Box End Park Autumn Duathlon – Race Report

Well this is all a bit new!  Multi-sport!

I’ve been getting on quite well with my bike over the past couple of months, so thought a bit of multi sport duathlon action might be in order.  Having stumbled upon this event while doing some random Googling a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d go for it.

This particular duathlon is a 5k run/10k bike/5k run.  Off road.  Cross country.  I’ve ran cross country before – the BHF 10k around Knebworth Park back in February.  I said after that race, in this very blog: “Would I run this event again?  No.  Would I run cross country again?  No.  Not unless someone was chasing me with a big pointy stick.”

Bugger!  I forgot I HATE cross country, and I’ve never been off road on my bike either.  And my bike has fairly smooth hybrid tyres, not the big nobblies of a mountain bike.  I did consider buying a pair of knobbly tyres, but thought “It’s only one event, I won’t bother”.

I’ve done a reasonable amount of running and cycling recently, but not at the same time, and all on road.  After entering the race, I did a trial run of bike/run/bike, and it went OK.  The transition of bike to run is pretty weird though – it’s like running on someone elses legs!  So training had gone OK, under prepared as usual, but there we go.

In my usual style, I’ve been panicking all week about the weather, and obsessing about what to wear.  A turn in the weather had been predicted all week, with a cold northerly wind.  Well, the cold snap has certainly arrived.  When I woke up, it was dark, cold, and I could hear the wind howling.  I looked out the window, and saw that it had hailed overnight, and that had frozen to the car.  I thought twice about getting back in bed, turning the alarm off.  Brilliant start!

So I got the normal pre-race porridge down me, and got dressed.  I decided to go with short, a long compression top, and maybe a cycling jersey or jacket if it felt cold.  I decided to pack some other bits and pieces, just in case.

It was soon time to leave, so I strapped the bike to the car:

Bike on car

Bike on car

By the time the car was secured, my fingers had stopped working – it was that cold.  I started the car, and plugged in the old sat-nav, and just about managed to tap in the post code with numb fingers.  The car reported that it was 2C:



Great!  Oh well.

So on arriving at the car park, the first thing that strikes me is how few people there are.  And how fit they look.  And how cool their bikes are – brands so expensive, a numpty like me has never heard of.  Also, there were very few women competing either.  Most of them were tweaking with their bikes – pumping up this, lubricating that, checking brakes, gears, and other bits and bobs.  My bike tweaking involved getting the bike off the car, and unlocking my front fork.

I also noticed that I was the only person to have a bike lock around their seat post.  And I reckon I probably had most reflectors too.

I went and booked in, and had a chat to a couple of people in the car park.  Thankfully a couple of others were on their first duathlon, which made me feel a bit better.

I was feeling the cold, so decided to go and change into tights rather than the shorts.  I also layered up – long compression top, t-shirt, cycling jersey and running jacket.  If I had had any more clothes with me, I’d have been wearing them!

Time came around to rack up the bikes:

Bike on another rack

Bike on another rack

I must say, Box End Park is beautiful!  There’s a great lake, with water-skiing and wake boarding facilities.  I wouldn’t have fancied being in the water today though!  There were some braver than I though, with a good few whizzing about!  It is very open and exposed, and the northerly wind was strong, and bitingly cold.

The race briefing was at 9:45, and we were basically told the race was 4 laps of the lake, including going up and around “the hilly bit”.  1 lap run, 2 laps bike, and finally 1 lap run.

I was hoping for each leg of the race to take about half an hour, and a couple of minutes for each transition, so was hoping to get a total time of around about 1:30.

The race soon started, and I put myself towards the back of the small pack – probably .  The other competitors start off far too quickly for me – I glanced down at my watch, and I was running 7:30/mile.  I might be able to run half a mile at that pace, but thought I best slow it right down, or I’m going to struggle with the first mile.  I quick glance behind be, and I’m pretty much dead last.  Oh well, someone has to be!  The lap is quite twisty turny, and we soon turn back on ourselves, into the icy headwind.  Bad times!  This is going to be hard work doing this 4 times around!  I caught up with someone, and got chatting to her.  She was struggling, so I thought I’d run with her a bit – it might help pace me a bit!  We ran the rest of the first lap together, and into transition.

I ran the first 5k in 29:19, despite waking up a couple of the hills, so on track for my target on 1:30.

So onto the bike.  This was significantly less fun!  The first part of the lap was OK – a LOT slower than I’m used to on road, but at least flat, not too muddy, and a tail wind.  The first loop back to come back on ourselves, and the first corner.  Not good.  Hybrid tyres on wet grass and mud are not a good combination at all.  Corners are going to be slow.

