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  • Tom Knight

Escape to Afan Duathlon 2019

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

This past weekend fell host to the Tough Runner Escape to Afan Duathlon 2019. This event would take place, as it says on the tin, in Afan Forest, near Port Talbot.

There were multiple distances on offer and I had chosen to compete in the sprint distance which as it turns out would also be the Welsh Championship Race. The distances for this event were a 5k run, 12k bike and then a 2.5k run to finish. I chose this distance as it was similar to my previous duathlon and would require the minimal amount of preparation to be competitive; since my focus is still very much on mountain bike specific events. The course would consist of predominantly fire road sections for both the run and bike legs, climbing up the valley to the wind farm on top and then descending back down to the finish.


With the event being nearly 4 hours away from where I live, I decided to head down on the Friday and stay over the night, this was an extremely good idea since the actual race started at 9am on Saturday morning, urghhh! I arrived at the venue at 7am, as soon as the gates opened in order to give myself sufficient time to prepare. At this time of the morning it was pitch black and the rain was falling, truly inspiring conditions, but it was certainly a wise decision as there was plenty of preparation work to do. I had to sign on and get my stuff prepared as soon as possible in order to bag a decent spot within the transition area.


I managed to get to transition early enough to get a spot on the end of the row with minimal distance to the exit, I placed my helmet on the bars undone, my shoes undone on the floor and my bike in an easy gear. All of these little things could be the difference between winning and losing.

By the time I had got everything setup in the transition area, the sun was up and there was less than a hour until race start. Despite giving myself as much time as possible I was starting to feel a little rushed, probably because I wasn’t very used to this type of event and the preparation required. However, I managed to stay calm, get kitted up, have my last bite to eat and started warming up. It was now on 30 minutes to go time!


I headed to the start line in plenty of time, to ensure I secured a front row start. The course was actually quite wide with plenty of places to pass but its just one less thing to think about and distract you. I did my final warm up, had a TORQ energy gel and then it was time…

From the start I set off quite fast opening up a small lead as we hit the first incline, halfway up the incline about 2k in a couple of runners passed and steadily started to pull away. As I expressed at the top of the blog, I’d not put too much focus on this event and this was both a benefit and hindrance. A benefit in that it reduced stress but a hindrance in the fact I didn’t prepare maximally in terms of form and this was already starting to show. I was having to dig deep to maintain a decent pace but I continued to lose further places as we hit the halfway mark dropping down to 5th. At this point we’d reached the top and started descending back down the hill. I kept my clam and dropped in behind the 4th place man to conserve some energy. I managed to stick with him and could see 3rd place and we entered into T1 (Transition 1).


The transition was very busy as we’d caught up the race prior to ours, luckily, I didn’t get held up to much and the positioning of my bike definitely helped my transition process and speed, however I did lose some more time to the leaders. Now it was hammer time.

As we hit the first climb, I quickly passed the 4th place guy and I could see the 3rd place athlete 100m or so ahead of me. I kept a decent pace and managed to pass him as we reached the top of the first climb about 5k in. From there though, I couldn’t see anybody else and had no idea where 1st and 2nd place was. I dug deep and eventually caught them within the final 500m of the bike leg and we headed into T2 (Transition 2) pretty close together, the transition was empty this time around and times were close too so we headed into the final run leg just 10 seconds apart.


This run leg started with a steep climb and at this point I really hit the wall. I haemorrhaged time as I dropped below 7minute miles as we climbed back up the valley, I just couldn’t get my legs to fire up and I kept looking back expecting to be overtaken at any moment. As we reached the top and headed back down to the finish my legs loosened and I got back into a decent stride but the other guys were well gone by then, I continued this to the line in 3rd finishing just over 2 minutes back from the winner.

At the time I was disappointed with this result, particularly my performance on the second run, however having had time to review and consider, I don’t think it was a bad performance. As I expressed, I didn’t prepare optimally but I did give it everything I had on the day to come away with a podium place behind some exceptional athletes. Congratulations to those guys for there performance.


I am not planning on doing any more of these events for the foreseeable future as I will now focus purely on preparing for next year’s mountain bike events, but there are things to be improved on for next time relatively easily. I still lost time in the transition, something that can definitely be improved with practice and further still with the correct and specific equipment. Increased time running off road and up hills would have definitely helped too!! Overall though, it was a successful weekend, I gave it everything I had, came away with something for the trophy cabinet and more important I’m injury free.


Things are likely to be a little quiet for a while now, with no events until early next year. However, do expect an end of season blog and some exciting news coming soon!


I’d like to finish this blog by thanking my family and sponsors for their continued support.


So until next time….Cheers,

Tom


Instagram: @t.e.knight

Facebook: @t.e.knightracing

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