I’d like to say the season is drawing to a close, but I’m not a big fan of an off-season. I’m at my happiest when I’m up early on a Saturday/Sunday morning, flogging myself senseless. It’s been a decent year for me, in terms of improvement and performances, and I finished it off this morning taking part in my first ever duathlon in Hyde Park.
This event was big one on my clubs (Clapham Chasers) fixture list, and we were out in force, making up nearly a quarter of the total race entries. The organisers encourage fancy dress, and whilst a lot of the serious guys from elsewhere opted against this, we had some cracking outfits on the go.
I’d gone for dressing as The Joker (think Heath Ledger blowing up the hospital in The Dark Knight), with a fairly short skirt not leaving much to the imagination. Thankfully, for other competitors and spectators alike, I’d chucked a pair of swimming trunks on underneath. I still think I may have left some permanent mental scarring out there on the course.
The previous day I’d decided to test-drive the fancy dress (minus the face-paint) at Fulham parkrun, with people dressing up for halloween. While my outfit wasn’t necessarily halloween related, I argued that me in a dress is scary enough for most. What was meant to be a jog round, obviously turned into a high-tempo effort building into flat out. I did get to pace my mate Leo to his first sub-18 though, which was great fun. I ended up with 17.53, but felt like I may regret that effort the following day.
It was at the J&H duathlon last year, whilst volunteering, that I saw the Chasers having such a good time, and was part of the catalyst (along with a few other reasons) for me changing clubs. It was great fun to be a part of that today, as we all messed around beforehand while getting registered and sorting various bits of fancy dress/make up. Captain George kept us all in order and repeated instructions which he’d tried to hammer home multiple times in the build up during the week. Who’d be a club captain.
I decided the line for the toilet was too long to bother going, holding out and hoping for the best seemed like the better option at the time. We jogged back to the start line en masse in complete fancy dress, which got some laughs and must have been quite a sight. There was a quick briefing before we got underway, but it was minimal fuss, and we were underway pretty sharpish.
The first run was around 4km, one lap around the Serpentine Lake. Captain fantastic has built a rep for going out like a lunatic, so I decided somewhere behind him was the best place to be. He’d attached a cow-bell to the back of his kit, so it wasn’t exactly hard to work out where he was. The bell was annoying everyone around us, while the two of us found it hilarious. One chap was getting seriously annoyed – I’m pretty sure by this point he was just sticking with him on purpose..
First run was pretty uneventful – my skirt was riding up within 10 seconds and after a minute or so I gave up trying to pull it back down. Not having done a duathlon before, I had no idea how to pace it, so just set out at ‘hard but not too hard’ effort. 4km covered in 14.20, which put me in 16th place coming in to T1.
I had to get the priorities right in transition – nurse tiara off before putting the helmet on. Quick change of shoes, another flash to the public as I threw my leg over the bike and I was off. It was my first time riding my new Cervelo in a race (actually the second time I’d ever ridden it outside), so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but she was an absolute dream to ride. I can’t wait to see what kind of difference it makes in races next season.
Minimal bike training since Ironman, so the plan was to ride as hard as possible and hopefully not blow up. The best word to describe the bike course is probably ‘interesting’. 10 laps of roughly 2 kilometres, with u-turns at either end, where you basically came to a standstill before having to get back up to speed again.
It got pretty congested after a couple of laps, and I spent most of the time trying to remember how many laps I had left – counting to 10 has never been so hard. The good thing about the course was constantly seeing other Chasers and offering each other encouragement. I rode 36:11, coming off the bike in 17th, losing just the one place. Can’t really complain there, with some proper bike training I should be able to make some gains.
Had an absolute nightmare in transition 2, as I exited sans tiara. I thought about going back for it, but figured I could probably manage without until the end. It wasn’t all bad as I managed to pick up a place changing shoes and was back in 16th. Swings and roundabouts.
The second run was 7.5km, and as usual I drilled the first kilometre or so at a completely unsustainable pace. The early morning tourists were now out in force, but were quick to get out of the way when they saw me flying towards them, make up completely running down my face and my perma-grimace on – it must have been terrifying.
I settled into a pace I thought I could just about hold until the end, passing another couple of lads and making sure they didn’t fancy coming with me. The second lap was fun as I started going past a few chasers on their first lap and tried to share a bit of banter in between my grunts of exhaustion. Team spirit was high and I got some great shouts which pushed me on further.
I passed another 2 runners within the last mile, but was struggling to shake them off as we came into the never-ending home straight. I was running scared all the way to the line, but managed to hold them off and finish 11th overall and 3rd in the male 25-29 age group. My second run was 27.26, the 8th fastest of the day. Full results can be found here. We also managed to bag 2nd place in the team competition (first 3 finishers in the club counted towards the total time), which came with a (small) cash prize. That’s a first for me!
After finishing and tending to my make-up, which unfortunately was a lost cause, I went back to cheer all the other chasers to the finish. There really was a cracking team atmosphere on the day, and it made me really glad that I’d joined the club. We finished off a great day with a few too many beers in the pub – perfect post-race recovery. I think I’ll do more of these duathlons. With no swim to get left behind on, I think if I actually did some bike training I’d be able to make up a few more places. There’s only one way to find out.