Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Seven Lessons I Learned From Three Peaks Number Two

So I survived another Three Peaks with body and bike intact. It wasn't all plain-sailing but I finished higher up the field and five minutes faster than in my first attempt. The aches and pains at 48 hours seemed significantly worse this time around (even my fingers hurt) but my enthusiasm for this wonderful event is only stronger. Here are the lessons I hope to take into next year's event.

Cheery on the approach to Simon Fell
Photo Jack Chevell

1. Never trust a Yorkshire weather forecast

The week before the race was spent anxiously checking the BBC Weather website. Heavy rain, gales, thunderstorms and hail were all predicted for the Horton-in-Ribblesdale area at various intervals. Mark Richmond kept us informed with various warning emails about survival bags, rain jackets and hypothermia. The night before he even advised sun-cream, sparking a surge of optimism. Arriving in the car park I was greeted by fog on the tops and pretty heavy rain. In the end it was distinctly damp and the wind on Whernside and Pen y Ghent threatened to blow the bike off my shoulder. A tougher and altogether different experience to the glorious sunshine of 2015.

2. You can't check your kit enough times

A last minute change of rucksack to accommodate the obligatory rain jacket almost left me without my tools. Luckily a quick run through my kit before joining the melee at the start highlighted my error. A broken chain near the end of the Whernside descent could have seen my race end early without that precious quick-link!

Simon Fell - short but perfectly formed video from Alex Duffill

3. Tubeless is trouble-free

After much debate I decided to race on my Schwalbe X-Ones with 65 psi. Significantly lighter than last year's set up I really felt the benefit on the road sections and the long carry ups. No punctures, no sickening clanging of the rims on the multiple rocky sections and great grip even on the wet slabs of Whernside. A good choice and a shoo-in for next year should I get a start.

4. Sub-Four hours is bloody difficult

My three ambitions for the race in ascending order were - finish in one piece, finish faster than last year and most ambitiously, finish under four hours. Two out of three isn't bad, but the 16 minutes I would need to make up for my final target seem out of reach. Descending is not my strong point, but even if I went downhill as quick as my club mate and ex-professional mountain biker Nick Walling, I would still have missed the target by a minute. Chapeau to anyone who gets a First Class Certificate!

5. If you're going to endo - do it in the peat.

On two occasions I found myself sailing over the handlebars - on Whernside and Pen y Ghent. Against the odds I manged to land in a bog on both occasions, narrowly missing some nasty, potentially bone-crunching boulders. It took me two days to get the peat out of my skin and my club jersey will never be the same again, but I see that as a small price to pay.

6. There's no such thing as a "too granny" gear

38/42 still not low enough to get me up to the hairpin at Pen y Ghent. I need a hidden motor.

7. This is the best cycling event of the year

The climbs really hurt, the descents can be terrifying and you get cramp in muscles you didn't know you had, but the atmosphere and the feeling of achievement at the end make all of that worthwhile. The marshalls, the mountain-rescue teams and the organisers are all heroes. Just after crossing the line a fellow rider told me he'd wiped one hour off his personal best after working really hard and losing a stunning amount of weight over the last year. The race is full of stories like that. Long may it continue! 

Cheery at the end.
Photo by Jack Chevell.

The rest of Alex Duffill's excellent short film of the race:

Three Peaks 2016 from Alex Duffill on Vimeo.

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