Thursday, January 23, 2020

Race Report - Dambuster Duathlon, 19 March 2011

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DambusterHaving visited Rutland Water three times in 2010 for the Duathlon, Triathlon and Vitruvian in a support capacity, Saturday saw me make my competitive debut at this iconic British multisport venue. 

For me, entry to the Dambuster Duathlon was primarily an exercise of course familiarisation ahead of the Triathlon later this year.  With running my weakest discipline, I was never going to challenge the front-runners (well, not this year, anyway!) but I had personal goals for each leg that would show whether or not I am making progress in training.

Unlike all three visits last year, which were invariably cold and wet, the weather conditions on Saturday were near-ideal. The clear frosty start did lead to a clothing dilemma (a lot of people later admitted to over-dressing) but it turned into a beautiful morning.

So at around 8.20am I lined up with the other 200 or so male competitors ready to start the first 10km run (actually more like 9.5km, but I'm not going to complain about the 'missing' 500m!).  The start went smoothly, although the narrow tracks were pretty crowded with competitors finding both pace and space. Having not run a timed 10km since 2008 (when my time was 51 min!), my target was to stay on or around 4:00min/km pace for the run.  It turned out to be a reasonably good strategy, as I felt I was working pretty hard but still holding something in reserve for the bike.

I came in from the first run in 37:45; even allowing for the 'missing' few hundred metres it showed I could hold a consistent pace. T1 went smoothly (33 seconds), although a "technical issue" with my bike shoes meant a bit of faffing for the first 500m of the bike ride and a minute or so lost.  Out onto the course and I settled into a good rhythm quickly and started overtaking slower riders.  All was going well until I hit the famous 'Rutland Ripple'.  Put in very simple terms, I hit the first rise way too hard and then paid the price for the next couple (it also seemed that the prevailing wind was right in our faces for the length of the ripple). Lesson learned for the Triathlon in June.

I was also struggling to get liquid from my new Speedfil bottle (more on this in an upcoming Gear Review), so probably didn't take on as many carbs and salts as I should have. The roads, however, were generally very good and I did manage to hit nearly 50km a few times on the flat sections.  The aerojacket on the back wheel (effectively turning it into a disc wheel) certainly caused some buffeting on fast downhill sections with crosswinds but on the whole seemed a decent addition to the bike set-up.

Part of my race plan was to take a gel on the bike to supplement the bottled liquid, but this went awry as I never found a part of the course where I was comfortable to sit up and ride one-handed on the TT bike.  Again, lesson learned for June.

Towards the end of the ride the bike began sounding like a bag of bolts, which was a little bit disconcerting, but I just forged ahead with the few kilometres left to go (returning to my bike after the race, I found the rear quick release completely open and the rear wheel hanging off the frame - oops!). Overall I made up a good number of places on the bike (1:12:10), but I was disappointed with myself for mis-managing the bike leg and think a 1:10 should have been possible had I known the course better.  Again, all good learning for June.

Into T2 and I made a small mistake by heading to the wrong rack for my bike (first time I've ever done it, good wake up call not to get complacent and to make sure I properly walk through T1 and T2 at ALL races) but transition time was still only 47 seconds, so not a disaster.

Run 2 is always my weak point - as I will tell anyone who'll listen, I am no runner! As such, the plan was just to consolidate as many gains on the bike as possible and to maintain a consistent pace.  Despite wearing compression calf-guards, I got cramp in both legs within the first kilometre but just pushed on through.  It's always dis-heartening to get re-passed by some of those people you overtook on the bike leg, but until I get faster legs it's just something I'll have to deal with (no doubt Stuart Hayes knows my pain!). Still, I put in a reasonable (for me) performance, finishing the second 5km (again I suspect somewhat 'short') in 19:54.

An overall time of 2:11:10 (this must be 'gun' time, as my Garmin time was actually 2:11:01) was about right for race plan, but I admit I was disappointed with my placing of just 80th out of 300 overall and 18th in Age Group.  Looking back at 2010's times, I would have been comfortably in the top 25 which shows the quality of the field that turned up to play on Saturday.  This was definitely a case of mixing it with the big boys with their focus on ITU and ETU duathlon qualification.  One ray of sunshine is that my finish time was within 115% of the Age Group winner's time, so I technically met the minimum requirements for ITU and ETU qualification, if not sufficient to guarantee a place.

So a day of mixed feelings, really.  Here are my take aways:

Three Negatives

1. Mis-managed the bike leg - didn't ride 'intelligently' and didn't get nutrition right
2. Run 2 still poor - must focus on strength of run off the bike
3. Poor Transition planning - must make sure I rehearse T1 and T2 better

Three Positives

1. Met target time for Run 1 and proved I could hold consistent pace
2. Bike leg still comparatively strong, made up places
3. Racing against a top-quality field was a good learning experience

Three must-dos for training

1. Focus on Run 2 strength and pace - get legs working off the bike
2. Hills on the bike - my pace on flat was good, disappointed with hills
3. More run speedwork - only really just coming out of base, but speedwork is essential now

Two days on and my legs definitely feel like they worked hard, so I can't accuse myself of not trying! Funnily enough, my biceps are also a little stiff, which would suggest I was either very tense in my upper body when running and/or I haven't got my bike position right yet.

All in all, though a worthwhile learning experience ahead of the Dambuster Triathlon in June.

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Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs