Helvellyn 2004

Time: 3:51 2nd M30-39, 3rd overall

Swim: 23 mins (including T1)

Bike: 1.55

Run: 1.33 (including T2)

1m swim, 38 mile bike and 8 mile run.

This report has to start the evening before the race just before registration when Tilly and I decide to swim the race course to sort out sighting of the route. A little over halfway round the course and next to the second buoy I stop to let Tilly catch up and tread water – immediately I feel a sharp pain in my foot, I take a look at it and see what appears a pretty deep cut though difficult to tell as the water washes away all the blood. I look under the water and see lots of scrap metal on the bottom. We swim straight back to shore and within seconds of getting out my foot is covered in blood. I sit applying pressure to the two main cuts to try and get the bleeding to stop (sods law my comprehensive first aid kit is at the hotel not in the car!). Several other triathletes have wandered over to look at the route and not noticing all the blood ask about the course. When I get to the point of telling them be careful of that buoy the blood is noticed and one of the guys girlfriends springs into action. I’m laid on my back, foot in the air, she’s got tissues out and is applying loads of pressure and more and more tissues. 30 minutes pass and it’s still not really stopping so they take Tillys towel and tie it tightly around my foot. Then three of my fellow competitors carry me to my car (a cunning ploy to tire out the opposition !). In the car we find some masking tape – I wrap this tightly around my foot and the plaster that has been applied and it seems to pretty much stop the bleeding.

I go to register and point out this danger. At which point we find out that when the race instructions said keep the buoy to your right – they didn’t mean immediately to your right but WELL to your right !!

Having got my final race preparations nailed so perfectly I head back to the hotel for some food.

Next morning it’s pissing down, the cloud is down to about 1,000 feet and it’s not really clear whether I will be able to run on my foot.

The swim route is great with at least 400m to the first turn and loads of space so no argie bargie at all. I settled into a comfortable pace and sat in in 4th place which is how I exited the swim. My improvements at removing my wetsuit seem to be continuing – this time it felt pretty slick :O). The weather had improved a little as I headed out onto the bike. The first hill was welcomed as it warmed me up but there was then a very long fast descent that saw me spinning out my top gear and as a result I started shivering. Once the hill ended I pushed hard to warm up and soon caught and passed the 3rd place guy. The bike route is wonderful and the middle section was no where near as tough as I was expecting – unfortunately this meant the early arrival of the final climb to Kirkstone Pass (‘The Struggle’). This is a 3 mile ascent to 1,500 feet with several sections of 20-25% including the final 500m and 3 or 4 stretches early on with a small reprieve in the 3rd quarter. This climb is brutal. I was immediately in my bottom (39-26) gear and working out of the saddle at my threshold for huge stretches of the climb. The final 100m to the top was lined with spectators making me feel like Richard Virenque on Bastille day :o).

The descent was awesome – reaching a max of 47.2 mph – limited by the fact I was held up by a car ;o( Not a safe road to pass.

I entered T2 in 3rd place. I took time to put socks on carefully (cause of my cuts) and fell shoes, grabbed my rucksack for the ascent of Helvellyn. This is a climb of about 3,000 feet – initially there’s an unrelenting climb of 2,000 feet, then a couple of miles of flat(ish) running and then the final 1,000 feet before descending to the finish. I set off on the run knowing the two in front were within reach and started pushing up the climb. The foot is bearing up well – painful when a rock presses directly against either cut but otherwise ok – certainly nothing that will slow me down. These guys were clearly not fell runners as I passed them early on on the first climb. I enjoyed about a minute leading the race before a local bloke (from Lakeland Triathletes) came past me. It’s not often I have someone pass me uphill but he went by and by the top had made 3 minutes on me. Looking back it seemed I had a good advantage over 3rd place.

I set off on the descent – not my strongest part of fell running but I was going really well and was thinking the winter of quad strengthening and balance work was paying off. Then heading down to the zig zags I went over on my right ankle but managed to catch it. Mental note to take it easier – a twisted ankle would see huge chunks of the field go by. A few minutes later BANG ! right over on it – my usual abuse targeted at my ankle ‘Your b***ard ! you f***er” etc… came out. I then saw two guys by the path and apologised for my language. They said ‘Don’t worry. You’ll run it off and the next guy is no where near you’ The support on the fells had been awesome from everyone I’d met. I eased off the pace a little, then went over on it again so eased off some more. Still no sign of anyone catching. Then with about two miles to go I see some guy whizzing down the path. I push the pace but am still wary, hoping for some tarmac so I can push real hard. This guy goes by and I can’t stick with him. I hang on to 3rd place. The guy in second was about 3 mins ahead and the winner 14 minutes !! (he took 11 minutes out of me on the descent). Unfortunately the guy that passed me in the final miles was also in the 30-39 age group so I was 2nd in my age.

Awesome race, very well run, great scenery, loads of support on the route and a super friendly set of fellow competitors.

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