For almost two laps of the Angus Bike Chain (ABC) Monikie Duathlon run – and the entire first section of this three-part race – I was within shouting distance of my good friend and GTC head coach, The Mighty Vickster.
In the first transition (T1) she headed out about 30 seconds ahead of me and it wasn’t until the finish line that I saw her again. This performance comes from an athlete who never has time for consistent training but remains wonderfully fit and fast.
However, she is, of course, much younger than me, not that we were competing against each other! (Vickster, you knew I was going to say that!)
Vicky and I made a pact last year to encourage each other to race more in 2016 and this was our first event outings of the year. The aim is to have some fun going away for weekends and taking part in more multi-discipline events.
In 2016, we both plan to do a few Scottish sprint or standard distance triathlons and also one somewhere else in Europe. Having this aim together will keep us motivated and since we both enjoy each other’s company the weekends away are also a chance to catch up on chat, talk over stuff and chat some more.
My first duathlon
The ABC event was also my first ever duathlon. The format was 4km run followed by 21.5km road cycle followed by the 4km run again. Monikie Country Park is very familiar to Vicky because she is from nearby Arbroath and spent her youth taking part in various sports and races in the park.
She also knows the roads in this area of Angus very well and was able to offer me some guidance about the undulating cycle route.
Brilliantly, her parents still live in Arbroath and welcomed me with great hospitality to stay for the night before the race and the next day. We enlisted Vicky’s partner, The Boy, as van driver and headed off full of good spirits on Saturday.
Race day at Monikie
While Vicky has been a very successful amateur triathlete in her time – she was World Age Group Champion in the 30 to 35 age group some 10 years ago – her many coaching commitments in recent years have hampered her ability to train and race as much as she would like. But she is still a speedy lady.
The first 4km run saw me holding on to Vicky’s heels as we ran twice around one of the reservoirs in Monikie Country Park. The route was grassy and muddy and became increasingly churned up as more competitors ran by. Some people tried to avoid the muddy sections by running around them but most of these competitors then ended up falling over on steep banks and slippery grass. It was quite funny to watch the slipping and sliding of other people as we ran along.
I think we were somewhere in the front third to middle of the pack as we headed into T1 and swapped trainers for cycle shoes, grabbed helmets (both of us), extra gloves (me) and headed out with our bikes for the cycle section.
As I said, I didn’t see Vicky after this. She is a great cyclist (even though she will deny this) and she most likely pushed on pretty efficiently. I had a bit of a slow start as I faffed in transition and then failed to quickly get my shoes clipped in.
This was meant to be fun, I told myself, and grinned to myself as I finally put the foot down. The 21.5km was wet and misty. It was a bit of a rollercoaster of a road circuit and I played cat and mouse with a male cyclist for much of the ride. While I was faster uphill her descended more quickly (it’s a weight thing, I told myself!).
I had a laugh a couple of times as I passed men on TT bikes. They passed me again a little while later but it made me smile to think that me, a slim old bird on a sportive-style racer, could overtake a strong young guy on a TT bike.
I also overtook a few other competitors as I pushed on but I also felt the cold wind of the many others that passed me. I have not been doing very much cycle training lately due to a sore back so I couldn’t expect to be far up the field.
It’s like that in a multi sport event. While some people are not so strong at running they can be very good at cycling. Then there are others who are weaker on a bike but run like whippets.
I am more of a balanced athlete I think although I am not particularly fast at running or cycling just now. Mostly I was content to push it a bit but not let me legs feel too much burning. I was worried about how I would be on the next run and I was cautious of overstraining my back.
Overtaken by a speedy lady
Then, as we came closer to T2, a speedy lady in a pink jacket whizzed past me on her TT bike. I was quite surprised because very few women had passed me and I vowed to keep her in my sight on the run if I could.
In these types of races you never know what the strengths of each competitor will be and if there is even the tiniest chance of beating them in the next section I like to try.
I was given a wee boost of motivation as Vicky’s parents cheered me on as I left T2 and then The Boy gave me another cheer as I ran past him.
But as I started to run I realised my laces weren’t quite right so I had to stop to try to sort them out. My legs were not in good shape at all. I grimaced and dug deeper, trying to find some inner mental strength.
It’s only two laps I told myself but as the mist descended and the gloopy mud sucked away at my leg energy I felt like I’d never reach the end.
The first lap of the reservoir was very hard. I kept telling myself that once I had done one lap I would have only one more to go. I now this is obvious but when you are racing and feeling tired it’s these small goals that keep you focused.
Then, as I headed into the second lap I saw that TT bike lady. She was quite a way off and I wondered if I had enough distance and speed to catch her. I wasn’t obsessed about it but I thought it would be a good target.
Annoyingly, the cold mist started to affect my chest and breathing. I have mild asthma but in the cold conditions it started to play up quite badly. I wished I had had my inhaler with me as I wheezed and gasped my way through the final lap.
Then, two-thirds around that lap I found I was within touching distance of the TT lady. I wondered if she had anything left and that if I passed her that she might suddenly take up the chase.
But as I went by I suddenly felt a small burst of energy and I was able to finish that final lap with a little extra oomph.
Racing can be a lot to do with how you are feeling psychologically and once I had passed that lady-in-pink I wasn’t planning to let her overtake me. My apologies to her if this all seems a bit mean but she was my target and once I’d passed her I wanted to reach the finish line first.
Which I did. As I crossed the line I found I was gasping for air. Thankfully my inhaler was in my down jacket pocket and Vicky’s parents were standing by with my jacket in their hands. Bless them. I quickly calmed my breathing with two puffs of the inhaler and then allowed myself a big smile. I’d finished my first duathlon and I wasn’t last.
Vicky had finished some four minutes ahead of me. She had had a good ride and then felt quite strong on the second run. I can’t say I felt particularly strong or within my comfort zone at any point but I was delighted not to be embarrassingly far behind.
The ABC Monikie Winter Duathlon series is friendly, well organised and in a great location. Sadly I can’t make race three because I will be away but I will give it another go next year.
- There may well be more of these race reports this year. Here’s to a 2016 of racing a little bit more frequently!
- Apologies for the lack of pics but I was racing , not taking photos!