Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

August 30, 2011

Adidas TERREX Coast To Coast 2011, Day 2

Continued from Coast to Coast, Day 1

Stage 6:  Road Cycle to Thirlmere
Day 2 started with a short road cycle, mainly to get us down to the reservoir for a truly amazing paddle across Thirlmere.  Start times were staggered every 4 minutes, with the slowest competitors starting at 6 a.m.  I never enjoy waking up early, and the rain pelting down on the car roof had woken me up a few times during the night.  My relatively slow time the day before (relative to the other teams) put me in the back of the pack (but not last!) with a start time of 6:21.  It was chilly but calm, the rain had stopped, and the steep ride up the first hill warmed me up.  I was quickly into transition, and grateful that the support crews had been allowed to carry the kayaks down the steep stairs to the beach...Rob had paired up with another solo crew to get both boats down before we arrived. 

Stage 7: Kayak along Thirlmere
There are magical moments when it is easy to understand why I put myself through such amounts of exercise, organization and hard work to get to these races.  The paddle across Thirlmere was one such moment.  On the calm water as day was breaking, the reflections in the water were beautiful and I was just happy to be alive and in such an amazing place.  Plus, I had finally zeroed in on my paddling technique, and was catching up to a solo in front of me rather than getting left in the dust. 

Rob was waiting on the rocky beach to warn me that it was a long slog on the path to the transition and once again he couldn't help me until I got there.  Without my two-wheeled dolly, I resorted to dragging the boat over the grass and hefting it on my shoulder (painful even for short distances) on the crushed stone path.  A definite highlight of portage was watching Rob accidentally sink knee-deep into his first English bog, while wearing the only pair of shoes he had brought along.  He really hates mud, so understandably it was hard to get him to focus on getting me out of transition and onto the run.  I was laughing so hard that I couldn't really focus either :)

Stage 8: Run over Helvellyn
The climb up to the top of Helvellyn was the longest and highest run section of the race, but after the steep trail up to Robinson the day before, this felt almost easy.  I settled into a sustainable pace, chatted with a few solos around me, passed a film guy carrying the huge video camera up to the top (I'd rather be racing, thanks), and found myself in the fog. Enveloped in clouds, we reached the summit and dibbed in for our shot at being King of the Mountain.  I didn't realize it during the race, but I was only 8-10 minutes behind the leading women on each of the uphills, and if I had pushed the pace a bit on one of them, might have had a shot at winning a spot prize for a "Queen" of the Mountain.  Maybe next time.

Descending Swirral Edge in the fog, the cameramen were a dead giveaway that we were still on the right trail, and soon we popped out the bottom to get a clear view of Red Tarn and see our descent line on the ridge down to Patterdale. I had an enjoyable solo run on the rocky singletrack all the way down to the bridge at the bottom, and then followed the trail around to the field where the boats were waiting.  This part of the trail was familiar to me, as I had just covered it during the Open 24 a month before, and we were using the same general area for transition.  Finally I knew where I was going! 

Stage 9: Kayak along Ullswater
Cruising the lazy river
Ullwater was still out of sight when we put in to a small stream running down into the reservoir.  And here I had another of those magical race moments, as I paddled the lazy river around lots of bends, avoiding branches sagging into the water and bumping on a few rocks in the shallow parts.  I heard later that the elite paddlers didn't enjoy the section as they had to carefully navigate to avoid scratching their expensive boats, but I had a blast. 

Once on the lake, it was a long paddle all the way to the river at the other end of the lake.  And this is a very loooong lake.  I had paddled along a good bit of it twice on the Open 24, so I was familiar with how far there was left to go.  The wind had finally picked up a little, but it was a tailwind so it probably helped a bit even if the water got a little choppy.   

Finish of Ullswater paddle at Pooley Bridge

Have to say that the waves from the passenger ferry were much bigger than anything the wind threw up.  I gradually got passed by a tandem but otherwise didn't really see anyone for the whole length of the lake.  The tandem pulled a bit ahead of me near the final end, but then suddenly turned 90 degrees and started heading in the wrong direction!  I hailed them to come back to the correct heading, thinking that they were tired and perhaps not concentrating.  They turned imediately 180 and headed again perpendicular to my route, explaining as they passed (behind me by this time) that their rudder was acting up.  They didn't seem too knowledgable and I shouted to just pull up the rudder and steer with paddle strokes, which is what I had been doing the whole time, lacking a rudder in the first place.   At any race I was ahead of them coming down the river, under the bridge, and into transition. Photographers were out in for along the bridge, including Rob, which gave him a long run back to meet me in transition.

