Curiosity Thrilled the Cat

Steve Robinson recounts his race from the Nottingham Off-Road Duathlon

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A duathlon at a watersports venue? Driven by intrigue, an in-form Steve Robinson entered the inaugural Nottingham Off Road Duathlon to end his 2013 on a high…

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My 2013 season – only my third in triathlon – had been a great one, with plenty of PBs, giving me a reassuring feeling of progress. After a tough but exhilarating Evil Sheriff in November, my mate suggested we enter another off-roader before the end of the year.

The new Nottingham Off Road Duathlon in December appeared to fit the bill… but how would they stage a decent off-road biking section around the flat National Water Sports Centre?

My curiosity about the course deepens as I head to the registration tent to be met with an inspiring view of the main rowing lake. I’ve plenty of layers on but the cold, despite the picturesque sunshine, is still deceptively biting. Ever since breaking my toe, my feet always suffered the impact of cold… and today is no exception.

Across the lake I can see various areas marked out with red and white tape along a number of undulating peaks near the edge of the water. Nothing too serious there, I think. The gun goes and I try to settle into a steady run rhythm, admiring the view as I follow the contours around the edge of the lake. Underfoot it’s starting to get muddy and chewed-up.

Knowing that athletes have to complete three laps in total, I mentally note to make my foot placements with care. I’m feeling in good shape, despite looking across the other side of the lake and seeing the front-runners already forging ahead.

The course starts to unfold and the unpredictability of the terrain ensures that I have to stay focused. I’m directed into little cuttings, up banks and doubling back around certain paths. My lungs tell me they’re being called upon to up their game as I head off onto the second lap.

A FAMILIAR FOE

More familiar doesn’t result in easier for lap two, as the seemingly innocuous inclines take their toll on my legs. I start to shift my thoughts to transition and I finish the first run stage strongly, moving past a number of competitors.
T1 is clunky, though, thanks to my lace and Velcro-tied mountain bike shoes coupled with my claw-like, cold-bitten fingers.

The bike leg is fantastic, though. Up and down, in, out and around cones and bollards, back again, up kerbs, along grassy mounds and down again, spiralling around wooded sections one minute and then having to dismount and traverse a near vertical bank, the next. It’s relentless and so much fun, calling on every range of gear, speed, balance and effort in a non-stop frenzy of action. The variety of terrain and surroundings make it feel so much longer than 8km as I approach the final stretch of lap 1. Onto lap 2 and I battle on, hurting but loving it at the same time. I race into T2, but feel a twinge of cramp as I set off on the single lap for the final run stage.

Those little inclines up the banks now seem enormous and my legs are demanding a break. I haven’t checked my timings on my watch as there’s simply not a moment to look down. Exhaustion and elation combine as I cross the line to finish the rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, groans and shrills.

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My time of 1:46:19 and 90th position almost feels irrelevant (well, until next year) as all I’m thinking is how rewarding this creative, challenging and fun event has been. I’d heartily recommend an off-roader for anyone yet to experience it. My sprint-distance experiences give me a massive sense of achievement, but this race did that and left me with a great big grin on my face!