A perfect morning, bright sunshine, 12 degrees, 5 knots of wind, no rain for two days, and a midday start to allow for a lie in. It all seemed so civilised.
I arrived at the Castle Coombe race track nice and early to rack my bike in a good position and sensed a change in the air from the November race. The average value of bikes seemed to be around the £3,000 mark with some very slick looking machines whose wheels alone probably cost that. Something was very different. A van pulled up next to me, and out jumped last years winner who kindly informed me that with the national championships looming, every serious duathlete in the area was using this as a warm-up event - my hopes of finishing in the top half were rapidly diminishing.
Time for some positive thinking - I still had a PB to beat, and a sneaky look around the paddock confirmed that the guy who beat me by 6 seconds last time was here again..
My pre race plan had me starting in the middle of the pack (rather than at the back), in the hope I would pick a faster pace for the first 2 miles. Off goes the gun and my plan is working well with only one tiny flaw. The pack last time did not include 200 duathletes wanting to compete in the national championships. Lungs burning, vision blurring I manage half a mile before backing off to a more sensible pace. My rival comes past me at the mile mark - but I keep the gap to 20 metres as we go into T1.
Out onto the track and I start reeling in some of those quick runners. The bike feels great on the road after a winter on the turbo trainer and my pace feels good. I go past my rival on lap 2, and in I go after lap 5 (10 miles) for T2. The ##*# next to me has kicked my running shoes out of position when he racked his bike - but transition practice works a treat and we are off on the final 2 mile run.
My legs are really wobbly and I'm not feeling good, throwing up or throwing in the towel both feel like attractive options. Just when it can't get any worse my rival cruises past me looking fresh.
Sheer bloody mindedness kicks in and I set about reeling him in.
With a half mile to go I realise that I need to get past him or he will control the finish. My stride lengthens and at 500m I go past him and another runner. I can see the 200m mark coming up, and suspect that they will kick on at that point. I kick at 210m, and then again at 100m. Through the finish line I go - VICTORY IS MINE!!! Oh, and I took 5mins off my PB.
156th overall - not too shabby considering the field.