Stage 10: Cycle over Shap Hills
Done with Day 2!
The  final stage of the day was a long bike ride with open route choice through the  countryside to Kirkby Stephen.  Limited use of A and B roads dictated a mandatory off-road section over Askham Fell, but some internet research suggested that it was an easy off-road section and road wheels would work fine.  I had studied the map for this section quite a bit, but still couldn't make up my mind which route would be the quickest.  At the evening briefing the day before, another solo showed me his planned route and it looked pretty quick, but I was still undecided.  Until the fateful intersection where I had to choose which way to go, who came by but that same solo rider (!), so I went his way.  He was on a cross-bike and soon out of sight, but it was a nice road and quick going.  With a fine tailwind, it was a fast ride.  The hills were minimal and the finish line was a grateful sight. 

Oddly enough, in a bit of trivia, my finish time of 8 hours 13 minutes, was within 1 second of my finish time on Day 1.

Day 2 results are here.

Next - Coast to Coast, Day 3

Got a bit of a distraction from muscle pain and tiredness with visitors that evening!  Since the kayak stages were only included on Days 1 and 2, my friend Sarah came to pick up her kayak so I wouldn't have to deal with it.  She stayed for pasta pub dinner and camping, but declined to get up at 6 a.m. to see me off!   Don't blame you Sarah, I don't like to be up at that time in the morning either!

Reflections on Thirlmere

Always at the top of the list on the tracker screens!

Adidas TERREX Coast To Coast Adventure Race, 26-29 Aug 2011

The Adidas TERREX Coast To Coast Adventure Race is a 4 day stage race from Whitehaven to Robin Hood's Bay.  Following in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright and his idea for a walking path, this race adds a bit of a twist in the form of kayaking, bicycling and swimming sections, as well as some hilly running stages.  With 17 stages over 4 days, teams of three (with only two competing at a time) and solos will attempt to cover the ground as quickly as possible.  Luckily each night there is a chance to sleep, eat, and recover a little bit!

James Cracknell joins the 2011 Adidas TERREX team
Rob and I were both a bit nervous as we got up early to drive up to the start.  This would be my longest race to date, and Rob had never actively supported me before in a race.  We were both hoping that the logistics would go smoothly and nothing/no one would get lost.  I was doing the race as a solo (here's my profile), so there was a lot riding on my ability to navigate, stay motivated, and pace myself over the long 4 days.

The big excitement of the race was that James Cracknell was participating as part of Team Adidas TERREX.  As an Olympic Rowing champion, I figured he would definitely be in the kayak stages, but as it turned out, he wasn't.  Rob chatted with him in a transition later, and he said he preferred to stay away from the water (sick of paddling, I guess) and do the Bike/Run stages instead.

Somehow I ended up with race Bib #1, so I proudly shouldered the leader's number, although I knew my "lead" would only last until the gun went off.  I just hoped I would beat someone to the final finish line, so that the headlines wouldn't have to read:                           "Competitor #1 comes in last place!" 

Stage 1: Kayak around St. Bees
Luckily the weather was cooperating to start with and under blue skies and calm winds we were able to start the race with a kayak section from Whitehave around the cliffs to the beach at St. Bees.  The alternative was to run there if the winds were too strong, and with a lot of biking and running awaiting us later in the race, we were all (I think) happy to save our legs.  The water was gently rolling as we came out of the harbor, and soon the tandems and speedy surf skis were pulling away from me like I was going backward.  I had left my map behind to keep it dry for the next stage, and so just paddled quietly along the cliffs at the headlands, marveling that the seas were so gentle and the sun was shining. 

Stage 2: Cycling over North Western Lakes
That said, it was nice to finally see the beach, and not get rolled over in the surf while trying to get ashore!  Rob was there waiting for me, and together we carried my borrowed blue sea kayak up to where the car and my gear was waiting.  A quick change of shoes and gear and I was off on the bike, down country roads, along a cycle way, up a few hills (this is the Lake District after all), and then quickly down past Loweswater Reservoir to the transition at the top of Crummock Water.

