Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Day in the Lakes (not) Half Ironman. FAIL!


Day. Lakes

On top of the months I spent training for the Day in the Lakes half ironman, I spent days getting ready for it, buying up camping equipment like it was going out of stock with the justification that it will also contribute to TSK's Paris-Brest-Paris trip. Every day, every new bit of kit was a joy. A solar shower, battery fridge and a new transition box. Everything was exciting. Loading the van on Saturday morning was a pleasure because it was all about the race on Sunday. No rush except for getting there, getting set up and getting to bed early.

The Park Foot campsite is my idea of hell with noisy children everywhere and a receptionist, no less, to book me in. She wasn't even vaguely amused by, "reporting for sadomasochism with a little bit of camping thrown in for good measure". Thankfully the camping transition field was all set aside for us and everything I had dreamt of. Clear enough to potter around the vanu getting my transition box packed and checking my bike gears. I cooked dinner indoors during a rain storm, watching tenters cook their dinner under a table then ventured out to do the dishes then check out the lake.

I was anticipating a calming experience but I've never seen 2km laid out before me so it was actually pretty disconcerting so I returned to the vanu to settle down with some knitting and a 10pm bed time on a weirdly quiet campsite.

At 4am I woke for a loo break. So wonderfully serene and almost as bright as day. I got straight back to sleep though and woke to others getting racked in transition. I kept cool and made porridge (to eat for breakfast) and coffee for my transition box to warm me up after the swim.

I admit I was in a bit of a rush filling bottles but had time to help someone else get into their wetsuit before heading to the start.

I carefully labelled my replacement bike bottle filled with sugarey drink and chucked it in the box with the others.

Good news for me was that the swim was cut to 1000 m because of the choppy water. I'd been worrying about my ability to complete the swim since I heard the cut off time was 40 minutes. Since my target was 39 minutes, you understand my dilemma.

This time I got my water entry spot on. We bobbed up and down for just enough time to get acclimatised before the whistle went. The initial throng was not too bad. I dodged one foot in the face and ignored the first drag-under but I soon realised the other competitors weren't my risk.
As we exited the harbour the waves we were swimming across were 2ft high in amplitude. Swimming crawl with any efficiency seemed impossible as I was tossed in the air by a wave then belly-flopped into the trough of another. As I went to take the next stroke I had to force my arm through the approaching wave, through the water. The words I uttered as that wave then hit me in the face when I tried to take a breath can only be described as, "splutter-fuck".

I tried to breathe on the other side and the wave broke over my head, splashing me in the face anyway.

I'm getting pretty pissed off with water by this point. It's nothing like the swell I have experienced at the sea for fun but I'm was making no progress through the race. I took to swimming breast stroke. At least that way I could keep my eye on where I was going. It seemed to work and I made progress although I did get caught by some of the "slow" group who had started 5 minutes behind us. I look forwards to reaching the first buoy and the tail wind so-to-speak.

Finally with the wind at my back and waves spread across the lake to each side of me. I enjoy it for a second or two before noticing that I can't see the next buoy and notice the canoe-ists trailing along side us starting to steer the whole pack off to the right. Oh. That would be an out-and-back swim then, back to nogging waves.

The last swim to the exit seemed to go on for ever but I finally struggled to my feet feeling worse than I've ever done after 2km. There were a lot of excited spectators and I'm sure they were enjoying the drama of everyone spluttering their way out of the lake. I told the St John's ambulance man I thought I was going to need him... and I meant it.

This time at least I remembered to undo my wetsuit. I even remembered to put on all my stuff for the bike.

On the ride, I paced myself along the banks of the lake just turning the pedals like I was out for a potter. I hadn't been to Kirkstone pass in years and have certainly never ridden up it so I wanted to save some legs. The wind which caused the waves was now blowing into my face so relaxed pedalling and a tri bar position was the order of things. Finally the hill came into view. An easy start. Whilst I could see it stretched out into the fog above, I kept wondering,"I thought there was a really steep bit somewhere?"

Two guys passed me. The first bounced by. The next struggled by, with a big belly to haul around but very impressive calves and thigh muscles. I held my pace, even saving my lowest gear for later.

About half way up the pass I noticed myself catching the big man and the earlier whippet that passed me was stopped for a rest. As I caught the big man he simply flopped into the grass by the side of the road, feet clipped in and all. "are you alright", I said, because one has time for a small conversation on these climbs.

"I'm ok", he said and waved me on. 50m later, I caught up to the whippet, still clipped in to one pedal and desperately wailing the cramp song.

