Clumber Park Duathlon - Gemma Marshall

I had a little bit of a panic last week, realising that my first race of the season was about to be the European Long Distance Duathlon Championships in Copenhagen in May. I’ve learnt over the past couple of years just how important race practice is, so I promptly entered Clumber Park Sprint Duathlon at the very last minute. I didn’t want to win, or set PB’s, I just needed to go through the race-day mindset, kit preparation and transitions at speed to tick the ‘practised’ box for the first BIG race. Coach Blair was as adaptable as ever with my whimsical racing idea, adapting my program for a hard and fast brick session at the weekend (it wasn’t a race!). I trained hard all week and only had Friday as a gentle pre-race run and ride as recovery. My race prep consisted of a very late five hour drive the night before, with a stop for chicken n’chips at the services, with a terrible night’s sleep on an airbed in my brothers lounge. Then I was up early to drive the last hour north to the race start.

As soon as I arrived I started to feel a bit nervous, I’ve only just properly got back in to training since October and was feeling a little ‘slow’ around the edges (yes, getting in to my tri suit was an unwelcome squeeze!). I registered and returned to the car to set up Ruby Roo, wheels on and spun, gear check, brake check and off I went. Transition was a bit of a nightmare, everyone’s bikes were racked in the wrong directions, each marshal advising on a different directions – while the guy on the tannoy shouted out numbers of peoples bikes that had been moved for them, so a little bit of unnecessary stress – it’s really not that difficult.

My warm up was limited after a THIRTY MINUTE QUEUE for the loo, but I managed to get in some drills and a few sprints. The gun went and we were off. Within 4 minutes I was in the hurt-locker. I could barely lift my feet up and struggled up the hill, the out-leg seemed to last forever and I wondered to myself why I was putting myself through it! Several ladies sped past me like I was going backwards, I longed to be on my bike and for this horrible running to be over with! FINALLY transition, I grabbed my bike and ran to the exit. There was a gaggle of people stood across the mount line faffing with feet and shoes, weaving through them I jumped on and promptly had to slow again for the next people in front. The first few 100m was neutralised so no overtaking allowed, which seemed to be strictly enforced. It was painful!

By the time the cones stopped, my shoes were done up, I’d had a breather and a drink and could finally start to wind up some speed. It felt brilliant, tucked in to the tightest aero position I could I was screaming past people and all of the worries of the run rolled away. I love the Clumber bike route, it’s undulating but straight and quite fast. I wanted to go round for another lap, but the marshals were waving me in. Time to go running again *groan*.

I had another fast transition and was out on the run course counting down the final 2.5kms. All of those ladies I’d overtaken on the bike ran past me again, and then as a final blow I got really bad stitch! It’s such a demoralising feeling! I was sure I must have been about 10th in my AG after my waddle around that final leg! I crossed the line and queued for the results print out.

To my surprise, my run was 40 seconds faster than last year and my bike almost 3 minutes faster. There were no AG rankings which was annoying – it was an AG ETU qualifier, so that’s the only piece of info we wanted to know!

I hung around for about 40 minutes waiting for some proper results but nothing came. After my lips turning blue with being so cold I gave up and went home!

It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that the results came out and I realised I’d come 2nd in my AG! That’s a huge shock to me and I’m pretty darn pleased! That *should* also mean I qualify for the 2017 Europeans, but I’ll have to wait and see officially.

The main things I’ve learnt from this race are;

  1. I prefer going Long.
  2. I still can’t run.