May 20th was a date that had been firmly fixed in my mind for the last seven months. I had thought about it on all my long rides, runs and swims in the depth of winter and on the tough early chain gang strength building rides with the St Neots club. The Nicetri sprint triathlon on this date last year was the catalyst for my return to cycling and competition, as it gave me a fresh challenge and became my target race. I find that by setting a goal, no matter what that goal is, your training takes on a whole new meaning and is therefore easier to complete. Life seems to whizz by at the best of times the older you get and before I knew it Sunday the 20th was here. Good job I didn't slack off too much over winter.
Bank Holiday Monday started with some recently rare sunshine (of sorts) and put me in a good frame of mind for my first ever triathlon race which I had booked at Mallory Park motor racing circuit in Leistershire. Judith, my son Ben and I arrived at the circuit and began the usual process of registration and setting the bike up in transistion. This is critical for smooth changes and is an important skill to be learned by the novice, as serious time, not to mention stress, can be lost or gained here.
The weather began to deteriorate quickly and soon enough the rain began to fall quite hard and an announcement came over the tannoy that the planned 750 mtr lake swim had been cut to 400 mtrs as the water temperature was only about 10 degrees! I won't lie - I felt quite nervous about the open water swim as I looked out onto the rain lashed large lake with 3 buoys to go round. I only started to swim in October last year in the pool, and believe me, when you are surrounded by 60 plus highly charged swimmers seconds away from a mass start in your first race in freezing water it doesn't help.
I had earmarked the full-on duathon as quite a big early season target, mostly because of the large field that I knew it would attract. Sure enough, quite some time before the event, the website declared that the race was fully subscribed at 250 competitors and the reserve list was full.
Arriving at Kempton Park with my son Ben we set about racking the bike in transistion and making sure that everything was set up just right for when I came in from the first run. The format was 6km run (3 laps), 18.5 km bike (6 laps), then another 6 km (3 laps) run to finish. Whilst warming up, I watched the senior men go off first - a very big group and some fit looking runners.
At 9.30 it was the vets turn and after a short briefing the horn sounded and away we went. This time I was determined to set a faster run pace, even if it meant paying for it later, so I actually led the first half lap of the run before dropping back slightly into the first 10 or so runners.
Well done to the lads who rode the 10 today on the N1/10 near Sawtry. Excellent times returned by Richard Hancock (22:16), Justin Lomas (23:29), Tim Pennell (24:45) and Wayne Tunnah (26:15).
Richard heads for home
Opening the curtains on race day had me immediately scanning the weather and taking in the conditions - is it raining? How strong is the wind? Which way is it blowing etc? How do my legs feel? So I was pleased to be greeted by a clear, bright, mostly windless day, rare and welcome early season conditions.
In my earlier racing days the RUDY PROJECT time trial series was a big series run alongside the national championships but favouring more sporting courses and steering away from the faster dual carriageway courses favoured at the time. This still holds true today and the series has grown and is now very hotly contested by the country’s top time trialists.
I had earmarked this first national round of the 2012 season as my return to a proper time trial race and a true gauge of my state of fitness and current speed. Armed with my new Giant time trial bike complete with rear disc wheel I knew that at least I’d be on a level playing field unlike the previous duathlon in Kent.
The alarm sounded at 3am on Sunday morning and whilst any sane person would be looking forward to at least another 4/5 hours in bed it was time to get up and load the van for the first race of the 2012 season - a 10 km run / 42km TT / 3.5 km run duathlon in Maidstone Kent. On the drive down around Dartford tunnel the heavens began to open to prove the forecasters right and I got the distinct impression that my wife Judith, already not keen on getting up at 3am, was even less keen on cheering me on from the roadside in heavy rain - oh well...
On the other hand, as always, I was absolutely wired for it, aided by copious amounts of Red Bull and plenty of carbs. This was my first ever duathlon and athough having trained well for it, the last running race I competed in was at school so I was feeling a little more apprehensive than usual. This was not helped at all by the sight of some extremely fit, very fast looking runners stretching and lungeing all around me. I felt very much out of place and my wife summed it up by looking at me as you would a condemed man, and saying "good luck "...
On 31st March, Mark rode the Tour of Flanders Sportive. Climbing the cobbled bergs is a real chalenge, especially if you have never ridden on cobbles before. The route went up many of the famous climbs including the Oude Kwaremont and the Patterberg (but not the Muur this year). He has promised to do a write-up of his experiences, but in the meantime here he is on one of the cobbled climbs - and doesn't he look like he's having a ball:
Anyway, chapeau to him!
Chris's ride from John o' Groats to Land's End in photos:
On this cold and very foggy morning Steve and I met with over 260 riders to take part in the Richardson’s Rumble.
There were 2 courses to choose from, 67 miles or 105 miles so we opted for the latter. Unfortunately the start was delayed for over an hour, waiting for conditions to improve.
We left St Ives about 09:00 in still quite dense fog, headed out through Warboys, Woodwalton and Sawtry. It wasn’t until we reached Elton that we could see the countryside around us and by the time we passed through Wansford we were in glorious sunshine.
Our first feed station was in Stamford where we were able to take on food and take off a layer of clothes.We left Stamford suitably refreshed and on the road to Ketton but we both knew that the toughest part of the ride was just ahead of us.
As we skirted around the south of Rutland water, the scenery was spectacular and as we approached Manton we knew that the spikes were just a couple of miles away.
And yes, we were suitably impressed with the hills around Seaton, Harringworth and Gretton not to mention the ‘Pièce de résistance’, Rockingham hill.
Our second feed station was in Corby and after a quick drink we set off to Deene then back in the familiar territory of Southwick, Oundle, Winwick, Alconbury Weston and finally finishing back in St Ives.
We completed the 105 miles in 5 hours 56 minutes; the officials told me that the last rider crossed the finishing line at 18:30 (now that’s a long day!!).
(Next stop ‘Tour of Flanders’)
This race report is mirrored from Richard's cycling blog here.
Unusually for this summer it was a warm evening. My car’s thermometer was still reading in the mid-twenties as I parked, and the wind was light; it looked like we were about to be treated to a fast race.
Word is starting to get around about these events, so it was a pity this was the last one. Around 60 riders, the highest turn out to date, lined up in the pit lanes ready to roll out. Both the 4th and 2nd cat groups ranks were significantly reinforced over the previous two weeks. There were a few missing faces though. Tim is nursing his broken clavicle while Justin and Ade, due to work commitments, opted to race the club TT.
I was told the evening’s circuit is the one used for the National Motorbike Championships. Either way, the oval was left out and we raced on a short, twisting 1.7 mile infield loop. No major bends to worry about apart from the final 90 degree right hander, 150m from the finish line. Positioning around that bend would be critical to a high placing across the finish line.