Report from Howard
Remember those weeks when you knew there was something missing but could not quite work out what. Well it is the race reports from yours truly and here is one to put that to rights.
Sprint duathlon 27th April. I got to the start line in reasonable shape for the world championships although I had selected the sprint rather than the standard as there had been highs and lows in the run up period which you are all familiar with as runners. I have just moved into the current age group so was the youngest in the group so wanted to use the sprint as a warm up to the aquathlon where I fancied my chances better but more of that later. To contest at this level you really have to be in 20min 5K shape and be strong on the bike. My parkruns have been around 22mins on fairly hilly courses so I was hopeful for a 21 on race day for the first 5K then around 42minutes for the 20K bike and maybe 12.30 for the final 2.5k run. My minimum target was top 10 in the first 3 Brits which would mean a prequalification position for next years race which is in Holland. The weather was absolutely perfect for racing about 11degress, slightly overcast and not a breath of wind (which does for me on the bike). I watched the previous age groups set of from the gun at what seemed ludicrously fast speeds and repeated my rule number one to myself, ‘don’t set off too fast’! My warm up felt good. These are truly world events and with 31 in my group from Europe, USA, Australia, Canada, Mexico my target was going to be tough to achieve. The wait for the gun is accompanied by the inevitable Pirates of the Caribbean theme which gets you pumped up to set off too quickly! I had been beaten into fourth position in the British standard duathlon championships at Bedford a month ago by Richard Smith so within this race I wanted to turn the tables.
The gun went off and like all the other groups ours charged off at great speed. I held my nerve and warmed into the run at a sustainable pace. The route is two laps through the old town of Pontevedra and twice goes up a pretty long steep hill. Despite the early start there was plenty of support from GB spectators and the locals. Richard was about a minute ahead at the end of the first lap although I had started to feel good so was not worried. I passed him just coming into transition and was slightly disappointed to look at my watch and see 22.40, although given the hill and the fact I needed some energy for the bike not too bad for the first leg.
I have done two standard duathlons as training for this race and they were both cold and windy affairs and in both as soon as I had got on the bike felt there was no strength in my legs for the bike. I have also been doing some weight training to strengthen my thighs as part of the knee treatment and I had tapered from that.
I always put my bike shoes on and run in them to the mount point and often pass a few people struggling to get there feet in the shoes already clipped to the pedals. Today was no exception. I jumped on the bike and hit the clips and was away like a pro! The sprint is a draft legal race so you can ride in a bunch. I tried to latch onto a group which I did but not being a real cyclist I was soon dropped and found myself in no-mans land alone. The bike route is quite simple. Straight up a hill of varying degrees of steepness from slightly to very to very very. In the distance I could see a big American from the group before, grinding his way up the hill with a Belgian from my group in tow. I thought it would be good to join them so I changed gear and gave chase. Shock of shocks felt the power surge through and caught them up with ease. Decided to sail past the Belgian cyclist going uphill and see how long I could maintain the effort. I called to the American to ‘stick with me boy’ and he replied ‘I’m trying baby’! He found new vigour and followed me up and we left the Belgian behind. He was now in no-mans land. Today I felt as good on the bike as I have felt bad previously which is pretty bad. I was soon overtaking a Norwegian in my age group going up the hill which was also satisfying as I guess Norway is pretty hilly. The American had recovered enough to let me take a short break from the lead and we caught up another of his team mates and he was able to join us.
At the top of the hill there is a tight turn and you effectively throw caution to the wind and go back down as fast as you can. The two big Americans set off quickly down the hill and I tucked in behind. To my surprise I found they were too slow so I took the lead again and hit speeds of 40 mph which is about twice my normal race pace. The Norwegian sailed past but then faded away before transition which I arrived at in 39 minutes, which is several minutes faster than previous form would have indicated and must have come as a shock to the GB rivals! I had another slick transition and out for a final last lap blast round the run course. I was overtaken by a Spaniard in my age group who immediately started to cut in front leaving me no room to run so I politely gave him a shove out of the way. I hoped I could overtake him later. I was in pursuit now of another GB in my age group who looked quite sturdy so I thought I would take him up the hill. He was surprisingly strong going up the hill and even pulled away a few yards as I felt the effort on the bike beginning to kick in. At the top of the hill there is the nice descent back to the level stretch that takes you to the finish in the stadium. My favourite part of any road race is the downhill and I stretched out and sailed past the GB rival and was gaining on a French guy in the same group. I flew past him and the icing on the cake would have been to overtake a German and the cherry to catch the clumsy Spaniard. Not to be the only German was away ahead and the Spaniard was 20 seconds ahead. Rather disappointingly I was in 11th place rather than 10th but there is no way I could have found 20 seconds as I had raced to my limit on the day and was pleased enough with 12.19 for the final 2.5 K after the previous efforts. I was actually second GB in the age group the one ahead being the British champion for the group so not a bad result. Found out later that Prequalification for next year at the world championships is to be in the first three GB but also top 15. it is first three GB top 10 for the European championships but because the worlds is a higher standard there is more scope. So minimum target achieved and tables turned on Richard.
I was glad I picked the sprint as the standard was brought forward from the Sunday morning to the Saturday afternoon because of Spanish elections. They slogged it out in the blistering heat of the sun for twice as long.
Look out for the next exciting instalment of the Aquathlon coming soon.