What a great day out at the fell relays. 213 teams of 6 people entered so lots of people about. 3 Bowland teams had entered and all finished. Particular congratulations to the MV50 team for coming 2nd in their age class. We’ve not often had a ladies team out at this competition but since it was so local for us it was worth making the effort. A few last minute changes meant some rejigging of the team the night before, resulting in our final leg runner not knowing she would be running until the morning itself! Luckily she came prepared.
I always enjoy watching a train of runners spread out up a hill at the start of a race and seeing all the coloured vests across the hillside. Mind you that meant it was soon time to be getting sorted to go out on leg 2. The first runner, Rob Hope, was back in under 40 minutes but Rachel and I had somewhat longer to wait for Jo to return for our team. Word came back that it was pretty blustery up on the tops which we could anticpate judging by the wind even down low. Our route headed out around the bottom before ascending along a ridge. There then followed a taped section diagonally down through heather and rock steeply descending to the bottom of a deep gully. Tricky stuff. Inevitably a steep climb followed, back up to the summit of the calf. For a change the strong wind was blowing in the right direction to help us to the top.
The descent was fantastic with soft underfoot conditions without too much rock. From the checkpoint at the bottom to the end, we were running into loads of teams pushing hard in the opposite direction on the navigation leg. Both directions of runners were trying to share a narrow trod. Not the best planning if you ask me. We finally made it back in just short of 2hours only to find that Sue and Jenn had just set off in the mini mass start. Ah well at least they were on their way in capable hands as Sue led them successfully round the course. They too got back after the mass start for the final leg runners but it did not matter. Unfortunately for Ann, the weather turned for the worse later in the day and she had to contend with huge hail stones in the viscious wind at the top of the calf. Mind you she coped admirably and arrived at the finish in good spirits and seemed pleased that she had had a chance to run after all.
So thanks to all the ladies who came and ran for Bowland. We must make this a regular event for the club ladies. Maybe some will be inspired to do a bit more racing through the year and we will have a great team on Pendle at next years event.
Well done to all 3 teams – and a great result for the Mens V50 team – Second place!
Few photo’s here … Relay Pics
Apologies for anyone who ran past too quickly for me to snap them!!
Yabadabadoo says Leigh as we set off for this toughie buried away in the heart of Lakeland. Plenty of low cloud forecast; yes, I think, and rain and even hail may just make this race a little more interesting. Needless to say, I’m not as enthused as Leigh is about the prospects of spending three hours in these conditions but I psyche myself to think that this will be a good tester for my fitness and nav skills. Still, sunshine and visibility would have been nice. And he doesn’t really say yabadabadoo ‘cos he’s not the type, but I can tell that old Claggy’s definitely thinking it, aincha Leigh.
Anyway, we swing by and pick up Mark and Chris B, both of whom are in the pink as far as fitness is concerned. And all three have reccied the route twice in the past two weekends – lucky beggars. A pity Swerve wasn’t paying a bit more attention though as descending Bowfell flummoxed him in the fog for a good ten minutes. Still, that’s the trick with such a difficult course; which part of it is the bit you’re going to need to know.
At the Old Dungeon Gill pub, it’s looking like the weather forecast is going to be pretty accurate; even though Andy Firth says to me that the rain will hold off with a deal of conviction. From now on Andy’s my go to weather man as it stays much better than expected.
A stampede start into a narrow funnel by 400 runners is never going to be pretty, loads of joshing and stuff going on; uneventful after that all the way to Esk Hause nearly half way round; Leigh changing his usual lines to exorcise last year’s mysterious thigh muscle tear. He’s only 400 yards ahead of me as we turn so I’m thinking I can still make up a bit of ground if I make more of an effort.
Contouring under Esk Pike, if you know it then you’ll know its pretty tricky; muddy, jaggged and slippy rocks, you can only negotiate some of it on your backside; its slow but you can make up some ground if you’re confident with this technical stuff; low cloud and limited visibility add to the frisson. Trying too hard I fall over twice, my painful rib copping the first one and a sharp blow to the shin for the second, and so I ease up a bit. I reckon Leigh starts to make more ground on me here; I’d forgotten just how good he is at this sort of stuff. By Orr Gap I’m on my own and I can’t pick up a trod. Well, I’ve been in this kind of fix before haven’t I folks so I stop dead and get out me compass to follow a bearing.
It’s about here that Reidy Boy falls over about five minutes earlier and hurts his thigh. He was donning a thermal, managed to get two arms jammed into one sleeve, lost his balance and had nothing to break his fall on the rocks. I can imagine Kenneth Williams or Sid James doing just that if they’d ever made Carry on up the Hillside or the like.
