A bucket list event held on my doorstep – so why ever not? Maybe because the swim is cold, the cycle ride goes up The Struggle which is a climb listed in ’10 of the UK’s toughest climbs’. It lasts for 4.8km and climbs over 1200ft with sections of 24%. There is a flat bit in the middle. The ‘run’ then almost summits Helvellyn – it turns right with about 50 metres of climb to go. It climbs about 3,000ft and goes up Swirral Edge scramble. No reason at all then.
Even more fun when some friends decide to do it as well, and Paddy comes as support – coffee and hugs on tap. I was ridiculously nervous. Maybe because it was the first race of the season and I’m always nervous for that one. Maybe because I haven’t fell run regularly for over ten years so it did feel like a very big challenge.
A field in rural Cumbria contrasted with the presence of a pro-field and Alsitair Brownlee turned up, having raced in Hamburg the day before. Luckily no 14 day isolation required! He went on to break the old course record, which he set when he was 19. Social distance spacing in transition looked suspiciously like a normal cramped transition and I wasn’t about to get the tape measure out. Have to say though the COVID silver lining was the presence of more toilets than normal and quantities of both gel and loo roll.
A beautiful, cold Ullswater (13 degrees) welcomed us and we were supposed to start at 5 second intervals. This rapidly turned into ‘get everyone in: any order and any spacing will do’. So apologies to those who were hoping to spectate, all our timings went straight out the window and my warm up was just a little rushed. We jumped in leaving Paddy surrounded by a big pile of gear. Flat lake, tight course, hop out, run round a buoy, hop back in again. Felt good in the water, if a trifle chilly.
On to the bike, 10% chance of rain and the sun was starting to come out. That lasted for the first ten minutes. By the time we got the the A66 it was henious. So horrible it was quite exhilerating. Poor visibility, greyness, spray, caravans. Coat on. Dunmail was easy, the Struggle wasn’t. No suprise there then. Quick hug with Paddy at the top, it was that kind of race, and an update on how the others were doing. Wet descent. I thought how nice of them to place an ambulance with flashing lights half way down to remind me to slow down. Must have been tired, it was there because someone had gone through the wall. Sluggish with some cramp issues on the bike.
Easy in transition to keep the cramp at bay; also because Alistair was being interviewed so I paused for a listen. First mile easy, settle into things gently, only eight left to go. Then the course went straight up. Postive head – ‘ thank goodness its uphill, thank goodness it’s uphill’, repeat. My legs couldn’t cope with going down at that point. The clouds were now blowing off and the fells were absolutely stunning. Thankfully I hadn’t taken my phone or I’d still be there taking photos. Luckily Stephen took some instead. The main climb finished off up Swirral Edge which was fun – wet rock and lots of people not used to scrambling. Then down, down, down.
Finally through the finish in just under six hours. I was the last of us to finish so I got the biggest welcome reception. With a touch of black humour the organisers had left us one last little Covid challenge – collect your own medal and the medal box was on the floor.
Successes of all kinds – Stephen raised over £1000 for Vision of Adventure ( a local charity supporting visually impaired athletes), he also not only survived but successfully smashed his second ever triathlon. Jack learnt loads to take forward to his ironman next year. I managed a respectable fell run having not done that for a very long time. And fun was had by all, both beforehand and on the day. In fact the crack was so good we may even contemplate doing it again.