It's hard to reflect on the Long Course Duathlon World Championships (at Powerman Zofingen) without looking back at what has gone before it - what a crazy year!
I had a number of short and medium distance duathlons planned, both in the US and in the UK (we knew that we'd be moving back home at the end of May) so I adjusted my training to concentrate on various mixed high intensity running / cycling workouts and brick sessions. By late spring I could feel the bike form coming along too.
On returning to Cambridgeshire, I set about testing my cycling form on the local TT circuit. Strong PBs at 10miles and 25miles told me that the North Carolinian heat and hills had been good for me! Then the email arrived - confirming that I had been accepted to race for Team GB in the age group event at Zofingen. With the generous support of my wife it didn't take long for me to commit.
I am typical of many age group athletes in that I have to juggle my training around work and family. Also characteristically I know what I should be doing in terms of nutrition and recovery but haven't always managed to put the theory into practice. With the protein shots I was able to get into a healthy recovery routine and improve my body's ability to respond to the demands of the increased training load. It is also incredibly easy to use and tastes very good!
Final prep for the race came at the Newmarket duathlon with a convincing second place overall, despite sliding off on one of the first corners of a slippery bike course and losing a fair area of skin.
With everything in place we set out for Switzerland. It was to be a smash-and-grab trip, leaving on the Saturday morning arriving in time to register, put together my bike and fuel up before the race on Sunday. Our return flight was on the Sunday evening - nothing like a bit of pressure to get it over with quickly!
After the introduction of the elite athletes, we were off. The first run starts hard uphill - like immediately from the line for a mile and a half. I am usually quite comfortable on the hills so was able to get into a good rhythm. The second half of the loop returns you back to the arena before repeating the same all over again - including that, now more taxing, hill climb. All in all I kept the 9.2km run #1 right between the buoys; pretty much bang on my 6:20 target pace.
It was only when trotting into transition #2 that I realised exactly how much damage those mountains had done. Running off the bike was bearable but the moment the route went uphill, and it did so dramatically almost immediately, I found I had little more to give. As ever, I went into survival mode, ticking away metre by metre of the 17 mile course usually walking the uphill sections and running the down hills. Hopes of a high placed finish disappeared there and then, but I was still happy to get it done and chalk up a notable achievement in completing my first World Championship and the celebrated Powerman course.
So what do I know now? Well Powerman is a real hardman's race - the ability to climb and run steep inclines is a necessity - something I would need to train more specifically for. I was happy with my energy levels and particularly nutrition, the only change I would make is to hit the hard candy earlier on in the bike leg to prepare sooner for the inevitable low. I do believe the protein shots proved invaluable in letting me get the most from a relatively short period of increased training without any suggestion of the type of injury I'd normally associate with a similar change in approach. Tellingly I was also able to get straight back into a series of hard sessions just a few days post-race.
What next? Well I still have other duathlon aspirations for the remainder of the season including the British Championships and a European Champonships qualifier in the coming weeks. I hope to be able to tune my speed to meet the endurance form picked up over the past couple of months and apply them over the standard 10km / 40km / 5km distance. I may also try to throw in one last run challenge before the year is out, but more on that later...