Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Race Report: Chilly Duathlon, 24th Feb 2013

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I’ll admit straight away that it would have been much easier NOT to write this report.  No one really wants to read about races that sucked, and so it would have been very tempting to gloss over Sunday’s race.  But in the spirit of honesty and transparency, I thought I’d better do a short write up, even though it’s going to make uncomfortable writing.

Having missed the November ’12 race, the first time I hadn’t toed the line at the Chilly Duathlon (which takes place every November and February) since November 2009, I was determined not to miss this weekend’s race.  Despite still be a long ways from fully fit, I thought it was important to get some race experience before the triathlon season creeps up.   A sick partner and a family engagement the night before (which saw me not get home till nearly midnight) were hardly ideal preparation, but I duly trundled down the road to the Castle Combe motor-racing circuit on Sunday morning.

It was, to put it bluntly, bloody freezing. With snow falling. And a strong wind. The only time I can remember racing a duathlon  covered head to toe and in full finger gloves!

Anyway, after racking up, a short warm –up and then attending the race briefing, it was time to go.  The now-familiar route for the first run goes around the outside of the track, approximately two miles long.  There were a few young BUCS competitors at the front of the mass start, so I took position a couple of rows back – unusual for me, but I also wanted to avoid going off too fast at the start, so thought starting in the pack would slow me down until it thinned out.

It worked, kind of. Focusing on trying to keep my breathing under control and keep a pace that felt quick but not too fast, managed the first run in 12 minutes dead.  About 22 seconds off a PB I set in Feb ’12, but not a disaster.

Grabbing my helmet in T1, I had a few wasted seconds trying to fasten the strap with gloved fingers.  Then it was out onto the race track – the mount line was chokka with athletes, so mounting the bike was anything but graceful on this occasion.  I fluffed up getting my left foot in the shoe this time, but eventually I was in and making progress.  I left the shoes unfastened as I tried to get away from T1 to build up some speed before reaching down and using the Boa dial on the S-Works Trivent shoes.  But here again my gloved fingers worked against me and I ended up never really getting the shoes fastened properly (I just elected to put up with it).

Worse still, the moment I jumped on the bike, I knew something was wrong.  And that something was my position.  My saddle felt way too low – like I was riding a kids’ bike.  The position felt really alien and I just could not get my legs working the way I’m used to.   If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know I’ve been faffing a fair bit lately with the position on my new 2013 Argon E116 Time Trial bike.  It’s a lovely bike – no doubt a very fast machine, but I haven’t yet managed to find a position I’m truly comfortable with and I suspect there are still some set-up issues with the mechanicals (the chain sometimes drops going from the big ring to small ring, the v-brake calipers seem very prone to going out of alignment – hopefully just teething issues, but not confidence-inspiring).

Instead of feeling powerful in each pedal stroke, it felt more like I was having to push the pedal forwards and down.  The problem was highlighted when, on lap two of five, I was overtaken by fellow Triathlon Shop Tri Squad team member Chris Newman.  Chris is a fantastic time triallist, but the speed differential was huge (for comparison, we were both at the World Champs in Auckland in October ’12 and my 40km bike time was almost exactly twice Chris’s 20km sprint time).

Things were not helped by the fact my Garmin was playing silly buggers and kept pausing and re-starting itself.  Not a major factor, but bloody irritating when it kept beeping at me incessantly!

Losing places on the bike is an unusual experience for me; and as much as I enjoyed lapping the slower competitors, I was really frustrated by my lack of pace on the bike.  Objectively, of the 1.5 minutes I lost over my ‘normal’ times, I’d say one minute was bike fit, 30 seconds was ‘Matt fit’. A 10-mile bike time of 23:57 was really gutting.

Into T2 and out onto the second two-mile run, I tried to heed my coach’s advice and just get control of myself before worrying too much about pace – so I focused on cadence and breathing.  My pace was about 10 second per KM off where I would have liked it to be, but I was conscious I didn’t want to get too ragged in my breathing and form (this was a training race, after all).

I only lost one place on the second run, which in itself is a positive! And my second run was ‘only’ 44 seconds slower than the first run, the smallest run differential I’ve had to date at Castle Combe, so that was also progress of a sort.

I crossed the line in 50 minutes dead, well off my PB but in 13th place overall and 9th senior male.  Not far behind me was Katie Jemima Synge, another team-mate and the 1st lady overall.  When she finds some more speed on the bike, she’s going to be deadly!

Whichever way you look at it, I was disappointed. My runs were a good 20-30 seconds off where I feel they should be and the bike was a complete disaster.  But then, it’s all about learning at this time of the year.  The fact is I’m still bouncing back from the December illness (everyone keeps reminding me the recovery from pneumonia is a slow process) and I’m also only really just getting back into ‘proper’ run training (I’d also had a pretty big training week and no pre-race taper).

So I need to continue my work with Dave on the run; I need to fix the bike position and I also need some more transition practice. Noted, accepted, factored-in, move on.

Well done to all my team-mates at the race – Alex for 1st male overall, Katie for 1st female overall, Chris for the fastest bike lap of the day, and Alex/Chris/Me(!) for taking the team prize.

Onwards and upwards!

PS – for this race I prepared using the SiS REGO+Nitrates gels. Despite some of my complaints above, I think they did help and will do a separate post on these in the new few days.

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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