Stage 3: Kayak Buttermere & Crummock
Magically the car was at this transition too (Rob would do a wonderful job all week of getting my gear everywhere I needed it.), and the kayak was awaiting me down at the waterfront.  The winds were still calm but raindrops were falling as I changed shoes and gear in transition, so on went a waterproof jacket.  Once in the water it was again a magical paddle, as the the foreboding hills reflected gloomily over the water and raindrops splashed everywhere.

The two reservoirs on this stage were both quite small, but between them was a portage that I had been dreading since deciding to sign up for the race months before.  About a kilometer in length, the portage was as bad as I had feared (and perhaps worse).  I regretted not being able to recce this section, as I saw teams heading off to the east side of the lake, where there was a longer portage but perhaps with smoother paths.   I took my chances and followed the bulk of the racers to the shorter west side.  After dragging my kayak out of the water and strapping it on the two-wheeled dolly (ok, it fell off a few times in the process!), I started pulling it up and over the rocky path, bogs, puddles and hills to the other lake.  It was awful.  It took forever.  I lost a lot of time to the folks with lighter kayaks they could carry rather than drag, and to the teams who could each pick up an end and lift them over tough sections.  Another solo racer was right behind me, and with no one else in sight, we cursed and shoved our way over the slowest kilometer of the whole race.  Finally the water came into view, but first there was a locked gate in the way, meaning that we had to lift our kayaks over it!  Alex and I, who would end up crossing paths many times, helped each other with the lift over to spare our boats a lot of scratches.

The rain had stopped, the winds were calm, and once back in the water it was a magical trip across Buttermere knowing the hardest section was behind us.  The water was glass calm and the hills were perfectly reflected, and in just a few minutes we were bumping into the other shore.  Rob was there to meet me and show me the path to transition, but he couldn't help me with the kayak, and unfortunately it was a long slog across a pasture. The wheels went back on to save my arms from having to drag it but more time was lost in the process.

Stage 4: Run over Cat Bells
Finally I was off on a run section, although walking was the most I could do on the steep, steep hillside up to Robinson.  No danger of me winning the King of the Mountains prize for the fastest competitor to summit the first peak of the run stage...   But the weather was holding out and the views were clear as I ran across Littledale Edge and Cats Bells.  I must admit that I got distracted by a member of the film crew on top of Dale Head (how did he lug that huge camera up the mountain?), and while contemplating that idea ran off the trail a ways.  But it was a minimal detour and I managed to catch a few teams before arriving at the water's edge of Derwent. 

Stage 5: Swim across Derwent Water
I am a wimp when it comes to cold water (and this water couldn't have been much above 10 C), so on went the wetsuit, although it couldn't have be more than 1/3 of a mile across the lake.  I was freezing by that time even with the suit, but I tried to think of it as a much needed ice-bath for my sore muscles.  With a measly 10 feet to go to the shore, my calf cramped up and I splashed about a bit with a grimace on my face. 

Luckily there were shoes waiting for me, and as I found out later Rob had run all over the lakeshore with my shoes (for hours) searching for the hard-to-find transition, and barely arrived in time to drop them off and get back to the finish area.  After slipping them on, I ran in my dripping wetsuit the mile into the center of Keswick for an emotional finish.  I must have looked somewhat idiotic with shoes on, my wetsuit half off, goggles and swimcap still on my head, and a silly grin on my face! 

The Day 1 results are here

Next... Coast to Coast, Day 2

August 25, 2011

Paragliding, Wether Fell, Yorkshire Dales

Almost after I'd given up hope of getting any good flying time in the UK, the wind dropped for a couple of days, and a local paragliding friend called up with hopes of a good day.  We drove up to Wether Fell near Hawes, popular because it is possible to drive up to launch (and therefore save yourself a large hike up only to find that the wind isn't cooperating).  Wether Fell is a good X-C (cross-country) launch zone, as well as having a long west-facing ridge great for soaring in steady winds. 

So we had an absolutely wonderful afternoon of paragliding.  Brilliant.  The wind was that perfect speed where it is easy to pull up the wing and fly, enough to not sink out, but not so much that there is any danger of being dragged.  The ridge has a nice gradual grassy slope, huge and long, ok the grass was about waist high but at least there were no rocks.  I practiced my top landings, probably had at least 40 landings, the hill was so wide I could take off, fly a couple hundred feet, land again, kite for a while, take off again, (repeat many times).  The wind was so smooth that I literally stood for 5 minutes in one spot with my wing over my head without moving my feet, just kiting and watching the wings fly by.  Had about 20 people out there, mostly just boating around, enjoying the sunshine.

