Following the spectacular Kielder Duathlon back in December I was addicted. So Saturday saw us dodging rain storms between tea shops in the Lake District, in preparation for another Run-Bike-Run outing. Sunday dawned bright and clear, if a little chilly as I crawled from my bed amongst the trees of Grizedale Forest. You couldn’t wish for a more stunning setting.
It’s cold as we line up for the 10am start. We are warned of strong winds on the exposed tops. The klaxon sounds and we are under way, jostling for postions as we slowly spread out, through the gate and over a river. But the adrenaline of the start soon wears thin as we slog up a long fire road, climbing steadily in to the trees. Thankfully we eventually turn off onto more technically challenging ground, although this soon has the lungs screaming for air as we continue to climb in the sharp wintery air. After an age, the trees thin, and as I lift my eyes from the trail my breath is taken away by the spectacular view of frozen snow capped fells. I want to stop and take it all in, look around and absorb the beauty, but I don’t have time, I’m in a race against time. I turn and race back down hill, racing for the transition time to get out on the bike.
“Where are we?” I ask another rider, as we slog up this seemingly never ending fire road. “Coming up to 10k” is the short reply. I check my GPS, bugger, it’s right. It can’t be, we’ve been peddling for ages, it feels closer to 20k, how can we only have done 10k. Flash backs, nightmares of the Strathpuffer, of a never ending course, come flooding back. My legs feel like wood, like the trees we are cycling through. It is never ending. I battle my brain, looking for the rule book, it’s there somewhere. Rule Number 5 = Harden The F*%k Up! I come back to the present, I’m still however peddling. I drop a couple of gears and tuck in as I try to make the most of this easier surface. The bike feels numb between my legs. The climbs have been hard, rocky singletrack switchbacks, with few places to pass slower riders. No let up. Then we are out, in to the wind on fire roads, which go on, not quite forever, just to the next rocky climb.
We round a corner, and are greeted by spectacular views over Coniston Water and fells capped in snow. It’s moral lifting. Then it starts to snow. Then I start to recognise some of the course. I’ve ridden here before. Ridden The North Face trail we are now racing around. I hit a section of board-walk as a smile starts to find it’s place again. We drop down on to another fire road, but now I’m rolling, as I check my watch, finally it’s 20k. I pass last nights campsite, not long to go now. I eat a gel, ready for the the run. My legs still feel heavy, but at least I’m zipping along, as the course dives off to the left, down a singletrack decent. I know this route. Weaving in and out of the trees, avoiding gullies, there’s the odd little jump here and there. Another boardwalk and then open fields. Spectators lining the trailside, shouting and howling, through the double gate, peddling for home.
DISMOUNT! Argh! I only just see the sign in time, slamming on the brakes. I jump off the bike and pull open the final gate, run down the rocky steps and dib in through transition.
Fresh shoes on I’m back out again less than 80 seconds later, munching flapjack. Run two is a repeat of the first run. Back up the same long fire road, but it’s quieter now and feels different, I exchange a few words with a runner from Hudersfield, it’s his first duathlon, he doesn’t like running and prefers road biking. It seems today my legs don’t like running up hills and they aren’t that sure about peddling up them either. I push on and finally turn off in to the woods and work my way back to the top of Carron Crag. The views are once again worth it, if only I had the time to stop and wonder, but now warm legs are carrying me back down hill, skipping over the rocks and through the freezing puddles. I hear the screech of disc breaks behind me, and the rattle of a bike tackling the rocky path. I let them past, but soon, I’m calling that I’m passing them. On this terrain two legs are quicker than the two wheels. I fly downhill.
The final stretch looms, friends are screaming. I dig down for a last sprint of sorts, round the final corner and its all over. 3:05:04 on the clock and 63rd overall.
A much tougher course than Kielder, or maybe I’m not as fit? With being ill and away in France I’ve not had much chance to get extra miles in on the bike since the beating of the Strathpuffer at the end of January and I paid for that on the bike section. My legs felt heavy most of the way round and I felt I struggled to do the 24km in the 1 hour 42 mins in took me. This knocked on to my second run which ended up being 7mins slower than the first. My transition times let me down last time, a little bit of thought and pre planning this time, meant these were much improved, and actually helped pull me up the placings. 30th in my category, down from 18th in December, the long and short of it, I need to train more!
The Grizedale Off Road Duathlon was another event run by High Terrain Events based in the Lake District and specialists in organising unique and exciting events, that incorporate challenging combinations of activity, amidst stunning scenery. If I can beg, borrow or steal a road bike in time, I will be back to do the final event of the series in April just outside Keswick.