The Beauty of the Ballbuster!
31st October 2018
written by Adrian Fuller – Middle and Long Distance GB Age Group Duathlete.
The first Saturday in November is not usually a date associated with one of the highlights of the multisport calendar, however next Saturday sees the annual Ballbuster Duathlon – five laps of the iconic Box Hill in Surrey, organised by Human Race. The event is a great opportunity to wrap up the season’s exploits and get a true marker of where you are at before the winter sets in. In my opinion the Ballbuster Duathlon is a very special race – I love the course, and the enthusiastic support from spectators and clanging cowbells as you pass the summit of Box Hill adds to the superb atmosphere!
Next week, I’ll be taking on the race for the third time. On the previous two occasions, I have successfully used the race as a qualifier for both European Middle Distance and World Long Distance Duathlon Champs. I’m not going to lie it is a tough event, but having spent most of my summer riding around the Peak District and then completing the Fred Whitton Challenge, yes Box Hill is a grind but it is no Hardknott Pass! A mile and a bit of steady gradient which, if well-paced, is more than manageable.
However, another challenge of the Ballbuster Duathlon is the weather. Having spoken to friends and colleagues in the crew at Human Race, they say that Ballbuster is not Ballbuster without the rain, and I can agree with this 100%. However, the adverse conditions simply add to the charm, as you know that the wonderful views of the Surrey Hills will emerge at some point during the day between the clouds!
So what is my advice to those who have not taken on this iconic challenge or those looking to get that PR?
Your training is done. At this stage there is nothing that you can do physically which will improve your performance. A few light hill reps on the bike or running in the couple of days before will give you that mental boost when you are onto the 3rd lap of the bike and final run, which can make all the difference.
Recce the course. I would like to consider myself as a pretty competent bike handler having spent a lot of time descending both in the UK and abroad, on and off-road, However, Box Hill needs to be treated with caution on the descent, and despite excellent signage and professional marshalls, the roads are OPEN so care is required. There are a number of twists and turns, and when the roads are greasy with autumn leaves, a little bit of pre-knowledge is definitely an added bonus.
Arrive on time. Give yourself plenty of time to park and rack your bike. Parking is limited at the start/finish venue so try and car share with friends, get in early and don’t forget to allow yourself time to register and collect that fabulous Ballbuster hoodie!
Make your bike choice. Personally, I have always gone for my road bike over my time trial bike, as with the twists and turns and the repetitive climbing, I believe that the road bike is the better option. I have mentioned this in blogs before, however ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it! Check the bike this weekend and if it is in working order, go with it. Maybe drop the tyre pressures a little to give a bit more grip.
Wear appropriate clothing. As I have mentioned before, tradition says that it will rain! Arm warmers or rain jacket I would say are a must and maybe even a base layer. Make sure you have lights on your bike as well for early morning visibility.
Pace judgement. With equal length runs, the key here is try and get the two run times as close as possible to each other. The first mile or so of the circuit is gradually uphill, don’t overcook it or it is a very long day out. Same goes for the bike course, if you have not checked out the course then use the first lap as your recce and then step on it on the 2nd and 3rd laps. Everyone has their own climbing style, high cadence will save your legs, however if you have the power, just get out of the saddle and go for it!
The final run will hurt. Once you dismount the bike and head out on the second run, your legs will hate you. Your quads will hurt as you descend but keep going, get into a group, work with another runner and once you get to the bottom of Box Hill, think of all that hard work that you have done in training and you’ll get up the hill!
You are a Ballbuster! This is a very special race, combining a challenging course with a fantastic atmosphere. Make sure you have some warm, dry clothes in the car, so you can wrap up well and refuel in the cafe with friends, family and other competitors, and celebrate your achievement – you are a Ballbuster.
See you there!