Bude Awesome Foursome Quadrathlon 2018 – Race Report
Two Quadrathlons, a ‘mountain triathlon’ and a Cyclocross race in three weeks was always going to be a tough ask. Especially when the mountain triathlon was the Conwy Mountain Challenge and one of the Quads was the very tough Bude Awesome Foursome. I’ve survived though and had a great time too.
Shrewsbury Quad was the first of these and it went OK. I never really got going but at least it didn’t take too much out of me. The same can’t be said of the Conwy Mountain Challenge. Again it went OK if you ignore the severe cramping. What I hadn’t counted on was the soreness afterwards DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is to be expected after a hard race. It usually starts the day after the race, gets worse on the second day and then quickly subsides. Not this time. This was the worst DOMS I’d ever had. It wasn’t too bad on Monday, but by Tuesday I could barely walk. It got worse on Wednesday and rendered me completely incapable of negotiating stairs or even a slight decline. It did subside very slightly on Thursday but was still very sore. I still couldn’t walk properly and touching my quads with anything was agony. This was a little worrying as I was about to start my drive to Bude ready for the Awesome Foursome today.
Thankfully I only had to drive for 3 hours, not the full 6 hours to Bude as I stopped off overnight at my parents house. Friday morning saw me complete the journey to Cornwall and I arrived in a windswept Bude where fluffy clouds were scudding across the wide Cornish skies.
My legs were still very sore to the touch and quite tight. The muscles themselves didn’t feel too bad now but my IT bands were obviously inflamed.
I hoped that an easy ride around the bike course might ease them up further. I had a new road bike to try out as well. I know, you shouldn’t use new things in a race but when you’ve got a new bike it would be rude not to.
No one else wanted to join me so I set off on my own, battling with the strong side winds along the coast road through Widemouth as I got a feel for my bike. The bike course of the Awesome Foursome has quite a reputation. This is for good reason as it has a couple of super steep 30% climbs in it. I was supposed to be taking it easy but on climbs that steep easy isn’t possible as it’s all you can do to keep the pedals turning and the bike moving forwards. I made it to the top though and the bike felt fine. I was getting used to the di2 shifters, even if they did feel as though they were set up the wrong way around. The disc brakes were a godsend on the 30% descents too.
I then took it easy as I meandered my way along the coast road and then back out to Wainhouse Corner where the route joins the main A39. I’d been unable to get any tri-bars for my new bike, so it was onto the drops all the way back to Bude along the busy A39. Tri Bars would have been useful along this fast section of the course but I didn’t have any so would have to make do without.
Back at the clean, tidy and well kept Lynstone Road campsite I showered, chatted to a few other quadrathletes that had arrived, chilled in the camper reading a book, had dinner, pampered my still sore legs as best I could and then settled down for a good nights sleep.
It rained overnight but Saturday dawned dry and breezy. I was up before first light so had breakfast and chilled in the camper for a while before heading down to the Quayside in Bude.
I was still quite early so chilled some more, wandered around the canal as the sun rose and then started to get ready.
The Bude Awesome Foursome is a very relaxed affair. Others were arriving now so kayaks were arranged along the canal side and bikes and running kit deposited in the transition area. I registered, got my numbers marked up and sorted out, chatted and chilled until it was time for the briefing and then time to get ready.
I still had no idea how my legs would feel once I got going, but there was only one way to find out.
At around 10am we all started to make our way down to the beach clad in wetsuits, brightly coloured swim hats and goggles.
As well as the usual quadrathletes, this race also attracts quite a few locals and lots of people from the local surf-lifesaving scene as well. Some compete as individuals but there are also lots of teams or pairs competing too. We were ushered into the water and lined up for the start. The whistle went and we were off.
The start was a lot more physical than I’ve been used to of late. I usually sprint off from the start to get open water at the front from where I can swim my own race. Today there were arms and legs everywhere and I missed quite a few strokes as people grabbed ankles, clambered over the top of me and impeded arm movements. One of the big burly surf lifeguards did a stroke right on top of my head, pushing me under in the process. As I resurfaced from that another one seemingly swimming perpendicular to me swam right across my back. I loved it, this was much more fun than a flat water swim all on my own!!!
As three of us pulled away at the front, I noticed the guy on my right bearing off through the boats away from me. I was planning on swimming out around the other side of the boats with the flow of the river so held my course. The guy on my left decided he wanted to head over towards the right with his mate as well so decided to swim through me, smacking me in the face a few times in the process. I tried to hold my ground but he wasn’t giving up so decided in the end that maybe I’d go right with them anyway. They were probably locals so maybe they knew something I didn’t, and everyone else would follow us anyway. I took a bit of a right turn, kicking a little harder as I did so, just to open out a bit of a gap and to let him know I was going to give as good as I got when it got physical.
