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.

Helvellyn Triathlon

Less than 2 week to go to my final Tri for the 2008 season.

Helvellyn feels like a chance to redeem myself after the disaster on the Little Woody run. Its shorter and less undulating, but a bit steeper :-) .

The course is a 1 mile swim in Ullswater, 38 miles on the bike (including the Struggle route up Kirkstone Pass) and a 9 mile run from Glenridding to Helvellyn summit and back.

I am happy with my swimming and cycling – the swim should be 30 or so mins if I push a little harder than I have before. The bike leg is by far my strongest and I do want to get close to the top 50% of the field here – with 700 going it means I have to beat 350 :-0. The final run is just survival up (power walking, sceambling and a bit of running) and survival down (sketch fell running). Final target: beat 200 people and get in inside of 5:30. This is going to Hurt!

The other area which needs working on is transitions. I have a few tactics here –

  • Garmin HRM amd race number belt on inside of wetsuit.
  • Assuming good weather, tri suit only
  • Gloves, shades and Garmin attached to bike, put on while moving.

The run needs a bag with waterproofs / drink / food in it so I intend to use my camelbak and that will speed up T2 – trainers on, camelbak and go. I can tape gels to the straps.

Finally I have my nutrition plan down better this time and will be doing all I can to stay hydrated and will use nuun or just extra salt in drinks to stop cramping. I want to go up this weekend and recce the route, but not run downhill as my knees and quads will take days to recover. I know I will be on the couch for a few days after this one….

The Little Woody 2008 Race Report

This was my longest distance race this year – equivalent to a half Ironman. Thats:

  • 1.2 Miles Swim (1900m)
  • 56 Miles Bike (90km)
  • 13.2 Mile Run (21.2km, Half Marathon)

The race is held near Chepstow – South Wales / South West England border. The venue is the NDAC (National Diving and Aquatic Centre) which has a nice large, clean quarry for divers making it a great place for an open water swim. The bike leg is a hilly lap of the Forest of Dean and the run was a multi lap affair close to the NDAC. There is also a full Ironman distance race run at the same time – The Big Woody.

I arrived the night before after the usual traffic chaos – even early afternoon the M6 southbound was awful. I made it just in time to rack my bike and get my tent pitched before race briefing. I didn’t take much of this in to be honest – be at the waterside by 7:15am pretty much covered it. After this there was copious pasta for all the competitors so I ate up with a view of the swim and then wandered back down the A48 to my camp-site – nearly getting flattened by an idiot in a landrover – overtaking from behind while I was walking in the gutter. Why do we have roads with no pavements?

The site was basically a farmers field and had no water – though the camping was free which was good. Alas, I had no idea there would be no water, so I ended up walking about 4 miles to and from the local Tescos to stock up. My parents had dropped me off and then gone to stay with relatives – real beds etc. After I got back, I did all the final checks on my kit and packed for the transition area. I had a lot of kit for this – the weather was unsettled so I had a gillet, waterproof, leg warmers etc stashed away just in case. A night of little sleep followed and I was up and about by 0510.

I sorted myself out and wandered back to the transition area, munching my Jaffa Cake stockpile and proceded to sort out my transition. The morning was uneventful and I watched the Big Woody competitors get under way. This also provided the ideal opportunity to scope out the M shaped swim lap.

Nutrition wise I had Jaffa Cakes, a cookie, a red bull and some cheapo isotonic stuff, plus 2 high5 plus gels. Maybe not the best plan but it all went down easily. I chucked my wetsuit on and strolled down to the lake. Its actually over 400m down a steep slope from the transition to the quarry. You just know its going to hurt coming back up! On the pontoon Vince gave a good brief and we were in the water waiting for the start. I seeded myself back a bit as this was my first open water swim and I wanted to take it easy – this was a day for completing, not competing.

The race got underway and it was a quite nice swim – clear water, easy sighting on the large buoys and not too many people (133 on a large course). I didn’t get hit or messed about. Most of the field cruised of into the distance which was fine by me.

I climbed out over the rocks to finish the swim in 34:15 and found my trainers for the run to T1. I ended up walking a lot up the hill just getting back to normal. In T1 I faffed a lot – garmin HR strap on, garmin on, cycling shorts and top on, gloves, helmet, glasses, socks shoes. Total including the run up : 9:50. OUCH!

Out onto the bike leg I was feeling good and ready to get into it. I got a gel down, had a drink and got riding. I caught and passed a few people early on in the undulating A48 section. This was all about short downhills and then back up again for quite a way before we turned off across country.

The first major climb was fine, down into the small ring (triple chainset) and spin spin spin. The course was now into some much smaller roads, complete with mud on the road from the recent farming and I passed a few more here. Into feed station 1 and exchanged a bottle. This was probably where it all started to go wrong – an hour in and I had drank less than 500 ml of fluid. I picked a couple of new gels up as well. The second of the big climbs went on forever. I span up it and kept my HR under control again though. The descent of this was fun – fast flowing stuff done in the full aero tuck… max was 43.5mph.

In feed station 2 I swapped bottles again – probably drank another 400mls at over 2 hrs.

