By Tina Miller

To give me added motivation to train through the winter I entered Windsor Duathlon early this year and then thought I might as well do a couple more prior to that one and make Windsor the ‘A’ race as it were.

I used to live in Huntingdon so the Anglian Water Standard duathlon at Grafham Water reservoir (Nice Tri Events) seemed a good opportunity to go back to an old stomping ground, race and meet up with some friends.

The venue is ideal, right beside a huge reservoir, set in 2,400 acres of countryside with tracks and trails all around the water.  Transition was based at one end of a large car park with access to changing rooms, toilets and a cafe.

Both the runs and the bike leg are out and back courses. A quick drive of the bike course showed it was relatively flat with just a couple of climbs.  The Standard bike course was two laps.

It was already pretty windy on the Saturday but on Sunday it was even worse.  The weather forecast was for 20 to 25mph winds up until lunch increasing to 40mph early afternoon.  Great!  I am not the strongest of cyclists in windy conditions.

There was the usual buzz around the transition area; duathlon seems to attract a lot of very fit fast guys with tri bikes, aero wheels and pointy helmets.  The race brief was spot on time and suddenly without much warning we were off.

I have to say I am not the greatest lover of duathlon really.  The good thing about triathlon is that you get staggered starts so if you are a tad on the slow-side it’s not so noticeable.  With duathlon there is no hiding place.  With a mass start,  the fit ones hare off into the distance and seem to be coming back towards you depressingly quickly.  Doing a 10K race before getting on a bike is also tough.  Doing just a 10K race is tough enough!

Did I mention that East Anglia is mostly flat?  I grew up in and around Cambridgeshire – there are not a lot of hills.  However, Nice Tri events found some and based the run all around, up and down them!  It was a surprisingly hard 10K.  The paths were good; either hard packed trail or tarmac although some stretches were covered in a layer of wet clay.  The result of which meant all competitors were covered (in varying degrees) from ankles to waists in pale mud by the end of both runs.

I did my usual trick of setting off way to quick and suffered in the latter half of the run.  Then it was out onto the bike leg.

This part of the duathlon would be extremely fast on a calm day.  Only two real hills (one of which is right at the end of both loops) but the rest is pretty flat.  However, the wind added a whole new dimension.  The first 5km (and kilometres 20-25) were right into the teeth of the wind.  Despite the downhill it felt like you were going nowhere fast.  Then a couple of left turns meant the wind now came in from the right on the way out and left on the way back.  It was really challenging.  There was the occasional hedge to get a little respite but when you left the shelter of it you were blown sideways.  On the return leg I literally had to lean my shoulder into the wind to stop from being blown over or across the road.  It was exhausting.

The only really enjoyable bit (for me) was the 5km back to the park when the wind was behind us.  The only major hill right before the end took the fun out of that a bit mind you!

The final 5km run was on the same course as before and managed to fit 3 hills in on the way out and another 3 on the way back (obviously).

Lots of people stayed behind to cheer the last few competitors in, which was a nice touch.

I had hoped for a sub 3hr finish time and maybe on a less windy day I would have managed it although my legs were toast by the time I got to the final leg.  It was a good test though and I have a good marker for the next two events.

The whole event is very well run and the organisers extremely friendly and encouraging.   Anglian Water duathlon is just one of a series of events Nice Tri hold in and around the area.  It only took us 2.5 hours to get there and we stayed at a Premier Inn just 10 mins from the event venue.  All very comfortable and convenient, especially as Prem Inn have no issue with keeping your bike in the room.

A highly recommended event (despite the weather conditions).