First race of the season
The opening race of every is always tough and always dishes out a good portion of post-race doms (delayed onset muscle soreness), this race for me was going to be harder than any of my previous seasons…
Lead up to the race
Training in 2017 hasn’t ideally gone to plan and there has been an inconsistency to training, being a coach at TRI F.I.T coaching, I always install into the athletes I coach, that the key element to improving is to be consistent in training and to enjoy life training as a triathlete.
I fully understand how to reap the rewards of being dedicated to training day in day out, with a few factors playing a part, I have been lacking motivation to train and the enjoyment has been distant, I have been feeling training has been a chore and any missed sessions was just adding to the stresses I have been under outside of triathlon. To compete at your best and achieve your goals you need to be enjoying what you do, it is the enjoyment of training or racing which made us all do triathlon at the beginning and should always remain the real reason to be involved.
The 2up Duathlon is a different format to any other races throughout the calendar year, the race compromises of a 5.6k run, 37.2k bike and finishes repeating the same 4 mile run. You race alongside another athlete who could be your friend, training partner, team mate and I was lucky enough to be racing with Lewis Eccleston. Lewis is all of the above and we have been competing against each other for years and there is a good level of friendly rivalry at the usual individual races.
We had done a practice recce on the bike course a few weeks prior to the race and put together a time which would take a very strong team to better. Knowing this was what we were capable of, it was very positive for race day. We were both going into the race excited to be racing again and both targeting a win, obviously there were other teams targeting the win and that’s what makes racing exciting. The team who won the event the previous year were on the start line, as well as a few other teams capable of challenging for the honours. There was one team that we considered as the ones to beat, Tony Cullen and Brian Fogarty, who were racing for Tri Central and had proven speed which we knew we could challenge and battle for the win.
After a quick warm up jog with a few short strides it was time to stand on the start line and listen for the start siren to sound.
2up run descent
The conditions weren’t the best, we had rain and wind to contend with, as well as a challenging off road run course. This made underfoot muddy in places and trainer choice crucial. I opted for my trusted Inov8 Xtalon 190 trail/fell trainer. This is a lightweight shoe with plenty of grip. The 2up run course is started with a short climb which flattens out onto a long straight trail which leads you to a rocky climb and a descent on the same terrain which demands full concentration.
Not knowing what run fitness or speed I had in my legs after only a couple of runs in as many weeks and my partner Lewis clocking a new 10k personal best time of 31 minutes the week before this race, we decided to let me dictate the pace. The race started tactically as the Tri Central team also had Tony who was on his come back from an injury which had restricted his run training.
For the first 2 miles, we confidently sat relaxed towards the front and followed the pace being set. We felt comfortable at this pace and shared a few words on tactics. We noticed Tony was a bit unsure underfoot on the more technical sections so we made a conscious effort to open a small gap on the gradual assent and then opening the legs on the technical rocky decent which takes you down back into transition.
Into transition 1 we had a small lead, where we swiftly changed our wet trainers for our helmets (I wear limar tt) and bike shoes which are clipped onto the bike ready to slip into after mounting on the move. Although it’s only seconds to be gained, this is a great way to save time and could be the difference when coming into the finish of the race.
I was excited for attacking the bike and with me only getting to use my Shark Composites Attack TT bike on the turbo over winter, it was going to be fun. This season I had an addition to my Pro-lite wheel collection which was the 90mm deep section rear with custom graphics to match the fluro colours of my frameset. I opted to race this setup in favour of the usual disc as the weather forecast for the race was strong winds.
We knew the Tri Central duo of Brian and Tony was going to be super strong on the bike. They did just as we expected and pushed on at a speed that my legs on the day, couldn’t match and I was left restricting the potential my partner, Lewis, has in his ever-improving cycling legs. Once crested over the infamous Sheephouse lane climb, it was a fast descent on a very wet road surface. We used our local knowledge of the roads around Rivington and was able to descend confidently and relaxed, to ready us for a big push along the windy open roads of Belmont.
2up bike blur
At the foot of Sheephouse lane we were joined by the powerful team who won the event in 2016. We spent the next 50 minutes on the bike battling between 2nd and 3rd position. We were stronger on the flatter sections with Lewis dragging us along and I was struggling to breath with the spray from the water coming up off his back wheel. The idea of a 2up is to split the work on the front with the back rider gaining recovery of being in the draft and then moving through to maintain the high work effort and speed. I was suffering on the climbs and then going into the red to pull back into the draft of young Lewis. We had dropped into 3rd position and a gap had grown, so we adjusted tactics and Lewis decided that he would put the hammer down as I went to take a rare turn and move through. Then he instructed me to just sit in the draft. This might sound like I was getting it easy, but trust me it was tough going just to hang onto Lewis as he had his racing head on and went on the chase.
The gap closed and we regained 2nd position and seized an opportunity of the other team splitting between riders. We made a conscious effort to build a gap to take us into the 2nd transition and take a cushion into the final run.
We entered the 2nd transition with a small advantage over the chasing athletes. They had worked hard to reduce the gap between us and looking at them as we exited transition, it was clear that we were in better condition to attack the final run leg of the race than they were. I was starting to cramp towards the back end of the bike and was worried this could affect me going onto the run. My legs felt better than I’d imagined. Lewd and I started the run, having confidence that we had second position in the bag and only had to concentrate on being relaxed and work hard up the final climb to see us down the ankle twisting descent through to the finish.
2up run out
As athletes, we always strive to win and get the best performance out of ourselves on the day. If you don’t win but achieve a performance which you can be honest and say was your best, then you show respect to the better athlete or athletes on the day. In this race my performance was way off the level I set myself and we gained the result we did by being a team. We worked together to achieve the best performance with what we were faced with during the race. This worked due to the mutual respect Lewis and I have as friends and competitors. Many teams would have been frustrated if one athlete wasn’t feeling great and the other doing the majority of the work but we adapted to the situation of my off par level of performance and still achieved a result that we were happy with.
A big thanks to Lewis for playing his part for an early season trophy. He’s got a promising season of racing ahead with the main-focus of Ironman U.K.
Well done to the eventual winners, Tony Cullen and Brian Fogarty of Tri Central.
As always, a big thank you to my team sponsors of VCUK/VeloChampion Race Team. The equipment I get to use is an enhancement to my performance and enables me to achieve the best from my efforts during training and racing.
· VeloChampion - custom kit and swim, bike, run essentials
· Pro-lite Wheels
· Limar Helmets
· Shark Composites Bikes
· Carter Rigging
· Mark Lomax Accountancy
Please check my product review page to see my feedback and information on the current products I am using during training and racing throughout the season.
Onwards and upwards.