At the start of March last year (2015), Wendy completed her first Duathlon and she had such a good time that when we were offered free places in any event by Epic Events for marshalling at their Delamere race we both jumped at the chance to have a go at it this year.
Before any thoughts of training my first task was to get a bike. I already had a mountain bike but the Duathlon needed a different kind of animal so I was finally going to buy a pure road bike and last October saw us make the trip over to Bradford where I picked up my new Giant Defy 2 Disc from All Terrain Cycles.
It didn’t take long to get the hang of it and I only fell over once while getting to grips with my feet being attached to the pedals, so over winter whenever the typically foul Lancashire weather weather allowed I hit the roads, including the infamous Parbold Hill which was part of the Duathlon circuit. Boy, is that hill unpleasant, I wanted to do circuits of it but I only managed it a few times before the race and in the back of my mind the hill was going to be the key to my race.
Unfortunately just after Christmas Wendy injured her foot which put her out of action for a month so she pulled out of the Duathlon leaving me to continue. Thankfully a few of our friends were competing and we knew a few of the organisers so although it was a shame Wendy wasn’t in the race, I wouldn’t be alone… at least not at the start, some of our friends are quiet fast.
Race day dawned and the weather was a little chilly but otherwise clear as we pulled into the car park of the Farmers Arms. I’d been emailed instructions so after chatting with our friends the first task was to pick up race numbers and timing chip from registration then attach numbers to the front of my running shirt, back of cycling jacket (without the sleeves as it would be easier to get on and off), bike and helmet and attach the chip to my ankle.
Once all the numbers were in place I took my bike and cycling gear to the transition area and after a brief but thorough inspection of the bike and helmet by the marshal, racked it on the bars and placed the gear next to the front wheel in the same sort of order I used when practicing. The space between the bikes was quiet tight but I was sure it would be OK and with the weather staying clear there was no need to make sure things were under any sort of waterproof cover.
After racking there was a bit of time to chat until the morning kicked off with the kidz race where they ran a mini loop but still finished under the main arch, each happy, smiling mini runner getting a medal and a huge round of applause. It was great to see and gave everyone a much needed boost as we listened to the race briefing (no changes) and then gathered on the road, waiting…
Could I get up Parbold Hill, 3 times, without making a complete fool of myself in my first Duathlon? As I set set off from The Farmers Arms in Hilldale along with 150 other competitors for the first 5k run, 4 months after buying my first road bike, I was about to find out.
With the mantra of “don’t go to fast” in my head I rounded the first corner and hit the first of many “undulations” at a fairly easy pace, taking it steady while the legs warmed up. The 2.5k loop was a bit of a beast and second time round I heard someone telling his mate to slow down as the bike was yet to come. Good advice, I slowed a little down the final hill back to the Farmers for the first transition onto the bike.
For me this was new territory although I had practiced a little at home, everything was fairly smooth if a little slow except tightening up my shoes for the bike took what seemed like an age. Walk the bike across the road, check everything is clear and I was off.
A few gradual ups and downs and then a sharp left hand turn onto Parbold Hill and it was just as unpleasant as I remembered it being. Passing the church on the left and trying to save a few gears in case of emergencies it just got steeper and steeper until just as you think you can’t take any more it levels out a little then hits you again with a final climb.
One down, two to go.
Down the other side and another left and more climbing brought me out at the top of Hunters Hill, time to take some brave pills, stay off the brakes and hit it. I gained a few of the places I’d lost going up Parbold Hill here and it felt great. Scary, a little terrifying but still great. I even remembered to slow for the final corner before racing past the Farmers Arms to the cheers of the crowds for my 2nd lap.
Laps 2 and 3 were fairly uneventful except for me and a fellow rider being near the top of Parbold Hill while an articulated wagon crunched its gears and came to a standstill next to us making it a little dodgy but as we slowed to a wobble he pulled away just before we had to make any kind of manoeuvre that involved any extra effort as I think we were both well and truly knackered by that point.
Down Hunters the last time I clocked 42 mph just before slowing into the final bend and hitting transition again. This one was a little quicker as I was taking stuff off and slipping on my road running shoes, complete with recently acquired elasticated laces.
The 2nd run was not pretty, I definitely over did it on the bike and my legs just wouldn’t get going, probably lack of practice running after cycling and lack of experience in a proper multi sport event but I hung on and eventually my running form sorted itself out just in time for a mini sprint finish where I was cheered in by Wendy and our friends and although I was hurting it felt great.
The event was brilliant, from the emails we received in the lead up to the race through to the marshals and organisation on the day, the whole setup was faultless and now I’ve set a time I’ll definitely be back next year.
I’d done it, I’d beaten “That bloody Big Hill”