Last weekend was the second race in the High Terrain Events off-road Duathlon series, set in the picturesque surroundings of Kielder Forest, Northumberland. Having raced here last year I knew that to travel to the venue and back in one or even two days could take a fair bit out of me so with a bit of forward planning I managed to secure a cottage less than 30seconds walk away from where the race was starting from and had a couple of days before and one day after the race just to relax and get myself ready to race.
Unfortunately during the week leading up to race day I had picked up a bit of a winter cold, so with a very dry, tickly cough and a very runny nose I wasn’t 100% healthy but still wanted to race and give it my best shot.
Away from racing most Saturday evenings myself and my husband, Pete, can be found at my mum and dads being treated to our tea and very kindly my mum supplied us with a lasagne to take with us for the pre-race meal, something that was greatly appreciated.
Race morning came and thankfully the rain from the night before had stopped but it was still one of the coldest race mornings I’ve ever known. Being so close to race start and transition allowed me to get a prime position on the bike racking and plenty of time to get myself ready.
Having learnt my lesson from Whinlatter I made sure I performed a thorough warm-up to ensure I was prepared for the first run which I knew was the tougher of the two runs of the day.
On the briefing notes it stated there would be 15mins between race briefing and the start of the race but on the actually morning it was cut down to 3 which nearly caught a few people out. As with the vast majority of races there was almost a sprint to start the race but knowing that the course climbs for about 4kms to start I knew I had to pace it correctly. Once on the top, the decent is one of the trickiest I know, it descends over heather, which does an amazing job of hiding the path, rocks and any holes. If you are not 100% on the ball you could quite easily take a tumble and really hurt yourself.
Into transition and there was a slight snowfall, luckily it didn’t last too long but the temperature wasn’t going to get any higher, something that will play a part in most people’s races. The bikes course at Kielder is not as technical as Whinlatter but still keeps you on your toes, it’s a mixture of wide open forest track and fast flowing single track. Unfortunately for me it was on the bike course that the cold weather took ahold, and I lost most of the sensation in my fingers and thumbs which made changing gear on the MTB quite a task. About half way round I caught sight of another woman in front, not knowing our positions I tried to use some of the male competitors coming past to try and work my way up to her but she was a strong cyclist and I never got within a few hundred metres. As the course goes out quite a way out from the start/finish there isn’t too much support out on the course but as soon as you head back into transition you soon hear the cheers from supporters.
Due to the lack of feeling in my hands I slowed things down a bit in T2 to ensure things were done right the first time and I didn’t lose too much time having to do things twice.
Out onto the second run and I was feeling alright, I was able to pass a few people but never made it up to the woman I had seen on the bike. As I crossed the finish line, the dirtiest and coldest I have been in a long time, I learnt that I was 2nd woman home and couldn’t wait to get into a nice warm shower.
Thanks go out to family and friends that provided support either in person, via messages or via lasagne. (Sarah Jepson)