2013 Race Report

WASDALE XII

On the September 29th 2013 at 07.06 am 82 people entered the dark, cold waters of Wastwater. The deepest freshwater lake in Britain for the start of the inaugural WASDALE - The world’s hardest Half Iron Distance Triathlon. 72 finished.

05:30 Transition opens, Its dark, really dark. Wasdale is remote. You can see every star in the sky. The moon is half full, silhouetting the mountains in an eerie blue. Arc lights flood the bike rack area as the intrepid athletes prepare for the hardest race of the year.

Water Temp. 13.5 celsius – Air Temp 7.5 celsius

Glow sticks light the way to the water. Transition is ¼ mile from the lake via a farm track. The lake looks cold, bathed in moonlight.

07:06 deepwater start. The sun has risen above the screes to the East, lighting the tops of the surrounding mountains. All towering above 2000 ft. Kirkfell, Great Gable, Scafell and England’s highest peak - Scafell Pike.

07:27 first swimmer leaves the lake, Doug Roberts Red Venom sponsored athlete. Quick run to transition and away on the bike. 56 miles, 7,217 vertical feet, more than any other Half Iron triathlon. But it’s not the vertical that hurts; it’s the severity of the ascents that cause the damage.

08:33 Hardnott - Steepest mountain pass in Britain. 2.2 miles average 25% last two bends over 30%. The sun is rising over the summit but the air is still cool and there’s a headwind. The roads are quiet, no tourists up this early, only spectators and well wishers. The descent to Cockley Beck is short but steep with lots of tight switchbacks, cold hands struggle to grip the brakes, the road isn’t good either, uneven with deep potholes. Once down the sun has fully risen, the sky is blue but the headwind keeps blowing hard down the Duddon Valley, making the leap to Wrynose harder than it should be. Doug Roberts is holding the lead from Gareth Huxley and Stuart Reed of the Kendal Fire fighters has climbed to third.

 

Wrynose - Short sharp 1 mile ascent, easiest of the four mountain passes. No more than 20%. Then the long straight downhill to Little Langdale. Less tiring on the arms than Hardknott but longer and the temptation to go fast is exhilarating only the 500ft unprotected drop off to the right keeps the fingers poised over the brakes.

Little Langdale to Great Langdale. Undulating, easy riding, more traffic on the road, tourists starting to rise. Headwind becomes tailwind. Sun warms the late September air.

09:29 Doug Roberts Passes Skelwith Bridge Checkpoint. Stuart Reed now second (+8 mins) Gareth Huxley in third (+12 mins)

Blea Tarn. Short, sharp switchback road pass 25%, less than 1 mile. Dropping back to Little Langdale and the return home.

Wrynose return. The longest ascent. 2.5 miles at 25%. Long straight before the bridge, getting increasingly steeper to the summit, topping out at 30% for the last ¼ mile. Short descent to Cockley Beck

Hardnott return. The steepest section 33% for 200 yards. Then steep switchbacks at 30% for the next mile. Water Station on the summit before the long steep drop back to Eskdale and West through Santon Bridge before turning North at Gosforth. The wind behind and the long straight sections allow the use of the tri-bars, shifting the weight and easing the legs a little. Doug is still in the lead but Stuart Reed is catching, Gareth is holding the gap between the lead two and the rest of the field is growing. 

Nether Wasdale. The wind has got up, blowing from the North East, the last 5 miles on the bike looks easy on paper, but the headwind is crucifying. Peddling downhill just to keep going, no easing up before the run this is a wicked sting in the tail. Wastwater appears below the forbidding screes. Ahead Kirk Fell, Gable and Scafell stand like sentinels, guarding the path ahead.

11:06 Wasdale Head. Transition Bike to Run. 3 have dropped out of the bike leg, either through exhaustion or mechanical failure. 7 more don’t make the cut off time. Doug holds a 14 minute lead on the Fire Fighter team as Stuart Reed passes the baton to Paul Dougdale of Kendal AC. Gareth comes in 21 minutes after Doug. 4th Jonty Bright of Harrogate (+28 mins) 5th Paul Bowyer from Paris France (+32 mins)

The day has warmed to 18 Celsius. The wind in the valley has dropped. The sky is a deep blue and the mountains look inviting. The first section to Styhead tarn is a steady climb on firm ground, some run, most walk but the going is fast. Passing Styhead  and onto the Corridor Route, a well made traverse to Lingmell Col where the path meets the main Ascent to Scafell Pike Summit. The final mile is steep, uneven rocks, but the sun is warm and the path is in the lea of the wind. Second Checkpoint on the mountain. Doug holds the lead but the fresh legs of Paul Dougdale have narrowed the gap to 12 minutes, Gareth is still in third but the gap is now 29 minutes, Jonty, and Paul hold 4th and 5th respectively. Ben Abdelnoor and Chris Sterling from Ambleside AC along with Rick Stuart of Kendal AC are making good progress, all three using their fell running pedigree to haul them up the ranks.

12:01 Scafell Pike to Scafell. Once on the Summit of England highest mountain the wind blows hard again. Scafell looms to the South as the athletes descend 1000 feet via Mickledoor to Foxes Ghyll, a narrow, water filled crevasse leading to the diminutive Foxes Tarn and the slow hard screes before summiting Scafell. The final ascent. Half way on the run. All 72 competitors who start the run make the check point time of 4:30.

Scafell is a rock strewn summit, hard to traverse with large loose rocks and a long steep descent to Slightside. It’s difficult to run for fear of turning a ankle. The descent is supposed to be easy. Once passed Slightside the rocks give way to grass and peat bogs.

13:13 Eel Tarn is the final Checkpoint. Jonty Bright gets lost after descending Slightside and loses 14 places. Doug is holding a narrow lead but Paul has him in sight. The gap is less than 5 minutes. Gareth is still in third, but Ben, Chris and Rick have overtaken Paul Bowyer. 5 miles from home, steady downhill via Burnmore Tarn. Easy underfoot, except for the deep soggy bogs that sap the very last bit of energy from the tried and weary legs.

13:54 Doug Roberts of Nothallerton wins the worlds hardest half iron triathlon in 6 hrs 46 minutes. Paul Dougdale, representing the Kendal Fire Fighters team comes in 5 minutes later. 14:40 Gareth Huxley of Newcastle upon Tyne. 14:46 Chris Sterling Ambleside AC and Ben Abdelnoor Ambleside AC, 14:50 Rick Stuart Kendal AC, 15:17 Paul Bowyer Paris France, 15:18 Joe Horn Gateshead, 15:19 Tim Austin Kendal AC, 15:38 Anthony Gerundini Lincoln comes in 10th.

15:50 Eleanor Haresign of Milngavie crosses the line first Lady. 16:11 Sonja Nuessli of Switzerland is Second and 16:42 Samantha Dean Howard of Liverpool comes in third lady.

18:25 Some competitors have got lost between Slightside and Eel Tarn, and the long day is starting to take its toil. All but two make the final Check point at Eel tarn, those that were lost have navigated their own way to the checkpoint. It is decided that the marshals will accompany the last two competitors’ home. Dusk is falling and soon it will be pitch black again in the Wasdale valley.

19:03 Lee Pegram of Hertford makes the finish line in 11 hrs 57 minutes

20:04 Almost thirteen hours after the swim start the final competitors arrive home, exhausted but safe and accompanied by family and family. The wind has picked up and it’s very dark. All the marshals and competitors have been accounted for, a quick clear down of the finish area.

20:45 Wasdale Head Inn.