Kielder Duathlon

Kielder Duathlon (Run Bike Run)…where do I start? What a day!
Pull up a chair, put the kettle on and crack open the hob nobs...

Last year I did the inaugural Run Bike Run as a team of three, doing the first 11k running leg.
This year due to injuries our team was unable to make a return visit to Kielder Reservoir however as I’d recently bought a nice new shiny mountain bike I thought I’d give it a crack as a solo.
The route follows the marathon course but is split into 3 parts, a 7 mile run, a 16 mile bike bit and another run bit of just over 3 miles.
The course is a continuous up and down feast. Short sharp twisty hills, long leg sapping hills and a whole bunch of other types of hills.

I hate arriving late for races so I arrived in plenty of time to pick up my chip, number and the all important coffee. A nice dry day would have been lovely, however that wasn't to be. A constant drizzle made sure I was soaking wet. I mentioned to the car park attendant that some sun and dry weather would be nice, he replied with “it always rains here, that’s why we've got a big pond at the bottom of the road”. Fair enough!

It was nice to bump into Ruth, Julie and David (Wallsend Harriers). We had a quick recce of part of the course and was a bit miffed that the organisers hadn't bulldozed the hills flat.
I loaded the bike onto the waiting bike vans at 1100 for its move to transition area 1. I had a quick bite to eat, met up with Simon who was also running solo(North Shields Poly) and popped along for the brief at 1200.
After a few nervous pre race wee’s we were off to the start.

Unusually for me, I was at the front for the start instead of my usual, half way down start position. As a result when the gun went off, my plan for a steady race disappeared quicker than one of Sarah’s cross country chocolate brownies and I ran through the first half mile at 7:30 pace which is way, way quicker than my 5k pace!!
Pacing this type of course is pretty difficult due to the nature of the terrain but I new I had to slow it down. I fell into a nice 9 minute mile pace, knowing full well I had a 16 mile bike ride ahead of me….or did I ?
The course thinned out after the first 2 mile or so but I kept the guy in front of me within site and plodded on. I was very surprised to see 10k pass by in around 57-ish minutes with the whole 11k initial leg coming in at 61 minutes.

As a hardcore soloist I was guided to the transition area. My good friend Seb Cram (he is the driving force behind the weekend of Kielder events) was there and warned us to be careful on the tight switchbacks and loose surfaces.
Helmet on, swig of water, SiS gel and I was off for the 16 mile bike ride. I was really looking forward to this bit. I've never pedalled in anger and was looking forward to throwing the bike around a bit and chasing people down!
It was race time!!!! kind of……
All was going well. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard going. I had underestimated how gruelling the hills would be; quads hurting like hell on ascents but the descents were awesome. It would have been so easy to come a cropper, as some of the course was slippery, fast and tight. Great fun!
It was all going great until exactly 2.67 miles. I was just about to start a quick uphill section so I changed up a gear and then the it all went wrong. No idea what exactly happened but the chain jumped off the front cog, twanged back, came off part of the rear cogs, the gearing bent, the chain got stuck and the wheel locked up. Bugger.
I tried to sort it but it was impossible. I wrestled with the chain but there was no way to free it or straighten the rear cogs. Game over.
Loads of riders paused there race to ask I needed any help which was nice but there was nowt anyone could do.
Now, I'm in the middle of Kielder, 2.67 mile from the transition area and I didn’t know how far the next marshal would be. There may have been a marshal 50 yards around the corner or they could have been 10 mile away so I decided to back track.
Because the wheel was locked the only way I could get back was by carrying the bike. 2.67 miles walking up and down flaming steep hills with a bike on my back was hellish. I'm quite pleased actually that there was no one around ‘cos they would have been offended by my language, I was furious.
The organisers had made a fundamental mistake today; they failed to have a sweep vehicle. No idea how long it took me, but I eventually made the walk back. Of course the transition area was deserted. Not a sole around. There was no way I could have walked the 11k back to the starts carrying my bike – not a chance in hell.
After an extremely peaceful and enjoyable wait of 45 GODDAM MINUTES, a random walker strolled by. I asked if he was heading back to Leaplish (start area) which he kind of was and if he would mind telling someone; ANYONE!!! that I was in a pickle.
After a total of 1 hour, a knight in shining armour (a man in a van) came to my rescue and took me back to the start.
I told him I was amazed there was no sweep vehicle and he said “they (organisers) decided not to have one”

So, all together I ran 11k, cycled 2.67 mile and walked 2.67 mile with a bike on my back.
There were other aspects of the race organisation which should have been sorted from last year and added to there being no sweep vehicle it’s just plain inexcusable.
However, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be back sometime in the future; Kielder and I have some unfinished business!

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