The 2014 race season ‘proper’ ended a couple of months ago and winter is usually the time when most triathletes hibernate for a little while and then start on building their base before the following race season. I’m no different in this aspect, a lot of my building and technique work is done over winter but I also like to inject this with a couple of duathlons just to keep my competitive streak happy.
Having done the High Terrains Kielder duathlon last year I decided to also give the Whinlatter Forest one a go this year. Having raced mountain bikes when I was much younger I wasn’t overly concerned about the technical bike course and was looking forward to putting some of the work already done this winter into practice.
Come race morning and thankfully the usual wet Lake District weather had decided to stay away and we were blessed with sunshine.
The start of most races is usually a scramble of people all setting off at a pace that even the best of athletes would find hard to maintain and this race was no different so I was inevitably passed by quite a lot of people who I knew I would eventually be seeing again.
Unlike a triathlon when I can usually get into my swim stroke and pace fairly quickly, I felt like I struggled at the start of the race. I didn’t feel ‘comfortable’ in my run and it felt like it was about 15-20mins before I finally got into my stride, a lack of a proper warmup could have something to do with this.
Into T1 and out onto the mountain bike course, the start of which is on the blue, easier route and has lots of nice sweeping descents and not too technical climbs. This blue route then moves into the more technical red route, with trickier climbs and descents. I felt like I made good time on this part of the race, passing people both on the descents and timing my passing manoeuvres before the single track climbs.
With so much single track on a course it is inevitable that you are going to catch and also be caught be faster moving competitors and it can sometimes be tricky finding the right place to overtake but also the right place to let someone else pass where you both can do so safely but also not delay either persons progress. It was whilst I was descending that I was caught by a man who seemingly was moving quicker than myself, he requested I let him pass when I was ready. This I did but apparently it wasn’t quick enough for this ‘gentleman’ and he wasn’t shy about letting me know his feelings. After a few choice words were said by both parties we went about our own races. I could have very easily let my feelings take over me at this point but I took a deep breath, cleared my head of this aggression and got on with concentrating on my race.
Into T2, an area where I’m usually one of the quickest, and things just went to pot. I had decided to race using two different pairs of shoes for each run and unfortunately the pair I had chosen for the second run aren’t used that often. The week before the race I had adjusted the laces to a point where it felt easy for me to get into the shoes but come race day my right foot was not for getting in the shoe. Instead of flapping and making things worse I stayed calm and got my foot in the shoe as quick as a could under the circumstances.
Finally out of T2 and onto the second run which was 5.5km up and back down the nearest fell. During the bike I had been getting the odd bouts of cramp in both legs and just like Helvelyn it stuck with me for the run. Prior to the race I had set myself the challenge to keep running on the climb and even when the little voice in my head was telling me to walk I carried on running. Reaching the top and starting the decent I experienced the worse cramp in my right hamstring I could have imagined. Stopping for 20-30secs to try and stretch it out I was relieved when it eased and I was able to finish strong.
So there it is, Whinlatter Duathlon done, and I’ve got to say it’s up there as one of the toughest races I’ve done this year. (Sarah Jepson)