Ashridge Duathlon

The Goal Age group GB Team qualification in either Sprint Triathlon or Standard Duathlon.

Qualification Events

Ashridge Standard Duathlon

Monikie Sprint Triathlon

Bedford Standard Duathlon

The Standard distance Ashridge Duathlon is part of a winter series run at the Ashridge Estate near Tring and as well as a working estate, the stately home, which is an impressive building is used as a conference and management training centre. The reason for choosing this event was it being the first event of the age group qualification and I was hoping to get a jump on the competition given it was being held late January, which might have worked if it wasn’t also the English National Championships meaning it attracted a quality field. The Standard distance is a 10k run, 40k (44k for this event) and a 5k to finish, so much of my training involved brick sessions (bike followed by a run) and excellent for triathlon too. I’m not the most dedicated of trainers so using the club sessions was a great way for me to get a good base and train with others which is important for me, making training much more fun or at least sharing the pain!

The Training

Monday: Track session, cycle there as part of my commute home, hop of the bike, 10 mins active warm up, 800m tempo, then straight into 5x 400m threshold with 400m easy in between with 800m cool down, quick change and finish my commute home on the bike. Daily commute of 12k on the bike with a 10 minute HIIT session before I set off in the morning always with sets of squats.

Wednesday: Run session at Mary Erskines, the hill reps with squats (keep those jump squats in Ailsa!) a great leg strengthening session, giving a similar experience to running off the bike.

Thursday: The essential bike spin session usually followed by a 4k run home with the run up Drumbrae Drive especially “beneficial” followed by 500m of running along the flat where the run legs usually appear back with a show boat run down Caroline Terrace past the dog walkers!

Saturday: 5k parkrun at Cramond (sometimes a run down and back extending it to a 15k, all up hill on the way home makes it a great mind training session). The parkrun 5k is always at threshold and is a great way to practice events especially if you suffer from race nerves.

Sunday: A mixed bag of 20k and 40k “time trials” on the TT bars out the A71 to the Oakbank roundabout, it’s not too busy if you start before 9am and with only 6 sets of traffic lights for each 20k out and back makes for good TT practice. Alternatively, loops round Holyrood park with a run loop thrown in at the end, or, a longer cycle with 20k threshold thrown in at some point. I had a really good base of training leading up to Christmas and was hoping to get a couple of tough sessions during the holidays, however a chest infection put paid to that and a 2 week lay off with a course of antibiotics ensued. I resigned myself to zero training, rest and recovering. Three weeks before the event I was back training although skipped many of the swim sessions and used them as rest days and threw in a couple of short and sharp run sessions the week before to remind my legs of what was coming.

The Event

I took the train down the day before and treated it as a rest day, most trains have space for a few bikes but you need to book in at a station to reserve your space, easy process and free, but essential. i arrived at my hotel about 2pm and had a bite to eat and set off to find and recce the course. I planned to cycle to the start the following morning, to sort my timings to get to the start line (10k and 30 mins so that was my warm up sorted), I had taken bike lights and given it was pitch black in the morning turned out they were essential to both see and be seen. Knowing where and how long meant a good nights sleep, setting 2 alarms to make sure i would be up. I had been keeping an eye on the weather and know from previous events my tri suit is enough on the bike if it’s 8 degrees or warmer, 5 degrees on the day so arm warmers, calf guards and a buff on my head for the run, packable gilet left in transition. I’m a great believer in enjoying events and part of that is being comfortable!

I normally mount my shoes on the bike, but as transition was muddy grass and with the luxury of wearing socks for the run I didn’t want to squelch through the mud in absorbent socks, so the shoes were left beside the bike. I walked in and out of transition several times, counted the racks I had to run past to get to my bike took stock of any flags or useful reference points I could use to orientate myself coming into transition. The bike course was 4 loops of 11k and the recce was useful to familiarise myself with the course, the speed bumps, a couple of tricky corners and the 2 hills on each lap. I hadn’t recced the run course but knew it was 2.5k loops on a mixed surface, a quick chat with some of the competitors and checking footwear of others I settled on road shoes. I used my track session active warm up set 10 minutes beforehand and was ready to race. The starter called us to the start and it turned out you gathered in a courtyard with the start heading back out a relatively narrow archway the way we were going in, so I used a parkrun tactic of letting everyone squeeze and jostle for space and stayed out front and nipped in a minute to go, row 2, it was the English Nationals after all. Fewer nerves, no swim! And parkrun helped, 10 second countdown and we’re off, 50m and onto some wet grass and a couple of tight corners, so just kept clear of any trouble and held my place then onto some hardcore and stepped up to threshold and settled into the run, keeping an eye of the routes people ahead are taking while feeling grip on the different surfaces and swapping lines on what feels best. The leading female is just up ahead and that is usually a good pace for me so put the target on her back and focus on matching or catching her. At the end of the first loop I always get the feeling of How will I keep this up?, you do and loops 2,3 and 4 pass with only the odd swapping of places and I finish well up the field in what i think is around 20th place. Coming into T1 I try to run through my transition so will often slow a little and it’s good to engage the brain beforehand. Glasses, helmet, gilet and shoes on…bike last. Coming out of transition and approaching the mount line and someone is wobbling about so run past them before a flying mount and we’re off. It’s not long before the first TT bike and the whomp-whomp of deep rim wheels goes past, nothing too unusual about that, but I’m not passing or even catching anyone, and that is. It’s not long before I’m passed again and the trend continues including the first 2 females, the good news is I manage to pass my first competitor, they had a flat! I continue to lose places as bike after bike goes past, I must have be well up the field due to a good run, at least that is what I’m telling myself to keep positive or perhaps it’s because the swim has me so far back normally! Anyway, I have an average speed of above 30kmh in my head for the cycle but given the two hills on the course I’m not sure it will be possible but use it as motivation to keep pushing and take my mind off the places I’m losing and with more competitors on the course now I’m passing people, onto the 4th lap and focus on keeping the same perceived effort level on each of the sections. T2 is at the top of the second hill, usual drill of engaging brain before entering transition, all goes to plan and out onto the run, feeling quite good and thinking how long before I pick up the pace and then I hit the steep hill that has appeared on the run course while I was out of the cycle. The good news is the new hill seemed to be affecting everyone else too and by the second loop I was catching and passing people which definitely helps you ignore your legs. The best thing about standard distance duathlon where the run course is 2.5k loops is you know exactly how far it is to go until you can stop, sometimes known as the finish line. Anyway, about 1k to go i think there are a few places to be had including the 2nd and 3rd females who both passed me so effortlessly on the bike and before I know it I’m rounding the last corner and the finish is in sight, involving running through an archway back into the courtyard where we started. Finish time was 2:24:27, 5th in my age group, 7th in the GB qualification (due to a couple of 49 year olds also trying to qualify for next year) and averaged over 30kmh on the bike.

Next event is the Scottish Duathlon champs at Stirling with a final qualifier in October later in the year knowing I need to improve my bike.