Paul Carroll – Duathlon Champion Blog
After a tough winter consisting of many long hours on the turbo and some good cross country racing, the season began pretty early with the Sportsman Duathlon in Dundalk at the start of February and the Naas Duathlon the following week. Both races went well, not just because I won, but I was also encouraged to see quicker times than previous years and that my bike split was improving nicely. It was at this stage I hooked up with Mark from Pixels whose backing has been much appreciated. As we all know Triathlon is an expensive sport, so any assistance is very welcome.
In my sights was the National Duathlon championship which I had managed to win in 2011, but it’s difficult to plan ahead and say that the number 1 goal for next season is to win it again – you never know who could turn up on the day! So my aim was to be quicker than last year and race as well as I possibly could.
Before that though was the British Championships at the Dambuster Duathlon in Lincolnshire. It was very difficult to know what to expect with nearly 800 entrants and with never having raced the course before. I actually had a great race, one of those where all goes to plan and I came away with 2nd place overall, which was well ahead of my expectations. It was also my first standard distance duathlon of the year – it was a big step up from the shorter races and although my legs cramped up a bit on the bike I felt pretty strong throughout, which showed good progress.
After the great start to the season, things took a bit of a dip after the Dambuster with a shoulder injury and a week away on holiday at Easter. Although I was still allowed to train while away (my family are very understanding!) it obviously wasn’t as sustained or intense, but with the 22nd April fast approaching there wasn’t much I could do about it!
There was a good quality field at Burnfoot, so my plan was to try and get some sort of lead after the first 10k run, hold on for as long as possible on the bike (ideally this would be to lap 3 out of 5) and then go for broke on the final 5k. Things got off to a good start with Michael Black taking it out strongly in the first mile or two; I sat in for a while and then tried to up the pace a bit as the group was still pretty big at this stage. This push managed to break things up a bit with only Eamon McAndrew staying with me into T1, where we had a lead of about 1minute. A good transition saw me out onto the bike course with a lead. I know the course pretty well having raced on it the last 3 years, so I knew what to expect and where I wanted to push it. Being out on front is mentally tough, especially on this course as there is no opportunity to see where everyone else is so it was a matter of getting the head down and counting off the laps.
I still had a lead after the 3rd lap where I got a shout from my ever dependable support team (my wife and two girls!) that it was down to about 15 seconds. I was eventually caught at the start of the last lap by Mark Morgan. This was almost a relief, as I could now sit back and just try to ensure a gap didn’t open up. I had raced Mark at the Dambuster race (he finished 10th), so I knew he was a strong biker and thought he would make up some ground. Mark and I came into T2 more or less together, which I was reasonably happy with. This is when things started to go badly wrong! It had started to rain during the bike and although I was aware that it was cold, it wasn’t a major issue (or so I thought). I got my bike racked, shoes on, but couldn’t for the life of me get the buckle on my helmet undone because my hands were so numb. I could hear the commentator shouting that Mark was away and I was still in transition. By now panic was really setting in. I eventually forced the helmet over my chin and got away but was now 40 seconds down on Mark. I couldn’t even see him at the start, but as I calmed down and settled into my run, I steadily worked my way back to him and ended up coming home with a 50 second cushion.
It was great to get the win again and also to achieve my goal of being quicker than last year. A big thanks to the North West Triathlon Club for putting on a brilliant race – really well organised and marshalled – just try and make it a bit warmer next year!