A group of three pass by, the leader running with a degree of confidence but not by the degree on my compass, says I to meself, heh, heh. They go this way and I go that way and I can see the guy at the back having to make a decision of who he’s going to follow into the murk to Bowfell. Been there before, my friend, and it’s not always a case of safety in numbers, sometimes you’ve got to back yourself. Ten minutes later I pick up the walker’s trod and some runners who had been ahead and, in case you’re wondering, the gang of three were at the back of the group. So he did know his way, but so did I.
Tiptoeing like Bambi down off Bowfell, it’s not a day for some false courage, it all seems very slow to me. Up into The Crinkles with no particular plan of a line in mind I end up in that halfway house funnel that I’ve been in before. For all the talk of the different lines to take on these, whichever way you take will get you to Long Top, give or take a few minutes. Cautiously down the Bad Step and then a bit of visibility on the run down to Blisco. I jump off the path to cut the long corner taking a few runners with me and then fall over for about the sixth time in this race. Just not got it together for this one peeps; except this one is a full on armless swallow dive in the style of Tom Daley. I even have time to think that unless God is a catholic today then I am going to lose several teeth and maybe a nose when my face lands. Rocks peek through the grass so am I going to stay lucky. Well, I’ve still got all my teeth but I do have a red nose and a mouthful of grass and the runner behind shouts something witty. It’s partly what attracts me to this sport, the lack of support and empathy from most other runners; it genuinely irks me when some are being too fussy over you for whatever reason. Up Blisco, still with a bit of gas in my legs and now the day has turned warm, too warm for my helly; no, don’t follow those lads as we come off the top, it’s too far left, keep to the bit you know. I spot Chris R taking his own line down through some crags, it’s bound to be good but he’s just too far ahead and he’ll have disappeared out of view if I start following him. Anyhow, I don’t see him again till he comes in minutes after I finish; his sore leg getting the better of him – hope it’s better for the Relays next week Chris.
It’s been a good one, a bit of everything; fast, slow, nav, falls, trips, grass in mouth, pain killers. Roger Bell, the RO, and his merry band deserve a mention, great sense of humour and great generosity; thanks guys.
So how, did Bowland do, well; Richard comes in 6th – yes – 6th. He says it humbly enough when I ask him but Helen says he’ll be full of it when he gets home. His mate who isn’t in a club, sorry, forgot your name, but suddenly it becomes important that you join ours, does very well. The mercurial Huw has a stormer, now why can’t you do that all the time Huw. Moo was in the pack also. Chris B and Leigh do themselves proud at this latter end of the season. Mark, despite his meanderings in the clag, gives another glimpse of his fine form and we all know there is a lot more to come from him, except him. He’s much too humble about himself and he’s more surprised than anyone about his placings – start believing it Mark.
Loads of the GandO mob collect prizes including 3rd Team – an excellent showing lads, oh, and lass, sorry Moo.
BTW Daz F was there and gingerly nursing an injury. A new word has been coined for him; fishwick-ing. Don’t think you’ll be doing any of that this weekend, Daz, but let us know if you do.
So it’s the third report in the “Old Dog” saga at the X3 Peaks Cx and I’d say this time that the big slot machine of my sporting life, the one I have invested in like some sad addicted gambler has finally, yes finally, coughed up a result I was happy with….at least for now anyway
As usual there are four main ingredients to cooking up either a successful or alternatively disastrous Peaks race…
So plenty of road miles are a must, goes without saying, it’s a bike race after all isn’t it…well no not really, it’s a fell race with a bike, if truth be known. With this in mind I’d started the reps on Parlick and other similar steep hills about mid-July. It’s tricky to balance the training for fell racing, road bike racing, TT’s, triathlon (new bone to chew on) and the x3 Peaks Cx but my calendar is pretty set now and I know that the more fell reps I do the better, but it’s never enough!
Feeling pretty sorted now after the last few year’s mishaps. Spare bike – check, spare cleats – check, spare wheels – check…spare legs – ah well can’t have everything. Yet again the self-sealing inner tubes have proven to be a winner these last two years, heavy admittedly but they work! Still think the rather heavy orange survival bag could do with trimming a bit more to size though, I could always claim a morbid fear of suffocation hence that’s why it only comes up to my knees.
Only did the one recce and as prevailing weather conditions were favourably dry the alternative route to the left of the stone slabs on Whernside wasn’t required and I just bumped my way down the long flight of steps instead.
