August 21st The plan for today was to rest, as my boyfriend Anthony had entered the
with Jake, Emily and Matt in Team Planet Fear B. They have been preparing for the last 6 months and this was their last weekend before the race to try and relax and shop for last bits and pieces.
I was aware that Team Planet Fear A was having a few difficulties finding a new female member. Anthony Emmett had been working through his address book calling women all over the globe to find someone to take on the race.
So when he turned around and asked me if I was keen I was totally blown away. My first thought was, he must be truly desperate.
I had no experience of this type of race, in fact, I have only been adventure racing for 8 months and hadn't done any training for an event like this. I also didn't know how to ride a bike using SPDs, I didn't know the other guys on the team and all I did know was that they are international famous fell running/adventure racing super stars. With only 4 days to prepare, it didn't leave me much time.
I asked; how desperate are you guys? The replied that if they didn't find a female team member then they will miss out all together.
I was scared/nervous, BUT what an opportunity to race with 3 of the UK top fell/adventure racers. I knew I would be in good hands.
We had 4 days to prepare for this race, emails and phone calls, to and from. But most importantly we had a team.
I finished work on Wednesday and drove 3 hours to Kendal to start a packing and preparation marathon. The next day, the day of the prologue, we met up with Tim and Chris. After some quick introductions, it was back to packing.
At the end of our mad packing session it was into the vans and off to Keswick for registration. Before we knew it we were on the start line for the prologue.
WE WON THE PROLOGUE. What a great start for us.
Again we knew what we needed to do and we just got on with it. I was starting to get to know the lads and feeling like a team.
Morecambe bay - A little trot across the bay. Super surprised on how fast other teams set off. We decided to take it easy. 22km over sand at first sounded pretty much like hard work but it was not that bad.
It was a great feeling to be setting off as a team, knowing full well that I knew nothing about the lads but by Monday lunch time I would know them pretty well. Feelings of excitement, the unknown, nerves and the competitive sprit slowly kicking in.
Holker Hall to Thurston OEC - Next up, a ride down to the seaside. It would've been rude not to stop and grab a pack of salt and vinegar crisps and a can of cola while sitting on a bench overlooking the sea. Riding away from the sea and back into the hills, I had a close encounter with a tree and a number of SPD moments.
A spot of orienteering and blackberry picking before taking the bikes for a push.
Dropping down Walna Scar at night was pretty interesting, especially when you've only ridden in the dark once and this is your second day ever on SPDs! In for a penny in for a pound, I followed Ants bike like a hawk.
A little panic as food was running low, so the pressure was on to get down to Coniston before the chippy closed. No luck with the chips so we made a mad dash to the local garage where the doors were being closed just in front of us. A plea to let us in, the owner very cruelly, we thought, denied us access to the very attractive food within. Luckily two fantastic ladies who were already inside did the shopping for us as we gesticulated through the window at pies and crisps - Thanks both!
A quick wash in Church Beck for the special stage, then over to Thurston.
Thurston to Crab Haws - Nothing like an early morning paddle! The lake was so calm, an air of silence. Seeing glow sticks come and go from other teams. We pretty much whizzed through this stage.
Crab Haws to YMCA Lake Side - Our first bit of off road on foot. Team Accelerate just in front of us. Tackling the bracken and the undulating terrain we finally found the Cairn. The navigation was extremely challenging in the dark. We finally made our way to Lakeside for a rewarding cup of tea, toast and a boil in the bag meal (plus proper loo's). To our surprise Team Accelerate came in around 15 min behind us, we also saw Team Adidas on their return journey from the south end of the lake.
Team Accelerate made a quick transition and left approx 30 min ahead.
YMCA Lake Side to Windermere Canoe and Kayak - We started to feel the sleep monsters taking control but with good banter and motivation kicks from Ant we managed to get through it. Arriving at Windermere Canoe and Kayak with enough time before the next ferry to grab a cup of tea and a burger. By now Team Accelerate had a good lead on us.
Windermere Canoe and Kayak to Langdale - This stage was one of my highlights. As we were riding along, the helicopter came in super close to film us. For some odd reason we picked up pace and flew along and before we know it we were at Langdale. To our surprise Team Accelerate were just in front of us as we left transition.
Langdale to Langdale - We knew this stage would be the make or brake stage and were fully aware of the weather forecast and terrain, so we pack some extra kit just in case.
We rattled our way up Easy Gully and slowly but steadily ticked off the check point, moving pretty fluidly over the hills, despite the weather conditions.
The left knee was slowly giving me some jip on the descents and as the night continued the knee pain increased.
Tim is renowned for his amazing ability to navigate, his map memory, contour interpretation, and route planning is second to non. So when Tim turned around to us and said I'm not quite sure where we are, the look Ant and Chris gave each other was a very comedy moment, a look of, if he doesn't know then how are we supposed to know!!! In fact Tim did know where we were and it was just one of those tiredness moments.
We soldiered onto the abseil at Esk Buttress in to darkness.
It was the first time we saw the other PlanetFear team, who were in great spirits and great to see them.
The abseil itself was pretty out there, abseiling into the darkness, the blustery weather, and not being able to see the bottom approx 100 meters down.
We all meet back up after the abseil and cracked on.
The descent off The Band was hard work for my knees, Ant was falling asleep on his feet, Chris sat down to change the batteries in his head touch and found himself almost falling asleep on the ground. It was time to get back to Transition and some sleep.
Only a short distance from transition we heard another team gaining on us, ITS TEAM ACCELERATE AGAIN! We were surprised as we kept seeing them marching off in front but somehow we managed to creep ahead without either team knowing.
Back into transition and the weather was terrible, my kit bag was wet, the ground was saturated, there was no room under the marquee, I was tired and hungry and I thought to myself the world would end there and then!!! But amazedly after one cup of tea and a few biscuits the world seamed a better place.
Team Accelerate made another quick change and were out of transition.
We knew we needed to sleep, so it was up with the tent. Ant, Chris and I crawled into the tent leaving poor Tim in the bivi outside in the howling wet weather.
High Row to Hawes End - It certainly felt nice to be back on the bike after a long trek over the hills. We knew the course was a lot more rideable now, or at least we thought, until Ant took one for the team and landed head first in a bog, very comedy moment, as he'd just changed into nice clean and dry clothes 15 min ago.
Another saving grace was Stu from the Castle Inn Hotel near Keswick. We saw the lights on so quickly popped our heads in to see if it's ok for a quick 15min nap and a warm up. The descent from Skiddaw was freezing; Ant was suffering a little from his fall and was still a little damp. Stu was a star allowed us to nap in the entrance and made us a cup of tea. THANK YOU STU.
We slowly but steadily made our way around whinlatter and then to the final transition at Hawse End.
Hawes End to Keswick Moot Hall - Getting off the bike and running again was so so painful for my poor little knees. The lads again were amazing, Ant in front towing me and Chris and Tim other side of me taking some of the weight off my knees. Team work.
Time was ticking by, we wanted to finish the course with no penalties. The pressure was on.
Orienteering done, we jumped into the open canoes and paddled our little hearts out. Derwent Water was beautiful, sunny and with only a slight breeze. We dibbed the last control and shuffled our way to the finishing line.
I have no idea what I was feeling, my head was full, I was so tired, I was happy, sad, I wanted to cry but I was just too tired. I just wanted to stand near the lads and not lose them; I was overwhelmed by what WE as a TEAM have pulled out of the bag. I COULD NOT BELIVE I WAS STOOD AT THE FINISHING LINE.
What an experience. I have never done anything like that in my life. I am overwhelmed by