The opportunity had arisen to go and complete the course of the Wasdale Triathlon. Steve was keen for a day out. He also knew how much effort I had invested into preparing for this race. He is a good friend who understands. He had not biked or swam for a long time but was still up for it. Legend. We set off for Wasdale on a wet, misty morning. After three weeks of massively reduced training I did not know how it I would feel. Apprehension hung in the air. A tough day lay ahead. No prizes, places or chip timing. Just a day in the mountains and a chance to explore your own limits.
Steve had raved about swimming in Wastwater since last Easter. It was great to finally experience it. The weather cleared as we began to swim. The water was fresh, not too cold and had a clear green tinge. You really did feel you could drink as you swam. The screes rose above, Kirkfell and the Scafell's also loomed. The swim experience came close to the Celtman. No jelly fish though. Clear water, mountains and the rhythm of the swim. It seemed to pass quickly. I came out of the water, ran down to transition and headed out for the bike section.
Now this is a tough bike course. The steepest passes of the lakes from both sides and a few others thrown in for good measure. I was riding the Steel Cougar with its 53/39/26 ratio. I doubted if I would make it up the passes let alone be able to run after. Somehow I did. My heart rate certainly maxed out twice and I saw stars. Not exactly ideal for a Half Ironman. It is amazing what your body can do if you are willing to push it. Heading back to Wasdale I start to slow down the nutrition and drink a little water in preparation for the run.
Back into transition I meet up with Steve. I am looking forward to heading out on the run together having not seen each other since the start of the bike. The final challenge of a 13mile traverse of the Scafell's remains. We start the run together but Steve soon falls behind. Still feeling the effects of his awesome effort at the Ripon Ultra he tells me to go on. On my own again the loneliness sets in. For the first time I consider quitting turning around and heading back. I would be so easy. Then my legs start to slow down and I feel dizzy. I am forced to walk. I had slowed nutrition down to early on the bike and have bonked. A Baz Ball (Nice one Coach!) revives me. I feel the energy flow back. I see no one else for the rest of the run. Mist and the call of a crow greet me on Scafell Pike, a reddening sky and the last rays of the sun are waiting on Scafell. I feel privileged to be here. It feels good to get into some running again on the descent to the Boglands. It is dark as I climb over the haunted moorland of Burnmoor Tarn. On tired legs the Bog saps my energy. I am greeted by the light of Steves head torch on the descent to Bracken close. It is good to see him again. The day is done, the challenge complete. Business is closed.
Today I experienced an intense mix of emotions and feelings. Moments of darkness, light and release. The mountains always seem to provide a catalyst for this. They give us a chance to explore ourselves in ways just not possible in day to day living. I always seem to struggle with the return to normality from these experiences That is why I am awake at three am after a nine hour day in the hills after only three hours sleep. A common theme in adventures books is that these experiences make us feel truly alive. We experience all that life has to offer. There will be more adventures, tougher challenges and I look forward to these. More chances to cut open the core of the apple to prove it exists ;) For now a little rest is needed though!