19 June 2017 0 Comments

Tough Brick

My season is rapidly descending into a state of farce. It started well enough with an enjoyable Lancaster Duathlon followed by a favourite sportive of mine – the Jodrell Bank. The subsequent two sportives I entered (Bigland or Bust and Manchester-Chester-Manchester) were both cancelled due to lack of numbers. No matter, I was building up to a big week of triathlon this last week with the opening round of the mid week Capernwray sprint series followed by yesterday’s Epicman half ironman. You guessed already, the mid week sprint got cancelled and was switched to a swim only event. It’s not entirely clear why it was cancelled and while I have frequently enjoyed the events run by MyTri, in this case the lack of communication and clarity has been disappointing.

I did a swim at Capernwray, which is always enjoyable due to the crystal clear water, but my focus was now firmly fixed on Sunday’s Epicman. I had ridden the bike course three times in training and I reckoned it to be the toughest half Ironman course I’d ever ridden, tougher than Ironman 70.3 UK on Exmoor and tougher than A Day in the Lakes in its original configuration with the ascent of Kirkstone Pass from the Ullswater side. The run would be familiar as it took in a couple of loops of the Lancaster to Caton cycle track and the swim would be in the Lune.

The last time someone tried organising a triathlon in the Lune, biblical amounts of rain descended in the build up leading to widespread flooding up river and the Lune in full spate through the rapids at Halton. Result, no swim and a very wet duathlon which I declined as we were already scheduled to go on holiday the next day so getting organised for that seemed preferable. It was a case of history repeating itself: a monster depression crossed the Atlantic at the start of the week and dumped huge amounts of water on the Lune catchment causing the floodplain to do its thing. Now the Lune is a relatively short river, and its levels can drop quickly in a dry spell, so even though it was flooded on Tuesday, we would be ok for Sunday provided no more rain fell. Unfortunately, a further heavy period over the Friday night brought the river levels right back up, and despite leaving the decision as late as possible, the inevitable happened and we were left with plan B which was a bike/run race.

We started time trial style with a 15 second gap between pairs of competitors in bib number order so with me being in the 200s I had a few minutes to hang around and chat with the numerous other COLTs racing, Jenny Evans, the Hobbit, Lawson, John Clarke and Andy Ley to name a few. This relaxation and lack of swim completely threw me as I forgot to sort my watch out, and just after the start I had to pull over to set Strava recording. I probably lost a couple of minutes faffing about and unsettled myself for the first part of the ride up to Jubilee Tower. Not feeling great, I took this steadily chatting with John Clarke. Leaving him on the descent I was caught by Thomas Jones who was just out for a ride supporting people. After a quick chat I ploughed on and over Trough of Bowland taking it a bit more carefully than the Tri Preston guy who had an off just ahead of me.

Top of Bowland Knotts

By Slaidburn my legs were coming back and I pushed strongly up through the zigzag and over the moor to Gisburn Forest. The last major climb was Bowland Knotts and with a kilometre of 13-15% solid it’s a bit of a brute. I climbed solidly though and accelerated over the exposed moorland at the top to set a pb for the climb. Feeling good I attacked the long descent down to Clapham with verve, nothing up a top speed of 76kmh – just shy of 50mph, and I was far from the fastest down here! That was plenty fast enough for me and now we had the last 15 miles into a block headwind to contend with. Fortunately, I felt strong and pushed on, catching and exchanging pleasantries with Billy Winn who told me about his eye popping wobble on the Bowland Knotts descent!

I rolled in to transition in about 3 hours 38 minutes which was a little slower than my target of 3? hours, but considering I’d lost a couple at the start and there was a strong wind all day, I was reasonably happy with my ride.

Now on to the run. In terms of challenge, this was pretty much pan flat, but the strong wind up the valley meant that half the run would be into a headwind, making it much tougher than it might otherwise be. Nevertheless, considering the severe lack of running for the last few months, I kept up a reasonable pace throughout and jogged in to the finish in a whisker under 2 hours. My overall time was 5 hours 44, I think, but I really wasn’t focused on that. Having lost the swim, this wasn’t a triathlon anymore and just became a super hard training session for the big one in 4 weeks time.

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