With more and more readers looking to expand their event options, we asked one Total Women's Cycling reader to share her experience of an off-road duathlon. Here's how Emma Cooke got on.
Back in September this year, even Kirsty - TWC Editor - tried her hand at one. Along with 3,000 people she took part in the world's largest run-bike-run event, the London Duathlon – opting for the 10K run, 44K bike and 5K run course.
Mud, mud, glorious mud, my introduction to off-road duathlons
I’m not a natural competitor; I’ve never been driven by being the best at something. My driver in life is simply doing things that make me happy. But after a couple of years of messing about on mountain bikes, this autumn I decided that the time had come to give myself a challenge and line up with other people in some sort of race.
Unsure of exactly what kind of challenge I fancied, except that I wanted it to be off-road, I set about searching online for an event that looked challenging, but achievable. This is when I stumbled across TriFerris Promotions’ off-road duathlon in Cirencester – a run, ride, run format that I’d never heard of before.
It immediately got my attention as something that would test me - I’m not a runner - but that was softened by the fact it included the sort of biking that I enjoy, mountain biking.
Embracing the challenge, I signed up to the short course, a 1 mile run, 5 mile ride and second 1 mile run. The event was billed as having an emphasis on fun and as being a great introduction to duathlon racing – perfect!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to train, so when the day of the race came around I was very nervous. It was a grey, drizzly start to the day as my
husband and I made our way up to Cirencester Park in the Bathurst Estate. Sitting in our van beforehand, looking out at the misty, muddy field full of competitors, I couldn’t help but feel amused. It felt like such a strange thing to be preparing for – a run, ride and another run on a wet, cold day in the middle of November!
There was a fantastic atmosphere as the start time drew ever closer and as I scanned the crowds I realised that there was a real mix of people there. There were some serious duathletes, competing in the longer version of the race, as well as some other more timid-looking people like me. I got chatting to another lady who’d done the event the previous year and who told me not to worry and just have fun! Great advice I think!
The race itself was even more of a challenge than I thought it would be. The ground was sticky on the run and it felt like my shoes might get left behind in the mud! I was overtaken a lot and was feeling a little disheartened, but when I hopped on my bike coming out of the transition area, I felt much happier and more at home.
I flew past some of the other racers on the first few sections of the ride, which were off-road but not technical, and I was really starting to feel good. There was a bit of a climb, followed by a speedy pedal across a field. But then came the mud. And when I say mud, I don’t mean a bit of mud. I mean what felt like a quagmire!
Riders were skidding around in front of me, as I struggled to keep pedalling through this boggy, sticky stuff! A lot of us were forced to get off and walk, our wheels just wouldn’t keep turning. In fact, while I was pushing my bike, the back wheel got so clogged up that it just gave up turning altogether. I kept stopping to unclog, but it was futile, as every few meters, I just had to do the same again.
It ended up being a half push, half carry effort for my bike across the majority of the rest of the course. There was a wonderful camaraderie between the riders, as we all ended up dragging our bikes, spurring one another on and having a bit of a laugh. It was a nice surprise, just how friendly all the other competitors were, not taking it too seriously and giving other people a boost when they needed it.
Reaching the end of the ride I did manage to pedal the last hundred meters, before heading into the transition area again to put my bike back on the rack and remove my helmet (in that order, or I’d have been disqualified).
As I made my way out of the transition area, the mud struck again and I struggled to lift one foot and then the other – quite surprising just how tiring it is running in a bog. Admittedly I hadn’t eaten enough before the event so my energy was waning, but I knew I just had one mile to go though, so kept on pushing.
The second run was a real challenge for me, but I was geed up every time a faster runner on the longer course came past me, telling me to keep going and that I was doing well. Again, I was struck by how friendly this whole event was. This was reinforced further as I came round the last corner, cheered by a small crowd of spectators, congratulating me on getting to the end.
All in all, I really enjoyed my first foray into competition. I had set myself three goals at the beginning: don’t get in anyone else’s way, don’t fall over and don’t finish last. I achieved all those goals, so it’s safe to say the day was a success!
My advice to anyone who’s thinking about getting involved in races?
It may be easier said than done, but try not to be nervous - everyone has to start somewhere. Don't start big, find a short taster event. They're great fun and help you get used to how organised events run and the type of people who join in.
I really enjoyed my first foray into Duathlon and once I’ve got rid of all the mud off my bike, I’m going to start looking for the next challenge.