Race report: Cambridge Duathlon 2014

  • 14 April, 2014

(This is my first race of the 2014 season.)


I had entered this race in 2013 and found it was effective for focusing winter training. As triathlons do not typically start until May in the UK, scheduling earlier races can be motivating in the colder winter months.

I didn't have any clear goals for the race except to blow out the cobwebs and improve on my 2013 time. I couldn't set reasonable or reliable target times after considerable "long & slow" training in the off-season but I did want to test some new equipment and stategies, especially race pacing with a power meter, but also a new wheelset, crankset and helmet.

Preparation was both accidentally and deliberately compromised: I did very little race-specific training as my season is based around an entirely different intensity of race, but compounding this I was confined to bed the weekend before.

Sleep was acceptable in the preceding days and I felt moderately fresh on race morning. Nutrition-wise, I had porridge and bread with jam for breakfast, a PowerGel before the race, 750ml of PowerBar Perform on the bike along with a "Hydro" PowerGel with caffeine at approximately 30km.


Run 1 (7.5km)

A few minutes before the start my race number belt—the only truly untested equipment that day—refused to tighten. However, I decided that once the race began I would either ignore it or even discard it, risking disqualification.

Despite letting everyone go up the road, my first km was still too fast so I dialed down the effort, settling into a "10k" pace and began overtaking other runners. The Fen winds and drag-strip uphill from 3km provided a bit of pacing challenge for someone used to shelter and shorter hills but I kept a metered effort through into transition.

Time
33:01 (4:24/km, T1: 00:47) — Last year: 37:47 (5:02/km)

Bike (40km)

Although my 2014 bike setup features a power meter, I had not yet had the chance to perform an FTP test outdoors. I was thus was not able to calculate a definitive target power for the bike leg. However, data from my road bike suggested I set a power ceiling of 250W on the longer hills.

This was extremely effective in avoiding going "into the red" and compromising the second run. This lends yet more weight to the idea that a power meter in multisport events is "almost like cheating".

I was not entirely comfortable with my bike position: not only were my thin sunglasses making me raise my head more than I needed to, I found myself creeping forward onto the nose of my saddle. This is sub-optimal, even if only considering that I am not training in that position.

Overall, the bike was uneventful with the only memorable moment provided by a wasp that got stuck between my head and a helmet vent. Coming into transition I didn't feel like I had really pushed myself that hard—probably a good sign—but the time difference from last year's bike leg (1:16:11) was a little underwhelming.

Time
1:10:45 (T2: 00:58)

Run 2 (7.5km)

After leaving transition, my legs were extremely uncooperative and I had great difficulty in pacing myself in the first kilometer. Concentrating hard on reducing my cadence as well as using my rehearsed mental cue, I managed to settle down.

The following 4 kilometers were a mental struggle rather than a physical one, modulo having to force a few burps to ease some discomfort, possibly from drinking too much or too fast on the bike.

I had planned to "unload" as soon as I reached 6km but I didn't really have it in me. Whilst I am physiologically faster compared to last year, I suspect the lack of threshold-level running over the winter meant the mental component required for digging deep will require some coaxing to return.

However, it is said that you have successfully paced a duathlon if the second run faster than the first. On this criterion, this was a success, but it would have been a bonus to have really felt completely completely drained at the end of the day, if only from a neo-Calvinist perspective.

Time
32:46 (4:22/km) / Last year: 38:10 (5:05/km)

Overall

Total time
2:18:19

A race that goes almost entirely to plan is a bit of a paradox – there's certainly satisfaction in setting goals and hitting them without issue, but this is a gratification of slow-burning fire rather than the jubilation of a fireworks display.

However, it was nice to learn that I managed to finish 5th in my age group despite this race attracting an extremely strong field: as an indicator, the age-group athlete finishing immediately before me was seven minutes faster and the overall winner finished in 1:54:53 (!).

The race identified the following areas to work on:

  • Perform an outdoors FTP on my time-trial bike outdoors to develop an optimum power plan.
  • Do a few more brick runs, at least to re-acclimatise the feeling.
  • Schedule another bike fit.

Although not strictly race-related, I also need to find techniques to ensure transporting a bike on public transport is less stressful. (Full results & full 2014 race schedule)