Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Why not Tri a Duathlon!?

In a parallel to the December of 2013 (entering the Manchester 10k on a whim), - this time in December 2015 -  I entered a Duathlon, along with my friend Amanda.  We decided it would be fun to try something a bit different - and it was definitely different! WTF had we done!!!

The normal layout of a Duathlon is run, (road) bike, run. This tests the athletes stamina and endurance but misses out the swim phase which puts many people off (including me!)


This particular Duathlon - the inaugural Macclesfield Forest Duathlon run by CrazyLegsEvents, was a bit different - and more up my street.  The 1st phase was a fell run up Shutlingsloe,  "A steep-sided hill with a distinctive profile, sometimes described as the 'Matterhorn of Cheshire', with an elevation of 506 m (1,660 ft) (Wikipedia). 
Race stats - 
  • Run 1 - 7km (including 365m ascent to the summit of Shuttlingsloe)
  • Mountain Bike - 16.5km (Three lap course within Macclesfield Forest with approximately 310m of climb per lap)
  • Run 2 - 3.4km (including 222m of ascent within Macclesfield Forest)

Extremely windy recce run

After a recce of the runs and some of the MTB course (some was out of bounds until the event), Amanda and I set about training for the hilly fell run with medium length hill runs and lots of mountain biking in the Goyt Valley.  

MTB training in the beautiful Goyt Valley

Some snowy training runs on Taxal Edge

We started to add "brick" sessions (where you move directly from one phase to another) incorporating a run straight after our bike rides.  

A typical weekly plan for me was -  1 MTB followed by a 1-2k brick run incorporating hills, a medium length fell run and a shorter tempo style run of around 5k (where you run flat out for a set distance/time to increase speed).  

I also tried running straight to bike a few times but only to improve muscle memory so I covered very short distances on the run.  In hindsight, I wish I had done more of these run/bike bricks to avoid the thigh burn I got when biking up the first hill of the MTB section - you live and learn!

Taxal Edge Training run

When you start to delve into the world of multi-sports, it becomes apparent that new gear is necessary.  I invested in a cheap and cheerful "trisuit" for about 20 quid off ebay which had padding for the bike but was fine to run in as it didn't fall down like my cycling trousers. 

Ladies a warning - these garments are by no means flattering, and at times borderline obscene on some male athletes! I decided that I would wear mine as a base layer only and added running tights and a base layer top over it!  If nothing else to stop people seeing the see-through porno side panels!  It turned out to be a winning combo as I stayed warm and comfortable throughout the event.

Recce run up Shutlingsloe

I also took my bike to my local bike shop - The Bike Factory who serviced my MTB and even did a pre-race check the day before the event - well worth doing to avoid unnecessary technical failures!  Amanda taught me how to change the inner tube in case I got a puncture and I felt confident that I had prepared for the bike section as well as I could.

Nutrition-wise, I stocked up on gels which I use in all races for a boost of energy (the texture is an acquired taste but they do work) and I bought some electrolyte tablets to use in my OMM last drop 10 back-pack for the cycling section.  A friend of mine recommended them to stop cramp and help rehydrate quickly.  

On the day!

A welcome downhill section
I have never been as nervous as I was for this event - I was worried about transition - would I fanny around for 10 minutes whilst everyone else hopped onto their professional looking bikes and left me for dead?  Would everyone pass me on the bike phase? It was fear of the unknown.

As I racked my bike (get me!) on the makeshift wooden stands I felt ok, I had all my gear in order in my box (which I had tipped toys out of the day before!).  I was good to go!  My timing predictions were approx 40 minutes for the first run, 1 hour 30 minutes for the bike and 15-18 minutes for the final run - a total guesstimated time of around 2 hours and 30 minutes with transitions.  

The weather could not have been worse.  It poured down with freezing rain the whole time - those poor marshals must have been so cold!  I wore my Montane Atomic jacket for the whole of the 3 phases, a very unusual move by me, I normally have a strict 2 layer rule, but the wetness would have been unbearable so coat it was! I was glad of it and it performed so well (well worth the £100 investment).  

The first run went as expected, I ran the whole thing as quickly as I could without burning all my energy - I knew this was my strongest phase and I utilised my strengths.  I ran a bit slower than normal on the uphills but then made up loads of ground on the non-fellrunning types on the downs.  I wore my fell shoes which were a godsend until disaster struck!

Coming into transition 1 I was running strong and I made the huge mistake of stepping onto the timing mat - I slipped sideways with full force landing in the mud in front of spectators and marshals!  I must have hit it with some force as the mat stopped working for about 3 competitors after me who didn't get timed! Bet I was popular!

I was so annoyed with myself but only my pride was hurt.  As I reached my bike I took a second to breathe through the pain in my leg which was stinging like mad, but on inspection I hadn't ripped my clothing so I assumed I had just scraped it.  

Coming into transition for the second run phase
I powered on and made it through transition relatively quickly.  Onto the bike phase and wow what a baptism of fire it was!  After the first of the 3 laps I was ready to bail.  It was only the knowledge that people had come to support us,  and Amanda wasn't far behind which kept me going.  It was bloody awful. Lets not pretend that, at times, pushing yourself isn't just hideous!  But, no pain - no gain right?!

People were dismounting left right and centre as the hills were so steep, the section we hadn't recce'd turned out to be brutal - a massive muddy puddle (as deep as my whole wheel) followed by a really steep ascent to the top of a huge hill.   I remember thinking to myself, why do I do these things!  But I soldiered on and found that when I got off the bike my legs went into instant cramp so after the first lap I stayed on the bike the whole time and it helped me to focus and keep going.

Being extra careful over the timing mats!
Onto the second transition I was very careful not to step on the mats! I felt good going into the run and powered through the transition area, it was short lived as I hit the first hill! My legs would not play ball with my head!  I managed to keep going and even felt a bit tearful that I had made it! It really was tough!  I finished at a strong pace  but I felt tired and weary! Amanda finished not far behind me and we were both really pleased we had trained properly.

My results were 2:34:27 so I was not far out with my estimation!

I was 6th lady out of 16 entered and 66th overall.  I was very pleased with that!

Happy its all over!
On refection I would definitely do a duathlon again, but maybe one which is slightly less hilly!  Watch this space!  I'm now in training for a Triathlon in July!  So I need to start swim and road bike training!  Wish me luck and I will keep you posted with my race reports and training progress.
Ouch!  My impressive bruises!

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