Vitus Bikes athlete James Walker reports back on his win at the recent Whinlatter Duathlon
This weekend was the High Terrain Events Whinlatter Xtreme Duathlon, held nr Keswick, Cumbria. The event can be described as one of the hardest off-road duathlons in the country with the 9km-25km-10km format.
The 9km mountain trail run went to the summit of Grisedale Pike via the dramatic Sleet How ridge. From the summit it’s a spectacular singletrack descent with a total ascent/descent 629/627m (2,065′). An incredible 25K route initially following the Quercas Blue graded trail, followed by the full circuit of the Altura red south loop – Total ascent/descent 716/716m (2,350′). The final 9km trail run incorporating Seat How, Lord’s Seat and Barf with Total ascent/descent 465/460m (1,500′) made it a tough days racing.
Preparation leading up to the race has been going well with a strong focus on building strength leading up tp the start of the Xterra European Series. Being brought up in Keswick, I was looking forward to racing at Whinlatter as I knew the terrain and that it would be a tough race.
Sunday came and the weather was cool in the shade, with a nice breeze on the tops. Ideal racing conditions! The raced kicked off at 9am and the initial 3km of fire trail weaved and climbed through the forest. I settled into a nice rhythm and the field was spread out by the time the run hit the main climb to the top of Grizedale. The run in itself is a regular fell race during the summer months, but combining it into a duathlon, I knew this would be the hardest brick session I would have done in a long time. The main path on Grizedale is undulating and runnable, and around a mile or so from the top, the trail turns into shale and rock, resulting in the old hands on knees walk.
I was enjoying being back on the fells and I was running with a smile on my face as we climbed to the top. The scenery also is something to be seen if you get the chance. Leading to the top I climbed to 4th position, with the lead runners being part of a relay. I was closely followed by overall second place Dave Wilby. The descend off Grizedale, was a straight line dart back down to the forest, over rough ground, making it hard on the knees and ankles. Thus ideal to bring about the heavy legs. By the bottom of the climb and leading into T1, there was 3 of us running together. With transition adjacent to Cyclewise I knew I would have to be quick to break away from 2nd place.
The 25km bike involved the complete red route of the North and South loop. I knew the trails well and that it would suit my style of riding. Having learnt the hard way a couple of weeks earlier at the Nutcracker MTB Race, I opted for a smaller 30t ring and that made a huge difference. I felt good attacking the climbs and riding the flowing downhill sections. The bike went past in a blitz, having the clear trails made a lot of difference and allowed me to push on harder. By the end of North loop I heard I had a couple of minutes gap. The second South loop is more climbing to the North Loop, and I am less familiar with this side of the trails. I pushed on and the meandering rocky climbing to the top doesn’t allow you to push as hard as you wish due to the switch backs and the stop start nature of the trail. The downhills at Whinlatter are rutted and on sharp slate, making concentration a key factor on riding well. Thankfully by the end of the bike coming into T2 I had rode without making any mistakes and stayed on 2 wheels all the way!
The last run was to Lords Seat, another fell/ trail race in itself. My legs by this point had begun to tighten up from pushing hard on the bike. I knew I had a gap coming off the bike and that the run would be mine to loose. The fire trail climbed into the forest and I hit a nice rhythm, managing to run all the first 6km of trail before getting to Lords Seat. Coming to the bottom of the climb it was just too steep and I was heavy legged to run to the top. This was the changing point in the race, where I began to really tighten up and the downhill just battered my quads. By the bottom of the fell descent I could see the next runner coming over the top. Getting down the final 3km of fire trail was a nice steady descent, and took away the pain in the legs. I crossed the line with just under a minute ahead of 2nd and I was glad I wasn’t in the battle for chasing the leader, putting the work in early had gone well.
By the end my legs where in pieces and I was worn out, but overall pleased to have performed how I did. Congratulations to everyone who finished, as this is by far the toughest off-road Duathlon I have competed in over the years. A great event by High Terrain Events and True Mountain for a hassle free and easy going race.
1st James Walker M 02:51:23
2nd Dave Wilby M 02:52:01
3rd Nick Williamson M 02:52:36
4th Chris Stirling M 02:52:58
5th Saul Muldoon MV40 02:53:17
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