The Ballbuster Duathlon

The Ballbuster Duathlon one of the UK’s most iconic duathlons held at Boxhill in Surrey and is said to be one of the most epic events on the calendar.

The event is made up of 8 mile laps, each which finish with a climb up Boxhill, remembered by many for it’s appearance in the 2012 Olympic cycling road race, Each competitor completes a run lap, 3 bike laps and finishes with a run lap giving a total of 40 miles and 5 ascents of the hill.

For an event held in November there is an added ingredient which nobody has control of (unless the organisers have a special hotline!), and that is the weather, there are stories of gales, snow fog and probably plagues of locusts all impacting the race. This year the weather decided it would give us heavy rain, strong winds and cold which when you think that the day before was bright blue sky and sunshine as was the day after seems like someone was really having a laugh.

I have never done this event before, and like many others wanted to tick it off the list and get my hands on one of the limited edition hoodies, which I have to say really are good.

Unfortunately for Boxhill is not just round the corner so after a very early 4:30 alarm call it was time to eat, pack the car and hit the road. The journey down was uneventful and I was soon parked up and signed on. With the weather being so horrible and the fact that they give you the hoodie when you sign on did make me wonder if I should just wait in the car and pretend I did it!

The rain decided it was time to fall harder once the first run got under way just to make it a bit more difficult. As i don’t know the area of the race it was interesting to run along and see the sights, although the main road section was a little dodgy with cars not really being bothered if they gave you any room to run or not. Luckily other than that section the rest of the route was ok and if you did meet traffic is was more than happy to give you room to run.

My main aim on the first run was to ensure I didn’t go off too fast else there was a good chance of blowing up before the end. I seemed to be being passed by a lot of runners but I kept to my plan and eventually arrived at the foot of Boxhill for the first climb, I went steady and was soon at the top and off into transition.

For the bike I leg I swapped gloves and put on a waterproof jacket to try and keep some of the rain out. The cold was starting to have an impact on the bike as once I was up to speed I really noticed how cold it was especially on my legs muscles, as my leg warmers were soaked.

The other problem the weather gave was that it had washed loads of leaves onto the road and these seemed to always form piles on exactly the line you wanted to take especially on the downhill sections. I did back off a bit on the descents on the first lap  as I didn’t want to crash. Once I got to the first climb of Boxhill, I just cruised up it, with several gears left to go and was able to pass people and so it was out onto lap 2.

Lap 2 was where I decided I would take a few chances on the downhills in oder to try and gain some more time, it seemed to work and despite being very wet I was moving ok, the second climb up the hill was again uneventful, gears to spare and passing people.

The final lap and I decided after lap 2 that I could keep pushing on a bit on the descents, however,this is where it very nearly all went wrong. On one downhill left hander the pile of leaves had moved out from where they were on the previous lap and as I came round the bend I was on top of them in a two wheel slide heading towards the other side of the road and the oncoming traffic. I managed to run out to the white line off the leaves and then re-tip the bike into the bend thus avoiding the accident. I have to say the marshall on the other side of the road looked worried for a while, I’m just glad I didn’t panic and grab a big handful of brakes or else that would have been it, instead I just trusted my bike handling ability and it saw me through, just!

Final climb of the hill on the bike and still had gears to use if needed and I was still passing people, back into transition and off on the final run.

I have to say I was dreading the last run a bit, another 8 miles in the rain and cold after having worked hard so far, it was never going to be easy. I started off and realised I couldn’t really feel my feet due to them being cold and wet, this lasted for about the first 10 minutes or so until they were warmed up and then felt normal again. For the final run I ditched any sort of jacket just put my running gloves back on as I was now soaked and a jacket would just have given me that boil in a bag feeling.

The run itself went ok, I got passed by runners along the way but unusually for me I also passed some. Coming into the last climb of the hill I was still feeling reasonable and said to myself that I wasn’t going to walk on the hill no matter what. I got into a rhythm and found that I was catching some people and moving past them, especially those that were walking.

Before you came round the final bend you could hear the people by the finish cheering all the finishers and that gave a little boost, on crossing the line and stopping I realised just how tired I was and how much of a hard time it had been.

