Claire Grossett writes this fabulous report from the Kielder event.
This was my first ever run-bike-run: my first event involving anything other than just my legs. I was understandably nervous that my two-wheeled friend would let me down. I had opted for a hybrid bike, rather than a mountain bike, as I hoped that what I lost in comfort I could gain in speed. Armed with a pair of amazingly psychedelic padded shorts (another first for me), I waited anxiously for the siren.
The event was a way for me to gain some structure to my training after completing my first marathon back in May. The distance was 26.2 miles around the beautiful Kielder reservoir, such a glorious setting, and consisted of a 11km run, 26km bike ride and finished with a wobbly legged 5km run. I was unable to convince my sport minded friends that a team effort was a good idea, so perhaps foolishly entered the event…alone.
The start time was 1pm, which permitted a leisurely breakfast and gave me plenty of time to work out a way to fit my bike into a seemly tiny polo and then off up the A69 to the reservoir. The conditions were perfect, a cold and clear autumn morning and the drive reminded me exactly why I love the North East. I’ve been walking in Kielder a few times before but as we drove closer and the vast reservoir revealed itself I began to get nervous, knowing that I was going to have to get round the whole thing somehow made it look bigger than before.
Parking was simple and well organized and once I’d placed my bike, helmet and oaty treats in my allotted box (to be transferred to the transition point) there was no going back. At the start line there were plenty of friendly club runners and it was nice to see a healthy TBH contingency running in the group and 10k races. And we were off.
Now, I come from York so I haven’t really grown up with hills and as anyone in group 4 will know, hill sessions are not my forte. So, by 5km I finally caught on that hills would be a feature of today’s event. Thankfully, the beauty was worth it, running through woodland and lakeside trails meant the first transition point at 11km was upon me in a flash and I was on track at 55 minutes. The less said about my transition the better – I attempted to inhale a whole energy bar whilst conquering the first of many steep ascents!
The bike came as a great relief after the undulating first run and I managed to push on with my spindly hybrid tyres and found I was picking off cyclists one by one. The course was grueling, the hills relentless and it was impossible to gain decent speed on the down-hills for fear of slipping on the rough terrain. Then as we winded round the far side of the reservoir the scenery opened up, riding alone on much of the stretch the beauty was all mine.
A few hills later and it seemed the end was in sight as transition 2 was upon us. I was well on track for under 3 hours. At 2:15 I threw my bike to the ground and staggered off into the woods for the final leg. The final 5km however, was to be hardest yet. Anyone who has ridden a bike for any length of time will be able to identify with the wobbly leg feeling I was unfortunately experiencing. I kept saying to myself that after a mile, it would all be okay but I never really got my legs back. Maybe it was the hills on the cycle section or I’d gone out too fast on the 11km run, but either way I was frustrated as I dragged my lead weights up the first hill.
I hadn’t seen any individual runners in a while and began to think the worst. Then a reassuringly mud splattered women began to overtake me, I used her pace to push on and tried to stay with her. With 400m to go, I was right on her shoulder (though I had no idea where my legs were) when an enthusiastic Scottish contingency cheered her on. That’s it, I thought, nothing energizes tired legs like a cheer from your pals and she was off, up the final hill and away. I tried to keep up, I drove my knees up, onto my toes, using my arms (imagining Dave’s hill drills) but I couldn’t catch her.
As I came round the final corner an official shouted ‘Well done, you’re fourth!’ I couldn’t believe it, I pushed to the finish and was greeted by the lovely Denise who congratulated me and updated me on the successes of the rest of the TBH crew including personal bests at the 10k and second in the team event. A fantastic day out for TBH. Writing a report for the club about my efforts would be an honor, I only have the club to thank for pushing me to gain better times and become a more competitive sportswomen. Believe me, if I can pick up a bike and do a duathlon, anyone can.