Sunday, 10 November 2013

Ballbuster Duathlon

In terms of the tougher races that I’ve competed in over the past few years, the Ballbuster Duathlon has to be up there. As if I didn’t get the message last year, 8 miles of running, followed by 24 miles of cycling and then another 8 miles of running doesn’t sound the most appealing thing to get up for at 4:30am on a Saturday morning, however there is something quite iconic about doing this race on an undulating and technical course around Box Hill.

Given that it takes place in November, chances are that it’ll be cold, raining and there’ll be a lot of debris on the road, and so kit selection is very important to make sure your body temperature is correct for each discipline.

Fortunately it wasn’t raining when we started and I set off on the first run at a fair pace. I ran much of the first run with my club mate Alan Murchison and we soon put a gap between ourselves and the rest of the field. Given the first 5 miles is downhill, passing through this distance in 26:40 was relatively quick, potentially a little too quick given that there was still 2 hours of racing left, but I expected there to be some handy cyclists out there and so tried to give myself as big lead as possible. Obviously the first run also gave me the opportunity to see what the road surface was like for the bike and, quite frankly, it was asking to be slipped on if you weren’t going to take corners carefully. I pushed the pace on up Zig-Zag climb and put 30 seconds between Alan and myself before starting the bike course.

I used a time-trial bike after a lot of debate on equipment choice. I thought the aerodynamic benefits could well be over-ridden by a road bike given how difficult a TT bike is to control in the wet and the very fact that the brakes are a long way away when you are on the aero-bars. I felt as though I made the right choice, spent only a limited amount of time on the aero-bars and took every corner very, very carefully. The first lap was the quickest as there was no race traffic to contend with and I maintained an average of about 21mph. I held back to a certain extent given how much debris there was on Lodgebottom Road (the narrow road around the back of Box Hill) and at no time did I feel out of control. The second and third laps were technically harder as there were others competitors in the race on earlier laps to overtake and, with the possibility on traffic coming in the other direction, I spent less time on the aero-bars and more time ready to have to put the brakes on. At the back of my mind I was half expecting Hugh Mackensie to come past as was the case last year, however he only managed to close the gap to about 30 seconds on the bike.

By the time I started the second run, it had started to drizzle and the temperature dropped like a stone. My feet were numb and I was not exactly ‘with it’ for the first mile. In fact, I completely stacking it for no reason at all, landing on my hands and picking up some grazed knees in the process. Perhaps that got some adrenaline going as, after that point, I began to get my running legs back and was able to pick up the pace. I had no idea how far behind second place was and so just kept pushing as hard as possible; I also had half an eye on the course record. Support from other cyclists still on the bike stage was fantastic and the second run up Box Hill was not too punishing given I knew the end was only about a mile away.

I finished first in 2:35:28, which apparently was about 40 seconds outside the course record. Hugh Mackensie was second in 2:40:44 and Alan Murchison third in 2:45:45. My legs are now in pieces, so I reckon a couple of easier weeks are called for.

Run 1: 00:42:58
T1: 00:00:31
Cycle: 01:07:41
T2: 00:00:39
Run 2: 43:37