The team at London Duathlon were kind enough to give PrettyFit a place to take part in this year’s race. Here’s what Zoe thought of her first ever duathlon experience…
The London Duathlon is held in London’s delightful Richmond Park but with just two weeks prep time for this race, I was certainly nervous. I’ve never done a duathlon before, and I was doing it alone so I had double the nerves. With such a short time to prep in I took part in the Super Sprint, although there were 3 other races taking place that day, the Ultra, Classic and the Sprint. I arrived at the park at 12.30 just as the clouds had taken over and the wind had started to pick up, perfect for me because I love running in the rain, but I wasn’t so happy for the bike section, without mud guards I’d be a soggy bottomed runner and rider. School girl error #1. Luckily though, the lovely people at Bikelab had sent me a 5 point checklist to ensure that my bike was in tip top condition, even if it was going to spray me a lovely line of brown up my back.
The event village was nice and simple, a healthy fruit stall and a jacket potato van provided food for spectators and the Bikelab people were there to help with those last minute bike niggles. Most importantly for me there was a decent amount of loos, and with all the events staggered throughout the day there were no pre-race queues. As I go to the loo at least 5 times before a race (all that water), this was heaven.
Once in the village I headed to the transition area to set my bike up and start warming up. The super-sprint section was at the far end of the transition area, with racks to hang your bike up, but no where for your bag or clothes; (school girl error #2), so onto the wet grass my jacket and bag went.
All set up and ready to go, I headed to the start line. We filtered through to the starting pen where 25 were taken forward at a time, briefed by the oh so friendly (and I have to say pretty good looking too) event stewards, and then set off on the race at 30 second or so intervals. At this point, I have to say, I was mega impressed with the organisation of the event, it was calm, focused and I knew that there wasn’t going to be a single bottle neck throughout the course.
So we were off! The first leg was a 5k run, and the second we started so did the rain. I was one happy runner. The first k took us to the bottom of the hill up to the White Lodge, with runners on the left and riders coming towards us on the right. Then up the hill we went, where I decided that I didn’t need to wear the long sleeve top any more so I started to unpin my race number and re-pin it to my vest whilst running, stabbing myself in the finger and wiping blood all over myself (SGE #3). Kilometre 3 took us out across the wide open park, and the slow decent back down the hill. I wasn’t thinking about racing, speeds or anything other than how peaceful and lovely this race was, and then I noticed that there were very few spectators/cheering crews lining the course, no one to shout encouragement or whoop at you, and I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing. But before I knew it the final k took us back into the event village and into transition.
Transition was easy peasy for me, I was cycling my trusty steed, Dash. We have a love-love relationship and I felt really happy as I leapt on at the board that told us to ‘Mount’, and started pedaling. I overtook every other rider for about 4 k’s, speeding across the beautiful park, at around 2/3 k’s we came to a hill, and I was shocked to see that some people were pushing their bikes up it. Everyone knows their limits, but I hadn’t reached mine yet, so I powered up and around another bend and down the other side.
Then, came the deer.
The information pack warned about the deer, but in front of me was a Stag with massive antlers or horns or whatever they are called, grazing on the edge of the road just waiting to impail me. Terrified that they were going to leap out, I changed pace and position, then there were MORE, all happily grazing or shredding a tree with those massive antlers, generally looking huge and like they could take me out, then 2 decided that now was the right time to rush out across the road. Cue panic braking and sliding about.
Having got through that part of the course alive, I made my way around the rest of the 11k bike ride, using the downhills to stretch my legs out and rest, before I went into transition again. As I coasted in on my bike I started to remove my gloves and longsleeve top and was ready to run the second I got into the area, I spent a grand total of 48 seconds in there, which makes me very happy.
The second 5k was the same route as the first one, except the wind had really picked up and the rain had developed into a more substantial drizzle, this again, made me a very happy runner, and surprisingly, I hadn’t picked up too much spray on the bike, so no soggy bottom!
With the wind and the rain howling, the final 5k felt like a very solitary run as there were no spectators and the event stewards were sheltering. Coming into the finish a smattering of supporters were cheering to help lift the spirits and pick up the pace for the sprint finish, with a lovely touch from the MC who called out ‘Well done, Zoe!” as I crossed the line.
I truly enjoyed this race, possibly because I’m comfortable on my bike and the distances were tiny, but also because it felt incredibly well organised and friendly, and the park just looked truly stunning. My times were nothing to write home about, but I can’t recommend this race enough to anyone who wants to try a multi discipline race, but doesn’t want the swimming part of a triathlon. It made me feel a lot more confident about trying out a proper bike race too, which I’ve been wanting to do for years, but have always been terrified to do.
Oh and there was a full sized Mars bar in the goody bag.