“Ah sure, it’ll be a bit of fun”. Fun? I never would have attached the word ‘fun’ to the term ‘duathlon’. But apparently that’s what my coach thought the duathlon would be. A bit of fun.
At his behest, I had entered the duathlon up north in Donegal’s Buncrana. It was a sprint event with a 2 mile run, then a 10 mile bike followed by a 2 mile run to finish off. It was seemed so short, so fast, and so painful. “Good training”, he said.
I didn’t mind doing the race route as it was on home turf. I had been up and down that Buncrana – Derry road a million times. Having completed the race, I now have officially been up and down the road a million and six times. Such is the nature of triathlons and duathlons – they involve doing multiple loops on tarmac roads, with not even a single mountain to climb on the route.
It was wild and windy at Buncrana’s Leisure Centre when I arrived there for the mid-March race. And already I was feeling intimidated. Guys in skin tight tri-suits were warming up elegantly around the starting line. Others were fitting super slick skinny wheels to their expensive featherweight time trial bikes that blew over in the wind. I knew I didn’t belong there. I glanced at my ‘High Nelly’ bike, reminded myself that it was meant to be “a bit of fun” and sneaked off to registration.
127 other bodies stood at the race start. Though the North West Triathlon Club has organised the Buncrana Duathlon for several years, this was the first time that it was part of Ireland’s National Duathlon Series. People were definitely out for points and prizes.
I had no idea how to race a duathlon. So I just ran off like I would on a fast training run. Much to my surprise, I was the first lady when we reached the turn-around point on the 2 mile run. I started to second guess myself. Was I going out too fast? Was I meant to pace myself a bit better?
12 minutes into the race, I grabbed my bike, knowing that I would have a fast transition. I had decided to forego the need for bike shoes and to race in power grips instead. My main concern on the bike leg was the whole issue of drafting. Apparently it was not allowed. I had to stay 12 metres behind other bikers, or overtake them within 20 seconds. This was harder said than done. I got stuck behind a guy who seemed to be going slower than me but who I just couldn’t seem to pass. Then after a few miles, the first lady glided past me. She was hunkered down on her tri-bars under her aero helmet, having mastered with ease the 20 second rule. Then on the return leg, another woman cycled past me. I was consigned to third position.
On to the final run, I had by now confirmed that duathlons aren’t really my thing. We were heading back up the road, doing exactly the same run that we had done less than an hour before. And you couldn’t even sneak up on the leading females like you could do on a mountain race, as they could see you coming as they changed direction and ran towards you on the final strait.
I have done one road marathon and one triathlon in my life. I can now add one duathlon to this list. It was interesting to do and I’m glad I did it. But now I look forward to doing other ‘fun’ races later this year, in particular ones that involve a mountain or two.
Results can be found here on Irish Triathlon.