Adrian Fuller Blog on Oulton Park Spring Duathlon
At last it would appear that one of the most challenging winters for training finally seems to be coming to an end and we are now experiencing warmer temperatures and preparing for what will hopefully be a long and successful season. Not since I was preparing for the London Marathon back in 2001 when Britain was blighted by foot and mouth have creativity and flexibility been the key to getting in winter miles. I think we are all coming in to the season a little bit light on training. However, it has meant that creativity has been key whether it be getting the mountain bike out, swift, sufferfest, cashing in long rides for long steady runs as well as adjusting our race schedule. I am extremely lucky to have just spent a few days out in Mallorca topping up on training and getting ready for a summer of racing. If you have never been out to Mallorca, it is something I can strongly recommend.
In recent months, I have really felt for race organisers across the country who have had to make difficult decisions. One has to remember that there are a very large number of factors that the athletes don’t think of that have to be taken on board when looking at whether a race can go ahead so I always respect 100% this decision and we are very lucky that those of you who missed out on the Oulton Park Duathlon back in March will have a chance to race on Sunday 29th April.
Held on the iconic racing circuit in rural Cheshire, Oulton Park is a brilliant venue with beautiful smooth wide tarmac, sweeping bends, an undulating challenging circuit with a spacious well organised pit lane transition. Backed up by the superb organisation provided by Xtramile events, it is no surprise that the race is often an age group qualifier which is a credit to the rigorous systems that are in place to ensure a fantastic safe race. This spring’s race is no exception as the field will contain many of the best age groupers in the country in the final showdown of the year fighting for qualification for the 2018 World Sprint Distance Duathlon in Fyn, Denmark.
Personally I will not be taking a place in the race on April 29th as I am resting up ahead of the European Middle Distance Duathlon Championships in Denmark the following weekend and the Fred Whitton Challenge the weekend after that. Instead, I will be working as part of a really hard working and professional Xtramile event crew team many of whom are competing athletes and who have only last week delivered an extremely successful Greater Manchester Marathon, one of the UK’s fastest growing races now supported by athletes from all over the globe.
Due to the rescheduling of the Oulton Park Duathlon, there will be athletes all with personal targets, simply completing a race of this magnitude for the first time, a warm up for the triathlon season or going all out to get that qualifying time and representing their country in the World Championships later in the summer.
I would simply like to offer the following steps which I believe are key to achieving that goal whatever it may be. Due to the winter that we have had, at this point we only have the miles in the bag that we have, nothing can change that and we have to just getting that last bit of prep right to have an outstanding race.
Back off the training - Physiologically, you can achieve nothing in the last few days prior to a race. The weekend before the event have a steady bike ride or run, or even a short race but don’t do anything crazy. In the few days before the race again just keep ticking over. If you are doing an interval session, keep it at around 75%. Work on the aero position if you are on a TT bike without maxing out on effort. You don’t want to blow your race by picking up an injury or going into a big race fatigued. On the day before, I always take a 15 minute run with a few 30 second strides just to keep the legs moving.
Have a pre race massage - Don’t leave it until the day before but Thursday or Friday have a massage as this will flush all the lactic out of your legs and get you ready for race day.
Eat and drink plenty. You can blow all your training by neglecting your diet in the 48 hours prior to your race. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary but up your carbohydrate intake and drink plenty of water particularly on Saturday. Don’t try anything new, the body essentially likes routine. If you are having pasta, have an extra few grams or an extra spoonful of rice and add in tonic water as this will help as an anti-cramp mechanism.
‘If it aint broke don’t fix it’ - If your bike is working, don’t book it in for a service in the days leading up to the race. If it is in full working order, leave it. Race day is also not the time to try out your new bike, wheels or kit. If you are not 100% comfortable in training with the equipment you have, leave it at home. If you must clean your bike use a cloth to clean up the frames and wipe your rims but unless anything desperately needs replacing, leave it. New components may gain you a couple of seconds, however if you bike has been taken apart it may not be quite as you wish and on race day you have a ‘mechanical’. Inflate your tyres on Friday or Saturday, unless you are running a slow puncture which clearly you will need to change, your tyres will be fine. Inflating your tyres to max on race day is not only hard work but will also increase your risk of a blow out in the race. Oulton Park really is beautiful smooth surface so you can risk going to max pressures.
If you plan to feed during the race, I like to attach my gels to my cross bar with masking tape and they can easily be removed during the race. For standard distance you are probably looking at 2 gels and 1 gel for sprint. One drinks bottle should also be sufficient.
Get organised and pack the night before - I always pack my kit the night before, the less you have to do on race day the better. Try and get to Oulton Park a couple of hours before the race starts. Collecting numbers, getting changed and racking your bike all takes time. If you are running late it increases stress and could be detrimental to your race. It is part of the whole experience to meet friends and fellow competitors and soak up the atmosphere in the arena. Also there is a detailed race briefing which you must attend and also get in a 10/15 minute jog pre race to loosen up and calm the nerves.
Transition - If you are after a PB or Age group qualification, your time spent in transition can be the difference between success and failure. Take time to visualise exactly where your spot is. Even though markers are not allowed, look for a landmark which will remind you where you need to go. When you are tired, it is not as easy as it sounds. Keep the belongings that you take into transition to the minimum, keep it simple. Have a look at exactly where the mount/dismount lines are and work out where you need to apply the brakes and get your shoes off and out of the cleats. Again when you are in a race situation and fatigued, mounting and dismounting is not as easy as it sounds.
Play by the rules. British Triathlon officials will have a presence at Oulton Park so please ensure you are fully aware with the regulations in regards to helmets and when you must put them on and take them off.
Check the weather - Have a look at the local forecast and dress accordingly. I always go simply for a tri suit and if its looks like it is going to be cold, go for a thermal or arm warmers.
Count the laps. Oulton Park is a multi-lap race. Many people will be using GPS on their bikes or watches but always have back up. I go for loom bands on my tri bars and move them at the end of each lap as a fool proof method. Particularly as Standard distance, counting the laps isn’t easy.
Pace judgement - You won’t achieve your goal in the first mile of the race but you could easily lose it. Remember if you are entering the Standard race, you could be out for over 2 hours and the last run will hurt. On the first couple of laps on the bike, take it steady, get used to the track, the bends the gradients and really push on in the second half. Also the bike is the time to keep your fluids and energy levels topped up. On the second run, give everything you have, it will hurt but remember particularly if you are after age group qualification, every second could count to get you that top percentage so leave it all out on the track.
Safety first - At the end of the day, however much you love your sport and want to succeed, we are all there because we enjoy it and most of us have to be able to go to work the next day. Always ride within your limits, look after your fellow competitors and also yourself. There will be cyclists moving at 60kph at times so no sudden manoeuvres and stay focussed. Cutting someone else up could save you a few seconds but if you get it wrong you could end up with serious injury and causing an accident yourself. Blatant dangerous riding can lead to instant disqualification and this is fully justified as we all want to be able to go home that night and not be in A and E.
Recovery - As soon as you cross the finish line your recovery process begins. Have a protein shake as soon as you can as well as a massage. Within the first couple hours after the race have some lunch, even a beer just don’t go too crazy. Have a few easy days’ post-race as after a long hard race you are very susceptible to injury.
Enjoy it and reflect on your achievement, whether it is competing your first duathlon, a PB or securing Age group qualification. I will be working around transition, please come and say hello and I will try and answer any late concerns you may have Good luck at Oulton Park and enjoy a fantastic summer of racing.