Mountains and Sand Dunes

I had one of the busiest and fun weekends in recent memory that didn’t involve an Ironman, a birth or a wedding. Instead it was all about geography, well sort of.

The Keswick Mountain Festival took place from Wednesday to Sunday and featured a whole host of events from a sportive taking in several Lakeland passes, a tough triathlon, and a Derwent Water swim. Besides the physical there was also the entertaining and the informative as speakers from the world of adventure such as Mark Beaumont, Ray Mears and Sir Chris Bonnington MBE waxed lyrical to their respective audiences.

And then there was little old me. I had been invited to give an hour-long talk in the Fell Theatre about my Ironman Experiences.

Andy Holgate Talking at Keswick

Talking at Keswick

I was extremely nervous in the build up all week, and I apologise to Em for that. I wasn’t a grumpy git, just kind of withdrawn a little, as I tried to formulate what I’d say, what I’d do if no one turned up?
Thankfully I needn’t have worried as two of my Pirate mates Dave The Ex Spartan and Cake turned up to support me. Dave also swam in the morning in horrendous conditions in Derwent water. Both were a great help as we sat in the bar and they managed to calm my nerves as the world-famous opera singer Lesley Garrett warmed up the audience for me with a few songs 😉

Lesley Garrett

What do you mean I'm the support act for a fat Pirate ?

People actually queued and paid money to hear me speak ( all for charidee mate ) and they laughed, and asked questions and eventually when I finished they applauded. It was a nice feeling. I loved being able to talk to people about triathlon and Ironman, a bit like doing a ‘live’ blog I suppose.
I thanked Dave and Cake and we all headed back down the M6 to prepare to race the next day. They were both doing the sprint tri at Nantwich and I was off to St Annes to sprint there.

Now on a good day the course at St Annes has PB written all over it, it’s almost like the road builders used a spirit level to keep it perfectly flat. Unfortunately it was far from a good day.

The event takes place right on the exposed sea front, the only shelter coming from sand dunes. The met office had issued an ‘Amber’ warning for high winds, I think that’s up to about 50mph? They weren’t wrong.

Transition looked like a battlefield as helmets blew all over the place ( I clipped my strap through my front wheel spokes ) and the odd bike was lifted off the racking or blown into others. When I came into T1 after the swim my bike was actually entangled with the one next to it, a result of the wind.

The swim went well, as you’ll all be aware I’m never going to set any records in the pool. Quite amusing queueing up though to have someone tell me they were reading my book. I had fun with the diver on the bottom of the pool taking photos: waving at him etc..

not the best technique

not the best technique

I emerged from the pool and was almost blown off my feet, it was very tempting to just go back in and keep warm. Into transition and people were putting on rain jackets, gloves etc. Helmet on, Sunglasses on, Shoes on and away.

Immediately I was very thankful for the sunglasses protecting my eyes as the sheltering dunes failed and instead become objects of torture as I was sandblasted for the next 15 miles of cycling and running. I’m sure that people pay good money for that sort of derma-abrasion treatment at a spa? I tried to keep tucked and aero as best I could but a lot of the time it just wasn’t possible as I needed all my power just to keep the bike upright. Going flat out on the bike, overtaking people and still not reaching 12 mph is a different experience I can tell you. Only one other cyclist passed me, and I myself passed several, I’m pleased with that.

Into T2, a longish run from the dismount line in cleats was not fun, again with the wind determined to take me off my feet.  Helmet off, change shoes and away. Onto the coastal path the sea-side of the dunes, this made anything I’d already experienced seem trivial. I’m no lightweight but I was running as much sideways as I was forward. I felt sorry for the kids later on, who did the same course, many were in tears.
All I could taste was sand, it was lining my gums, it was even in my ears. It must have been hell for the marshalls lining the route, I made sure I thanked them, even the one who sent me about 100m in the wrong direction before realising his mistake and chasing after me. The good thing for me about the run was how strong I felt, and pleasingly no one caught me or passed me on the 5km course.

I don’t mind telling you that I was very relieved to have finished the race in one piece. I crossed the line, knackered, cold and with red raw skin in a time of 1.20.23. I was met by fellow Triathletes World Forum member Razor, who looked as fresh as a daisy, he’d finished only his second triathlon in approx 1.35.

Razor holds me up at the finish

Razor holds me up at the finish

So it was a cracking weekend, two days of very different fun. Hopefully the next time I go to the seaside I’ll get a bit of sunshine as well.


6 responses to “Mountains and Sand Dunes

  1. Nice to speak for an hour and be appreciated. It was not a weekend to look for PBs though so well done for racing hard.

  2. Thanks very much Gobster.

  3. Hi Andy,

    Read the book over the weekend – very inspiring. Hope to see a follow up in the future.
    I was already tempted to do a triathlon before picking it up, and the book has fully twisted my arm. Think I’m going to enter the Cockerham Sprint Triathlon as it’s local and I should be capable of getting around the course.

    • Hi Matt,
      Thanks for the message. Glad you enjoyed the book, I’m signed up to write a sequel in the next few years.
      Cockerham is a great race ( my first ever ) and good fun. If you are local get yourself along to some of the COLT training sessions, we don’t bite honest.

      Good luck with the training.


  4. Hi just read your book I think its great that as you say you can do it if you are determined and I think it will encourage a lot of newbies to start.
    As for me I have serious intentions of a sprint at end of July in northern Ireland though the pool does scare me a bit more the other swimmers more than the distance.
    Going to train for it and if I bottle it il do my own alone lol

    • Tim,
      Just go for it, stick an entry in and enjoy it. If you get scared in the pool just grabg the side, take a few seconds to compose yourself, no shame in that. We’ve all been there. As I’ve said before if swimming was natural for us we’d have webbed feet 😉
      Please let me know how you get on, and if you have any questions send me an email.
      Good luck.

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