At the start of the 2014 season I was planning what races I wanted to do and after hearing so much about the Helvellyn triathlon this year’s race was the first on the list. I had an idea what I was letting myself in for but after three years of racing I felt I had learnt enough about myself to put myself up for the challenge.
After returning from the Europeans in Kitzbuhel my training turned to focus on what was to come at Helvellyn. With a full recce day planned for mid-August I was getting ready for the big day. Unfortunately come recce day the weather was absolutely horrendous and after completing the full bike course in torrential rain, myself, my coach Rodger and good friend Alex Foster set off on the run course in a break in the weather. This break didn’t last long and by the time we made it to Red Tarn we had 60mph gusts and the decision was made to not continue to the summit. With Rodger knowing the course and knowing it wouldn’t be a good idea to turn up to the event without a full run course recce another day was planned at the end of the August and I can only say I was very grateful for this opportunity. The run course for this triathlon is like nothing I have ever done before, the ascent is brutal with the main climb finishing with the scramble up Swirrel Edge. Anyone with a fear of heights should avoid this triathlon.
Race day arrives and thankfully the weather was incredible but with a low mist over the lake for the start, the sighting for the first buoy was hard. I unfortunately got mixed up with a lot of people on the start and had one of the most physical swims I’ve had in a long time. With arms, bodies and legs everywhere I had to battle to find a bit of clean water and after what felt like a long time I eventually got round the first buoy. After this I was able to get more into my stroke but with big gaps between each buoy sighting wasn’t easy. The swim was slightly longer than the normal standard distance and after my hard start I certainly felt it.
Out of T1 and my legs were feeling heavy but after 5 or so miles I could feel myself getting ‘into the groove’. Unfortunately a couple more miles down the road an old knee injury decided today would be a good day to make an appearance after about a year of not showing itself. With the pain appearing on the down stroke of the pedal I did my best to position myself on the pedal and bike to try and easy the pain and thankfully for the fastest part of the course the pain did ebb away. I was also very privileged to get an amazing view of two Lancaster Bombers who were doing a flyover for a local air show. The rumble from the engines as they flew overhead was enough to give me goosebumps.
The final part of the bike course involves the climb from Ambleside up Kirkstone Pass and includes the infamous ‘struggle’. The crowds and support at the top was just awesome and it felt like I was riding part of the Tour de France with spectators forming a funnel of noise. One last push down the decent and the final run into transition and I was soon getting my trail shoes and compulsory kit bag on ready for the final run leg.
I’m going to have a little diversion now, during a normal standard distance triathlon I very often drink very little on the bike thankfully with no consequences anywhere else in the event. Unfortunately today I played the same tactics, against advice I had received, and learnt a very valuable lesson.
Getting started on the run course my aim was to try and keep moving and not walk on the main ascent and this was where I learnt my lesson from not hydrating properly earlier in the race. I started to feel cramp setting in in both calves but thankfully was able to shake it off for the most part on the climb. However whilst descending, and there is a lot of it on this course, it was getting harder and harder to stave off and with the pain in my knee making an unwelcome return again the descent felt harder than I had hoped for. I felt strong and like I had a lot of running left in my upper body but my legs were having none of it so the finish line was a very welcome sight.
So there it is, my last race of the 2014 season and it was definitely the final challenge I was after. The season has been an incredible success for me personally, I have learnt so much about myself, about how to race and about how to get the most out of myself when faced with challenges.
Bring on 2015,