I'm not the biggest fan of duathlons but, after a long winter with only a smattering of X-country races, I was keen to kick the season off. Two other members of the team, Chris and Paul, had similar ideas and so we headed up to some unremarkable backwater of middle England to take part in the Dambuster Duathlon. The race looked like a perfect early season tester, with some of the best runners and riders from the age-group triathlon scene on the start list. That said, the 10k–40k-5k run-bike-run format was pretty punchy as a season opener. Weather forecasts for the day looked decidedly Baltic. This did not deter some enthusiastic competitors from rocking up at the start line in nothing but their one-piece and the obligatory calf guards, a must have for all self-respecting duathletes... As it was, the weather turned out to be fairly good, with only a few squalls and rain showers peppering the bike ride.
Having chatted through pacing strategies with Paul we decided that it was probably not a good idea to go with the early pace on the run and try and hold something back for later on in the race. This is the conventional pacing strategy, known to athletes the world over. I am not very good at it. In this race though I really wanted to focus on my bike ride, an area that I am weak in. As a result I did run a fairly conservative first 10k, feeling relaxed and comfortable throughout.
Onto the bike; I knew that I would potentially be caught by quite a number of competitors, some specialist TT'ers others who were simply semi-decent bike riders. I tried to focus on riding my own hard 40k time trial and not get too demoralised by those passing me, a problem I have had in the past. The bike course was a hard and far from flat, a number of rolling hills and a buffeting cross wind making for challenging riding. Weirdly, this was just what I was after. I came into T2 satisfied, but not over the moon, with my ride. This was mainly down to the fact that Paul (who is quite good at riding his very expensive bike) hadn't caught me.
Given that this was the first race of the season I knew that the run off the bike would be unpleasant. It did not disappoint. The run course was an out an back which gave me the opportunity to admire the leader's perfect running form as he pounded back down the course towards the finish line, on his way to a really impressive finishing time. Luckily James was not there to see my own running form disappear into a sea of cramp and muscle spasms. Paul, Chris and myself all ended up having solid races (with Chris coming home in 2nd in his age group) a welcome reassurance that the winter training is going in the right direction.
Personally I would have liked more out of the bike but signs of a progression were there.
By: Ollie Murphy