Ballbuster Duathlon – 1st March (8 miles/24 miles/8 miles)
An early start saw me head down to Box Hill for my opening race of the year. I last raced here 4 years ago with a time of 3:07 and 40th place. Since being used in the Olympic road race, the climb up to Box Hill has been laid with a smooth surface decorated with the names of many a cyclist. This might have helped bike splits but also led to a constant stream of non-duathletes riding the course on what was probably the best weather we have experience so far this year.
Having pretty much trained throughout the winter (impending fatherhood means I’ll be taking a break in August), I was feeling fit and confident of breaking 3 hours. The first 8-mile loop was a steady affair running with a few guys before increasing the pace a touch after the drinks station. I’m always interested in watching the different running styles of athletes on a climb. A couple of the bigger guys were really striding out but not making much progress whilst a smallish guy seemed to glide past me up the hill. Target time for the first run was between 48 – 50 mins so satisfied with a 49:32. A relatively quick although muddy transition of 47 seconds kept me on target.
Having noticed a fair bit of traffic in the first run, the number of cars and cyclists gradually increased throughout the bike laps. I was aiming for about 24 minutes a lap and without any backmarkers, the first lap was marginally quicker. After picking up a few places early on, they were soon taken back as the stronger cyclist worked their way through. A second lap of 25 minutes was a bit stop-start with traffic but was more notable for my saddle coming loose and going vertical on me. On the final lap I got stuck behind a van that in-turn was stuck behind slower cyclists on a narrow section. With little else to do I saved my legs for the hill and final run. Bike split was 1:14:56.
Another quick transition saw me dispose of arm warmers and gloves to enjoy the sun breaking through. With 2hrs 6 minutes on the clock I knew I needed to get a good pace going to break the 3 hours. I immediately went past a couple of guys and set my sights on the next target. The last section of any multisport event can be soul-destroying if you haven’t paced it correctly. Similarly it can be quite uplifting as you pick up places with virtually everybody I passed giving me a ‘good running’ shout. Passing through the drinks station I realised I was running about the same pace as the first lap. Keeping it steady to the bottom of the climb, I then pushed as hard as I could up Box Hill for the final time. With nobody in sight to chase, it was all down to time and how much pain I could endure. I managed to keep with a cyclist on her final bike lap on one of the steeper bits before she headed off. Rounding the corner towards the finish, there were loads of cheers – unfortunately this group had mistaken me for Justin. Finally one of them realised and the cheers turned to laughter. Well it helped me over the line. I had pencilled in a final run of between 50 and 53 minutes so was well happy with a split of 49:05. This gave me an overall time of 2:55:07 and 5th place.
Difficult to know whether I could have gone much quicker but looking at the guys and girl ahead of me, the bike still needs a bit of work. The race was run by Lucy Gossage with two sub-49 runs and the second best bike split giving her a time of 2:49:28.