hours and 28 minutes! An hour more than the comparable course last year at Copenhagen where the route was flat but also windy. The race consists of nominally 10K run followed by 60K bike and topped off with another 10K run. You don’t just turn up and do well or even finish as many, many people found to their cost ( I scanned all the results). At 9.05 the gun went off and I established a steady rhythm at about 45 minute 10K pace. For those that know the Guiseley Gallop route there is a really tough hill to climb. Well this route had something very similar but we had to go up 4 times over the course of the two laps and the descents where I normally sail down were across stony tracks and grass meadows, squidgy in places. It took more than 50 minutes to get back to transition but I still felt OK and onto the bike it was. In short the bike route could be likened to going up and down the Chevin maybe 12 times over the three laps. It was hot and on the last ascent I was down to my last ounce of strength just to turn the cranks the gauges were on red. I thought I might have to walk up the last hill with the bike but I hung on again and it was downhill to the transition. I saw the runners on the grass in the sunshine with the black forest hills in the background and instead of dreading the final run I actually thought I quite fancy a run! Must have been heatstroke! I say run it took a while for the legs to get going again off the bike and we had the four hard hills to negotiate. This is the fourth one of these I have done and know the last 10K is always a challenge. I did have to walk up the last two hills ( it was actually quicker as the strides were longer) and rounded off the day with a 1.04 last 10K. I said it was tough. Reward is prequalification for next year ( I hope it will be a flatter course) because I came 9th in the age group. Slight disappointment as there were only 10 turned up. Still I beat a German on his home turf so worth it just for that. Some of the competitors are going on to do Zofilgen which is in Switzerland and is effectively that course but twice! Now that is a long distance duathlon course.
Next weekend is the European Aquathlon championships in Bratislava 1K swim 5K run. Now that’s what I’m talking about!