Unquestionably the key to this year’s objective being achieved and sitting comfortably (a whole 90 seconds of slack!) on the right side of a perfectly planned and executed race as opposed to a gut wrenching near miss. The plan was:
- Cold Cotes – bottle and gel (Sarah and Gulliver)
- Hill Inn and Whernside Descent – Bottle, gels and bar (Kev + spare wheels)
- Ribblehead – spare bike, bottle and gels (Steve H)
- Hull Pot – Kev + spare wheels
- Finish – Steve H shouting like a mad man to get me over the line!
I may need to investigate the merits of having the Ribblehead spare bike set-up with 25mm road tyres for the road section down to Houghton and having the carbon Cx bike given a superfast mec clean and bundled into a car for a pick-up for the trip up and down Penyghent, we’ll have to see…
I slept, well pretty much, you never get a brilliant night’s sleep before a big event, those sheep I’d been counting had that mad demonic stare about them, you know the one. After sorting kit, chatting with Steve who was on his 2nd Peaks having been a survivor of 2012 I wandered out for a warm up. It was great to bump into so many people who had all come out to soak up the x3 Peaks atmosphere and support its competitors. Johnny Elwell old skiing and mountaineering partner of many adventures winter climbing in Scotland was out marshalling in the hope of getting a place next year, Graeme Scott, ski mountaineering buddy and veteran of the bike trip training weeks in the Canary Islands had come up from Nottingham last minute to support a mate, Adrian “Sticky” Dalgleish the Lune RCC “grand fromage” of the x3 Peaks passed on a few words of wisdom, plus many more faces from the past. The Peaks draws a wide range of people from the outdoor world all eager for this unique race, the hardest Cx race in the world…
I chatted with Rob Hope as we warmed up down the road beyond the start line looking to slot ourselves in from the front when the time came to get a front row position. We discussed the last few year’s races, the madness of the start, goals for this year, which weren’t too dissimilar in that we just wanted a clear race without mayhem, chaos storm and pestilence getting in the way. Rob would eventually finish 16th overall and 7th V40 a great result in an increasingly competitive field as the race becomes more oversubscribed and selective each year.
This year’s start was seeded and the top 40 riders were called forward and the rest of the hounds were kept back behind a rope. Then the count down 10, 9, 8…3, 2, 1 GO! The sound of 550 cleats engaging the pedals is quite something. The lead car actually did semi-neutralise the first few miles but I’m not sure it succeeded in making it safer as more riders fanned out across the whole road and the lead peleton was still 300 strong after 2 miles as opposed to the usual 100 with me somewhere near the back blowing out of every orifice. There was a shout behind me just before Houghton and an all might crash as riders went down, lucky I was just ahead of it.
We exited the road section and the lead car managed to wedge itself in the lane as we left the road causing a bit of bottleneck. I eased back a bit as we approached the fields finding my own rhythm and riding as much if not more than most to avoid the mount / dismount as my flying mount is less cowboy leaping into the saddle nowadays and more pensioner getting on a bus!
Eventually Simons Fell came into view and I took a moment to actually look at it and I have to say it looked bloody steep and longer than I had remembered. I shouted to a group carrying, “rider coming through” as I approached the foot of the climb and one of the Horwich lads quipped “you intending riding it then” my retort was “absolutely, I’m just getting a run up” and I promptly dismounted.
The top of Ingleborough gets rocky and it’s nearly an hour in so you start to feel it a bit as you approach the summit, I put a gel down and had a good go at emptying my bottle as there’s no chance on the descent to do anything but try and stay upright.
My summit split was a couple of minutes behind last year but with the neutralised start and no howling tail wind about the same effort I’d say. I had a good line off the summit plateau to the running descent and I gained a few places back then worked steadily at the descent to take a minute or so off last year’s descent time with no crashes this time. I managed to miss Sarah and Gulliver at the checkpoint with the bottle and gel but pressed on as I knew kev would be waiting at the Hill Inn.
The road section was the usual con-trick of getting a group formed up and working together then slipping discretely to the back. The first tweeks of cramp had started in the calves and a bit in the quads, so early again but seemingly unavoidable as you go from ride to run to ride to run to ride and the constant road effort was just cranking up the hurt.
