Duathlon Darren's season of discovery

From burn out…

Going back to April 2017, I'd made it to the European Duathlon Championships in Soria, Spain and had a disappointing race, which seemed to knock my confidence, along with having a training schedule that consisted of mostly high intensity sessions this all culminated in what I can effectively call 'burn out'.

I had lost my enjoyment for the sport and took time away, which didn't really help, as I'd got involved in sport to help with my mental health years ago by taking up running. Duathlon was another sport that helped me to keep a clear head, as well as keeping me physically healthy. The time out didn't help and I needed to get back into something I did enjoy and had felt I had been successful at. 

My search for some help and support came, when I contacted Mike after Christmas 2017, to ask about his coaching services and if he had room to take me on. We met at a local cafe and discussed my past and the point I was at, which felt hard to discuss, as my mental health was my issue and no one else's. Mike listened and made the discussion so much easier to have and I felt better for talking as well as feeling motivated to get going again. It wasn't a difficult decision to make to have Mike coaching me and helping me get back to where I was.


With Mikes plan to 'mix things up', I then added that I'd had a bit of a desire to complete the Ballbuster Duathlon, with the added bonus of 5 ascents of Box Hill thrown in for an additional challenge. I remember Mike’s face when I mentioned this and I could see that this curveball had left him with a challenge.


to Mixing it up

Training started and Mike’s schedule was easy to follow and eased me back into a routine of training that didn't take long to get into. The focus on the season was to get back the enjoyment of training and competition, which included an Off-Road Duathlon, Sprint Duathlons, a 10km Road Race and a Mountain Bike Race, all of which allowed me to try new things and to regain my enthusiasm, as well as achieving some good results and placings - my motivation was back and since January the thought of the Ballbuster was on my mind each time I trained or raced.

And on to the Ballbuster

Ballbuster training started in mid-July, after my least favourite part of the year - Active Recovery, a concept I still find hard to get my head around. As I write this I'm on another two weeks Active Recovery. Training went well and the time flew by as each session got completed and my last coaching call with Mike was started by Mike saying “well, here we are then” and the reality began to set in, with 4 days to go until race day.

6am on race day with the car parked and on my way to register bought it all home with the usual, “what if?” and “why?”' questions. With registration completed and the bike racked, the main question being asked by all fashion-conscious lycra clad athletes was of course, “what clothing are you going to wear?” It was a cold, breezy start to the day, which led to everyone checking out what each other was wearing - not something I usually worry about, but seemed important at the time.

8am soon came round and the start was getting underway, I'd heard people say about taking the first 8 mile run steady, as this helped for saving energy for later and especially the last 8 mile run. Off I went on the first run, trying not to get carried away and telling myself to hold back, as well as asking myself what had I let myself in for? Before I knew it we were at the base of Box Hill and the first ascent started, with a steady pace up to the top and into transition. The next 24 miles, 3 laps went well and the sun began to shine, which raised the spirits and helped the motivation to push on. Into transition one last time and it was back on the road for the final 8 mile lap. 

Settling into a steady pace, all I wanted to do was complete this race and I was 80% of the way there. My motivation for this race was my Dad, who had passed away 6 weeks before race day and all the way round, on each lap, I spoke to him knowing that any pain I would endure, would have been less than he had recently suffered. The run went well and I got to Box Hill for the last time, just over a mile to go and I would have done it. Box Hill did its best to beat all of us that had conquered the previous 4 laps, but with the end in sight we were all determined to finish.

I had a goal target of 3 hours 30 mins before I started and I finished in 3 hours 20 mins, I'd finished the Ballbuster, with the help of my Dad, Mike’s coaching and support, Proper Cycling and Coffee, Hassocks’ continued sponsorship and not forgetting my long suffering partner, Hayley, for her patience, understanding and support, who was also going to suffer later at her Hen party.

My season of discovery, is now complete and I'm looking forward to planning next season. Most importantly, my mental health is in a much better place and life has been an easier journey, with sport as my medicine.