Triathlon Half X
3 years ago I was meant to tackle the original Wasdale X with club mates Al Smithson and Paul Skipper, but a season of injury meant I was only just regaining fitness come September. After seeing Paul Williams and Mich Heyes great race photos in 2015, I was keen to give the race in its new guise as the Triathlon Half X a go this year, now based in Ambleside.
Promoted as the World's hardest middle distance triathlon, the end of season race would be great day of strength training. The race consists of a 1.9kam swim in Windermere, a 90km ride with 2800m of elevation gain on the bike taking on The Struggle 25% / Blea-Tarn 25% / Wrynose East 25% / Hardknott East 33% / Irton Pike 20% / Hardknott West 33% / Sunrise West 20%, and finally, a 21km run with 1,079m gain up over Nab Scar, Heron Pike, and Great Rig to Fairfield and back.
After a busy few weeks at work and a terrible day in the saddle with Al in Wales the weekend before where I felt massively flat on the hills, I was genuinely feeling under prepared going into the race and worried I simply wouldn't be able to make it up the steep passes.
Race morning dawned and the weather appeared to be holding out. The water in Windermere wasn't too cold and the out and back swim was pretty straight forward. Onto the bike and straight onto The Struggle. The first climb out the way, I then had the confidence I was going to be okay and I approached the other climbs with a naive confidence. Wrynose and Hardnott are brutal! You find your rhythm and try to keep the legs turning, hoping that a passing car will not make you falter or loose your balance as you stand out of the saddle, forcing every peddle turn, snaking up the narrow roads. The descents aren't much better, hanging your arse over the rear of your saddle as you accelerate on each stretch of straight road as if fired out of a cannon. You squeeze your brakes as the uneven road surface tries to shake your hands off the levers.
I was grateful to have my first race puncture just after a steep descent. I was calm and relaxed amongst the spectacular hills, taking my time to change my tube and check my tyre. I also realised if I messed it up I was in the middle of nowhere and It would be a long walk back!
I had slipped down from 15th following my puncture halfway into the bike, but had made it back up to 17th for the start of the run. I felt great running out of Ambleside and tried to keep the pace up on the climb, running the flatter sections when possible, hoping to spot and catch club mate Chris Ryan. As I reached the top of Fairfield, I crossed paths with Chris and caught him a few hundred meters into the descent, chasing down a further three runners ahead.
I was delighted to finish 10th overall in 7:34. From 150 entries, only 80 made the start, which may reflect the fierce reputation of the challenging bike course. A Great day all round for the Mersey Tri gang, Al, Chris, Paul, Paul and Ian.
Huge thanks to Al and Shona for arranging accommodation and general hospitality, as well as our friends and family who came to support.