I had entered this event, which took place in early March 2017, in the preceding January thinking that it would be a nice run out on a Spring Sunday morning and a good warm up for the Wilmslow Triathlon in May, I should have known better….
A duathlon consists of a run followed by a bike ride and finished off with another run. This was a sprint duathlon so the runs were both 4.3km and the bike was 21.5km. There are many different lengths but I chose this as a first timer and being unsure of my fitness levels after the winter. I had been training over the winter but not with as much vigour as usual so this was to be a warm up and see how I was fairing with my Triathlon training. This event was also an ITU qualifier and there were all levels of athletes competing from those who represent their country to people like me who were just doing it for fun. The venue was Oulton Park race circuit, an undulating race track used for motorbike and touring car racing, amongst other things, which was effectively pretty flat.
When I left home it was a crisp Spring morning. The sun was shining and although it was a bit chilly it had all the hallmarks of a nice day so I thought that the weather forecast was going to be wrong (it had forecasted rain), little did I know. As I drove down the motorway to the event I noticed that I was driving into cloud and it was getting colder…. On arrival at the circuit it was raining but not amounting to much so I checked in and got out the wet weather gear, just to be on the safe side, before taking my bike for inspection and into the transition area. Looking round the transition area I could see plenty of very sophisticated looking bikes and suddenly I thought that this was about to get serious. As I started to warm up it was raining heavily so I opted for my cycling waterproof, wooly hat and gloves. I had my triathlon suit on as well which had short legs as my theory is that wet legs dry quicker than wet trousers (even if they are made of lycra).
Warm up over it was time for the safety briefing. By now it was snowing, the temperature felt to have dropped considerably since my arrival and the wind had picked up too. All the competitors were huddled together, as best we could, and jumping about to try to keep warm urging the official to get on with it so we could start and get moving before we got cold. Finally, after what seemed like forever in the wind and snow, we were allowed to get on the track for the mass start and we were off. We had been advised about the potential pitfalls of riding a bike on a motor racing track, oil and slippy bits mostly, but at least the surface would be pretty smooth, unlike the roads I had been training on. I had not thought about the drainage though…..
All round the first lap for the run I was looking round and trying to work out where would be best to be on the bike but it all looked pretty good. However, there were rivers of rainwater running across the track and some pretty big puddles. The wind was biting and really chilling as it blew the moisture off my skin and chilled me to the bone and the snow was stinging my face and and legs as I headed round the circuit. Before I knew it I was coming into the transition area to start the bike phase, where did that go I thought as I was feeling strong and it seemed to be going well. My feet were wet and cold as were my hands but I thought they were ok. As I tried to change my shoes and put my helmet on I realised that I was struggling. Now I had stopped I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes and struggled to change my shoes, get my helmet on and get off on my bike. It seemed like an eternity as I fiddled and messed but had no coordination to do what I needed to do. My body was saying that I should stop, my head had no idea what to do so I just carried on. Five minutes later I eventually managed to get out of the transition area and out onto the bike. When I did the triathlon my transition was a lot more complicated and took a lot less time, it just shows how the weather can affect you when you really don’t want it to.
The bike section was pretty steady. I am used to riding in the wet but this was a lot wetter than usual and with the rivers running across the track it was quite hairy at times. On the run I had worked out where to watch the braking to ensure I stayed upright and try to have the best line round the track and that paid off even though I was being passed by elite athletes on their later laps whilst I was only beginning. This wasn’t demoralising as for me the event was all about getting round and a new experience. I knew I was doing my best in the conditions so I kept plugging away. I was getting colder though the wind chill on my legs and I knew I had to be careful as I was struggling to feel my fingers inside my wet gloves even though they were still moving but I wasn’t giving up.
As I entered the transition area for the second time and dismounted my legs turned to jelly. I could not feel my feet, although when I looked they were still attached, so scrapped my plans to put my other shoes back on. Bike racked, helmet off, a large slug of Prolong and off I went for the final run section. I use Prolong from the Herbalife 24 range on events like this to help me when the going is tough. Within 400 yards of starting running again my legs were back to normal, the muscles had readjusted themselves, and I was feeling strong again. I dug deep and knew that I could do this. I wouldn’t break any records but this was now about me versus the conditions, and I was going to win. The rain had eased off and the track had dried out a bit during the bike ride but the wind was still bitter and there were still some mighty big puddles and the odd river running across it. Something inside me had switched my thinking, I am not a runner by choice and don’t really enjoy it, and I did what I tell my clients to do when they first start, that is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving. The track was hard under foot as I still had my cycling shoes on but I just kept going. I passed several people on that final lap and to every one I was encouraging them to keep going. If I could do it, so could they!
As I climbed up the small hill towards the finish I could feel a sense of satisfaction coming over me. I had done it. I had beaten the elements and my own demons to complete the event. I smiled to myself as I crossed the line when a young lad, with a poncho on to keep himself dry, asked to take my timing chip off my leg and even called me “sir”. I’ve not been called that for a long time…. Where I finished was immaterial, given the conditions just to finish was an achievement in itself.
I salute all those people who participate in events in the winter. The cold and wet is not good for the body at the best of times, never mind when you are testing it to the extreme by doing obstacle races or events similar to this. I learnt a lot from this event both about myself and my planning. My nutrition for the event had been on point all through the run up using a mixture of Herbalife products and a healthy balanced diet I was in good shape. What let me down was my planning for the conditions and that won’t happen again. I also attended this event on my own due to my partner and my family having their own commitments and I did miss that moral support but I still dug deep and finished it when I felt that I couldn’t after the first transition. My times were good given the conditions and I am happy with them so now it’s onwards and upwards. Bring on the next event ooooosssshhhhhhh!!!!!!