Croft racing circuit is a leisurely 90 minute drive up the A1 to Scotch corner, and God’s Own Country produced a lovely sunny day. For those racing in the afternoon (Standard Distance) it meant that they only had to register at 11:30 which gave them plenty of time to rack bikes, hydrate (and chat) for the 1pm start.
COVID-wise there was lots of space for the people racing each category, and everyone kept themselves well spaced-out throughout. The highest risk area was probably the portaloos, but there was alcohol gel everywhere and masks were mandatory for the indoor registration and racking in transition.
Competitors were set off running at 5 second intervals in decreasing age order which meant that during the race, the ‘youngsters’ who are normally in the distance were passing all the time.
TriHard events; Croft Racing Circuit, N Yorks
Sunday 18th April 2021.
Sprint Distance am, Standard Distance pm.
This produced some laughs and raised eyebrows, as Dick Dunn’s registration had gone wrong somehow and he had ‘emergency number’ 500 and had to set off with all of the young ‘whippets’ who were enquiring whether he’d lied about his age or just had a hard paper round! The joy of a return to racing, catching up with other club members and the beginnings of a suntan made up for it and he had a great race in the Sprint category.
The first and last km of each 5k lap of the run was tarmac, but the middle section was an uneven farmers field, which luckily suited our athletes fine. Competitors then went through T1 and set off out on the bikes to do 3 laps of the motor circuit which is perfectly smooth, ‘dreamy’ fast asphalt. They had to keep their wits about them though, with other competitors screaming past, and corners which demanded attention. After 3 laps was a 20km road loop which was relatively flat but with some rolling sections to keep it interesting. Then back to the track for a couple of laps and into T2 for the final run; the out and back loops teasing as competitors ran past the finishing straight twice!
Coach John Levick’s instructions to Michael Moncreiff for the Standard distance were to ‘run at 15k to half marathon pace’, which he thought he was doing, but was ‘really surprised’ to see he was running at 4min/km pace! But it felt right, so he pushed on. He was then struggling with really bad calf cramps during the bike, but intermittent stretching seemed keep him going. When he got into T2 his calves completely cramped to the extent that he had to stretch and then sit down to get his shoes on. Out running, and he had to stop to stretch his calves out again, but this seemed to sort them and he was able to steadily pick off people ahead of him. He gave a final push with 500m to go, and crossed the finish line in 2hr 16m. On completing, he said that “given that this was my first multi sport race since 2014 I was over the moon. I ran my fastest ever 10k (beating a time I set over 10 years ago!) and second fastest 5k. John’s coaching over the past 15 months has built a really solid base and I’m faster now with consistent training than I’ve ever been. It’s great to be back racing again.”
John Levick also had a successful day himself, with a great result in the Standard distance race. His thoughts following it were “whilst it may appear that a Duathlon is just a triathlon without the swimming, it is actually so different getting on your bike after a hard 10km run than after an arm-based swim. Riding on the race track was exhilarating but hairy as there was no overtaking etiquette. A lovely sunny day in the North Yorkshire countryside eased the pain and eased me back into racing. Bring on the Tri season”
Coach Dave Bradley didn’t have quite such a leisurely start to his day, having opted for the morning Sprint Distance race. I think he echoes all of us when he says “It has been 18 months since my last race. All those months with races cancelled or postponed. Wondering when we will be able to test ourselves against a course and our fellows has been demotivating. Training without a focus for all that effort has been like making a cake only for my wife, Sara, to put it in the freezer before I get to taste it. Well, the Yorkshire Duathlon was like defrosting a gateau, cracking open the double cream, diving in with a cake fork and then having a second piece. The joy I got from emptying every cupboard in the house looking for a number belt was an indescribable delight. Sara was not happy, but we’ll gloss over that. Even leaving home at 5 in the morning to a chorus of bird song heralding me on my way was delightful. It was the time to race again.
With a start number of 30 I set a goal of trying to get the lead in the race before someone overtook me. A long section of rough turf took its toll on the road runners in front allowing me, a former orienteer and fell runner to power past. It took about 1 km to achieve 400m of glory…. followed by 3.5km of desperately hanging on. 20 km blasting around the flat race circuit on my bike was brilliant fun. Covid regulations meant the sprint race was a non-drafting affair. You had to ride on the left of the roadway and pass on the right. However, once all competitors were on the 3.3 km loop it seemed that some people completely forgot their left and right. Not just me. This seemed to affect everyone. Dodging and weaving, near misses, squeezing people on the bends, so much fun!
The final 2.5 km run seemed to disappear in a trice. That’s a very short span of time. Crossing the finish line earned my reward, a race medal. Yes. My first medal in 18 months. It might have been just an enamelled blue square of metal hung from a narrow ribbon, but it represented another step towards returning to doing the things I love.”
Dave’s Garmin gave him his fastest 5km time of 22:07 since 2017 and informed him that he’s extremely fit for his 64 years (who knew?), so he has sadly concluded that his only real way to improve leads back where we started, the cake…. which now needs to remain in the freezer.
Coach Chris Taylor was our final club member to compete. The Standard Distance Duathlon English Nationals at Croft was a key race in his calendar for this spring and he was relieved that it went ahead after a tough winter’s training. Primarily as a Duathlete (rather than a Triathlete) he observes that “Duathlon is often a tough event to pace because there are some pure runners and some incredibly strong time trial cyclists, so you don’t really know where you are until the final run. With the time trial format, however, it becomes virtually impossible to know where you are in the race.”
On his race on Sunday he said “After a slightly keen first mile, I settled into a comfortable pace, pushed on the tarmac and tiptoed nervously through the fields, coming in for a (slightly short) 10k of 38.05. Out onto the bike for a few laps of the increasingly busy race circuit. Lovely riding, but you had to keep your wits about you, weaving through the pack. The road section of the course was fantastic, taking you though quiet country lanes with almost zero traffic. There were just enough lumps, bumps and corners to keep it interesting. Coming back into the circuit just behind John (Levick), I eased off a little to get my legs ready to run as I could feel my calves starting to twitch. Off the bike in 1:03:13 with an average speed of about 38kph. Sure enough, cramp bit me as I set off to run and I watch John jog merrily away. After a short stretch I got moving, albeit with a running form resembling the Tin Man. Gradually the legs eased off and I picked up the cadence and eventually hit a decent pace, pushing on to finish with a (slightly long) 5k of 20.01 after a 3.39 final km.
Overall, I came in just 15s behind an age group podium spot in 4th place with 2:03:09. More importantly, it was a cracking day out with HTC team mates. I knew I was in the right club when we caught up at the finish line and I declared “I’d love a beer right now!”. Michael promptly pulled an Erdinger Alkoholfrei out of his bag and popped the lid with his finishers’ medal. Class act.”
Not just class acts, but a class Triathlon club and a class event! Well done to all competitors, and thanks to organisers and their helpers!
Photo Credits to individual athletes and to @VSPimages.