I decided to make a return to multi-sport racing at the 9Bar Whinlatter Duathlon. It is the first in the High Terrain Events winter duathlon series which always offer enjoyable relaxed racing in great locations. Short off-road duathlons aren't exactly my forte and without anything but base work done so far expectations where not high. Don't fall, don't crash, don't hurt your back and finish with a smile were my heady objectives.
It was a throw up between my turbo warm-up and a pre-race PowerBreathe session as to what drew the most funny looks but both seemed to entertain the 3 year old on a balance bike who kept coming to peer at me behind the van.
After picking up a timing chip from the marshal on the start line as I'd forgotten to collect mine at sign on (hey, I've been out of the game a while, cut me some slack!) things got underway. I hated the uphill start last year and I hated it this year as well. I did my usual front to back in the first couple of hundred metres before starting to work up through the field. I came out of run one in the top ten but then lost 5 places in transition as I painted my toe nails or something. Seriously can anyone tell me what I was doing, did I have a coffee stop or a narcoleptic episode?
On to the bike leg which I felt well prepared for having been out on the MTB.....erm.....twice. This was a humbling experience as even with my shabby (read 'non existent) technical skills I normally make progress on climbs but oh no, not today! MTBing requires the kind of punchy high HR fitness that I just don't have any off at the moment and it was just a case of limiting my losses really. It was a bad day out for my fellow Team9bar/KeswickBikes team mate who punctured (yet again) and ended up having to trade bikes with someone on the course. This probably counts as outside assistance and I'd have reported him for it like a loyal team mate if he had passed me before the end!
I reached T2 sans crash so things were going well so far. Much better transition this time saw me start the final run with a group of three in sight. I ignored the obvious signs I was about to have a total melt down in an attempt to catch them and having made exactly no headway after a couple of km I duly deployed the parchute and threw out the anchor when things got steep.
Some folk say you need the first total 'bonk' of the winter to move on with training and while I think that is total rubbish I chose to believe it on this occasion to add some meaning to my suffering. To my surprise only a couple of guys came past me before the high point of the run after which I could engage my 'freewheeling' running which lets me descend quickly with very little effort required, a skill I have long hankered after and only recently acquired. One of the guys who came passed kindly asked if I was ok so I assume I looked great.
An uneventful descent to the finish had me over the line in eleventh and meeting all my objectives which was a bit of a surprise. Faster time than last year, higher placing and lost less time to the winner (Andrew Douglas, same as 2013) non of which I really expected. Granted the conditions were much easier, no snow and ice, and I was riding a better bike but even so after the year I've had it was still pretty unbelievable.
Thanks to all those who have supported me up to this point and helped my return to racing so quickly. On the day particular thanks go to Keswick Bikes for my steed, a lovely Trek Superfly and to 9bar for the post ride munchies, everyone seemed to be enjoying them!
Until next time.