Sunday 6 March 2011

The Spring Ballbuster Duathlon - 5th March 2011

I've not entered any races for ages, particularly running ones as I'd felt my running was too shit as I'm really heavy at the moment (have been for the last 18 months to be honest) and I'd be disappointed with how shit I'd do. I wanted to do the Winter Ballbuster in November but I didn't feel I'd do myself justice and my running was terrible.

This has been my favourite race since I first did it in 2009, I've no idea why, cos it's fucking hard, and it fucking hurts. Here's the report from the last time I did it

I revisited it to remind myself of how I trained for it back then and reminisce and make comparisons.

My preparation for this hadn't been ideal, but I was looking forward to it. I only decided I was definitely going to do it 2 weeks ago so when I got paid I entered it. I had planned on losing weight before doing the event which hasn't happened - I think I've actually put ON weight! So I had no high expectations of bettering the last time I did this. I've been out on the piss a lot, and my training hasn't really been specific, I've only done one long run in the last 8 weeks as I'd been focussing on short fast stuff and I'd been having some knee pains on long runs, so wanted to get rid of that. I should have been marathon training now but that's gone out the window too, so I've been doing lots of fun stuff playing on my mountain bike, and barely touched my road bike all winter due to the icy conditions and because I've been having so much fun on my mountain bike.

So with only one hill session on each the bike and run, nights out on the rum, not distance riding and no brick sessions I wasn't heading into the race in the best shape oh and being a stone overweight (at least) the week before was no place to do anything long or try and lose pounds so I tapered. I don't really do this well but I remember that last time I busted my balls I tapered and it helped and it's a long race, you need to be fresh for it. I managed to organise lifts to work for 3 days, allowing my legs to rest but still do some short easy sessions on Monday and Thursday on my commute to work. The temperature had dropped a lot on last week but the forecast was clear, sunny and not much wind, just cold!

I had intended staying with Suzie Friday night as she lives really close to the event but my Dad's car which I normally borrow had to be scrapped so had no means of transport - luckily my Dad is brilliant and said he'd drive me on race day. This however meant a 4am alarm call to get there for 7 - the race was an early 8am start! I had meant to pack the night before but as always I didn't get round to it, so the usual last minute throwing of stuff into bags as Dad turned up. We loaded up the car and set off, I ate my porridge on the way and tried to snooze but the sat nav kept disturbing me.

I love this time of year, the season is starting to change and the sun is finally coming up at a sensible hour. All those months of riding and running 20 miles a day for work in the cold and dark is finally getting paid back. The sun was beginning to rise, the temperature on the car said 0 degrees... brrr! It was going to be cold out there!

As we arrived at Box Hill I was reminded of how hilly the course is... we drove up "Zig Zag Hill" and I remembered how it hurt. What I didn't remember was how long it went on for! Two miles of switch backs, long hard slog up hill. But then I was reminded how close to the finish the hill is as we turned in to the car park.

I was looking out for Mike as I knew he was doing the race too and saw him crossing the car park to register so tooted and said hello, went to park, then join him in the queue to register. I've not seen him for a year since the "Twat Ride" we did this time last year, I told him he looked like he'd shrunk.
We registered and got given chips, numbers and a nice sweatshirt - got the top, might as well go home now...!
Back to the car to get my bike ready, kit in transition etc. All set up, I needed to change and another wee - it was 7:50 - plenty of time. I got changed, had a wee. Decided I needed to go again so did - better to do it now than have to stop on the run in a bush right? There was noone else in the toilets, and I checked my watch - shit! 7:58! I ran, back to the car where my Dad said he'd be waiting, he wasn't there, I chucked my bag on the floor by the car and could hear Klaxons going off! Shit! The race had started!
I ran to transition and put my gloves with my bike, inhaled half a jiz gel and ran to the start where I could see 200m away all the other runners! Shit shit shit! The organisers said "don't worry, you can still catch them!" as I ran across the field on my own yelling back "I thought I'd give them a head start!" I started my watch - the start wasn't chip timed, it was started off the gun so had no idea how much time I'd lost. But I pegged it across to catch up. Some guy shouting "go on 335" and laughing at my tardiness.
Within a few minutes I'd caught up with the back runners and started making my way through the rear of the pack. I was a bit annoyed at myself for being such a silly arse but I couldn't help but laugh to myself.

I'd decided against using my HRM as I've not worn it in months and I've been working on running by feel so let myself get into a nice comfy rhythm and remind myself it's a long event, don't rush it or I'll be battered for the last run (which I would anyway, but you know what I mean). My feet were frozen and felt like blocks of ice with every step, I tried to wiggle my toes but it wasn't helping.

