In the past we have never had more than 6 athletes racing a Duathlon. This time we had 18 starters, and had it not been for the clashes with Marshman and Steyning Triathlons it would have been quite a few more! Mind you - the Marshman turned out to be a duathlon because the water was too cold!
The weather was the main talking point before the start. Cold and wet and with increasing wind, but compared to the conditions the weekend before it was something of an improvement.
The race briefing does not usually provide any interesting material for reports, but James was so focused on the forthcoming race that he could not get his head around the idea of a circuit of the car park for T1 and had to have it explained in words of one syllable. However, he had written the risk assessment for transition himself!
The first 10k at least got everyone warmed up. Neil and James set off at a blistering pace. Whilst this would be a quick course in the dry, the wet conditions were totally different. There was mud, standing water, some technical turns where it was slippery underfoot and one dead turn to be negotiated every lap, but it is a great scenic route and an accurate 10k measured with a wheel. Neil (37.29) had the edge over James (38.37) and it would have been more but for a small error on the first lap which cost him 10 seconds. Rob, Steve and Mike were much closer together with only 24 seconds separating them at T1 - all about 41minutes. Rachel (46.44) led Hazel (47.42) in the ladies race. In the short Duathlon Fiona had a very fast 5k in 20.38, well ahead of Callum and Jade.
There were no great issues for anyone in T1 in the end but John MacTear became completely disorientated once he got out on the road. He first tried to cycle in completely the opposite way to that which he was supposed to. Fortunately David Ricketts was on hand to scream at him to go the other way - which he duly did - straight down the muddy Downslink path! David shouted at him again, and by process of elimination (he had now gone down every incorrect route he possibly could) John did a muddy U-turn and finally went the right way.
The bike route featured a patented, height co-ordinated marshal system to make sure everyone turned at the correct roundabout. The short course featured a short marshal, and the long course a tall marshal at the respective turn points. It clearly works as no-one went wrong on the bike circuit, and the only challenge was the weather. It was very windy and whichever course was being ridden it was into the headwind for the entire first half. Of course this made for a much quicker second half. It was also now steadily raining, just to make sure everyone got extremely cold, especially hands and feet.
James overhauled Neil on the bike as expected, with a 61m05s transitions and bike split time, and gained 3 minutes in total, to exit T2 2m23s ahead. Rachel overtook Martin, and Hazel overtook John on the bike leg, and Del had the vision of Trevor overtaking him like he was part of the Tour de France! Both Trevor and Del overtook Kate, but she did not have any aero bars which would have made a huge difference. Callum had the fastest Short course bike split with 41.48, which was not quite enough to catch Fiona, who left T2 34seconds ahead. Jade(49.07), Jean(49.42) and Julie (50.51) all completed the bike leg in the same order as they had left T1. Rose had a very steady ride and having been round the course 2 weeks earlier was much more confident with her riding and did 57.36.
T2 caused many more problems, mainly for the long course athletes because with frozen fingers and blocks of ice for feet it was very difficult to do anything. Rob was so cold he needed a hand with his helmet. Pete was happy to oblige! Hazel nearly resorted to doing the second run with her hat on. It was difficult to get shoes on with such cold hands, but eventually everyone was out running again.
Fiona easily pulled clear of Callum to do her last 2.5k in 10.43, Callum finished second with a 12.18 split and Jade made up some time with a 12.03. The long course race was proving quite a spectacle. It was clear that Neil was not giving up and ran an incredible 19.08, gaining on James all the way round. James had paced it well however and had 69seconds spare at the finish. Rob ran an impressive 20.38 to finish 3rd and was always pulling away from Steve who lost a minute over the 5k, finishing 4th and maintaining a 3 minute advantage over Mike. The next fastest 5k was run by Kate in 24.15, making up a lot of time, comfortably faster than Rachel and Martin and much faster than the others and clearly enjoying it in spite of the conditions. Alan commented on her big smile as she was running round (and honourable mentions went to Julie, Fiona and Mike for being especially cheerful in the conditions). Apparently Rob looked as frozen as he felt, and Trevor looked positively pale by the finish.
The marshals enjoyed the race and several have told me how fired up they now feel about getting race fit. It was great watching the tussle between James and Neil - hopefully the first of many. As is now typical of out own races, all the earlier finishers cheered in the later ones and both Del and Kate had huge cheers when they finished. Several people have commented on how good the camaraderie is within the club - and the fact that everyone feels like this after a race in difficult conditions is great testament to what is now being achieved. For many of the athletes this was their first Duathlon. Well Done to all of you.
Author Steve Alden