Finally got a few thermals late in the day and got 700 feet above launch, but spent most of 2.5 hours just kiting and top landing.  Felt like I earned my new P4 stripes as I was doing sliders on the grass (avoiding bogs as well!) and showing off to all the locals.  In fact it was one of the best flying days I've ever had.  A very magical day.  Sort of reaffirms my faith in British flying ( although it might take another year to get a day like that again).   I didn't quit until I was so sore from kiting in my harness that I couldn't do it anymore! 

Open Adventure's Coast to Coast (Live Tracking)

I will be toeing the start line tomorrow of the Coast to Coast Adventure Race, along with James Cracknell and about 55 other teams and solos.    It's a 4 day stage race from St. Bees to Robin Hoods Bay.   Activities include Kayaking, Running, Swimming, Mountain Biking and Road Biking.  Overall distance is about 200 miles, and my aim is to finish the race ahead of at least one other person! 

There will be live race tracking during the event.   Due to someone's weird sense of humor or purely an accident, I ended up with Race Bib #1 for the whole event, so I will be #1 (!) at least until someone finally finishes the race on Monday afternoon....

Live tracking is here http://www.adidas-ar.com/2011/tracking/tracks.php?view=solo  Click on the competitors tab on the right hand side for Bios and team information. 

For the route map, photos, and other news about the race, check out the main website

Race report (well) after the race finishes, I'm sure!   Might need a few days of recovery after this one!

August 16, 2011

22nd Hanging Stone Leap, 24 Miles, 13 Aug 2011

After a hiatus from marathons to do some adventure racing this summer, I was happy to finally fit another long LDWA run into my schedule.  The Hanging Stone Leap didn't disappoint, with a route across the North Yorkshire Moors taking in some of the best views of the area.

Although it was raining most of the drive over to the start, the sun was shining by the time I parked my car.  Save a short bit of mist coming down when the (theoretical) gun went off, the rest of the day was juuuust right.  Not too warm or cold, clear air, a bit of breeze, and the sun peeking out through the clouds now and then.  I even <gasp> ran in shorts...in the UK...in the summer!  Still had arm warmers on though, can't be totally perfect...

A forest track started us off out of town, and then we took off into heather-covered moorland that to my amazement was blooming already.   I always love running through the moors and the purple heather made it extra special.  After 5 miles or so I started recognizing some landmarks, which was strange given that I had barely ever been to this area.  Then I connected the dots and realized that I had done the Pathfinder 15 Challenge near here the previous October.

The now familiar route took us along a nice runnable moor track and down to the waterfall at Hob Hole. (Note to self: come back sometime to all these beautiful places to really get to enjoy them rather than quickly run by!)  We then diverted onto a new route (for me), up and over a few more moors, where the steep climbs began to get a little tiring.  However,  I was happy to be sticking to my pace of about 5 mph and hoped I could sustain it all the way to the finish.

After the last stocked checkpoint in Kildale (where I forgot to fill up on water and regretted it for a few thirsty miles), we climbed up to Captain Cook's Monument.  I regretted then leaving the camera at home, but saved time by not having to drag it out and take photos :)

Photo gleefully borrowed from Wikipedia
 Back on the Cleveland Way, we then had to do a short out and back to the Hanging Stone, where I took a second to stand on top of the graffitied stone and peer over the edge.  Our last major climb (short but steep) took us up to Roseberry Topping, where the views where outstanding in all directions.  Ships out on the harbor were clearly visible, and the stone outcropping begged for a picnic lunch and a long rest stop.  I contented myself with a few Jelly Babies and a much welcomed refill of water, as I had been rationing my last few sips for miles.  Thanks to the volunteers who carried up the water jug to the checkpoint! 

I knew it was all downhill from here, and pushed hard for the last 4 miles, first down through a forest and then along a disused railway track.  The even footing let me make up some time I had lost on the slow uphills earlier in the moors.   I finished the 23.5 mile route in 4 hours 50 minutes which was close enough to 5 mph that I was quite happy. 

