Another year, another trip to the flatland’s of Norfolk for the highlight of the spring East Anglian duathlon calendar, the Diss Duathlon. Katie and I love going to visit my Nan and Grandad – they put us up, make sure we’re extremely well fed, before sending us home with approximately 752 eggs laid by the local chickens. What’s not to love?
I’d already given the event a ‘C’ rating in terms of importance with a view to some bigger events on the horizon, so the luxury of a taper was forbidden by my coach (me). I logged a decent 75 miles from Monday-Saturday, including a pretty gruelling 16 miles on Thursday evening with 3 x 3 miles at target marathon pace.
After driving up on Friday evening, absolutely demolishing a Nando’s en route, we rose early to indulge in a spot of parkrun tourism. After consulting the map, Sizewell beach was the closest, so we made tracks for the coast, parking up with plenty of time for a nice warm up along the beach.
Now if the Diss Duathlon was rated as a C priority, that makes Sizewell parkrun somewhere between X and Z. Having seen previous results, I’d realised there could be a chance of me being in the lead. I told Katie to remind me not to get carried away, with a race less than 24 hours away. No one on the entire planet (excluding my mum), cares who the winner of Sizewell parkrun #32 is. No one.
Any thoughts of running near the front were further banished from my mind, as the run director informed us that they occasionally get snakes out in the sand dunes, but it’s only a problem if you’re the first runner through, as they scarper when they hear the vibrations of footsteps. Bugger that – I’m not going near no snakes, fool.
Instead, as soon as we were set on our merry way, I shamelessly stuck behind whoever chose to take the lead. When someone else took the lead (I can’t confirm or deny the reports that this was a 50+ year old man), I then moved behind them, using him as a kind of snake shield. My theory was, if he got eaten, that’d be one less competitor to worry about.
Thankfully, we didn’t encounter any snakes, but I did continue my tactic of expending as little energy as possible whilst still maintaining contact with the leader. Did I feel bad? Well, yes, definitely a little bit, but I didn’t want to go charging off with the following day in mind.
Feeling more than slightly guilty, I moved past with about 400m to go and scooped up the first finishers token in 18:53. Katie also continued her encouraging (albeit tentative) comeback from injury finishing 6th overall and first female.
We spent the rest of the day eating and wandering around the nice little coastal town of Southwold, before tinkering with the bikes back at home and doing everything to make sure last years puncture incident was prevented. If it’s not shoelaces causing me problems, it’s punctures. However, with new elastic laces installed on the trusty Vapourfly’s, my days of shoe related issues are well and truly over!
A combination of the clocks going forward and my determination to arrive at any race venue long before the organisers have even started setting up the transition area, meant it was an early and sluggish start. Having done the event last year, we knew we were in for a friendly welcome from the Tri-Anglia crowd and we weren’t disappointed.
The same can’t be said for the British triathlon officials. As Katie was setting up her kit before the race, she was cornered and told ‘Sorry love, only competitors are allowed in transition’. Scandalous. She’s not just a pretty face you know – she’s taking part as well! To cut the official some slack, Katie probably was the only person to enter transition looking like she was off for a Sunday afternoon shopping trip.
Word on the street was that professional triathlete Joe Skipper was in town. Joe finished 7th in the professional race at the Ironman World Champs last year – a proper athlete then. We met (I annoyed him constantly) at Ironman UK last year and he was nice enough to pretend he recognised who I was. It was highly likely that there would be a Joe S at the top of the results come the end of the race – I’ll leave you to guess which one it was.
1st Run – 3.3 miles
I lined up next to Joe, noting that he chose not to wear a flat cap whilst racing. How odd; I was under the impression everyone did it? We were in the 3rd and final wave, with all the old geezers (45+) being set off 10 minutes before, and then all the ladiezzzzz 5 minutes after them.
As expected, everyone went out at a pretty crazy speed, some people clearly not knowing who Joe was (he ran the first run in sub 16 minute 5km pace) and trying to stick with him. I settled into what felt like a ‘reasonable pace’, tucking myself into the back of a small group.
I made steady progress through the field, moving from 10th to 5th by the time we’d made our way around the undulating route, through Diss town centre and back to the school where the race is based. Rather encouragingly, I’d gone through the 5km distance in 17:30, feeling pretty comfy, which bodes well for future races.
