Saturday, 8 March 2008

The Battle Of Clumber Park

I arrive at Clumber Park. Part of the aim of doing the Duathlon again was to compare my performance with last years. However this is not going to be possible because in the last twenty-four hours some road works have popped up in the middle of the bike course and the whole event, the run, as well as the bike have had to be changed. The bike course is now going to be two laps, ugh, and 25k not 20k. Even the psychos doing the world championship qualifier on the longer distance are only doing three laps.

As I register and warm-up L goes off on her own mini-event, a run around the park with Doggo. When it comes to time to start they still haven't reappeared which probably means they've found a spot on the course to watch from, I just hope she knows the course has changed. Oddly as I line up on the start line I can hear barking in the distance but I can't actually see Doggo. Perhaps it's not him.

So, into battle with my fellow gladiators. If I thought the run pace at Doncaster last week was fast, it had nothing on this. It's not only the men who blitz away from the start line, there are also too many fast women to shake a stick at. Eventually I come across the source of the frenzied barking, it is Doggo, but when I run past him he doesn't actually see me. Unbeknown to me, L and Doggo are stood at the turnaround point of the run but momentarily distracted I run straight past it and have to do a wide turn. Valuable seconds lost.

A lot of the run is off road which doesn't really suit my dodgy ankles. There are lots of potholes and tree roots which try and trip me up. They fail and I do a blinding 17 minute 5k, four minutes faster than last year but still I seem to be miles behind the crazy people up front.

Into transition, which seems to go better than last year despite my legs shaking that much I can't get my cycle shoes on. Eventually I do and I'm away onto the bike course which is actually better than last year, more interesting and three-quarters of it is traffic free. Better that is apart from the couple of speed bumps on it. All credit to my 'mechanic' who has done a good job preparing my bike. At least I think it's my bike, most things seem to have been replaced, so much so that it doesn't really feel like my bike.

The other drawback is that it's windier than last year. The last stretch is long, straight, and headlong into the wind. I struggle a bit here and loads of folks come past me. Not too many on my course but enough to consider 'shaking a stick' again. At the end of the first lap I've almost had enough of the wind but once onto the second lap, with the wind behind me, I cheer up again. That is until a certain person comes past me who I think I recognise from last year. When she wiggles her arse at me it confirms it. Talk about rubbing it in. Said piece of anatomy looks a bit more toned than last year, she's obviously been putting in extra training to try and beat me this time. My gladiatorial instincts kick in and my trusty steed and I give chase.

Now I know how the great Achilles felt in his personal battles with the Amazonian warrior Penthesilea in that decade long triathlon, that has sometimes been referred to as the Trojan War. He got so hacked off with her that when he finally got the better of her, he viciously dragged her off her bike (or was it a horse) by her ponytail and killed her. At which point he finally realised how beautiful she was and probably regretted killing her because he then... well we won't go into that. Anyhow I digress; my Penthesilea is obviously more streamlined than I am in this wind because I can't keep up with her.

Back into transition and so to the final run, which is a real plod. However looking both in front and behind me, I can see no one, so perhaps at least I can treat this as a gentle jog round. There's certainly no sign of Penthesilea, the longer bike obviously suited her superior streamlining.

Then suddenly out of nowhere some crazy people, who are on the full distance, fly past me as if they're only just starting out but I'll gloss off their obviously inhuman capabilities.

That aside, things go quite well, I pass a chap who is actually in my event and then come across a battle scarred girl, limping, clutching her rear. A chap is helpfully, but some may say unsympathetically, telling her to get a move on from the sidelines. You can't afford any sentiment in sport, so I pass her. It's what Achilles would have done, possibly, or perhaps he got to her first.

I come in three places lower than last year but in a larger field, so I have to be pleased. Especially as my first run was four minutes quicker, my average speed on my bike was slightly better despite the wind and both transitions were marginally quicker. My last run was a little slower but I'll put that down to a lack of competition pushing me on. Penthesilea where were you?

Last year's T-shirt wasn't particularly wonderful but this year's is worse as it's in yellow Brazil colours but as L points out it will be good to bike in, visibility wise. I'm just not going to be seen around town in it. In fact I shall put the old one on to go out tonight.

We get home to find that Portsmouth have knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup in the first of this weekend's quarter-finals. 1-0 to the underdog.

L spends the afternoon at the cinema with Daughter seeing James McAvoy and others in a film called Penelope. Which really doesn't sound like my sort of thing. Having abandoned Daughter at her father's in Derby, L comes home, runs a hot bath, pops the kettle on and offers to share both. I'm just standing in the hall, digesting that offer and chatting to her, when she inquires what I'm after. As if I'd be after something! She seems to imply that I might have been contemplating throwing her on the bed and ravishing her. Well obviously I wasn't but I don't wish to disappoint, after first stopping the bath water of course. It loosens the legs up a treat and it's what Achilles would have done.

In the evening we meet Son and get the Red Arrow over to Derby. We get a free ride because it is the end of the drivers shift and he's already turned his ticket machine off. Honestly they do waste money. We also somehow end up on an earlier bus than the one we intended which gives us probably too much drinking time.

We arrive in the pub just in time to catch the last five minutes of the second FA Cup quarterfinal. Barnsley are frantically defending a 1-0 lead against Chelsea. They hold on for another fabulous victory. So 2-0 to the underdog.

Among the beers is a decent one from Moles called 'Moleo and Juliet' after a few of these we head off with some friends to the rose petal adorned Anoki for a well-earned curry. Well we feel we've earned ours anyway. It's a decent meal but not one that would cause me to put the restaurant into my top ten curry houses. We order too much and Doggo is thrilled to have an assortment of Naan breads brought home for him.

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