London Duathlon – What a way to start the ‘5×50 Challenge’.

The ‘5×50 Challenge’ is for people like you to walk, jog, run or cycle 5km for 50 days in a row and it started today…I did 59km’s!

A ‘Duathlon’ consists of two disciplines with a cycle and a run being the most common but sometimes the organisers are nasty and they put a run before the cycle and run.

Welcome to ‘The London Duathlon‘. Run-Bike-Run.

As I’ve said in previous blogs, every thing I do this year is all about 23rd September and The London Triathlon. So I booked the Edinburgh Marathon to make me run, booked the Marlow 3Km open water swim to make me erm…swim and had booked Capital to Coast to make me cycle. However, The Stone Roses reforming forced me to miss the cycle event so up stepped Richmond Park’s London Duathlon.

These 3 events are not your run of the mill events as they require training otherwise they can bite you in the ass…HARD!

I ‘suffered’ in Edinburgh and Marlow so I thought it’s about time I ‘owned’ a race. I felt good about this race until I saw that yet again I was taking part in another race on a HOT day. Bath Half Marathon, Edinburgh and The Concorde Triathlon were all on scorching hot days so maybe I should apologise to other London Duathletes as I feel I’m some sort of a jinx.

I’m a firm believer in not worrying about things you have no control over but you do have to adapt to the blazing sunshine and it does affect you…especially if you’re Scottish! 😉

I would now class myself as a runner after a 1.21 half marathon and 3.08 full marathon but cyclist I ain’t. I’m keen to learn but I love running as it’s you and your body vs the race but with cycling, the bike is a factor. I have a Trek bike that my Mum bought on Gum Tree  in Aberdeen and on hearing it wasn’t being used I shipped it down to London. It ain’t carbon, it ain’t light but to me that’s the challenge. I need to make the engine work to transport this thing from A to B as fast as possible.

I upgraded it a wee bit with cleats and pedals then went for a few cycles around Surrey and even ventured into Richmond Park a couple of times but what I found was even though I thought I was doing well, others would fly past me with it seems less effort. I wanted to ask them what their secret was! I googled ‘How to make your bike faster’ and tri bars came up so I bought a set but apart from buying a more expensive bike I had to do the best with what I had. So I went to Richmond Park and cycled from Kingston gate to Robin Hood gate 5 times and learned to work the gears better. I started to overtake people and I was loving it. I started to feel faster and to me that was progress.

So roll forward to Sunday 9th September. I decided to get up early to pick my spot in transition and apart from the ‘Ultra Duathletes’ they’re was probably only 5 other bikes in transition when I racked mine up at the edge.

Always good to get your pick of the rack as that way it’s easy to find but you also get to plan the best strategy for the entry and exit phase without anyone else dictating this for you. This photo, taken 30 mins later should show you what I mean.

This gave me time to chill out (no need to register as I’d done that the day before) and chat to a few people I knew would be there and do the customary ‘toilet stop’ before getting all my kit ready in transition and on my person. Doing a multi-discipline event requires so much preparation in terms of water, electrolyte drinks, gels as well as all the bike equipment. 15 mins to go as the ‘Ultra Duathletes’ left, I popped my 1st gel and was ready.

I was in the very first wave and being number 300 I thought I’d be called up first as the race numbers for the ‘Classic Distance’ (10km run, 44km cycle, 5km run) went from 300 – 2906. That wasn’t the case as 150 duathletes were put in each pen and were to start in blocks of 10. I was having none of it and went to the front…it would’ve been different from what I anticipated so forward I went. 10 of us were called forward and as usual I checked them all out. I still let myself get intimidated by the look of others but am getting less so the more confident I become in my own ability. RG Active went off about 4 minutes before us then it was my turn…3…2…1…HONK!!!

I set off at a steady pace and immediately started thinking about London 2012 and some of the athletes and their recent successes. It was rubbing off. I went into the lead but had someone hanging on my shoulder for the first km and I started thinking about putting a bit of a kick in to get rid of him and then quickly thought of my ‘You vs You’ mantra and kept to a pace that I was comfortable with. He soon dropped off and then it was me at the front. I’d run the 15km (10km and 5km routes) in one go so I knew the route and was ready for the steady climb to Richmond Gate. As soon as that was done it was pretty much flat or downhill…bonus. Another bonus was that I started catching some of the RG Active runners and the ‘Ultras’. Before I knew it I was approaching the transition zone and seeing that I’d done a sub 39min 10k, faster than I had planned but I ran at a comfortable pace and it happened to be a very quick time especially as we had the early hill to conquer.

