Oulton Park Sprint Duathlon - Mark Higham

Another weekend and another race, its the first time I think I’ve raced two consecutive weekends as well! Todays race was a completely different kettle of fish to last weekends low key event as today was a qualifying event for the World Duathlon Championships in Spain later this year so todays field was going to be full of competitive age groupers looking at getting on the Great Britain Team.
Luckily for me I’d already pre qualified in Adelaide so didn’t have the pressure of having to make the top 6 in my age group but still this was a race and I still wanted to perform well. Also todays race was draft legal so it was giving me another opportunity to practice this type of racing before the World Championships in June!
Like last weekend today was cold and an hour before the race starting it began to sleet quite heavily which wasn’t good the thoughts of racing around on the bike in freezing conditions racing in packs wasn’t too appealing but luckily this cleared and we was presented with a sunny blue sky for the start of the race… still bloody freezing though!
Just like last weekend the race set off at a fast pace as there was some pretty rapid competitors in todays field, but as with my last few races I stuck to my plan and my pace and after the 1st mile or so I started easing my way through the field. Again like last weekend the first run felt really good and comfortable which really takes the pressure off as before I had been fighting to maintain a fast pace and keep up with the main bunch previously (getting fitter and faster!)
As we approached the last kilometre I started looking around to those competitors near me, what I wanted to do was have a group to be part off as we left T1 so I started easing off and getting others to keep up so we can work together on the bike. This is quite strange as normally its ever person for themselves but after my experience in October in a draft legal race I knew we needed to work together from the off.
The other competitors took this onboard as we entered T1 my plan was working I thought and I raced through transition. Yes I raced through transition quicker than the others I’d entered with and was all alone as I mounted the bike… typical!! Never mind stay focused and look for other riders up the road.
The first lap was fast I was flying on the bike catching people in front of me telling them to drop on my wheel and keep up but nobody was keeping up and they just kept drifting away. Finally 3/4 into the lap someone came past me and I could jump on their wheel we soon caught some else and we was no a three, I kept everyone rotating at the front. I could now see a group of two in front of us that was working well and going at a fair old pace so I told the two young lads with me we need a big effort to catch onto them ASAP.
So I started the effort coming into the end of the first lap and really put the power down, and kept the power on, and kept the power on… is anyone going to come I thought? We was gaining on the group in front and as we had just about bridged the gap I rolled off the front and told the other two to close the gap. At last we had a decent group! Our group grew as the race unfolded until there was about eight of us all working quite well together and we swept past many that had left us in their wake during the 1st run and so had grabbed a few places for ourselves.
We entered T2 and I’d worked my self from 6th in age group after the first run to 3rd, at this point in time I didn’t know where I was but knew we had hammered the bike so I must be well placed. A slight accident in T2 where someone stopped suddenly to rack their bike but nothing to really slow me down now for the last run another lap of the circuit…
I started ok and after the 1st KM I was hoping to try and pick the pace up even more but my legs were having none of it and slowly people started passing me, I was desperately trying to hang on to them but it just felt I was running through knee deep mud! The last 2km felt like an eternity! Into the final 300m’s or so and I can hear runners behind me one last push to finish so I don’t drop anymore places and I’m finally over the line! Thanks god that’s over!!!
Final result… 42nd overall out of a field of circa 380 and 6th in my Age Group which wasn’t a bad result so overall a decent race plenty of pluses and a few areas to work on. Reviewing the race the last run let me down but the bike section was awesome with me posting the 2nd fastest time in my Age Group! Not bad for someone that doesn’t come from a bike background and shows the winters training has worked!
After the race I took time to review my data from the bike section and was really surprised in the results, its definitely worth comparing races as you can see:
Spring 2016 DuathlonAutumn 2015 Duathlon
Average Power 232 watts 202 watts
Normalised Power 251 watts 231 watts
Average Speed 36.7kmph 37.6kmph
Average HR 155bpm 154bpm
Time 34:50 34:00
The difference in conditions from October made a massive difference on bike time even though I’d put out more power for a similar heart rate, it just show you  can’t take the race time at face value. Yes I was slower in this race than in October but that was nothing to do with me the weather and atmospheric conditions played a big part in this, so looking deeper into the data I can be very pleased with my days effort!
Now to recover for Clumber Duathlon in two weeks time!