My march continued and I passed the photographer who, despite pointing the camera and pressing the shutter, seems to have completely failed to record my efforts. I must've looked really rough.
The really steep bit of the Kirkstone pass never came. Whether it was my wise choice of a 30 tooth block or I'd done more training than anticipated or just that the climb is over-egged compared to those we have in Sheffield, I enjoyed the whole thing. especially the top of it.

Shrouded in fog I heard the lonesome family group of 4 spectators clapping before I saw them and they really inspired me. I knew the scary bit was over. I said my thanks and got ready for the downhills. I passed a lot of people that were nervous of the wet road and lack of visibility.

Through the corner of my conscience I saw two riders waiting for a lift after they'd both crashed. There were already others helping on the scene.

I saw a peacock sitting on a gate, resplendent with his tail cascading to the ground behind him. When we reached the edge of Keswick the sun was starting to show and the roads began to dry. The next climb didn't really start it just went on and on and on.

There was a tasty downhill with a sweeping up on the other side. There were traffic lights half way down the descent which, of course changed to red. Three of us waited patiently. I dived down before the bus and didn't see anyone else until we reached the summit of Shap Fell.

I reached for my bottle ready to exchange it for a replenished bottle of lovely tasty lime goo. My bottle was not there.

"Some of them have gone to the run station" she said, "you must've put it in the run box".
My heart screamed "what run box, there wasn't supposed to be a run box... no-one said anything about a bloody run box".

My brain, thankfully, said, "it's not her fault" so my face said, "thankyou very much ladies, see you later" and left another woman to complain at them.

What I didn't realise is it was another 20 miles back to transition. The banana and pint of water they gave me really weren't doing it. I got into transition a wreck, really not knowing how I was going to manage 13 miles of fell running especially since I had no sugary drink stashed in transition. I had foolishly put all of my faith in others but off I went and I even seemed to be going faster than some others... except for the woman I'd left to complaining, who I notice, had managed to find a bottle of sugary drink in her very light and otherwise empty bumbag.

There were only two of us carrying full kit, as per the rules and in line with the fell runners regulations. The other man was walking. I managed to run up the first hill where a lovely lady photographer was kind enough to have snapped this... And managed to publish it. Well done. She made money out of me.

Stretching out across the moor, were single runners and a hi-vis marshal impressive-looking in the heather. The temperature was about 26 degrees and the sun high. I was heavenly tired but very happy.
The descent was ok. There were a few rambling climbs which forced me to walk but it was 7km to the feed station before I got my lovely bottle of limey goodness and by that point it was 45 minutes since my last drink.

The aid station was a sight for my dry throat. The volunteers were busy apologising for running out of water but I flopped down on the floor with my carefully marked up bottle and drank and drank. Never has SIS "Go" tasted so good.

The volunteers were still busy apologising to people for running out of water when I got up to leave and set off in the wrong direction. So many others were heading down to the finish and there's rubbishy old me, convinced that my correct version of the route is wrong and actually it should be time to head home.

I check my Garmin and do some superficial calculations to check my progress. Looking back they were clearly wrong.

On the run down the road I pair up with a guy who's struggling to run the hills and pulling away on the flat. We start chatting and I inspire him to do the fast shuffle uphill and he inspires me to run faster on the flat.

I get the garmin out again and estimate there's 5km to go. The alarm bells should've gone off again when the campsite appeared around the corner within about 10 minutes. At this point I could've turned around, run back to the aid station, done my second loop and finished the race, yes in a very slow time but at least with an honest time. I was so pleased to see that campsite appear though, nothing was going to stop me.

I suppose it's a saving grace that the photographer had again packed up and gone home for a stiff beer by the time I crossed the line. There was no-one to capture my misplaced jubilant glee.

Lessons learned:
1. Switch on lap distance counter
2. recce the course. No excuses.
3. Don't rely on others, not even the race organisers.
At the end of the day this trip turned my van back into a camper instead of a removals vehicle and that is possibly the most important outcome of all.
Thankfully I was organised enough to make sure I put the food to hand and leave the bed down so when I got back to the vanu I was able to shower, eat dinner and watch the last racers finish before bedtime. At 9pm I was physically unable to remain sitting up. I wasn't in any particular pain, my body had just turned old and kept lowering itself into a rocking chair declaring, "ooh, I must sit down".

Now that's a good good day.

1 comment:

J (Sheff Tri) said...

Loved reading that - well done trep. Lots of happy memories of the lakes and of triathlons.