Storm the Castle!!

Classed as Peasants (in the hierarchy of the event a Peasant is someone who has competed once, a Knight for twice, Baron/Baroness for three, Duke/Duchess for four and a King/Queen for five), my great friends, Kelly Massie and Chris Barnes and I started the initial 10k run from the very well organised Transition/Start area and made our way along, what would be the flattest part of the whole course.

As we crossed the main bridge in Ludlow the route turned undulating on an out and back section. Then, as you re-approach the bridge, you turn a sharp right and up the dreaded Lactic Ladder. This consists of two near vertical step sections which seem to last forever where you climb into the heavens. Once at the top and fighting for breath you navigate through a small, banked, wooded section whilst trying to avoid stumbling on tree roots, onto the grassed Common which boasts great views. If only I could have appreciated them through the sweat dripping in my eyes.

Through a well-stocked water station on the ‘Whitcliffe Common’ you descend through another wooded area down towards the river Teme and minding your footing, cross a section of stones which leads you back towards the bridge, which you cross and start to run a section of road called ‘the Wall’. The road here is pretty much vertical and snakes its way to the castle entrance, which you continue past and run around on the shingle path. Plummeting back down ‘the wall’ section, you again, cross the bridge and repeat the course. However, when you descend from the castle you run back towards the start line/transition and enter the transition area for T1.

As expected, the 33k cycle course is undulating with two hills of any significance. ‘Fiddlers Elbow’ and ‘Vinnals’ to complement the hills though there are stunning views to take in with some awesome descents to put the fear of God into you and really test your nerves.

After leaving T2 after racking your bike, you make your way through the flat part of the course again and back over the bridge. Instead of the out and back part of the run though, you run straight up the lactic Ladder and repeat the hilly section of the course another two times. So yes, after the fourth time of climbing those steps you don’t want to see another one for some time!!

You then cross the bridge for the final time and run up ‘the Wall’ section of the run again in the knowledge that the end of this 5K run is about 200meters away in the castle grounds.

When you reach the castle’s outer baily entrance you can see the finish line on the far side and are greeted by the announcement by name over the load speaker system. Across the line you receive a medal, a technical top which includes your stature in the hierarchy (peasant) and a selection of items to help yourself to including, pastries, energy bars, water, bananas, sweets and a unique Storm the Castle Beer from the local Ludlow brewery.

You can see why this event has the tag as the UK’s Toughest Duathlon as it simply is hard work. Saying that though, I have no doubt that I’ll be back to do it all over again and gain the Knight status.

I’d recommend this really well organised event to anyone too. As with most Duathlons and Triathlons there were people of all abilities and ages competing with the support from the spectators, marshals and fellow competitors being very overwhelming at times. – Martyn Rogers

 Storm the Castle… apparently the UKs toughest duathlon!! And after completing it I’d probably agree!! And I’m guessing so would Chris Barnes and Martyn Rogers!!  Fab organisation, great information from the event organisers.  On the day the parking and facilities were exactly as described, there was an easy registration process and everything was fantastically organised.

 Run leg 1 (10km) – 2 lap course, each lap had 2 nasty climbs, it was a really tough run course but fab Marshall’s and support around the whole course.

Bike leg (33km) –  Undulating bike route starts out uphill gentle climbing the middle section flattens out a bit and is good for getting areo and picking up some speed, but the last 5 miles you start climbing again it’s a long fairly steep climb but its rewarded with the last mile being a fabulous downhill! 

Run leg 2 (4.7km) – 2 lap course, first lap a nasty climb the same climb again for the second lap followed by a steep climb to the castle to finish! 

Beautiful surroundings, fab event, I really enjoyed it but it is a tough course without a doubt… there will be no pbs at storm the castle!! 

2hrs 32 mins – 6th female, 3rd 34-44 so pleased with that. – Kelly Massie

Holding up a finisher T shirt with ‘Peasant’ in big bold letter across it is not something I have done before at the end of a race, but this was the first step onto the regal hierarchy of Storm the Castle, a duathlon billed as the toughest in the UK. The event is set around Ludlow Castle and comprises a 10km run, 33km bike, 5km run, with the runs being a mix of on road and trails. The one thing all three sections include are hills.

Earlier that morning myself, Kelly Massie and Martyn Rogers had lined up on the start line with the other first timers having watched the Peasants, Knights, Barons and Dukes set off at intervals (higher rank awarded for each year of completing the event with those completing all previous five events being crowned Kings and Queens this year). Setting off the run has a short on road section before hitting a woodland trail which starts off with the Lactic Ladder, a steep section of steps, with every one a different height and length disrupting any rhythm, followed by more rolling tracks. Heading back towards the castle is at least down hill with a great view over the river. After crossing the river there is a final hill, this time on road, but with a 25% gradient to keep the legs burning before looping round the castle itself to do it all again on the second lap. The three of us all came into, and out of, T1 within a few minutes of each other with no major dramas. Not fighting off a wetsuit as per all my previous events certainly helped!

The bike course is a single loop with the first 5km being relatively flat giving the legs a chance to recover before the first climb starts, which lasts a further 7km. However, this is rewarded with some long fast descents and fantastic views. The second main climb comes at about 26km and is shorter but steeper than the first but gives a thrilling down hill section back to T2 with a few hairpin bends to keep the adrenaline flowing! Kelly had disappeared into the distance by this point but me and Martyn

were trading places over the last section of the bike course and left T2 together for the final run.

The final run is similar to the first two laps but includes two loops of the woodland section so there is not much recovery off the bike before a third ascent of the Lactic Ladder, which I just about managed to run up this time, although it got the better of me on the fourth and final climb. On completion of the second loop its back toward the finish located in Ludlow castle itself which makes for a great atmosphere.

A final time of 2hours 34mins and 128th overall rewarded with a great medal, beer, T shirt and cake selection at the finish line with the three of us still just a few minutes apart, with Kelly taking a well earnt club win and 3rd place category finish.

Overall this is a well organised event, in a stunning location with great value for money and I look forward to becoming a Knight next year. – Chris Barnes

King Kirk Finlinson (a 5 time finisher!) declined to comment for fear of putting people off 😉