It’s good to be back!
After catching the triathlon bug a couple of years ago, my brief and slow foray into the sport was put on hold in 2014 as I focused on my job and moving across the country.
2015 was a different prospect and having signed up for and then missed the Salford Triathlon in July due to work commitments, I finally ended my two-year multi-event exile at Oulton Park Duathlon on Sunday 4th October
The race, as is turned out after I’d signed up, doubled up as the England Duathlon Championship. Whilst having no bearing on my race whatsoever, it did allow my time to drool over the array of carbon fibre machinery on show. Helmets worth more than my bike, wheels worth more than my car, bikes worth more than my flat*.
The weather was about as perfect as you could imagine for a race. About 15-16 degrees, tiny breath of wind and barely a cloud in the sky. I arrived early to settle any pre-race nerves and to fuel myself better than my last race in 2013 that saw me race on zero energy. The staff were excellently helpful on registration and all the competitors were friendly, chatty and able to offer a little advice to a novice like myself.
The race took place on the track at Oulton Park. Slick asphalt, undulating course, a banked hairpin bend (that isn’t so much a hairpin on foot) and around 300 competitors to get a good draft now and then on the bike all added up to a fast course.
Although my first race for a while, I’d signed up for the ‘standard’ distance. 8.6k run – 38.8k bike – 4.3k run (2 lap run – 9 laps bike – 1 lap run). I felt this gave me a bit more of a challenge but not too much to take over my life!
I placed myself near the back of the pack at the start and let the elite do their thing. It turned out pretty quickly that even the non-elite doing their thing was considerably faster than me! Even though I restrained myself to an easy pace in order to save up some energy for the bike and last run, I went though the first kilometre in 4:15 – pleasantly surprised to overtake a good number on my way through.
My pace settled back as a couple of the ‘undulations’ took their toll on me and I got through the two laps in just over 42 minutes. It was remarkable to see the first riders whizz past around 6k into my run (they’d finished their 8.6k in 27 minutes!) and gathered a new appreciation for just how much extreme dedication it takes to be an elite athlete.
A quick pit stop (quite literally in the pits) for my bike and then the fun part! The first 700m of the lap are downhill so you get a nice breather off the run to find your bike legs and pick up a bit of momentum. Whilst those with disc wheels, aero helmets and tri bars were flying past, the track enables to you settle into a comfortable rhythm well.
I managed each lap in around 7:30-8:00. Those ‘undulations’ felt steeper every lap and there was a certain folorn feeling seeing runners finishing the course whilst you still had a few laps to complete on the bike. It also meant you had less bikes to keep you company and will you on and remind you how slow you were going.
I finished the bike course in 11:11:51 – loads faster than I was anticipating. Given the nature of the course, I didn’t touch the brakes once in 40k and soon meant my target of 2:45 was soon revised to 2:30 – and a bit more too boot.
The last lap run was torturously slow, or at least it felt it. Overtaken by a succession of people with more in those legs and my steps becoming ever shorter and those inclines feeling more like mountains.
I finished in 2:18:57 – way under my expected time and given how slow I felt like I was running, the splits were not overly terrible compared to my expectations.
Whilst the weather played a huge part, I left Oulton Park with a real satisfaction of setting yourself a goal and achieving it, and naturally tinged with ‘well I could have gone a bit faster here.’ The event was superbly run with surprisingly few volunteers actually. Despite being a championship event, it didn’t seem to lose its sense of reality that many of the competitors are taking part for fun and were there to enjoy it.
The real positives for the race:
– Safe course with no traffic
– Fast bike (good for PBs)
– No challenging climbs or descents
– Friendly volunteers
– Easy access to transition area
– Good post race support
– Plenty of great spectator areas
Room for improvement
– Signposting distances on the track
– Goodie bag was a little sparse
– Earlier pre-race notifications/social media presence
– Better timings so not to clash with previous races
On the whole – a great event – one to attack some PB.
I’ll definitely be returning in 2016.
*may be a slight exaggeration
Tuesday, 6th October 2015