1.9 mile run, 10.1 mile bike, 1.9 mile run.
Having not managed to enter rounds one to four I made a special effort to enter the fifth and final round. If you’ve not done a race at Betteshanger: it’s a proper cycling track, with a path round the outside, so traffic-free, fast and a great place to have a go at cycling if you’re not confident or want to improve your bike-handling skills safely.
I’ve done a few of these races in the past and have experienced the course in all weathers. Imagine my delight as I pushed my bike up on to the track in bright sunshine and into a stiff north-easterly wind. I was then greeted by the sight of a large number of serious-looking children wearing race numbers, all of whom were built like whippets, were better dressed and riding better bikes than me. Undaunted, I racked my bike and warmed up, while surreptitiously looking around for anyone who I might be in with a chance of beating, or at least keeping up with.
Carefully choosing my spot at the back of the 27-strong pack, the words “go hard, or go home” popped into my head and I set off at a brisk (for me) pace, which I managed to keep up for the duration of the run, thanks mainly to the woman who overtook me and who I then felt obliged to get in front of and keep behind me. The running track was pretty dry and the only hindrance was the wind, which made running west-east a challenge, but which seemed to make little difference when it was behind me. 15min 37 secs later, I staggered into transition and farted about taking off my trail shoes, having forgotten to put my stretchy tri laces in them. This allowed the woman I had overtaken to catch me up and leave transition in front of me.
I had to wait a bit before getting on to the track, as the decent cyclists were hurtling down the fast downhill section like a train. As I watched them disappear into the distance, I elegantly mounted my bike and peddled for all I was worth to get the most out of going downhill with the wind behind me before rounding the bend at the bottom and riding into it.
I swear that the wind speed increased with each lap. I literally threw caution to the wind and managed to go a bit faster downhill at the end of each lap – clocking up speeds that an elite rider would regularly churn out on the flat sections of Le Tour on a bad day – but the uphill/into the wind sections took my breath and my bravado away. I did, however, catch my rival and reel her in, putting plenty of air between us.
Thighs screaming, I hurtled down the home straight of the fifth and final lap, mentally preparing myself for transition and the second run. I left transition with my rival just behind me (my gloves got stuck due to sweaty hands) and with my legs feeling stronger than I had dared hope. By this time, there were no other competitors to be seen ahead, so it felt like less of a race, more of a solo training run. However, I knew SHE was there, hoping that I would crack, so I dug in and kept going, finishing the second run in 16:40, giving an overall time of 1:11:37 and coming in 24th out of 27.
It was a really enjoyable race, despite the wind, and I would recommend these duathlons – which also take place during the evenings in summer – to anyone, as:
- They are on a lovely smooth track and you feel like a proper cyclist going round the bends
- They only cost £5 to enter + £2 car parking
- They are really friendly
- You get free flapjacks at the end