Monday, 9 September 2013

Open Adventure C2C Race report from Jill Eccleston

22/8/13 6pm Upon arrival at the sleepy village of Stainton we found TD (team director) Joe Faulkner all ready for action.   


 After a slight lack of nuts situation,  thanks to our team mathematician getting his calculation wrong, the lads soon fettled the kayak carrier with a bit of extra strapping and we headed off to St Bees.  Conditions upon arrival were amazingly mill pond like and I prayed that they would remain so until kick off next day at 10am 

Our non-standard two girls one boy team set off for the first stage to find the atmosphere at the harbor at Whitehaven the next morning was buzzing as teams did their last minute faffing prior to launch.  Lining up on the grid, Pete's tactic of not getting to near the front and setting off steady soon changed as we realized the starting boys were very close together.  So pretty much at the front of the bunch we were off, hoping not to get hit in the early few metres as the teams headed out of the harbor.  The swell seemed relatively calm and we continued to make great progress soon ending up with a certain male solo trailing in our wake.  ‘I bet your glad its as calm as this in that thing’ he commented, trying to relax my butt cheeks but not daring too look back, apart from sideways at the safety boat that also had a camera man on board, ’Smile’??!! I was trying..

Several more miles around the coast line down towards St Bees and the breakers just kept getting bigger and bigger and I could feel the water slapping on my calves as we fought to keep the boat upright.  I had never thought that I could wish for a first stage of a race to be over as much as this one…Then we could see it, the pink transition flag only 500 metres away, we went wider to try and surf in but the river racing machine had taken too much water in, and was impossible to maneuvere so out we popped to see the male solo take the lead.  Arghhh, spray deck lost, must keep hold of the carbon paddle and swim for it…Pete quickly emptied the boat. Soon at the shore which unfortunately consisted of very big barnacly/sea weed covered rocks that you could not see until so had slipped and lacerated yourself on them.  We trotted into transition with badly bleeding shins and lots of salt water in every orifice.  Quick dib in and over to the bikes to get ready for the next bike stage over to Buttermere.  Sharon spent the first half and hr listening to me waffle on in my state of shock about the whole first stage experience and how I would never again paddle in what looked like a calm sea.. Several miles along the disused railway path I had forgotten I was running on slicks and for the 2nd time that morning another slide off on a gravelly bend, lucky for Sharon following close behind she was riding Graham’s new bike with shit hot brakes so she did not park her bike in my accommodating rear!

A great bridleway down past Loweswater and we were into transition ready for my 3rd and final stage of the day.  A paddle across a fairly choppy Buttermere with a very slick portage just carrying the light weight machine on our shoulders was so nice, getting the exit from the lake right this time and overtaking teams who were faffing with trollies.  Crummock did not take long and the batten was handed over to Sharon and Pete for the final 2 stages of day 1.  Consisiting of quick trot over Robinson and Dale Head down Catbells to Derwent for a 400 swim, then last few k trot into Keswick.  Support crew loaded up the boat and gear whilst I got dry kit on and took some time to clean the barnacle rash just in case…I love sudocrem…

Tents pitched at the FC and trainers dropped at the Lake side we waited in the market place anxiously watching the dots.  Pete had dived into Derwentwater and loved the swim but Sharon had got bad cramp in her calf so she held on to his ankle for assistance, good team work and great result, fifth team at the end of day one

Day 2

Sharon and Jill set off on bikes at 8am a steady climb out of Keswick and then onto the dual carriage way down to Thirlmere.  Rushing the exchange of bikes for paddling gear the girls made their worst ever transition so far as Sharon cycled off back to the van with the tracker and mandatory kit bag, luckily only costing us a minute thanks to Joe remembering in time!  The lake was pretty calm so again we made up time only just giving the support crew chance to round to the other end.  In transition we stuffed various bits of food into Pete’s mouth (he was getting used to us know you could tell) as he took of all his wet gear for his 2nd run of the wknd the team looked lively as they headed off up Helvelyn. Plenty of time for support to get round to Patterdale whilst I prayed again for more calm water on Ulswater hopefully allowing a more relaxed paddle stage, still in shock after the sea stage sorry..  Upon arrival we yet again shoved various gels and items of sustenance into Pete’s cake hole for his final paddle of the wknd and stage of the day.  Great, the river was higher than 2011 so we managed to fly all the way down into the lake overtaking several teams along the way, ‘Sally was that you tipping out of your boat, surely now’?  As the end of the lake came into sight Pete said ‘I’m about done’ and I replied ‘you’re not done until we hit that river bank Mr’, only a 5 more minutes nearly there..

