Following the first year of this tough event when Colin & Genevieve entered this challenging race without quite realizing what it was, Team ATHelite have turned up with more & more numbers each year. This time was certainly the biggest ATHelite onslaught yet. Even at registration the organizers couldn’t believe the number of people we had in the race – 6 relay teams plus Alan Stirling doing the whole thing. Registration was a little confusing as we had lost Jack from the 1st team at the last minute & there was some complicated restructuring going on with none of the teams remaining the same as initially planned.
The weather forecast on Saturday was always wet & windy and we pitched the tents quickly before the rain started. In the middle of the tented corral we also had 2 gazebos to shield us from the elements – in fact we had so many tents, windbreaks & fancy furniture we were virtually back indoors again.
Having indulged ourselves in a bbq meat overload & a light drink we all headed to bed and (in a Beaver Triathlon flashback) spent half the night awake as the wind whipped through the camp site & the lambs bleated away in the adjacent field.
As we nervously peeped out of the tents early on Sunday morning it looked pretty unpleasant outside with heavy cloud & a strong wind blowing. We started to hear rumours that the swim was being cut short due to the conditions and were initially annoyed but, as we finished the race briefing and headed down to the lake it was clear to see why. The safety kayakers were having real trouble & I have never seen such big waves on a lake. There were 2 swim heats depending if you predicted faster or slower than 30 mins for the 1.9km (though the distance was now cut down to about 1.3km ish). As I had replaced Jack I found myself in the first faster heat and whilst I should have been at the back of this pace group I saw people struggling with the conditions & went to just behind the front instead. Alan Stirling was also in this group
The Swim - Ullswater (1.3 ish km’s not including the vertical ascent!)
As the hooter went it was immediately clear that this was going to be tough. Those people who weren’t breathing away from the waves were really struggling. It was quite nauseating at first & I was really fighting to stop being dragged away to the right. Sometimes as you went to stroke there was no water there & you then dropped into the trough before being hammered by the next wave. It was also impossible to see the buoys and on the way back in a group of about 30 of us were dragged out to the left but I eventually sighted on the buoy & picked up the pace & pulled away from the group I was in. Despite being in a faster swim heat I actually exited the water in 28th position to hand over to Michael before chucking up about 4 litres of lake water all over the grass!
Alan Stirling was also in this group & appeared to have a solid swim before heading out on the tough bike leg. Genevieve finished very strongly on the swim and despite starting 5 mins later in the 2nd heat exited the water ahead of a lot of people from the first heat. Graeme had a chat with a man in a Kayak & Dawn swam the whole thing breast stroke?!
Swim times for the miscellaneous distance were as follows; (I hope these are correct as the teams & names all changed)
Colin 22.24 (28th overall)
Having watched the bikers go out we all headed back to our little tented village & put our feet up for a couple of hours. This is the first time I have done a relay as opposed to the whole thing & I could definitely get used to it!
The bike course is actually slightly long at 58 miles but it is the climbs that make it tough with a particularly hard ascent up & over Kirkstone Pass (in the clouds & rain) followed by the climb up Shap. The wind made it doubly hard for the riders too.
As we headed back to transition to watch the bikes come in it was clear that there were some really fast guys racing today – the lead guy had already built up a 7 minute lead & would extend this lead even further on the run.
We were expecting Michael to arrive in first for us but it was actually Brian who came in first & he had clearly had a flier. Brian handed over to Colin Bain and we waited for Michael who appeared a few minutes later handing over to Alan Derrick who set off to see if he could hunt down Colin B. Whilst the others waited to see in Lisa, Frank, Ian & Don, myself Genevieve & the Gman started our run out to the feed station to cheer everyone on. By now the weather had really warmed up to the mid 20’s & even running out on the road it was really hot & sweaty. It was going to be a tough 13 mile fell run for the final legs competitors.
Unfortunately Frank had some knee trouble on the bike whilst climbing Kirkstone & had to turn & come back. We also had a disqualification as The Blonde Rocket Lisa jumped a set of amber traffic lights right under a marshalls nose!!
Relayers Ian & Don both had strong rides & Alan Stirling was still progressing well in the full event.
Bike times as follows
Alan S 3.30
Lisa 3.47 (DQ!)
The run route teases you initially with a bit of flat road before kicking up right into the hills up a landrover track then undulating along a rocky path for 5 miles to the feed station & then the main climb (walk) up the fell and around a tough loop before coming back to the same feed station & a 3.5 mile hobble on the road back to the finish.
We waited at the feed station & saw everyone through with Genevieve giving her usual high octane encourage to one & all, prompting one of the marshalls to ask if she had an ‘’off switch’’!
By the second water stop Alan had swept past Colin B & we were now sitting in 2nd team position with Colin B holding onto 3rd team position.
Our other relay runners Dawn, Shirley, Lorna & David were all looking good & enjoying themselves. Alan Stirling, like all the others doing the full event, was starting to look pretty hot & tired but still moving forwards at a steady pace and seemed in good spirits.
We ran back to the finish line & waited for all our guys to finish. Alan Derrick is totally in his element on this kind of run & cruised past several people to finish & give us 2nd team prize & Colin B also held his position to win the 3rd Team prize. Out of 40 teams this is some result.
Dawn, Shirley, Lorna & David all finished to big cheers from the rest of the teams at the finish line.
Run times as follows
Alan D 1.39 (3rd quickest run of the day)
Colin B 1.48
Alan S 2.59
Dawn ??? (chip time incorrect)
Shirley ??? (chip time incorrect)
Colins Team 5.02 (2nd Team)
Genevieves Team 5.07 (3rd Team)
Sandys Team 6.41
Ians Team 7.01
Alan Stirling (whole event) 7.01
Dawns Team 6.05 (DQ’d)
Graemes Team (not quite sure!)
After the event half of the group had to pack up & head north again but a few of us stayed for another night of more BBQ & (a lot) more booze in the evening sunshine &, apart from us, a much quieter camp site.
The next morning was glorious and following breakfast & a gentle morning swim in the mill pond flat lake (what a difference a day makes) we were the very last to leave the camp site & head north to the greyness & driving rain of home!!
This was a fantastic weekend & highly recommended event. We will no doubt be back but I am doing the whole thing next year!!