Team Berghaus Adventure come third in Coast to Coast Race (Part 1)

Billed as the biggest UK adventure race in 2011, the Adidas Terrex Coast to Coast is a four day staged multi sport event that took place over the August Bank Holiday with 91 participants running, cycling, kayaking and swimming their way from Whitehaven to Robin Hood’s Bay.

Competitors race each day as solos or mixed teams of three. If racing as a three, as Berghaus Adventure chose to do, two team members race each leg whilst the third deals with the logistics and moves the team kit to the next transition (as quickly as possible). The event was fast with the winning male solo, Stuart Lynch of Team Orion completing the 200+ mile journey in a staggering 19 hours 6 minutes.

Here is a link to a short video at the start of the race with James Cracknall, racing with Team Adidas Terrex:

Below, Emma Van der Gucht from Team Berghaus Adventure reflects on the experience:

This is the second time I have taken part in this event, having joined a non competitive all female team for the 2009 event, so I had some idea what this was going to involve, however, it was the first time that Jack, David and I have ever raced together as a team and there was some stiff competition, so definitely no room to be complacent!

The event began on the Friday morning with an 11km sea kayak stage from Whitehaven harbor to St Bees. On-water starts are always nerve wracking as everyone tries to pull away without damaging their own or anyone else’s boat in the confined space.

The weather was spectacular, with calm seas, although there was some exciting swell going on once we cleared the headland as the sea rebounded off the cliffs. Although I’d been really looking forward to this leg, having completed my first ever sea kayak race earlier this summer on Angelsey, it was not to be the experience I’d dreamed of as it became immediately apparent as we tried to swing left to leave the harbor that our rudder was jammed. We had hired a boat from a racing friend, Kim, but had failed to appreciate the difficulties a fixed rudder would pose to us in this event until we started. A tiny knock, and the rudder bends, causing it to jam against the boat. There was not a great deal we could do about it once we were out on the water, and so we zig zagged a course across the water before beaching at St Bees an hour later. In spite of the frustration, it was still possible to briefly enjoy the sight of the many cormorants and shags that were living round on stretch of water.

A short video of me complaining loudly about the ruder was captured by Planet Fear photographer Dave McFarlane can be seen here:

A quick kit change and David and Jack set off on bikes to the head of Crummock water where I met them with the boat for David and I to jump back into the kayak and paddle down Crummock, then carry the boat one and a half kilometers down the bridleway to Buttermere and continue to the bottom of the second lake. Having moved the rudder back into position, progress was thankfully much easier on the lakes!

Leaping out of the boat at the bottom of Buttermere, there was a 500m portage to Gatescarth before I could abandon my kayak kit, jump into my running shoes and set off on foot with Jack up the steep sides of Robinson.

We took it in turns to tow each other up here and the 44 minutes it took us to get to the top (620m height gain and 2km) felt like hard work! The last time I was up here there was a lightening storm going on, so I was quite relieved to have clear views and dry skies! As we came off the summit of Robinson and headed down Littledale edge we overtook team EFTOD before climbing back up to Dalehead and then round the horseshoe over High Spy and Cat Bells.

The views on this run are simply magnificent, with vistas of almost all of the Lake District. This was a fast race however, and there wasn’t time for photos on this stage. I went over on my much abused ankle (again – this being about the eighth time this year) and so our descent off Cat Bells saw us slow down a little and we were overtaken at this point by the fastest solos. After Catbells there was a short fast sprint along the shores of Derwent before an open water swim across the lake and a final dash into Keswick to the finish line of day one.

The hardcore racers braved the 13 degree water in just their running kit and a swimming hat, although personally, with the cramping I experienced in my legs after the hard run, I was more than a little grateful for the wetsuits we had chosen to put on.   After 6 hours 32 minutes day one was over, seeing us in third place in the teams behind whippet runners Team Accelerate in first place and Team Adidas Terrex in second. Team were only 12 minutes behind us and Team EFTOD two minutes behind them, so we knew we could not afford to take it easy!

Here’s a short video of Day One:

Day one over, and after a good night’s sleep next to the Trail Running Magazine’s awesome VW Campervan style tent, and it was on to day two.

Racers set off at 4 minute intervals with the slowest teams starting first. This means that our competitors FTOD, Castelberg and Dutch Courage started 4, 8 and 12 minutes ahead of us with us hot on their heels to maintain or even increase our lead.

The boys set out at break neck pace from Keswick over to Thirlmere  (having caught FTOD on the way) where Iain (David’s brother and our support for the first two days of the race) and I were waiting with the kayak and swarms of midges. Jack and David arrived 21 minutes later and David and I headed out onto Thirlmere for a beautiful paddle on flat water. As we set off down the lake we pulled past Castleberg with some cheery banter knowing that they would almost certainly pass us again on the run stage.

The portage at the south end of the lake was a little longer than I’d expected, so I was glad to arrive at the dibber and transition out to head up Helvellyn with Jack.

My legs felt frustratingly tired, but we ploughed on and arrived at the summit an hour and seven minutes later (4km and 750m ascent).  Having caught up with Dutch Courage on the way up, the descent of Swirral Edge in the damp and swirling mist was quick with team Dutch Courage hot on our heels. After the initial steep scramble the track leveled a little and as the helicopter circled above us we set off down to Red Tarn and Patterdale below. Keen not to sprain my ankle again, we kept the pace at a reasonable level arriving into transition 45 minutes after leaving the summit. Whilst I was pleased with our time given my tired legs, it was not a patch on the 1hr15 minutes it took Team Accelerate to complete from start to finish.

At Patterdale, David was waiting for me with the boat and the unfortunate news that the river we had to navigate to get to Ullswater wasn’t deep enough for the rudder. After much cursing and splashing, we arrived at the edge of Ullswater having carried the boar downstream for over a kilometer whilst teams without fixed rudders  (including Dutch Courage and Castleberg) passed us in their droves (or so it felt at the time!).

Once on the water, we got our heads down and headed towards the far end of the lake and the next transition.  Keen to protect the rudder of our borrowed boat, we bailed upstream of the landing before the waters shallowed out too much and carried the boat for the last time into transition.

Team Adidas came zooming past and after a quick refuel, David and Jack blasted out of the gate onto the final leg of the day – a mixed on and off road bike section from Pooley Bridge over the Shap hills to Kirby Stephen.

At this point we lost Iain, the boat and second support vehicle. I say lost, but it was nothing as careless as that implied  – it was all part of the plan. From here on in, we were a self supported team of three with one vehicle, so we thinned the kit down, and sent all the wet kayak things back to David’s in Ian’s van along with the boat.  David and Jack crossed the finish line of day two far quicker than we managed to get there in the vehicles and so day two was over in six hours and 33 minutes – a minute longer than day one. The evening briefing revealed we had dropped to fourth place behind EFTOD in todays timings, but we were still holding third place overall. Clearly I needed to give it my all on the run on day three if we were going to keep our place in the leader board.

Fortunately, a pub meal sufficient to feed my entire family, a (cold – bbrrrrr) shower and a lot of stretching later, we got our heads down for a good nights sleep and were ready to take on day three.

A short video of Day two is here:

Read Part 2 of the blog