A slick transition assisted by all team and support crew (down to sub 3 mins now!) and the girls were off on the final 28 mile stage to Kirby Stephen, first off road to Askham and then picking off the lovely villages one by one. The sign saying 7 miles to go was a big fat porky pie but we pushed onto the market square to finish a great stage and still holding onto 5th place in our category.  The Eccleston support crew arrived to take over from Joe.  We all enjoyed a fine fish and chip supper on the main street and listened to his calming ‘just keep it simple’ philosophy…and a few cheeky ales…oh and yes a glass of help us sleep obviously

Day 3

The clag was down and parrots perched on the chimney stacks of houses in the market square (a but freaky) we waved off Pete and Sharon as they set off over the Nine Standards.  Graham and I soon arrived at a very chilly Ravenseat, hats and gloves on to watch the teams come in and get Sharon’s kit ready for the next off road bike stage to Castle Bolton.  They had clearly overtaken several teams even after some falls in the bogs, doh!  Transition down to nearer 2 minutes now..It took a while for Sharon’s legs to come round and the gels to kick in so I took great pride in being able to tow my teamie, (as this does not happen very often).  Some great riding and great to see Alex, Kerry and the boys along the way.  Turning off after Crackpot, what a great place name, makes me smile after time I whizz past it.  Here we over took the foreign lads who were very amused when Sharon’s pace picked up on the 1 in 4 climb and then realized why when they saw the size of the very chilled out bull to our right…she was off again and no more towing required thank goodness.  Picking off teams quietly away we arrived in Castle Bolton where again the support team changed wheels/shoes and fed me ready for the final 30m road stage of the day.  Pete’s first time to tow and tow he did as we got our heads down on the straight, flat roads into Catterick.  A sharp right soon after took us onto a bridleway where I was glad for my slicks on the MTB and relieved for Pete that his new wheels would bare up under the pressure. Whizzing through the hamlets we arrived in Northallerton to find sunshine and smiles all round.  Another fantastic stage to end the day.  A lovely meal at Pizza Express with the families and now Pete’s support squad Jules and Bram had caught up with us again which was really nice as my girls went into full on mothering mode…

Day 4 the final push – Pete and I raced out of the town and a quick 10 mile road ride in 41 minutes shaving 6 mins of the 2011 time got us off to a great start.  Quickly dispatched into his running stuff we saw them off and loaded up the van and headed round to Clay Bank. Again they came in front of teams who had gone off before us earlier in the day…others were fading whilst we were just gently injecting the pace knowing only a few hrs of this craziness remained…Edie was in full on transition mode making sure maps, gels, laces bla bla bla were sorted before Pete and I were off up a nasty steep set of gnarly steps for several hundred metres, this where I wished I had a carbon bike!  Then came the fastest most exciting off road ride of my life, not on tow but so focused on staying on Pete’s wheel along the cinder paths and trying not to get grit etc in my mouth…We passed the team in 4th place which felt brill as were only half way into the 30 mile stage.  Then bang 5 minutes later a pinch puncture on the x bike.  The fastest pit stop I have ever done and a result got the friggin gas canister to work for a change, but bugger that team over took us again.  Carefully back onto the road as no more tubes or canisters in stock (school boy error!)  The final 10 miles with some challenging climbs struggling to keep my front wheel down with Pete totally wired yet coming back down to help push me up…then he nearly ended up on a car bonnet..christ I just want to get my running shoes on I said, ’You’re a nutter’ he replied, ‘But I haven’t run all wknd’ I huffed back… Another sub 2 minute transition back into running stuff, hat on as the sun was scorching now.. Seconds later the towing aid was out (will use bungee next time!) and I hooked on.  A mile or so of climb on the road taking a few scalps on the way then onto the coastal path for the final 10k, whoever said that was definitely fibbing more like 14!  On and on and on, ‘you’re not talking to me are you ok’,’ I’ll tell you if I am not!!…’Easy’ through the kissing gates with the tow or we might have too snog!  The yellow jersey was getting ever nearer but surely she would arrive at the finish before us?…No way!! You could still see the dots heading round the coastline further on.  @Were coming through Sally on your right!! ‘Go Girls’  well go Sharon, like a freight train…’why is that lady towing that lady mummy’ we heard the kids on the path ask. Just keep picking your feet up a face plant on tow could be messy and then a diversion omg can’t manage much more of this, and then at last the end of the path and Pete ready to run the final few hundred yards with us down to the finish…we had made it to Robin hoods bay, what a journey, what a team for our first event together and what a place to end up.  Photos, medals and a brief wobbly moment as I nearly fell down the banking and took the scaffolding with me…Finally a gentle stroll down to the sea with the kids and support crew for a sensible recovery paddle (not in a boat again don’t worry) stage.

For anyone who has not tried this type of adventure race it is a great way to get into the sport.  If you get a decent support crew lined up and recce the runs, that’s all you need to do prior to setting off.  One chap who entered this year after seeing the 2011 event on TV was fundraising for his daughter with diabetes and was out for 12hr days now that what I call value for money, good on you mate!!

Looking forward to racing with Pete again, just hope Sharon and I haven’t put him off too much with being shall we say a tad bossy??!!

Huge thanks again to Joe Faulkner for helping keep us calm and washing our duds for us at the end of day 2 now that’s what I call support.!!.  Also to our respective partners and family for coming along to the finish is was even more special to have you all there.  Who’s on for 2015 then?!


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