This fitness malarky continues. Why I signed up for a duathlon I still don’t know. I think I figured that I like both cycling and running and that combining the two would therefore be a good idea. I also like both anchovies and ice cream, so I should have known the theory wasn’t water-tight. Oh well.
Anyway, I had ambitions that The Husband would join me. Given he’s a bit faster on the bike but a tad slower on foot, it seemed like a fair fight. But alas, he didn’t sign up and I drove to Oulton Park Raceway on my own and parked up. It was then that I realised just how far I was out of my league. I collected my race bib amid whippet-shaped figures sporting triathlon club tops. I wheeled my bike into pit lane where the transition area was set up and hoped that I was not outing myself as a total rookie.
Who am I kidding? I was surrounded by Planet-X, S-Works and other high end bikes that require mortgages and have those cool wheels that make an awesome whoosh noise when they fly past me. My Boardman roadie was like bringing a sandwich to a banquet. Fortunately there were one or two that mirrored my own pedestrian-grade status.
Hey, at least I didn’t bring a hybrid bike. That’s one step from putting a basket on the front, right? (I’m laughing, but I’m pretty certain this guy lapped me.)
So then I tried to look cool while the race briefing was given. We were advised that drafting was forbidden. I stifled a snort. Yeah, drafting? Me? I’ll be lucky to keep up with anyone on this, let alone draft. Look carefully, I’m in the shot. It’s here that I’ve just found out this is a British Championship qualifying event. *gulp*
We’re herded to the starting grid where faster runners are encouraged to move to the front. This is basically everyone except me and a couple of ladies twice my age. I stand at the back like a parent waiting to wave her kids off on a school trip. Except without the teary eyes. Okay, fine. With teary eyes. And then we started. Within a hundred metres the leaders were half a mile in front. But I didn’t let it deter me. I focused on the job at hand. Specifically ‘transition’. This is an element (the bit where you change from run to bike and back again) that people actually train for on its own. I’ve suddenly realised that not only have I never done a transition, I’ve never even seen one done. So I ran and made a list of things I needed to do. Helmet first. Change shoes. Swing my race number round to the back. Grab the bike. Don’t get on til the mounting area. Try not to giggle that it’s called a mounting area. Join the track and try not to get mown down by the champions already on their third lap.
I was focussing so hard on everything that I needed to do that I was back to the pit lane and on my bike before I realised. And magically I had everything on in the right order. Result! Cycling felt dramatically easier than running. So that’s nice. 5 laps later (and presumably while the prize-giving ceremony was taking place) I roll into pit lane for the second transition. Now, while going from running to cycling felt fine, it most certainly does not feel so ace going the other way. Sweet merlin’s beard! I was going to struggle. Who the fuck put lead in my legs? And then something happened. I imagined myself crossing the line in last place. And as much as I tried to pretend that ‘it’s okay, someone has to’, I suddenly realised that I didn’t want it to be me. Desperately didn’t want it to be me. So I fucking legged it.
And because I knew that I wasn’t last and because I wasn’t fooling anyone that I was a contender, I did what I always do when crossing the finishing line. I leaped in the most ridiculous ‘give me some frigging chips now’ way. I could hear people laughing, and I didn’t give a shit.
And the most surprising thing (aside from not coming last) is that actually, I did rather well. For me, anyway. Sure, I came 13th out of 18 in my category. But I ran two nearly-5km sections at 7:30/mile pace, the second one being unfathomably faster than the first.
Would I do another one? Yeah, maybe. I might want to practice that transition things again and not run in bike shorts, but sure, why not?