As I came into transition I saw Kirsty and Sam cheering me on, well Kirsty was, Sam wanted to run to meet me! I am keeping myself fit for many reasons but two of the main ones are to remain attractive to Kirsty and to be the most active I can for Sam especially as we both grow older so seeing them is always a very welcome boost.

I got to my bike and thought ‘be calm’. Trainers off, bike shoes on, sunglasses on, helmet on, grab a well deserved drink ( I put a bottle of water in the freezer overnight so it was well cool by then) and then get the hell out of there.

I got on to the road and mounted my bike and prepared to be caught by the masses behind but I seemed to hold my own. I know Richmond park and with the previously mentioned hill training and the fact that I’d done 3 laps of the park about 3 weeks ago I set into a rhythm and prepared to attack ‘Challenge Hill’ for the 1st of 4 times. I wasn’t worried about the hill but seemed more concerned about the speedy cyclists catching me. Again, I thought of ‘you vs you’ and got on with it. The first lap was quiet as I was one of the early cyclists out there but during laps 2-4 at times we were riding 4 abreast. I got over taken by no more than 20 people with some of them being ‘Ultras’ so I was impressing myself. What I did have a problem with was that my calves kept giving me ‘cramp twinges’. As we all know that when cramp sets in you are in trouble but I started to glug my Nectar Fuel Hydro Tab drink which is full of electrolytes to try to calm them down as I still had a 5km run for goodness sakes!!! I got through the cramp on laps 1-3 by also stretching my calves on the lovely fast downhill stretch from Richmond Gate to Roehampton and by lap 4 it seemed to have gone. I was well chuffed.

The course/park is fast especially as you go from gate to gate with some very tight corners and at a couple of them I felt that luck was on my side as my peddle scraped the floor on one particular tight turn. At one point I felt as mass pile up was on the cards as about 15-20 cyclists including a hand bike entered the turn but we all came out unscathed. I saw a few people sorting out punctures and about 4 people who’d been involved in accidents…this cycling lark is harder than running I thought.

As I passed Sheen crossroads for the final time I took my feet out of my shoes and peddled on top of them as all the pro’s do that 😉 and made my way back into transition. A bit of a scary moment as I misjudged the cyclist in front of me speed and did a little ‘endo’ as I slammed on my brakes. Off the bike and run into transition sounds easy but it was anything but. I was running in socks over very undulating ground with tight legs an Achilles pain ( It stems from my Marlow swim when someone landed on my calf as they jumped into the Thames) and pain in my right foot (my bike shoes are causing me this when I cycle). I got to my transition zone, racked my bike, helmet off, trainers on, took some more (still cool) water and then attempted to run the 5km route.

Doing a 5km run at the end of a 2hr+ bout of hard racing means you ain’t gonna run a PB…you ain’t gonna come close so that thought goes out of your head as you feel heavy! What I had to do is keep going, keep fighting and get to the bloody finish line!

It was hot! I was tired but I had the weight of everyone that participates in #FitTeam12 on my shoulders. Now I’ve worded that wrong on purpose as having the weight of something would be seen as a burden but I thrive on this. My job is to motivate people to get fit. Over the past 2 years I have found the power in inspiring people as well as motivating. Since joining twitter and since I’ve been ‘kicking my ass’ to get out of my comfort zone I’ve become, as a personal trainer, more succesful. The weight I’m carrying is bettering me as well as inspiring you. Ian Golden is one person who was at the duathlon today and I wanted to get to that finish line for him, for Mary Estall who was also there, Pauleen Gosnold another #FitTeam12’er, Anne even Mark Raynsford who most of you will know, I want him to push himself harder as I know he was trying to catch me the same as I was making damn sure he didn’t. Weight? What weight? These are reasons to succeed and cross that bloody line.

I looked at my Garmin and thought that I could possibly achieve a sub 2.30 but I only had one pace…stopping wasn’t and never is an option. I’ve read Mark’s blog and now know that he walked a couple of times and honestly I thought GOOD. I know Mark quite well and he’s not a quitter, so for him to walk, he cocked up somehow. Why I say GOOD is because that error, whatever it may be, will drive him on to better himself in a way that only failure does. I’ve been there and I learn more when things go wrong. To some of you this may sound a bit OTT but when you do the job that Mark and I do with the twitter following that we have, it is serious as Mark now has to go out there and lead from the front as there are a lot of you that look up to him. In the nicest possible way, well done on your ‘failure’ Mark now learn from it and inspire in next week’s duathlon!