The final climb was actually fun as well! Mostly as I caught and passed quite a few people here. Same plan, 160bpm, small ring, 90 rpm. A triple chainset is clearly the way to go for the less fit cyclist – I would have struggled to keep a normal chainset turning and would have ended up out of the saddle a lot. Another descent and a fast bit back to the NDAC.

3:30 and 92nd of 133 – average HR 156bpm.

T2 – 2:30 and 78th fastest. Much better! I had drank a further 400ml making a total of 1.3 litres in 4+ hours. Not good – it should have been double that, and I should have had more gels as well.

The run started with a fairly random off road section to feed station 1. I had another can of red bull on the way out and then some high 5 at station 1. The run course was 3 laps – out of station 1, left down to station 2 and turnaround, left at the top to station 3, then back to station 2 and then station 1. This was a mess – no Marshall on the critical point and quite a few people got lost early on. I was pointed back to station 1 after 2, and wasn’t corrected until I found the race organiser Trev almost all the way back to station 1. That is 2 or so km extra already.

The course was brutally hilly. I hadn’t trained for this :-) . This is how the run went:
Mile 1: 11:50
Mile 2: 12:02
Mile 3: 12:13
Mile 4: 12:23
Mile 5: 12:34
Mile 6: 12:44
Mile 7: 12:56
Mile 8: 13:08
Mile 9: 13:19
Mile 10: 13:31
Mile 11: 13:44
Mile 12: 13:58
Mile 13: 14:14
Mile 14: 14:27
The last bit: 14:44

As you can see it was slow but OK until about mile 5 which is where the cramps started setting in. At first I would only cramp uphill, and walk a short distance and then run again. by mail 10 I was walking a lot more – all the uphill and after any cramps elsewhere. After mile 13 I lost it totally – and pretty much walked it home. I hit the official distance (half Marathon) with 6:55 on the clock. The last mile and a half added nearly 30 mins on that – I was a bit of a mess and had given up really. I knew I was always going to finish, but not fast.

The end – 7:23

I have never had cramps before on a run. My theory is that I was lacking in hydration and electrolytes. Quite possibly it was salt levels, as my HR was down in the 130-140 bpm range on the slow ending laps – I just couldn’t go faster without cramping. I did half 1/2 a cup of high5 at every feed station plus a banana whilst on the run, but I don’t think I could have made up for the lack of fluids on the bike whatever I had done. Its recommended that you consume 750-1000+ ml per hour of the bike. That would leave me 2 litres of fluid low – and as that was the fluid I was relying on to put the electrolytes back in, you can see where it went wrong.

Thats about it – disappointed in my disaster of a run, but happy that I finished. Bear in mind that in 2005 I was a morbidly obese fool, and I only took up running in January of this year.

Next up is Helvellyn, for which I will be getting through plenty of fluids, gels and making sure my T1 is drastically reduced.

100 press ups anyone

This seesm to be a popular meme on the internet right now – the quest to do 100 pushups. I have been neglecting my upper body for ages now, so this will form part of my plan going forward. I managed 9 last night before I dropped and stayed down ;-) . Poor show for a reasonably fit 27 year old!

So I will follow the program and also add in pull ups as well as I belive that these are also a grwat indicator of functional strength. My legs have always been strong due to a habit of riding up steep hills in a crank bending, 30rpm out of saddle style. Did one pull up last night – laughable! I intend to use assistance in the form of bands and also negatives.

Link to the 100 Press Ups Site

Triathlon Training Catch up

July has been OK – holiday in the middle but I am on track to equal or beat my running totals for June. Need to do another 10k over the weekend and its in the bag.

You can also see that I have not been near a treadmill for a long time :-) . This may change as I need to train for Helvellyn and the treadmill is the only place with long 10% gradients round here. Parbold hill is the best climb I have and that still means driving over for a 100m vertical. Good for the bike but no so much use for running.
It was a late run last night, which saw me running through Ormskirk at 10pm, past a packed styles. It always makes me laugh when I run past a pub and see the surprise on the drinkers faces :-) . Otherwise a slow 12km.
Cycling continues to go well. I am down on mileage this week and being away tomorrow wont help, but a quality 22 miles @ nearly 20mph 2 days ago was good. I backed that up with my weekly 2km swim later. Swimming needs to go up to 2 sessions a week soon as well.

Race wise I have Helvellyn on September 7th. I also have a space in August for a race which looks like being the Little Woody – a half Ironman. This may well be a bad idea but what the hey. You only live once and I really want to complete a full Ironman next year, so this will be a good experience.


Sunday saw the best of the weather and a trip to Llandegla with Will to do the black run again.

Conditions were good and the place was quite rammed – ended up way up in the top car park. The first climb saw the layers come off and it turned into a nice summers day, probably because the high winds were deflected by the forest. Everything went great until my confidence got the better of me – I had been getting better on the small rolling jumps throughout the run and was starting to let loose a bit more.

