I had decided to concentrate on mountain running for the first half of my season and had a good start but ended up injured in June. If this had not happened I am not sure I would have raced Wasdale, I had done the course, knew it was hard and my head was fully into running mode. Some open water swimming through June and July, along with a bit of biking whilst recovering got me thinking though. I felt it might be too late a start for a peak performance, but I could just see what happens. In a way the pressure was off, so I did what I do best and got stuck into training, focussed and slowly but surely felt the fitness coming.
After a last minute descision to race the Buttermere Triathlon and a good finish (sixth) after a big weeks training I realised I felt strong just at the right time. Things had worked out and it was just a case of keeping focuss for a couple more weeks before the main event!
We travelled over the night before and I felt about as relaxed, focussed and confident as I ever have before a race. I knew I was fit, I knew I had worked hard, I knew I had no issues with injury and I knew what to expect.
|Sunset over Wastwater|
Swimming in Wastwater is amazing, its so clear it feels like you could drink it and the backdrop of mountains, scree and a clear sky are wonderful. I swam well (for me!!), did not get too cold and came out of the water ready to get out on the bike.
Now this bike is hard and a headwind going up Hardknott first time round and up through Cockley beck to Wrynose did not make the start easy. The first climb of the day out of Wasdale woke up the legs, my heart rate reached 180BPM on Hardknott and after that things settled down till the return leg over Wrynose. Wrynose from Langdale always feels hard, but I had prepared my mind for this section knowing how it would feel. At the top I said out loud out my mantra (suffer) and other positive encouragement, just to let it out, I find this helps me relax and things feel a little easier. The sun shone throughout the bike and it really is an amazing ride, mountain scenery all around and a technical course that requires concentration. Descending Hardnott my triceps, shoulders and back started to burn. Too much braking perhaps ;) but also just manouvering the bike. Out to Gosforth is a relatively fast section and my legs still felt good. The last three miles into T2 where tough though. My legs had crumbled in the strong headwind and my back was struggling too. Seeing the legend Joss Naylor fixing his roof was a highlight of the day. His words of "git stuck into it lad" stayed with me throughout the run and brought a smile to my face at a time I needed it.
Coming into transition I was unbelivably psyched to get out onto the run, the atmosphere and encouragement in T2 helped with that and I set off. I knew the cramping hamstrings would soon go and I had told myself I would not walk any of the way to Styhead Tarn. I kept my "jog on" (thanks Joss!) and remained focussed all the way to the end of the corridor route and the final steep pull onto Scafel Pike. Friendly faces greated me and I enjoyed the technical descending down the mickledore and the ascent of Scafell. Running with Rick Stuart helped and we worked together, pushing each other on. On the descent to Slightside we swapped places but I was in full race mode and made the descion to push hard to Eal tarn, knowing I risked cramping or blowing up. Cramp I did but only when I made the mistake of trying to walk! This push really hit me hard but it seemed to have paid of until....
"How we doing Mate??" I heard from behind. I thought Rick had caught me but then realised it was my good friend and training partner Ben Abdelnoor. Oh dear. I felt I had nothing left in the tank. We both pushed and I started to fall behind over the last climb. I tried to push, shouted a bit but watched Ben slip over brow of the hill first. At that point I knew I would not catch him. However on the descent I noticed I had gained a little. Then a little more. Then I caught up at the end of the descent. My confidence came back, as did a little extra in my legs. We ran towards the finish, up the valley side by side, shared a drink of water and talked about cans of coke and ready salted crisps. During the water share my bottle fell to the floor as Ben handed it back, but he stopped and waited as I picked it up, true sportmanship from a great man. The pace increased on the final section of road and I pipped Ben by a second at the line.
So how did it feel to race the Hardest half ironman in the world? Hard, very hard. On the day I could not have gone any faster, I truly emptied the tank, then scraped it to finish in third place with a time of 7hrs35mins. Doug Roberts (Great Blog) spent the whole day out the front, on his own and destroyed the course in a time of 6hrs 44mins, a remarkable time and testiment to the superb athelete that he clearly is. The ladies winner was Eleanor Haresign in a time of 8hrs 37mins.
In all a fantastic day. Thanks to Mark, Christine and all the marshalls for making it happen. It truly is a remarkable race and I feel proud and priveliged to have been a part of the first and certainly not the last...Just need to find 45mins from somewhere...A motorcycle perhaps:).
Link here to my data from Suunto Ambit2, missing first half of swim for some reason??