The Road to the ITU World Duathlon Championships 2014: Part 2

With training going so well it was time to devise a plan of action for the qualifying race. A brutal training regime was put in to place by coach G. Double bricks (run, bike, run sessions) became the norm, as did persistent physical fatigue accompanied by an insatiable appetite. I became accustomed to having a second breakfast, whilst protein shakes turned in to my new beverage of choice. Once the team felt strong, it was time for a test drive of the course.

The weekend before the race, the three amigos piled into Ali’s trusty polo and headed over to Clumber Park.

£10 bike rack, £5000 worth of bike. What could go wrong?

£10 bike rack, £5000 worth of bike. What could go wrong?

Parked up and with the bikes unloaded, we proceeded to check out the bike course. Ali had produced a highly detailed map of the course which would help us suss out the route.

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Ali’s technical map!

After a few laps of the bike course, it was clear that it suited our needs and would hopefully play to our strengths; it was a simple square-shaped bike lap with some punchy hills thrown in for good measure. The trickiest part of the bike course would be the final uphill drag back to transition. However, we targeted this section because we believed it would be the best place to pick off our competitors and improve on our position in the race. After a good amount of time spent on the bike, we headed back to the car to slip on our running shoes. An easy jog to finish up ended our session and we were done for the day! Lots of coffee and cake was eagerly consumed before we departed for Sheffield.

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Back on the road, we all felt reassured about the qualifying race. Our plan of attack was in place after checking out the course and we now had a clear idea about what was in store for us in a week’s time.

 

Race day, go hard or go home

An early wakeup call, ensured that we arrived at the race with plenty of time to spare. With the standard registration and bike racking out of the way, we went back to the car to get ‘race ready’. One hour before the race, we were all concerned about the same thing- supplements. This is something I feel strongly about; without supplementing I doubt I would have achieved the same level of success.  During my studies I have also been investigating the effects caffeine and paracetamol co-ingestion on cycling performance and so far the results have been promising. So from studying the benefits of supplementation and seeing the effects first-hand on my body, it prompted myself, ben and Ali, to eat supplement capsules like they were Smarties out of a tube!

Transition selfie!

Transition selfie!

Feeling nervous at the prospect of qualifying for the World Championships, a final toilet stop was in order before we warmed up and took our places on the line.

Our start wave was lined up and you could tell everyone was eager to start. Learning from our past mistake at the BUCS Dauthlon Competition, we forced our way towards the front of the group. After the customary ‘come on lads, we’ve got this’ speech, the hooter went and the race began.

My strategy for the race was to go steady for the first half of the run and then pick up the pace on the return leg. This worked a treat – an 18 minute 5km was in the bag! Everything was going well as I went into transition and powered out onto the bike course. With the caffeine flowing in my veins and the paracetamol doing its job, I felt strong as I flew past people on the bike.  I was quickly catching the earlier waves and pushing hard, chasing down the leaders. My dismount coming into T2 was the usual slick affair I was quickly heading trough a chaotic transition zone.

Getting ready to run!

Getting ready to run!

Bike racked, shoes on, helmet off, the practice had paid off!  In transition I bumped into Ali who had clearly smashed the bike leg and caught up with the leaders of our wave. Flying out of transition onto the run – the usual jelly legs were present! However, I knew I needed to make this final run count if I had a chance of qualifying and I quickly started picking people off. Powering up the only hill on the run, I spotted Ben; a quick glance and an encouraging grunt reassured me that I was nearly there! I had arrived at the turn around point.

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With my legs screaming at me to stop, I tried to dig deep and produce a final effort. I knew I wasn’t far from the leading guys in my age group and I wasn’t going to give up – even if my legs had other plans and were not cooperating. Struggling to keep the pace up and with the finish line in sight, I tried to ignite a finishing line sprint. Crossing the line I knew I was close to the qualification spots but I wasn’t sure. With the top four getting an automatic qualification place, the results were announced by coach G: ‘Ben; 2nd and on the plane to Spain, Kurt; nine seconds off 4th, finishing in 5th place, Ali finishing in a strong 6th place’.

Gutted wasn’t the word. Nine seconds off automatic qualification. Coach G assured me that I was still in a great position to qualify with eight roll down spots being awarded to the fastest non-automatic qualifiers. I was currently the fastest non-automatic qualifier and Ali the second fastest out of the two qualifiers with one race left to go.

3 Amigos post race!

3 Amigos post race!

To be or not to be, that is the question

 

It was an agonising wait for the final qualifier to take place. Three weeks felt like months and everything else in my life was on standstill until I found out my fate. Finally an email from British Triathlon arrived in my inbox and it was time to see if I was going to be part of team GB. All my training came down to this moment and I was feeling quite emotional. The first line of the email told me all I needed to know…

The email I had been waiting for!

