Friday, June 29, 2012

A Day in the Lakes 1/2IM OR Middle Distance on Minimal Training

12 months on from this little disaster we ended up camped back at Park Foot campsite in Pooley Bridge  to finish what I started.  This time I brought my favourite weapon, my fiance, for much needed support.

For the record, it's been pissing it down for weeks and in North Yorkshire on Friday, rivers were bursting their banks and flooding villages, the Bob Graham fell run had been cancelled and the Great North Swim delayed 24 hours from Saturday to Sunday.  We weren't even sure if the race was going to go ahead but the organisers posted on facebook that they were on their way over to the Lakes, so we packed up the vanu, drove through thick fog and lashing rain to get to the Lakes and set up camp, in the rain of course.

A quick trip to the pub after dinner set me even more on edge for raceday as the river was gushing through the village at about 1m/s and the wind had picked up again and was throwing the lake into a choppy swell.  I didn't really want to do ADIL again without the full swim and I definately didn't want to face up to the prospect of doing one really HARD duathlon.

Sleep was as intermittent as it usually is on a campsite. Having to decide whether you *actually* need a pee in the middle of the night and weighing up the pros and cons of waiting for it to stop raining before you go.  I went and peace was restored with the help of earplugs to drown out the sound of the rain on the roof of the vanu.

Mercifully, raceday dawned dry (I hasten to add, not clear) but also the howling wind had dropped and the lake was pan-flat.  The only panics were some last minute toolbag packing and making sure the air pressure on my tyres was correct.  I considered using the track pump but decided that whatever pressure drop had occurred since Scisset would probably benefit my grip on a wet day so settled for a well-practiced squeeze of the tyres which seemed 'hard enough'.

Matt Hartley wanted to know my thoughts for the day to which I responded, "finishing".  Aparently he wanted a prediction on the weather which was basically, it will rain eventually.

As we got into the water it became apparent that the water temperature was not, as announced, 13 degrees C.  I think they might've meant Farenheit - or possibly Kelvin.  I knew I would have to get around fast to avoid the cold setting in and slowing me down even further.  As my swimming is still quite weak, I decided to use my legs on the swim too, hoping that the extra body-heat I held onto would make me faster in transition and on the bike.

The green hats started first and without further ado (to give us the best chance of not dropping out) the orange hats were started as soon as we had assembled.

The excellent call on behalf of the organisers was to move the course of the swim.  If we had followed the usual route across the lake and back we would have been crossing that surge of water exiting the lake into the river.  Instead they directed us directly South - against the current close to the edge of the lake where the current is lightest.  Then returning North further offshore with a little bit of a tail-current on the way back.  Spotting the buoy was tricky as we were on more-or-less an out and back course so the buoy was approximately 750m away but there were sailing boats in between which I used for sighting.  It was nice to see lots of people on the campsite, lining the banks to cheer us on - something you don't get on the usual course.

It was hard-going because everyone spread out quite a lot.  I kept trying to jump on feet or get in a group but I would lose people quickly and suddenly find myself alone in between two groups so I just did the best I could.  I checked my watch at the buoy - 15 minutes.  Pleased with that but knew that I needed to keep going fast .  At the second buoy there was quite a cluster of people so I felt quite happy that I wasn't dangling out the back on my own.  We'd even caught up a green hat who turned out to be quite a good swimmer but rubbish at sighting so probably swam about 2.4km to everyone elses' 1.9.

The last straight was hard.  At first my fingers started to claw and it seemed to take forever to get to the boats again.  Once we did, the left calf twitched with cramp once or twice which is my signal to start easing-off but I just didn't want to.  I tried my best to really focus on my technique but it felt totally futile as I combed at the water with my useless hands.  I tried a bit of breast stroke but that was tediously slow so I sprinted for the shore after the final (starting) buoy.  When I stood up to the very enthusiastic onlookers, I just said, "oh my god" and walked up the hill to transition.

39 minutes on my watch.  40:40 by the time I'd walked over the timing mat! 288/334

I took time to dry off.  Although I knew I was going to get wet on the bike, it seemed like a good idea to at least hit the road damp instead of soalked and make the most of the first bit of the day.  I put my arm warmers on as I figured I'd need to warm up and even had the nouse to turn one inside out when I realise I'd put it on upside down and wasn't going to get the wrist over my elbow.  I am pleased with this.  Sorry if you don't understand what I'm on about but I am proud of myself for this - what with the frozen brain and all that.

