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October: Duathlon Season 2014

With winter approaching, my duathlon season has really kicked off now so I thought I should try to write a report about my latest races in the Shakespeare language (forgive me for all the grammatical mistakes).

October has been very busy and very enjoyable with 3 key races.

  1. Oulton Park Autumn Standard Duathlon on 5th October, qualifying race for 2015 European Standard Duathlon Championships
  2. British Age-Group Standard Duathlon Championships on 12th October
  3. Althorp Sprint Duathlon on 18th October, qualifying race for 2015 European Sprint Duathlon Championships

Oulton Park Autumn Standard Duathlon

On the 5th October, I competed in the Oulton Park Standard Duathlon organised by Xtra Mile Events. This event was the second qualifying race for the 2015 European Standard Duathlon Championships.

It was quite a long journey from Great Chesterford to Oulton Park, more than 3 hours. So I am glad I chosen to compete in the standard distance event taking place in the afternoon; the sprint one was in the morning. For once, I didn’t have to wake up at silly hours.

It is a fantastic venue, this duathlon includes the thrill of racing around the smooth, fast tarmac of Oulton Park motor racing track with the transition area in the Pit lane. But it is not flat, it is quite undulating. Each lap of the Oulton Park Race track is 2.692 miles (4.3072 km). The Standard event consisted in Run 2 laps (8.62k) / Cycle 9 laps (38.8k) / Run 1 lap (4.31k).

After the race briefing at 12.45pm, I positioned myself at the front on the starting grid of the track. As usual, the race started very fast, slightly downhill. After one mile, it was just a long stretch of runners in a long snaky line. My tactic is always to follow a runner whose pace I can match (but not too easily). The pace of this runner started to fade after a couple of miles so I decided to catch the next runner and we did stay together almost until T1 as his pace started to fade a bit. I completed the first run in 31:43 (pace under 6mins mile) but I was glad it was shorter than 10k. I had a quick transition, jumped on my bike and slid my feet in my bike shoes without any problems. I was feeling good on the bike and in a mood to push hard with so many cyclists around the track.

Counting so many laps on the bike leg was a new experience for me. After 6 or 7 laps, I was not quite sure anymore about the remaining number of laps to complete. Thanks to my counting strategy, I wrote the exact distance (of the first run leg plus the bike leg) on a piece of tape stuck to my bike. I knew exactly when to go back into Pit lane. I completed the bike leg in 1:04:28. I has lost a bit of ground but wanted to put in a good final run. I was able to claw back 5 or 6 places by completing the second run in 16:00. My finishing time of 1:53:43 placed me 24th overall and 8th in the 40-44 age group, the most of competitive age group.

I was satisfied with my result as my finishing time secured my spot in the team GB for the 2015 European Standard Duathlon Championships.

British Age-Group Standard Duathlon Championships

On the 12th October, I competed in the National Duathlon Championships in Milton Keynes at the Big Cow Duathlon.

I travelled very early in the morning and arrived before 7am for a race start at 8am. It was very dark when I arrived, the fog was thick and the temperature was very low (3°C)! It was the coldest morning since the official end of the summer.

The event was made up of a 10k run, followed by a 40k bike (2 laps), and then a second run of 5.2k. The run course was pan-flat, a PB course for sure! The bike course was relatively flat with a few undulating sections.

The race started fast with some of the best British duathletes at the front (Alan Murchinson and Lee Percy amongst others). I was not able to stay with the lead pack but I managed to stay with the second lead pack and actually felt very comfortable and maintained a very good pace throughout. I completed the 10k in 35:53, my best time ever! I came into T1 in a decent position but I always knew that I will loose a few spots on the bike leg….which soon happened. The visibility was very bad with the fog and the weather refused to warm-up; it became as much a battle against the cold as a fight again the fatigue. Contrary to Oulton Park event I felt lonely, isolated during the bike leg, which I completed in 1:09:43. I went into T2 determined to gain a few places back. I had a quick transition and ran off the bike very well to finish in 2:07:24, 37th overall and 7th in the 40-44 age group.

I was mostly happy with my first 10k run PB and very happy to be ranked, as a French, in the British top 10! Very well done to Pete Thompson, who finished 5th in the 55-59 age group with a finishing time of 2:16:39.

Althorp Sprint Duathlon

On the 18th October, I competed with Charlie Passfield in the Althorp Sprint Duathlon organised by On Your Marks Events. This event was the final qualifying race for the 2015 European Sprint Duathlon Championships.

This sprint duathlon, going through the beautiful Althorp Estate, consisted in a 6k run, followed by a 20k bike and then a second run of 6k again; perfect configuration as I am a much stronger runner than biker.

My tactic was to follow Charlie and his young legs as long as possible during the first run. After one mile, I realised that his pace was a bit too fast for me and I did slow down. Just before entering transition, I twisted my left ankle and hopped on one leg for a few seconds. Despite a small pain, I was determined to carry on and see how it goes once on the bike. I completed the first 6k run in 22:17 and entered transition 35s after Charlie. I reached my bike, put my helmet on and then pushed my bike through the bumpy transition to the mount line. Just after the mount line, I realised my bike shoes were dangling. Both elastic bands holding my shoes in place had snapped off. Beginning of a nightmare. I decided to jump on the bike and try to slide my feet in the dangling shoes but it was “mission impossible”. So I dismounted, unclipped manually the shoes, slid my feet in the shoes, jumped back on the bike and clipped in. I lost 1:37 with this catastrophic bike mount but lesson learnt, I will now use strong elastic bands for my next races… At this point, I thought the race (and qualification for the Europeans) was over and asked myself if I should just stop. A first DNF? After a few seconds of hesitation, I decided to pedal hard to catch other competitors. In very muddy and dangerous conditions, I attacked downhill while other competitors were slowing down. Without the time wasted at the beginning of the bike leg, I would have achieved the 4th best time out of 300 competitors. With this good ride, I improved my position from outside 20. And finally, despite a painful ankle, I pulled out a good final 6k run, completed in 23:45.

My finishing time was 1:26:31 and, much to my surprise, I finished 1st in my age group and earned my qualification for the Europeans. I finished 17th overall and excellent result from Charlie who finished 4th overall.

I am very pleased with all my recent results and for having qualified for both European Sprint and Standard Duathlon Championships. The only disappointment is the recent change from ETU about the venue and date for the European Sprint Champs; it won’t be in Holland but Spain at the same time as the Standard Duathlon Champs. It means that I won’t be able to do both and I must choose between Sprint and Standard. October is now over, the warm and dry weather is now behind us. It is time to shift from onroad to offroad races as it’s now getting cold and wet. After the serious races, time to have fun in the mud!