Silverstone Duathlon – The End of a Personal Battle

Determined to Win

(Image © TattyDon)

I am, and have always been, highly competitive both at work and at sports. Now that I run, that competitive nature has been channeled less into beating other people or teams but primarily into self improvement and constantly pushing myself. Every run, every cycle is now a foundation block to targeted races, the bricks which build up to that personal best. Every now and then though, I am still absolutely focused on beating others. The Silverstone Duathlon last Wednesday was one of those occasions.

Last Wednesday’s Duathlon was the second in the series. It’s a short evening session of just 3.4m, 9m,1.7m) I had loved the first  one. It was the most competitive event I had ever taken part in. The majority of entrants, which included some sporting GBR tri-suits, were clearly experienced triathletes and this was an easy training session for them. It was actually the first event since I’ve started properly running where there was no bling for entering – only for winning. I set off fast that day running legs at 6:48 pace and 7 minutes pace respectively which was a minute inside my 5k PB. The field completely carried me along and it was certainly the most intense exercise I have done since I started in January. I knew the bike would be my weaker element and it proved to be exactly that.    Cramp, limited training, (and a lack of talent) meant  I dropped 27 places in the cycle and a further 5 during the transitions. I finished in a time of 1.08.23 which I was pretty pleased with and a position of 76/100 (Male).

I was targeting 1:06:00 this time. My intention being to make up the two minutes, twenty-three seconds on the bike section and the transitions. In the intervening month I had done several interval sessions (one on the bike, three on the runs) plus a couple of longer two hour plus rides on the bike. I hadn’t practiced transitions but know I had scope to improve there. Fair to say, I nailed it. Set off faster and took 43 seconds out of my run time. New 5km PB and then took nearly ten per cent out of my bike time. My transitions improved a lot too adding nearly another minute to the new total. I ended on 1.04.31.

To add to that, the personal issue. I didn’t realise until just before the start but someone turned up to race who I needed to beat. Someone who when I was at my absolute lowest mental point last year, manipulated me and tried to consistantly put me down professionally in order to meet his own personal objective. It would be fair to say that I had a personal score to settle. That for the first time since I had started running, I needed to compete against an individual rather than against myself. He may have not even noticed I was there. It didn’t matter. This was for me.

For the first time in sport, I realised how tough it is to be ahead. In football, tennis, hockey – everything I had done, you know where you are, are completely aware of what you have to do. I knew I’d put in a good run but also knew that he was both a strong runner and even stronger cyclist. Whilst being aware at first transition that i was well ahead, I had no idea where he was. All I could do was focus on my bike session and hope I was holding him off. He caught me at the end of the final lap. Thirty seconds on the bike to go. A very satisfied glance across from him as he swept by let me know he absolutely knew I was there. I stayed

Put The Pedal Down and Go
Image © TattyDon)

with him into transition. His transition was faster than mine and again, as he set off, that same confident, self-satisfied look – He had done me. I deliberately took a moment, reached for my water in transition, took a measured sip and set off. I knew that if I passed him I had to pass him properly. If he stayed with me, he would have the advantage and come past me as I tired. I watched him ahead of me, watched his form and realised he was hurting so I put the hammer down. Drew level. Glanced across to register the look of discomfort on his face. Mentally photographed that and pushed on. Easy form, no fatigue. Just how I had trained.  I didn’t look back for two minutes but when I did he had gone. I had done it. I finished nearly two minutes clear.

As I normally do at any event, I walked back up the course a bit to applaud, support and offer encouragement to those who were coming in to the finish. Running is like that, life is like that. Support others, especially those who share your skills or interests. He didn’t. He finished. He walked, eventually, back up to cheer on just the two people he had arrived with. No more.

I knew then that that I had won. That the personal battle was over. It didn’t matter if he was in a future duathlon and what his time was in that. I was no longer interested. My time going forward is what matters – my time against my targets. I was a runner. I was genuine. I represented everything that he had shown to me he wasn’t. I’d finally got that shallow attracts shallow. I had shown commitment, encouragement and support. I was finally free.

