Sunday the 1st April saw the annual Diss Duathlon staged by Tri-Anglia. It was no April fools joke though as this was a chance to test out the race legs and the new Matrix tandem before heading to the European triathlon championships at the end of the month. Helping me in this venture was Bobby De’ath, my regular tandem partner for the past 12 years or so. This would be his first multi-sport event however…
It was a bright but cool morning with ice on the car as Jill and I left for the race. We met a slightly nervous looking Bobby at the event headquarters. I think he was worried he would not be able to run quickly enough or that he might let me down in some other way as it was all new to him. With 120 keen looking competitors and the fact that Bobby didn’t have the chance to try out the tandem beforehand, it must have been a bit daunting to say the least!
In the end he had nothing to worry about though.
After a short bike/run warm-up, we set off on the first 5km run section with a generous amount of warm clothing in anticipation of a chilly bike section and a clear race strategy in mind.
Pacing is really important in these multi-sport events, especially as everyone sets off at a silly speed to begin with. It’s something that is particularly tricky to achieve when you are working with a guide like I do.
In an ideal world you would have a shared pacing strategy, perhaps with the guide being just a shade quicker as they have to give instructions and other information at the same time as racing! More often than not however, one of the pairing is much quicker than the other in one or all disciplines within the event. This necessitates one or potentially both athletes to adapt the way they race slightly to help the team get the best result possible. Taking this a step further, it might even be the case that one person in the team needs to race in a totally alien way compared to how they might normally by themselves to maximise the potential of that specific pairing…it takes a bit of working out!!
As Bobby is a strong bike rider and I’m a bit quicker in terms of running, our tactics were as follows: –
|Hard effort keeping just below threshold heart rate aiming for a brisk speed but not over-doing it too early in the race.
|Steady pace keeping well below threshold heart rate aiming to match Bobby’s speed.
|Steady pace throughout allowing recovery from run 1 with heart rate dropping 20 beats approximately.
|Hard effort at threshold heart rate on bike leg, pushing hard on hills etc
|Ease into run 2 slowly progressing to threshold heart rate and holding brisk pace. Finish with maximum effort over last 1km.
|Ease into 2nd run allowing slight recovery from bike section. Increased effort on second half of run and higher speed finish with fatigue developing.
We fully expected to lose time all the way around the first run and so it proved with only two bikes left in the transition zone when we arrived (although we were in the final wave to start). At this point Bobby was perhaps wondering what he was doing as he was already working at his normal maximum heart rate when competing in cycling events and it was still early in the event! In actual fact he had run pretty well and covered the 5km in 23 minutes.
Once out on the 30km bike section Bobby was feeling much more at home with two wheels beneath him. We knew we could make up days in this part of the race, even on a technical course using some tiny little twisty lanes that don’t favour a tandem. Despite Bobby taking it quite easy after an early warning from yours truly to not overcook it…we romped around the course taking back oodles of time on many of those who had ran away from us early on. This after all is our speciality! The Matrix tandem performed brilliantly and according to Bobby, who has now ridden several different tandems, it handled like a dream.
We eased into the second run as we were most definitely in uncharted territory here with Bobby’s longest run prior to this being 5km in total. Here he would be running twice as far with a bit of cycling sandwiched in the middle for good measure.
We soon settled into a rhythm, but with over 3km to go Bobby looked to be suffering badly. A quick check of his heart rate confirmed this as it revealed he was well above his normal threshold by some margin. Amazingly he held this all the way to the end. He even found a sprint finish from somewhere, which I have to say, caught me totally off guard as I thought he was wasted!
Over-all Bobby did a great job in his first duathlon. I think our pacing strategy was just about right; Bobby was stuffed and I knew I had done a race too. We finished in 34th place over-all which wasn’t bad…and it was 4 minutes quicker than I managed last year by myself. Hopefully Bobby enjoyed himself despite how hard duathlons tend to be!
Oh, and the race T-shirt aptly said “love cycling, hate running” on one side…
Well done Bobby!!
Thanks to the organiser and all the marshals who did a great job as always.