When one of our athletes had a duathlon rearranged to a week after their A race (Outlaw X) the intention was to enjoy it, not race it. We thought it would be good to do a event together-no spectators were allowed so it gave me the chance of watching one of our athletes perform and it provided me with the ‘race’ experience too-always good for a coach to experience an environment for their athletes.
We travelled together, talking for whole journey which dispelled any of the pre-race nerves when travelling solo. On arrival, we both announced the need for a trip to the toilets! Then, it was registration, labelling up everything-all done in a COVID environment with masks added to the essential equipment. Next stop, another visit to the toilets before preparing our kit in the transition. The weather had been blustery wind and rain but so far, the day was dry!
We did a ‘warm up’, decided on necessary kit, just in case that blustery rain re-appeared and made our way to the start. It was a rolling start, and for the standard distance, a 2-lap run around the race track. My personal goal was for my final run lap to equal my first lap-surely, I could be disciplined! Advice from my coach and coaching partner, an experienced duathlete, was that it’s easy to start too fast, as the first half kilometre was downhill. She was right, and I went off too fast! I had started 10 seconds ahead of our athlete and as I hit the flat, she came past and it was great to be able to exchange a few words and watch her stride powerfully ahead towards the right-hand camber. There were bikes on the track flying past and it was nice to see a couple of fellow club mates. All athletes were fairly well spaced out, due to the rolling start. The second half of the lap was undulating, and the final part had the challenge of a short, sharp incline, but on reaching the summit, the ‘pit’ signalling the start/finish of the laps was in sight. Lap two, the rain still held off, and I was starting to get a bit warm in my arm warmers as well as having cycle gloves on. I planned to add a long sleeve top but I was so hot, surely I’d be ok on the bike without it …but would I…. I was going to have to make a decision and stick with it!
Into transition and then back to the super smooth track for nine laps on the bike. Into the TT position and it was a delight to have no potholes to avoid! I had a strategy to remember the laps and fuel…I’d have an energy/electrolyte ‘bloc’ on each lap! First lap and first ‘bloc’ and it took half a lap to eat it, was sticky and I had an uncomfortable feeling in my mouth-there was no way I could eat one more, never mind 8! So, my strategy to remember the laps reverted to letters for each lap. It was great fun, positioning for the corners and then accelerating out of them. Although, that short, sharp incline seemed to be gaining in height for each lap and I felt like my 53/39 chainring was far too big and I would ‘run out’ of gears. Onto lap 7, around the first corner and I spotted a familiar silhouette ahead. It took half a lap to get behind her and then I had to push hard to overtake, mindful of not gaining a ‘drafting’ penalty. We managed a quick exchange and as she had spurred me on, I hoped she’d stick with me until the run.
Back into transition and the final run lap. It was only 4.3 k – less than a parkrun! That initial downhill was nice to get into a rhythm. As it flattened out, once again, our athlete passed…she kindly offered to run with me but this was her race, an enjoyable one, but one she could comfortably push herself in, and we can always run together at other times. I spotted a competitor walking up that ‘hill’ and the thought of me walking entered my mind, but I dispelled it. I could see the top of the hill – not far to go…I tried to focus on posture and form and wondered what was in the goody bag.
Race done and we both achieved 1sts in our respective age categories – not bad for an enjoyable race, but importantly, a great shared experience. A race I’d do again and recommend to others too.