The blog is back, mainly due to a coming together of circumstances which has meant that I'm off to Ibiza in October to represent Team GB in Age-Group Multisport - the European Duathlon Championships!
Added to that, another two local lads from Ceredigion have also qualified, and so we've decided to group together to attract some sponsorship by branding up as 'three_GB' on social media. Enter Andrew Poole and Dylan Lewis, both far younger and more attractive than me, but together we intend to have an eight month journey through training, get togethers, blogs, kit reviews etc and share this via social media channels and to anyone who bumps into us along the way.
|'Three_GB' - f.l.t.r Dylan Lews, Shelley Childs, Andrew Poole|
Having worked at IronMan Wales for a few years, its always been a bug for me to get into multi-sport. Cue the kids, life, work balance and the time is just not there to get enough training into any given week. Alas I can go some weeks with only a couple of sessions done of one sport, never mind three!
Fast forward to 2017 and it was time to give Duathlon a go, finally. Although smaller fry than triathlon, they have similar World and European championship structures, often sharing locations and dates with Tri. The UK has three events where you can qualify for your age group, with the top twenty, yes twenty (!) from each category getting the nod for the following years major event.
Let's be honest here, this is a completely accessible road for any serious amateur club athlete to represent their country at. It is not eilte level professional sport and for that reason, its really popular not to mention financially lucrative for the relevant governing bodies to organise. Everyone's a winner i guess?
So at the end of 2016, James Cracknell had run a cracking London Marathon that year, and up until that point, I'd been tracking him in terms of race times within a couple of minutes. I dug a bit deeper and found out that he'd also been down the Duathlon age-group route and had represented GB. I dug a little deeper and checked out the kind of times that were being recorded by others my age and realised that individually, i was (or at least had been) close to some of them. The seed was sewn and i checked out which event i could do. It would be the final qualifier of 2017 in Bedford, during mid-October, although judging from the dawn chorus shot below, you'd never had of imagined it.
|Who knew Bedfordshire could look so good?|
I ran an extra couple of hundred miles in 2017 (about 1300 in total), averaging 25 miles a week, and then fast tracked some cycling into the equation from mid-August, just as normal cycling folk were winding down from a hard season. My first attempt at joining with the local club chaingang resulted in a Johnny NoMates solo ride as the official rides had ended the week previously. I soon found the underground chaingang Thursday night movement, and got my arse handed to me on a plate for the eight weeks leading up to race day.
This was great training and i loved being back on the bike but i later found out that a weekly FTP test via the strength of others perhaps wasn't the best for specific solo time trial events. I'd done a couple of open TT's in July and loved them, but was evidently lacking in power and grace. I wasn't a million miles from where i wanted to be compared to my all-time strongest cycling times in the mid-nineties, but times had moved on and everyone had got faster and more aero, and so i was pretty much a million miles from where i needed to be!
|The trusty steed. It may be 8 years old, but it still turns heads at races (when I'm not aboard)|
Bedford came along and it was my first big Duathlon I've done, with only the Tregaron Duathlon for previous experience. For that reason i didn't even try to use elastic bands to create pre-attached easy-to-enter cycling shoes in transition, after a less than successful trial run at Tregaron a year earlier, neither had i bothered to learn how to since. These time saving transition processes will probably need some research for Ibiza.
The race went well, i just ran in cycling shoes through transition before mounting the bike. I was doing the Standard Distance event which is a 10k run, 40k bike and 5k run. There is a Sprint option at 5/20/2.5 but i thought for the distance from Aber to Bedford, it would be better value for money to do the longer one. That said, 'Pooley' and Dylan are putting me to shame by qualifying for the Half IronMan and Offroad versions of the championships respectively.
|The first run - mixing it up with previous Team GB athletes, judging by their race kit|
I was racing under the thinking that i was competing in the 40-44 category, which I was, but for qualifying for the Euro's, I would be considered under the 45-49 category - my age on race day later this year. When it came to check my results, confusion ensued and so i had to actually read the small print for once to get some clarity on what qualifying was looking like.
As it turned out, it made no difference. I was 5th old bloke in both categories, and with only the first 4 qualifying automatically, i had a nervous couple of weeks wait until i heard that my 'first loser' placing was actually 'fastest loser' out of all three qualifying events and therefore was fast enough to qualify.
Back to the drawing board and it was evident that it had been my cycling that had let me down, losing around 3 minutes to qualifier 4 over 40k, despite having what i felt was an ok ride within my current limits. I'd gained around two minutes back on the runs, but fell short of qualifying automatically due to the dodgy bike leg. My time was 1 hour three mins on a 3 mile circuit, compared to a 56 minute PB over the same distance on a dual carriageway course back in 2004 or 5...
|Matt Botrill has since given me a more aero position. We'll see how it fairs in 2018!|
The plan for 2018 is to ride more and have a bit of a racing season on the bike. I haven't started well, due to the god awful weather that we've had, which has resulted in me buying the indoor cycling software Zwift - a craze which is sweeping the annexes and sheds of every cycling enthusiasts household this winter. It has meant that I am riding more again, and so three rides a week are planned from March through to August, ramping it up a bit in September ready for the big day. I'm not sure a 56 minute time is again possible, but with some tips from multi-UK champion Matt Botrill, anything could happen!
Pooley has been busy and has taken the mantle of 'team' coordinator, gaining us valuable sponsorship from local businesses Safety Net Services, Alexanders and Huw Lewis Tyres. Ok, Huw is Dylan's dad, but nevertheless, Pooley will be looking for the credit for that one as well. I've chipped in with some fast racing rubber from my employer Cambrian Tyres, another perennial benefactor of local sportsmen and women representing the area.
The help will go towards making the trip a reality, with mutual friends / previous qualifiers stating that the trip will cost each of us in excess of £1500. I intend to use my share of the money to pay for my bike to be transported to Ibiza (and maybe back, see how it goes), plus the costs of training shoes never goes away..
Derek from Alexanders Estate Agents has kindly offered to pay for our GB Tri-suits. Yes, age-groupers do not receive free attire and all garments are only available to buy from the official supplier who i presume has the license from the governing body. This means that we'll all be racing in official Team GB kit on race day, plus a training / podium T-Shirt which will sport all contributors logos. I'm banking on the other two in terms of making any podium appearances but in all seriousness, i will be hoping to mix it up on race day and try to pull out PB's in both the 10k run and 40k bike before the much anticipated final 5k shuffle that every multisport athlete suffers with.
We'll keep the blogs going, and next time I'll talk about some of the new kit that I am starting to use for this 'bucket list' year of Championship Duathlon preparation!
|My latest race - the Welsh 10k Championships. 32nd overall and 7th over 40.|