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European Age Group Middle Distance Duathlon Championships - May 2017

Jeez. I haven't written a race report for more than a year. Funny how a string of mediocre results can diminish one's enthusiasm for web-boasting. I guess I should start with a quick re-cap of events between then and now.

Kalkar was my highlight of 2016 - sneaking a European medal was unexpected, but looking back at the training I did for that event I now consider it well deserved. Certainly trying to repeat that same level of preparation and motivation for this year has been a bridge too far. I knocked back the cycling during the summer, mainly as a result of spending five weeks in the USA without a bike... and consequently watched my hard earned CTL score drop off the chart. In some ways that gave me the motivation to put together a solid winter bike program, and to be fair that work has paid off. I'd love to say my running took another leap forward, but that would be a lie. In fact I struggled to complete events and tougher long training sessions, as a result I'm a step below where I had been last year. On reflection, I should have also taken a break in the Autumn to reset my run mojo, but didn't (I've still only taken two consecutive rest days on three occasions since August 2015).

The graph never lies and, although I'd failed to recreate my 'perfect' 2016 peak, things weren't looking too bad:

There were a couple of decent results to report in the back-end of 2016: back-to-back second place overall finishes in October at the brutal Tame the Bison duathlon (13k/30k/13k) and at the Bedford standard distance duathlon. Plus the abject failure of a DNF in the St Neots half marathon. 2017 kicked off with more disappointment: a tender calf meant a poor finish to my local village half marathon. Then brightened slightly with a more promising 1:20:01 at the Cambridge half marathon, before plummeting to a complete nadir at the Bedford British duathlon champs. In fairness, I'd had a stupidly busy week in the USA and had been sat on by a fat American on the flight home, but that's no excuse for being so pathetic. I packed it in half way through the first run, returning home vowing to quit racing with immediate effect.

So obviously, I didn't quit. But I am determined to have a change of perspective and re-prioritise what I want to try and achieve. To re-focus on cycling and low key local TTing - the thing I like doing most. I also want to carry on running, but more for pleasure. Local off-road routes for instance for the foreseeable future. I also decided that I should honour my plan to race in Germany; I couldn't really end my duathlon career with the shambles in Bedford.

On top of all that, the 2017 cycling season has started promisingly. A good 25 mile 2-up TT result with team-mate Rich got the ball rolling and since then I've set three new PBs on the local Abbo course and maintained a sub-26 record after five events thus far, including one with a crash halfway round (the day before travelling to Germany #noheroics). Whilst my bike form may have been to the detriment of the running, I can also thank a nicely structured training program designed to build my FTP and endurance steadily throughout the early year by trimming some of the usual wasted mileage. I have a number of targets to hit as we go forward with the TT season, and thanks to this promising form and a few aero tweaks I'm pretty confident on two wheels. In fact, since Germany I've also dropped my 10 mile PB to 20:38.

2-up TT with Rich

That brings me to Germany, Sankt Wendel and the European middle distance championships. As a result of the flakiness described already I was a bit apprehensive about this event. Would I actually finish it? Was it a good use of my time? I needn't have worried - it was a great weekend. Thanks in part to the good company of GB team-mate Bryan for the duration and the opportunity to get to know a number of other athletes out there. Plus the fact that Sankt Wendel is a beautiful secluded German market town and that the sun shone all weekend. And that the bike route was a blessing - tough climbs, fast descents, billiard table smooth. Challenging and picturesque in equal measure. The run route was nasty in places, but I didn't bother recce-ing it, so that would be a nice surprise for race day.

The run and bike profiles - 2 laps per run (10km each), 3 for the bike (60km)

After a pretty painless journey, save for a few interesting diversions, we registered and set about exploring the bike course. Often at slower speeds I find the course can seem more daunting (both up and down) but, although quite technical, it was clear this was going to suit me. I racked my bike and went off in search of our hotel, the evening athlete reception, and a dirty great big pizza. I slept well, found everything I needed for breakfast, and then headed back to potter round the tranquil transition area before our race start.

It was warming up nicely, but with a 9:25am start and nicely shaded run I wasn't expecting too many heat issues. I kept the first run absolutely under control. When I pace well it is a revelation, I really should try and do this more often. I resisted any urge to chase the leaders, eased up the steep hills, and by lap two was bringing back the eager and exhausted. T1 went without hitch and I was out on the bike.

Frankly, I'd still be out there now if I could. The 20km loop had everything, a longish climb of around 1.5 miles at an average of 7-8% followed by a twisting, fast descent. Then a transition section of rolling countryside interspersed by villages then a second slightly shorter, slightly shallower, significant climb. I climbed effortlessly and exercised my aero advantage on the downhills, and chased time on the interim sections. Sadly three laps came and went and I was back into T2.

The first lap of the second 10km was surprisingly comfortable. Will I never learn! I'd set off too quickly and was about to face the consequences. Lap 2 was a bit of a tyre fire. I maintained forward momentum at least, but slowed to a walk on the two steep 15%+ ascents. Without being sure, I had already accepted the fact that I was out of the medal positions, so focused on getting to the end. However, with hindsight it is a bit diappointing to have thrown away several minutes so close to the end. Just a small amount of time salvaged on this second lap could have meant a few positions higher in the overall standings. But it is what it is and at least I wasn't sat in Costa with the race still going on. I lay in the grass at the finish unable to move, so I guess I'd emptied the tank afterall. Another top-10 age group finish and top Brit - and we all know what that means... a good chance of qualification for next year!

By the end it was also pretty warm, so it took several post race drinks to return to normality. It took several more, of a different variety, to mask the aching in my ruined legs. A splendid post-race burger and team gathering in a local Irish bar (obvs.) put pay to the rest of the evening.

As ever it's good to have a bit of a training summary, so taking 1st September 2016 as the start of my cycle for this event:

- averaged 8:15 hours per week (with a high of 11:40 and a low of 5:20)
- averaged 90 miles biking / 30 miles running per week
- took 41 days off in 39 weeks

And the usual thank yous - to Zoe and the kids for supporting flawlessly and dealing with a number of disappointments. To Ian for helping me with my schedule, and TeamSS for bullying and ignoring my nonsense.

Thanks for reading!