All of my food fell out of my jersey pockets so I stuffed what I could find back in - the home-made bag of mixed fruit and nuts that I like to refer to as my nose-bag and an energy bar.  I grabbed my helmet.  I didn't realise my knee-warmers had also fallen out of my pocket.

I got out of transition with a smile on my face and decided to take the first part of the course easy as a warm up.

The route alongside Ullswater is beautiful and quite flat at first.  Some of the tarmac is lovely and smooth and it was very happy-making to just roll along it, quite unfussed.  I saw TSK on a street corner (sheesh) looking suitably enthusiastic in his marshall's jacket.

I took the time to sort out my nose-bag and started to eat from it, passing other riders and coping with motorists that overtake without planning.  Forget the no-drafting rules, in places it was like a road race with groups of 5 or 6 riders trundling along together although given the state of everyone's body temperature, it was more like a sunday club run and there really wasn't much benefit to be had from group riding.  None of it was organised drafting by any stretch of the imagination.

The road gradually gets lumpier and little streams spill out across the road meaning my feet had had dry socks on for about 15 minutes before a driver coming the other way soalked me and everyone I was with form the knees down.  So much for dry feet but then no point in crying over spilt rain on a day like today.  I was just glad of all the soggy Fairholmes rides I've done as a warm up!

Eventually we hit the bottom of the Kirkstone pass climb.  Time to stop eating, drop into the small ring and churn out pedal revs.  I got a few twitches from the left calf to let me know I needed to be careful with it so I sat down as much as I could on the climb.

When push came to shove as it does near the top of the K pass, it seemed I could do anything with this calf muscle except spin it really quickly so I reasoned to keep in a big-ish gear for the rest of the day.

I caught people up, riders passed me back and got through the last section of the climb watching the legs on the bloke in front.  He didn't have particularly nice legs but it took the pain away when I watched his Ironman tattoo on his calf expand and contract with each pedal stroke.

Over the top I stopped to don my coat just before a number of parked cars and riders.  They were warning us of the inevitable accident on the descent and the crowds of slow descenders started to form.  Me and one other rider dived into the abyss of fog and increasingly heavy rain with our eyes open and our brains switched on just in time to see someone being loaded into the back of an ambulance on a body-board, a pair of white dainty cycling shoes carefully placed by the side of the road.  I understand there were no major injuries reported.

Once we'd passed them I noticed just how bad the bloody rain was, moving from an incessent hissing drizzle to a constant pattering shower.

My friend and I weaved our way down the country lanes without seeing another person until we reached the flat valley bottom avoiding major towns like Windermere and Ambleside.  I resumed eating, my figs, now turned to jam, which enveloped each tasty pecan that I pulled from my pocket.  I yearned for the frame-top food bag we'd been contemplating earlier in the day.

The day in the lakes ride takes you through some really lovely little villages and country lanes and I wish I could recall them all to you but it did kind of blur.  The rain did little to dampen my spirits to be honest because I felt reasonably warm most of the time and the flowers in people's gardens, the sheep grazing on a freshly mowed field, kestrels hunting in open ground, distracted me from the drizzle and the fact that the usual glorious scenery was slightly hidden behind the low cloud.

Finally I was at Shap climb.  The temporary road works that halted us on the feed-in downhill were gone so this year I hit the bottom of the climb at a rolling 40kph.

Shap isn't steep, it's just long and I was well into my smallest gear very soon, still suffering from the after-effects of the swim.  I had a brief chat with a woman with blonde hair about how our races were going so far.  I said I'd left it all in the lake and was slowing down but my only target was to get onto the run and finish the damn thing.  "Once past the aid station, there's nothing anyone can do to stop me finishing" I said.

A bloke with a posh accent asked me if this was Shap and "are we at the end of all the major climbs".  "Yes", I said, "you can let rip now".

As things started to level out, I caught blonde lady up again.  The fruit and nut mix had just kicked in (finally) and mojo reappeared.  Unlike last year's fiasco of lost energy drinks at the aid station, I soared by, happy in the knowledge that I had all the fluids and energy I needed and I could get to the end of the bike.

Blondie and I flew off down the hill together, me finally passing her as my downhill stance proved ever so slightly more effective at cutting through the wind - though my max speed on the descent was 3kph slower than last year at 59.

I got a bit chilly on the descent so I flattened out on the tri bars and bashed out the next few kms along the A6 and then back onto minor lanes as far as Askham.  Through Lowther Castle I was stopped to a halt on the beautiful park lanes by gamboling lambs.  Honest to god I could've 'ad 'em for dinner wee barstards.

