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!

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