Wow, what a morning. What a day. What a weekend! The Mumbles Duathlon is a short, interesting race in a fantastic location, in my back yard and right on my training grounds. The start and finish is at Knab Rock in Mumbles, and the weather (even at 6 in the morning) was fantastic. Blue sky, morning sun, high tide. Great!
There are long and short races, and both start with a 5km flat run by the sea, out and back. The bike follows the sea towards Swansea and then kicks up a hill through Bishopston, kicks through a dip at Kittle, and then out towards Pennard. The short race turns around here and heads back to Mumbles, and the long course takes a right turn out to the Gower. Another dip down through the woods by Three Cliffs Bay takes you to the Gower Heritage Centre and a short steep stab of a climb (1:4 at its steepest) up to the lanes of Lunnon. From here legs recover and take you out to the main diagonal road running between Llanrhidian and Upper Killay, which is mostly a gradual climb. You turn back past the airport, back to Pennard, and back to Mumbles cutting the corner off the route out to give you a fast descent to the coast. The second run goes back out on the flat coastal path and the long race does the 5km again, but the short course does 2.5 or 3km (I forget which).
This was a training race for me at the end of a build block, as all duathlons tend to be, and as I said earlier in the week it’s the sort of race that gives some indication of my form and the results of my training plans, and hopefully gives me confidence for the upcoming season. Racing itself seems to help get the speed back into my legs. And they usually make me smile too.
Around 200 people turned up for this race and some great athletes were amongst them. My plan was to start steady but fast, not at almost 5k pace, then hit the bike hard, and hopefully hang in for the final run. (Hopefully the gaps would be formed on the bike and I wouldn’t be battling in the last run).
A long easy warm up seemed to settle the tightness in my left calf tendons. I didn’t feel awesome, but I was pretty good. From the start I was steady, happy to let people get ahead of me but I found a comfortably fast pace and cadence by the end of the first km. I picked up places and was feeling good. I run this path all the time and even saw the usual suspects that nod to one another when out training here. The sea was gorgeous. As the bay curves you can see all the way round from the start to the turn point and back again.
I came into T1 in a sensible placing, and with a quick transition (ow, ouch, oooh – I’d racked my bike on the lumpy, gravelly side and ran through in socks) a quick bike mount and a fast start I picked up another couple of places including James Nunn from my club before the start of the first hill. Another competitor came around hard early on the hill, a bit too early I thought, and I gave him a gap as we climbed. Nunn was close behind. Partway up the guy’s pace eased so I went around and pushed hard to the top. My aim on this route is to hit the hills hard, each one a little harder than the last, push through the tops and go steady (well, steady fast) on the flatter sections.
The bloke I’d passed stuck to my back wheel like a limpet, & not a legal-draft distance limpet neither. I turned a few times to glare at him to no effect & wondered if he realised this was a no-drafting race. Once I’d pointed that out he apologised, dropped back & then disappeared. Weird, huh? He found me after the race and apologised too.
Legs found a rhythm & effort, my TT position was comfortable & I got on with the job. I rode on my own for the rest of the bike leg, legs weren’t so jellified at the top of the Lunnon climb this year, but the turn into the wind back to Upper Killay was unexpected & tough. I could see the rider ahead & the rider behind in parts & thought I might make up a place but the gap was foreshortened by the wind & the climb. Back past the airport we had a crosswind & my deep front wheel stalled a few times, but generally for most of this route the carbon was an advantage. Back from Pennard I hit the riders in the shorter race & rattled past them, hammering the last kick up to Bishopston & laying it on for the last flat bit on top. Down the hill to the sea was quick & I avoided cars, but got stuck behind a van that was desperately trying to get out of my way but also to safely overtake other cyclists.
Clean dismount into T2 on the line & fast (ooh, ow, ow, ow, hop, ooh!) back to my rack point and my running shoes. Shoes on & I had a gap to close ahead of me & clean Tarmac behind me. I felt better running off the bike than I have in training bricks & picked up a comfy fast pace, but could probably have pushed a bit harder in hindsight. Plenty of pain and effort but I could probably have squeezed more out earlier. I’m still trying to find the best way of using my developing fitness. Out to the turn at 2.5km it was pretty clear there were sizeable gaps ahead of me and I was running out of road, in 5th place. From the turn I turned it up a notch, as planned, & saw Nunny coming the other way with a mild taunt. Plenty of gap, but he’s running better than me at the moment. Good motivation!
Running back by the sea was lovely, and I was still moving ok but I could see the finish line around the curve of the bay and it looked a damned long way away! The last 5k in these things always hurts. With about 1km to go my left Achilles tendon suddenly started to tighten & pull – something I’ve been recovering for a couple of weeks. With about 500m to go I started to die, but strangely I was able to talk my brain out of it and push again. Just push to Verdi’s and then you can jog around the bends to the finish. Great finish, great location, great organisers, great supporters and great fun.
So 5th overall with some really good competitors ahead of me. My first run was better than expected (longer warm up next time should help me find my pace sooner), bike was fine, and my overall performance was good. I might need to trust my endurance more and start faster in future races. I’m glad I got my entry in just in time. Not bad for a guy with white hairs growing out of his ears.
This was the first time I’d used my Sunwise Waterloo glasses in racing. I picked them for this to cut out the glare from the sea (they have polarising lenses), which they did perfectly. They sit in the aero helmet perfectly, and they’re lovely to run in as they’re so light and they sit well. I also took a GlucoJuice on the bike, taped to the top tube with some electrical tape. I’d practiced using them on the tri bike in training and they’re surprisingly easy to use – I make less mess with these than gels. The trick is what to do with the bottle after you’ve drunk from it. Retape it? Too tricky & slow. You can squeeze it into your lycra but that’s not ideal. Dealing with gel packets is easier (they slip into your lycra – shorts or top – and then you can pull them out bin them at water stations). I take a GlucoJuice before the start, so in longer races I could pick one up in T2 but that might be a bit late.
A couple of students from the medicine course were racing too, Leanne got 2nd place in the short course ladies event. She’s hooked now. Adam look tired when he finished!
Chat, mixing, and then coffee & a second breakfast by the sea in a cafe right by the finish area. Lovely. I hung around until it was time to pick my mum up from the train station (she visited for the weekend), taking in the sun & the sea. A great start to a great weekend!
As usual my gadgets were cleverer than me. I was racing with my Garmin 305 and I set it to auto-lap whenever I crossed the bike mount line. Smart, eh? You can set these things to auto lap by position as they’re GPS based. So run, hit lap button when entering T1, auto lap with bike leaving T1, auto lap with bike entering T2, hit lap button when running out of T2. (You can’t hit the lap button when you’re running with your bike).
I also set the auto multisport function so that it would automatically switch from run mode, to transition, to bike mode, to transition, and then to run mode with each of those laps. But I forgot to choose “start multisport” when the race started and just hit the start button instead. Oops. So the whole thing was recorded as a bike with laps. Oh well. In the race I didn’t really use it anyway other than to take a look at my heart rate occasionally and time. I mostly use it as a timer during the race and for data analysis after the race. I can’t figure out how to change the laps to run legs after the event. Oh well. Here’s the data: