Ullswater SUPBIKERUN

SUPBIKERUN is a multisport event that includes stand-up paddleboarding, cycling and running. Their final event of the year takes place in Ullswater in The Lake District and it was to be my first SUPBIKERUN event.

They have a standard (3k, 20k, 5k) and a long (6k, 40k, 9k) version. Despite never having been on a paddleboard before, I signed up for the long version because I didn’t want to drive all of the way to the Lake District to only run 5k. The event had historically involved mountain biking but this year they added a road bike version as well, which is what I signed up for.

Saturday

The event is designed as a weekend where you can sign up for a beginner tutorial session, a masterclass or a SUP yoga session. This is all included in the ticket price. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that the classes would sell out so I didn’t book my place in time to get to do any SUPing on Saturday.

Sunday

Race day. It is a very relaxed event: your transition times are not included in your result, for example. This was carried through into the race itself. There were 8am, 9am and 10am start times but you could turn up pretty much whenever and wander down to the lake to get started. Officially, there was going to be race briefing 10 minutes before the start but this never happened.

Transition was just in a field with no fencing and no security. Nothing went missing but it was a very different atmosphere to triathlon where there is one entry/exit point from transition and they check your wristband coming both ways for bike security.

I thought I was the only Harrier in attendance so it was lovely to run into Charlotte who was also setting up in transition. She ended up finishing over an hour ahead of me but in my defense, I was doing the long course.

SUP

There was a short briefing down at the lakeside about the SUP course. It was a straightforward affair: two buoys spaced 1,500 metres apart and you did one or two laps of them depending on your distance. If you have your own board, you can get started whenever you are ready. Those of us hiring boards queued up to receive one. This was somewhat pot luck as these reuse other competitor’s boards (with their prior consent).

Once I was on the water I was up and away. You start near Pooley Bridge at the north end of Ullswater and have a very scenic view heading south on the lake. The view looking back towards Pooley Bridge is less dramatic but still nice enough.

On the second lap, a ferry went passed at the other side of the lake creating some bow waves. These move really slowly so you can see the coming doom approaching you for several minutes. They then hang around for ages as they bounce of the shoreline and come back. I dropped to my knees while these passed and then got back to standing. The wind picked up a little just before the turnaround point but the crop wasn’t big enough to cause any problems.

There was no mandatory safety kit for the paddle. Some people wore personal flotation devices (PFDs) but there was none available if you were hiring a board and it was too warm to wear a wetsuit. This did not bother me because you lease yourself to the board. But if you are new to SUP or take safety more seriously, it might be a bit disconcerting.

Bike

The bike course could perhaps have done with better signage.

It leaves the transition area and procedures through Pooley Bridge and around part of Ullswater before heading in-land into the hills. As I road out, I saw other competitors coming back the other way. After completing the hills I descended back onto the road, where there were no signs, so just followed the road back to transition.

At transition, there were no turnaround signs for lap two so I headed down as far as the timing mat to see if one appeared. It did not. And I was only at 16k by this point. I turned around and re-traced my steps, this time looking to see if I had missed any signs but again, I didn’t see anything and found myself back on the same road doing another 16k lap.

Looking at the route after, there was a turning somewhere so I should have taken which would have made the lap distance up to 20k. And this explained why the feed station was missing. However, judging by the number of competitors I saw coming the other way (there were only 20 of us doing the long road course), most athletes missed the turning and did the same thing I did.

As for the turnaround point, I saw something on the opposite side for the mountain bikes who came in for the opposite direction but which would not have been seen from the road bike direction. So, this could have been it. But it was just in the middle of the road, so did we just do a cheeky U-turn? Perhaps this would have been explained in the race briefing if there had been one.

Aside from the problems with finding the route, it was a lovely course. You got some good views of the lake and the climbs were relatively short. They did get steep in parts, with the toughest gradient going up to 16%, but it wasn’t there for long.

Run

The run takes you up Arthur’s Pike. Half way up for the standard distance or all the way up for those of us on he long course. The first 2km is straight up the hill. It then levels off a little and moves at a slightly more gentle gradient going diagonally up. But either way, the first 5k just goes up and up and up. I ran some of it and power-iked the rest, which was still fast enough to gain a lot of places.

The views from the top were spectacular, taking in Ullswater, Pooley Bridge and well beyond. It is then followed by a 4km descent back down to the finish line.

Depite the glorious sunshine, the recent rain made the course boggy. I didn’t come back covered in mud PECO-style but there was enough water that my feet were soaked. The descent was relatively untechnical, though. It was trail but I was never worried about sliding or losing my footing.

Finish

Despite the tiring climb, I felt good once I was back on the flat as even the fairly simple trail on the descent meant I wasn’t working at 100% of my cardio capacity. Elina and Venla arrived just in time for a high-five as I crossed the finish line.

My overall time was:

3:58:23

But meaningless given I missed 8km of the bike course. Transition times are not included in the time we are given hence my “result” time and “overall” times are different.

Discipline Time
SUP 1:16:21
T1 6:55
Bike 1:29:03
T2 7:12
Run 1:13:00
Overall 4:12:29

I had the slowest SUP time of anyone in the long course (road or mountain bike). It’s like swimming: everyone just seems to effortlessly move much faster than me. My bike time was pretty competitive but would have been much slower if I had done the actual course! That said, it’s difficult to know how many people did. Only four of the 67 people doing the long course ran under an hour so I was happy enough with my run. Ultimately, I wasn’t pushing hard for any of it; just trying to have fun.

Conclusion

SUPBIKERUN aim for a very chill vibe and they achieve that. Everyone was friendly and the whole thing was peaceful: a beautiful paddle, some scenic lakes and hills on the bike and panoramic views on the run. None of it felt rushed.

There is a downside to being so chilled out, though. Without the strict race briefing drills, nobody really knows what is going on (or where the bike course goes). Some people will like that, others not so much. Also, if you’re coming from the triathlon world with your super-bike and expecting strict security to keep it safe, you won’t find that here.

If I was to do it again, I would probably want to mix and match the distances. With the SUP and bike course being two laps, I felt like I could have done one lap and been happy with that. But I wouldn’t want to miss the views from the top of Arthur’s Pike. Also, I would download the GPX to my bike computer 😂.

Timeline

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This entry was posted on Saturday, September 17th, 2022 at 11:00 am and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.