I’d signed up to this race before I’d raced at Ely and hurt my calves again. A sprint duathlon – 5km run, 20km bike, 2.5km run – the fast running was likely to cause problems again. I’d had some time off running, and had been building it up slowly again. I wasn’t sure if I should take part, but had ended up running 5km hard as part of an MRI test on my calves a week before without any symptoms, so decided to race, but take the runs easy (i.e. no sprint at the start, and run by feel, trying to stay efficient and easy, rather than pushing the pace as fast as possible).
The race was a GB qualifier for the European Championships in Ibiza – top four from each age category qualifies, and there are a few “roll down” places (spread between the 3 qualifying races). I hoped my bike would be fast enough to outweigh my easy run pace, but wasn’t really expecting to qualify.
Arriving at the Autodrome, it was a misty, still day.
The drive there was ace in the pre-dawn light. I was a bit tired after a 70s party the night before, but getting up seemed worth it now!
I did a lap of the bike circuit, got set up, bumped into a few great people, and went for a warm up jog with one of them.
On an organizer note – I do wish events with a mass start would realize that you need a lot of toilets! I don’t know if you can see it, but this picture shows the queues…
The start was a wide section of the track. Lots of people across, only a few deep – I didn’t want to be at the front, given my lack of sprint start, but didn’t want to be too far back either! I ended up on about the 4th row. The hooter went for the start, and we were off! Almost everyone went flying past. The wind had massively picked up by this point. Still and calm day. Ha!
I felt confident in my pacing, and it all felt under control. After a couple of hundred meters, checking my watch with people still flying past on either side, I saw 3:30 per km. A bit too fast – I though it should be about 4 minute pace; I slowed down a bit more.
After a while the people around me slowed and I started overtaking. Not a lot, but a bit. I think there were 500 people (there was also a “standard distance” race – twice the length of the sprint – going on at the same time), and some were quite a long way ahead! I guess after the start I was in about 200th (including the standard athletes). My calves felt OK, and it turned out that about 3:50 pace per km was what felt relaxed.
Coming towards the end of the second lap, I was overjoyed that I didn’t feel at all broken!
I’d moved up to 91st place. Not particularly impressive, but not as far back as I was expecting!
Transition went well, and getting out on the bike, I was in my happy place. There was a narrow “slip” road to get to the main track, and I got caught behind a few other competitors, but then got out on the main track. The wind made it “interesting” on some of the tighter corners (it’s a car track with a few hairpin bends), but I was really enjoying it. I was holding about 340 watts, but with pauses for corners this averaged out to 320.
I overtook. A lot. It was kind of like a computer game, although one in which you have to try not to irritate others off by taking a racing line through the corners! Apart from the athletes ahead of me, there were also athletes coming onto the run a lap behind, and later on the standard distance athletes to overtake 😀
Some of the corners felt a little scary as the wind was pretty strong by this point, and having a deep section front wheel and disc on the back meant I was swinging wider than I was expecting. Still, I got round with no issues.
Coming back into transition there weren’t a lot of bikes around. It turned out that by this point I was up to 11th place! However, I still had no intention of putting my calves at risk, so set off again at a sensible pace. Unsurprisingly, people were soon passing me! One guy came past that had such a nice style it looked like he was floating! I had to remind myself to concentrate rather than analyse his running!
I felt my left calve get a bit tighter about 1km in, so slowed a little more. It seemed to loosen off, so I risked going a bit faster – it felt OK again 😀 I even managed a bit of a fast last 200m. I jumped for joy at having not broken myself!
After a bit of a cooldown I went to check the results. I’d come 25th – 4th in my age group – fast enough to qualify to race for GB at the European Championships! Woop. Wow, only just though – by a whole 4 seconds!