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  • Writer's picturefinnfitzgerald2

Helvellyn Triathlon

There's only one way to describe this race, ridiculous!

Swim - 00:30:15 (2:01/100m)

2 lap course, only 1500m. I thought I might be in for a decent time and felt like I was swimming well and sighting regularly. Wrong! This was one of my slowest swims this year and I'm not too sure what went wrong to be honest. I came out of the water in about 50th place so it wasn't a disaster but another big winter of swimming needed.

T1 - 00:01:56

A big improvement from Cowman but still some work to be done and it's worth drilling this kind of thing at home so there is no thinking involved on race day. My partner was laughing at me because I got into transition, took the wetsuit off, got one shoe on, then for some reason decided I should put my helmet on. Then I did my race belt, and then finally I did my other shoe. I need to nail down a proper sequence. Wetsuit off, helmet on, race belt on, go.

Bike - 01:56:14 (30.9kph)

An absolutely brutal bike course that doesn't give you a second to relax. It's dominated by one of the most famous climbs in the UK, aptly named 'The Struggle', which comes at around 44km. The first 3/4 of the course is also tricky, with lots of poor road surfaces and some narrow country roads to navigate. I averaged 230w in the lead in to The Struggle, and that is exactly what it is, a lead-in, because the whole time you are thinking about what the climb will be like. If you've gone too hard, The Struggle will end you.

The Struggle was even harder than I expected. On paper, 4.6km at 8.4% doesn't sound too difficult and I was quietly confident that my climbing legs from my recent trips to the Pyrenees and Swiss Alps would come through for me. However, as soon as I hit the bottom, the road reared to 20%+ and I was in my lowest gear. In fact my gears would become a bit of a problem as I worked my way up, I just didn't have enough of them! On some of the steeper sections my cadence dropped to 44rpm, and that's while putting out 300w+ so it wasn't like I was holding off the gas. In the end I managed 299w for the 20mins it took me to summit it and I simply wouldn't have been able to do any less or I would have fallen off my bike. I had to go fairly deep, with some sustained periods of 320w+, well over my threshold and thrashing my legs at such a low cadence.

Once crested the descent is very sketchy, especially on a TT bike. I took things very carefully. Throughout the bike, and particularly on the climb, I had been making up a lot places. I exited the water in about 50th place and came into T2 in the top 15.

T2 - 00:01:26

I passed a group of 3 near the end of the bike and got to transition about 20 seconds before them. Somehow, I exited transition behind 2 of them! In all seriousness I was actually quite happy with my speed here, but was quite frustrated at the time feeling like I'd wasted effort to beat them into transition, only to lose it all with something that requires little to no effort.

Run - 01:56:56

Okay so when I say 'Run'.... I actually mean a really difficult walk with some controlled falling thrown in at the end. The race takes you from sea level up to the summit of Helvellyn (950m), one of the highest peaks in the UK. This is one of the most ridiculous triathlons I've ever done and comfortably the hardest run course.

I had done by research, but nothing could prepare me for just how hard the ascent of Helvellyn actually is. Unless you are Alistair Brownlee, it is basically impossible to run at all. It's brutally steep, and quite a technical path which is marked by large rocks which double as a set of very uneven steps. I couldn't help but think it was a bit like if you had to take the stairs to the top floor of the Burj Khalifa, then add 3 or 4 more floors.

The final few hundred meters to the top are a hands-on scramble. Really sketchy stuff but absolutely amazing at the same time.

I continued to pass people on the way up, and looking at the results I must have been in about 8th or 9th going over the top. The marshalls were telling me I was quite near the front which was a huge motivation to keep pushing. All I had to do was defend my position on the downhill, easy right?

Wrong! However hard I tried, I just could not match the speed of those coming up being me. They just had this technique that I couldn't match, and to be honest it felt like they were happy taking risks that I just wasn't prepared to. I felt like if I pushed any harder I would eventually trip or twist an ankle. There's also certainly an element of practice to it too. Living in London, almost all of my running is on totally flat paths, I've pretty much never tried running downhill at any kind of speed. I had a similar problem early in the year at the Glentress trail marathon.

Overall - 04:26:47 - 19th

In the end, I lost about 10 places on the downhill. I wasn't too disappointed as I knew I had gone as fast as I felt was safe for my ability. I was really happy with my bike leg overall, and happy that I'd held everything together in a race which was significantly harder than I was expecting. I had some of the worst DOMs I've ever had in the days after the race, comfortably lasting more than 5 days and way worse than the DOMs I've had from any of the full distance Ironman races that I've done.

This was my last triathlon of the year, so it's great to go out on a high and it was fun to do something a little different. I really think these tough courses suit me quite well so I may search out a few more for next year.

I still have a couple of fun TTs coming up in September before heading up to Chester to do the marathon in October. Project sub-3??


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