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Helly Hansen Cumbrian Commotion March 2010
It seemed like a good idea at the time, when Jill suggested it, sitting round the table in the New Inn one Monday evening in November. A bit of cycling, a bit of running, a bit of canoeing with a few obstacles thrown in for good measure. Sharon quickly signed up and as I had recently bought a new bike, they persuaded me to give it a go. The canoeing sounded fun! My track record on a bike had not been good. A recent trip to Gisburn forest with the bike had left me black and blue. One fall resulted with me ending up in the river, beneath my bike after trying to negotiate the slippery duck boards of doom!
“The biking won’t be too technical, just fire tracks, nothing major” I’m sure I remember those words.
“Hmmm, well hopefully I’ll be a bit fitter by then…OK…I’ll do it…for a laugh…no pressure”.
We arrived at the Grizedale visitor centre on a calm but misty day and after hiring me a helmet and a quick repair to Jill’s brakes, we were given our team number and informed of the sequence of events – run, cycle, run, canoe, run. We were then directed to our allocated spot in the transition area. After attempting to stand our bikes upright in the transition fence, we decided to pile them up on top of each other.
Competitors were to start in 3 waves, each 2 minutes apart. We were to start in the first wave - the competitive wave, a minor detail that Jill and Sharon had conspired to keep from me.
So we were off on a 2 mile run and then back in to the transition and onto the bikes – the part I had been dreading! Straight off up the hill and I was in excruciating pain with cramp-like pains in my lower back and legs. Jill and Sharon were flying up the hill and I was thinking ‘I can’t do this – how can I tell them?’ Anyway, unbeknown to the other two, I decided to get off the bike and walk and stretch a bit and amazingly, I started to feel a bit better. The next 90 minutes are a bit of a hazy blur as all I remember is clinging onto the bike handles, grimacing and gritting my teeth, trying desperately to follow Sharon and Jill’s line down the rough tracks and over the boulders – they made it look so easy! I was grateful for the slower riders in front of them, holding them back on the single track sections! I remember thinking that the bike section must soon be over and was gutted when a spectator said that we were only halfway. Finally the transition area came into view but not before we had to negotiate a winding section of duck boards – needless to say, I got off and ran across.
The transition was frantic with Sharon and Jill changing shoes and me trying to stuff mars bars down all our necks. The girls who had just arrived in the next bay were told that they were 3rd ladies at that point, meaning that we could be in 4th position. The pressure was on for the run section! We set off up the hill with legs like lead, carrying far too much gear. Sharon was conscientiously keeping an eye on the returning runners (to check our position) as they were on their way back to the finish. There were not many women amongst them and those that were, were in mixed teams. We had a good descent to Lake Coniston, put on life jackets and jumped into the (very unstable) kayak. Sharon had an accidental dip in the lake at this point. A quick 10 minute circuit in the kayak and a top-up with energy gels brought us back to the shore where, not wanting to be outdone by Sharon, I managed to fall in up to my neck! No time to dwell on it – we had 3 ladies teams to catch. Now, feeling heavier than ever with a waterlogged backpack we made our way back up the hill for the final run section. We managed to creep past two teams. Towards the end, I think Jill’s gel must have kicked in and she was going like a rocket. I was starting to tire and I was so relieved when Sharon shouted that she could see the finish banner! We hurled ourselves down that final hill like our lives depended on it, to the finish and the final three obstacles - The planks, the cargo net and the wall.
It was finally over! A fantastic time and one I will not forget.
Having entered some of the Trailquest and Open 5 events at the end of 2009, we noticed some adventure races and thought they looked fun so got entered which was lucky as the places went very quickly and a waiting list was set up. Over 975 people comprising 325 teams of 3 were also up for what turned out to be probably the best event I have ever done. Sharon and I used some of our gentle persuasion techniques and we soon had Ruth as 3rd team member on board (anxious as we were as to what we had actually signed up for!!)
A murky day with the start from the visitor centre at Grizedale into a short 2 mile run going off on the first wave. Back to transition and onto the mountain bikes for 14m on and off the North Face route which was busy in places. The last section was frustrating as we were trying to get past another ladies team so when one of their inner tubes popped out we were rather pleased to get past as they had been holding us up.
