WASDALE HALF IRONMAN – THE HARDEST HALF IRONMAN IN THE WORLD!
By Sarah Wells (Southern Softy)
I have to say I was more than a little daunted when I turned up at Wasdale Head, and saw what surrounded me and what this race actually entailed, I had up to this point never climbed anything other than a tree (and not a big one at that!). My goals instantly turned from wanting to go sub10:30 to just completing it!
I’ve done lots of swims in lots of places, but never anywhere as amazing as Wast Water, I could literally have swam round there all day. (1900m)
Biking is normally my strong point. Well, I was well and truly put back in my box, realising I may be ok on the flat in the wind, but I’m bloody useless going up massive hills, I now do not consider myself a decent cyclist, lol!! To go up Hardknott and Wrynose once was plenty, but to have to go back up it again was bordering sadistic. I have no shame in saying I got off to walk (or crawl), as it was really warm and my heart rate was getting stupid, and felt like I was going to overheat like one of the vintage cars that go up there!! The view from the top is just breathtaking, so took a few minutes to take it all in, and encourage the other fools going up it! Going down 30% is almost worse than going up. I was very lucky with my choice of bike, as disc brakes were the way forward. More than one person told me I made the right choice, although I was slower on the less hilly parts! I was more than happy to get into T2 by the time my 56 miles were up. (The bike section 7217ft of climbing).
Well what can I say about the run? ha, ha, I mean climb? I have never experienced anything like this, in terms of effort, skill required and mental and physical strength required. I thought I was fit and strong, and actually in some very stupid way thought I had even trained for this!! When you live in the Fens, you simply have no idea what climbing a mountain is going to be like! I was so ill prepared for this, it’s quite laughable. All the locals up there laughed at me when I said I come from the fens and that I’d never so much as looked up a mountain. They all wished me luck and shook their heads at me (thinking what a Southern idiot!!). When I got half way up Scafell Pike I realised why they reacted to me like that, I am a Southern idiot, and not done my research properly. This kind of thing is not to be undertaken lightly! Well not one to back down of anything, my thoughts were just onwards and upwards, which is what I did. Scaling a waterfall was almost a step too far for me, but I thought everyone else has to do it, so suck it up and get on with it. (The run section 4583ft of climbing).
Reaching the summit, is by far the most amazing thing I have ever done, I will never forget that feeling, and really want to do it all again. I just sat there taking it all in, feeling completely alive, more than I ever have before. At that moment in time absolutely nothing else in the world mattered. A moment to be truly savoured.
The last Marshal at the top informed me it was all down hill from now on, ‘whoop, whoop’, I said to myself, it’s going to be easy from now on!! How bloody wrong can you be, the last 6 miles (or 8 if you’re me, because you’re navigational skills are so shocking!) were hell for me. The moor was not my friend and I had many, many dark moments and learnt a lot about myself. Firstly I was really scared as I had no idea where I was supposed to be going so was ambling around in ankle deep bog trying to find markers, whilst thinking I’ve not got long before it’s dark and then I’m really buggered (yes, I know, what a bloody idiot for not being prepared). Well anyway, I managed to tell myself to ‘man the f**k up’ and to use a part of my brain that never gets used, which is common sense!! Calmed myself down studied the map and managed to find a point that looked like it may be the right direction. Fortunately it was my lucky day, I managed to get myself back on track, and navigate to the finish. I have never been so pleased to a) see tarmac b) see lights and signs of life, and c) see my poor husband, who probably thought I was lost out there forever (he knows how bad my navigational skills are).
My medal will be treasured for ever – this is not a race, it’s a massive adventure, which I feel lucky to have done. It’s such a shame it can’t be run it again, because I for one would be desperate to come back and do it again (more prepared).
Maybe I’ll have to work really hard and do the Wasdale X! One things for sure, I’ll be coming back to Cumbria, I have fallen head over heels in love with the place and the people.