ETU Duathlon Championships.
The only word for the experience is surreal. This was because 1) it seemed utterly bizarre to be representing GB to the point where I never really believed it was happening and 2) the setting was so extraordinary. The GB Hotel and HQ had to be seen to be fully comprehended but had the quality, not exactly of a dream, more of a nightmare. We spent a lot of time hanging about Wunderland and it never lost its strangeness. Both Suzanne and I had opted for accommodation off site and I think it is to this choice that we owe returning with our sanity largely intact.
The GB support team were terrific and managed to calm us all down after a confusing and contradictory briefing on the Friday. For instance, at one point we were told wheels had to be UCI compliant which I knew my Zipp 60s were not (I learnt this after the proposed change to Sprint drafting rules). I was glad I’d packed my Campagnolos in case of high wind but was even gladder when I bumped into Joan Lennon (Age Group liaison person) who said it was rubbish and didn’t apply to this competition.
We joined the official course recce on the bikes Friday morning and attempted to walk the run course in the afternoon when the heavens opened. After sheltering by a (closed) ice cream kiosk for a while we retreated back into the hotel. Later Jon and I completed the run route although it wasn’t at all clear where the turn point was.
The parade of nations in Kalkar that evening was blessed with glorious sunshine. The square filled with Brits quaffing and guzzling. (Actually, I went and bought a mug from a very beautiful cookery shop. Ever since we had boarded the ferry we had had nothing larger than a thimble to drink out of – unless you wanted alcohol.) 17 nations were represented and we felt very proud to be with our fellow competitors if also slightly hysterical.
Race day dawned but we didn’t bother to see the dawn as is usual with competition days. The Women’s Sprint was the last of the day and not due to start until 7:15pm! This was an improvement on the original 7:30pm start. Concern about the lack of light led to the moving of the start time. So, a whole day to fester. Thankfully we had been allowed to register on Friday rather than between 8am and 12noon on race day. Racking was between 1pm and 4pm so Suzanne and I arranged to meet up at 2:45pm. A slight mishap with the route due to road closures and then we were there in the midst of heated combat. We arrived just as Mark York completed his magnificent event, finishing 4th in his age group and then saw Jordan Skelly and learnt he had won his age group with a massive lead of 3 minutes!
We racked the bikes in the indoor transition area and looked for ways to pass the time.
Overnight we had become persona non grata in the GB Hotel with fierce frauleins keeping us out. It was only with the help of a team mate that they were persuaded to let me in to see the physio.
At long last it was time to warm up and we found Ruth Wilson on the same mission. And then the big moment came and we lined up. Or, as Alan Woodcock described it: “There were all the women jostling to be at the front, elbows out, and there were you two standing lah-di-dah out the back”. First run was not good with no bounce in my legs even at the very beginning, so grit your teeth and do what you can time. The second lap was a little better and I vied with “SuperMum” Wilkinson all the way round. Onto the bike in reasonable shape and off. Apart from the boil and the chill making my hamstrings tighten as we went along, the bike went quite well. I left SuperMum behind and overtook quite a few others.
The course was 2 laps, mostly flat and straight with right angle turns and a dubious bit cycling over paving and around cones and barriers in and out of the site. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that Suzanne did not pass me on the bike for the first time ever! Back into transition. Things seemed to be going ok until I realised I was running with my helmet on! A marshal took it from me and I was out of the hangar and onto the last lap. As usual with duathlon it was just keep going, every step is one nearer the finish, and then there was the finish and a great shout. That was a sweet moment. Mark you were great cheering us on through the runs.
Suzanne came through shortly after and we were pretty chuffed with ourselves and each other.
We found Ruth who had put in a fantastic performance finishing 4th in her Age Group. I was 6th in mine about 3 minutes behind the winner I was told (I am now thinking 3 minutes is a tiny margin even though it is more substantial in the Sprint than Jordan’s Standard) and Suzanne 7th in hers so not a bad showing from Lincsquad.
Congratulations to Jordan, Mark and Ruth.
Sam we really missed you and still wish you had been there.
A big, big Thank You to Jon and Rys for being so patient and supportive.
And Suzanne – you were the best race buddy ever!