Windsor Duathlon 2016, Gill Fullen Race Report
“Q: When is a race not a race?
A: When it’s a royal TT
I entered Windsor Duathlon as it’s my home town and mum still lives a mile from the course in the beautiful setting of the Great Park, where I grew up and worked with the polo ponies, so all very nostalgic.
It was great to spend the evening before the race with the Kerrs staying at mum’s (and playing bananagrams), so we didn’t even have a ridiculously early start.
Ruth and I drove to the start and deftly parked in a small car park opposite the official one, so not only saving ourselves the parking fee, but avoiding what turned out to be a nightmare of queuing cars getting stuck on the official boggy parking field. We eventually had to have a towing service in austin tow cars on and off the mud and competitors being told to drive 2 miles away and walk back. So inevitably the start was delayed by 30 minutes.
We had been able to get our timing chips, rack and generally orientate ourselves in good time, but having squelched through transition all of our kit, including the bikes, were covered in mud, trainers were soaked and heavy and the promised sun was having trouble cutting through the clouds, so the wind was cutting our thin race layers. Seeing the conditions I put on my bike shoes and ran to the bike exit, by which time you could barely see my shoes for the mud, much less attempt to clip in to the pedals, so I attached the shoes to the bike and opted to run barefoot in transition rather than risk not being able to clip in.
Eventually we made our way up the long walk to the start. The sun was finally coming out and the setting was fabulous. The sprint race went off first, men and women in one wave, then the males in the standard distance 3 minutes later and finally the ladies in the standard race a further 3 minutes later.
So within a very short space of time we faster ladies were threading, dodging, swerving and yes barging our way through hoardes of slower men blocking the narrow paths of the run route. I wanted to push the first run and was happy to sit with the front group of about 6 ladies for the first 5k, when the group strung out a little more and I found myself in a comfortable 2nd place. The leading lady pulled away a little, but it’s not all about the first run, so I wasn’t worried.
The tarmac paths gave way to dirt tracks I used to ride the polo ponies on years ago, so were very familiar, but then turned onto grass and wet boggy patches, making going much tougher. At transition I was happy to arrive still just in 2nd place.
Out on the bike and straight uphill to join the course the sprint athletes were already on, where I believe there were some collisions, but I made it onto the course only to have my chain drop off the outside of my gears within a few hundred meters. Not wanting to stop, I had nothing to lose by reaching down to see if I could put it back whilst still moving, which miraculously I managed without killing myself!
The bike course was a 4 lap mixture of rolling tracks, hills, tight technical turns, open sections into the headwind and fast flatter sections where you could pick up some good speed, so very varied. I wasn’t enjoying the hill climbs but the technical and fast sections I loved, so overall a course to keep you interested. The trouble was that there were still the sprinters and the slower standard distance men blocking the road, which was particularly dangerous on the fast technical parts, where it turns out there were a number of accidents. It was meant to be non-drafting, but in reality it was impossible to leave a 10m gap between bikes and we just had to ride as honestly as possible given the conditions.
On the second lap, coming towards the final section of the loop, a marshal was waving a red flag to slow us down and we were all having to stop. We slowed then rolled over a timing mat to a halt, were briefly held to allow the Queen to cross the course to get to her private chapel, and then restarted in a line of 5 or 6 riders, crossing a second timing mat as we set off. The time we were stopped was credited to us after the end of the race. I didn’t give it another thought, just classing it as an inconvenience.
I surprised myself by riding strongly, since I’ve not done much biking lately, concentrating on running instead, but amazingly came into transition as first lady; nice! I just needed to hold onto the slim lead I’d built up for the last 5k run.
At the first turnaround I managed to see where the next lady was behind me, about 30 seconds I thought. She was a good runner, so I needed to keep pushing, which I did. At the next turnaround she was no closer, so I was maintaining my lead (phew). The final turnaround and she was slightly closer, but she’d have to sprint the last uphill section into the wind to catch me, so as long as I kept the same pace, so I was fairly safe.
Over the line as first lady. Wow. Better than I could have ever hoped for. Last thing I expected. Commentator enthusing about the win (thanks Jez) followed by interview with British Triathlon. All good and best of all mum there to see it.
The ‘but’ comes about half an hour later, when I checked the website for my splits and my name was not at the top of the list. Slowly it became clear that the second lady must have been stopped for longer for the Queen and so had beaten my time by 5 seconds.
Hugely disappointed. What a let-down. I still won my age-group, so British age group champion, but watching the ‘second’ lady receive her prize as overall winner was, to be fair, pretty galling.
I beat some serious athletes on the day and would have been thrilled with second in other circumstances, but my contention is that, had we been racing together towards the finish line, would I have been able to find those 5 seconds? I am confident that I could have, but I wasn’t given the chance, so we’ll never know.
Huge congratulations to Nora Haggart, who battled fabulously to win her age group, so British Champion title for her. Great race by the boys present too, Alastair Fadden and Ian Joyce. Another age group winner was Billy Fadden who topped his 17-18 age group in the sprint race, but didn’t even get a prize giving – very poor organisation!”