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© Nigel Farrow
ETU Duathlon Championships report
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Monday 18th June 2007


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Bob Holloway reports from the ETU Duathlon Championships in Edinburgh where, to borrow one of our other resident columnist's catch phrases, he experienced his very own "defining moment" (sorry Steve!).


Let’s start at the very beginning. I left Woking early on Friday morning in bright sunshine. Some five hours later, I arrived in a very wet, cold and windy Edinburgh. The portents were not good. After re-building the Cannondale, it was off to registration and the pre-race brief. Much of the talk was about the dangerous descent from the top of Arthur's Seat and the need for caution if it turned out to be a wet weather race. The bad weather had put paid to any formal opening ceremony or "parade of nations" and with no GB photoshoot organised, it was a question of killing time for the rest of the evening.

We had been advised to practice on the bike course before race day but with the rain pelting down and the wind blowing a gale, this was not something I was looking forward to, particularly as I had travelled light, without any spare tubes, pump, etc. But in the end, common sense prevailed and in the gathering gloom of early evening, I set off for one lap of the Queen’s Drive. The climb up to Arthur’s Seat was not too bad and the climb soon levelled off. The descent wasn’t as bad as I had feared. It was possible to cut the apex at most corners and follow a straight line without too much need for braking. The lower section, however, included several blind corners and the appearance of straw bales was ample warning to take care! I was pleased to have gone out for the practice road and slept all the better for it.

I woke up on Saturday morning to the sound of rain lashing against the window. On opening the curtains, the top of Arthur’s Seat was shrouded in mist. Today was going to be fun! All the talk at race HQ was about race attire. Mike Trees of 2XU fame was doing a roaring trade in arm and leg warmers and most folk seemed to be opting for something to wear under the tri-suit. I opted for a thin, long sleeved top. At 10.00am, the over 40s were called to the holding pen.

Run 1 (10km)

My pre-race strategy had been to take the opening lap of the 10km conservatively and not to exceed 160bpm. The opening mile or so was downhill and my Garmin was telling me that I was running at about 6 minute mile pace. This was way too fast. But reality soon checked in as the road levelled out. I was soon down to a more manageable pace and apart from one, short, steep climb, I was able to stay within my target heart range. I had calculated that the first run would take me about 42/43 minutes and you could have knocked me over with a feather as I entered T1 in just over 40 minutes. But a quick glance at the Garmin soon gave the answer. The run was about half a mile short! Check out the route here. After a quick change of footwear, it was off on to the gruelling 37km bike course.

Bike (37km)

Climb to Arthur's SeatThankfully, the opening miles of the bike course were either flat or downhill but it wasn’t long before the ascent up to Arthur’s Seat reared its ugly head. Over the opening miles, I was aware that one of the brake pads was rubbing against the rim, and not wishing to take any chances on the fast descent, I decided to stop at the foot of the climb to see what the problem was. The front brakes were not centred but I couldn’t budge them and in the end, I relaxed the quick release lever a fraction to open up the gap. But in a moment of madness, I stared up the hill in front of me and wondered whether I really wanted to carry on. I was wet, cold, tired and not having a good day in the office and it took me all of two minutes to decide that I was being stupid and that the only proper course of action was to soldier on. But being on the steepest section of the climb meant that I couldn’t get sufficient momentum to turn the pedals over, so I ended up walking up until the road levelled off. If Steve Trew had been commenting on the day, I’m in no doubt that he would have said that that had been a defining moment in my race!

Despite the wet. wind and the cold, I slowly began to enjoy the bike course and looked forward to each fast descent to see if I could improve my line and speed. By the 4th and final lap, I was confident enough to leave the brakes alone, apart from some gentle feathering on the final bend. OK, my bike split of 1hr 22min for the 37km distance was pretty poor, but a) it was never going to be a fast course and b) I knew that I wasn’t in the sort of shape to repeat my 4th place when the European Championships were last held in the UK (Swansea, 2004). Approaching the dismount line, the only question was whether to attempt a flying dismount. Given the conditions and the fact that I couldn’t feel my feet or hands, I opted for the more cautious approach and brought the bike to a standstill before dismounting. The bike section trace is here.

Run 2 (5km)

Running in the mistBy now, I had pretty much exhausted my effort and I was not looking forward to the final run. At the sprint events I’ve competed in so fat this year, I’ve been managing to complete the 5km run in about 22/23 minutes but after the first two stages of the duathlon, I was staring at a time closer to 30 minutes! Again, the first downhill mile was a godsend but it gave a false impression of how much I had left in the tank. It wasn’t long before I was jogging along at 7min 30s a mile pace and being overtaken by those I had fought hard to overtake on the bike.

The finish line couldn’t have come any sooner and it was with a great sigh of relief that I crossed the line in a time of 2hrs 29 minutes. I finished 18th out of 19 in my age group and although I had every reason to chastise myself for racing so poorly, I did in fact feel elated, given my “defining moment” on the bike. I knew that my preparation going into the race had been poor and that a repeat of my Swansea performance in 2004 was a very distant memory and on all counts, I got my just desserts. But I survived, got round in one piece, and take some comfort in the fact that I survived two and half hours of hard racing on next to little training. The Garmin trace for the second run is here.


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