Back to transition and we heard from some supporters that we were 4th ladies team in. So it was off running 3.5m over to Coniston for the 1m kayak section. Which was not as advertised in fancy new inflatable canoes but sea kayaks that were rather basic and we shared the paddling. Sharon felt the need for a quick dip on entry to the lake and Ruth on the way out I only managed waist height which was choppy enough. Ruth was busy dishing out gels for us all (unfortunately hers was applied to her thigh due to the white horses on Coniston. We soon warmed up and dried out again as the climb back over to Grizedale was quite steep and thanks to Sharon who was still on fire I was able to cling onto her camel back especially at the mention that we may have a chance of getting on the podium. Being dragged up the hill we passed another ladies team and when the gel kicked in we nailed another on the decent. I was in front at this point (the first time in 3 hrs I must say!) Sharon was captain in the middle again making sure that Ruth had got a sniff of the finish line and as usual the queen of descents meant a fast return to the final 3 disciplines. 1st the planks that we all balanced on and did a short circuit to catch the first ladies team up upon the sprint to the cargo net. Ruth and I were help up until we dumped our camel backs. Next the 6ft slippery wall so we shoved Sharon up and she then pulled me up, head first down the other side but a soft landing in the mud was fine. I nipped back round to shove Ruth over and we were done.
I am sure after all this that you can appreciate why I looked as good as I did at the finish line?! We all received great T shirts and goody bags but no prize for 2nd ladies team back which was very disappointing (and I told the organizers’ so as it was a dear event to enter @ £120 per team) Our time was 3.08.55 and the first ladies just pipped us with a time of 3.06.32.
I can whole heartedly recommend this type of race, great for team building amongst other things.
No pressure, fun day out we kept telling each other as we got through a few pints of Guinness and the odd bottle of wine in Hawkshead the night before the Helly Hansen Challenge.
As the 1st wave of 120 teams set of like shopaholics at a Harrods sale, we were engulfed by a sea of mainly big strapping men, it was at this point that I realised this was a serious race and we were going to win, I just decided to keep it to myself.
The short but steep run was soon over and next, Ruth’s favourite the mountain bike, myself and Jill were in our element the more single track the better, the look of sheer enjoyment on Ruth’s face half way round the course just proved we had done the right thing by entering. The going got a bit slow and frustrating at times as it was impossible to get round other people, but not once did I wish that the person in front of me would fall of or get a puncture (honest) I could feel Jill’s presence right behind me as if we were on a tandem, chomping at the bit, Ruth however was praying she would be the one with the puncture before we came across any more duck boards. The shouts of others, “Attack it Chris” from one big strapping bloke to his rather puny team mate as we hit yet another steep uphill, I could only conclude that he had an army background, never mind attacking it just peddle up it, poor Chris had a rucksack the size of a house on his back, I would have loved to find out what the hell was in it. The ride was over and we were back at transition, as we stripped and crammed mars bars into our mouths I heard friends of another ladies team telling them they were 5th in, and as we had just come in before them, even in my adrenaline hyped state I new we must be 4th at that time, so leaving our small transition spot like a teenagers bedroom on a very bad day of we shot as if our life’s depended on it.
Eating a mars bar whilst running up a hill is a skill I’ve learnt over the past 2 years, Ruth is by far the most talented in that field. The race had just become more exciting, I kept an eye out on our way, running over yet another steep hill to the lake for other ladies teams, but there were none too far ahead of us that we could not scalp. The canoeing turned into a waist high paddle for myself before we even launched our boat, I spent the whole time on the lake rowing like a mad woman scared stiff we were going for a swim, knowing how cold the water was, LEFT < RIGHT< LEFT< RIGHT I was screaming , and there we were never having been in a canoe together before we did it and with some style until we rammed into some empty boats at the finish, and Ruth went in up to her neck, the whole scene was like a carry on film, hilarious. Weighed down by the lake water we started running back over the hill, Jill by this time was just starting to flag knowing just what to say to motivate my team mate I informed her if we pasted the ladies team ahead we could come 3rd , if you know Jill you could see the cogs working, place on the podium! is all it takes, well we got up that hill kicking and screaming past two ladies teams, 2nd place was in our reach. Ruth was on fire at this time and had reached the track at the top of the hill, then it all changed, Jill set of like a demented cat and Ruth was on her last legs, yet again I have learnt what motivates my friends, “RUTH I CAN SEE THE END” and that was all it took, like a horse to a stable, with shouts of I’m coming through and I’m on a mission, I felt sorry for all the other competitors in our way. A steep down hill and there was the end, if only, just a bit more effort, the assault course how could I forget. The crowds the noise it was fantastic I could not believe I was still smiling, we were neck and neck with the 1st ladies after the planks, Jill screaming down my ear to stride out, yeah Jill I’m 5 foot nothing, under the cargo net I flew, I was in luck, there was a rather bigger person in front so I could follow in his wake, Ruth and Jill were not so lucky but we emerged covered in mud only the wall to go, legs and arms everywhere, we were over eventually and over the finishing line just beaten into second place. The end photo said it all, a great day a great effort a fantastic team, roll on next year.
By Ruth Maxwell, Jill Eccleston and Sharon McDonald