We were now headed out into the bay a little more so started to get into the swell and chop. With a bit of clearer water I opened out a bit of a gap at the front of the race. This meant I no longer had people around me so had to spot the buoy to make sure I was heading in the right direction. It was a little difficult to see in amongst the swell but after a few attempts I spotted it and had to head back towards the left to get to it. I rounded the buoy in first place and continued to pull away from everyone on the swim back to the beach. There was a bit of surf to swim through and then my hands hit the sand. I stood up and tried to run through the knee deep water but my legs didn’t really want to play that game. I did a few dolphin dives instead and then tried again. Still I had no oomph in my legs for running through water so was reduced to a walk.
The swim consists of two 400m loops split by a 200m run across the sands of the beach. Today the tide was higher than expected and the beach was completely flooded. The beach run portion was therefore a wade through knee deep water instead. The sprightly young surf-lifeguard dude in second place made light work of this and overtook me here. My ‘sprightly young surf lifeguard dude’ days are clearly behind me as I had to walk most of this before diving back into the water about 20m behind him. Once back in the water though I overtook him immediately. I have a feeling that his heroics through the shallows meant that he wasn’t quite so relaxed once back in the water as I passed him easily and completed the second loop of the swim on my own. I was now a couple of minutes ahead as I exited the water but once again had to contend with the tricky, energy sapping wade through the shallows.
I was aware of the fact that I still had a bike, a kayak and a run to do so had to conserve some energy. The guy in second place was part of a team so could go flat out. I was reduced to a walk again but made use of the time by taking the top part of my wetsuit off. As I approached the bridge across the river, the knee deep water became waist deep and therefore up above my wetsuit.
I looked behind me and could see 2nd place just beginning to stand up out of the water. I ran up towards transition. This in itself is a 400m run barefoot up to and along the quayside. My swim hat and goggles dropped out of my wetsuit sleeve as I did this run so I had to stop, turn around and retrieve them. I was still in first place though as I entered transition, took off my wetsuit, placed in it my box, put on my glasses, helmet and stuffed my feet into my cycling shoes, grabbed my bike and left T1 onto the bike.
Behind me the guy in second place had none of this to contend with. Being part of a team meant that he could leave his wetsuit on and simply had to run into transition and tag his cyclist who was ready to go. I still excited T1 in the lead but with no transition to do the team behind were right on my tail. The split times for each leg are recorded as you exit transition, so although I was a couple of minutes up as I got out of the swim, the official swim splits which include T1 will show it as being much closer than that.
Oh dear…. I got settled on my bike as the leading team passed me. He did at least let me know that he was part of a team and therefore not really in the same race as me. However, the route starts with a little climb up out of Bude. I could tell straight away that my legs weren’t going to be up to the task today. They just had nothing in them. I was pushing hard but they just had nothing to give. The wind had at least died off a little so it wasn’t too blustery as I made my way through Widemouth and the out onto the Millook road. I did glance behind me at one point and saw someone not too far behind, but once we hit the big descents and steep climbs into and out of Millook he dropped off and was nowhere to be seen.
The 30% gradient out of Millook was a struggle even with the lower gearing of my new bike but I kept on pushing and was soon making my way along the coastal road. My legs still weren’t happy though. My hamstrings felt tight and there was just no power to be had. After the cramps of the Conwy Mountain Challenge last weekend I didn’t want to push too hard, especially with a long kayak and a tough run still to come.
As I started on my way back along the A39, Nigel Unwin overtook me and continued on up the road tucked in on his tri-bars. Once again, tri-bars would have been useful along here but I didn’t have any so did my best to make myself as small as possible for the fast ride back to Bude. Another guy from a team overtook me on one of the descents but I reeled him back in on the final shallow climb to the Bude turning. I overtook him again up the climb but he once again passed me on the final descent into Bude. We then got held up by traffic queuing at the roundabout and finally made our way back onto the cobbles of the quayside.
I’d taken my feet out of my shoes whilst held up in the traffic so dismounted my bike leaving my shoes attached to the pedals. T2 was a simple affair. Prop my bike against the railing, off with my helmet and glasses and on with my cap. I then ran to the canalside, grabbed my ski, put it in the water and jumped in. There were official helpers here to steady our boats as we got in which was nice. I’m not used to getting into my ski from a quayside as I usually launch from a beach, I also prefer to get on from the other side so having someone steady the boat prevented any embarrassing second swims!
