The 2015 Duathlon World Championships has now come to a close and athletes have started to head back to the UK or if they’re lucky enough, they’ve extended their time out here in Australia and are now exploring or road tripping to Sydney, Brisbane and in my case Cairns.
It has been an amazing 10 days here in Adelaide, preparing and racing and I’m so fortunate to say that I’ve now been able to travel to the far side of the world competing in the sport I love and it has been such a privilege to race amongst such strong competition here, having what seems to be hundreds of Aussie’s turning up, and I’m so thankful for all the help I’ve received in order to get here and to where I am now.
With most people arriving the week before the race, it was a very long build up and excitement grew throughout the week along with the nerves. We were able to explore the local area with some visiting the nearby zoo, which had koalas, kangaroos, snakes and apparently a scary duck.
Before coming down to Adelaide, I spent a few weeks up in Cairns with my brother, training and enjoying the Aussie life, getting used to the time difference and joining local club rides and swimming in the outdoor 50m pool, which is always nice, especially when temperatures are in its late 30s.
All was going well and the training from my coach, Mark Pearce, was going strong. Unfortunately however, the day before flying down to Adelaide, the Thursday before last, I ended up flying over the front of my handlebars, landing on my shoulder, head, hip and then knee. Fortunately enough, I was in the cool down part of a two-hour fast session and was therefore going about half the speed and fortunately cars were 50m away or so at the time and therefore I wasn’t involved with another vehicle, thankfully. My first proper accident on a bike has now been experienced!
After flying down to Adelaide with a cracked frame, broken aero bar, damaged helmet, tubs, wheels, shoes, cleats, tape, front and rear derailleur, gear levers, and numerous other scratches and broken bits, and the injuries I had myself, I had a lot to sort out, in the next few days.
I found out once going to Emergency services that I had in fact torn a muscle in my shoulder, which explains why I wasn’t able to lift my arm more than about 70 degrees to the front and side, and I had also bruised a few ribs. Along with the road rash on my left hip and shoulder it felt pretty painful and it meant that I had to take a few days off and find a physio and speak to numerous people about what to do. At least this wasn’t the World Triathlon Championships and therefore the inability to lift my left arm meant that I wasn’t going to have to do doggy paddle at least. However I did need my knee and hip flexors, etc. to be in tiptop condition and therefore that’s what I focussed on during the recovery. A massive thank you to the team physio, Leda Cox, who really helped and made a massive visible improvement in the session alone.
After 5 days or so I was able to go out on a jog and cycle, using my cousins road bike, as mine was still being repaired, and do a race recce. The run was round a very picturesque river, called the Torrens, with the Adelaide Oval stadium, Elder park and numerous other landscapes along with swans and peddle boats reflecting in the waters. It was a good course that was on mainly smooth paths, although it was fairly narrow at points, which lead us to wondering how it would work out on the day, trying to overtake others in front of you but we were soon going to find that out on race day which didn’t seem too far away now.
After receiving my bike back from the repairers, with a fairly hefty bill to go with it, on the Friday before the race meant that I had to wake up early on Saturday to go out for a quick spin to check over the bike and get comfortable to it again, before putting it into transition a few hours later. After all the training and preparation the months before the race it seemed like it was a bit of a last minute rush but I got there at least and by the Saturday evening, I was racked and ready for the race to begin. Less than a day to go … didn’t seem real.
Waking up at 5am to shower, eat and do my final preparations we left the house to go to transition for 6:15am. Arriving there I attached my bottles, gels, changed the gears, inflated my tyres, attached my shoes, placed my helmet and other pair of running shoes next to the bike and did a last minute run through to remember where the bike was and look at the mount and dismount line.
After dropping off my bag, warming up and standing in the long queue for the toilets as always, I left to go to the start line. Walking there with some of the other athletes we all wished each other good luck and waited for the horn to sound.
After a few minutes the horn sounded and the 2015 Adelaide Standard Distance Duathlon World Championship was underway. After a quick look at my watch and realising that we set off perhaps a bit too fast, 21.8kph, I slowed down slightly and thankfully so did most people around me.
Splitting up the course into sections helped me continue to push myself close to what I was capable of, checking my watch every so often to make sure that I wasn’t slacking, whilst trying to keep good form. There were a few short and steep sections just to test and keep the legs warm but I kept on pushing and even with my ribs beginning to hurt and knee tingle, I still felt strong, perhaps the strongest I’ve felt whilst running a 10km in a duathlon. The training has obviously paid off and I can at least feel that I’m improving, thanks Mark.