2011 Results are now here    I was suprised and pleased to come in 17th out of 103 long course participants!

August 3, 2011

24 Hour Adventure Race Food Log

Race recap of the Open 24 to is HERE!

The toughest pre-race prep for the Open24 turned out to be figuring out what food to bring along. 
In a perfect world, at each checkpoint I would have support there to provide the best possible nutrition plan for me.  In that case, I would choose to eat/drink cold banana smoothies, which in a warm race would provide hydration, nutrition, and a cooling effect.   With a scoop of cocoa powder mixed in for taste and a hit of caffeine, they go down quite easily.  Plus, bananas have a perfect mix of carbs, protein, and fat, and digest quickly to get energy back to working muscles. 
Obviously, support wasn't allowed on this race, so I had to bring along foods that were easily portable, lightweight, fun to eat, and quick to digest.   Some of those requirement are mutually exclusive, as I found that moist foods, which are naturally heavier, were much easier and quick to eat.  This wasn't too much of a problem as we had multiple chances to resupply and never had to carry too much food weight.

Here's what I actually ate during the Open24:
3 Bananas:  180 Calories
1 Gel: 90 Calories
1 Snickers Bar: 300 Calories
2 Bottles of Coke: 400 Calories
6 Fig Newtons: 300 Calories (these were incredibly dry to eat)
2 Handfuls of Pringles: 300 Calories
1 Bag M'n'M's:  400 Calories
1 Bag Jelly Beans: 300 Calories
1 Bag Malt Balls: 150 Calories
1 Bag Ginger Snap Cookies: 200 Calories
4 Scoops Carbo-Pro (carb drink powder): 450 Calories
6 Nuun Electrolite Tables: 0 Calories
3 Flour Tortillas w/Cheese slices: 600 Calories
Total: 3,670 Calories

That works out to about 150 calories per hour, which is much less than I thought I would be eating, given that I had planned on 200-300 calories per hour.   I had brought almost 8700 calories with me for the race, spread out through my backpack and kit bags. 

The minimal eating was probably due to the high temperatures, dehydration, and the quick tempo that my teammate and I kept up for the whole 24 hours.   Plus, we actually ran out of water during a trekking section, and although we were hungry at the time, we actually stopped eating until we found another water source, and then started eating and drinking again.  Eating without water would have made us more dehydrated.
Photo courtesy of James Kirby and Open Adventure

Caloric needs for such a fast-paced 24 hour race probably range from 12,000 - 20,000 calories depending on the athlete and relative speed.  Obviously 3,670 calories is not enough, yet a good percentage of expended calories came from stored fat, as our pace was more for endurance in each discipline rather than sprinting speed.  We did tend to eat a few bites of food a few times an hour, which kept our energy levels up, and we never felt like we were bonking.

In talking with other competitors after the race, no one seemed to eat as much as they expected or as much as they had brought.   Most comments reflected the heat and dehydration as a major factor. 

This race was preparation for the longer Adidas TERREX "Sting in Sterling" Expedition Race in August 2012.   Although I made it through the 24 hour race with minimal caloric intake, I don't think that I could continue to function for 5-6 days of racing without considerably increasing total daily calories.  As the pace on a longer race is considerably slower, stomach digestion is actually quicker, allowing for greater intake of food, electolytes and water.  However, the longer race means that we will probably be carrying more food with us with longer stretches between resupplies.  Now the question remains about what lightweight, easily digestible foods I can bring that are still palatable and appetizing.  
Jon and I on Pinnacle Ridge -Photo courtesy of James Kirby and Open Adventure

Open24 Adventure Race, Lake District, 30-31 July 2011

I had packed my kit bags thoroughly before the start of this 24 hour adventure race, but the pre-race briefing, and special stage additions threw us a few curveballs. After frantically plotting points and calculating potential routes, we spent a few minutes rearranging gear, packing up the tents, unloading the kayak, getting bikes and kit bags turned in, and finally suiting up for the first paddling stage. We made it with about 2 minutes to spare, including a brief time of me thinking I had lost my maps (calmly found by my levelheaded teammate), and by the start I was later told I had "a deer in the headlights" look. I sure felt like a wreck. Usually I'm the calm, prepared one watching everyone else skitter around, but this race was too big to comprehend, and I was lucky to get everything arranged in time for the start.

