Ballbuster Duathlon, Box Hill, UK, 2004

It was one of those races where I had disregarded the primary two rules of racing: be rested and be recovered. On Friday night I still felt sore from commuting to work (I had finally beaten the 40 minute mark for the 23k way on Thursday night, after two years!) and it didn’t help to wake up twice on Friday night to the sound of our lil’one crying. Well, we’re supposed to train not just our physical endurance, but also the psychological side. So I packed my stuff into the car on Saturday morning and actually made it there without missing any turns.

Talking of turns, the foliage had produced some really nice colour, which we started enjoying as the sun rose over he horizon. The light reflected in the frozen grass as the fog started to lift. I found only one other Turbo (and was hiding in non-Turbo kit myself). Steve Home gave me the last insight for the race: Take it easy on the first run! That was the last I could see of him, before he zoomed off to a fantastic race.

As the horn sounded, we took off. My first surprise came right after leaving the starting grounds: rather than downhill, it actually went uphill for quite a moment. Fortunately, the terrain flattened out after a while and changed to a steep descent, which I enjoyed quite a bit more. I don’t know what happened to my sense of perception, but for some reason that first lap just didn’t want to end. I felt bad, wondered why I had entered, thought of giving up, started feeling sore and at loss of energy. I was actually happy once I saw the beginning of the zig-zag, now it was just a matter of keeping the pulse steady and going up.

The bike was much more fun, zooming down the hills, a bit frightening taking the turns without knowing what traffic was going to come against us. I almost crashed into a car while passing a cyclist on a one-lane road. I now also realised that the name of the competition is a reference to the road quality. I got more confident as I put more laps behind me. Martin Williamson was taking pictures on the way up, Mark Gordon was cheering me on, that felt very good. I also could see Katy and Jon who had cycled out for support (good thing they didn’t take the M25 or they’d still be there). After the third lap, I was feeling slightly full from my self-mixed iso fuel (too much salt and acidity in the mix). Also, my feet were frozen stiff.

Onto the second run and this it where it all collapsed. My will to run was gone, my blood pressure too, couldn’t get my pulse above 145 (low aerobic) and other people were passing me. Not good. Decided to bite the bullet and pull through until the half-way water station, downed a gel-pack just before and started feeling better on the steep decent. Actually managed to pass people again. Nice run down the valley. Slow and steady up the last hill before the zig-zag (short but steep), then onto the big one. The good news was that there were people passing me on the bike, so almost an hour behind me. The bad news: the same had happened to me earlier.

As I ramped up the hill, we were all going pretty much the same trot. Pulse at 152, midrange, no will left to push hard. My legs would be thankful for that later. Just a matter of time now, we’ll get there. At last, the finish line. Didn’t know what my time was at first, as I had accidentally pushed the stop button during the first bike lap. Realised I could tell from the clock: 3:37, better than I thought, but much worse than what I’d hoped for.

It felt great to eat something sensible: Altu bars with boysenberry, fantastic. I collapsed in the car later, while I was waiting for everyone else to get to their cars and go home, which seemed to take forever.

Now, three days later, my muscles are feeling a bit less sore. I haven’t felt so bad since my second marathon (the one where I didn’t managed to train beforehand). Taking Arnica for three days helped.

Lessons learned? Don’t underestimate this one. Dress warmly. Be rested. Be recovered. Practice hill-running (thanks to Mark for the guidance). Know the terrain.

Was it fun? Yes, damn it! Will I do it again? I’m too competitive not to. I want to see next time what I can do under (hopefully) better conditions. In any case, a duathlon is a nice kind of race to be had in the winter, unless swimming in a 12mm wetsuit in an icy lake is your preference.

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