Xtreme Terrain Festival Full Duathlon

Saturday, 11. 8. 2008  –  Category: Mountain biking, Running

I took part in the Xtreme Terrain Festival Full Duathlon at the end of September. Here’s a quick write up… drafted a few weeks ago, but hadn’t got round to publishing until now.

The XTF was hosted at Hawley Lake, Camberley on an army training ground. A series of events were taking place including a 10k run, triathlons (full and sprint), aquathon,full and sprint duathlons.

I’d not competed in a multisport event before, but enjoy the occasional bit of distance running and bit of off-roading on my mountain bike. To boot, I’m a crap swimmer, ruling out a triathlon, but the duathlon sounded right up my street.

The full duathlon is made up of a 10k run, 24k mountain bike and 5k run to finish. There was a sprint option also (5k/12k/2k) but seeing as I’m new to this and don’t have a pace benchmark, I thought I’d go for the endurance event.

Raceday arrived on Saturday. I haven’t got a car, so had to get to the venue by train from London and cycling to/from the stations at either end. By the time I got there I’d already cycled about 8 miles. Probably not the best start.

Arriving at Hawley Lake at around 8am, there was a heavy mist. You couldn’t see more than about 10 yards ahead. It was quite cool as well, with loads of moisture in the air – great conditions for running. That said – we were having a bit of an Indian summer in London at the time, so warmer weather would be coming.

I’d had some problems with my bike the night before. Doing a last minute chain cleaning operation somehow caused an issue with my front gear changing system (railiuer??) and any changes on the front rings were unreliable to say teh least. I got it looked at by one of the on-site tech’s, but with little joy. Time was getting on so I racked my bike, fitted the helmet cam I use snowboarding to the handlebars and took my place by the starting line for the first 10k run.

I am a slow runner and it takes me a good few miles to warm up to a decent pace. So I let pretty much everyone (about 60 participants in total) get ahead of my whilst I found my feet. I think its fair to say I was representing the n00bs in a field of fairly seasoned athletes.

2 laps of a 5k circuit, with the second feeling much easier than the first, through woodland, some muddy tracks, a bit of sand and gravel and a few hills, but nothing too bad.

Then on to the interesting bit – 1 minute transition (should have been quicker) – and on the bike heading to do 4 laps of the 6k circuit.

If I’m honest, I’ve always thought I was pretty good on a bike. But, I also know that I don’t ever really do any decent off-road mountain biking on difficult terrain.

The first lap of this cicruit was a massive wake up call! The track was really varied: narrow sections through trees, mogully terrain, steep downhills and some long uphill climbs, mud, puddles, and one nice concrete downhill section back to the start.

Half-way through lap 1, I was having serious words with myself for underestimating the course and not training properly for this terrain. My core muscles were screaming out in pain. It was fun though, and was thoroughly enjoying it by lap 2. I think my third lap was pretty quick, though was slowed down by a fair bit of traffic by lap 4 with other competitors getting in my way. Most of the course is narrow with only a few over taking opportunities.

I later found out I made up about 8 places during the cycle section, which pleased me.

Getting off the bike after the 4th lap and transition for the final 5k run was also pretty challenging. By now my legs were aching badly, and the mist had cleared revealing a beating sun.

Any hopes of making up any more places became a thing of the past. It was all about getting round and finishing now, with my only real fear – finishing last – a distinct possibility. Barely saw another person during this section.

My split times tell the story well.

10k run: 57 minutes
24k bike: 1h 30 min
5k run: 40 minutes

And very pleased not to finish last. About 45th out of 60, which I’ll take gladly!

So… a few lessons from this:

  1. Train for the terrain. Flat land cycling didn’t prepare me for this terrain. I love doing it so need to make a little more effort to get out of London and get off road.
  2. Stamina. The last 5k was hard work with not much left in the tank. I need to build up my endurance.
  3. Speed. Overall pace was a bit lacking. Will include some sprinting in my training as well.
  4. Duathlons are a lot of fun.

Next up is Hell Runner next weekend. Training has suffered a little recently as have been a bit under the weather. Have got a couple of 10+ milers under my belt so should be fun. Images like these though get the nerves going a bit.
Hell Runner
Hell Runner mud

Its going to be cold, wet and muddy for sure, and a longer distance run that any section of Tough Guy or the duathlon. If the course is the same as in this write up it should be doable though.

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