I arrived home elated but that was surprisingly replaced by a real feeling of negativity. I had absolutely put to bed an internal battle I had been fighting for a long time. The feeling of freedom from that though was to some extents an anti climax. I know in the next few weeks that will be massive. But right then, it was tough.

At the end of the first duathlon, I was elated at having completed it but I knew that I could have done more on my cycle ride. I knew that the cramp had slowed me considerably. On this one my feeling when I woke up on Thursday morning was where was I going to go next? I felt I had hit a plateau on the run. (I hadn’t  – I had taken nearly a minute out of an overall 5 miles). I thought that I had been pretty flat out on the bike in the highest gear and yet I had been caught by the single person I needed to beat. Again, I had taken almost two minutes out of my 9 mile time.

It’s taken a couple of days to realise that actually I put in a great performance (for me), but that vitally it wasn’t a one off. I had actually taken some significant times out of each of the three sections: Run, Bike and Transition. There is more in the tank though. To start with, I need more of the same. More miles on the road and on the bike. More of the interval training. The structured approach is absolutely paying dividends. Time to invest in hardware too. A higher gear cog and aerobars. I’m still a long way down the field and that shows there is loads of room for improvement.

So, after a reflective rest day I am once again at peace. Free completely from past demons and with better understanding,  and focussed on knowing how to improve for next time. How to take another 2.30 minutes off the total and being absolutely confident that it is that target I am looking at (1:02) and nothing, or no one else that matters.

Overall stats

The Tunnel Of Depression

I’m in a tunnel, I’m not sure where. It’s dark. I’m running. Fast. Tracks stretch ahead of me and I can hear a train behind me. The noise is killing me. Taking over my thoughts – I can no longer think straight. I’m not sure how close it is. I daren’t look. Just need to keep running. 

Depression hits you out of the blue. I will go for months, years even without an episode and then suddenly it’s there and by the time I’ve recognised it, I’m out of control, desperately grasping for stability across my life, fighting for control but slipping, sliding downwards until it’s ruling your life again. 

“Just Keep on Running”
(Image © Eckenheimer 2014)

I break out of the tunnel into green fields and sunshine. I’m still running now. I can still hear the train. There’s a corner ahead and I’ve no idea what lies beyond it. More green fields and sunshine or another tunnel. I think the train is still there. I’m not looking though. Just keeping on running.

I have so many false starts. So many times when I think I’m through it. That I’ve worked it all out in my head and I have a strategy to get better. Then a trigger hits you and back you go, worse this time because you know you had a plan, know you failed again to deliver against it and know its’ going to be tougher next time.

Another tunnel. Running faster now, hard turn after turn. On the edge of control.  Like a rollercoaster. Plummeting down at speed and desperately climbing again. The noise is incredible, crashing around my ears. Taking over my senses. Fast, faster. Got to keep ahead of the train. I can feel it on my back. It’s close now. 

It always takes a while for others to notice how bad it is.  And then everyone wants to talk. And talking is good (sometimes). But just talking it through doesn’t mean instant success. That can leave the friends feeling they have failed because the effect isn’t clear. But it helps, it’s just so gradual, so unpredictable. Talking initially makes it worse. A couple of hours, days even of positive thoughts before plummeting back, often worse than before. I have to keep trying to talk though because at some point, something will click and I will be out and free again. Stronger than before and with experience of reaching tranquillity which will serve me well the next time. 

Jogging now alongside a set of railway tracks. There’s a vintage steam train up ahead, steam billowing into the cloudless blue sky. To my left is the sea, to my right open green fields sloping into hills. A bustling coastal village in the distance and suddenly I can see my house. Home. I slow to a walk, secure in the knowledge that I’m going to get home, grab a beer and kick back in the garden. I know I will get there this time, and I know now in my heart that I can always get back to this place again.

It’s vital to go through this with friends and family who believe in you, genuine people who care and want to help. In the end though, the only belief that actually means anything is the belief in yourself. I believe in me. I’m still here. And I know I always will be.