I was lucky enough to represent Great Britain again, this time at the European Multisport Championships in Ibiza, racing in the Sprint Duathlon. Since qualifying for this last year I haven’t actually raced a duathlon – I’ve been focusing on triathlon and haven’t got to a point where I’ve been confident enough of my various leg injuries to think it’s a good idea!
However, having had a break from running since the Monster Triathlon and having built back up carefully, I was actually confident I could do this. However, I wasn’t confident I’d done enough running to be competitive. Bike training was going well however!
Having managed to actually travel to Ibiza with my wife (despite her being unwell – she’s a star for having managed to come despite this!) and get to the hotel, we were quite pleased with it!
I’d travelled with my bike in a bike box – this time a more sturdy Bike Box Alan, with extra supports that go through the centre of the wheels so that it’d work with a disc wheel. Unlike Denmark, this time nothing was broken – huzzah! So first order of the day was to rebuild the bike. Which I managed with only one minor panic about a wheel being buckled (which it wasn’t…)
I went for a short test ride on the course. It appeared I’d managed not to mess anything up with the bike build, and the course was amazingly fast 😀
Next it was time to travel the 20km to the random location of registration and briefing. I’d been looking forward to getting the bag promised in the blurb to replace my ailing transition bag from Aviles. Imagine, if you will, my joy and delight at what was presented instead of a transition bag:
Onto the GB briefing, and it turned out there were a lot of GB athletes!
The night before the race there was a parade of nations, which was fun! Music, marching around and a balloon arch.
The organisers were having a hard time, however. The transition was planned to be on a beach, but there had been a storm surge, which had destroyed this!
Fortunately, there was a backup plan apparently, which was to take over the Elite transition area. However, there were a lot of bikes to fit in that area!
Overnight they managed to perform a miracle and get everything moved, and it didn’t look too bad by the time I arrived in the morning!
The run course had to be adjusted to cope with this, and apparently the bike course had been slightly shortened to ditch a turnaround at a roundabout as that was covered in dirt and was a bit slippy.
Just before the race, it started to rain. Fortunately it was pretty warm, and stopped after a short while, but everything was now damp and slippy.
The run course was very, very narrow. An out and back 1.25km section along the waterfront, on slippy terracotta tiles, which after the rain were now pretty treacherous. As a result, it was important not to get stuck behind slower runners.
For the start we were due to go in waves. I was in the second wave (40+ men) and we were instructed to stand in transition and wait for our waves to be called to the start line. After the first wave of younger athletes started, we were called forwards.
The layout of the transition was linear, so I cunningly moved to the nearest end of the 40-44 men to the start, in the hope of being at the front. This was about halfway up transition.
What I didn’t spot was that the older age groups (who were also in the same wave) were on the other side of the bike racking, and were much nearer to the start. Doh! By the time I got there, there was a wedge of
old gits men even older than myself, about 8 rows deep at the start line.
I gently moved forwards as far forward as I could politely, and ended up in about the 5th row. Given I knew that there would be a lot of faster runners around, I didn’t want to push too much. Unlike the Spanish guys in my age group who were now all at the front somehow!
An Italian guy suddenly appeared at the front and ran off after the first wave! We guessed he had missed the start, and he got a big cheer! Followed by an even bigger one about a minute later as he came running back up the course to the start line as he’d realised he was in our wave after all!
Shortly afterwards, it was time to start! There was a little bit of heartbeat sound-effects over the speaker system, then we were off!
Photo credit: Jon Izeta
It was very congested, and we were all pretty nervous about a sharp corner after about 100m. As a result I was already 8 seconds behind the leaders by the time I got there.
We followed the seafront, and slowly began to spread out. Not much, but at least I wasn’t in danger of losing a trainer here! Suddenly there were shouts of “Bench!”. What? Oh, the course got even narrower, and there was a bench in the middle of it. I hurdled over one end of it (shouting Bench as I went) and carried on.
