MAD Tri teamSo today was my first multisport race of 2011; a good opportunity to test the effectiveness of my Winter base training before we get into speedwork in earnest. Matters were not helped on Friday when something in my back went 'pop!' and I've been subsequently left popping ibuprofen and cocodomol for the last 48 hours. I'm not quite sure what I've done, whether its muscular or a trapped nerve. All I know is that it's bloody painful!

Whatever, it was far from ideal timing and lead me to be in pain before I even started the race.

For once, the weather was bright (if, as always, breezy) at Castle Combe, which made a very welcome change from the usual drizzle regular competitors must have become used to. As my fourth appearance at a Chilly Duathlon, my main goal was to continue the trend of setting a PB each time.

It wasn't difficult to see that a strong field of 188-odd competitors had turned out for the race (I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but you can usual spot the faster guys!). All competitors set off in a single wave and the pace was strong from the get-go.

Unsurprisingly, my back went very tight straight away which made acheiving a good breathing balance pretty tough going (not the best feeling when it's effectively an all-out sprint!). I managed to complete the first two-mile run section in 11:48, a new personal best and on-target. A good sign that the aerobic work done over winter is paying dividends.

I'm usually pretty good in transitions (or so my times would suggest) but today I had a complete 'mare! Reaching for my helmet I managed to knock my bike off the rack, and it landed on the ground with a sickening 'smack!'. Thankfully, I think it only cost me a couple of seconds and the pre-cleated shoes stayed in place. So it was a quick dash to the mount mark (at Chilly, I prefer to rack as close to the Bike Out as I can, figuring I can run faster without a bike in T1 and T2 than with...). Feet went into the shoes no problem and I made up two places within the first 200 metres of the bike section. Result!

The wind is always a factor at Chilly and today was no different. I managed to hit a top speed of 54km/h along the start/finish straight, which was fantastic until we turned the second corner and had to spend the next 2km straight back into the headwind! I think my speed dropped to around 24-25km/h at some points, maybe even lower when the wind gusted really strongly.

Having up to 188 bikes on the Castle Combe circuit made for some busy sections of track, but I must admit I really enjoyed the weaving and ducking and diving to find the best lines through traffic. I made up a number of places, and crucially, didn't get overtaken at all. Remembering to count to five laps, I headed back into T2 with a time of 23:45 (another PB).

In T2, I continued my nightmare, AGAIN knocking my bike off the rack and sending my helmet half-way across the paddock (wazzock!). But run shoes donned, helmet gathered and I was off for the second two mile run. My back once again played a major role in the run, causing me to gasp and struggle for breath much more than I would have liked. I lost a fair few places on the second run (maybe I went too hard on the bike...?) but still managed to cross the line in 12:35 (another PB!).

My total time including transitions was 49:55 - a PB by 50 seconds over my November 2010 time (over 10 minutes faster than my 'original' November 2009 time!) - which was good enough for 22nd overall and 16th in the Senior Men category. Not quite the placement I was hoping for, but you can't be too upset with a PB! I know quite a few people didn't match their November 2010 times, so for me to still improve was a very positive sign that my training with Mark Shepherd (@gobi_one) is all going in the right direction.

Next up will be the Dambuster Duathlon in a few weeks. Hopefully my back will settle down and a little speedwork will see me set a reasonable time on what is really a course familiarisation exercise ahead of the Dambuster Triathlon later in the year.