This turn took us back into the headwind.  Cycling into a headwind is bad times!  This straight is about 0.75 miles, and down to speeds of about 8mph, I was going to have a lot of work to do to get around the bike leg in 30 minutes.  This is going to be slow.

The next mile and a half is the twisty, hilly bit.  On the first uphill the chain comes off my bike.  Getting it back on was a bit of a challenge, with gloves on and frozen numb fingers.  On the uphill, my hybrid tyres give me no grip, and am wheel spinning when trying to power up hill.  The downhill is petrifying, and I spend most of the downhills gripping onto the brakes.  With lots of twisty turny bits in the mix, the bike leg is going to be slow.

On the back straight with a tailwind, I actually manage to overtake someone on my bike!  A small miracle!  After this over take I reckoned on being 4th from last.  On the second lap, I overtake someone who’s had to retire with a broken bike.  Bad times for him, but now a guarantee for me not to come dead last.

On the second lap, I started overtaking a few runners that were on the final leg of the race.  I spent about 2 miles following the winning runner, but I was so slow on the bike, I couldn’t catch him to overtake him.  The wind and lack of traction on the bike were killing me.

Thankfully, the second lap on the bike went a bit better than the first.  The chain stayed on the bike, and I only had to walk up one of the hills due to wheel spin.

I was very glad to see the transition area at the end of the bike leg of the race.  I completed the bike leg in 45:10.  I’m WAY off target now.  Not a cat in hells chance of doing this in 1:30 now.  Bugger!

I re-racked the bike, ditched the helmet and put my running hat back on, and back to the running.  It felt good to get off the bike – my running tights are less padded than cycling shorts, and cross country cycling is significantly rougher than the road, so my trouser area was pleased to get out of the saddle.

The first two legs of the race had taken their toll on me, and the cold was getting to my bones.  I ended up walking more of the last leg than I would have liked, but it didn’t seem to cost me too much time.  The woman who I overtook on the bike leg blasted past me on the second run, and I didn’t see her again!  That’ll show me!  I completed the last run leg in 33:00.  Not too bad, all things considered.

Here are the actual splits:

Run 1:               29:19
Transition 1:     1:41
Bike:                 45:10
Transition 2:  00:50
Run 2:               33:00
Total:             1:50:00

So a full 20 minutes slower than my target.

Here’s me when I got home:

Home and warm!

Home and warm!

Taking the positives though – I didn’t come last, which I fully expected to.  I finished ahead of 2 women, and there was at least one person that didn’t finish.

I think these races are judged wrong.  Based on finish time.  If these were the categories, I’d have cleaned up:

First bearded finisher (the other bloke just had stubble)
Tallest finisher
Most time spent in first gear
Most time braking downhill
Least appropriate tyres

I actually quite enjoyed the running today, certainly more so than the cycling.  I’d definitely do another cross country duathlon.  I would definitely got trail shoes, and I’d definitely get knobbly tyres – that cost me most time.  And hopefully next time it will be warmer and less windy.



Standalone 10k – Race Report

The Standalone 10k is our local race, so is somewhat the peak of the racing calendar.

This is the third time I’ve ran this race, and was my first race back in 2010.

This year, my wife, Sam, was running, and I offered to pace her around, as she’s getting back into running after a sports injury.  I’m also not in great form myself, after a bit of a break from running from with injury, illness, and holiday, so it was a pretty good arrangement for both of us.

We were up early, and had a typical race day breakfast of porridge.  We set off, and picked up Tom on the way.  The car parking arrangements had changed this year, so Tom arranged for us to park at his parents house, which is just around the corner from Standalone Farm, where the race start and finish line is.  It was quite a cool and misty morning, but I opted for shorts and t-shirt, rather than anything warmer.

The strategy was to put ourselves towards the back of the pack, and alternate between running a mile and walking a minute.

This strategy worked well.  We did adjust it a bit on the way around so that we walked up some of the hills.  The first mile went pretty quickly, and we were soon into the walking for a minute.  In this context, a minute is a pretty short amount of time!  We were grateful of it though, as it allowed us to catch our breaths a bit.

Here’s an official photo taken close to the finish.

Near the finish line

Near the finish line

The race went well, and was pretty uneventful really.  Sam completed the race in 1:11:38, and I was a second later with a time of 1:11:39.  A personal best for Sam, and a personal worst for me.  It wasn’t about time this time around, it was about enjoying the race together.

Here’s a pic of Sam and I after the race.

After the race

After the race

And here’s a pic of the rest of the team after the race:

Team shot

Team shot

From left to right:

Tom – finished in 48:52

Nick – finished in 47:53

Ken – finished in 1:09:34

Pat – finished in 1:11:11

Sam – finished in 1:11:38

Gareth – finished in 1:11:39

All in all a great day out!

Here’s my Garmin info for any stats fans: