A Day in the Lakes
A month ago I raced the Coniston Old Man triathlon and did not have a good time. When an adventure race I was supposed to be doing a month later was cancelled, I looked again at a Day in the Lakes. On the surface, it is a similar race; middle distance, hilly bike, fell run and in the Lake District. However, this one seemed to be more suited to my strengths. Hills, yes, but not so steep I might fall off or over going up or down them!
It was also easier to get to. After a mere 10km pedal from Penrith train station, I was at the campsite sorting my kit and waiting for Andy with the tent. Although we had a relaxed evening in the company of Andy’s pal Ollie, by race morning my usual nerves had kicked in.
The swim buoys were 500m apart and difficult to see, even though they were huge and yellow! I think this is becoming a common theme for me. I just followed everyone else. I tried to start aggressively, and it was working. That is, until my eye was bashed, my goggle filled with water and I had to sort of edge my way to the side of the pack to empty it. Other than that, the swim was more or less uneventful. I think a few people cut a corner at the top; they probably just missed seeing the marker as there were two close together there. I also tried to land on the wrong bit of beach, but then was out and running to transition. I hadn’t felt bad, but was further down the pack than I expected.
Out on the bike I was feeling strong. Yippee! What a change from four weeks ago. I climbed the first hill without any problems, alternating between standing and sitting to vary my position – at least I had a choice this time. There had been a crash on the descent, which looked nasty but we were told later that the rider was OK. It made me a little more cautious, and soon a girl I had caught on the climb flew past. When I got back up to her again we exchanged a few words and swapped places once or twice more.
On the way up the second big hill, I met Mr Pink Socks from C.O.L.T. (these guys seem to get everywhere). In general, this race had been pretty good with regards to drafting. But at this point we could see two guys working together up front! We both agreed that if we caught them we’d have words, but it was impossible to get close.
I didn’t think I knew this course at all, but when I studied the map the night before I realised it wasn’t completely unfamiliar. I had been over Kirkstone Pass in a car a few years ago, although all I can remember is having to make the driver stop so I could ‘get some fresh air’. Andy and I had ridden a few km of the middle section on a weekend visit earlier this year. And on my way to the Coniston race, we drove over the A6 and I had remarked what a fantastic road it would be to cycle. It was here I now found myself, on my own and riding into a headwind on a long, long descent.
Soon after, I was caught by a couple of people. I was in the awkward situation of yo-yoing with one of them, but I always dropped back when I was overtaken. In an attempt to get past and away I put in a hard effort, but I could see someone out of the corner of my eye sitting on my wheel. I wanted to say ‘are you going to pass, or drop back?’, but for some reason I didn’t. In these events, drafting is not only against the rules but also gives considerable gain. For all my ranting, I find it hard to address the issue mid-race. I had caught and passed Pink Socks again so he was behind me at this point. He told me later that my passenger had sometimes been freewheeling in my slipstream!
In the end, I slowed and let them go. I wanted to ride my own race but not kill my legs before the run trying to prove a point. I chatted to a very successful athlete once who had this attitude: ‘They can draft, but I don’t do it. I ride hard at the front and still beat them’. This is the kind of unruffled approach that I aspire to. Then I just need the strength and speed to execute it 😀 .
Anyway, back to the race. I was very pleased with how my legs had felt on the bike and it was fantastic riding through the campsite into transition. There were loads of people cheering, including an expected shout from my friend Lucy!
As I started the run, I saw about 5 girls also just finishing the bike. I haven’t really worked on my ‘brick sessions’ (practicing that awkward bike / run transition that legs dislike so much) and we were soon heading upwards. I stuck at it, glad that I was also carrying some water in my new running belt.
It took 45 minutes for a girl to catch me, and she was moving well. After the drinks station the second hill began and it was a tough one! Beautiful, but steep and hot. Everyone was reduced to walking. I kept drinking and took the opportunity to eat a couple of snacks, and get some cold stream water over my head. On the descent, Pink Socks came past again! We exchanged names this time, so I knew I was racing with Andy. Back past the drinks station and we faced 5.5km on an undulating road. To me, this was torture. I had an idea how long it would take, but couldn’t find the oomph to close the gap to Andy, even after a sneaky emergency gel.
We passed a few campsites that weren’t ‘ours’ and as another one came into view I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high. But this time we were nearly there and I stuck at it. It was more like maintaining my pace than a sprint finish, but compared to Coniston, it was a very definite RUN!
I was tired at the finish, but very happy. I had achieved my goal, which was to race well and feel fit. Although I only came 6th, I was still satisfied. There was strong competition, including athletes with international experience and medals. I had an average swim but a good bike. As usual, my run was relatively slow and I lost time, but I only conceded one place. I really enjoyed this race and it was very well organised. I think it could be one I’ll revisit in the future!
All that remained was to pack up and get back to Penrith. This was quite a trial, as much for (my) Andy as for me. He had decided to do the run course just for fun and was feeling weary! Within 5 minutes of getting on the train I was fast asleep 🙂 .