Monday, May 13, 2013

Hell on t'Hills 2013 Race Report

Just under 60 athletes lined up for the Hell on t'Hills Duathlon this weekend.  I was particularly surprised to bump into cyclo-cross pal Phil Hinchcliffe, ever recognisable by the appearance of his parents.  His dad paid me the ultimate compliment of the season, saying, "you look like you've lost weight" like it was a good thing.  The kind of compliment only shared from one (naturally) skinny cyclist to another.

Other highlights included a titanium bike oogling session in transition with a very tall man who allowed me to weigh his bike and make coo-ing noises.

Having established that the course this year was 4km shorter on the first run and a shorter bike course, I prepared myself for a sprint effort - if such a hilly course can ever be described as a sprint.  Also, something I absolutely hadn't trained for but hey, this was my one blow-out race for early May so time to have some fun with it... and by that I mean pain.

(c) Flaming Photography

Also see my new "W-for-windy" signal.

I settled into the run nicely, mostly being passed but also passing back a few runners closer to the top of the first climb.  I had to remove a layer and tie it around my waist but eventually, I settled in with Jason Haigh, obviously a local, and we played cat and mouse for most of the downhill run.  At the first downhill turn, a marshal was calling out race positions.  I was third lady.  It felt like every time Jason passed me, he eased up to relax, putting the brakes on ever so slightly so I had to pass him back because I felt like hunting down the next placed woman.  When we hit the field I sent him forward so that I could slow up for the turn into transition and gain some composure before getting on the bike.  According to the timekeeper I was fourth lady.  So I wasn't chasing silver but I could get myself into a podium position (had there been a podium).

I had to fumble about a bit in transition, getting my jersey back on and putting my rain coat in my pocket but I wasn't going to be caught out on Holme Moss without a layer if it rained.  Jason passed me by and I never saw him until the road section as he was heading out on the run and I was coming in on my bike.

I really enjoyed the new route out to New Mills.  The organiser had the police stopping the traffic on the right hand turn off the main road making for a very smooth transition to the big hill climb.

The titanium frame passed me and for a moment I rode behind, oogling some more, before remembering the triathlon rules on draughting and reluctantly pulling back.  It took me a while to get my mojo back, particularly given the forceful headwind all... the...way... up...

Still, this is my chance to shine as a cyclist first and foremost I stomped and I drank from my bars-bottle (very easily, even whilst working hard) and I enjoyed the view.  Some riders were quitting in the wind, their bikes being loaded onto the organiser's bike rack of shame.

I hollered at Phil Hinchcliffe hurtling down in the opposite direction then just before we crested the climb, I passed the titanium bike again, blessed by nothing more than a lower gear ratio I'm sure.  Post race analysis shows that I climbed Holme Moss only 34s slower than last year which I am very pleased with given the howling headwind compared to last year's tail wind.

Just as I was starting to feel like I would see unicorns on the summit, I actually saw a big crowd of cheering Hinchcliffes on the horizon, sounding genuinely impressed I'd made it so soon.

So began the descent of the Derbyshire side of Holme Moss.  Usually incredibly enjoyable and quite safe, this year it was more of a challenge with gusting cross-winds making my (fairly shallow) deep section rims twitch a bit.  I had to give up on the tri bars and resort to the drops for the top sections, daring to return to the tri bars only once I'd moved into the lee of the adjacent valley.  This years top speed only 40mph.  Then I saw her, third place lady aka Claire Smith.  I started drinking, ready for the return trip and dug in.

I caught up a man on a beautiful italian steel frame painted metalic pea green.  I waited patiently whilst he nursed it around the hairpin turn then stomped on the pedals.  As expected, he passed me back in no time but I had my sights set on Claire and was pleasantly surprised to find that as well as descending better than her, I was also climbing better than her, but only slightly.  I had to work really hard and kept getting a bit too excited (wasting energy) so I had to distract myself by climbing towards the transmitter mast instead of staring at her back wheel.  We exchcanged hellos when I caught her but that was all I could really manage as I searched for the breath to keep up my pace.

