Hands up if, just for a moment, you thought I might have won a race? No? No one?
Well you’d all be right, because today I got my very first last place.
Oh there may be one or two guys behind me when the official results come out, but they’re the bloke who’s bike fell apart and the one who’s legs ceased up, neither of whom count. In my class (open men) of those that could finish, I did so last.
When I started the Runrider Duathlon at Ashton Court this morning (my first multi-activity event) I really didn’t know what to expect. It had been a bit of a rush getting registered, and then putting my bike and kit in to the transition area for the first time. Thanks to the rain the day before ruining a field the parking had been moved a ten minute walk from the start, so I was lucky to get set up and on the start line in time. It’s a good job I never warm up for races otherwise I’d have been annoyed at not having had the time to! Couldn’t shift the nervous thought I’d forgotten something, and having only caught the last half of the competitor briefing I wasn’t even sure which arrows I was following or know the rules! Luckily the events at Ashton Court are so well organised it is almost impossible to get it wrong. The route was very well marked and the marshalls were brilliant (especially the girl on the crossing point near the finish straight who I passed 3 times, not sure if I was more motivated by what she was saying or not wanting to look rubbish in front of her!)
Anyway, I made it to the start, the countdown happened and we were away. Almost immediately I gave my ankle just the smallest of turns and the pain reminded me I was injured and probably shouldn’t be there! It wasn’t serious, I didn’t really go over on it, just some rough ground and a warning pain. So, I slowed right up and the first run became more of a nervous shuffle. I watched most of the pack streak off in to the distance and settled in with a group at the back. It was going well for the first 3km but then we hit a climb that was more suited to a Mudrunner event! I had no choice but to slow to a walk and very carefully ease my way through the mud and fallen logs and walk over the more broken ground. I was able to run again for the last km but by then the damage was done and I was pretty lonely bringing up the rear. I got in to transition for the first time and realised the benefit of forward planning as I tried to swap shoes, eat a gel, take a drink and put on a helmet all at once. I’ll be better prepared next time…
Possibly the biggest disappointment of the day is that my riding was pretty darn good. I know that sounds daft, but once I was on the bike I started catching and passing back markers and really enjoying myself, which made being so slow in the run all the more annoying. The course at Ashton Court is pretty much weatherproof and so the riding was fast and smooth, and lots of fun. I wasn’t particularly quick, suffering a bit from the run and conscious of another 5km to do I took it easy on the climbs and even slowed down to chat to a few other competitors, but on the singetrack I had a great time!
All to soon I was trying to change shoes again and heading back out for the second run. This time I knew which bits of trail I could trust and where I needed to take a bit more care, but there was nothing I could do about the mud slide almost slowing me to a standstill again. By this point I was quite content to cheer on others as they passed me and chatted with two guys travelling at my pace for the last km. As we neared the finish they both strode ahead of me, but there’s no prize for finishing a minute quicker and as my ankle was sore by now I took it steady and crossed the line in 2:58:42 (according to garmin). Not what I’d hoped for by any means.
It’s not all doom and gloom though! Not at all. I have now successfully completed my first duathlon, I’ve learnt about the art of transitioning, I know I’m capable of combining running and riding and that if I work at it I can improve massively on my performance today. I kept going for 3 hours and that alone is a great achievement. That’s a lot of positives, and to top it all off I got another t-shirt for the collection and went home to a delicious Nando’s with my family. I think that makes me a winner, even if I was the loser.
One thing that is certain is that I won’t be entering the Mudrunner next weekend. My ankle is definitely not strong enough for trail running, and doing so knee deep in mud when I can’t see where I’m placing my feet would be a monumentally bad idea! Luckily, I have just been offered a place in the Great South Run for October 28th so I’ll focus on that instead, and stick to the treadmill and roads for now.