WILDMAN Offroad Duathlon
So I turn left on to a road that looks like it goes nowhere, at the top Iâ€™m greeted by a marshall donning a fluorescent jacket and he sees the bike stuck to my roof and says â€œDuathlon?â€ to which I nod and he points to the closer car park... The location was the Ash Vale Ranges where military train. Last year I was about 1k away from transition and this time I was glad as I was about 150m away from registration.
Instantly as I pull up to park I notice all of my fellow Tri2o team mates as well as my Pro Bike Fit team mate Katie and our newest member Alex Warner both in black and blue. It felt great seeing so many people from the club, most of them doing their first off-road multisport race and in tough conditions.
I banished all my previous habits of arriving late, rushing and not knowing where I was going, got registered and racked. I then started to prepare for blast of a 10km run, 20km bike and a harder 5km run all off-road. As the start time neared the weather felt warmer and so I just raced in my trisuit instead of having a base layer underneath.
The ten minutes from the pre-race briefing to the sound of the air horn felt as if it was just a few long breaths. I was focussed and smiling. We all set off hard in to the first corner and I wanted to be near the front but knew it is usually too fast for me. Soon after we were all tiptoeing around a swamp of a trail before settling in to single file trail running. At this point Alex was in front of me and running well. I don't know when it was but Alex was soon at the front with another guy and I was in third place trying to just keep a steady pace. A little jostling and a 10k run done I came in to transition in third place with Alex just behind me, I heard Ruth cheering me on to catch the guys ahead and so on to the bike to try and do just that.
Instant troubles, no gloves on but my hands were wet... I had no grip to change gear on my retro grip shift gears... DOH. I stayed in the same gear I had set in transition. Which left me spinning really fast on the flats and pedalling slowly on the hills... and going nowhere fast. Head in a rush of what to do and my grip tiring I decide to stop and grab a hand full of sand and mud, slop it on the bars and GEARS... I HAVE GEARS. I actually laughed at this point. The course had itâ€™s fair amount of water now that it was raining. Puddles and mud made the descents a bit frantic, your wheels going where a rut may be and on the boggy marsh it felt like your wheels were being held back. You can now see why the military train here, it was tough conditions and terrain. Then all of a sudden as we get near the second lap turn and I am passed then start to see people who are joining the lap for their first time. Iâ€™m now 4th place and after the second lap of sharp hills, sucky ground, marsh terrain, seeing club mates and cheering them on and dragging climbs I get past just before we head in to T2.
Ruth gives me a quick update that 3rd place is a few minutes away which is enough to spur me on. I leave T2 back in 4th place and just try to get my legs moving, I walk the first sand bank which is what the military fire in to on the range, itâ€™s about 45degrees but feels worse. From there onwards you canâ€™t guess how many miles you have run and with no Garmin I know to just survive the hills and then get back on to a good pace on the flats and descents. It was working, at half way I could see 3rd place, and within 500m I catch him and get past on a tough climb. A few grunts from one another to show equal suffering I dig deep to try and get away from him. As we head on to the field for the last 6-800m I can see the next person and try to just close that gap down rather than worrying about who is behind me. No chance, he was too far away but I needed to focus on something.
I crossed the line as third athlete but the chap who finished before me was part of a Relay and so I was second in the individual race. I was chuffed. I had beaten athletes who had beaten me just a few weeks before at the off-road Duathlon National Championships in Nottingham. I had a few minutes of banter with the other guys and then Andy and Alex crossed the line. Alex was covered in mud courtesy of two falls on the bike (it was his first off-road duathlon so fair play), Andy had one spill as well but still finished well! After this I had to go and get dry clothes as the weather had gotten cold and wet.
It was good to see people trying an off-road event and liking it. Everyone has said how tough it was, and I couldn't agree more. It was a tough year and very satisfying to finish.