A welcoming club on the North West of Edinburgh

Northumbrian 70.3

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At the end of May I was looking forward to this race (to complete, not compete), we’d had a good club bike weekend in Morzine and I’d done the Inverness half marathon at the end of March fairly comfortably.  After returning from Morzine I got a chest infection which didn’t really go away for 2 weeks and I was away every week in June travelling with work.  Planes, trade shows and hotel beds for a month aren’t ideal and with little training, I was on the start line thinking I could get to the end of the first lap of the run but after that it could get difficult.

Kirst and I were both racing so we headed down on Friday night to have plenty of time on Saturday for a short bike ride in the morning and the official swim recce in the afternoon.  No swimming is allowed in Kielder Water so this race is the only time you get to do it.  We stayed just on the Scottish side of the border so we could wild camp on Friday night and drove to the event car park first thing Saturday morning where we planned to stay overnight. 

After a quick registration and a nice goodie bag including a cycle jersey, we went to do the swim recce.  The water temp was 14 and it felt a wee bit chilly getting in but as soon as you started swimming it was really nice.  The water is very dark though and you can’t see anything.  I was glad to have got this swim done so I was prepared for what it would be like at the race start the next morning.

A pizza in the van for dinner and then the alarm was set for 4:15 for breakfast and an early bed.

It was a nice morning walking down to the race start.  The bikes were in transition overnight so there was little to set up.  I filled the water frame bladder with energy drink and had two other bottles mounted on my bike; one with energy drink and one with electrolytes.  With some food in the top tube bag, I shouldn’t need to stop. 

There was a bit of confusion at the race briefing about whether we were going clockwise or anti and where the buoys were.  After that was sorted it was a rolling start with about 10 people being set off at a time.  This means you don’t have any judge of how fast people are, so it was just put your head down and get on with it.  I was feeling good in the water and starting overtaking people in the waves that had gone off ahead of us.  I have hardly been in a pool so wasn’t sure how a straight 1800m would be but with the wetsuit help it was all good and I enjoyed the swim.  I came out the water about a minute before Kirst seeing her in transition so I knew it must have been OK.

Out on the bike I had planned to drink all the PH1500 salt/mineral drink in the first 20 minutes on the bike so that was the main focus.  After that get onto food and energy drink.  I had planned to keep the bike power steady, particularly at the beginning. 

The bike course is on nice roads and even though the event hypes it as hilly it isn’t really.  There are 2 main hills and you hit the first one at about 25km in.  I kept a steady tempo up it but didn’t really feel I was able to get the power numbers I wanted easily.  The advantage of being on the TT bike meant I could keep up a decent speed though with less power on the flats and control my pacing. 

I was struggling to get the energy drink out of the tube bladder so started to use the spare bottle I had.  I didn’t taste like Beta Fuel.  After thinking about it a bit longer I realised Kirst and I had the same water bottles and when she had taken them out the fridge she had given me her electrolyte bottle.  Back to trying the tube and getting what I could.  Reflecting afterwards I realised I should have just stopped at a feed station and swapped it but with no need to stop in my head I didn’t figure that out during the race.

After about 70km I was starting to feel my power numbers definitely weren’t holding even what should be an easy number.  My overall bike split ended up down about 20 minutes from where I thought it would be but transition was still nearly empty so it wasn’t bad in comparison to the overall field.

Off onto the run and my legs felt OK.   It is a 2-lap trail run course that is hard packed and nice to run on.   There is a large hill at about 8km and the rest is gently rolling.  Again, I knew I had to pace it carefully to get around so was watching my watch to keep it sensible.  At 2km when going up a hill I started to cramp in my leg.  After a quick stretch I got going again and felt OK.  I tried to get Coke at every aid station to get some sugars in, but they didn’t have any until lap 2 which turned out to be too late. 

At the start of lap 2 I started cramping again on every uphill on my calf’s.  I would try to keep running and they would just tighten up.  It meant I had to walk up every hill and then run the flats and downhill but my pace wasn’t good either as I felt I now had to just manage getting to the end.  It’s fair to stay I wasn’t enjoying myself by this time!!

The km markers on the course were dragging by very slowly, I kept focused on the 8km marker as I knew this was the top of the last hill and once I got there I would get finished.  I had expected even on a bad day to have a half marathon time of around 2 hours, now I was hoping to break 2 ½.

Finally, it was over and I was through the finish line.  It was relief more than enjoyment.  I waited for Kirst to finish and was getting eaten alive by midges.  They had been around all day and once I stopped I saw I was covered in bites.  I was obviously moving too slowly 😊