Borris Viaduct

Borris Viaduct
Borris ViaDuct

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Phoenix Park Duathlon

There was something pretty nice about the prospect of this event. For the last two events I had to struggle to bring all my kit and luggage to a relatives place for the weekend and race, whereas this was an event at 7pm on a worknight in Phoenix Park in Dublin and I was simply going to cycle to it after work! Also the distances were nothing to worry about:

  • a one lap (2.5km) run around the football fields near the Papal Cross - Run Lap [clickable link]
  • 3 laps (13km in total) cycle of a really enjoyable and bendy lap that wrapped around the football fields - 1 Cycle Lap [clickable link]
  • another 1 lap (2.5km) run to finish.
Despite swimming being my strength, it was nice knowing I didn't have to worry about complicated transitions with wetsuits, and the fact that I cycled wearing runners was in a way advantageous in a race like this, certainly with regards transitions anyway!

Also it was exciting to have the prospect of racing my older brother for the first time, who had been in Athlone but doing the longer Olympic distance

The only worry was the weather. The summer of 2012 was incredibly rubbish, with more rain than I can remember happening in any other summer. I was lucky to have gotten away with it in Skerries and Athlone to be honest, and the forecast for the week in general was pretty grim. I was checking the forecast regularly in work (particularly the map of rainfall from last 6 hours on the Met Eireann app, incredibly useful for predicting what is going to happen in the immediate hours after) as there were a lot of ominous clouds around - it was a concern for me, as I was still very much a novice on the road bike and had never cycled it in wet conditions. Luckily after 4pm, all signs were good for a clear evening. By 5 o clock I was all set for a pretty lovely cycle from the office into the park (certainly not in terms of scenery, but the weather had really come good!)

I was in fairly early to register, and setting up my bike in transition was a synch, when I didn't have to leave clothes to be putting on after the swim! All that was left to do was wait for my brother and then for the race. I had a bag of nuts and a bottle of water handy too, to make sure I didn't get too famished waiting around. One of the lads that regularly went to the weekly local pub quiz with us, Eoin, was going to come in and watch too, which was nice - always nice to have some support!

There were going to be 2 waves, a beginner and advanced - as there was no swimming, my strongest discipline, I decided to go in the beginner wave and see how I fared, as did my brother. The beginner wave was going to go 2nd, 15 minutes after the advanced wave, which meant there would be a bit more waiting around, but was also good, as I was interested to see the advanced guys finish their first run lap.

There was quite a few competitors there, well over 100, and one tri-suit colour that was quite dominant was the orange and blue tri-suit of Wheelworx triathlon shop, who appeared to have all of their staff down for the race. Some of those faces were to become very familiar over the next year for various reasons!

We all gathered around for the race briefing, where I was relieved to hear that all of the steel ballards on the cycle course had been removed for the race, and the roads were in fact pretty dry. Very soon after, we were counting down to the advanced race start and away they went. It may have just been that I was standing still, but it was quite impressive and quickly that very large bunch of people took off down the grass - there were very few stragglers!

Our wave was not to start for another 15 minutes, which was enough time to see most of the first wave finish the running lap. It was amazing to see the times the leaders were coming in on - between 7 and 8 minutes for 2.5km; between 14 and 16 minute 5km pace, WOW!! - and there was quite a few people coming in comfortably under 10 minutes too. In fact some of the guys were so fast, they were completing their first cycle lap by the time our wave was called - incredible.

As the countdown started, Andrew and I decided it would be better to start nearer the back, assess the pace and react accordingly - probably a safe bet without the swim to boost us!

One side note: I was dying to go to the loo at this point, I had only realised when the first wave started that I needed to go, but couldn't see a portaloo anywhere, didn't want to venture too far from the start line and didn't want to get disqualified by peeing on a tree somewhere!!

The gun went off and away we went. I found what I figured to be a good rhythm, but in all honesty this felt weird without a cycle and a swim in front of it! There was no built up adrenaline or anything, honestly I didn't know if I was going too fast or too slow! I focussed on the group nearest me, and matched them for pace. Once I figured it was comfortable I passed them and focussed on the next group, and then on individuals ahead of me, as the crowd spread out over the course of the lap. This actually worked pretty well for me and I started to pull away from Andrew.
Rounding the corner, 1st lap, starting to pull away from my brother (image courtesy: Irish Triathlon)
  When I had been watching the previous wave I noted to myself that I would take note of my time on the clock over the finish line as I came back into transition. I completely forgot about this as I finished my run lap, my mind was completely in the race now! The transition was actually pretty nice - just helmet on and away I went!! At this stage I had no idea where Andrew was in relation to me, I was in my own little zone now, racing myself.

