Family habits die hard, as Team Garner push to the limit for a very special reason
By Katie Garner
The forecast was clear and sunny with a few rolling clouds; my backpack was loaded with bananas and water bottles and I was eating porridge at an unearthly hour on a Sunday morning – all this equates to only one thing: it was event day. But not just any old event day; yesterday, I combined forces with my dad Bill and my twin sister Jess to complete the London Duathlon in Richmond Park in London, opting to do the Classic Relay. Raising money for Macmillan in memory of our Grandad was one reason for the additional tummy butterflies, however we were also anxious about our very first team racing event, spending hours pouring over the information pack, identifying timing chips, helmet stickers and transition entry wristbands.
So, once at Richmond Park, after a simple end to end journey on the ever-lasting district line and then an impossibly long hour walk to Roehampton Gate, it was time to gear up and get prepared. I would start the race off at 11.00am, with the beginning run of 10km. I would finish my part of the course by sprinting into the transition zone, where I would take off the elasticated belt complete with looped timing chip that acted as our baton for Dad to now wear, before he un-racked his bike and ran to the mount line. His four lap cycle route was 44km. After his final lap, he would whiz back into the transition zone to re-rack the bike and then pass the timing chip on to Jess for the last leg – a speedy 5km run to the finish line.
The other events, such as the Classic, Ultra and the Sprint, were all done by just one person, with the focus on endurance and stamina. The point of the Classic Relay however was all in the speed, and picking the best person for the best discipline, the emphasis distinctly on teamwork and collaboration. We were keen to put in a decent time – anyone who knows us will appreciate that we may be a tad competitive at times, although Jess’s hectic schedule in Southend Hospital meant that training had been put on the back burner, whilst Bill had just returned from an exotic holiday in Turkey. A training injury had me on the back foot also, a panicked text to Doctor Jess confirming that I had plantar fasciitis in my right foot – a very annoying inflammation of the ligament that runs the length of the sole of your foot, meaning that it hurt to put weight on it. Some Ibuprofen and frozen peas later, I loaded my foot with ligament supporting bandages as well as an elasticated ankle support, even switching back to my old, holey trainers to be on the safe side. So needless to say, we may not have been in the best shape, and although we all knew we could do the distances in our sleep, it was the driving factor of achieving ‘a good time’ that rung in our ears.
Crossing the start line of the fourth metallic bleep felt very exciting and professional, although my cheesy wave and grin to my fiancé Dan and mum Tina at the barriers may not have exuded athlete. We were running on the roads and paths of the park, so the majority was concrete surfaces, except for the beginning and end sections, which was undulating and pot hole filled grass. Richmond Park seems to go on forever, with huge fields of yellow green grass and big, statuesque oak trees shedding conkers and their shells across the greenery. I was on the lookout for animals after our booklet advised giving way to deer, but luckily I didn’t encounter any mammal related issues.
It was silent as the grave on the way round, with the no headphones rule meaning that the only noises echoing in my ears was the sound of my own puffing and panting, as well as the staggered breath of the other runners as we overtook each other. It was the most polite race ever, with us all lined up on the left hand side of the road, neatly overtaking slower contestants on the right before tucking back in to the left. There were plenty of water stations, although I didn’t pause – far too much multitasking. The course itself was mainly flat, and the hills when they cropped up were slow inclines which I only really noticed once I was coming down the other side, musing that I was going downhill. The foot held up for the majority, though the occasional pesky twinge meant that I had to run on my right toes instead of my whole foot for some points, which worked my left thigh more than I was expecting. I tried to take longer strides in a bid to go further with less steps, but I’m not sure if that worked. I seemed to be keeping pace with a sweat drenched Frenchman, although as we began nearing the 7-8km mark, I tried to shift my internal gear box into faster mode.
Shouting ‘COME ON!’ at myself as I made it into the transition zone saw me desperately head to where we had racked Dad’s bike when we arrived. Jess and Dad were waiting for me as I slung off the belt and threw it at Dad whilst trying to breathe. The handy online tracker meant that Mum and Dan could follow whichever one of us was currently racing, making it easier to time when we needed to be in the transition zone. Dad promptly zoomed off.
Looking at the breakdown afterwards, I am so proud of us and what we achieved together. I managed to finish my 10km segment in 47 minutes, which is a personal best for me. The last 10km event I did was a Race for Life a couple of years ago, which I did in 48 minutes. To shave a minute off with a gammy foot is great, but it also makes me feel a bit gutted as I wonder what I could have achieved with two ‘normal’ feet and no niggling worries. Dad stormed his section, completing the 44km cycle in one hour 31 minutes, powering through in true Garner fashion. Jess was an absolute rocket (we believe she was a smidge high on energy bars), also getting a personal best for a 5km run, knocking it out of the park in 23 minutes. Our combined time added up to two hours and 45 minutes, which out of approximately 100 teams doing the Classic Relay saw us rank about 24th. Not bad for a first attempt! Interestingly, Jess and I also had near identical average speeds of around 12 km/h. There were even prizes for the best moves as you crossed the finishing line, Jess shyly jumping over the line with miniature jazz hands as her final shazam moment.
Once reunited and laden with medals, t-shirts, Lucozade, water and bananas, we decided the sensible course of action would be to hit the burger van, my onion layered cheeseburger really hitting the spot, whilst Jess munched on a chicken burger and some wedges hidden beneath a coleslaw mountain. We had already sampled the fruit smoothies earlier on doing the healthy bit whilst Dad was cycling as Dan treated Jess and I to strawberry and banana smoothies, so the greasy burgers were a treat…as was the slap up Indian meal we went to for dinner to celebrate!
Altogether, we had a fabulous day. Slightly pink from the patchy glow of sunshine, we all really enjoyed every aspect. I loved taking part in my first team event and it seemed to spur you on even more than usual, as you weren’t just racing for you anymore. As well as nabbing a personal best, you wanted to set the team off on the right foot and not let anyone down – I think this was something we were all nervous about, but turns out we didn’t need to be. Hopefully we’ll be able to compete in another one, although I’ll keep my fingers crossed for two decent feet next time!
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