Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pretending to do the Buttermere Triathlon

The very first post on this blog was, the Birdathlon, a multi-sport event based on a 38k run, 380 metre swim and 38 mile bike ride to celebrate my 38th birthday.  I've been more than a little tri-curious ever since.  In fact, I'm entering my first sprint tri this weekend after finally learning to swim properly.

I've heard it said a few times that one of the great things about triathlon is that you can compete on the same course as the professionals, maybe even lining up next to them at the start (or being lapped by them on the bike or run).  One of the great things about living near the Lake District is that there are loads of events and the organisers often put up the routes online, meaning that if you want to practice on the exact same route, you can do.  Or, if like me, you just want to set yourself a challenge, you can construct your own multi-sport event based on a particular event.

I had been to watch A Day in the Lakes on Sunday and was very inspired.  I even saw some normal looking people getting out of Ullswater along with all the ultra-fit uber-athletes.  I had a day off on Wednesday so I decided on another multi-sport event, not quite on the scale of the Birdathlon (although the swim and bike were significantly harder).  Looking around, I considered pretending to do the Wasdale Tri, before deciding that the bike course would kill me, not to mention the run up and over England's tallest mountain on a day wit cloud at about 200m.

So with a bit of looking around, I came up with the Buttermere Tri, a 1500 swim in the beautiful Buttermere, a 44k cycle route taking in Honister Pass the hard way (on my to do list) before looping around to the, almost easy now, Whinlatter Pass, back to Buttermere before a lap of Crummock Water, a route I am familiar with.

looking across Buttermere to the High Stile range
The weather forcast for the day was not good.  Low cloud and a risk of lightening meant that I wasn't about to attempt to bag any Wainwrights.  In fact, I was in two minds about the bike ride but after listening to Cycling 360 podcast about cycling in the rain, I was more than up for it.

First though was the 1500m swim in Buttermere.  Well, this is the first pretendy bit because I don't have a wetsuit and have not done any openwater swimming.  So, off I headed to the swimming pool were I thrashed out 76 laps, equivalent to 1520m while dodging the head-bobbing pensioners that populate the pool in the morning.  It got really quite aggressive a few times - people refuse to swim in circles and instead dodge wildly when they see someone a few metres in front of them.

swim stats
low cloud over Haystacks on the way to Honister Pass
T1 was more than a bit extended. - After lounging by the pool and checking twitter ( @artsy72 ), a quick walk around town, driving home for some toast with marmalade, a toilet stop, quick play on the computer and then packing all my stuff for cycling and running, I was ready to drive the 20 minutes or so to Buttermere.  I parked in the National Trust Car Park (my membership really has paid for itself many times over) before getting the bike off the top of the car and setting off towards Honister.  The cloud was really low, I was wondering if I was going to actually cycle into cloud.  Riding up through Buttermere, I thought it would be quite likely that I would need to get off and walk at some point before getting to the slate mine.

start of Honister Pass

the white cross on Fleetwith Pike

Pacing myself here.  I was riding alone, meaning that I was more likely to go too fast and run out of energy.  I was also a bit tired from that morning's swim.  The rain was coming down heavily and there was a bit of a head wind which was not helping.

A bit further on and some great views of the mine works, crags and the road opened up.

Good opportunity (and excuse) to stop for pictures.

looking back from the start of the climb up Honister

the road winds and climbs and winds and climbs

looking over the Derwent from the bridge at Grange
Down to business and I soon got into a slow and methodical rhythm.  Compared to the other Lakeland passes I have rode over, Honister is difficult but fairly short.  It steepens after the second bridge, this section is very doable, then it levels off for a bit before a tougher climb with an even tougher bit right at the top.  I made the climb right up.  I think I was running out of steam at the top and could not have sustained it for much further.  I was really pleased to get all the way up.  Overall I would say it is more difficult that doing it the other way, than Newlands Pass and Whinlatter Pass (these are the Lakeland passes I have done so far).  The downhill on the other side would normally be a really nice cruise but in wet and windy conditions, I went really slow and had achy hands from applying the brakes for a lot of the descent.  Still, it was a very easy ride all the way to Grange where I picked up the road behind Derwent Water, along the bottom of Cat Bells.

Derwent Water - Latrigg just about below the clouds on the left of the picture

me and Cat Bells

nice roads to ride

Around the bottom of Cat Bells and then through Portinscale to Braithwaite, up and over the Whinlatter Pass to Lorton and then back to Crummock and Buttermere.

I was still a little bit excited from actually getting over Honister Pass and was in danger of being satisfied at this point without starting the run.

The cloud was still incredibly low.

bike course
 The bike course was about 27.5 miles and followed more or less the route of the Buttermere Tri.  This is a really nice route in itself, getting the hardest climb out of the way early on and having a nice freewheel most of the way to Rosthwaite before a gently undulating ride to Braithwaite.  Whinlatter Pass is not nearly so hard and then there is about another 7 miles from Lorton at the other end of the Whinlatter Pass back to Buttermere.

heading down towards Crummock Water from Lanthwaite area
 Back at the car and a little wait while a family with a sulky teenager argued about stupid stuff.  Once they went, I chcuked my bike in the back of my car, stripped off, got my running gear on, ate a lot of jelly beans and drunk the rest of my drink before setting off on a run around Crummock Water.  This was an almost normal transition in that I didn't go home, or shopping, or for coffee in between.

off around Crummock

I was really tired at this point.  It was only the realisation of how disappointed I would be in myself if I didn't do the last leg that made me do the last leg.

The track around Crummock Water is a familiar route.  Some work has been done to make the track a bit better, particularly through Lanthwaite Woods but the boggy rocky bits below Melbreak are still there.
looking over towards Hause Point on the right from the start of the run

Hause Point on Rannerdale Knotts over the lake, Low Ling Crag sticking out into the lake on the right


near the pump house
 I was finding it really tough going now, my legs were tired and the footing wasn't great.  I told myself that I could run the last section on the road which would be easier on the legs.

Getting to this point near the pump house meant that the paths were better.  There has been some work done to the paths in Lanthwaite Woods making them much more pleasant to walk/run on (and I was walk/running by this point).

beautiful Lanthwaite Woods

this beached area was pretty but didn't
make for good running

I knew that a full circuit of the lake was about 8 miles and I was on about 6 at this point.

Time to switch my iphone from podcasts to music for additional inspiration.

new running partners
 These guys ran with me for a good few hundred metres.  Then it was a mile or so back down the road.

run route
The run route, a loop of Crummock Water.  You might be able to see the little loop I did right at the start - Yes, I am able to get lost on a circular route around a lakeshore!

This route was 7 miles exactly.  I think the official Buttermere Triathlon route goes up the valley towards Rannerdale (where all the bluebells grow) rather than along the road, it also cuts across Hause Point rather than sticking to the road.

 I was tired but felt a great sense of achievement.  Back at the car and another quick change before more jelly beans, drink and off home for a curry, a beer, a bath and a check through the photos, gps tracks and sort out a heap of laundry.

My conclusion is that the Buttermere Triathlon will be a great event.  I really want to work up to this kind of event and a first step will be getting into some openwater swimming as well as the other triathlon skills such as getting through a transition a bit quicker!  There are definitely easier triathlons to enter in the area and I will use these as building blocks before working up to an event like this.

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