The email I had been waiting for!

I was in. Bring on THE WORLDS.

A quick phone call to Ali confirmed that he had made it too and we were off to Spain to represent GB!

The final instalment of my road to the world championships will be online soon so keep an eye out!

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The Road to the ITU World Duathlon Championships 2014: Part 1

The journey to the Duathlon world championships started in September 2013 during a light-hearted chat with Coach George. ‘What’s your aims for the season?’ he said, ‘not got any’ I said. ‘Well since your background is cycling and running I reckon you should give duathlon a shot, it sounds perfect for you’. I thought sure why not. Enter a few low-key races, dip my toe in the water but Coach G had other ideas. He went on to talk about the 2 Matt’s from last year, both totally new to the game but hungry to succeed just like me. ‘We had 2 guys go to the European duathlon championships last year; you should go for it too’. At first I thought this guy was on drugs, a newbie to the sport go to the European championships with less than one year of training behind me, surely not. After sleeping on the idea and talking to my better half Charlotte I came to the conclusion that I had nothing to lose. I phoned George to find out he had a new plan! After being involved in a few sessions with the club he had decided that I should try to qualify for the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS. Now I really questioned his mental state. After some persuasion I warmed to the idea, if I put everything into it, why not? I love a challenge and what’s more challenging then representing your country at a sport you have been competing in less than a year. So with that being said, I and two other new club members embarked on the journey to represent our country. We would go through the highs and the lows together and ultimately form friendships that I’m sure will last a lifetime.

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Out in the peaks!

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Smashing the miles out!

First few months training and BUCS Duathlon

 

Filled with the excitement of the task ahead I jumped straight into training. As the weeks passed and miles were ticked off one thing became very apparent, the passion of the Coach. George Robinson was the head coach of Sheffield Hallam Triathlon club. As a GB athlete and a Level 2 Triathlon coach he knew what he was talking about. I can’t put it into words the gratitude I have for all the help and advice he has given me, not to mention the wardrobe full of kit I have lent/stolen off him! His passion for coaching helped everyone dig deep and do the training when it was easy to falter. It was after a few weeks of training when he came up with a master plan for the first race of the season: the BUCS Duathlon.

The BUCS duathlon was held at Castle Combe on the 24th November 2013. A full team was entered from SHU tri club with me, Ali and Ben entered into the faster of the two waves. The realisation of being thrown in the deep end caused an increase in focus and intensity in training. Training had been going well and I was feeling good, time to see what this duathlon sport was all about. After a long drive down south in the ‘Fun Bus’ with Taylor Swift blasting out down the M1 we arrived at the hotel. Coach G informed the group of his customary twitter competition that he ran at every race. The winning entry came from Ali and his SHU chest seen below.

 

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Twitter comp winner! Mo game is strong!

 

After a good night’s sleep I was ready to lose my Duathlon virginity. An oversized free breakfast was followed by the nervous drive to the circuit where the race would take place. The race involved 1 run lap of the outside of the track followed by 5 laps of the track on the bike. Finally back into transition and off for 1 more run lap around the perimeter. Sounds fun right? Think again.

 

Traditional transition selfie!

Traditional transition selfie!

 

After an anxious warm up and race briefing all the athletes were ushered to the start line, A small track only wide enough for 10 athletes was marked with a faint white line. With 300+ people competing in our wave there was lots of jostling for position. Not wanting to get stuck towards the back Ali and I snuck down the grassy embankment down the side to get closer to the front. This seemed like a great idea at the time but after the hooter sounded we soon found out why others were avoiding doing it with us. As the customary start line sprint assumed Ali and I found ourselves hurdling signs that had been put in the grass to stop people running on it! Certainly an interesting way of starting your first race! After the first 800m the race settled down as everyone found their position. I completed the 2 mile first run and was quickly in transition. This was the first time I had been in a transition during a race and it was complete madness! People were running around like headless chickens trying to remember where they put their bikes in amongst hundreds of others. Fun times. Luckily Coach G was a sucker for a clean, smooth transition and we practiced them a lot in the weeks before a race. Like a drill Sargent G barked instructions to us until we got everything right. I’m glad he did, it gave the whole SHU team a massive advantage over the other headless chickens.

