Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Helvellyn Triathlon 2012 race report

Helvellyn Triathlon.

1mile swim- 38mile bike- 9mile run

Described as one of the toughest triathlons on the planet! A cold swim in Ullswater, followed by a bike ride including the famous 'Struggle' to Kirkstone pass and finishing with a run up Helvellyn, one of the highest mountains in England.

I decided to do this race a little last minute. My main goal after Celtman was Wasdale Tri. However I have always been inspired to do this race. Friends have raved about it, it has a true fell runners finish and a tough bike. The chance to visit a mountain summit during a triathlon seems to be important to me. It gives me the motivation and inspiration to train and race hard. Visiting the summit of Whiteside and the descent to Glenridding certainly pushed me and as I said in my pre race post a meltdown nearly occurred!

I woke at 5.45 am on race morning. A bowl of muesli, a strong coffee and slab of chocolate cake for breakfast got me going. Arriving at transition I felt fairly calm compared to Celtman. The day would be much shorter, I knew the course well and the fear of the unknown was not lurking as close. I wanted to race hard and treat this as a practice race for Wasdale, another training session to learn. I knew I was biking well so decided to leave very little in reserve during this leg. Lets see how it effects the run, learn the limits and how it feels.

Entering the water calmed me more.It was about to begin. The siren sounded and we were off. Arms and legs flailing. Spells of clear water, rough and tumble near the buoys on the turns. It is over in 28 mins. I am happy with this time but know there is so much room for improvement.

Transition go well and I am away on the bike. I soon move up through the field over the first climb. I do what I set out to do, race on the bike.I take it steady through St Johns in the vale, hold my position for a bit then attack again. I start spinning as I reach Ambleside to prepare for the Struggle. I hold my position and over take a few. The final ascent to the pass is lined with supporters. Cowbells and writing on the tarmac gives a European feel. The last bit feels as tough as it always does. I nearly vomit at the top, gasping for air. Then it is time to spin the legs ready for the run. I could have pushed harder on the last few flat miles but knew the struggle had taken its toll.

Another reasonable transition and the run begins. This is where the real pain begins. The heat of the day hits me as well as the steep path up mires beck to the hole in the wall. My legs feel dead, doubts creep in along with fatigue. Even when the path levels out my legs feel heavy and I am slow to warm up. On Swirral edge I try to keep running until the final steepening. On to Whiteside I force myself to run the descents fast but I am in pain. I had prepared myself for this but it does not help. I keep pushing down the zig zags. I am passing people but the pace is hurting me. At the bottom of the zigzags the path flattens. The calf cramps start to kick in. This pace is pushing my body to its limits. A Zinger Gel and a mouthful of water are forced down. I am worried I might not even make the finish line but hold the pace. I knew this may happen and accepted it. My body holds up, it does not shut down but I know I was close. I finished the run strong but was disappointed not to feel stronger at the start and middle.

I am so glad to reach the finish. The pain stops.

So what did I learn?

Preparation is key. I still have bike problems and raced on a bike that was too small and had acceptable gearing. A compact chain set would have taken the sting out of the struggle. I had to put the saddle back and as a result used the wrong muscles which prob affected the run. This will not happen at Wasdale.

My running needs a little work. Still playing catch up after calf injury at Celtman.

I am biking well. 2hrs 1min on a borrowed bike holding back a little in reserve. The struggle felt hard but the rest of the bike felt hard but comfortable at the pace.

The run was painful but it did end and my body did hold up. It is amazing how much further you can push if you accept it might all end in tears!

Overall I am pleased with my time. The race is truly amazing. Great atmosphere and a stunning location. Thanks to Steve (www.runlakes.com) for helping make it happen, Ben for loaning his bike and Mulebar for amazing fuel.

Swam in Rydal  the evening after the race, biked to work and back today. A little achy but nothing major. Last three weeks training before a proper taper for Wasdale! Psyched!!

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