At the turnaround point (1.25km in to the 5km course), you got a good chance to see how you were doing. Not good, it turned out! I was about 30 seconds down on the mad Italian already! Still, I was hoping I’d do well on the bike course, and had noted that some of the faster looking runners didn’t have fast looking bikes. So, there was some hope!
Running back along the front I heard my name and there was my wonderful wife who snapped this picture!
I was actually running bang on what I’d hoped I’d be able to do, despite the slippy floor and congestion. Which was about 18 1/2 minutes for the 5km.
The waves were going off every 3 minutes. There was a little bit of mental maths I should have done before I got to the 2.5km point. Given the lead in from the start to the main run course loop, I was bang on target to get to that turnaround just as a wave was started, which is what happened! Had I done this maths, I could have pushed harder for the first loop to avoid it. Instead I found myself in the middle of a women’s wave. Damnit!
I did few slightly dodgy overtaking manoeuvres on the wrong side of the course it began to thin out again. The mad Italian was looking like he’d be 2 1/2 minutes ish up by the end of the run, with the next guy I thought was in my age group about 1 minute 20 up.
Coming into transition, I was pretty pleased that I’d done the run pretty fast (for me!) in the conditions and it all felt pretty controlled. I’d still have plenty of energy for the bike, which I was by now, very much looking forward to!
Run 1 Strava link
Er, that wasn’t my transition technique. Don’t know where that came from…
So I got through transition with a minor faff with the helmet, but nothing untoward. I got out, over the mount line, leapt onto my bike, took a few pedal strokes, then got my feet in. This is something I should have done better – I didn’t get enough speed up before doing this, and wasted a few seconds.
But then I was going. And going fast! I was in my happy place. No longer a sluggish runner, but a speeding demon! The competition was in my domain now! Bwahahahaha! Er, ahem. Sorry. But I was going fast!
The course had a short connecting section, with a simple “out and back” after that, which you did twice – in total it was 18km (slightly short of the normal 20km). On the “out and back”, there was a single roundabout near the first end.
The road surface was very, very fast, and the conditions were just right (not much wind, warm and slightly humid), although slippy after the rain, so care needed to be taken on corners.
I cranked up the speed, then settled in. The first “out” was slightly uphill, about 50m height gain over the 4.5km. I was cruising, getting my heart rate under control and taking on some fluids. And overtaking everyone in sight! There were a few clumps of people, but mostly it was just one or two riders at a time. I occasionally ended up on the wrong side of the road as I was overtaking big groups and someone drifted out, but this didn’t happen very often.
After the turn point I put in a bit of a burst to get up to speed, then dropped the watts down about 10%. I was loving it! Again, overtaking, and really feeling in control. I hadn’t spotted the mad Italian at any point, but thought I spotted the guy who’d been in 2nd.
Coming up to the roundabout, there was someone shouting “Straight on! Straight on!”. This seemed a little unnecessary. However, it turned out it was necessary! Slightly earlier on in the race, a policeman had taken it on himself to help out, and had directed riders to turn here. For about 2 minutes riders coming through had turned here. It saved at least 1 minute.
We found out about this afterwards, when there was a very noble act by one of the Spanish 20-24 athletes. He’d gone the wrong way, and had a big battle on the run to win his age group by a few seconds in front of a British athlete. However, he realised that the British athlete had got to the roundabout before the policeman had got involved, and had done the full distance.
The organisers had failed to put a timing mat at the turn around point (which would be normal practise), so stated that they would not be doing anything about it, but if anyone admitted taking the shorter course, they would be disqualified.
Knowing the consequences, the Spanish athlete admitted what had happened, was disqualified, and the British athlete became the European champion. The Spanish athlete was in tears afterwards.
Not many other people admitted taking the short course, which I can sympathise with, given the draconian consequences by the organisers, due to the organisers own mistakes, and the fact that most would have been in a contest with people racing close to them (so the winners of medals would probably have got the correct medals they would have got had this not happened).