By the water station I'd probably overtaken a third of the field and it felt good to be overtaking people so maybe it was a blessing in disguise that i'd started from the back. I checked my watch and it said 23 minutes, and heard someone's garmin bleep so assumed it to be about 3 miles. Satisfied with my pace I still couldn't help wonder if I'd be running better up ahead knowing I'd had a better placing. I focussed on setting my own pace and not getting sucked into the pace of people around me. I got chatting to a guy in a green top I'd drawn up next to and we were both hoping for a sub 4 time, he said this was his 3rd time but didn't think he'd make sub 4. We laughed about my missing the start and ran together chatting for a while. I found myself wanting to go quicker so picked up a little, we wished each other luck and parted company for a while. Miles 5 - 8 are pretty much all climbing, the hardest of them being from mile 6 - 8. I was aiming for 1:04 for my first run and 1:10 for my second (I'd have liked to plan an even split, but I know better)

The guy who'd shouted my number at the start was at the first hair pin of Zig Zah hill and recognised me and congratulated my running and catching up. I was feeling strong and powered up the hill. I wasn't sure how far it was to the end of the loop but checked my watch and thought I'd make my target time. There was a marshall on the final hairpin and she said "200m til the top" wow, I got up there quicker than I expected, I rounded the last bend and ran over the timing mat, I checked my watch 60:45 - awesome! I was over the moon, as I'd been assuming I'd really struggle with my running particularly given the hills and how little hill training I'd doe - and how heavy I am. I guess gravity is my friend going down hill!

The organiser also commented how well I'd done to catch up as I ran into transition and the guy in the green top was just coming through too and said "yeah, caught us up and over took" I felt good. I didnt fuck around in transition like I normally do. Helmet on, change of shoes, swap gloves, inhaled the other half of jiz gel and ran out.
Running across the field was awkward, I wear mtb cleats instead of road ones which makes it easier to run as the cleat is embedded in the shoe rather than outside of it, but they're still uncomfy to walk in and the were filling with mud. I reached the cobbles at the end and decided to carry my bike to save risk of puncture - it was also easier than pushing it over rocks.

I got to the road and went to mount, my cleats were full of mud so bashed them on the floor. My feet still hadn't thawed out and was a bit worried they'd get even colder on the bike.

I set off into a slight head wind and could hear my computed magnet tapping on the sensor everytime the front wheel went round. I assumed it'd dislodge itself eventually.

I couldn't seem to get any speed up on the bike so I tried to settle down, took on some drink and started chatting to the guy next to me, he asked what time i'd hoped on the bike - I said I'd like to do 90 mins.....I had thought this would be achieveable - i'd figured all that mountain bike hill climbing would have given me an edge..... how wrong was I! ha! The bike leg was horrid, on the descents I was really chicken, going round corners really tentative, climbing hills was ok, but I was too afraid to attack too hard know that there was still a long way to go.

I didn't let it get to me and I was still in good spirits. I overtook not a single person throughout the bike! I got to the last hairpin of the first lap and the lady marshall said "only 200m to go" and I laughed and said "and the rest" the guy next to me also laughed... knowing we had 2 more laps on the bike and another on foot.

I looked at my watch and the first lap had taken me 35 mins! yikes. That wasn't good. I wasn't going to make 90 mins but still I didn't want to push on too hard and mess up the run. I really wasn't enjoying the bike at all. I was half wishing I'd brought my mtb, I just wanted to be off the bike and back out running. I had loved that first run, give me more of that! I'd had some really bad saddle sore earlier in the week but thankfully it wasn't causing me any issues. My Dad was waiting at the top for every lap I came round which was lush, He's so great :-)
I decided to stop fretting about my time, just sit back, get round, switch off and look forward to the last run. My feet and fingers were now freezing beyond belief. I wiggled my toes to bring them back to life. The descents were particularly cold so I pulled my buff over my nose to keep some extra warmth in. I needed a wee on the last lap and decided if I could fnd a spot better to go during the bike than the run. So eventually I found somewere behind a wall and got off, my shoulders felt so tight as I straightened up.

Got back on and carried on to the end of the bike course. Thank fuck for that, I just wanted to be off that bike. How the hell did I do nearly 5 times that distance in the summer?? granted the bike course here was a lot harder, and the pot holes were terrible - nothing like the beautiful smooth roads of Switzerland. One thing I'd noticed this time was the absence of the crowd on top of the hill cheering. They made the race for me last time. The route was still well supported and I made a special effort to thank every marshal on my way round.

I tottered through transition - totter is the best I could muster, knowing my bike time was terrible I checked my watch and it confirmed just how terrible! wowza. I walked my bike back to the rack and hung it up, changed shoes once more took off helmet, took another jiz gel and grabbed a few haribo and stuffed them in my glove for later, dropping half of them on the floor.

I ran back across the field and onto my final leg. My feet were still cold but they were now numb. My legs heavy and rigid from the bike, I could see a few people ahead, so made my plan of just catching people ahead of me, getting a good rhythm going and getting through it.

