The Whitton: ‘a good effort’


Carne, John and me at the start of the ride. There was no post-ride shot (which is telling).

Carne, John and me at the start of the ride. There was no post-ride shot (which is telling).

My Fred Whitton was a ride of 2 halves.  

The first half was an idyllic trip through possibly the UK’s finest mountain wilderness. After an early, chilly start the weather gradually warmed up, bringing a stunning morning of clear skies and glassy lakes (scenic pics here). Starting out at 6.30 with Carne and his dad John, we cruised for an hour or so before I joined a quicker group going up Kirkstone Pass. My legs felt springy and strong on the climbs. I powered through Patterdale and Glenridding, then caught the wheel of a fast lad in a red Pearl Izumi gilet who pulled me along the A66 towards Keswick.

Honister Pass was hard – I remembered riding this on a mountain bike at some point with UYCC – but I felt reasonably comfortable and before long was hurtling down the valley to the Buttermere feed station, 52 miles in the bag. At this point, had I only stopped for 5 minutes, I might have carried on and not seen Carne / John until the finish. However they were only about 10 minutes behind and in the event we restarted the ride together, up another toughie, Newlands Pass. 

Barely a flat section in sight.

Barely a flat section in sight.

The following climb, Whinlatter Pass, was the highlight of the day. Again I’d ridden away with a quicker set of riders, and I remember cresting Whinlatter, at about 70 miles, to the cheers of 100+ spectators lining the road. Was it me or did someone shout ‘Go Lance!’?

The second half of the ride was an increasingly gritty story. The unremitting climbing had blasted my legs, and a sort of acid-heavy pain was setting in. I knew the worst was to come, but Carne had caught up with me and together we made the second feed stop. 

The three of us took a good 15-20 mins at this stage. I actually sat down to stretch out my glutes and lower back, which felt like stiff cardboard. One rider arrived with cuts all over his legs and face, clearly the victim of a high-speed spill. Together we stuffed our faces then embarked on the final punishing leg.

It was 15 miles of undulating road along the valley to Hardknott. My sugar levels were fine and I was pretty sure my legs could handle it, but the key memory I will take with me from the Whitton ’09 was the sight of the road from Boot winding up into the clouds at the head of the pass, a long train of riders like ants crawling upwards at an agonisingly slow pace. 

The crowds were out in force on the slopes of the climb, especially on the steepest sections, where the gradient reached 33%. While most dismounted to walk up, I watched as some guy toppled back off his bike into the bonnet of a parked car, still clipped into his cleats. Riders were shouting at themselves to eke out a few more revolutions, some Aussie guy was yelling at me to ‘bury it into the corner’; generally the spectators seemed to be loving the pain display. I can’t recall exactly what happened but I did end up kind of slipping and coming off right at the top.  

Over the top the weather suddenly closed in. There was snow and hail on the road and the descent from Hardknott was freezing and frankly terrifying. The rain made sweat run into my eyes, which didn’t help matters. Wrynose Pass was still to come, with more sections of 25% to contend with.

By the time I crossed the line I was shivering. 8hrs and 7 minutes. Could I have ridden it faster? Possibly. Could I have spent less time admiring the views and eating, and more time caning it? Definitely… but I had a good ride.

Height Gain

Quick note on the Whitton’s total height gain, which was 3,800m (more detail here) compared to the 4,400m of La Marmotte’s 4 big cols (height gain info and more here). 

Fred Whitton food intake:

  • 3 ham rolls
  • 3 slices of malt loaf
  • 4 flapjacks
  • 2 bananas
  • 5 bottles of drink
  • fruit pastilles at intervals

3 Responses to “The Whitton: ‘a good effort’”

  1. Si May 14th, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Awesome ride. Did you get a GPS log?

  2. Al May 14th, 2009 at 9:41 am

    No GPS log, just heart rate…

  3. 3-weeks later « Ironman365 May 20th, 2009 at 7:45 am

    […] a very tough Fred Whitton ride, whilst Fordy competed in the Stratford triathlon and Jonny battled through a wet and windy […]

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