The duathlon learning curve

I raced the DB Max sprint duathlon at Castle Combe this week. My goal was to be conservative and try to pace it sensibly – easier said than done once you’ve pinned on a number and are surrounded by competitors. As the adrenaline starts pumping it’s difficult to avoid going out too hard and paying for it later. There are no prizes given for the person who suffers the most.

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I set myself a target pace of 3:50/km for the first 3km run, but still found myself running on ‘feel’ rather than pace. This is a risky tactic –  what can feel ok for 5 minutes, probably isn’t for 45 minutes. I eased off for the second and third kilometres, not losing any places. I came into the T1 in about 10th place, 30 seconds up on target pace but still feeling good.

My transition was tidy without being particularly quick. I hadn’t practiced transitions since my last race so just did it all calmly and without rushing. Similarly to the run, on the bike I had a target but ended up going slightly harder based on feel. I averaged 285 watts, but with progressively quicker lap times.

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The ride is 5 laps and 15km. The final few laps were quite busy on the track once all of the 100+ riders were out there. But nothing could really detract from the enjoyment of whooshing around on traffic-free, smooth tarmac. I could tell I’d gained a few places and hadn’t been overtaken so arrived into T2 feeling like things were going well. As I exited transition I looked down at my watch and saw that I was well on for a PB.

Unfortunately, I had a stitch about halfway into the final run. I felt the burn in my side so slowed down and tried to push on, but the pain kept on increasing. Before I had consciously made the decision to stop, I was horrified to feel myself come to a halt. It was a strange, involuntary feeling. I stretched it out and was overtaken by a couple of runners. I started running again and made it 100 metres before being forced to stop again. I thought about quitting but was on the wrong side of the circuit at least a kilometre to the finish line so ‘quitting’ would still basically mean carrying on and finishing. I stretched a bit more. Was overtaken again, this time at least appreciating the camaraderie of someone asking if I was ok. After what felt like 10 minutes, but was probably more like 30 seconds I started running again. The pain had mostly gone so I took it steady.

In the end I finished 10th, set a PB and learned a good lesson in pacing. Whether the stitch was from eating a bit too close to the start or from pushing it too hard on the final lap of the bike, I’m not sure. I’ll just try to pay better attention to both in the next race – fortunately there’s a final Castle Combe duathlon of the season in a few weeks time where hopefully things will go smoother.

3 thoughts on “The duathlon learning curve

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