The Hillingdon Duathlon is one of the favourite events in the Triathlon calendar, not only is it a nearby, beginner-friendly, closed circuit duathlon – but you also get a mug for entering. Win win. The race consists of 2-mile run, 10-mile bike and then another 1-mile run. The men’s race was an hour earlier than the women’s, so the 10-strong male contingent had an inhumane 5:30am alarm. With the weather looking dreadful for the whole morning, moral was understandably low as we met cold, wet and tired at 6:10am. After an uneventful journey we made it to the race track at Hillingdon. Undeterred by the extremely expensive bikes we saw on arrival, we racked our own and registered.
The race and predicted downpour started bang on time at 8am and the men set off to run two laps of the track. The field was strong and Hillingdon Triathletes – on their home turf – wanted to prove themselves against the Imperial team. Setting off at a storming pace was no deterrent for Matt Ryan as he showed us the quality in army fitness training. Onto the bike and Matt’s lead became short lived as competition arrived in the form of ‘rocket’ Romain. Romain has the aerodynamic footprint of a paper plane, and combined with the wattage cottage that his legs are, he won 2nd place. Luke Whiting, an exceptional all-rounder was also up in the top 5. The seemingly endless headwind on the back straight was loudly chastised by everyone, after all, everyone knows shouting at the wind makes you go faster. The most difficult part of the race was not in battling the headwind as it turned out but in counting to 10. Honourable mentions go to Daniel Boulby and Wim Van Der Schoot who both decided that 10 laps were not enough and did 11 instead. The race for the win came down to a sprint finish, with Romain coming a commendable 2nd place by only a second. 6 of the top 15 were Imperial athletes, with 5th place going to Luke Whiting, 6th to Matt Ryan, 8th to Angus Phillips, 9th to Mark Pollock and 15th to Cedric Ormond. It was also great to see so many giving duathlons a go for the first time, well done to Alex Luisi, Daniel Boulby and Shravan Nageswaren.
The girls arrived significantly better rested and dryer than the boys for their 9am start. Imperial had a strong representation in the women’s race with about 20% of the field. Spoiler alert: 3 out of the top 4 were Imperial. Almost sounds like an academic league table. With Freya Espir leading the run and being first into transition, hopes were high that she would take the win. Closely following in her wake were Minty Martin and Marion Artigaut. The recovering Imperial men’s team were playing their role and providing enthusiastic support and live intelligence to the women as they went into the bike. About 10 laps later Freya was off the bike, I say about 10 because she actually did 11, yet still came 3rd. Kudos. Minty (who did do 10 laps) came in for 2nd place and Marion in 4th. Lois Baker, Emma Claxton, Esme Hotson Moore and Mari Funabashi all had strong races.
The organisers found it very funny how STEM students could not count to 10, but we set our reputation straight by assuring them that UCL would only do worse.
Flapjacks, cakes, gossip and race stories were then shared between the victorious Imperial team. Whilst we were recovering a few of the faster duathletes got to stand on the podium and claim their rewards from the Hillingdon champagne cupboard.
Following the women’s race was ‘the main event’, ‘what we woke up for’ or ‘the cutest thing since Charlie bit my finger’ – the under 8’s duathlon. This draft-legal, stabilisers-illegal duathlon was well worth staying for. The Spiderman trisuits and dinosaur helmets were too much for some, who decided there and then to adopt.
As the weather had decidedly improved, we chose to do even more exercise and cycle back home. Back in Hammersmith, we enjoyed a compulsory microwave meal (courtesy of The William Morris). A couple of soggy sausages and watered-down maple syrup was just what the group of damp duathletes needed. After dabbling in daytime drinking, we then realised that we were at Imperial and we had more work than time, so we made our ways back home to relish in a hot shower.
Despite the inclement weather, another successful outing for 16 of Imperial’s triathletes and good preparation for next weekend for the biggest and best duathlon of the year: BUCS Duathlon. BUCS marks the end of the duathlon season for the year, but do not despair as come the new year we’ll be competing in aquathons (swimming and running) building up to triathlons around Spring.