Report From Howard ‘Thomas Hardy’ Jeffrey
This race was in my training plan for the World age group duathlon and aquathlon championships in Spain next week. I also stuck in a couple of standard duathlons in the previous two weeks to get some overdistance in. They were both very hard slogs into cold and bleak winds. Today we were treated to exceptionally warm conditions which added to the test that this hilly two lap course already is. This race is also one of the Leeds race series and I am currently leading my age group (currently leading the whole mens competition but only because I have done one more race than the younger bucks! Also picked up a nice trophy for winning the group last year which was a satisfying prelude). Currently the main rival in the LRS is Ken Fox who although he has not done any of the parkruns in the series yet he was here to do this one (he won the age group below last year). In the event of equal points the series is decided on head to heads so I had set my stall out to race hard today and avoided any park runs yesterday.
I felt OK warming up and know to station myself near the front because you need to see the ruts and divots in the track on the early descent but also not to be delayed at the one or two pinch points in the early part of the route. I got away nicely and was soon into a steady rhythm. Nice and shady down through the woods for about 1.5K then a sharp turn onto a dead level track and tarmac road for another K or so. The sun was hot and I regretted not wearing my bespoke Otley summer vest which is a light white mesh.The water station was welcome at the bottom of the hill onto which you turn right. It then climbs quite steeply and often in the hot sun with a couple of short breaks in the climb and there is a real naughty gradient that takes you to the top of the climb which has a number of people walking. At maybe 3.5K there is a welcome descent back in the shady part of the woods and you join the original rutted path from the start just past the left turn back to the finish on the second lap. I have only been training for the short distances recently so I took a look across the stream and saw the leader of the age group (Jim Weldon) I move into shortly, not far behind and maybe 200m behind him the guy I was racing to beat. I gathered myself up to coast through the shady woods going back down to dig deep along the track and tarmac road back to the drinks station and hill. The heat was now stifling and I felt I was beginning to flag. This is the part of the race where you win or lose and if you race it is going to be uncomfortable. It was. Obviously if people are going to catch you they have to go faster than you so you have to make it as hard as possible. I kept tucking in behind anyone that passed me and took a couple of cups at the water station. To say I ran up the hill would be an exaggeration but I kept the legs swinging to the top even up the last hard bit. Obviously again, the race is never over till you cross the line so you have to ignore the dull ache of discomfort and I tried to push on again down the last hill. At the bottom you take a hard left and the route climbs up again and then a short descent back to the last quite steep climb towards the finish feeling quite ghastly. A quick look behind and Jim is not going to catch me and no sign of Ken. On to the finish and the discomfort immediately subsides. A bottle of beer for our pains and you can watch the finishers come in. Ken had blown up in the hot sun and was 4 minutes behind so job done. I was a couple of minutes faster than last year and 2nd o/60 so I think there will be a bit more icing on the cake through the post in a few days time.
The race was won by Matt Hallam of Valley Striders in 36.54, first lady 10th place was Hannah Oldroyd of Ribble Valley harriers in 40.14.
Mark Hall was first home for Otley AC in 25th place in 42.15, then Howard Jeffrey in 101st in 50.43. Lee Gumbrell 196th in 56.18, Colin Best 230th in 58.39 Then Phil Robinson 265th in 1.01.12 and Sara Richard 332nd in 106.59. There were 427 finishers