Want to know what we eat on an adventure like this???  Click here

Stage 1 - Kayak
Photo courtesy of James Kirby
Under beautiful blue skies 39 tandem kayaks took off with a splash from the shores of Ullswater. The first point was quite near the start, so in anticipation of a big fight to dib in, we skipped it. I know, I know, big mistake. What was I thinking? Making up those points later cost oodles of effort. I suggested the move, so my bad. Let's move on, shall we?
My team partner Jon and I spent the next 2 hours paddling around to most of the other kayak points, on calm lake water with no wind. It was such a nice day to be out on the water. Navigation was easy (follow other boats) and it was a relief to be out on the course and on our way. I felt much better now that I was past the anticipation and surprises of pre-race jitters. 

Special Stage: The Tunnels
Tunnels - Photo courtesy of James Kirby
Directly after transition where we deposited our kayak and picked up the mountain bikes, we got our first surprise of the race. Told we needed to bring a light and full body cover (hence the last minute rearranging), I was expecting to get soaked, and not excited about wet feet so early in the bike portion. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the dry tunnels were part of an Outward Bound confidence course. We wiggled through a few twists, turns, and ladders before popping back out just a few feet from where we started. Jon was not nearly as excited, as his height advantage on me made it impossible for him to get on hands and knees at all. 

Stage 2 - MTB

The first mountain bike path - Photo courtesy of James Kirby
The tunnels conquered, we were off biking again, in a short stage that seemed mainly to get us to the big trekking section to follow. We only picked up 2 points and most teams seemed equally happy to do the same. That could have been because the track up and over the ridge was steep, rocky, and generally un-rideable. By the top we were carrying our bikes (ok, Jon even carried mine a short way after getting to the top with his). The downhill wasn’t nice either, and we were walking down parts of it as well.

Special Stage: Pinnacle Ridge

Photo courtesy of James Kirby
The next stage was a long trek but soon after the first climb we encountered the next special stage, which require climbing helmets and harnesses, plus a homemade rope and carabiner setup close to that of a Via Ferrata kit. Surprise! The stage turned out to be a rock scrambling section with safety ropes where we could clip in, climbing exposed pinnacles in relative safety. The slow nature of the route created a backlog of racers, but as we had been “timed out” for the duration of the ropes, the delay didn’t matter. Plus it was a beautiful afternoon, so we took the time to sit down, munch on snacks, chat with our neighboring teams, and recover a little from the first 6 hours of racing.

Stage 3 – Trek

After enjoying the break during the via ferrata, and the sunny views from our perch on top of the rocks waiting our turn, the remains of the trek awaited us. We were short of water by then as the climbing section had taken quite a bit of time. Limiting our eating and drinking, we ran along the ridge past St. Sunday's Crag, Fairfield, and Great Rigg. We finally dropped down to a point along a stream to refill our waterbottles before bushwacking down to a point in Rydal Beck and our next transition. It was a beautiful evening so the views from the ridge were awesome. Sorry no camera as I was limiting weight and photo-taking time!

Special Stage: Rydal Gorge Canyoning

The "Jump" -Photo courtesy of James Kirby
Coming into transition we could see our bags and bikes but not allowed to access them before completing next Special Stage at Rydal Gorge.  We suited up with full waterproofs, helmet, and climbing gear, then hiked up to a small damn on the creek.  First we had to get in and get even our head wet, and then walk up and over the bridge and make our first jump.  It was only about 10 feet tall, and after the heat of the trekking portion it actually felt good to be wet for a change!  After the jump, we worked together to climb our way up a few hundred meters of slippery waterfalls to the final jump.  This one was much higher, perhaps 25 ft or so, and tall enough that I had time to think of a few choice swear words before hitting the water and sinking deeply into it.   With that jump complete, we were done, and running back down into transtion to dry off and find our bikes.

Stage 4 - Night MTB

This was another short section of the race, mostly on roads and level bridleways.  It was just getting dark as we started and so full bike lights were soon needed.  Highlight of the stage was stepping across the rocks over the still water in a large cave, to get to a checkpoint in back.  On this stage we also started seeing runners from the Lakeland 100, as they were meeting us on the trail for a mile or two.  I even bumped into my friend Nick Ham, with just enough time to see his distinctive flag-colored shorts and shout a greeting as I rode by!

