Last Saturday was the big day: Race the Sun in the Lake District. 50 miles of cycling, hiking up Helvellyn and canoeing round Thirlmere. I blogged about it a while ago and have been training for it ever since.It was a great day, a record breaking event with 90 teams of four people making it the biggest event in its 10 year history. I was joined by team-mates Nick Lofthouse, Erol Osman and Warwick Wyatt The weather was dry and cloudy but, unlike last year’s race, it wasn’t wet. The cycling was mainly on road, with just five miles of off-roading, which included a technical (which means nasty) descent into the Thirlmere valley.
The walk up Helvellyn (934m) was tough, but not nearly as bad as coming down. It followed the route across from Raise and Whitesides, which at least meant we didn’t have to negotiate either Swirral or Striding Edge. the time we got to the top
there was a very strong wind blowing that would have added a whole new challenge to the day. I’ve walked along both edges before and wasn’t sorry on this occasion not to be doing so again. Sadly there was no view from the top because it was covered in cloud.
By the time we got down again the weather had perked up and the sun was breaking through. The next part of the challenge involved canoeing to an island in the middle of Thirlmere reservoir, going round it and back again. Our canoe training had involved paddling along the River Chelmer in scenes reminiscent of Wind in the Willows.What we hadn’t anticipated was strong head winds blowing across an area of water 3 miles long by half a mile wide, riding large waves whilst doing so, making the outward part of the leg very tough. On the way back having orbited the island the wind blew us back, but trying to steer a two man canoe in waves is also something of a challenge. Fortunately we didn’t capsize.
The final leg of the race was, simply, to cycle back to the start point at Penrith, some 25 miles or so away. Surprisingly after all the work we had done to that point it wasn’t too bad. It was all on road or cycle path, including the superb Keswick cycle way along the route of the old railway line, one of the highlights of the day for me, cutting over the beautiful River Greta on the old railway bridges.
As the day wore on the wind rose to something like gale force and the last hour was a struggle. We finally made it across the finish line in 13 hours 28 minutes, somewhat slower than our target but very pleased none the less.
Would I do it again? Yes! It was a great challenge and none of the hills were too steep. There was a great sense of camaraderie amongst all competitors and a massive sense of achievement.
We were raising funds for Action Medical Research, a 60 year old charity that funds medical research into diseases affecting babies and children. So far we’ve raised £1,500 and are within touching distance of our target of £2,000. It’s a great charity and has been responsible for finding a cure for polio, developing the rubella and meningitis vaccines as well as lots of other research into potentially devastating childhood illnesses. If you wish, you can support the cause by sponsoring us here.
What next? I haven’t decided yet, but I think I have got the bug for these adventure races.