Then I somehow managed to nose dive a jump, probaly mistimed and caught the lip with the rear tyre. Landed on the front, bottomed the fork and executed a nose wheelie straigh into a tree stump while going reasonably quick…… At this point the bike stopped and fired me like a catapult straight at a tree. I dont know what happened in the 8ft between the stump and the tree. I think i rolled and came up into the tree. Anyway, no real harm done, helmet did get a wee knock but seems OK – shades kept the tree away from my eyes. I am quite tempted by the lightweight Met full face job and some armour after this though.

Gutted I had such a good stack and still no helmet cam to record it on. So I ordered one and it should arrive today :-) .

France 2008

Back, recovered and also back to work on Monday, so heres how it went:

10th July
Set off at 7 pm and drove through the usual British idiot drivers, traffic and inexplicable lance closures in the south – M1 and M25 randomly seem to go down to 1 lane at nights. Made it to the ferry in time (I thought the ferry was 2 hours later than it actually turned out to be, so I was very chilled all the way down :-) ). Nice smooth ferry ride while I slept on a makeshift bed of 3 chairs (not reccomended!)

11th July
Just 2/3rds of France to drive through! The French Peage system (Toll Motorways) is great – 130kmh limit, not much traffic and regular services. This is what driving could be if England wasnt mismanaged and far too full! Drive and slept in shifts and had lunch in Dole. At this point it was sunny and felt like a holiday :-) . Hit Chamonix at 4pm and got tent pitched at the first campsite we found. Headed into town to try and find out what we could do the next few days and found some free wifi which slowed us down a bit….
Got back to the tent and the thunderstorm started in earnest…. Storms are big in the Alps. All hail my ability to sleep through loud noises.

12th July
Horrible morning, and very slow start. All still very knackered from the drive. Lazy morning, then we headed up into the hills to the Mer De Glace – the famous glacier. Its possible to reach this by a train but we fancied walking so off we went – the climb is equivalent to Scafell Pike (and ends a long way short of any peaks) which gives you a sense of scale! The weather started to close in as we ascended, with a little drizzle. We got some good pictures of the Glacier before heading back down – the weather didn’t look like the planned longer walk was a good idea. As predicted, the weather broke as we started down and we finished up in heavy rain. Back to the tent soaked. Fun.

13th July
Another Stormy night and another grey rainy day, so we decided to take a day out and drive to Geneva. It turns out that most european cities are closed on Sundays – even the tourist info office! Wandered round, saw the fountain and just generally explored. Slight moment when we drove back into france when we realised Craig’s passport was in the campsite safe… They didnt stop us so it was all good.

14th July
We were booked in to go mountain biking today, but a rainy morning caused us to postpone. We drove out to Les Houches to check out where the lifts were – driving past the cable car several times like a bunch of muppets. The skies started to clear and we made the decision to try the Aiguille Du Midi cable car – this takes you up to 3800m on the side of Mt Blanc. Its awesome up there – above the clouds. Cold though! Its also surprising how much the altitude affects you, I ran up a flight of stairs and was panting and headrushing…. Lots of photos to flickr from this.

15th July
Mountain biking! Finally sunshine, blue skies and a Spesh Demo 7 to play with. Fully armoured up and off up the cable car to the top :-) . The run off the Les Houches Cable Car was best described as a mud bath and was was very challenging. Not what we came for! Nige was not ready for this mess and we eventually got down and decided to try the gondala. We caught up with a british biker who gave us the low down on the good runs and got into some fun single track which was rock and grit like the lakes. We palyed on this run for a while and then found some fast bumpy fire road to play on which rocked, drifting all the hairpins (rental bikes, not my tyres :-) ) and waking up the ramblers…..
After this it was time to pack up and drive to Paris. The drive up was OK, taking some back roads to avoid the tolls while the roads were quiet. I slept a lot due to feeling Ill, and woke up in paris at 0430.

16th July
The last day and some sight seeing around Paris, saw the Arc d triumphe, wandered round the louvre and Notre Dame etc etc. Beatiful city. Left early and had the plaeasure of driving round the Arc d triumphe – scary! Cruised to Dunkerque and grabbed a ferry several hours early. This just left the Dover – Liverpool leg to do which passed without much incident. Did get angry with some middle lane hogs a few times – can we not have these people shot?

A good holiday. I so want to go back to the alps ASAP and spend a whole week riding. Must be done!

Road Trip

We made the 900 mile trip to Chamonix in about 20 hours without any drama. Tent up, and in cme the first thunderstorm which are always spectacular in the Alps. It only woke me up once though.

Today we got up late and hiked to the Mer De Glace. On the way down we got drenched by another thunderstorm, which was nice. Tomorrow looks like mountain biking depending on the cloud cover.

The tourist info place here has free wifi 24h which is a bonus.

Download 2008

Went to Download Festival at Donnington Park yesterday – we just bought Saturday tickets… Fun day out.

Highlight of the day was Pendulum – made it into the circle for the second half of the sets… Moshed it up and have a sore neck and twisted ankle to show for my troubles. Fantastic band live and worthy of headlining! Others we saw included Biffy Clyro, Bullet For My Valentine, Testament and the Offspring.

Now sat in a mates house in Harrogate with an ice pck hoping to get my ankle back right to run on tonight.