I was a little disappointed in my time of 4 hours 1 minute and 20 seconds as I wanted to go sub 4 but I don’t think on the day in those conditions I could have gone any faster. I only dropped 2 minutes between my two runs which I think showed that my initial pacing was pretty good, and the conditions on the bike meant that I couldn’t make up as much time on the downhills as I would have normally.

Did I enjoy it? I think I did, I think it is an achievement to finish it as it certainly is no easy event. Would I do it again? Probably not as at the moment I don’t see a reason to do it again, but that might change.

Finally a couple of thank you’s, firstly to “iron” Mike Shaw at Triperformance.co.uk for the coaching to get me through this, as ever the plan was spot on. Also to my wife,Suzanne, who got out of bed at a stupidly early time on a Saturday to come and stand in the lashing rain to watch me flog myself, I know any one who races will appreciate how much it helps having someone there to support you and how much it helps when you are hurting and you go by them and hear them encouraging you.

A special mention should be made to all the marshall’s out on the course and those volunteers who run the event as they did a great job. I did thank all the marshall’s on my final run as I think that is the least you can do when they give up their time so you can do something you want to.

If you have never done the Ballbuster then I would say try it, you will see that it is an epic event and you get the chance to properly test yourself.

Side Project -Power Bar Energize – Mango & Passionfruit Flavour

An interesting bar this one, in that it appears to be very flat and for some reason I expected it to be very sticky once the wrapper was opened.

The actual wrapper was very easy to open, both with gloves on and off, and the bar was not that sticky. In terms of taste the flavour was really good, you could make out the fruits and it had an after taste that was quite refreshing.

In terms of texture the bar was like one of the fruit salad chewy sweets, a little tacky to the touch but not overly so.

I used two of these bars, one before a turbo session and the other whilst out on the bike, and I have to say that seems to work I didn’t feel hungry on either occasion and my energy levels were kept up, so in the absence of any scientific testing I would say this bar works.

Would I buy more of these bars? Yes I would, I have to say to that the flavour was better than the High 5 banana bar and when you combine that with the easy to open wrapper it is a good all round bar.

The Bison Duathlon

The Bison Duathlon, a new event held on the Dunstable Downs using as it’s main feature the well known local landmark, Bison Hill.

Anyone who has ever visited Whipsnade Zoo has probably driven up the hill, it’s the steep one before you get to the car park. It is also possible to go up it from the inside as well via a path so that makes it ideal for a duathlon.

There were 2 possible distances, the full (13km, 30km, 13km) and a sprint (6.5km, 19km, 6.5km), me, I chose the sprint as I thought it would make a good training session for the Ballbuster next month.

The weather was misty and there was certainly a bit of rain in the air, and this meant the views were pretty much lost from the top of the downs, which was a shame. It wasn’t too cold but the temperature was at that point where it made what to wear of what leg a little tricky, you don’t want to be too hot on the run and then cold on the bike. For what it is worth, I went for a base layer, short sleeved jersey, arm warmers, gloves (which came off after the bike leg) and shorts. This turned about to be about right, I probably should have left the gloves till the bike leg and not bothered on the first run, but it didn’t make too much difference.

After the usual pre-race briefing the run was off and we headed out onto the trails path around the top of the downs, which dropped down and wound it’s way round to the bottom of Bison Hill and the infamous cut steps and the slog up the hill. Once over the hill it was basically a flat run to the transition area.

Quick (well average) change into the bike shoes and off onto the road. The bike course went downhill to the bottom of Bison Hill, where the slog up the hill began. Once the hill was done the run back to the transition area had another sneaky uphill drag

The second run was round the same course, although a bit slower than the first one!

So, what was it like then? Well the short answer is it was good fun but hard, I certainly was not in any shape to have done the full distance one. The course was well thought out and the run course especially was an enjoyable run. Having an event where the run was offload and the bike on road made for a good change, running off road is not only more fun but is harder than road running and certainly more interesting.

I was certainly feeling it in my legs at the finish, I think I probably started the first run too fast and then paid for it for the rest of the race, my left calf felt like it was on the verge of cramping from near the end of the bike until the end of the run, it didn’t but certainly felt like it might.

