Now for something completely different

14 October 2017

September and October seem to be all about busy weekends in our house and this weekend was no exception. At times it feels as if running events are taking over my life. Today though, we were up stupidly early for something completely different, although the Spitfires and a certain amount of running would be involved. It was a race, but a very different kind of race and it started at the Millennium Garden in Woolston so at least we didn’t have far to go.

In fact circumstances meant Commando and I both went our separate ways first thing in the morning. Teresa kindly offered me a lift, while Commando made his own way down on two wheels. There was a very good reason for this. For at least part of the race he’d be riding his bike. In fact the feather was a sea of fancy bikes when we arrived. This was because the race was the first ever Itchen Spitfires’ Duathlon.

A while ago a new Itchen Spitfires Triathlon Club was created. Quite a few Spitfires joined but quite a few others, including Commando, were slightly put off by the swimming element of Triathlon, especially the open water, never mind the expense of wet suits. Today’s race was a way to get more people involved while having a bit of fun. It would be a race but not as we know it. Quite a few cheerers and marshals had also gathered anticipating fun and a few wobbly legged moments  between bike and running. Then again, maybe that last part was just me.

Commando bought a fancy racing bike last year when he broke his leg. It was a way to keep fit without putting his healing bone under the stress of pounding the pavements. There was a fair bit of bike comparison and bike envy going on while we waited for everyone to arrive. Some people had their own bikes, others had borrowed bikes. Gerry had a bit of trouble with the saddle on the bike he’d borrowed and a small knot of mechanically minded friends gathered to help him sort it out.

Some people were having a few issues with their clothing. Shortly after Rob and Kim arrived Rob discovered he’d managed to put his cycling shorts on backwards. Luckily he had some running shorts on underneath. Maybe next time he should ask Kim to dress him.

The race was a very low key affair, John had worked out a couple of routes to suit people of all abilities, a short route with a 2.5k run, a 10k cycle and another 2.5k run, and a long route with a  5k run, a 20k cycle and a 5k run. Commando chose the long route. Some people seemed decidedly nervous, especially about the bike riding, and Sergio, the Chairman of the Triathlon Club walked around calming nerves and offering advice.

Things were so low key I almost missed the start. In fact I just managed to catch a rather fuzzy shot of everyone before they disappeared down Victoria Road. In my defence, I may have still been laughing about Rob’s shorts at the time. Obviously I need to do better in future.

Once everyone had gone the feather seemed strangely deserted apart from all the bikes and a few start finish marshals come bike guards. It was a touch chilly standing around. What we could have done with was a nice coffee shop within easy walking distance. It occurred to me that a Costa in Woolston, preferably right under the bridge, would be a really great idea.

It wasn’t long before the first runners came back. Half a parkrun doesn’t take them long after all. Moments later they were off again on their bikes.

A short while later the first of the 5k runners appeared. Some were quick to get onto their bikes and off again, others not so much.

Around about then things began to get a little confusing, at least for those of us on the cheer team. Usually I have a good idea of the order people will come past in a race, it’s usually fairly predictable give or take a place or two. Today people seemed to be arriving back from their first run in a strangely random fashion. Then I remembered that some had run twice as far as others, although who was doing which race wasn’t always clear.

The change from legs to wheels seemed to cause some people more trouble than others too. Some simply put on a cycle helmet and jumped on bikes while others fumbled about changing things like shoes because they had fancy pedals that wouldn’t work with running shoes.

It soon became clear a speedy change over would be the key to success in this race. Goodness only knows how people get on in a triathlon where they have to get in and out of swimming gear too.

By now I was losing track of who had already come in and who was still out running, never mind which race they were in.

Things got even more complicated when the first cyclist came back and set off on slightly rubbery legs for his final run. At this point people were still coming back from their first run and I was beginning to wish I had eyes in the back of my head because I didn’t know which way to turn.

Things didn’t get any easier when the winning runner returned at the end of the short race. At the same time there were cyclists arriving back and, to confuse the issue further, Emma appeared, wearing a race number and a medal. She had just run a different race  and was on her way home. In fact she’d been the first woman across the line, which is a pretty big deal.

It turned out I wasn’t the only one who was confused. Poor Russ had somehow managed to mix up the two courses and had run the short race but cycled the long one. Still, running a completely different race to everyone else does at least guarantee you will be the winner.

Next the super speedy boys returned from their bike ride. The turnaround from bikes to legs went very smoothly, although no ones legs seemed to be coping too well with the change from pedalling to running and there were a few wobbles.

Close behind were more of the short racers on their bikes. They also made a quick transition from cycling to running.

Runners were coming back from their final run, cyclists were turning into runners and I was spinning round in circles trying to photograph every direction at once. By now I’d given up trying to work out who was running which race.

Around about then the wonderful smell of cooking bacon began to drift across the Millennium Garden. The two local cafes were just beginning to cook breakfasts. It was torture.

With great difficulty, I tried to concentrate on the job of taking photographs. Russ finished his own little race in first and last place at the same time. More cyclists turned into runners. I turned round and round snapping random photos as best I could, including a few random members of the public on bikes.

The super speedy Spitfires came down the road on the last loop of their final run while others were dumping their bikes and running off. It felt like organised chaos. Try as I might, I couldn’t capture everyone. There were just too many people coming and going in all directions.

Slowly the number of bikes coming back dwindled and the number of runners finishing the race rose. After this my job got slightly easier, although which race any of them were running was anyone’s guess at this stage but no one seemed to care, they were having too much fun.

Commando was amongst the final runners because he’d had to stop to change his shoes twice and lost valuable time. He was by no means last though. Poor Chris actually had that honour. Somehow he’d managed to get a little lost and had cycled far more miles than anyone else. Even so, he didn’t give up and went out on his final run with Sergio as Company.

For me this was good news. It gave Commando time to nip across the road to the cafe and buy some much needed bacon sandwiches. They were delicious!

So, all in all, the first Spitfire Duathlon was a huge success, even if it was a little bewildering to watch. For most of the Spitfires taking part it was the first time they’d raced on bikes or experienced the jelly legged feeling of jumping off a bike and trying to run. They all coped brilliantly, even those who didn’t quite get the route right or who had wardrobe or footwear malfunctions. Certainly lessons were learned. Most importantly, everyone had great fun.

Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures. * Members of the Itchen Spitfires Running Club may copy and use any of the above photos.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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