As Jane Taylor said in her EU Duathlon Championship report, the experience was indeed surreal. Since Jane has done such a great job of describing the experience of being in Kalkar with the British Age Group Team, I thought I would write about my duathlon journey and how I came to be there. I came to the sport by accident, quite literally!
I have cycled for fitness for the past four years. Two years ago I developed Adhesive capsulitis (Frozen shoulder) in my right shoulder after I came off my bike. In a very short space of time I went from been able to cycle for four or five hours at a time to less then half an hour. Frozen shoulder is a very painful condition and you temporally lose your range of motion in the effected shoulder and arm – not good for cycling! Since I found it difficult to ride my bike, I decided I would have a go at running to maintain my fitness. To begin with I found it very hard and made little progress for a long time, but stuck at it when a friend suggested the two of us enter the London Duathlon together. It was the first I’d really heard about duathlon, but it sounded quite fun so I said, “Yes, lets do it!” A challenge was exactly what I needed while waiting for my shoulder to thaw out.
I entered the standard distance duathlon and to my surprise came second in my age group category. London Duathlon is big event, a very friendly/fun sort of thing.
Although I really enjoyed the duathlon, I felt it involved too much running for me as running is my weakest discipline. Then I came across the sprint distance duathlon and thought I could have a go at that – less running (great stuff), but also less cycling (not so great since my first love is the bike).
I enjoyed the training for the duathlon, so started looking around for others to enter. That’s when I came across Clumber Park and the GB Age Group opportunities. I entered Clumber Park March 2015 without registering my intent to try and qualify, as I wasn’t confident enough and my run times were quite slow. In April I entered the Grafton Water duathlon. This time, however, I did register my intent to try and qualify; my thoughts were that I had nothing to lose. I came third in my Age Group category. A few days later I received an email from British Triathlon, congratulating me on making the team!
For a while I didn’t know if I would go to Kalkar or not – my running needed to improve, and I was (and still am) a novice. When I heard that Jane, Sam Ritson and Ruth Wilson were going I made the decision to go too and just do my best.
Sam was the “manager” and sorted out the logistics. Sam, you were great and we missed you not being there!
A few days before we were due to leave for Germany, I had a bad case of the wobbles. I didn’t want to go and my confidence was quite low. Once we arrived, and later met up with Jane and her husband, I started to feel better.
And so the big day arrived, and it was just how Jane described it (did she mention it was freezing cold and windy?). We were called to the starting line and I don’t think it had really sunk in that we were about to race the race of our lives! We were at the back of the bunch, talking about the weather, socks, and other silly things when the gun went off, and just like that, everyone set off. “Yikes,” I thought, “I’d better get a move on!”
I ran the fastest 5k in my life by quite a way – not fast compared to the fast girls, but fast for me! In T1 I felt very wobbly and could barely put on my helmet and shoes. During the first lap out on the bike, I was fumbling around with my Garmin (won’t do that again!) and my heart rate was through the roof. I struggled to recover and focus and, as they say, couldn’t “get in the zone”. However, the second lap was better – I had managed to calm down and was now in my zone. For the whole bike leg I was trying to catch Jane, but I didn’t make it!
The second run was also fast for me, and the finish line was such a welcome sight! The first thing I said was “never again”, but that feeling didn’t last too long. The experience was amazing and I am so pleased that I gave it a go. In fact, I am now making plans to try and qualify again! I made some mistakes and learnt a lot as well. There are some amazing athletes of all ages, and it is such a fantastic sport and community. I would say to anyone who has thought about it, to just go for it. It’s hard work but is also a lot of fun!