Notes on My First Duathalon

Dartington Hall Trust, Totnes

The first and perhaps most important thing to note about a duathlon is that ‘being a decentish runner and owning a bike’ does not really qualify one (me) to compete in a run-cycle-run event. But being wine fuelled and embarrassingly susceptible to peer pressure I agreed to do my first one today. On Friday, I agreed to this on Friday.  Therefore the second very important thing to note is that 36 hours preparation (including a slow and easy yoga session on Saturday) is probably not *quite* enough for ones first competitive sporting event in…forever.

Still, being a woman of my word and an uber fan of the great outdoors, I forewent my extra hour in bed this morning braving the near freezing temperatures to have a crack at the Dartington Duathlon. Standing in the lung achingly cold Devonish air surrounded by serious unitard wearing eventers (really though, where’s a girl to look – no, YOU’RE hideously awkward) and miraging up duvet scenes, was the precise moment my friendship with Rachel breathed its last.*

Notes from my first duathlon
notes from my first duathlon
Notes from my first duathlon

Mercifully we signed up for the duathlon ‘light’ comprising a 5km run to start, a 2okm cycle ride in the middle, rounding off with a final 2.5km run. On paper this looks pretty reasonable. In practice and in Devon, slightly less so!

Here’s what I learnt today:

  • Duatheletes are truly delightful human beings. They might be off their t**s on endorphins or maybe the event just attracts happy souls, either way there was so much camaraderie and an abundance of encouraging hollers throughout. Good vibes and a pretty awesome atmosphere to kick off a Sunday. I suspect this is also true of other eventing types but I have no comparison data.
  • They were SO nice that not a single one pointed out the fact that my smiling maniacally around at them whilst the lower half of my face was covered in a snood was more than a little bit creepy. Don’t worry, I got there all on my own. Eventually. In my defence the current choice I have is petrol bomber chic under a snood or flashing my whole face which is sporting a hideously positioned 1 inch cut across my top lip. It looks a bit too fascist dictator for public consumption. Even in Devon.
  • Padded shorts are an essential component to any cycling event. This isn’t news and I’m probably not going to use the word ‘vagina’ on the internet so I’ll just tell you that I forgot my padded pants and am now dead from the waist down. It’s a bit of a concern.
  • Devon is not the place to try your first race event on account of ALL THE HILLS. But also, Devon might be the most beautiful place to try your first race event. That view ^^ can get you through a world of physical pain.
  • Chocolate flavoured gel packs taste vile. Utterly completely revoltingly vile.
  • Eventing rules are strict! The transitions are militant, no music allowed whilst you’re competing etc etc. I get it but it’s a hard pill to swallow for those more free of spirit/bad of attitude among us.
  • The marshals are comedy geniuses.
  • I was warned about the ‘jelly legs’ thing when transitioning from bike back to foot. I laughed and arrogantly thought my running legs were good enough to handle it. Whatever’s significantly wobblier than jelly, that’s what my legs were. A  barely set panna cotta perhaps? A big bag of jelly babies left in the car on a hot summers day that have all congealed into one squidgy mess? Whichever conjures up the softest, most malleable and unstable image for you, that was my legs before the last running stint. It was 50% hilarious, 50% genuinely horrifying.
  • Sweeping generalisation alert: British drivers really are arseholes to cyclists.
  • These things are bloody addictive. No sooner had I scoffed my celebratory Jaffa cakes and donned my snazzy medal did my mouth open “next time Rach, I think….’

Do you do this kind of thing? Tell me everything you know! 

*I jest of course, we’re just on a break….

Brunch @ Meat59, Exeter
Secret Beaches: Ness Cove Beach, Shaldon