Rother Valley Sprint Duathlon - Rebecca Smith

 Sell the old TT bike to fund new race bike…new bike doesn’t arrive before the race. Thankfully this less-than-ideal start to the season was a blessing in disguise for the ‘rolling’ (read: pretty lumpy; and that’s coming from a Sheffield-dweller!) bike course of the inaugural Rother Valley Duathlon.
In fact, it was an event full of firsts: my first race under Blair Davies, and a “First Overall Female” result! (As well as my mum’s first multi-sport event!)
Low-key as the race may have been, by it’s very nature of being newly established, it was certainly a great early-season opener. I raced the sprint: 5k run, 25k bike, 2.5k run - as preparation for my upcoming A-race (a standard distance duathlon). I got the impression that this was the idea many of the entrants had, as on the start line was small but strong group, along with a few people new to duathlon. So although not a vast start list, it did have the whole spectrum of competitors there. Also in the mixture was my mum, nervously toeing the line with a look of pure dread on her face, but I knew she could do it even if she thought she couldn’t!
After a chilly warm-up (I realise that statement would be an oxymoron in any other context!), and a good luck hug with my mum, we were off on the first run - a lap of the lake. This was flat, fast and scenic, which made it easier to imagine it was just another training run along the trails (thanks Blair). Keeping this in mind, I ensured to keep what felt like a sensible pace, but without constantly checking the watch! In the end, my pace was 5k PB worthy, however the course was slightly short so I didn’t actually clock one, and did the 4.8km in 19:17.
Into T1 (where a simple transition was made marginally more difficult by the fact my fingers were pretty numb), and over to the mount line. This little stretch was possibly more painful than the previous 20 minutes, as I’d pre-clipped my bike shoes to save precious transition time, not realising I’d be running over dagger-like gravel with my bike! I made a mental note to just run in cleats on the way back into T2 instead of any fancy flying dismount malarky, and set off on the bike.
Being my favourite discipline, I was excited for the next 25km, even though I was still miffed about not being on the fast TT bike that’s NOT got fast delivery! I settled into a good rhythm, with my newly adopted high(-ish) cadence (an unconscious natural progression over the past couple of months of training). I soon found myself overtaking people on TT bikes, unfortunately I have since learned that one of these was a lady who’d had a very close call with an irate driver - not good to hear and not much we can do to prevent that sort of dangerous driving - hopefully she’s okay now. For the most part of my progression through the rankings though, I realised that the description I’d been given of a ‘rolling’ course was quite trivialised; I do love a good hill when I’m expecting it - but this course had more than I’d anticipated. That being said, this was actually in my favour, as my light road bike with compact gearing got me up them without having to break my rhythm. I felt strong the whole way, and was having a blast! This was helped massively by the great marshals out on the course, even if the junction at the end of the lap (to be completed twice for the sprint race) was confusing, and I would have definitely gone the wrong way had I not seen the guy in front of me get called back and shepherded in the right direction! The only other issue I had on the bike, was that two of my cleat bolts came loose towards the end, so my cleat was stuck in my pedal and no amount of ankle twisting was going to get my shoe unclipped! So the flying dismount was going to have to make an appearance, and I reluctantly took my feet out of my shoes on the way back into Rather Valley park to prepare for running over the gravel of doom, into T2.
“First Lady” was shouted at me as I dashed out onto the final out-and-back (yet still just as scenic) run. That seemed to enhance the spring in my step, and I pushed on to the turn-around point 1.25km down the path, on the way passing Mark, fellow BD coachee, who was running back towards the finish, sure to finish in a good time (3rd male!). “Only another 1.25km left, and I could win this thing” I thought, just as I was beginning to tire. But then, 100m after I’d turned round, a lady I knew was a strong runner from my home club was coming towards me, well on her way to the turn-around point! I tried not to panic, reminding myself that it was just another training session, and focussed on maintaining the form that had carried me pretty well so far that day. The final stretch crept up, and before I knew it I’d crossed the finish line, 1st lady well and truly bagged in 1:18:54, on a great course which I can see competitors flocking to in the future.
It didn’t finish there though - after regaining my breath (in the bitter cold this was quite painful), I spotted my mum try to ride down the finish chute on her bike, before being re-directed into T2. I followed her out of transition onto her final run, for a cool-down complete with obligatory encouragement cheers. Mum finished her first duathlon; I finished the duathlon first! I was elated at having shared that with my mum; I knew it would have been a completely different story had the number of athletes been in the hundreds, not the tens, but it didn’t matter. This training race couldn’t have given me more assurance that all the hard weeks of training will yield the results to reach my goals. And along with that contentment came the prize of a Retül bike fit, can’t argue with that! Next race will be flatter, faster, and in an optimised position on a shiny new TT bike!