Helvellyn Triathlon 2008 Race Report

I made it. Alas, I completed a shortened course so feel a bit cheated, more of that later.

I went up to the lakes with the parents on the Saturday, leaving nice and early so we could watch the GP qually, register and browse some outdoor shoppy things. The Terrano had other ideas though and by Lancaster was barely able to hit 35mph up hills (avec le caravan). So we ended up in a services for 2 hours waiting for the RAC. What made it even worse is that a bit of Googling led me to suspect the MAF sensor, which just like Rovers is held on with those torx screws – with a pin in the centre so I cant get at it. RAC man arrives, removes sensor (at my request) and sprays it with carb cleaner. Problem fixed (for the moment). Arrived late, setup the van and drove through some nice floods to register. All very well orgainised, and the nice man from Lakes Runner was selling the water proof Montane tops for £30. I lost my last Montane top in Vietnam so this was rather good – a 100g water proof is awesome.

We wandered over to Keswick to the Old Keswickian fish and chip shop which we seem to gravitate to rather often. Drove the rest of the bike course looking out for floods. Mercifully, there were few and most looked like they would clear overnight assuming the rain stayed light to none. Spent the evening checking kit only to find I had the wrong HR strap so my pacing ideas went out the window. Nothing else was missing so I packed up and mixed up lots of electrolyte drink to try and stop my body cramping on the run.

Race day arrived after my usual night of no sleep. Got up at 0540, ate breakfast, dossed about for a while and then drove over to the transition area. A nice person next to us in the car park lent me a track pump (saving lots of effort with my mini pump) and I racked up my bike laid out my stuff and just generally hung around waiting for the race briefing while listening to rumours that the race had been shortened. Finally the brief started anf they confirmed that it was now an 800m swim and that the run would turn round at Red Tarn – missing off the Swirral Edge and therefore Helvellyn. Not happy.

We got into the water, via the finish instead of the start, milled around for a while and then sort of moved across the lake. By now there were swimmers everywhere and most seemed confused as to where the start was. Then a klaxon went off and the people a long way ahead of us seemed to start swimming so off we went. The water was mildly chilly – cold for a little while when I swam too far to the right and got close to the river coming in. Sighting was very hard – I couldnt see the buoys for the mass of swimmers ahead of me so just kept aiming for the middle of the pack. The small amount of swell was a new one on me, causing me to inhale lake a few times and choke a bit. More rotation of the body helped when I rembered to.

The return leg saw me a long way from the pack again, but as I was swimming straight at the exit I figured this was OK. Got out of the swim and into T1 in about 27 mins – slow, but I think I did more than 800m. Hard to tell though.

T1 was slow as usual, socks, silly cycling shoes with laces and stuff, merino t-shirt (awesome) and my old school Banesto top on, Lid on and lets go. Easy ride from T1 for about 2 miles before the first climb which I again took reasonably easy, using the 30×25 and spinning. Over the top of this climb feeling good, slightly cold but I didn’t want to waste time messing with arm warmers (note to self – practice riding and putting these on). Passed a few on the next descent and we were on the A66. This is a fast, open section with several gradual descents and one little climb. Gel down, drink and get on the aero bars and the big ring and ride. Passed a few, got passed by a few. I don’t fully understand the draft rule – I saw lots of people clearly close together, but waht can you do? Lots of riders and only a narrow bit of shoulder to be in. You don’t really want to mess with 60mph traffic and go 3 or 4 wide!

Left off the A66 onto the B5322 and away from traffic. Again udulating, and quickly I find myself on the A591 heading towards Ambleside. The wind was with us and you could fly down here. Traffic was light and the sun was almost out. Ace! Theres one climb here, before Rydal which drags a bit but nothing horrendous. This leads into a nice fast open descent – It always amuses me when I pass people who don’t descend right – I stop short of moving my hands to the tops, but on the drops, chin by the stem, arse up off the saddle to get a perfectly flat back, knees and elbows in, neck retracted… Passed a few here while not pedalling – free speed!