Overall I really enjoyed the event, it was well put together for the athletes and the medals were good as well. The only downside was that the National Trust for whatever reason didn’t open the centre that servers food and drink until about 9:30, when the race started at 8:00 and there were certainly plenty of spectators who wanted to get in there early! Certainly not the fault of the organisers.

When the event returns next year I would recommend it, it is a good challenge on excellent courses and is well run, have a look at their website for more details here

 

 

Brompton World Championship Race 2014

Goodwood Race Circuit in Southern England was the venue for the 2014 Brompton World Championship Race, an event that captures many of the things that make people think the English are a little odd at times.

For anyone not aware the Brompton Bicycle is a folding bike with small wheels that is often the favourite vehicle of the cycling commuter who has to combine the bike with bus or train. For even more info go to the Brompton website.

On the day, there are actually 3 events, the meander, a ride in the countryside on your Brompton, then the sprint, a 500m sprint and finally the world championship race.

The race takes place over 4 laps of the Goodwod motor racing circuit and is 9.6 miles (15.2 km) and is basically a time trial.

However, as this is a world championship race there are rules, and these rules have to be adhered to. Firstly, the start, all bikes have to be left folded up, and at the sound of the horn you run to your bike, Le Mans style, unfold it and away you go.

Secondly, the dress code, all competitors must wear a shirt, tie and jacket, style is important.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, have fun!

This was my third time doing the race, my previous two entries were at the previous venue of Blenheim Palace, so this was a new circuit for me.

My race went pretty well, the horn went and I got to my folded bike, unfolded and was away, the timing chip only starts when you cross the timing mat at the start/finish line, early on you I was trying to get a bit o momentum to pass people to make progress. There is one very important tactic in this race, and that is you have to draft people, without drafting you are really fighting. About halfway round my first lap I got onto a good wheel and was pulled along for a while. Unfortunately, I lost the wheel when I was baulked getting out of the chicane. From then on it was a case of trying to tag onto either a faster wheel or just use slower riders for a bit of wind protection.

It is worth pointing out that towards the end of the race I was passed by a pack of 10-12 riders who were all working together, I tried to hang onto them for a while but didn’t have the speed to hold on for too long.

All too soon the race was over I crossed the finish, dripping with sweat and wondering if I had done a reasonable performance. I picked up my medal, a nice metal affair, and the bottle of water, which was very welcome.

Well, in terms of my performance, I finished 112 out of over 500 in a time of 28:01 for the 9.6 miles, so a decent performance, could it have been better, of course it could, but if I was totally satisfied would I be a racer?

If you want to see what the event is all abut, have a look at the official Brompton video, it does a good job of showing the fun and games of the day.

Running In The Rain

Today was the F3 events Maxifuel 10k at Dorney Lane, and for me this was the third attempt at one of their events as the past two were cancelled due to snow!

In case anyone hadn’t noticed today the weather was horrible, it was raining, windy and cold. The first big decision was whether to run in long bottoms or shorts, I went for shorts as the long bottoms hold water!

The course itself is basically a loop out to one end of the rowing lake and then back through the middle, basically flat and in the right conditions very fast. The issue today was the rain which decided it liked to soak to runners and make life generally uncomfortable.

For me I had set out with the goal of just going under 60 minutes as basically I had no real idea how fit I was, I knew I wasn’t completely unfit but you never know. I started at what felt like a comfortable pace and resisted the temptation to look at the Garmin too often to see the pace. I was able to hold this pace for the first lap and then in the second lap I didn’t feel like it dipped, once I get round to downloading the Garmin data I will be able to tell.

When I crossed the line, not only was I soaked I also had recorded a time of 50 minutes 55 seconds, a surprise. Now, I don’t run many road 10ks and the last one I did was nearly 2 years ago, and so my previous pb was 54minutes and so today did mark another pb,although I am still to go under 50minutes but that may come.

To summarise I did enjoy running in the cold and rain on a Sunday morning and am now looking forward to next Saturdays Horseplay night run.