ETU Long Distance Duathlon Championships, Copenhagen, Denmark (10k, 160k, 10k)
“What a venue! Definitely one of the best places I have ever visited. A city centre course, but running by the river, through parks and on tracks with the bike through woods and along the coast. Scenic and above all flat!
The idea of a long distance duathlon so soon after a marathon only hit home after I had entered and I had no idea how my legs would cope, especially having virtually dropped the bike in favour of running. Looking at the distances, however, it turned out to be more middle than long distance, so there was hope.
Race day was a beautiful morning, so base layers, arm warmers, etc were mercifully unnecessary. Racking proved straight-forward and the wait for the start was only punctuated by the usual waiting in line in numerous loo queues. We watched the para start wave followed by the female elites and then we settled down to jockey for position on the start line. I had no set race plan, so just waited to see how the others took it on.
The first 10k set off at a reasonable pace and a lead group of about 5 soon formed. One of the GB ladies took the run on strongly and obviously wanted to lead it out, whereas the Danes were definitely running to a pre-set pace, as they kept checking their watches. The first kilometre was really random, as the girls at the front didn’t know where the course went and it was very unclear from the cones, so we wiggled all over the road, with one of the Danish girls eventually shouting ‘left’ or ‘right’ at each turn. I sat happily with the Danes running very comfortably, until towards the end of the first lap, when either the Danes slowed up or I warmed up, as I gradually pulled away from them and found myself slowly closing on the lead lady.
I ran into T1 14 seconds down on the lead, but just in front of the Danes. Happy that I would have someone to chase down on the bike I ran through transition and passed Dionne (lead lady) bending over her bike with some kind of problem, which meant I set off on the bike with a clear course in front of me. I didn’t have much idea of where I was going, but expected it to be well marked and marshalled, so pushed on alone. The course was meant to be on closed roads, but I obviously took the marshals by surprise, as they were just flagging a car onto the road as I came round the second corner. They ushered it frantically away and it pulled off in front of me, until it came to a red light and came to a stop. Really hoping I didn’t have to stop at the lights, I weaved sharply around in front of the car and pulled a hard right onto a mercifully car free stretch. Shortly after this the elite men started to catch up, so at least I had some idea of where the course went, even if they disappeared off at the speed of light.
The second half of the course ran along a single track foot/cycle path next to the sea, where an electric fence bordered the path to the right and large rocks fell steeply down to the water on the left: Neither option was particularly attractive, but a distinct possibility if there was any congestion or wind blowing you off your line. Luckily the only other bikes I saw were the fast guys passing me, so I escaped without a dunking in the sea or electric shock treatment. There was a 5 minute stretch of path were little black bugs hammered into our faces in swarms and opening your mouth was asking for mouths full of unplanned protein, at which stage breathing was tricky.
Dionne caught me and led most of the first bike lap, looking strong on the long stretches where we were powering into the wind or dealing with a cross wind, but at each turn I would catch her up as she slowed for the corners. At the twisty end of the first lap with a dead turn in front of transition I passed her and stayed away from that point on. The second lap went surprisingly quickly and I was surprised that no other ladies came past, but I loved running into transition with no other bikes on the racking.
I didn’t know if my legs would still function so soon after the marathon and after a long bike, so I set off to get through the run as best I could. Looking round as I ran out I thought I saw two Danish girls run into transition, which confused and worried me, as I hadn’t seen anyone near behind and now I would have to push the second run more than I’d bargained for to keep them behind me. The run course was easily accessible and well supported, so there were lots of people shouting ‘Go GB’ to keep me pushing. My legs never really felt as if they were running properly, as I tried to get the feeling of how easily I had held a good pace in the marathon, but that easy rhythm never happened. I couldn’t see the other ladies on the turnaround, but knew they were there, so the legs had to keep on running.
The last kilometer took us out of the park, back onto the main road and into the finish. It was fantastic to see that finish arch and the blue carpet leading up to it and I ran over the line to the obvious surprise of the commentator, who announced me as winning my age group, but was singularly unexcited about me being first age-group lady home. The Danish lady who came over the line next, some 4 minutes later, was lauded to the hilt and came into the finish to huge acclaim. Guess I should have learned by now not to beat the locals, it never goes down well.
My aim of taking the first run steadily in order to have energy left to push the final run seemed to work out well, as my splits placed me (overall including elite ladies) 10th on the first 5k, 9th on the second 5k, 7th on the bike, 5th on the third 5k and 3rd on the final 5k, leaving me 6th overall, which includes negative splitting!
Overall I was pleased with the win, but frustrated that if I had started with the elite ladies I would have had some competition to chase and would in all probability have been a fair bit quicker, which would have got me pretty close to the elite podium and prize money.
Thanks go to the amazing group of athletes and supporters out there with the GB team, who were helpful, supportive, hilarious and above all now friends.
Regrets? Yep, I forgot to try an actual Danish pastry.”