Friday, January 24, 2020

Race Report – Newbury Duathlon - March 30, 2014

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Right, let’s get the excuses out of the way right now.  From the moment I entered, I was clear that the Newbury Duathlon was nothing more than a TRAINING race, a chance for me to stretch my legs and see how I fared on the less-preferred short-course Duathlon format.  So, the race was done on the back of a fairly normal training week and a 10-mile TT in windy conditions the day before.

Good, that’s that sorted.  Today was the third time I’ve raced the Newbury Duathlon (’11, ’12, missed ’13).  With both hilly runs (2x 5km on the same loop) and a hilly bike (25km, 222m climbing) on less-than-ideal roads, it’s not my favourite course.  But it is a good chance to blow the cobwebs away and with two previous attempts to compare against, a good benchmark.



StartHaving racked-up and warmed-up, it was time for the race briefing and a chance to learn that the run route had been altered slightly due to recent flooding.  The good news was that somehow they’d manage to keep the run distance the same (4.9km) but find an extra hill to throw in (yay! Not…).  We were also warned that the already pock-marked roads had taken a beaten from the recent weather and that punctures were thought so likely that a broom wagon had been laid on.  All sounding fantastic so far!

I saw some familiar faces on the start line: Peter Crisp is a Newbury-based runner (I don’t think he’ll mind me labelling him as a runner rather than duathlete) with a sub-17 5km time.  Nigel Grantham and Andy Tucker both TT with me at the Newbury Road Club Time Trials and Rog Davis (all-round good egg) was marshalling.

Run #1

First podium of 2014Briefing over and it was time for the first run.  Unsure of who was quick and who wasn’t, I tried to just find my own pace.  I knew Peter C would be among the front-runners, so it was no surprise to see him take the lead.  After a bit of grass and road, the main section of the run was off-road on dirt paths.  I’d been worried that I should have brought trail shoes (like my Skechers GOBionic Trails), but actually the Skechers GORuns coped remarkably well.  As we climbed the first hill to a dead-turn I figured I was in the top ten or so, about a minute down on Peter who was leading.  Back down into the valley and then came a long climb back up towards the village of Chievely.  I shortened my stride to try to keep the legs in an ok shape for the bike.  As we reached the crest of the hill I could see Peter had really stretched out a solid lead – somewhere around 400m at a guess.

One more climb and we were heading back into the village on the road and then into T1.  My first run had been 19:41, hardly outstanding but solid enough given the climbs. I felt within my limits and ready for the bike.


In transition, the guy to my right had racked his bike the wrong way round, which got in my way a little, but I slipped off the GORuns, dumped my sunglasses in them and grabbed my new Casco Speedster semi-aero helmet (it looks a bit like a Giro Air Attack if you haven’t seen one – I bought it for hot weather triathlons where the Bambino gets too hot).

Unlike the Bambino, getting the Casco on first time was easy and I grabbed the bike for the run to T2 exit.  A run over wet grass and mud; which meant my 110% PlayHarder compression socks got soaked. Lovely!

I think I made up two or three places in T1.


Newbury Duathlon bike legThe bike mount went well and rather than faffing about tightening up the shoes, I just got my speed and cadence up and then took turns tightening each shoe once I had about 35km/h on the speedo.  Having ridden the 10-mile TT yesterday I wasn’t expecting too much on the bike, so I had picked a power figure and was planning to ride to it.

I picked-off my first couple of guys within the first 3km or so and was happy with my pace.

I could see a few more cyclists ahead, including Peter Crisp who was riding in trainers (not sure why, but it certainly wasn’t helping him).  I flew past him but gave him a shout of encouragement.

Two more cyclists dispatched and I could no longer see anyone ahead.  Zig-zagging around one of the small villages I shouted to a marshal ‘what position am I?!’.  She looked at me strangely. ‘You’re first!’ came the reply.

Crikey. Game on!

Next was a long climb and as I settled in, about half way up a rider came past me on a TT bike but with lightweight road wheels.  As he went ahead I recognized the number as one I’d passed a little way back.  Cresting the hill he had maybe 100m on me, but the aero advantage from my set up meant that I’d reclaimed the lead within 30 seconds or so.  And so our little cat and mouse continued for the next 10km or so; me taking the lead on the straights and him doing a better job of climbing.

With about 3km of the 25km course to go I knew the rest of the course was relatively flat, so made it my mission to put some distance between us to get as much of a cushion as I could for the second run.

Feet out of the shoes and into T2.

I racked up, lost the helmet, donned my Skechers GORuns and headed out onto the second run.

Run #2

As I left T2 I glanced across to see maybe five or six people in transition.  I didn’t have much buffer at all. Knowing all-too-well my run limitations, I expected to get caught pretty quickly.  Back out onto the same off-road run route, my Garmin chimed for 1km and I was still leading and couldn’t hear any breathing or footfall behind me.  I was suffering now with cramp in the left calf, but in all honesty it wasn’t slowing me down. My lack of run fitness was doing that just fine!

Up the hill to the dead turn and eventually I got passed by a young guy just as we hit 2km.  He passed me with such speed there was no thought of trying to stay with him (plus, if I’m honest, I could see he was a young’un and so in my mind I wasn’t really racing him!).

Thirty seconds later and they guy I’d been dueling with on the bike came past. On the bike I’d thought we might both be vets; but now I could see he was definitely sub-40 in years.  Running back down the hill we started to pass runners heading up.  The gap looked anything but comfortable and I was in no way confident I could hold onto third place.

When we hit the big hill my legs were screaming.  On a training run there’s no doubt in my mind I would have just slowed to a walk, but this is a race and we don’t walk in races!  I got a little energy back as we reached the outskirts of the village and I was surprised to still be in third place.  Surely my lead was now very slim on those chasing me?

Only as we were forced to do a lap of the playing fields in Chievely did I risk taking a look to see who was behind.  To my surprise, there was no-one in sight.  I had a good 200-300m at least.  Looking ahead, I could see the second-place guy was way beyond reach, even if I’d sprinted like Usain Bolt, so instead I just got my head down and did my best to finish strong without killing myself in an unnecessary lunge for the line.

Third overall! Wow.  And I was pretty sure I was the first vet (I was).


Okay, let’s take a quick reality check. It was just a local event and it happened to be on the same day as the British Duathlon Champs. No doubt some of the fast guys were racing elsewhere today.  Nevertheless I was very pleased to podium and hopefully I can take a lot of positives out of the race for the season ahead.  Despite racing on knackered legs, it went fairly well. But the run, as always, needs work.

Thanks as always to Team Kennet and all the marshals.

A quick thank you also to Endurance Junkie for supplying today’s race suit at short notice. I wore their ‘Oly’ suit (ITU legal, rear zip, not Sportwool) and it felt superb.  The pad on the bike was just supremely comfortable, yet barely noticeable on the runs. The moisture wicking was also very good, as was overall comfort.  Thank you also to Skechers Performance Division for the shoes. If you still don’t think Skechers make ‘real’ running shoes, you need to think again.

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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