Bowood sprint duathlon event is hosted in early October in the grounds of Bowood House, near Calne in Wiltshire. This was a new challenge for me as I had not done much cycling or any races involving a bike before…
Overview of Bowood Sprint Duathlon
The race comprises a 5km run, 21km bike and 5km. I knew that given the venue, it would be a nice day out running and cycling around the traffic-free grounds of the manor house, so was looking forward to my first bike race being in this relatively safe environment. I’m still quite nervous on my road bike and planned to use my clipless pedals for the first time so being traffic-free was important for me.
We got there early with plenty of time to get the bikes set up in the transition area and check out how transition actually worked. One thing I’ve found in researching triathlon transitions (which relates to duathlons too) is that there seems to be so many rules (formal and informal) to follow, such as how you rack your bike, where you put your bike shoes etc (underneath the front/back of the bike, to the side?) and definitely do not touch your bike without first having your helmet on. Gah! I find the thought of these a little stressful, compared to trail running events where you just run and use common sense, with the only rules in certain (usually longer) races being mandatory kit that you must carry with you.
Anyway, I racked my bike, still not sure if my stuff was in the ‘right’ place, and went to find the start area. It turns out the run was partially on gravel tracks, including through rocks and along the side of the lake, and partially on grass. Slight error, I had brought my road and not trail shoes, but given it was only 5k and a dry day this was not a huge issue – the On Cloudsurfers I wear for roads are actually pretty damn good off-road too, the rubber ‘clouds’ on the sole give good grip.
Adult competitors started in three waves. I managed to rope a couple of colleagues in to race on the day, but they ended up in different waves than myself and Ali, who went first. After a short briefing, our wave of around 30 people started the first 5km. I knew I wasn’t going to be very fast, as I hadn’t done any speed training for about a year, having focused on being able to run longer distances and hills rather than fast 5kms. So I settled in about 3/4 the way back, and made my way around the two laps of the surprisingly hilly run course.
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At the end of the second lap I headed into the grassy transition area, found my bike and sipped water, downed a gel, put on my helmet and changed my shoes, before taking my bike to the exit, turning left to start the 7 laps of the 3km bike course. It took two attempts to get my second foot clipped in, but I was fine with that, and pleased I managed this with no drama and was moving along the bike course in no time.
I do wish I had done some cycling in the months running up to this event! I wasn’t awfully slow but I certainly wasn’t fast. Despite the gel after the 5km, my legs felt a bit heavy after the third lap (9km in) and I changed onto the easy cog for the rest of the section. The course was undulating and had a number of speed bumps but was not particularly challenging so I know I could have been a lot faster if I had had more pedalling strength in my legs from training.
The second thing I was pleased with is that I had remembered to count my laps correctly. This sounds silly but it is so easy to get into a zone where time passes and you forget how many loops you have done.
So I got to the end of the 7th lap and moved across to the right of the path to turn right back into transition. I knew there would be a line I had to dismount before, and as I approached it, I unclipped my right foot, ready to set down before the line. This is where things went a little awry, as the marshall by the line kept telling me to ‘go up to the line’. I was confused – did she want me to go right up to it? Wouldn’t stopping 2 metres before, which I was just about to do, it be ok? It seemed odd that they wanted people to seemingly go right up to (and possibly over?) the line, but then again it was quite narrow there so maybe they actually wanted bikes to roll past it to where the path gets wider…?
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Apparently not – just as I got to the line, she stepped out in front of me, to my right, and told me to STOP. This gave me a shock so I quickly squeezed my brakes to stop before the line, and, as she was on my right, instinctively leaned to the left side (which was still clipped in) and fell over, off the bike. In equal parts seriously irritated and embarrassed, I picked the bike up, mumbled that I was fine and went and parked it back in transition.
After changing my shoes and grabbing my vizor and another gel, I hit the trail for the second 5km (the same as the first). I was still pretty annoyed about the bike incident. The main concern I have with riding clip less is being able to stop safely without falling off, and I had been looking forward to proving to myself that I could do this, and gaining a confidence boost from it. The opposite had happened, and I spent the next 20 minutes of the run justifying to myself that what happened couldn’t be helped and that anyone would have ended up on the floor if someone had prevented them from getting off on their planned side.
The end of the run loop has a pretty cheeky hill to climb, and I was relieved to see it for the fourth and final time. I love hills! I stomped up it, overtaking a couple of guys on the way (always a pleasure) and headed for the finish line – I’d done it!
I claimed my finisher’s medal and a woven Events Logic shopping bag (which is very useful for carry transition kit), and found Ali, who was waiting for me at the finish. Soon after, my two colleagues finished, both with great times, particularly as one of them had done a very fast bike leg on his commuter bike, putting the rest of us with lightweight road bikes to shame!
My overall result
- 5km run 26.08
- T1 2.06
- 21k bike 51.39 (24.4km/hr)
- T2 1.52
- 5km run 28.06
- Total 1h49.49
- 19/30 female (83/119 overall)
Looking at the overall results, my transition times were very slow in comparison to most people, who managed in around 1.00-1m15. Next time I would probably just use flat bike pedals so I could wear the same shoes for the whole event, or at least put elastic laces on my running shoes, because that would save the time I must have spent undoing/doing up shoes. I would also think twice about having the aerobars on the bike, as I didn’t use them once. Partly because I didn’t feel confident in doing so, but mainly because there were few really straight sections (without speed bumps) on which I would have used them. Finally, I’d choose different nutrition that I can eat while on the bike. I’ve heard great things about Clif Shot Bloks (less messy than gels) so will be trying them out on future runs and rides.
This was a fun event! At £40 the price was ok, but significantly more costly than similar low-key trail running events. It’s something I will have to get used to as all the duathlons I’ve seen advertised are £35+ but it does mean that I wouldn’t do them as often as running races. I may well go back to this event again in 2016 to beat my times…
It was great to see so many photographers on the course, and even better to find that they had taken several good pictures of both of us along the way. The price to buy the pictures was reasonable, which was a refreshing change, so we ordered several.