As I made my way down to the first turn by the lock gates in 2nd place I could see Nigel in 1st heading back the other way. He wasn’t that far ahead of me but does tend to excel once in his kayak. There were also two people from teams just ahead of me as well. The 10km kayak section consists of two loops of the canal. This is quite a long kayak in comparison to most and therefore plenty of time for Nigel to open up the gap.Today it was nice and calm.
There are a couple of low bridges to duck under. Two bridges on the way out and the same two on the way back and we do it twice, so 8 to negotiate in total. There are also tight turns at either end. The turn at the far end is the tightest and I was just catching one of the team athletes in front of me as I approached it. It’s takes a few attempts to get around the turn so I stopped and waited my turn as he negotiated the buoy. I then did a 5 point turn to get around it myself and started to chase him down again.
The canal itself is lovely. There’s a towpath along side it with dog walkers and supporters, low hanging trees on the other side and ducks that scatter as you approach them. There was also a group of stand-up paddleboards out today who were strewn across the canal seemingly oblivious to the fact that there was a race going on – just another obstacle for us to avoid as we made our way up and down the canal. As I overtook the guy in front of me I was also overtaken by someone else who was flying along. He was another individual athlete so I was now down to third place. He was quite a kayaker though and there was nothing I could do about someone going at that speed!
I was held up again at the buoy by the sea locks and then headed out onto lap 2. The gap between Nigel and myself wasn’t growing as quickly as I expected. My kayaking has certainly improved since last year. Lap two went by without incident for me. I did see Cliff struggling at the canal side with cramp though. I checked that he was OK as I passed – I’m sure he was getting fed up of people asking him that – He said he was fine it was just cramp so I continued on my way.
The top turn was fine this time with no hold up. I was now overtaking people on their first lap so it got a little busy at times as we all tried to squeeze past each other. One more turn around the buoy at the sea lochs and it was back to the quayside for T3.
I was in third place as I got out of my ski and ran into the transition area. The quayside helpers were left to remove my boat from the water. There was little to do in T3 other than put on my running shoes and start the run. Last year I’d struggled in running flats as it has been really muddy and slippery. This year I had come prepared with my off-road trail shoes. It was my secret weapon for the run! No slip-sliding for me, the muddy fields and slippery coast path would pose no problem.
The first couple of miles of the run are along the flat tarmac of the canal towpath though, so these trail shoes wouldn’t come into their own until we left that behind.
Back on dry land the lack of leg performance was once again evident. Last year, in racing flats the first mile was completed in under 7 minutes, this year it was down to 7:18 and my legs had nothing to give. I’d never worn my trail shoes without socks either and already I could feel that my feet were sore and blistered.
I stopped for a water at the drink station and then left the tarmac behind and started running up the hill through the fields. Typically, this year, now that I had shoes suitable for thick slippery mud, the ground was dry and hard packed. Perfect in fact for racing flats and not at all ideal for trail shoes. Lesson learnt, next year I shall bring both and decide which to use on the day!
I ran up and over the fields and back down to the coast road into Widemouth Bay. I stopped again for water at the drinks station, crossed the road and started running up the steep climb on the coast path. Someone else from another team caught me here and had a little chat as he ran with me for a bit. He then left me behind to run on my own. Still my legs didn’t feel up to the task and I was just jogging along at an easy pace rather than racing hard. Racing hard wasn’t an option today as doing so would have resulted in cramping like last week. Once again it was damage limitation time as I made my way ever closer to the finish. I was a little worried about the descent back into Bude as going downhill had been the cause of most discomfort during the week. I took it easy and things were OK. Just the matter of a short run up one side of the canal, over the lock gates and down the other and it was race over. I’d held onto 3rd place.
Up ahead of me, Nigel Unwin and been overtaken in the kayak by Billy Butler and the order reamined that way until the end. Billy in 1st, Nigel 2nd and me in 3rd.
After the race I packed up as others came towards the finish line.
With the van loaded ready for the journey home I waited for the presentations. There were no overall presentations, just age-group trophies and trophies for the teams and pairs.
Billy took the senior win, I took the V40’s win, Nigel took the V50’s win and Andy Parritt the v60’s
In the women’s race, Bethany Goodlad took the senior win, Helen Russel the V40’s, Allison Parrit the V50’s and Jean Ashley the V60’s
This was also the last race of the Quadrathlon Trophy Series for 2018. This trophy is awarded to BQA members only and is based on your best 3 finishes out of the 6 trophy series races. I picked up the overall trophy series win this year whilst Helen defended her British Trophy Series Champion status with the overall in the women’s series.
With prizes presented there was just time for an ice cream in the sunshine before goodbyes and the drive back to my parents house. Another good year of Quadrathlon racing over and done with, some good fun battles along the way and a good selection of results for me too. There’s still plenty of room for improvement should I decide to put in the necessary work and commitment though.