Thursday, 7 July 2011

Bath Amphibians Mega Midweek Monster Duathlon

I'd had my eye on the Bath Amphibians midweek duathlon series since it started in May; it takes place on the first Wednesday of each month down at Castle Combe race circuit and I have had many a blissful daydream about putting Bianca on that smooth, flat tarmac.

As it turns out, this particular event was the middle one of the series and was not just a plain old duathlon, it was a monster duathlon i.e. run, bike, run, bike, run. Instantly I knew if there was just one of these events I went to, it would have to be the monstrous one. My ever-enthusiastic pal, Holly, was up for the road trip and we decided we were going to do a relay, with me hammering the bike and with her cracking out the runs.

Whilst this event was intended as a bit of Wednesday evening fun, we couldn’t pretend that we weren’t going to be competitive and the car conversation involved figuring out what times we wanted to achieve and what sort of level everyone else might be and a lot of “oh my god, I hope we’re not really slow!”

A mid-journey wee break saw me hitting the deli at Sainsburys for a highly nutritious pre-race meal of chicken pakoras and spring rolls, with a dessert of mostly green and yellow jelly babies. If that didn’t get me through what was going to effectively be two 10 mile time trials then I don’t know what would!

As we arrived at the circuit and got out of the car we noticed that a) it was really quite cold and windy, b) a very ominous dark grey cloud was looming menacingly overhead and c) everybody looked extremely fast and fit and had carbon speed machines; there were disc wheels everywhere! I could see the look on Holly’s face, it was that “why did we spur each other on to do this again?” look.

Despite the fact that the race was due to commence in 25 minutes, the registration process was very relaxed and well organised. In fact it looked like some people turned up just a few minutes before the race was going to start to put in their forms and get their numbers. The team of marshals and volunteers were clearly a well-oiled machine and whilst the whole thing had the feel of a small, friendly local event (albeit with very professional-looking athletes) it ran like clockwork.

Once the race briefing was over, everybody headed to the start line to begin the run. I figured I had about 15 minutes to wait and intended to spend that time staying warm. So warm I was that when Holly came absolutely steaming in I was rushing to ditch my extra layers and get the helmet on ready to go. A smooth change of the timing chip and I was pegging it out of transition.

The bike involves five laps of the two mile circuit and the first bit you come on to is a rise – not a massive one, but a rise nonetheless – so it took me a little while to get momentum and sort the gearing out. I then spent about 8 seconds being really happy to be back on the flat stuff, only to turn the corner into an absolute beast of a headwind. The wind was relentless, making the whole top section of each lap a real effort. Each time I turned the top corner I thought I was going to be blown off the circuit but that feeling quickly subsided every time as I blasted down the back straight and made the most of the short and only section that was aided by a tailwind.

Around halfway round the third lap I could taste chicken pakora, and not in a good way. Perhaps something slightly blander would have been a more sensible option; you live and learn. Luckily this was also the point that I realised my thighs were on fire so I managed to focus on the pain instead. The last two laps hurt a lot but I tried not to ease off, each time I nearly did I was motivated by my cheering team mate.

So happy to have finished!
I ran the bike into transition and quickly handed the chip over. Holly went off like a rocket and my head went into overload as I tried to plan the next 15 minutes of my life which needed to include hydrating, a toilet break, staying warm, stretching, scoffing down a ‘protein flapjack’ (which requires considerably more chewing than a regular flapjack – not easy with this sort of time constraint) and mentally preparing myself for another 10 miles of pain.

She was back before I knew it and I ran the bike out (by the saddle, rather than the handlebars.. such a pro) for round two. The great thing about these laps is that you get to know that 2 mile loop so well; by the penultimate one I knew exactly when I needed to change gear and the best line to take. Saying that, by the time I did the second bike the wind had definitely picked up a bit more and the skies had opened, so no matter how much I analysed the course, it was still blinkin' hard work!

I hammered it back into transition for the last time and Holly went off to finish the course, bringing it home in style! We celebrated our success with bananas and went off to get our times - which were instantly available (another brilliant bit of organisation). Very pleased, and very tired, we made for home.

This is definitely an event to do again!

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