I also got cattle-grid fear after a near miss at Fairholmes 2 years ago and several people caught me up.

22km further didn't seem like much when I looked at my Garmin but then I realised it was another hour at this pace so felt a little more reticent.  When it got to 10 miles to go I started timetrialling.  I wasn't going particularly fast but fast enough to stay warm and focussed enough to stop the boredom setting in, to prevent my brain shutting down muscles.  It helped as I caught up Ironman-leg again.

Just to spur me on, with 10km to go, it started absolutely pelting it down.  Marshalls were giving warnings about going too quickly around corners and they meant it.  On the straights I just enjoyed myself.  It was like cyclo-cross - but smoother.  I didn't have to worry about getting wet feet on the run - they were already absolutely soalked and were only going to get wet again on the hillside.

Despite this philosophy, by the time I reached transition it had stopped raining and I had already planned which bits of kit in the box I was going to change into and dry clothes and knee warmers were high on the list of priorities.

Expecting to see TSK at the dismount line and waiting with a comedy pun in my mind about his "dismount here" placcard and pizza restaurant adverts, I had to zip my lip when I realised it was actually the organiser holding the placcard.

Bike time: 3:57:05 257/334

I didn't bother to change my socks but the soggy tri top and jersey came off and dry baselayer and run vest went on.  My wet waterproof went in a pack pocket and as I reached for the knee-warmers I realised I also had full-length leggings in the box.  Those went on to protect my calf muscles from further damage.  Joy oh joy! My running shoes had been cooking inside the box in what little sunshine had fallen on the field and they were WARM!

Consolidated by warm feet and dry clothes I threw my emergency pack on my back (stored with the back-side down so it would stay dry in the rain) and ran up the field.  Yeah baby RAN!

I managed to run all the way along the flat bit then walked up the hill.  Not all the way - but most of the way.  I ran an 'ickle tiny bit.  Once at the top of the first climb it's a long, flatish stretch across the fell with great views over the lake and it's a nice surface to run on.

I put my coat on because not only was it raining again but the wind started to whisk across the top of the hillside and it was a bit chilly.  A couple of other runners did the same and were probably thankful of the organiser's insistence on an emergency kit for this event.  As I met a marshall indicating the turn onto the descent, it was raining so hard I asked her to do her best to make sure it didn't quite turn to hail.  She agreed to do her best.

The most fun part about this years run was knowing (at least most of) the course.  Last year I tried to keep my feet dry at first because I usually try to keep them dry if I can.  This year I knew that eventually you have to get wet feet so I didn't bother trying which meant no bog-hopping, no jumping over streams, just chugging on - only checking to make sure you're not going to turn an ankle or end up in up to your knees.

Last year I found it very difficult to contemplate a half marathon after everything that goes before.  I still do but it is quite amazing that once you're in a rhythm, it feels like you've just set out.  The pain of the bike ride is gone from the legs and you can just get back to running.

The blonde lady caught me up again and we ran together all the way down the descent talking of where we live and what we do for fun and which events we're into.  I think she made me run a bit faster for a while and whether that was good for my race or bad (I was properly spent well before the end), I certainly enjoyed it more fer her company.

I stopped to put my coat away and dig some energy beans out of my bag and away she ran into the bog and was lost to me.  To my relief the aid station arrived quite quickly and I got to wave to Matt Hartley on his way down to the finish line.  He gave me good notice of the boggy sections across the top of the fell ahead which I was glad of as it meant I didn't need to look for the easy way around - just get on with it.  I smiled and said that it was what I was into!

The run (walk) up Fusedale was lovely - a quiet hidden valley that can't be seen from Ullswater.  It's green and has a river running down the middle.  The fells sweep up to the sides and the steep climb out of it proffers a wonderful view of the surrounding peaks.  It had actually stopped raining so all was good with the world.  I stopped and sat on a rock to remove a large boulder from my shoe.  I walked most of the way around Fusedale head chatting to a Mancunian from Flixton which was a desperate shame since I actually wanted to slink off behind a rock for a pee.  We pondered together how much further this run could keep going up and checked the Garmin for confirmation that it couldn't be much further.