Coming into T1

Coming into T1

 

Out on the bike and everything seemed fine, everything except my legs. Going from running to cycling at full throttle is a strange feeling and one that definitely needs practicing if you want to be any good at it. With limited ‘Brick’ sessions under my belt I was shocked to feel how much the run had taken out of my legs. With the first lap underway I tried to spin the legs and get my cycling legs back. One thing that quickly became apparent was the amount of people on the circuit and the amount of drafting happening. With BUCS being a non-drafting race all competitors must be at least 3 bike lengths away from each other to stop unfair gains of hiding behind someone to avoid the air resistance. It quickly became apparent that this wasn’t going to happen and a group of around 40 riders merged together as a pack. No one had the strength to ride away from the group and no one was willing to drop back. This caused a lot of abuse from the officials and a lot of penalties being handed out. I tried to make a move out of the pack a few times but didn’t have the strength to make the move stick and was soon swallowed back in to the pack on the headwind section. Entering the last few laps I saw my two team mates in the pack and conversation began to flow. We joked about the draft fest that was happening and decided we would stick with it and see what happens. Coming into the final few corners everyone started to get out of their cycling shoes before the U-turn back into transition. This was followed by more swearing from the officials about our persistent rule breaking. Another frantic transition followed and again G’s training came into its own. Flying out of T2 and on to the last run, there was only one problem…. My legs. Second run duathlon legs is now something I’ve got accustomed too but that first time I will never forget. It’s like running in custard, and your perceptions are shot as you have just been flying round on a bike at 25+mph. You feel that you are running so slow for so much effort. It’s definitely an odd feeling but one I have come to tolerate/enjoy over the past year. With the last run coming to an end with an uncomfortable last gasp sprint my first race was complete. The pain was immediately replaced with joy and relief. Following our race we cheered on the other athletes from the club and pulled off a Mexican wave with other students from Bath Uni. Job Done.

 

Supporting the SHU Tri team!

Supporting the SHU Tri team!

Back into the swing of things, then disaster strikes

 

After a rest week following the BUCS race training got underway again. The next goal was to find a qualifier race for the worlds and structure our training around this.  We chose to do the Clumber Park sprint duathlon on the 22nd March 2014. Enough time to get a solid block of training in and close enough to commute on race morning from Sheffield. There were a few more structured sessions before the Christmas break and then training relaxed up a bit. The final track session of the year involved some fun games rather than the usual beasting we were accustomed too. It was during this session when disaster occurred. Following a ‘skip off’ Ali’s foot landed into a hole produced by the shot putters. It was clear straight away that it was serious and everyone within the group was worried. Ali was in the running form of his life and smashing PB’s left right and centre. After a week of rest and no improvement an x-ray confirmed the worst; a broken bone in his ankle. The diagnosis meant that Ali couldn’t run for a while, which turned out to be a long while. His presence was definitely missed at the run sessions but like a trooper he soldered on and turned his attention to his silky swim technique and boosting his biking ability. When myself and Ben were doing double brick sessions in preparation for the world qualifier Ali was smashing out ridiculous interval sessions on the bike!

 

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Me and Ben suffering on a double brick session!

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Ali doing one of his crazy bike interval sessions!

Puncture anyone?

Puncture anyone?

Ali finally got the news that he could start running and it didn’t come a minute too soon. Putting in as much run training as he could before the qualifier, he was pessimistic of his chances to qualify. He knew that he had to make the bike leg count, and that’s exactly what he did! With training going so well and the three amigos back together we were ready to hit the qualifier hard and get our hands on that GB kit.

 

Part 2 will be online soon so keep an eye out!

The Start

I decided to start a blog to talk about my training and journey to becoming a GB athlete. I wrote this first article a long time ago but never got round to putting it online. So here goes:

 

Wrote on the 9th August 2013
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I have made this blog to document my thoughts as I train to become a GB athlete. I know there’s going to be a lot of hard work and stress but I’m more than ready for the challenge.

Triathlon is a new thing to me. I’m a keen runner and cyclist but have never swam competitively! I’m looking forward to focusing on a new discipline and all the hard work that comes with it.

I’m looking forward to joining the Sheffield Hallam triathlon team in September 2013 and hopefully pushing my training to the next level. I was on the road cycling team last year and heard nothing but good things about the triathlon team. It’s for this reason I decided to make the switch and focus on triathlon rather than just cycling.

I have recently completed a bike ride from Leeds to Barcelona in Spain. This ride took 8 days averaging 160 miles a day. The highlight of this trip being the day cycling from Pau to Huesca through the Pyrenees mountains! A day I will never forget. This ride inspired me to take on the challenge of becoming a GB athlete and pushing myself to the limit!

So today is the start of my training. I’m excited and also nervous. Having just recovered from a cold it’s slow and steady for the next few weeks before any intensity kicks in. First up 40 miles steady on the bike in the wonderful Peak District. Let the good times roll!

 

 

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