Marlow Duathlon – Race Report

“It’s a lot of hard work for a commemorative race t-shirt, isn’t it”. This pearl of wisdom was uttered to me by a fellow competitor as we rounded a corner 2kms from the finish line of the Marlow Duathlon. We’d already completed a 7km run and a 25km cycle and were almost at the end of the second 7km run.

Months ago I had the idea that I’d like to attempt a duathlon… It made sense, see, because I like to run and I like to cycle. And as I do most of my running in Vibrams and most of my cycling on my singlespeed, it also seemed like a good idea to do a vibram / singlespeed duathlon. At the time I applied for the race, it still seemed like a good idea although standing by a cricket pavillion at 7.30am on a lovely, bright Sunday morning wearing funny shoes and holding a steel framed bike with only one gear I felt a bit of a tit. Especially as everyone else seemed to have beautiful bicycles with many gears costing many hundreds of pounds and be warming up / psyching up and taking the whole thing very seriously. I was relieved that Hauling My Carcass had agreed to take part as well so at least there would be 2 of us riding wholly inappropriate bikes.

The other thing that had unnerved me somewhat was the list of rules and regulations that had arrived a week prior to the event. Bar ends must be plugged, handlebars must be of a certain style, you must not remove your bike from transition unless you have fastened your helmet… the list seemed to go on and on and I was sure that I would be disqualified for some accidental infraction. Being used to running races where you just basically turn up and run around for a bit, it all seemed a little daunting. Fortunately all my fears were unfounded as the race organisers and the marshals were all lovely, helpful, friendly individuals who got everything underway and kept us safe and on course for the duration.

The course sets off from the cricket pavillion and heads out in a big loop along some wooded paths, following the river before coiling round back towards where we started. It was advertised as 7km but my Garmin reading a touch over 7.5kms for the route as the measurement for the final “kilometre” was of questionable accuracy. The slipperyness underfoot at the start and end of this stretch caught me out. I’d planned a fast final km on each of the running sections but instead had to slow down as the Vibrams gave me absolutely no grip on the muddy surface. Now the tricky bit, into transition, off with the silly shoes, on with the helmet (BEFORE unracking the bike) on with the Camelbak and then walk the bike out of transition. Once out of transition, you are able to mount the bike and take off… to be met immediately with a steep 2km incline which saps the legs and the spirit. I got some shouted encouragement from other riders for attempting the ascent on a single speed as they zipped past on their geared machines. Once at the top, it takes a few moments to get the breath back and then it’s a lovely, undulating 25km ride along country lanes in the morning sun. I was feeling good so pushed hard and felt a slight sense of satisfaction when actually managing to overtake anyone on a geared bike. Back into transition for the final run but a struggle to get the, now wet, Vibrams back on lost me about 45 seconds. Then, back out to run the same 7(ish) km course we ran earlier but in the opposite direction. The first couple of kilometres are tough with the legs shot from the ride but the rhythm soon comes back and psychologically you know that the hard work is done and you just have to maintain and finish. I crossed the line in 2:24 and was delighted! The course was 1.4kms longer (40.4kms in total) than the planned 39km total and I’d estimated before the race that I could finish between 2:20 and 2:25. On the Garmin, I noted that I passed the 39km mark at 2:19 so had come in slightly quicker than I’d hoped.

After the race, it was nice that a few other competitors and marshals stopped to talk and ask what it was like competing on a singlespeed. Overall there was a sense of camaraderie and friendliness that is not found at many races. It is a lot of hard work for a t-shirt. But it was a good day. And it is quite a nice t-shirt.

Soundtrack to this post: Equations Of Eternity – Baron Samedi

4 Responses to “Marlow Duathlon – Race Report”

  1. 1 Alan Corbett
    March 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Well done mate. You are a god amongst men.

  2. March 19, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Brilliant, I knew you would shine! ‘Oh my god’ popped out of my mouth as I read the bit about an uphill bike ride after transition. On a single speed. I had wondered about the shoe thing, how you would speedily get the Vibrams on when I know I struggle in the comfort of my own home and without the clock ticking!

    What a star!

    • 4 eatingtrees
      March 19, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      Thanks Adele. The hill was a bit of a shocker but overall it was a very enjoyable race. I’d certainly consider doing it again.

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