Through Rydal, Grasmere and thoughts turn to the struggle. Drink, Gel, spin the last mile and then all of a sudden there you are, turn left and up she goes. Selcet the easy gear and spin, over the first rise for the 100m of flat and then into the main body of the climb. I got passed a lot again, as my very low gear (30×25) allowed me to stay well within myself and spin. One chap snapped his chain at the start of it. He was 10 speed though so I couldnt help.

The climb just drags on, through the headwind until you are most of the way up. Then it drops for half a mile, usually with views of the final climb and the Kirkstone Pass Inn. Today however, we got views of a vertical wall of tarmac with bikes on it going up into the cloud – motivation! Again, bottom gear, spin, keep the pressure on. The support at the top was awesome – as the shouts went up, I dropped a gear and craked it up a notch, which caused more shouts, which caused another gear change and a sprint over the last 200m. Awesome feeling! Passed about 10 of the people that had passed me in this final assault. I guess this means I held back too much earlier on, but todays target is to enjoy the run and not another 3 hours of cramps.

The decent rocks. Its wet, but full aero tuck and I am passing riders, a camper van, a car, up to 49mph. I was lucky, both the sections that can be straight lined were clear of uphill traffic so I could let loose. Finally got stuck behind 2 cars who were trying to get past a hybrid rider and decided attemting an overtake would be suicidal and cruised. I love the feeling of speed and the adreniline of being close to the edge.

The last bit into patterdale went well, aero bars, spin, drink and into T2. Did my usual cramp off the bike / break dance / shoe swap. Ditched the riding top, grabbed my bag and off we go.

Ran to the start of the steep stuff (via the campsite toilets) and started walking up in the giant snake of triathletes. This was the point where my cramps started and slowed me down. Thats 2 races in a row – less severe this time. I concentrated on keeping at a pace below cramping threshold and drank plenty of Go Electrolyte. Into the cloud (still plenty of visibility) then up to the hole in the wall, small bits run but mostly walked. From there I ran to red tarn, with one near fall – tripped over a water bar, just stayed upright and cramped. Marshall points downhill where we should have gone up Swirral and I start the descent, quite quickly dropping out of the cloud into sunshine! Lovely day to be on the fells. Legs didn’t like the down hill as usual but was ok. Still going way too slowly though – lack of confidence. How can I fly down on the bike but be scared on the run? Half way down I got a major cramp in my inner thigh and had to stop. Got it under control and it fixed fully while rnning up a little rise. After this, my body decided to cooperate, cramps ceased and I was getting quicker. Hit the youth hostel with the concrete path and accelerated rather a lot. The final road run was good – confident, 4 or 5 min KM’s and one fast blast when I fianlly rembered how to run downhill.

This just left the finish, sprinted it in and checked my time – 4h30.

Disappointed again. The swim was a bit of shambles at the start (of my wave) and I didn’t swim fast enough / sight well. From what I can find, BTA rules mandate max swim distances based on the lowest of 3 temps. I don’t understand the risks enough to comment on this.
The run shortening is an issue I am conflicted on – I see the race organisers point of view, with Swirral Edge potentially being dangerous, but thats the point of more extreme events and people should make decisions based on their own abilities and deal with the consequences themselves. In our society that wouldn’t work and someone would go crying to a lawyer and that would probably end the race series. So I’m not knocking the organisers more the nanny state / attitude of the general populace. Ho-Hum.

I thought I would see the last of these cramps, but patently I still don’t get enough sodium in. I will attempt another reasonably long tri this year, force myself to drink more and increase the concentration of electrolyte with some nuun and see what happens. I fancy doing Helvellyn again on my own in October, but not sure on swim logistics and how to not get hit by boats and stuff. Probably would need support to do it.

Overall a great event, I would love to do again but the swim start needs work.

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