Kev was waiting at the Hill Inn and a good flying pick-up with bottle and gels had me refuelled and watered by the time I got to the bottom of the Whernside climb and this is a big one. By half way I’m deep in the zone and it hurts to just lift my legs let alone put any pace into it. Finally I crest the ridge and start riding again and make steady progress to the summit checkpoint. I make a tidy job of the descent not superfast, but still no falls and relatively my best descent of the day. I rode the fords and could smell the self-sealer in the inner tubes doing it’s stuff, only one in the front the post-mortem revealed, I must be getting better! It’s now on to Ribblehead and another feed pick-up.
I hurtle through the checkpoint and the crowds are amazing, so much encouragement and they’ve seen a few riders before me that’s for sure! Steve shouts to check I’m not on a bike change and stuffs gels into my pockets as I pick up the bottle. It’s all superefficient as I barely miss a pedal stroke and push on down the road with renewed vigour.
The support is important in so many ways, not just the physical re-fuelling and confidence of having bikes and wheels to get you through the misadventures that the Peaks can throw at you. It’s the feeling of being part of something beyond just your own little world of pain. Your mates investing time in your humble goals and objectives, willing you on with a genuine passion. That said the cramp in my claves and quads is now biting hard and I get a nasty twinge between my groin and hip-flexer which is about as nasty a spot as you can imagine to get cramp!
I’m tapping along the road now with fellow sufferers and you can tell we’re all in the same boat. I enquire of the lad I’ve teamed up with “how’s the legs”?…”cramping bad now, you”?…”same, let’s just tap through steady then” and we roll on to Houghton and the final challenge of Penyghent.
I get a clear run at the lower section, we’re pretty spread out now and the leaders are only just starting to appear on the lower part of the descent. The bottom part isn’t super technical but with tired legs it requires a lot of power to keep the wheels turning. It’s tough to shut the pain out now and I’m blowing hard to get over some sections.
The climb is long and arduous but eventually I reach the upper slopes and the steady trudge up to the summit. I take the right hand line but rejoin the path a bit early. So I run a short rocky section and then dive off down the steep slope bike on shoulder as last year and I think it gains a few places. The re-mount isn’t easy on the steep downhill slope but eventually I’m off again hurtling down the path doing my best to bunny hop the drainage ditches. Kev shouts the time at Hull Pot and I know it’s close…but how close? I try to let it go and keep off the breaks…
The descent is fast and hairy and some are less fortunate, encountering a few minor mechanicals as they throw themselves down the hill…
Finally I rattle my way onto the road and settle into the final TT push for home. I’m guessing it’s close but my attempts to squeeze out more speed meet with some sharp twinges of cramp. One lad catches me up and quickly moves in front, then suddenly he’s sitting up clutching his leg, at bit too aggressive perhaps. I move ahead and he slips off the back as I catch another fellow sufferer. I ease past and pull it along for a while, he sits on and then eventually comes past saying he’s cramping but will have a go, “good man”, it doesn’t last long and I take over again to lead us into the finish with a final out of the saddle sprint as Steve screams at me “30 seconds” I know exactly what he means and I give it everything. I fly at the dibber marshall who’s also shouting me to “come on”. I collapse over the bars, the dibber is cut off my wrist and I wait numb to everything as the printer spits out my printout…3:58:30, I’d done it, just!
The feeling at that moment was immense, I staggered round to see Steve who had by that time worked out that his watch was a minute fast hence the panic, I had a whole extra 60 seconds to play with, loads of time!
The final position was 166th well down on last year but most importantly 7 minutes faster and under the 4hr barrier for a First Class time. In the old man competition I was 12th so just outside the target of top 10, I would have needed to find 6mins 30secs this year for that position so very achievable next year.
So in summary:
- Am I pleased…yes!
- Did the plan work…yes!
- Do “The Crew” deserve my heartfelt thanks and praise…yes!
- Is the Old Dog going to let go of the bone…Grrrr
By Saira Kenwei Is-Haq
I met Declan the other month as I wandered solo around Pendle, he asked why I was walking and told me to get myself up the hill running, in my answer I explained I was injured and began to tell him this story, albeit not as detailed.
“You should share that with others, write a blog” he blurted.
I walked away wondering what joy people would get from my unfortunate series of events of late, but after more encouragement from Graham here’s my story and a bit more, I can clearly say I’ve exceeded any kind of possible word count there is, so be prepared for a long read.
I started fell running on the 8th January 2013, aged 31. ‘Fell running’ was a concept I wasn’t quite sure of – older farming men, short shorts, thin, thinner than thin perhaps, older women, definitely English, perhaps a little conservative too, and blumming fit.
Some of that soon changed quickly, especially after I found out about running around a wood pretending to be bats with like minded people, it sounded like great fun.
