Every year, a series of duathlons take place in Windsor’s Dorney Lake which allows athletes, of all abilities, to discover duathlons or to establish a good level of fitness before the summer season kicks in. F3 Events are in their 10th year of organising a selection of different competitor events, including swimming, running (on-road and off-road), duathlons and triathlons but on this particular occasion, I chose to embark upon the Standard Duathlon distance. Find out how I got on…
A little about Duathlon
Duathlons cater for all types of athletes, from those who just want to tick off a duathlon from the list to those who are seriously training for a triathlon or an ironman competition. The variety of competitors make for an interesting race, at the Windsor Duathlon on the 19th March there were people armed with mountain bikes, road bikes, super aero dynamic bikes and wheelchaired hand bikes. More about the event…
- Super Sprint Duathlon – 2.5km Run/ 12km Bike/ 2.5km Run
- Sprint Duathlon – 5km Run/ 20km Bike/ 5km Run
- Standard Duathlon – 10km Run/ 40km Bike/ 5km Run
The Windsor Duathlon in Berkshire is really easy to access from the M4. F3 Events have bagged a great event location in Dorney Lake, not only do the Olympic rings stand proud at the foot of the lake but the whole course takes place on closed roads which means the only thing you need to look out for is other competitors. Unfortunately, the car park is located within the bike ride loop which meant that finishing competitors were driving alongside us – not great when diesel cars speed off in front of you. The marshals were strictly enforcing the switching on of hazard lights and the car park was monitored throughout – while it wasn’t ideal to have the car park there, F3 did the best they could to work around it.
The Duathlon course
The Windsor Duathlon is completely flat, ideal for a PB if there is absolutely no wind. Both the bike and run loops are in a very open space which is particularly prone to elements, luckily some of my training took place in 20mph+ headwinds previously so I wasn’t too alarmed by the crazy winds on the day but I saw people slow right down when cycling or running into the wind.
The run route
A full loop round the run route is 2.5km. For those crazy people (me and only 14 other women!) who took part in the Standard Duathlon had to run around it 4 times. Towards the end of my 10k run, the super sprint participants were returning back to complete for their final leg which was pretty crazy! At one point there were people filing off into three different directions – another lap, transition area or the finish line! The marshals were great at repeatedly shouting to all competitors so there was no room for confusion or collision!
The cycling route
The cycling route incorporated cycling through the pavement/intersection in the middle of Dorney Lake which made for a scenic ride. The whole route was 5km which meant that Standard duathlon racers had to loop it 8 times, this was a real mental and physical challenge counting down the laps left to go and bracing yourself for the crazy head winds. Some competitors love a good loop but for me, it created a true battle of boredom just before the halfway point.
The loop did work in my favour when it came to mid-race nutrition, I knew to have a sip of water and a gel after the car park when I was most protected and least susceptible to being blown away by the wind.
The 3rd and final leg
Dismounting from my bike on the third and final leg I shouted “this is the easy bit!” because in training this really has been the part of the race where I can find that extra reserve and push it that much further. Unfortunately, the wind had worn me down and the full effects of cycling 40k in 1h28 left me feeling tired but still ready to finish the final 5k.
At this stage, a lot of the other competitors had finished. While I could still see a few cyclists, the remaining competitors were working their way round the run course hoping for a sub 2.30hr or 2.45hr time. For me, I was just hoping to finish!
I was a little discouraged to see the nutrition table had packed up (although water still available, no gels) and the transition area being packed away ahead of the next event lined up, also by F3 events, for the afternoon. The faster standard duathletes had gone home as well as the competitors for the super sprint and the sprint event so I was one of the last competitors to come in – perhaps the nature of entering in for a smaller event and picking the longest distance meant that this was inevitable, but it did affect my motivation a little!
The great bits
- Chip-timed – my split times were all available to look at within hours of the race finishing, I love this efficiency!
- The whole day was seamless – clear pre-race email communications and great organisation on the day – especially big thanks to the transition marshals who were very friendly and encouraging
- High5 gels available on the running loop – I train with these gels and welcomed an extra gel for the final lap of the 10k, the volunteers by the table were really great at ensuring everyone could easily pick up fuel
- Compete with the elite – it was great to see some incredibly talented people compete in this race, it was a real boost!
- Great location – near the M4, easily accessible and good parking (albeit located within the ride course)
The not so great bits
- The lack of goodie bag – I appreciate the venue cost bumped up the entry costs to £50, the medal is very impressive but I love a goodie bag or a tshirt at the end of an event.
- The conveyor belt of races – perhaps it’s because alot people participate in the standard duathlon and are used to jumping in a car and disappearing after completing it, I felt a little bit like I’d come to the party too late when I hit the finish line. With fencing coming down and tables being cleared away, it did feel a bit like we were another part of the conveyor belt in that respect.
- Event photography looked great for those lucky enough to be captured but I wasn’t papped which is a shame considering it’s advertised. With only 116 photos published to represent the three hours of event time there were alot less photos available to flick through in comparison to recent races I’ve attending (Battersea Park 10k had 200+ photos available) – F3 events, am I missing a link to more photos?
I would whole-heartedly recommend visiting the F3 Events website to see what other events they’ve got up their sleeve, with seamless organisation and cheery marshals, as well as 10 years’ experience, they absolutely know what they’re doing. With a few more finishing touches like perhaps two photos per competitor and a goodie bag or a tshirt, I’d love to come back.