Monday, March 16, 2015

Grizedale duathlon

(Reported 8/4/15)

Three weeks have passed since Grizedale. Testament to the busy job but also the time it took for me to recover. In fact I fear I have only just.

At least, thank goodness the weather was dry. It had taken me all my focus to get from injured to 15km running in 5 weeks. I wasn't sure I would be able to add rain and hills all at once and the hills were bad enough. By 200m I was laughing and joking with the lads at the back and as I removed a layer of clothing (unintentionally, for the photographer), I was at the back. I had it all to gain.

Fortunately, initial bravado in some runners gave way to fatigue as the hillside kept on rising and I started passing people back. None of them held on. I still felt like last as I descended into the valley, passing the last two marshals on my turn into transition but there were a few bikes left on the racking.

Now was my moment to shine. The first ascent couldn't be much worse than last year when I gave up trying to fight the cramp and just sat down to munch on jelly beans until the pain stopped. The issue was compounded by having my saddle too high and pedals too tight. No such hindrance this year as I passed two guys together followed by one more, also battling the cramp. I descended into my favourite descent alone.

Grizedale becomes a relentless jumble of rocking fire trails and bouncing single-track but is then interrupted by a foray onto an immense moorland space. You have to concentrate quite hard not to get distracted by the place. It wasn't so difficult last year - most of it was invisible under a sea of claggy air, fog and rain. This year though, my mind wandered, dreaming of where this place went, wondering what all the sign-boards say. It's certainly special for a reason and I should go up there and take a look one day - when I am not in a rush. There does come a time up there though, when you give up all hope of keeping feet warm and dry. I did remember about the puddle that, last year, was rumoured to be deeper than a bike and I skirted around that but pushing the bike through the tussocky rutted grass at the side of the path was too much effort so I rode them all and kissed my warm toes goodbye before the rolling descents began.

Thankfully there was one more climb to rewarm on and it so happened there were at least 4 blokes to ride past. I grinned at the last and asked if the saying is 'strong, or stubborn as an ox' as a chap stood by his bike getting his breath back or waiting for his mate I will never know. I disappeared before I got accused of being smug.

I started to run a little hungry on the way back. I had decided to leave my rucksack behind in the interests of riding lightweight and cool and the windproof coat I picked up had no food in it. Despite scouring the trail for dropped power-bars, I had yet to secure any race nutrition except the drink in my bottle. Although this seemed to be doing OK, I was getting ready to eat. The last descents involve gnarly boardwalk which I am inwardly scared of, having ridden off a telegraph pole at the London bike show 6 years ago. I could have done with tackling them on a stomach with food in it.

No matter, I was getting near to the food stash in transition although that didn't stop me joking with my parents about stealing their sandwiches as I passed them eating lunch by the trailside.

I enjoyed the ride down the hillside into transition. Last year it was the finish. This year I had another run to go. My wet feet had warmed and I remembered to take my jelly beans with me. I passed a man running sideways crab-style foot-over-foot who explained that he wasn't showing off but his kneed had gone and it was the only way he could run on the flat. Good job because the rest of the course only went up or down though it felt like a solid 2 miles before we started to climb. It was only a 3 mile run in my head. Probably a good job as I might not have set off had I known it was more like 5 miles. There was a lot of walking associated with the up part. I did catch someone up though.

This time the photographer caught me with all my clothes on and levitating which is always a confidence boost at that late stage of the event. I was slightly annoyed that the race didn't take us over the small crag up to the trig point on top of Carren Crag. I will have to go back and do it again in my own time!

On the way down I started to catch up another competitor on the descents. He got away from me on the flat but they were less and less frequent. So I ran as fast as I could on the flat and opened up like I usually do on the downhill. I eventually passed him but felt compelled to put a nail in the coffin and kept going at full pelt.

When there's water rushing under foot and rocks rolling around it's difficult to tell if there's someone on your shoulder or not. I opened up a road sprint just in case, like an alcoholic in a bar, knowing I was going to pay for it tomorrow. If anything, the finish line seemed to take longer to arrive. The man who had been running like a crab returned just as I finished my cup of restorative pg tips.

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