Anyway, when I got to real correct turn around point, I had closed in on a group which I thought contained lots of athletes in my age group. This was good news, as if we had a similar second half of the bike leg, and similar run, the fact that the second run was only 2.5km would mean I’d likely beat them 😀
One athlete slipped over at the corner, and everyone else slowed down more to take the turn! I got round safely, and again cranked up the power.
I thought one of the athletes might be following me, and wasted some time checking and lost a bit of focus. By the time I got my focus back, I’d lost a bit speed and had to wind it back up.
The course was a bit busier now with more athletes for later waves out. But that was just more people to overtake! I was loving the feeling of cruising along on the smooth road listening to the whoosh of my wheels!
After the last turnaround, on the steepest downhill section, I got my speed up, and then took a bit of a break to help prepare for the final run. Just up ahead was another athlete moving fast. After the mini-break I pushed on to overtake him, which took much longer than any of my other overtakes.
I passed a little before the roundabout, but coming up to that I could see an older athlete on the outside of the road that I was going to overtake just as I got to it. We had quite a big speed difference, and I had a feeling he was about to cut into the middle of the road to take the racing line. I shouted out, but it didn’t stop him doing it…
I hit the brakes hard and swerved round him. The guy I’d just overtaken managed to miss me and passed by on the right. I got back up to speed and started to catch up again as we approached the dismount line.
I got my feet out before him, and overtook about 200m from the line. As I approached it, I got my right leg over my saddle, and in front of my left leg, with hands on brakes. I applied the brakes, and slowed. As I jumped off I heard a crash to my right – the other fast athlete had messed something up and gone over!
I ran into transition, and got my bike racked. Looking back at the way in, I could see him carrying his bike, so fortunately he hadn’t injured himself too badly. Unfortunately I could also see the big group of athletes in my age group – I hadn’t managed to pull away in the second half of the bike leg.
It turns out I’d officially got the 3rd fastest time for the bike leg out of 700 international athletes, only 6 seconds off being the fastest! Unofficially, I think I actually was the fastest!
The 2nd fastest posted his Strava log which shows he turned at the roundabout.
The 1st fastest didn’t post his race on Strava, and after an unhealthy amount of cyber snooping, while I’m aware he’s a very good cyclist, I think there’s a high probability he turned there too. But that might just be because that’s what I what to think!
Regardless, here’s my ride on Strava.
Out of transition, the route was up to the top near the start, then back down to the run course. There was a timing mat here to make sure you didn’t just go straight onto the run without doing this loop, and to start the run timing, but sadly this wasn’t working, so the official run times include the transition.
I got going, surprisingly managing to run at the same speed as the first leg – whoop! However, with the knowledge that, given my fast bike ride, and the initial run, everyone around me would be better runners 😦 That coupled with the fact that I’d seen the group of athletes in my age group just behind me, meant I didn’t really feel like I had a chance, so wasn’t able to really motivate myself.
The athlete who crashed at the dismount line came past. I asked if he was OK (he was) and more importantly if his bike was OK (he didn’t know!) Then about 15 other people came past.
I saw the guy who’d been in second at the turn around point and was determined to stay ahead of him in case I was wrong about the other people I thought were in my age group!
Coming in to the finish, I was about 15 seconds clear both ahead and behind, so had time to grab a couple of flags that were being offered and mess about in the finishing chute!
Run 2 Strava
I’d made it to the end, I hadn’t had any problems with injuries and I’d raced a race I was proud of. Whoop!
I’d come 7th – from 2nd to 7th was pretty close, but if I wan’t to get on the podium I’m going to have to improve my running! The mad Italian (an ex professional) had won by a large margin, so apparently his “warm up” hadn’t done him any harm. He also won the standard distance duathlon the next day!
All in all it was a great experience, and we did a bit of holidaying afterwards, before returning home and retrieving the kids from my parents (thanks Mum and Dad!)