While everybody was up north at Ben Nevis I decided to head south to the lake district to take part in the Helvellyn triathlon. For those of you who have never heard of this race it is basically a hill run with a cycle for a warm up… after doing a swim in the lake that morning to wake yourself up.
Sounds simple but as always the devil is in the detail. The swim was in a rather frigid 12deg Ullswater. It was a 1 mile triangular course. I was one of the first in the water, a vain attempt to get a good starting position and avoid the inevitable scrap at the start line. However the water was so cold I soon regretted my decision as I got a nice dose of Ice cream head. When we eventually started it took me a while to get into a good rhythm, but when my face was suitably numb I think I stopped caring and actually swam quite well for me… finishing the swim in just over 23 minutes.
The warm up cycle was a hilly 38 miles. It started quite well and I soon regained feeling in my hands and face (it took a lot longer for the feet to come back). The first climb was about 2 miles at about 5-6% followed by a nice long fast decent. There was a few other short climbs and drops before we reached Ambleside and started the "big" climb (called the struggle). Initially the climb ramped to 20% for about 500 m before settling down to a more manageable 10% for 2 km. We then got a brief respite with a short flat stretch before the finial 500 m at over 20%. It was then a case of downhill all the way back to Glenridding. I finished the cycle in about 2 hours.
I have never started a hill run with such tired quads before and it was quite a humbling experience. The climb was up the standard tourist track to the top of Helvellyn (along the swirral ridge). Most of it should have be runnable but I had to resort to a walk/stumble/crawl due to my tired legs (and still frozen feet). The weather was fantastic and the scenery was epic… not quite that remoteness of the highlands but still beautiful. At the top I took my finial gel and a big mouth full of water before aiming to reel in a few non fell runners on the decent. The path down was not very steep or technical (so no real advantage for fell runners), it followed along by Lower Man and Whiteside Bank before following a series of switchbacks (which we had to follow, crazy triathlon rules) down to the fire road in the valley. I did catch a few nervous descenders, maybe 10 or 15, to finish in about 25. Just over 4 hours.
For any of you who are interested in something a little different, I would completely recommend this race… very tough but well worth it in the end.