So the day was nearly upon me and one of my bucket list races was imminent, the Triathlon X which includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike with 3700m of ascent around the infamous Fred Whitton bike route and a meagre Mountain marathon up Scafell Pike, Englands tallest peak.
It all started with a long drive from Newbury on Thursday night to get to the Lake District for Triathlon X – the toughest iron distance race in the world. As anyone who has a new born baby knows, sometimes you are at their mercy, this time Walter (our 8 week old son) decided travelling that night was not for him and was a little sad to say the least with the timing of our journey but the traffic on the A34 was even more upset and after 2 hours and only having gone 25 miles it was time to admit defeat, go home and try again in the early hours of Friday morning.
Friday was more successful and we arrived in good time to relax at YHA Ambleside, a youth hostel I’ve stayed at a few times before and is in a fantastic position right next to Lake Windermere. We grabbed some lunch and walked into town with Elsa (my partner) and decided to unwind with some crazy golf as you do when you’re on holiday. I don’t usually have pre-race rituals but this should be one of them, helped me relax and set the weekend off perfectly.
Unfortunately on my return with faffing around with two bikes in the car as well as the pram I missed check in but Mark said not to worry and to come down at 3am to get my race pack. Despite the ‘toughest’ tag line and the intensity of the course the event itself has a really relaxed atmosphere to it, which is great at calming any nerves.
After some food we were all off to bed. My alarm set for 3am and that soon came around, I got up and as I had done in training I had a Mountain Fuel Morning Fuel as I find them so easy to mix and absorb quickly so I don’t feel like I have anything sitting in my stomach before the off, I grabbed my bags and headed down the stairs to register. Like Mark said there was no problem, I turned up, Mark checked my safety kit (we were going to be running a mountain marathon up Scafell Pike and so the safety kit was important) and I was ready to go. As it was going to be a big day I had wondered if I’d need a bigger breakfast but I was feeling OK. I think I’ve got used to having a Morning Fuel and heading out the door, that’s a thing when you become a parent… getting out training sometimes isn’t even planned and so you have to be ready to go.
I started well with a good swim, even if you did need a compass in the fog! I exited the water to see Elsa and Walter which gave me a great lift before embarking on the bike leg. I thought it was going to be quite cool for the first half of the bike and in hindsight had too much on, including arm warmers but still managed my quickest Fred Whitton time so I was pretty chuffed with that. The ride took us over 3’700m of ascending, some of the climbs are 25-30% gradient and this is one of the toughest sportives in Britain. My bike was loaded with 1.5 litres of Xtreme Energy Fuel in my bottles (I had 7 sachets in total for the whole ride) and I knew this was what I needed for the day ahead. In my back pocket were some home made pancakes made from a Mountain Fuel recipe including Morning Fuel, banana, eggs, figs and dates. Something Rupert had suggested to me when we first spoke and recipes well worth having a look at.
As I headed back to transition I was feeling a little fatigued possibly a little dehydrated from over layering as it was really hot at times, it is without doubt a TOUGH day out! A quick toilet stop at T2, change in to my run clothes and pick up my bag filled with a litre of Xtreme Fuel and some bananas. The miles soon passed and I was at the 7 mile aid station where I was happy to see Elsa, Walter and Rupert. All saying I looked pretty good at that point and was in 10th place.
The run felt good until I had to start climbing the mountain, unless you’ve had a chance to do some serious hill training nothing can prepare you for a mountain like Scafell Pike and unfortunately I don’t have many hills near me so this was always going to be the biggest challenge, on top of this a frustrating injury and bless him the arrival of my boy hampered my running too in the last few weeks meant I really felt it on the hill. My legs just didn’t have the hill miles in them and enough energy to cope with the rate I wanted to ascend and soon enough they told me! I had two sit stops, one to put on a warmer layer and the next was to put on a waterproof as the skies threatened to rain. The welcome relief was to get to the summit of Scafell Pike the tallest mountain in England and thank the marshal for telling me I was half way! Descending is great fun when fresh but when tired it can be very dangerous as your quads are burning and the signals between your brain and your feet seem to be scrambled. I had a couple of slips but relatively slight. I got some more fuel in at the next feed station I realised the race could be over in a relatively short amount of time, if only my legs would let me run faster. I lost 10 places on the run up and back from Scafell Pike which meant I got off quite lightly and was glad to have put in a solid swim and bike.
When I got to the finish line I was so pleased to see my family and there was big hugs from Elsa and Walter. It was great to be able to feel I could eat so I grabbed some food and also got a welcome albeit painful massage! The big benefit that I had noticed from using Mountain Fuel was that after hard training or racing was the lack of GI stress I had …. I’m glad to say that I had no issues with eating or my bowels, which in the past has been an issue even on standard tri distances. The probiotic in the morning fuel seems to help and being able to rely on an energy drink that has all the components your muscles need rather than just a sugar fix or electrolyte alone meant I also did’t have to rely on gels and this is probably the biggest plus for me in how I felt during and after the race. I slept fine apart from the muscle aches and the following day was able to eat and eat.
I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve recovered from the race as just a few days later I went out for an hour long recovery run up Walla Crag in Keswick as well as a nice swim in the lake. It’s great feeling strong and full of energy and not have to take time out and lose any fitness while I recover, this will mean I can get back to regular training and build on this race for the rest of the season.
Thank you to the organisers and marshals at Triathlon X and Mountain Fuel, for your support and for being a straight forward race fuel. Looking forward to the rest of the season, maybe see you again at the Full X, I’ve got a battle with Scafell Pike to revisit 🙂