by Richard Ibberson
The 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross is billed as the toughest and biggest Cyclo-Cross event in the UK. This iconic event (now in its 55th year) is staged in the rugged, picturesque Yorkshire Dales National Park in the north of England. As an avid cyclist growing up in the Dales, reports on this race always caught my eye; however, the race is notoriously difficult to get in to, as entries are capped at 600 and all entrants must pre-qualify. This year I was lucky enough to get in.
The 38-mile course is severe, encompassing the 3 Peaks of Whernside, Ribblehead, and Pen-Y-Ghent for a total of 5000 ft of climbing; 21 miles are off-road; and the race organizers note dryly that 4-5 miles are simply unrideable "dependent on individual ability and prevailing conditions...." Elite athletes finish in 3-3½ hours, whereas we lesser mortals strive to beat the 6-hour cut-off time. Because I train as a triathlete, I decided that the 3P challenge was comparable to a half-iron distance event, but with the sincere hope that conditions on the day would not require any swimming!
The Fleet Feet Tri-301 training program provided an ideal foundation for my season's goal. Tracking the success of others on the program throughout the season was inspiring, and Shahin deserves high praise for his enthusiasm, patient coaching support, and sage words when injury or work and family schedules seemed to conspire against the best intentions.
Returning to the UK and completing 3 Peaks--today as a masters athlete--supported by family and friends was an emotional affair. For every athlete training can become a chore and it's all too easy to fixate on dry clinical details such as heart rates, split times, power output...and to lose sight of the real pleasure and satisfaction sport should provide. The 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross was the antidote, truly an event for the soul, and one which could well motivate my training for perhaps another 40+ years.
Goal and challenges for next year? Keep heading for the hills......