I thought I’d jump on the hype train and contribute a race report. Apologies that it’s a cycling event and not a triathlon although I’d really recommend a TT, they’re great fun!
I’d signed up for the 100 miler national champs as a chance to do something different, and to get a race in the calendar. Plus it was an excuse to spend the weekend camping in the Lakes in our van 🚐
Race morning was a very chilled vibe compared to triathlon, and very sociably timed, I wasn’t heading off until the very exact time of 7:59. It was a slightly strange set up, a bit like a split transition: HQ was in Braithwaite village hall, the start was about 2k down the road and the finish was in a still (to us) unknown location.
I arrived at the start and joined the queue. In typical Rebecca fashion, I suddenly got nervous. These women all looked very professional in their aero suits and fancy calf guards. I felt like I had all the gear and no idea in my borrowed aero suit and new bought-especially-for-this-event overshoes. I reminded myself that I was a triathlete, not a cyclist, and bravely approached the start line (which was a chalk line on the side of the road). The people in front of me had been held and then pushed off already clipped in. I could already imagine him holding me, letting go, and falling spectacularly to one side. I asked if I could push myself off. Definitely an outsider! With a countdown of ‘5…4…3…2…GO!’ from the marshall, I was off!
I had been cycling for about 30 seconds when…WHAT’S THAT NOISE?!!! It was a hideously loud whirring sound. Oh my God I’ve broken a wheel! Nope, front wheel was fine. I tentatively peered at my rear wheel. Also fine. The irritating noise was still there and getting more annoying no me I knew the bike wasn’t going to disappear from underneath me. Eventually, I tried to look over my right shoulder and found the source: my right arm number had pulled loose of a safety pin and was merrily flapping in the wind. I silently cursed my safety pinner (Dan) and tried to pretend I was just going as fast as an F1 driver.
The course was essentially a beautiful bit of tarmac on the A66 between the roundabouts for Cockermouth and Keswick, Cockermouth being at the far end. You started about 2 miles from the Keswick roundabout, went round, then exited to begin the long road to Cockermouth. I was having an absolute blast (flapping number aside), and even remembered not to sit up and wave to Dan as I passed race HQ, meaning there was photographic evidence that I could stay aero! It was relatively flat (a miracle for the Lake District) and the road surface was incredible 😍
Coming back from Cockermouth I really picked up some speed and saw my average speed jump to 42kph on a stretch of dual carriageway 🚴🏻♀️💨Whether it’s true or not, coming back definitely felt more downhill.
By the Cockermouth roundabout on lap 2, things had taken a nasty turn. My groin was really really hurting from what I assumed was my saddle and I was starting to panic about how I could hold position. I took the opportunity on one of the only hills to sit up and form a plan. Most conveniently, Kristen Bell’s ‘Do the next right thing’ from Frozen 2 popped into my head. I shifted about on my saddle a bit, and got a comfortable(ish) position while still staying aero. I was still on plan, the watts hadn’t dropped, I was back on the up, although precariously balanced on the front on my saddle. A point to mental strength! Thank you Disney for your wise words of wisdom.
Lap 3 was frustrating and lucky all in one go. Coming off the Keswick roundabout, a tractor and trailer pulled out which drew some choice expletives from me and meant I had to sit up. I tried several times to get past, but it was going just a bit too fast. The tractor overtook a rider in front, who was thrilled to join me sat up behind the tractor getting towed along at 42kph. I voiced my concern that this was felt like cheating, she told me not to worry, and we spent the next 8 miles chatting away. The tractor pulled off 2/3 along the road to Cockermouth, and, feeing guilty for my free ride, I put in a surge to make up for it. It was coming back to Keswick that I noticed two elderly people sat in a gateway in camp chairs in fluorescent jackets. I wondered vaguely why they had chosen there to watch the race when there was a large lay-by 100m down the road…
I was still feeling very good coming into the final lap, and decided to push to the higher end of my planned watts. I gave my groin/glutes/back/elbows a break going over the gentle undulations on this lap, but quickly got back down on the bars to maximise my speed. Heading to Cockermouth, I was looking out for Dan so I could wave and spotted Lizi Brooke who had gone off 3 minutes before me heading the other way. Lizi was one of Nicola Spirig’s pacing team for sub 8. I didn’t seem to have lost much time to her. In fact, I even briefly wondered if I hadn’t lost any time, but that seemed highly unlikely given Lizi was such a good cyclist. Coming off the final roundabout, I threw the plan out the window and put down some power with a helpful reminder in my head to ‘suck it up’; for anyone seeking motivation in a race, I’d highly recommend this strategy used by our resident tiger Sarah Spruytenburg 🐯
Remember the two elderly people? Turns out this was the finish!! I watched the rider in front of me pass them then sit up, and realised I should probably do the same. I sailed past, and, feeling slightly confused about whether this was actually the finish, stopped my Wahoo: 3:48:32. I was ecstatic, and beaming from ear to ear. I had well surpassed my 4 hour goal. Even better was that the course had a built in cool down, race HQ was 4km further in from the finish!
I arrived at race HQ looking distinctly fresher than everyone else in the car park and was slightly concerned I hadn’t pushed hard enough. I consoled myself by thinking I would usually have done an extra 12 miles and then a marathon so was used to conserving energy. But, I had stuck to a race plan and a nutrition plan which was my overall goal.
I couldn’t believe it when Lizi came over to tell me I’d beaten her by 30 seconds to finish 3rd in a national champs! Unlike me, who hadn’t been paying attention to anyone else, Lizi had been getting splits on me. Turns out I’d made up 20 of those 30 seconds on the final 10km from Cockermouth to the finish when I’d put in my final effort. It was a reminder that it’s very much not over until it’s over.