I didn’t have the perfect race as my 5km was slow (not sure of the time) and was more about survival but I know there were things I could’ve done better and I’m always learning. Today was still ‘training’ for me as the London Triathlon is my main goal and if I can do what I did today on their flat course then I’ll be well happy.

I caught a few people on the 5km run which always helps and on approaching the finish line I remembered that I’d asked Kirsty to have Sam ready for me to carry him across the line. Now firstly, I wanted to carry Sam as he has loved the whole London 2012 experience (it’s probably the biggest thing to happen in his life of 2 years) and he likes shouting “YEEESSSS!!!” whenever an athlete wins a race or wins a medal so I wanted him to experience the whole crossing the line thing and getting the medal around his neck with people cheering. What I didn’t think about was how tired I’d be and that in the short time it would take me to slow down and get him that I might cramp up and not be able to finish the race without tears in my eyes.

As you’ve seen from the title photo, I did manage to carry him and he was smiling as we crossed the line. He got the medal around his neck and Daddy was beaming through the pain of 59kms in that heat! What I also love about the photo is the other Dad with his child on his shoulders as I hope he’s thinking ‘Next year, I’ll do that!’.

I crossed the line around the 2.31 mark and I can’t complain as getting a time wasn’t an aim, my aim was not to embarrass myself and I certainly didn’t do that especially as when I met up with Dermot from RG Active and told him my time, he took one look at my bike and said “You did 2.31 on THAT!” My back tyre is rather wide and is much wider than the front tyre and would’ve shaved a couple of minutes of my lap time if I’d had the same width on the back. My engine must be good! 😉

Recovery was as per usual with some food and drink that says to me well done on your achievement now savour me…Guinness, Burger and Chips…

London Duathlon…I’ll Be Back!!!


9 thoughts on “London Duathlon – What a way to start the ‘5×50 Challenge’.

  1. Hahahahaha, great blog Stu, so glad that you did well for yourself, love reading about your thoughts on the challenges that you have set, and an inspiration as always x

  2. Well done was great to read your blog it is a new challenge for you and you are getting there MUM x

  3. Stu, you truly are an inspiration! It was so hot on Sunday, you did really well. Keep running, cycling and blogging!

  4. Stuart I also Competed in this event and have competed at international level, whilst I understand your obvious satisfaction of completing this event. I have to say you are extremely arrogant and I wouldn’t say an inspiration at all. It’s a shame that you lack humility as I have the upmost respect for people that push themselves hard. But many athletes push hard and work hard, but people don’t get inspired by that alone. To inspire we have to believe in the individual’s plight. Unfortunately you have just come across as extremely pompous, whose only real inspiration is to satisfy ones own narcissism. I hope that you learn some humility and then maybe then you will actually inspire people. To everyone who may respond on this, I am sorry I have competed at the highest level and have come across these types of thoughts and it’s these people that ruin sports for everyone. I have seen it first hand so please don’t take this as ranting. Sports is for everyone, and walking on an extremely hot day competing is not a cock up or failure, as each circumstance is different into how the body reacts regardless of your training or conditioning.

    Anyhow good luck for the London Triathlon I shall see you then, please do reply with your race time and number 🙂

    1. Thank you very much for your comments Karl.

      I have taken some of them on board but at the same time chosen to point out that fact that you “have competed at international level” and “have competed at the highest level” so please tell me how I can possibly inspire you anyway?!

      Mark Raynsford has thanked me for my words to him in the blog and if you read his blog you’ll see where I was coming from. I do however think that at a certain level an individual will see walking as a ‘cock up or failure’, if they haven’t put that limitation on themselves then brilliant as their aim is just to complete. As I said in my blog it’s “You vs You”.

      I however place the limitations that unless I’ve planned to walk (interval) during an event or race then I won’t. If I have to then obviously I see that as a failure on my part. Did I train enough? Sleep enough? Eat or hydrate correctly? I am Scottish and I melt in the sun but still I have to make sure that I am properly prepared for that! If not, I fail. It’s what drives me on. I ceased up in 2004 on the London marathon at about 16 mile marker and I never want to feel like that again (shouldn’t have had the pizza or beers the night before but anyway…).

