7:20:04 – 9th Mens, 13th Overall
(~ 7k swim, 39k run, across 12 swims and 13 runs)
This year I knew what lay ahead, which contributed to a restless nights sleep. Plus my legs were aching after my efforts in the sprint.
I was quite happy to see rainy weather as we took the hour bus ride to the start. I certainly didn’t want hot weather for the big fell section. Again it was very cold waiting for the start but at least the wait wasn’t too long, only about 10 minutes before the gun went.
As usual the pace was a little nuts. Last year we were 16th overall and felt better prepared this year. Even though we were running at a pace higher than we felt we should be, there must have been 30 pairs ahead of us. We tried not to get too drawn in and managed to pass a few on the descent to the first swim. In that swim we must have passed a dozen or more pairs, and after that it was nicely paced out and easier to settle into our own pace.
The section from Loweswater to Crummock Water has sections on road and is relatively easy running. We clicked a long quite nicely. Several friends were marshalling so it was nice seeing familiar faces on the course. Susanne gave us a big cheer as we passed her on this section. It was also nice that I got cheers from various competitors (normally when passing us) and marshalls who recognised me from the briefing when Ben announced that there was only one person doing both races. This rather surprised us, as at OtillO events it’s not that unusual to race both events. I felt a little pressure not to blow up on this.
As we approached Crummock Water the wind had picked up and we were warned that people were getting blown left so we should aim to the right. It was one of the tougher swims and the longest. The wind had whipped up some chop and it occasionally caught my paddles. We passed quite a few more pairs here and after this swim it really thinned out. The run continued along the West Bank before crossing again – the transitions either side of this swim were the trickiest as they were over rock outcrops.
This first hilly run was next. It went along a valley and then back along a ridge with a steep descent back to Crummock water. We were slowly clawed back by a few teams and passed by a couple of fell running pairs on the descent. Andy is a very good descender so I’d been working on this. I feel I’ve improved, so we were certainly quicker, but I’m still nowhere near Andy.
Back across Crummock Water before running to Buttermere for three swims in it’s incredibly pristine water. Our minds were on the big fell section with it’s very steep climb up to the ridge line.
We took it easy to the aid station at the bottom. Got ourselves sorted. I did my impersonation of a camel as I had no intention of carrying any water. We grabbed some gels and headed up. Just as steep as we’d remembered. My Garmin gave a KM lap with 358m of ascent. It follows a fence line which you end up pulling on to get up. Andy started to suffer on this. I didn’t offer to tow on the steep stuff as I thought it would trash my legs and I’d blow, but once the gradient shallowed we attached the line and I provided a little assistance. The lead women caught us here. It was the same fell running duo we’d chatted to last year on the same section. We chatted briefly before they headed off into the distance not to be seen again.
We finally made Dale Head and onto Andy’s terrain – steep downhill. I was really quite chuffed that we didn’t get passed at all on this descent and in fact we gapped those behind. At the bottom there’s a stream where we re-hydrated. Then we did the climb up on Maiden Moor. Last year this had rather broken Andy as he hadn’t realised there was another climb. It helped so much this year knowing what was in store.
We worried that we’d mis-paced the race as we felt that we’d slowed quite a lot, but this next section showed that if we had, we hadn’t done so as bad as some others. We passed several pairs here, one pair feeling nauseous, one with a bad cut, one with cramp and one that had just slowed down. We offered help / stopped with each but all had it under control. We even stopped for a dutch walker who asked if we’d take his photo !
On the final descent to Manesty we ran down with a couple of other pairs, then managed to exit the aid station before they’d even arrived. Along the lakeside we were running well. Both feeling better than this stage last year. I think we were both in better shape. We really couldn’t see anyone around. The island hopping crossing started and we could see some pairs just about to exit the first swim. By the third swim they were getting close and I’ll be honest I wasn’t looking forward to a sprint finish. We were in 13th and that would be a great result. At the exit to the penultimate swim the marshalls said we weren’t far behind and when we got to the final swim we could see the pair ahead was well separated and we could catch them.
Unfortunately the second part of this swim was the horrible start we’d had the previous day. It was a bit of a lottery. In my enthusiasm I stood up and quickly decided that it was better to swim. I kind of plunged in and whacked the side of my chest on a boulder. We were more careful from there and just couldn’t quite haul in the pair ahead.
We crossed the line very happy with 9th Mens pair and 13th overall. I think our best result.
Looking at the results it’s very interesting to see that the top three are in a league of their own – all 30 mins ahead of 5th place and even with the top three there were 20 minute gaps between them. However when we look at 5th place they were only 8 minutes ahead which gives us great encouragement. By quicker transition, me improving my downhill, Andy improving his uphill – we could make a dent in this gap. Certainly feel we’ll be back next year for more.
Look back at last year we were quicker on every single section. I think the swim improvements are all down to Andy pushing his swimming along. Now for large parts of the swims now it feels like I’m hardly towing.