My legs felt like they weren't mine. I couldn't find any speed in them, so I just focussed on keep an even rhythm and picking people off one by one. About 100m ahead of me was a lady with a great figure, we were running a similar pace and she too was overtaking people one by one, I wanted to catch her though. So picking people off...1.....2.....3,4,5......6.... etc I finally caught up with the lady about 3 miles in, I chatted to her a little, she was spanish, she'd done the event on a mtb! crazy lady. we ran together for a while overtaking people.....10, 11, 12, I went on past her....13.... she went back past me....12. I left her in front a while whilst we went up the first sharp incline. I was feeling quite empty, I only had two sweets left, and there was no aid station on the course, so was concious of bonking. I contiued past more people, counting 20 now. It was helping me keep my brain busy, so it wouldn't think about how my feet were swelling in my shoes, how my shoes were squishing my toes. If i just stopped and took off a pair of socks that would fix it, but I didnt want to stop. I couldnt stop. I wouldn't allow myself to walk. I passed the lady with great body once more, this time leaving her as we came to the last 2 miles of hill. I found man in green top again, he was walking, I encouraged him to run on with me for a bit, told him we'd still make sub four hours at this pace, he tried to keep going but said "go on, you're doing great, " and he fell back into a walk again.

A group of cyclists out for a saturday ride came past, one of them said to a girl in the group "don't worry it's not that steep" i laughed and said to her "who's he kidding!" to which she agreed as she rode past not much faster than the pace I was running - well by now I was mincing! The hill was sapping my energy, draining every ounce from my legs. i didnt' once cramp up though, just feeling the tank ebbing away. I caught up with a few more people walking and went on past, giving words of encouragement "not long now", "the pub will be open when we get to the top" there was a young guy in front walking, I said "come on, you don't want to get beaten by a girl" which perked him up and got him running again, til i caught up with him once more as he was again walking. He said he ws going to havea walk then catvh me up. The last stretch of hill, I wasnt' going to overtake anyone else, I had little fight left in me, and the people I could see ahead were too far to catch now.

A hot guy watching with his kids said "less than 800m" - "Woo!" looked at my watch - I was going to make under 4 hours. hurrah!.Just. Keep. Those. Legs. Moving. Forward.

Lady on the last corner said "200m to go" I said "yay! you're telling the truth this time!" and thanked her and trotted on for the last 200m.

I rounded the last corner and saw my dad - waved and went on through the finish over the timing mat, looked at my watch 3:57:35 - yay! Grabbed some water and found my Dad.

Found Mike, he did great despite some bike mechanical problems.

Here's my splits

Run 1 - 1:00:45 (which from the start gun is offiicially 1:01:45 - so I only missed the start by 1 minute!)
T1 - 2:14
Bike - 1:45:10 !!!!! This is shocking!! :D
T2 - 2:01
Run 2 - 1:07:15
Total 3:58:35

category place............ 1st !!!! Ok so there weren't that many in my age group but still - I won.... not sure where i was in the total ladies

How this compares to last time is really interesting....

Nov 2009

Run 1 - 1:00:41 (-4 seconds)
T1 - 3:18 (+1:02)
Bike - 1:36:08 (- 9 mins!!)
T2 - 3:19 (+1:18)
Run 2 - 1:07:08 (- 7 seconds)
Total - 3:50:36
category position - 5th

Weight difference + 1 stone!

My run times were almost identical which I find amazing. The bike time - atrocious! :D

I just looked up the guy in green top and he did 4hr 1 min so i'm happy for him too.

Still my favourite race, looking forward to the next one... after my legs stop hurting!


  1. awesome report Anna - you have my deepest respect :)

  2. Boom! KAZAM!

    Niiiice time. And 1st! You won you AG!!

    Really though I can't believe you thought you were out of shape for this and then did sub 4. The contrast between you in the run up compared to your sensible, positive thinking during the race is amazing! Still, it's the latter wot counts.

    POW! :D

  3. Hi Anna, I started reading this blog aaaages ago after finding it via JAG's blog. Have always found your race reports really inspiring - and thought it was quite cool when I realised you're a Swindonian also! I'm posting a comment on this report as, because of you, I have been looking into the BallBuster and REALLY want to do it. It'd be a big step up for me as although I've done 3 duathlons already, they've only been sprint/short distance as an introduction to it. I'm pretty decent at running and altho don't practice on the bike much (constraints of a young family) am also fairly decent in this discipline also. I'm 99% sure I am going to enter and although I'm shitting it, am also really excited by it!
    Anyway, I''m gabbling. What I'd really like to ask is if you'd mind 'chatting' to me - if you have the time - via email because I've got lots of questions about the event and how best to train, how to tackle it on the day, blah de blah.
    HOpe you don't think it's uber weird that I'm babbling away to you on here - but you sound like a similar sort of soul - and doing the sort of stuff I really want to do :) I'll gauge if you're around first and blather on more later!

  4. hey geri, i only just saw thi reply... feel free to drop me a line

    anna _ buckingham @ yahoo . co . uk


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This latest blog will be hopefully following my transwales experience. Enjoy with me :-)