Rule #42 A bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run.
Yeah I know but whilst I can't compete at the top in a bike race, put a run and bike race together (its called a duathlon) and I have found that I can complete at the highest level. I turn 50 this year so "age-up" into the 50-54 category so have been giving it my all. Here's my race report from the European Duathlon Championship at which I am proud to say I won a bronze medal.
The European Duathlon championship was held on 16-17th April 2016 at an amusement park converted from a non-commissioned nuclear power station in Kalkar, Germany. Now how someone came up with that idea I don't know! German sense of humour? I travelled out with club members Neil and Lexi Coucham who were also in the GB team. I was competing in the sprint race (5k run, 20k bike, 2.5k run). They call it a sprint as at that level it's all out red zone for an hour. Lexi and Neil were competing in the standard race which is twice the distance for a different kind of pain - a long "when is it going to end?" sufferfest.
True to form my race prep was not the best as when packing I realised I had left my best race flats on the damn coach to work. Not ideal and had to use a different pair that I had not raced in and had to pinch some elastic laces from my wifes trainers (you don't want to lose tying up your shoes!). Next, half way on the road to the Chunnel and I hold my head in my hands when I realise I'd left my aero helmet, glasses, gloves, race belt back at home and it was too late to get them!. Thankfully Neil saved me with a borrow of his lid and I found I had a spare race belt.
Onto the day itself and Neil was off first at 10:30. He'd been suffering from a broken toe having dropped his iPad on it (doh!). He was in a bit of pain and hadn't run for weeks so was not race ready. Despite this he managed a very credible 38:30 10k and finished 12th. Lexi was off next in the afternoon and managed yet another PB and came 4th brit 11th in AG. My race wasn't scheduled until 6pm (what sort of time is that!) and so was starting to get concerned over lack of nutrition, being on my feet all day and feeling cold. I managed some self discipline and sensibly passed on the currywurst and chips, holding off my hunger pangs with banana and muffins. Half an hour before the race I started warming up and was feeling good and quick. Every few minutes I had to peel a layer off and thought I'd settle with base layer and arm warmers (it was chilly and windy).
It's now 5 mins before start and I am still feeling a bit too warm so dash back to my bag to strip off some more. Back to the start line and damn - they are ready queuing for the start and I am stuck 3 rows from the start line and can't get any further forward. Not good as the whole wave is 50+ and I'm in the 50-54 so know I need to be at the front to have a chance.
Klaxon goes and we are off. I have to sprint to get past those in front to get alongside the two I had earmarked as key contenders - an Austrian who was a previous world champion and multiple medal holder and another Brit, Wayne Aylesbury, who was last years European sprint silver medalist. However that little sprint has made me think that the pace we have settled into could do with being a little faster and so I start to push the pace harder to the turnaround. We have now opened up a decent gap on the rest of the field but its another big mistake - I have gone too hard and start blowing. The Austrian starts opening up the distance and me and Wayne can't follow his pace so we settle in and make it to transition together with an 18:10 5.1k which I am happy with. I make a fairly decent transition although a bit slower than Wayne. Usually the fast runners are runners first and cyclists second and so are not so strong on the bike. So I think right, now's my chance to reel them in. How wrong I am - they are quicker than me on the bike and start disappearing into the distance. I console myself that I am not going to catch then and am now fully focussed on bronze medal. All I can keep saying to myself is "I'm on for a bronze so keeping it going" over and over again in my head. The wind is tough and I'm trying to focus on keeping the power on and to keep pushing as hard as I can as know the uber cyclists are likely to catch me. However, thankfully, every time I take a look behind when we hit a turn I don't see anyone coming up. I enter into transition for 2nd time (aka T2) thinking I am fairly safe. Shock horror! As I run to my rack I see a German running into T2 aswell. But I get another quick transition and am off running. I am thinking I should be able to hold him but am a bit worried as my 2nd run is always much worse than it should be. I glance back and he is about 100 metres behind. At the turnaround he looks closer and I push hard for the remaining 1K or so. He doesn't gain on me and I head into the finishing area with a comfortable lead of about 20 seconds for the bronze medal!
Results: 3rd out of a fairly large field of 28. Total time: 1:01:15, 1st leg 5.1k in 18:10, bike leg 20k in 31:13 (bit disappointing for a Wheeler rather than a runner), final run 2.5k in 9:57.
Am still feeling elated now that I have achieved a medal at this level to add to my GB national medal a couple of weeks ago. It was great being on the podium and a proper medal ceremony with family and friends there made it feel special.
Roll on the worlds in June!