You couldn't have asked for a better start to a cycle leg - a long descent, nearly a km long, which was mostly straight except for a long right and a long left - I really gained a lot of momentum coming down here, and must admit I felt I was in danger of losing control of the bike as the road surface got a bit bumpy towards the end! There was a hard right immediately into a steep but brief-ish winding climb - like in Skerries I found myself overtaking quite a few cyclists on this bit. Once the road flattened out it was an immensely enjoyable, every so slightly descending road (or you had momentum to get over any little bumps) with sweeping bends, left and right. They were so sweeping that even a novice like me was considering going through them without braking. I actually found myself overtaking a few people here also - maybe I had underestimated myself a bit, putting myself in the beginner wave! This section of road ended quite abruptly with a sharp right and a climb on a crappy surface. I actually got caught out a bit here and was not remotely in the right gear after I rounded the corner and was lucky not to have my chain come off in the rushed gear shift. From here I was back on the straight that brought me past transition to finish my first lap of 3 - this was a bit of an ego boost to be able to pass the spectators at speed, but also was a reality check as some guys from the earlier waves lapped me here, overtaking me like I was nothing! It was interesting to see the difference: they were so much lower, so much narrower on the bike and pedalling so much faster - I had a lot to learn yet!! Lap 1 done, 2 to go!
(image courtesy:Irish Triathlon)

The next two laps went pretty much the same, with a few little differences: I took the descents a little bit more bravely, the climbs a little more confidently, managed my gears a little more efficiently - each lap was definitely an improvement on the last, and all the while I was overtaking a lot more people  then were overtaking me - in fact it seemed the only people who were overtaking me were the more advanced cyclists from the previous waves lapping me! This seemed to be confirmed to me on the enjoyable sweeping section of the last lap when a guy gradually came by me on the bike, gave a nod and said with some excitement, "I think we're in the lead!". I didn't really know what to make of this at 1st: clearly we weren't, in the big scheme of things, so I presumed he meant we were leading the wave, which was meaningless. Or was it? Did the winner of the waves get prizes? Either way leading the heat was pretty decent going, wasn't it? Yay, go Brian! (this whole thought process lasted about half a second). Needless to say I embraced this guy's enthusiasm and kept pace with him to the end of the cycle.

Again this transition was so straight forward. Apart from the fact that after dismounting I had to take my bike over an embankment, all I had to do was run my bike in, rack it, helmet off and away again. Duathlons are great fun!

I had a bit more bounce in my stride on the start of the 2nd run leg, I saw Mr. Enthusiasm ahead of me, so I made a bit of an effort to catch up and keep pace. At this stage we were pretty much out on our own. I was probably on the limit of a sustainable pace, and knew there would be no-one after this guy for me to pace off if I passed him, so I was quite happy to shadow him for the lap. I was kind of glad to have done this, as he gradually pulled away from me on the second half of the lap. Once this happened it was a bit of a mental task to maintain the pace I was in - it was a bit above my comfort level, and I no longer had anyone to pace off. In any case I finally made it, crossing the finish line at a time of  50:51 - no idea if this was good or bad, but I was pretty happy with it! One of the run splits was about 24 minute 5km pace, the fastest I had so far ran in a race, and my cycle was over 30km/h average, so no complaints!

Crossing the finish line (image courtesy: Irish Triathlon)
I met Eoin at the finish line, and waited for Andrew who came in about 5 minutes afterwards. We were on a bit of a buzz, and arranged to meet Eoin the pub in Lucan after Andrew and I had cycled home and showered, changed etc. The 13km cycle home was fun - very relaxed with a bit of post race chatter. At one point I challenged Andrew to a 2km drag race from Palmerstown to the footbridge - he absolutely left me in his dust! I realised I actually had nothing left in the legs, which was actually a nice feeling as I knew I had put everything into it. The slight anti-climax/ disappointment of tri-Athlone was behind me now. The pints AFTER event combination was definitely more satisfying than the other way around - one of the more obvious lessons I learnt this year!

In the days that followed, I went through my usual routine, examining the results sheets, thinking about were I could improve, looking at the event photos and basking in my own reflective relative glory. One thing was starting to bug me in the photos though, I didn't quite look like a cyclist or a runner. I couldn't quite put my finger on it at the time, my legs always looked straight in the running pics and I looked strangely hunched up on the bike. I knew it there was hints there to where I would be needing to improve over the winter, but didn't quite know what it was just yet...