Rother Valley Duathlon - Mark Higham

Rother Valley Duathlon - Mark Higham
Rother Valley Duathlon
Saturday 27th February 0630… Time to get up and get my backside into gear for the start of my race season! Today has been a long time coming as my last real Duathlon had been at the World Championships In Adelaide where I grabbed a credible 15th place in my Age Group and and to finish 3rd GBR athlete and by doing so had already booked my place in the 2016 World Championships Team. It was just after this event I decided I needed a coach as my build up to Adelaide hadn’t been ideal and the whole of 2015 had been very patchy performance wise  and I knew I needed help and support to push forward and this is when I hooked up with Blair.
This was the ideal time to start the ground work for 2016 and it also meant a big change in focus in my training; volume has been reduced and intensity has been increased. So the last few months have been interesting to say the least and tough but definitely worth wild, every week is different and the sessions are really varied which has kept me on my toes.
So today was the day we would see how good the winters training had been! Well we sort of had a little insight a couple of weeks earlier when I won the mini Duathlon at Club La Santa but today was going to be a proper test and a lumpy (HILLY) bike course! I must admit I was quite apprehensive leading up to the race I really didn’t know how my run legs would be and whether I wouldhit the pace / speed I was hoping for but I had to just trust my training and be the best I could be on the day.
My big overnight fear to my relief had been averted, the weather forecast was for temperatures below zero and I was fearing a frost but to my delight when I looked out it was frost free… still bloody freezing cold though! I arrived at the race quite early and wasn’t under any pressure in racking and warming up and I joined the small but eager field at the start of the race. Though this was a race it was still only part of my training today was about seeing where I was at and trying a few new things without the added pressure of it being an A Race. Today for instance I decided to race my TT Skin Suit rather than a Tri Suit, one its going to be a bit warmer to race in and two it might help a little in being a little bit more aero. Due to the lumpy course I’d ditched my TT bike in favour of my road bike so I was hoping the Skin Suit might help make up some of the difference, marginal gains and all that!
Just as I make my way to the start I meet Rebecca Smith another one of Blairs coached athletes and we waited for the start of the race. A short count down and we are off! As usual with all races theres a mad start and the pace seems really quick I stick to my plan and didn’t go chasing the initial leaders and sat in the front 6 or 7, the field soon started break up and I started picking up a few places until I was sat in 4th. I didn’t try and close the gap of 10m or so as I didn’t want to push myself into the red just for the sake of a couple of seconds so entered T1 in 4th place, we had opened a bit of a gap on the field behind us.
I stayed focused in transition, too many times I’ve used it to catch a quick breath not today in and out as fast and as smooth as possible is on todays agenda! As I leave T1 I notice the guy in 3rd is making a hash of mounting his bike I come running through the mount line and leap straight onto the bike and I’m off no looking back! I try and get into an early rhythm and keep as low as possible on the bike as we leave the parks grounds.
Now I’d been told the course was hilly and as soon as you get out of the park you are met by the first climb of the the day, I quite like hills and mountains and riding up them but I had to remember not to go all out and keep my cadence up. I focused on keeping an even pace and had no idea where the guy in 4th was and didn’t look back, we got out into the course and another sharp climb I just happened to look around and thought I was going to get caught and lose 3rd place. No need to panic I kept powering on and no one came past me thank goodness.
As the ride unfolded I maintained a good constant level of effort and got to a point on the course where I could see my pursuer I’d now opened up a decent gap on him but I still pushed on. Into lap 2 and some of the riders from the standard race were now on the bike course and I started using them as new targets and chased them down, as we got further into the bike I looked back… no sign of the guy in 4th… further on and a point where I’d be able to see and still no sign of him.. Good! I raced on and into transition clear in 3rd now for the 2nd run… I hate this bit!
My legs felt like lead weights so focused on keeping tall and a fast cadence as I got going the guy in 1st came thundering down and then the 2nd place competitor not too long after him; my pace was picking up after a disappointing 1st 1km. I got to the turn point and headed for home as I returned on the final push I saw the guys in 4th and 5th and though I had a decent lead it was no time for slowing up so tried to pick the pace up again for the final 500m! I came thundering down towards the finish line and with a few words of encouragement from the great Kev Dawson who’d organised the event ("Kev the bike" is a bit of a star in the TT World and a really good bloke to know!).
Nearly there the final 50m and the finish line in front of me which I came running through beaming, delighted to have finished 3rd and as the two in front of me were young enough to be my kids a definite Age Group win… a double for me my first ever top 3 overall finish and my first Age Group win!!
Now to get some clothes on and get warm!!! Cheers Blair the new training regime is really falling into place now for  Oulton Park this coming weekend!!

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