Watching others around me, the pace was at points quite high but I managed to keep going and I gave it nearly all I had, conserving a bit for the bike. Passing under the numerous bridges, I was cheered on by the GB team and supporters from all kinds of nationalities, which made the race feel even more and it gave me a big boost.
Even doing my best, I found the leaders start to pull off into the distance and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it. I would just have to ace the bike and then hold them off again on the last run.
Coming back from my second lap, I ran up the hill into transition and then ran back down dropping off my shoes, picking up my helmet and collecting my bike before running back up to get onto the road to mount onto the bike. A long transition but I was soon out on the bike and off chasing down the leaders. I was completely in my zone, and absolutely loving it.
There were four laps of the bike, each around 10km, which gave me a chance to get used to the course, this time on my TT bike, and get used to the feeling of the new tubs and repaired upgrades. After each corner I gained a bit of confidence and was able to hit each corner a bit faster but occasionally felt my back wheel go out a bit, which added to the fun of it all.
The first section was fast. I think I even got some air at some point. After the initial uphill start from the mount line, you did a U-turn and were able to get some speed up racing back down past transition and over the bridge before making the first left turn. Up and over a speed bump, perhaps hitting it a bit hard, I continued passing the crowds at just over 40kph. A nice out and back bit before heading up a slight uphill section which after four times probably would get tiring.
After reaching the top you went round a small square park, which was fun due to the wide, smooth roads with 90 degree bends. Swooping around the last bend, missing the only top cover on the whole course, I maintained the power downhill and started to pick up the speed quickly to over 65kph, overtaking all those being more cautious. The fun downhill section was soon over though and it was time to take a left turn at the crossroads. It was a good idea that some of us did a bike recce beforehand as I think a few people went straight over after not being able to slow down in time. After braking perhaps slightly too much, I stood up and tried to get back up to speed. Past the roaring crowds again and back over the speed ramp.
With only one more 90 degree turn and two more U-turns left before starting the beginning of the next lap there wasn’t left to go. Unfortunately however, coming up to the last U-turn of the lap, I was confused and saw an earlier turn point and started doubting that the turn point was further up as originally thought, especially as no one was between me and the other side of this earlier turn point which was odd. In the end I decided to continue and go to the top as worst comes to worst it would mean I’d do another 200m but at least I wouldn’t have a penalty. Making the turn I went out slightly wide, in fact a bit too wide and too fast and had to go left of the steward, ending up on the wrong side of the central reservation … Bugger!!! I knew not to do that. I looked at that beforehand. Should’ve done it a few more times … How did that happen??? Would that deserve a penalty??? Oh it wasn’t good…wasn’t happy with myself. The turn didn’t seem obvious at all but I ended up in the transition lane. After pulling back into the correct lane and losing a few positions, I looked out at the marshals to see if I would receive a penalty. I saw two or three red flags go up along with one of them shouting out something, which I presumed to be my number….a penalty I think was given. Damn!!! After the annoyance of finding out I had received a penalty I thought I’d make the most of it and go pretty much all out and bomb round the course. Making sure that my legs hurt knowing that I could massage and stretch in the penalty box…after all I’ve got at least two minutes in there!!!
Reaching close to 50kph on the flats, I was overtaking and gaining on everyone around me, no one got away. I shot up the hill again powering it out of my saddle and after going round the quick square park, again bombed it down the hill reaching 68kph last time I looked, but then decided to pay attention to what was in front rather than the Garmin. After the corner at the crossroads I put in a quick effort and then pulled into the penalty box, where I dismounted my bike, told them I was there, gave them my number and started my timer, as Jez, the team manager had suggested.
After asking them whether I actually received a penalty they replied and said, “We’re not sure but its better to serve one than get a DQ”. Then, after 20 seconds or so I was told that I have to completely dismount the bike and stand on one side of the bike rather than straddling it. WHAT??? Why have they waited this long to tell me that??? Then to make it worse once I got off they asked “Are you ready” whilst holding the start button. Of course!!! She started the timer and the two minutes began. By this stage it already felt like I served my time, well 30 seconds of it. Oh this was annoying. After doing so well and putting a decent run in and bike, I had lost 2.5 minutes just like that. How was I going to gain that back. Any chance of a medal was now over and just because of a slight mistake. Oh well, couldn’t do anything about it and I will definitely learn from it so I thought to myself to just enjoy the race for those few minutes. Whilst stretching and massaging my legs, I cheered on other fellow GB team members and saw Craig, now first GB athlete and a friend that I’d made from the Wales Ironman, go past, he saw me too and shouted out a few words of annoyance for me. Thanks Craig J
After what seemed to be absolutely ages, I was allowed back out onto the course and the next two laps consisted of trying to catch Craig and the others back up. I was playing a catch up game. I tried my hardest and coming round the last U-bend of the bike course, I took the other lane into transition, preparing to dismount and start the last 5.22km final run.