Stage 5 - Night Kayak on Windermere
Photo courtesy of James Kirby
As a first for me, we shoved off in our tandem sit-on-top kayak for a night paddle.  I had the map but soon realized that I had no idea how to navigate with no reference points.  Luckily for the first few points, there were other boats around, and we played follow the leader to get dibbed in to a few high-value controls.  After a few points, we settled into a rythym of shooting a compass azimuth and then shutting off our head lamps and just navigating by shore lights.  With no wind, it was quite an enjoyable night out on the water.

Stage 6 - Night MTB

Sarah and Andy starting the MTB - Photo courtesy of James Kirby
Well, this was the big one.  The long night mountain bike, with a final push up and over Gatescarth Pass into Hawewater.   We randomly met up with the other pair of our 4-man Terrex team, Gavin and Tony, and then stuck together to make night navigation a bit easier.  There were a few fast road sections, and I was happy to see that my 29 inch mountain bike wheels allowed me to keep up with or stay ahead of my teammates riding their full-suspension bikes! 

We made a pretty big tactical error on this stage, though, as we skipped a long road section in favor of a shorter off-road section.  It turned out to be a beast of an unridable, hilly, rocky path, so we gained no time and lost a few points.  Unfortunately none of us were familiar with that path or we would have known to skip it.  And of course, waiting for us at the end of the bike was the high pass of Gatescarth.  With 2 kilometers left to the top, we were already pushing our bikes and out of breath.  Well at least I was, and Jon took pity on me and was towing me even as we were both pushing our bikes up the hill.   It did take forever to get up, and going down was just as rough on loose rocks and dangerous switchbacks.  It was a relief to come into transition and give up the bikes for the final time.

Stage 7 - Trek

Photo courtesy of Andy BD
With the sun coming up, we were off on our last trekking stage, which started off with a monster of a climb up to High Raise.  We wasted a bit of time looking for a point by a waterfall in the valley below the cairns, which didn't leave us enough time for the orienteering section over on Rest Dodd.  Working our way back to the next transition instead, we came in ahead of schedule and picked up a few more controls near Hallin Fell.  By that time I was almost completely spent, and the towline between Jon and I was taking more and more tension.   Another relief to arrive at transition knowing that we would no longer need to run anywhere!

Special Stage:  Kailpot Traverse along Ullswater

Photo courtesy of James Kirby
Just around the corner from the kayak start in Howtown we came to the last Special Stage.  Ditching our kayaks, we walked around to the headland for some bouldering.  The stage consisted mostly of clinging to slippery rocks just above the water line, but what's a stage without some wetness, so of course at two points we had to jump into the water as well.  Gavin and Tony were just behind us again, and got a few extra dunks as their feet slipped on the rocks!

Stage 8 – Kayak

Gavin and Tony - Photo by Andy BD
We had left ourselves just under 2 hours for the final kayak stage, which turned out to be a bit much, so we cleared the small course before arriving 20 minutes ahead of our time cutoff. I was happy to be off my feet after a long trekking section, but soon cold after the drenching we got on the rock section. In a confused move (blamed later on lack of sleep), and anticipating another warm day on the water, I hadn’t even put on my spraydeck. I got progressively colder as the wind got stronger, and even adding a waterproof jacket didn’t warm up my freezing feet. I was as close to hypothermic as I had ever been by the finish, and it was a relief to walk up the finish line, dib in, and head straight for the car and some warm, dry clothes.

Jon and I relieved to be finished! -Photo courtesy of James Kirby
But that didn’t dampen our excitement that we were finished and had some great memories of an exciting race.   With 2000 out of 3000 points collected on the course, we were quite happy to finish 14th out of 39 teams (and beat Gavin and Tony!).   In warm sunshine we got to hang out on the grassy knoll and watch the other teams stagger in, to more high five's and relieved grins. 

Sarah and Andy at the finish -Photo courtesy of James Kirby

Sarah waiting to climb Pinnacle Ridge - Photo courtesy of Andy BD

Kayaks ready for the start - Photo courtesy of Sarah

Andy dibs in below the waterfall - Photo courtest of Sarah

Getting up the nerve to jump - Photo courtesy of Sarah

Carrying bikes up the first pass - Photo courtesy of James Kirby

Jon and Dawn looking over Pinnacle Ridge -Photo courtesy of James Kirby

Tony anticipating his demise -Photo courtesy of James Kirby

Photo courtesy of James Kirby