Run 1 – 18:42 – 5:38mm (5th/130)
A full 30 seconds faster than last year. Had I pushed too hard? Was it the magic shoes? With Joe hours up the road, having time for a cup of tea and cake before the bike ride, a group of us came into transition together fighting for the minor places. A surprisingly smooth changeover saw me leave in 3rd.
T1 – 00:44 (8th/130)
With minimal bike training under my belt, I was riding into the unknown. The chap in 2nd, Nathan, was just up the road and I made an effort to bridge the gap early doors. We pulled away from the others, tackling a rather windy, 3 lap course.
I passed Katie, who was going rather well. Leading the female race after the first run, she was hanging on, with even less bike training completed than me. Not bad for a one-legged midget.
I tried to test Nathan a couple of times to see if I could get a gap, but we seemed to be stuck to each other, so I decided to save my beans for the deciding run. I moved to the front a couple of times to try and share the workload, but he’d end up coming straight back through, so I settled in at a legal distance behind and bode my time.
Loads of friendly marshals out on the route. It’s always tempting to take your hands off the bars and say thanks, before realising as soon as you do that you’re careering towards a bush. I usually settle for the thumbs up, sacrificing a tiny aerodynamic benefit but earning some much needed positive karma.
On the final lap, I made a little surge on one of the little hills to see if I could get a break, but he stuck to me like a limpet. Thankfully, two fully inflated tyres for the duration, and I rolled into transition ready for a battle on the run.
Bike – 48:32 – (2nd/130)
In another shocking turn of events, I actually had a pretty decent transition, whilst Nathan had clearly decided he was going to complete the Sunday crossword before the run, so I stole a march and was leaving whilst he was still shaking off his bike shoes.
T2- 00:37 – (3rd/130)
Knowing he’d been quicker than me on the first run, I automatically assumed he was a fastest runner, so I decided to go for broke and get a gap early, hoping it would stick. Cue lots of grunting and grimacing as I pushed hard during the opening mile, as the legs started to readjust to being on two feet again.
I kept hearing ‘phantom’ footsteps behind me, but as always in a race, refused to look back. Instead, I asked marshals/spectators in between gasps of breath ‘how far behind’, to which I got responses varying between 10 and 20 seconds.
Running 3 miles, on paper, doesn’t seem that bad. Unfortunately, running takes place on legs, rather than on paper, and I was being hunted from behind. I got a chance to look back with just over half a mile to go, and thankfully saw the road behind me clear, and thought from that point even a clown like me couldn’t balls it up.
Probably the most positive part of the day was going through 5km of the second run in an identical 17:30, indicating that I’d paced it pretty well and the run legs were in decent shape. With little to no fanfare, I ran through the finish, where I found Joe, who’d just about managed to finish off a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle whilst waiting for me to arrive.
Run 2 – 19:15 – 5:39mm – (2nd/130)
So, 2nd again at a Tri-Anglia hosted event. That’s three second place finishes in a row, after last years Diss race and the Norwich triathlon back in 2017. It’d be great if proper athletes would stop showing up and they’d give us also rans a chance of glory.
Overall – 1:28:12 (2nd/130)
Katie managed to scoop first in her age group, despite wearing that sail of a jacket for the entire bike ride. One year, she’ll turn up to this event injury free having learned how to ride a bike properly and do pretty well. Probably.
We went for a celebratory carvery lunch with the grandparents, after they’d excelled in the role of support crew on the day – coming up to see them is cracking fun and the reason we keep coming back each year.
Things took an interesting turn the day after the race. Deciding I needed a bit more excitement in my life, a trip to the bathroom took a slight diversion onto the floor of my hallway as I passed out, ending up in a pile on top of Katie’s bike.
I came to, looking up at a quite understandably concerned Katie, until it was confirmed that no damage had been done to the bike. For the next 24 hours I was struck down with some pretty nasty, fever-like symptoms. A trip to the hospital has given me the relative ‘all-clear’, but it’s been a ‘whole’ 3 days of zero training which I’ve found difficult to deal with.
Hopefully it’s just a minor blip in what has been a really good block of training. It’s worth mentioning that Katie was an absolute legend looking after me, especially when I didn’t have the ability to change my own trousers and she did it for me. That’s what best friends are for, right?