On Saturday 14th October, VCI Member Gordon Brown took part in “The Wall” Adventure Duathlon in the heart of the Mournes organised by 26 Extreme. Gordon tells us about the event below.
This was my third time participating in this one of a kind event and yet again thoroughly enjoyed it as a kind of end of season madness.
The event is staged from Silent Valley and begins with a signature run up the steep grassy hill to the dam followed short run on the trails to the western side of the dam. This short run is something of a warm up for what is to come, only lasting around 15 mins over a mix of terrains. Returning to the dam wall for the first transition, I collected my bike for the 45 km cycle, turning left out of Silent Valley and down the Head Road joining the main road to Newcastle at Glasdrumman. After a few sharp climbs, the descent to Glasdrumman was fast and furious although the wet road slowed things up a little on the tighter turns. The mainly flat and fast road into Newcastle gave me a great opportunity to get down onto the TT bars and move up a few places in the field. Passing the VCI 9:03 club run who were just at Olive Bizarre café was good to see (and hear!) but with no time to stop for coffee headed past Donard Park and then began the climb up through Bryansford past Fofanny Dam to Spelga, still making a bit of progress through the field although starting to regret a certain lack of gears on the bike when the climb was at its steepest and wondering whether lighter wheels would have been a better choice! Dropping down the “flying mile” on the Moyadd road again allowed me to pick up speed and gain a few places, however, handlebar grip was becoming a problem as the bar tape on the right had somehow unravelled and was trailing behind me in the wind. Turning left back onto the Head Road it was great to see and hear the shout out from VCI 9:03 club run again coming the other direction. There was an accident on the road just in front of me as a bike had crashed into a car stopped due to stones being dislodged from a granite wall. As the car was stopped not so far over the brow of a hill which we were all cresting at 28 mph plus, Ronnie Massey was slowing the other competitors down to avoid any further crashes – so thanks to Ronnie I and the next few riders all managed to just get stopped in time. We rode into Silent Valley once again for the final transition and the final run of 15 km, turning left again out of the Silent Valley onto the head road to Carrick Little Car Park. From here we moved into the Mournes proper through the Annalong Valley on rocky paths, crossing rivers and up to the Col between Slieve Binnian and Slieve Lamagan running on mountain track in an increasing gradient to the Col. From the Col there is a steep descent to Ben Crom Reservoir for the final stretch to the finish line on a flat tarmac closed road along the side of the reservoir. This last mountain run is always extremely tough, beginning around 2 hours into the event, with many participants cramping up on weary legs. Having done the event before I knew to pace myself otherwise I would cramp up completely and lost a lot of ground as others who specialise in running over this terrain, or who have a finer build(!), made their way past.
The scenery is fantastic and while the weather had been damp with low cloud most of the morning, at this point the clouds lifted giving us the opportunity to take in some amazing views. My descent from the Col was none too graceful as I took a cramp in my calf and ended up falling down the mountain onto some rocks, lying with my head down the steep slope and my still cramping legs locked up behind me! A group of walkers who were climbing up looked on in horror – but I reassured them that I was fine, it was only cramp and no I didn’t need a hand up as I couldn’t actually move my legs until the cramp eased… From here I took it even easier as I just wanted to make it back in one piece. The event isn’t really about finishing place / time – more about actually completing the course, and there is a really great camaraderie between people taking part. Everyone chats to people as they pass and offers help, food etc. where they can. I tried to give some support to a guy from Limavady who had cramped up badly on this final run and we chatted/walked/cramped/ran a bit together before we parted company and I ran on to the finishing line with him crossing the line a few minutes later. With a medal, Soup and sandwiches right at the finish, not to mention the offer of their own 26 extreme branded beers, we swapped stories at the end and the organisers confirmed to me that the man who had crashed out on the bike suffered no serious injury thankfully.
While this is a very tough event, I would really recommend it to anyone. I’ll certainly hope to give it another go next year.