For a moment I got very excited as I approached another female form but then realised it was just a Manchester Wheeler out for a ride.  The rest of the climb was a bit of a blurr.  All I can remember was feeling disgruntled that the cross wind was not making it as easy as the headwind on the way up should have dictated - largely because it was still that cross-wind.  I did my best to broadside my shoulders to the crossing wind, gaining whatever tailwind vector I could.

Over the top I settled in to a lovely descent, sadly getting caught behind two cars caught behind a rider who did the whole thing with his brakes on.  Reassuring myself I was only losing a couple of seconds I stayed safe and legal, keeping on the correct side of the double white lines.  The car at the rear visibly pulled out to let me through on the inside just as the car in front overtook the slow rider and I followed.  Caught in a few more pinch points through town, I reassured myself that those behind must be getting caught in similar situations.

There was  a bit of traffic dodging to be done in Holme Firth but at the main lights the organisers had organised a coned-off lane for bikes to pass through the red lights.  Dodging a van wing mirror I made it into the lane and narrowly squeezed past the front end of the bus who was turning at the junction and nosing the cone as I passed.  All I can say is I'm glad it was me and not some noobie triathlete rider.

Flying down the final village roads over to Honley, I had another close call as a pothole / car interface nearly went disastrously wrong and I handled a rear wheel skid going down a 30% hill at around 30 mph. Phew.

A nice long rest along the valley road taking all the fluids possible on board before transition.  I finally saw the second-placed lady, Jane Curwen, who gave me a little wave as she headed out on the run.  No catching that then!  This transition went better although I left all the layers on and my waterproof inside my jersey pocket.  A very zealous marshal shouted instructions at me to catch the men in front at the bottom of Brockholes Lane.  Challenge accepted.

I knew what to expect, having been here before and I set myself the challenge last week to run all the way up.  No matter what speed I was running, I was going to run it.  I have been training for endurance after all.  The guys in front of me were already walking by the time we reached the railway bridge at which point all you can see is the 1 in 5 hill stretching ahead.  I passed both guys just beyond the top of the climb, closing about 25m in 750m of uphill running.

I had to wrench the raincoat out of my back pocket on the way down the hill as it bounced up and down on my ass and got really annoying.

Only one of the guys managed to catch me back again (but only after he cramped and stopped to rest).

Cue primal scream of pain and elation on crossing the "Steps of Hell" (three stone steps over the wall into the playing fields) in three easy bounds.  Yes I Am A Show off.

I crossed the finish line in 2:35:27, third place woman.  Claire Smith was 38 seconds behind me.

It was gloriously sunny and blissfully quiet in transition (bonus of having a small field).  Athletes shook hands (nice to meet Jason, my co-runner and source of my race hangover legs this morning) and stretched in the sunshine before heading off.  The British Triathlon official was chatty.  I got changed and spent an hour in the tea room chatting to a friend's husband. Amelia had won the mountain bike race in North Yorkshire so cause for more glee.

After mentioning I was doing Scisset in June, someone from HolmeValley Wheelers approached to see if I was interested in doing the women's stage race the day before.  Erm, No I replied, not interested.  I listened patiently whilst he explained that it would be really good for triathlon, so I made him listen patiently whilst I recounted my tales of Road Racing the National Women's Series with Swindon RC and that I needed my training to fit in with my ironman plans for this year.  Having heard the reiterations that it would be "really good for my triathlon", I explained that what I probably needed to be doing on June 8th was a 3km swim followed by a 100 mile ride so I could get up and race Scisset on Sunday and somehow fit in the extra 15 mile run to make up for doing a poxy sprint tri.  Damn early season Ironman.

He suggested I should ride out, do the race and ride home and I really was seriously considering it until I realised that I didn't quite want to risk breaking an arm in a road race smash, 3 weeks before my Ironman event.  Thank you, I'm flattered but maybe next year.

Lessons Learned:
Don't wear too many layers on the run.  Your trisuit is warmer than you think.
Keep the cycling jersey separate from the run top with the rain coat already packed.  It's not Fairholmes.  Remember to lose the raincoat before running.

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