Dismounting like a pro, followed by a quick run to my transition area, I racked my bike and put on my trainers and ran down to the exit, coming out of transition in 44 seconds, which was the 3rd fastest time out of everyone. What a result!! Tony, you’d be proud of that!!! 3rd at Worlds in transition … now I wish there was a medal for that haha J
The last 5km of the race had began, this time only one lap of the first run. It was the last time I’d pass each point and I knew that. Knocking off section by section whilst trying to fight off the cramp in both my quads, I actually overtook more people than those that overtook me. This time I found myself not trying to hold on to my position like normal during the run but actually making places up…wow!!! Thanks Mark for all the sessions … the running is getting there.
All the way round that final lap I pushed myself to the absolute max. I had a few battles with people and found myself side-by-side to an Australian and Canadian but after a while I’d push on past them and it felt good. I was actually going faster and feeling strong, alternating between my legs feeling like they were going to collapse and feeling like they were flying. A weird feeling but I enjoyed it and at the second to last bridge I tried to increase the pace slightly. Not much faster as I was already giving it everything but I wanted to make sure there was nothing left. Last bridge, a final turn back on yourself and up hill to join the road. With only 150m left and a person 5m behind me, I was just hoping he didn’t have a big sprint on him, there wasn’t long left. Then over the speaker I heard that Craig had just crossed the line. Just missed out…so close. Nearly caught him but well done, will have to race you again next year in Spain. With the final U-turn onto the blue carpet I quickly looked behind and knew I had it but wasn’t stopping.
Arms up to cross the line, I was relieved … it was all done. The race in Adelaide had finished and what a race. A slight mistake that cost me around 2.5 minutes but one of the best races I’ve done. Felt strong, raced hard and gave it everything I had and even with the injuries and pain a fantastic race and couldn’t have changed anything. It’s also the first time I’ve ended up in the medical tent after a standard distance duathlon or triathlon and needing help to get there. Finally finishing 11th and 2nd Brit, prequalifying for Worlds next year.
Later on, after the medical tent, food and a massage, I found out that I hadn’t actually received a penalty and therefore effectively choose to stand by the side of the road at the World Championships, to stretch, massage and cheer other people on whilst taking it all in. Amazing!!! Finishing around 1 minute 30 behind 5th would’ve meant that I’d have comfortably been 5th and chasing down 4th along with being 1st Brit but unfortunately it wont show like that. Still the top 3, the medal winners completed the race between 1:53 and 1:55, an amazing time that would’ve been very hard to do even if I was in tiptop condition and at least it wasn’t 3rd place I missed out on. A very good result, 2nd Brit and qualified for next years Worlds along with learning a few things for next time, I’ll take that.
Thank you very much to all my sponsors, Apex and daysout.co.uk, for the bike and gear along with their continued support and backing, Warwick Physio + Rehab for their help in making sure I’m fit and ready to race and to the Stamford Endowed Schools for their financial support, helping me compete at the World Championships. I’m very much appreciative. Furthermore a massive thank you to my mum, family and friends that have supported me throughout my various competitions and to Warwick University Triathlon Club. It’s not the same doing all the training on my own, now I’ve graduated. Another big thank you to my bike shops in Cairns and Adelaide, ‘Discovery Cycles’ and ‘Bio-Mechanics Cycles & Repairs’. You’ve both been amazing and have sorted out my bike, making sure it was up to the race, dealing with any problems I’ve had including the custom built editions. A big thank you to Gavin Butler and Brad Kellas, two Cairns locals that sorted me out with some training clinchers, allowing me to continue training in the lead up to the race. Lastly to those in Australia, my family in both Adelaide and Cairns, a massive thank you for putting me up during the race and for driving me around when I needed, especially to Jordan for driving me to the airport at 4am this morning, and to all the supporters, fellow team GB athletes, Jex and Leda Cox, the team manager and masseur and to the 2015 Adelaide duathlon team volunteers and officials.
Still a few more weeks out here in Australia and just landed in Cairns where I’ll continue my training amongst other things.
Till next time and see many of you at Dambuster,
P.S. If you’ve read this whole report then congratulations.