      I just wonder how your race went? You are obviously an ‘ex’ international athlete (well done) but not anymore?! Why not? I’d love to know as I’m constantly improving myself and don’t want to go backwards.

      As for the London Triathlon, I am so excited about completing another new event and also blogging so others can try something they may never thought of possible. You’ll see my race number and time when you read it.

      Good luck also,

    2. I follow Stuart on Twitter and Facebook and I find him very inspirational and informative. The thing about inspiration, motivation and to a certain degree persperation is that different things flick the switch for different people. Stuart explained the reason for his comment about Mark (who I also follow on Twitter) and they shared their experience with each other and fellow Tweeps. Some people will like Stuart’s approach some won’t but the beautiful thing about social media is that you can ignore / block anything you don’t like.

      It is you who unfortunately comes across as pompous and more than happy to blow your own trumpet. Which is a shame as given your experience I’m sure I and everyone else could learn from your experiences.

  5. Karl – I walked in my 69 mile Ultra this year and had planned to up the hills but not for any real distance. A stranger needed some help and encouragement, I threw my target time away and walked with him till his legs started working again some two hours later and we crossed the line together. Missed my target by 3hrs but felt a better man for what I chose to do. As you say – walking isn’t always a ‘cock up’. Stuart was so encouraging before the event, the fact he’s a Scot is a bit off-putting but I can allow him that, we cannae have everyone being English! Did Stuart inspire me? Did I inspire Tom by walking with him? What is inspiration anyway? You take part in sport for your own reasons, why be bothered about why others participate? Surely everyone wants to better themselves? And see others better themselves. The way I read Stuart’s comments, he wanted Mark to do the very best he could… and of course be better than him. Why is that arrogant? I feel arrogant saying I’m an Ultra runner, it certainly massages my ego and you certainly don’t mind offering up the fact you have international experience. Does that give you the right to say who ruins sport? I’d say you’d have to be pretty arrogant to assume that responsibility. Are you?
    It’s a strange world is the blogging one at times. Sorry Stuart, felt I had to say something – you, Tim Arnold especially, Steve Keywood and all the #fitteam12 members have made a huge difference to my year and I get a little protective sometimes?

  6. I just spent ages writing a really long message then lost it! But the main point I wanted to say is that stuart, I read your blogs and follow fitteam12, currently doing 5×50 and I see you as an inspiration. This year I have competed in my first half marathon, as I don’t love running this was hard! I have also entered more races and am now pushing myself harder when I train, I still give up every now and again but your tweets make me re focus. I might be called weak that I don’t have that individual drive, I don’t see myself as weak I just see myself as a busy working mum who has thankfully been inspired to keep myself fit and get fitter! Sorry for waffling but I just wanted to say thanks! Please keep up the good work:)

  7. Inspiration. What is it to me? If Stu were to sit on the sofa eating pizza and blogging tips on how we could all be better, that would not inspire. I am inspired by Stu sharing the story of his striving to set goals, improve his fitness and then seeing how that pans out on race day. I have struggled with fitness over the last year or so, but regularly reading Stu’s twitter feeds and blogs keeps me in mind of the basics. So, instead of giving up, I adjust my goals and start trying to get the basics right – it’s so easy to let the small things like eating and drinking correctly slip, or to let the pressures of work provide the exucse of not having time. By sharing his own journey – both successes and ‘failures’ Stu becomes that voice in your head that stops you giving up. I haven’t succeeded in the fitness goals that I set myself this January, but (perhaps more importantly for me) I haven’t given up either. I know that Stu does not view walking as failure, but he does make me question whether I am walking on a run because my head has made up an injury or an ache that isn’t real; whether I am just hot because it is a hot day or whether I actually need to shorten a training run because I am genuinely struggling with the heat. For every minute Stu takes off his Park run time, I know I can do the same to mine (if I actually show up!) – it doesn’t matter to me that he runs it twice as fast – I am racing myself and not him. So, I ask that Stu continues to share his journey and to trust his readers to be genuinely pleased that by practising what he preaches he achieves goals; and that inspires us to set and achieve our own goals. On 30th September I will be on the start line of the first Ealing Half Marathon – I didn’t start training early enough or hard enough to achieve my initial goal, BUT I will finish with a walk/ run strategy and be proud of myself for not giving up. Equally I will enjoy reading Stu’s blog on the same race.
    So, Stu, please keep on inspiring us all – #fitteam12 has made a difference and next year there will always be #fitteam13!

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