The Santa Pola Duathlon Cross is a daunting challenge for a newbie like I was in 2010, you can read about my experiences HERE. But for me, 2010 was just the beginning I had caught the duathlon bug and wanted to try again.
So a year on from my first attempt and I am here again, better prepared, both mentally and physically and with better organisation (my wife brought that bit).
The training for the event was as is usually the case with me a little last minute, although to be fair I have been cycling since February in readiness for the September event, my running, however, was left until the end of June. A daily training regime of 5km run followed by abs and then the following day 18.5km cycle followed by abs was repeated 6 days of the week for the last couple of months. Longer rides where fitted in wherever possible and a few slightly longer runs. Physically I was in better shape than in 2010 and a few kgs lighter to boot.
Mentally for 2010, my goal was to finish the event hopefully without being last, this I achieved, however for 2011 I wanted to knock at least 10 minutes off my previous time and finish if possible a hundred or so places higher up the field. This would be a fair challenge but do-able.
The hardest part of the 2010 challenge was getting to the start line on the day, having to set off from home at 06:30 to ensure we made the journey, finding the sign in point and the start line before 09:00 when the bikes had to be parked up. My lovely wife jumped in here being a great organiser, once the entry was accepted by the Club de Atletismo Santa Pola, she was on the Internet looking for a hotel for the night before, eventually resorting to the telephone to find one as near as possible to the start. We stayed in the Hotel Polamar on Santa Pola Seafront, 10 to 15mins steady walk to the start line.
The hotel was 3 stars rated but a little dated in appearance, however the rooms where comfy, the staff friendly and we had a great view of the beach and marina. As a bonus, they even allowed a late checkout on Sunday so I could have a shower after the race.
The Club Atletismo Santa Pola, in trying to stop the rush to sign-in on Sunday morning, and opened sign-in on Saturday evening. I took advantage of this which made the whole process much smoother. After sign-in I picked my bike up and wheeled it along the front to the compound where we could leave them in readiness for the start on Sunday. A cover was provided for each bike and security was organised to keep them safe.
So an evening off in Santa Pola, the first job find some pasta, after a good deal of meandering up and down the quiet streets near the Marina, we turned a corner and found Pizzeria Di Carlo. The food was excellent and, since I unfortunately like Italian a little too much, I indulged in a starter and main course and only just avoided a sweet. The staff where good and noticing my Duatlon wristband wished me luck for the following day. Back at the hotel, we relaxed on the beachside terrace listening to music and watching the dancing before turning in at 23:00.
The big day started with breakfast in the 5th-floor restaurant. We had a leisurely breakfast in the knowledge that the bike and I where both checked in and all that was left to do was walk to the start and drop off my helmet, bike shoes and water bottle before 10 am. What shall I eat? I went for a small continental of cheese, ham, bread, croissant and fruit with OJ and a mug of coffee to wash it all down.
Walking up to the start at around 09:15 we could see the panic in some competitors eyes as they still had to check in and deal with bikes etc. I went straight through the designated gate, dropped my stuff off and sat in a café relaxing and people watching for the last half hour, slowly sipping on some energy drink and thinking myself lucky that we had arrived the night before.
09:55 here we go then, line up not too near the front otherwise the fast runners will flatten me as they come past and not too near the back or I’ll be left behind. The buzzer goes and we’re off. This is better than last time, I am staying with the pack, well some of it at least. The 2011 course is the same as in 2010 so I have a good idea of what is to come and know that hopefully, I will be at the turning point around 13 minutes, to my surprise it was about 12:20 so I was on for a good (for me) time.
Coming back to the start and into the bike compound there were still plenty of bikes left and my wife was cheering me on, my change was a little slow but out I went still with people round me so I thought it was going well. Along the seafront road we went, my legs complaining a bit after the running but by the hill, I had probably overtaken 50 people. The off-road course seemed smoother in places than the previous year but still technical here and there, I was enjoying myself now watching the bike computer and my watch and doing math along the way, this is going well.
Back down through the town and along the front to the bike compound, I had managed to complete the cycle around 250 places higher than the first run, and now the hard bit. Off the bike, jog across the compound in my bike shoes to drop it off and get changed, I had a large drink of water and poured some over my head and then set off. Legs like lead as last year but a bit freer moving, out of the compound and through the cheering crowd, picking up a fresh bottle to carry for the last stage, by this point, it’s 11:21 and about 25 degrees so the last stage is difficult. Losing a few places along the way I managed to run the whole 2.9km to the finish.
The time for 2011 was 1:38 compared to 2010 of 1:58 so I exceeded my goal, and around 100 places higher as well.
Conclusions for the event, it’s very well organised and worth a go, more training helps as does a hotel the night before and the few small changes I made to the bike a few weeks before the event helped.