Day 2 was different, very different both physically and logistically! We had the Duathlon and 15 mile Trail Race and so I needed to take a bit more than just some warm clothing and an energy drink! I took Allison’s mountain bike for the Duathlon and needed more drinks and gels for before the races, during the races, between the races and afterwards. Registration for the Duathlon was between 8 and 9am to collect our race number (I was given 007!) and chip, exclusive for that race, so that meant I had to get up stupidly early to get packed, have breakfast, squeeze everything in the car and set off. Fortunately the scenery on the way up was nice…..
A potential spanner was thrown into the works as the road was closed at Braemar due to a fatal accident on the relatively short stretch between Braemar and Balmoral. The organisers reacted very quickly by sending out emails and posting alternative directions on their Facebook page as the road wasn’t to be open again until much later. I wasn’t aware of this until I arrived at Braemar and fortunately for me, I met some people who were to be working at the event who had access to another entrance to the estate and so I followed them otherwise I wouldn’t have made it in time.
Once we got in, I got the bike set up at transition and got myself ready for the race. The Duathlon involved a 6k run, 16k bike ride and 5k run. There was a different start/finish line due to the different chip timing system and so we lined up facing the opposite way from the races the day before, largely so we could fit in the 1km in a loop that would bring us back round to cross the original start line, passing in front of the castle along the way. What was interesting was that we took a different route to the races the day before and headed down to the riverside before coming back up, onto a testing hill section before returning to the main path and back to transition ready for the bike section.
I would always recommend preparing for the conditions you’re about to face as much as possible during training and I have to hold my hands up and admit that I didn’t prepare at all for the mountain bike section of the Duathlon or for the Trail Race that followed. I had done a bit on hills over the winter but the last few months have been spent on tarmac in preparation for Paris and I haven’t been on a mountain bike for years! This became obvious as we started heading into the hills on the Balmoral Estate and one point was steep enough that I jumped off the bike and pushed it as I reckoned I would be as quick walking as pedalling.
There was a great section where you could see around a mile or so of the route ahead as the route wound its way around the side of the hill and then we hit some good downhill bits. These were great fun although I was a bit rusty and a wee bit too cautious. It was back to transition again and out on the 5k run which was more or less the same route as the 6k minus the 1km loop at the start. I finished in a total time of 1hr 48mins and was fairly happy with that time. Just completing it was good enough for me.
The challenge with doing multi events like this isn’t so much the events themselves, it’s the recovery between each one. On Day 1, the break was around an hour but today was 90 minutes as they had to wait for all the runners to finish before starting the trail race. When I did Edinburgh, the break between the Half and Marathon relied on finishing the Half quickly then getting back to the start on motorbike and not having time to think about it worked quite well.
The great thing about doing this kind of challenge is that a great bond was formed between all the runners especially as we were all given a special t-shirt to wear on both days highlighting the challenge. It was great to chat to a few between the races as well as offer and receive lots of support from my fellow ‘devils’ during the races, particularly during the trail race where we needed it the most!
We had time to get some food so I visited the local butcher’s stand for a pulled pork roll but to be honest, I consumed it very easily and didn’t really taste it! The biggest thing was calling down so I sat in the car with warm clothing on AND the heater on! Eventually it was time to get ready and warm up which largely consisted of just moving my legs and doing some various mobility exercises. The trail race was going to be more a mental test rather than a physical one thanks to the marathon training.
We set off on the same route as the bike section of the Duathlon but with a bonus hill bit in the first few miles. We climbed the same hills to the bike bit also and I actually found this easier to run up than to cycle. My pace had started out well but that slowed down as we approached the hills and my body realised what it was doing and that it had done quite a lot already!
Following the same route as the bike, we went up and round the side of the hills before dropping back down, met with a headwind too! There was a sting in the tail just beyond 13 miles as we headed off the main track, into the woods and back uphill again. This was tough and a few of us were starting to walk a bit until we got onto flat ground then started running again. Before the start, the announcer, Duncan from Run4It – a fantastic running shop, gave a shout out to the Devil of Deeside runners now about to take on their 4th race of the weekend. This was really nice as a number of runners chatted as they went past, asking about the races and how my legs were. I also had the pleasure of running with Bryan, a friend I met through UKRunChat on Twitter. I had suggested meeting at a particular marquee between the races but sadly the marquee wasn’t there anymore and there was no signal to change plans so it was great to meet him during the run. A great guy and a welcome distraction!
We were treated to some steep declines which normally I would’ve loved but this time my quads weren’t as keen! We dropped down on the path we ran on in the Duathlon until we hit the tarmac with around 200m to go. On the descents, I let a few guys pass me as they were that bit stronger than me but as soon as we hit the tarmac, my legs seemed to feel right at home, found renewed energy from somewhere and I managed to sprint to the finish line, passing the guys who passed me on the downhill. Job done! I got that amazing feeling of achievement I usually get after a marathon and this felt the same although it actually felt tougher than a marathon.
That was the Devil of Deeside. Would I recommend it? Absolutely! It’s a fantastic challenge and the whole event is well organised. Would I do it again? I probably would but I would treat this as a stand alone challenge and train specifically for it, particularly with mountain biking. Marathon training can only take you so far! On the flip side, the Ironman 70.3 in July no longer holds any fear for me and I suspect may feel easier compared to this weekend!