Friday, September 03, 2010
By Steve Wilson
Published: 12:22PM BST 02 Sep 2010
For Cat Morrison, the week before a major race is usually one of upheaval, sorting travel arrangements, acclimatising to new surroundings and killing time in foreign hotel rooms.
Ahead of this weekend’s ITU World Duathlon Championships, however, the former European champion and world silver medallist in the run-bike-run event, feels very much at home.
She even has time to relax feeding her chickens, even if she is resisting the temptation to count them as a stellar field of athletes descend on Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, a Sunday jogger’s distance from her house in Broxburn.
The opportunity to add the duathlon world title to triathlon victories in this year’s St Croix 70.3 and, memorably, the Lanzarote Ironman – when a broken bike chain saw her lose 40 minutes to the field but miraculously find the will and the energy to resume the lead just 2.5km from the tape – in front of friends and family is one the Scot is relishing.
And in a season of unbroken success, it is one she looks well placed to take.
“I remember winning the Europeans in Edinburgh and it was really special,” she says of her 2007 victory.
“You know the audience and you know everyone is wanting you to do well, and you want to do well for them, it’s like a reciprocal relationship.
“If it comes together it would almost be like a way of saying thank you to the people who’ve been looking out for me.
“There is a bit more pressure but that’s all part and parcel of the game, you’ve got to stand up, you should be able to perform under any circumstances so it’s a good test.”
For someone who holds the record for the fastest ever Ironman debut when she began tackling triathlon’s most punishing of sub-disciplines back in July last year at Challenge Roth, the more manageable 10km run, 38km bike and 5km run, even if it does make ample and unforgiving use of Holyrood’s undulating hills, may seem at first glance like a walk (and bike) in the park.
However, with reigning European Champion Ruth Van der Meijden from Holland and fellow Briton Katie Ingram, who came second at the Europeans in Nice in May, to contend with, as well as 2009 world silver medallist Sandra Levenez from France, she will have to employ all of her legendary power and race smarts to give the partisan home crowd the result they want.
The longer-form triathlons, and a second crack at the world championships in Kona in October – after she was struck down by a virus ahead of her debut in Hawaii last year when “some nasty person ‘shared’ something horrible with me on the plane and I spent seven days in a little apartment just being downright miserable” – is what the season is building towards for the ebullient and instantly likeable 33-year-old.
Unlike some of her peers, however, she does not view one individual race as the definitive ‘holy grail’ of her chosen sport.
And that goes some way towards explaining her eagerness to flit between triathlon and duathlon, ever since she discovered that skipping the swim leg from time to time was no impediment to her season’s training schedule.
“We don’t have an all year round summer in this country and a duathlon is something that you can do whatever the weather,” she says, “rather than just the two month window where you can go and throw yourself in an icy cold lake.
“There is a bit more involved in the tactics in duathlon because it is a drafting race.
"If you are in the pack after a swim on a drafting triathlon and you are at the front you will still be worried about those at the back catching you because they might be weaker swimmers but strong runners.
“I’ve been in leading packs on the bike in a duathlon and seen triathletes panicking that the second group are catching you. When that happens I’m just thinking ‘if the second pack were good runners they’d be in the first pack on the bike so I’m not so worried about them on the second run at all.’”
Were Morrison not to find herself in such a leading position again on Sunday it would come as no surprise, such is her form going in to the race.
Edinburgh’s success in gaining hosting rights for the event will shine a rare spotlight in this country on a sport that is often cast in triathlon’s shadow.
Morrison maintaining her current winning streak would only make it shine brighter still.