Helvellyn Triathlon

Robert Cassidy

This race was to be my last triathlon of 2018 and finish off what has been a very good year for me. It has seen me take on some challenging courses with the famous ‘Slateman’ and ‘Alp d’huez’ Long course just 2 to mention. Capping the bucket list off for the year I saw no better way than putting my skills to the test in the challenging environment of the Lake District which would culminate in a tough 14km trail run up (and down) Helvellyn.

I arrived early on race day morning, so I could register and get in the right frame of mind. I wanted to make sure that mentally I was prepared for the challenge ahead and whatever the race and weather conditions through at me. It was a very typical Lake District morning with the hills covered by clouds and drizzle in the air with no chance of the sun coming through – Ullswater lake looked cold too at 8am and it did not disappoint.

We were told that the water temperature was 15 degrees which by my quick working was the coldest (in race format) of all the swims I have done in 2018. I suppose it was destined that this would be the race (after the summer we have had) where the weather would not play ball. There were 3 swim waves according to predicted times and I was in wave 1 with the faster swimmers; including Beau Smith and Sarah Jepson my Racepace team mates. The race was on!

I decided to get in the water as late as possible as I can feel the affects of cold water more than others and this is always a decision to make, as the flip side to the coin is to get in and acclimatize/warm up. I took the decision that minimal time spent in the water would benefit me when getting out and in transition – both the feeling in my feet and doing up my helmet. The gun went I we were away. This was my first swim of the year where I managed to get in a pack and stay with the pack all the way round, it was the right intensity for me and the gain I was getting from the draft was something I had been searching for all year but struggled to achieve. I wanted to put a good swim together, tactically more than anything. On exiting I was quick to get my wetsuit down to my waist locate my bike and proceed with getting the rest of my wetsuit off. This did not go as smooth as I would have liked but by no means slow.

I grabbed my bike, running over the mount line and off I went on 2 wheels. Time to knuckle down and be committed on the bike. A lumpy course with an ascent up the ‘struggle’ on to Kirkstone pass towards the end. The wind played a factor on the course and I had to factor this in, there was a certain stretch where it was wind against and this could easily sap momentum. I made sure to hydrate and take on energy gels throughout, this would not only help on the 2hr ride but put me in the best shape to attack the run.

The run lived up to expectation. Visibility was very poor and there was a constant wet in the air either from rain or the mist. You really could only focus on the immediate 10-15m in front of you, pointless looking further as you were just hit with a white cloud. I was probably climbing for a good hour and the pace really was down at walking in some places. Just got to keep putting 1 foot in front of the other, and then where the course allows pick up the pace and run again. With my hydration rucksack on and stocked with a few treats (jelly babies, mars bars) I was making good progress and passing a few other athletes with not many coming past me. Unfortunately, the hydration pack did not work so when I got to the summit (having had no fluid) I took the decision to stop, take it off, undo the plug and just drink it the old fashioned way – tilted head and the water flowing into my mouth. Rucksack back on and now for the descent which for my size I always find difficult and tougher than coming up. My knees were crying for me to stop and personally I could not wait to get on the flat stuff again. Once on the flat I had good energy and really zipped along to the finish line, I knew down the mountain I had been slower than other people but was sure I could make up time on the flats again. I was proven right where an athlete who passed me early on the descent was in my sights, I reeled him in and went passed. Love it when that happens.

I crossed the line in 4hrs 15mins and 29 seconds which put me 31st overall from over 350 competing. A tough race but one I would do again. As always there was great support from the Racepace crew and congratulations to Sarah who finished 2nd lady and Beau Smith who also finished 2nd overall. Another great Racepace team performance and for me another tick on the list of - Triathlons to do!

Sarah Jepson

I last raced Tri-Hard’s Helvellyn triathlon in 2014 so knew what was in store when I entered this year’s event. Set on the shores of Ullswater the event is definitely one to add to your UK bucket list of events as it’s unlike any other that (I think) can be done in this country.

The morning of the race was a little damp with low cloud sitting on top of the surrounding hills and just before 8.30am the first wave of swimmers were called into the water. I have swam in Ullswater several times throughout this year and it was the coldest I’d experienced in there so luckily the organisers didn’t have us waiting in the water too long. I normally like to get a quick start but decided to try something a bit different at this race and started off slower than I would normally. This meant I was able to get on the feet of the swimmers around me quicker. I feel like I swam within myself, and was able to exit the water composed and ready for the bike leg. 

Having ridden the bike course a couple of weeks previous I really wanted to ‘attack’ it. I passed my good friend Samantha, who was at the time, first lady, before I turned up towards Matterdale. I decided to put in more of an effort to put a gap between myself and the other women. From then on I tried to keep a constant effort level, no surges of power. I knew when I hit the last climb up Kirkstone Pass I couldn’t let my guard down and back off.

Arriving into T2 I knew I was first lady back but knew there were some fast runners chasing me down. The weather by this point had really closed in and as I approached Red Tarn I was passed by second place who told me there was a big gap to third. Cresting the summit after clearing Swirral Egde I wanted to try and keep pushing on down the hill. The descent isn’t overly technical and allowed me to ‘run’ and chase down a few male competitors. I crossed the finish line 2nd female and proud of the performance I had put together.

Over 6 years of training and racing although I have become ‘fitter’ the main thing I have learnt, and now take to all my races, is that an athletes attitude before, during and after the race plays a much bigger part in them developing as an athlete than any amount of training. Embracing the process of learning rather than looking for a quick hit is always going to be difficult to convey but given the chance and the right environment to learn I think any athlete can prosper and enjoy their racing. Turning up to races feeling confident in my ability to put a race together and knowing that I’m not there to impress anyone else with my performances, is very liberating. As long as I know I have given my best performance on that day and I get to finish the race with people who I trust and care for by my side the end ‘result’ doesn’t matter.

One more triathlon to go for me, the Ironman 70.3 Cascais, and then the 2018 season comes to a close.