Storm the Castle Duathlon 2016 (17th April)
Really tough but interesting run and bike routes, stunning Shropshire scenery, great organisation, friendly marshals, a well stocked athletes village within the outer bailey of Ludlow Castle and warm(ish) spring sunshine: the Storm the Castle duathlon was a seriously enjoyable event! It claims to be the UK’s toughest run-bike-run race – the Ballbuster Duathlon might disagree with this – but I must say it was really tough!
The finish and athlete village within the outer bailey of Ludlow Castle
The bridge over the River Teme with the castle above
The opening 10k comprised two hilly 5k loops incorporating such challenges as ‘The Lactic Ladder’ and ‘The Wall’ as well as some tough off road trail sections. I went hard on the opening run and opened a decent lead ahead of the bike leg. I was finally caught towards the end of the undulating 33km bike section by a fast moving Adam Jackson but a slightly white knuckle decent into Ludlow for T2 kept him behind me and then it was a case of keeping it together on the final 5k run – something that I managed to do – to cross the line in 1st place. It was an absolutely superb day and an event that should be in any keen endurance athletes diary!
Smiling at the camera – should have pushed harder!
Standing on the podium with the castle behind. It was a great day!
British Elite Duathlon Champs 2016 – Windsor Great Park (April 3rd)
Three months or so ago I was not expecting to be ready for the British Elite Duathlon Champs this year: injury had wrecked my winter and I was only just getting back to proper training. It was therefore a real bonus to be there on the start line in Windsor Great Park and because I was not in top shape there was no pressure to perform. I was there to simply enjoy the racing. However, there are always nerves before any event and looking around at the athletes in the start pen – their names emblazoned across their chests – it was clearly a strong field: Richard Horton, Calum Johnson, Liam Lloyd, Daniel Jenkin, Carl Avery and Danny Russell were there, many of whom had run well under 15 minutes for 5K in recent times. As well as this, there seemed to be an unfair number of competitors with deep tans, obviously cultivated on various warm weather training camps over the winter. Warm weather training is effectively cheating in my book! At this point I began to wonder how many of them had two young children and full time jobs. Perhaps the organisers should consider a ‘Dad’s category’ next year?
Anyway, before I could mull over these things for too long, the hooter had gone and we blasted off up The Long Walk towards Windsor Castle for the opening 5k run. The pace was crazy to begin with but I expected that from my experience of this event in 2014. I did not get overexcited and stuck to my race pace which meant that I steadily caught people throughout the run who had gone out too fast. I eventually worked my way up to the head of the second pack on the road – a group of 4 athletes – with a group of 7 out in front. Given the race was draft legal for the bike, there would be no point in forging ahead on my own – I would need guys around me to work with on the bike to catch the front group which had entered transition 30 odd seconds ahead of us. After a frantic but controlled T1 I jumped on my bike and found myself in a group of 3 alongside Tom Crouch and Andy Greenleaf. We worked together for the opening section of the 20k bike section (4 laps of Snow Hill) but I found the pace tough and could not contribute as often as I wanted to on the front. I did my bit but we were caught by a larger group behind to make it a 12 or so strong peloton. With a group that size it was hard to work together, everyone had their own agenda: some of the stronger runners were happy to sit in at the back and wait for the final run whereas the stronger bikers wanted to break the group up, whilst others – like me – were keen for us all to work together to catch the lead group. This strategizing is what makes draft legal racing so exciting. Everyone has their own plan and it makes the bike leg tactical and more fun. As it was, we held the same gap to the lead group and were soon blasting down The Long Walk to T2. My transition was not as quick as it could have been – only a few seconds too slow – but it meant I started with 7 people ahead of me from my bike group as well as the 7 leaders further up the road. However, I tend to run well off the bike and felt confident. I could also see that some of the guys ahead were tiring. I pushed on and steadily picked up 5 places over the final 2.5km run leg to take me into the top 10. However, in the final 200m I was overtaken by Sam Wade and had absolutely no response to his strong finish, so ended up placing 11th. I was really chuffed with this result and thoroughly enjoyed the post-race endorphins, general chat with my fellow competitors and the impressive surroundings. But it wasn’t long before I was thinking about next year…. with an injury free winter behind me, I would hope to be closer to that front group, if not in it….. that’s the aim for 2017!
11th at the British Elite Duathlon Champs 2016