Onto a big open pasture and the boggy bits that Matt had warned me of.  I enjoyed this bit, striding out away from the Manc lad and running the downhills.  I caught up the scotsman and some others before we rounded the best corner of the day.  Exiting fusedale you're suddenly on the otherside of the fell which made up one valley-side of Fusedale.  On this other side it sweeps downwards at 60 degrees to Ullswater, around 500m below.  The path takes a daring slant down this hillside over rocky outcrops and slippery slopes, ferny fields and torrential rivulets.  Me and the Scotsman bounced down it and he whooped, saying, "They call this a run!?" as I sunk onto my hands to launch myself off a miniature crag.   As I fumbled down a grassy slope I reaffirmed my love for my fell shoes as I looked around me at the litter of slither-marks made by flat soled trainers.  I stopped laughing when we hit the very vertical final descent to a marshal with a dog who, up until yesterday, should've been TSK.

A few hundred metres back down the road and the course veers up again on another fell track.  I'm still scouting for somewhere to relieve my poor bladder but the walls are unsuitable and the ruin turns out to be someone's house.  I can't get onto the road with my bladder this full.  Eventually, a suitable rock outcrop presents itself and I descend into the grass to momentarily flash my bits to the other runners and the Ullswater steamer trundling up the lake 200m below me.  I really hope no-one on that boat had their binoculars focused on the race!  I'm welcomed back to the race by a stream of people checking I'm OK and I have a big smile on my face.  Definitely "better".

Around the hillside and it's back to the aid station.  Unlike last year, they have a few car loads of water bottles left over and they seem more concerned with that than offering me water or telling me which way to go but that's OK because I can do this bit.  I practiced it last year.

Actually the cattle grid is still scary.

Running.  On the road.  Not my fave thing.  The church is nice.  There's a grassy bit.  Then you're on the lake shore.  The captain of the steamer is wading up the path to the launch in his wellies (yes that's right, he's wading up the path) and gives me a smile and tells me I'm doing well.  It ocurrs to me just now that he's seen my bum earlier but I will let that lie.

I'm doing OK, I'm still running along the road.  Running running running, hurty hurty hurty.  Ow.  No.  Can't do that.  Ow.  It's not that my legs hurt, it's that my hips are refusing to hold up the rest of my body.  Perhaps its muscular.  I'll take a look in my rucsac and see if I've put any ibuprofen in there.  






2 down.  Wash down with water.  Bit of running. Bit of walking.  The pain is easing.

The little muscles at the top of my thighs that make my legs move forwards don't work anymore so I am using my hips to kind of throw my legs forwards, walking like someone with a mild degenerative disease.  The paid is easing.  Some people pass me saying they've had energy gels.  Perhaps I will just have one (they make me violently ill if I use too many).  Should I take one with the drugs?  I do.  I think it speeds the uptake of the drugs and the pain eases some more.  I wonder how far I have to go?  I am concious of not just meeting the cut-off time but being well inside it.  I have too much self respect.  I have put too much into this to be close to the cut off time.

Garmin says...
you have 5km to go and if you can do it inside 30 minutes you will have done a 3hr 22km run at the end of everything else.  BLOODY GARMIN!

Running.  Crap.

I catch someone up who says, "don't catch me up, then I'll have to start running".  I say, "you really don't have to.  I'm running because it's personal."  Nevertheless, off he ran.

Someone else caught me up, a small lady just jogging past.  No walking just running.  All the way, bloody running.  I've stopped running on the up hills.  Just walk the up hills, and the down hills.  Running on the flat bits.  We can do that.  I've run out of up hills and downhills so I have to keep running.  I can see campers but I can also see boats so that means it's not my campsite.  A car comes past with the window down and the passengers shout encouragement.  I see another campsite, still not mine.  Garmin says 3km to go.  

Finally I can see the green army tents on my campsite and I have a sneaky walk as my legs really can't do it anymore but I know they will have to because as soon as I round this corner... yes, there they are.  Three kids, all dressed in waterproofs and they're clapping.  I focus on red coat and for every clap of her hands there is a a foot fall.  Slap slap slap my flat and crappy feet on the tarmac.  The pain is gone, all eyes are on me and I am there, I am doing it, I am finally going to kick this course on the ass and go home!.

The marshal on the gate has an entry list in her hands so shouts me, "well done Andrea!" as I round the corner.  Sprinting through the field, Matt is there shouting, "Go on Trep, Tick in the box" and I say it's more like a cross in the "never-again" box.  Splodge splodge down the muddy track, over the dismount mat and up to the finishing line where I make boo-hoo faces at the camera and grab TSK for a big hug and a lovely photo.

Vest on backwards - what a pro.

Runtime 3:09:20.  292/334
Overall 8:00:43 289/334.