James Emery is the Manager of TORQ's Triathlon team. He's a keen triathlete having raced all distances from sprint to Ironman.
Eleanor Haresign decide she had one more race left in her, so after a summer of concentrating on the short hard racing, she decided to take on a race that took over 9 hours to complete over some of the toughest terrain England has to offer, including climbing up the highest peak in England. Remarkably she won showing she is clearly talented across all distances...
Last race of the season, and an opportunity to get right out of my comfort zone and do one with a whole different set of challenges. I had signed up to Wasdale Triathlon last year, but it had been cancelled in terrible weather conditions. This year we were welcomed to the Lake District with clear skies and a bracing breeze. It was a middle distance triathlon, but with a considerable amount of hills to negotiate, including an ascent of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike and its equally rugged sibling Sca Fell. As if not tough enough, your legs were first given a ‘warm up’ over each of Hardknott and Wrynose passes. In both directions!
I felt very relaxed on race morning, as my expectations were simply to enjoy the day and try to make it round in one piece. The swim turned out to be one of the most beautiful swims I’ve ever done. The water wasn’t as cold as I’d feared and when the morning sun lit up the slopes of Yewbarrow, I was grinning from ear to ear, and then I was third overall out of the water.
I was then onto the bike and I kept a steady pace. I had no data whatsoever, not even the time of day, so I was enjoying going by feel and making sure to get the nutrition in early, as I knew that it would be difficult to eat whilst out the saddle up the 25% gradients, or even on the way down whilst clinging onto the brakes! The breeze gave a headwind on the way out and I have to confess to pushing my bike up the last section of Hardknott pass, the first big climb. I was a bit worried that this boded badly. However, the rest of the cycle was fine – I think I was just still a bit cold in the early morning shade after the fresh swim.
After a 4 hour cycle, I was back up the side of Wastwater to T2 and reminding myself that, really, the race hadn’t even started yet. A half marathon up Scafell Pike – I am not an offroad runner and I knew there would be a lot of walking for me, both uphill and downhill. I adopted a strategy of once my effort level reached a certain intensity then it was time to walk not run. This started about ten minutes out of T2! Legs already pretty fatigued, I took a stumble on the uphill climb – luckily, no one had seen me (!) but it was a good reminder that as the tiredness wore on, I would need to be careful to make sure I didn’t injure myself and get stuck on the mountain. The route was well marked with red and white tape and there were wonderful cheery marshals stationed all over the mountain. It was great reaching the next marshal and having a quick chat as I jogged/pottered on my way. There were also numerous cheery photographers who looked as though they were more experienced at running around on mountains than the rest of us!
Despite the way markers, I managed to deviate slightly off piste on a featureless stretch of boggy moorland in the later stages, so I was really happy to reach that next checkpoint with only a 5-minute delay. By this stage, I was out on my longest ever ‘run’, and the legs were starting to fatigue to a whole new level. Trying to run downhill without bending my knees was an interesting concept, but finally, back on the valley road the last kilometer to the finish, it felt wonderful to be back on more familiar terrain. With renewed enthusiasm to reach the finish after just over 8.5 hours in total, I even managed to gain a couple of places. Whilst I don’t think I’ll become a fell runner any time soon, it has given me a lot of confidence that I can push my boundaries.
It was a fantastic end to my season to take another win, especially on a race so far removed from my comfort zone.
With thanks to www.racingsnakes.com for the excellent photographs.
More information on the race can be found at www.wasdale-tri.co.uk
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