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British Standard Distance Age-group Championships and Althorp Duathlon 2014

It's time for one more race report to bring my 2014 race season to an official close... although, this report is going to cover two races - both standard (10k/40k/5k) distance duathlons - completed in the space of seven days in October.

The executive tl;dr summary is that both went broadly to plan and I obtained the results I wanted. That's not to say I won't be looking for more improvement over the winter...

First up was the British Age Group Championships at Emberton Country Park, near Olney in Buckinghamshire.

On the advice of a training pal, I made the effort to recon the course a week or two earlier and I'm very glad I did - as on race morning it was foggy (not to mention very chilly). Knowing that the undulating, twisty and now, at points, invisible bike course was in fact fairly harmless was a great help.

But I'm getting ahead of myself; there was the small matter of the opening 10k to tackle first. Whether it was thanks to the perfect cool and still conditions, or the pan flat course, or perhaps the healthy field of high quality athletes to thrive off, this turned out to be one of my best ever runs. I paced well and felt comfortable finishing in the low 35s. Even if it was a little short, I'm pretty confident that it could have been a PB beating sub-36 10k.

Transition to bike was solid and I was off into the misty countryside. The course features four main rises per lap: the first three come in the early miles then the last before the long fast downhill run-in. It's challenging only really because it is difficult to settle into a rhythm, not unlike our local Abbotsley TT loop. That said, I made hard work of my two laps and came in a minute or two outside my target time.

The second run was another satisfying effort. It was mentally hard to hold my speed, but I was physically capable. A decent split brought the reward of 21st place overall and 5th in my age group. There was clearly a very competitive field for this race and I was very content with my performance.

A week later it was the turn of the Althorp standard distance duathlon, held at the ancestral home of the Spencer family (as in Lady Diana Spencer) in Northamptonshire.

This would be the last qualifying race of the year for the 2015 European Championship age group teams and as a result had attracted another strong field. It would be the same distance but very different conditions - windy and warm (like sleeveless tri-suit warm) but wet and very muddy!

Run #1 set off across the fields and I settled into a pack of 10 or so runners behind a lone leader. The undulating terrain was heavy going and my run speed was significantly down on the previous week; one way or another we got it done.

The bike course was similar in profile to the British Champs race - rolling hills and lots of bendy road.

The strong winds were also a significant factor as was the early mile or two sector of Roubaix like mud pavement. On my first pass of this treacherous road I lost my much needed energy drink, only to be taunted twice later in the ride as I passed through the quaint but ironically named village of Nobottle.

You couldn't make this up. Anyway, again I didn't exactly set the bike leg on fire but instead just managed to hold it all together.

At the start of the final run I was already feeling gassed and dehydrated. The tough route didn't help at all and my pace declined dramatically. With the use of some desperate distraction techniques (counting backwards in prime numbers from 997 anyone?) I was able to avoid any thoughts of quitting and got myself across the 5k line.

Another satisfactory result of 12th overall secured, but more importantly I came 2nd in my age group - enough to guarantee that all important European qualifying spot for Team GB in 2015. Madrid here we come!

So, where do we stand at the end of the season? I have respectable National Championship places on two continents to my name and the 2015 qualification spot I'd targeted at the beginning of the year. Add to that the various PBs and placings collected earlier on in 2014 and the experience of racing the World Championship long course event.

From here I want to continue to ride the wave of run gains, but I also need to get myself back on track on the bike. Time for some focussed sessions on the turbo trainer to boost the FTP I think!

Thank you all for your support and interest!