Supported by Andy Walmsley and a charged head torch I attempted my first bat run and enjoyed it so much that I continued. Andy’s speed league had me pushing myself, and with the help of Mark and Sarah and occasionally Uncle Ee (showing me how to run the figure of 8 backwards just to confuse me), I managed to achieve a respectable time to add to the speed league.
Pam and Ruth made me feel most welcome with the regular chit chats and pub invitations whilst getting changed in the toilets.
When the summer came it was time to move over to Parlick. My first experience of Parlick was watching everyone follow Duncan like little ants on the Up Helly Aa run, which I missed because I couldn’t find Startifants Road. Nonetheless I waited and was pleasantly surprised to see the darkness of the sky and just beams of lights heading down the hill. I became a regular participant of Duncan’s different yet slightly out of the ordinary burning of The Gove and anyone else who crossed his path, and he soon had me flipping green pancakes on Paddy’s Pole in celebration of St Patrick’s Day. These were more reasons to come back weekly for the club runs all of which added to my desire to run amongst the fells of Bowland and beyond.
One evening after a run over Pendle the Ghandi men were plotting up a route to support Ian France’s BG round, both Martin Walsh and Uncle Ee had persuaded me to run the last leg with them. When the time came I thought running through to midnight would be tiring and somewhat nothing like a bat run, the mission that night was to get Ian back to Keswick Moot Hall for midnight and so I ran as hard as I could up front with Graham Lund and Will Houghton. The day after I thanked both Martin Walsh and Uncle Ee for such a wonderful event and wondered why they both didn’t have a challenge planned themselves. This thought festered and so chipping away slowly at Martin, I agreed to support him on his training if he agreed to do a Joss… he accepted and so the training began.
Using any distraction from my looming exams to become a Chartered Surveyor I continued to juggle both training for the Joss and exam revision. I started to regret the promise I had made to Martin for Joss training although it felt good to be now promoted to Leg 4 navigator and general Joss Boss and I was getting out into the big hills more regularly.
I swapped Building Regulations for maps and Ghandi men spoke to me about shortcut routes and methods in the madness of where to hide food and what to take for Martin’s Joss Challenge.
My romance of leading Martin home and taking part in such a big event had to stop as I had a pressing exam for which I had been revising for a long time and so begrudgingly I had no choice but to stay focused on this.
Living in Windermere and yet so close to the fells, I could only sacrifice the odd hour or so, Graham would often come to my rescue and take me for a quick fell run, but having spent so much time doing the bigger hills with Martin the compromise was too great.
The pressure was on… my brother and Graham could see the weeks ahead leading towards my exams and made it clear I wasn’t to waste anymore time by distracting myself with much more exciting things, this included running, so I stopped.
At the first opportunity the day before the exam I arranged to run at Fell Foot, I figured that if I didn’t know my subject areas (which was everything surveying, construction and even what underwear the interview panel had on!) by now I wasn’t going to learn it in the next 24 hours. I met Duncan and Graham at Fell Foot at 6:00pm, the short drive over there seemed long and exhausting, my brain ached, but I continued and was delighted once I started running.
The weather was warm and the sun was still out, as I reached the summit of Highway In The Sky I suddenly had the urge to pick up speed and run ahead of Graham and Duncan. It felt good, all that built up tension of books and revision was soon jumping for joy as it escaped and the sound of Duncan’s wittering was disappearing as I got further away from them, I was reunited with the fell after so long and it felt good.
I ran faster picking up more speed as the feeling and adrenalin got higher, then tripped over my own lazy tired foot, flipped 360 degrees in the air, landed on my side and rolled flat out on my back, looking up at the sun blinded.
When I saw Graham’s shadow come over the hill, I quickly came to my feet and tried to disguise my fall by continuing to walk/hobble, but they saw all the blood on my knees and arms, so I told them what had happened. I was surprised Duncan was very sympathetic towards me, I expected him to holler “ger up lass, you’ll be right, what you moaning about”. Graham took out his spare top, sat me on a rock and cleaned the blood off my knee.
I hadn’t quite realised the extent of the pain and started to walk, using Graham as my crutch, then when I arrived at the next hill, I ran up it feeling fine. I don’t need to go on about how much of a hero I was, but it wasn’t that much as I cried all the way to the hotel in Bolton that night.
I woke the next morning ready for my exam after 1 hour of sleep, I couldn’t walk and I wouldn’t be able to drive myself to the exam. My foot had swollen up, so I crawled along the floor and rang Graham, between us we made a plan.
I got changed into my suit and jacket. I only had my 2.5 inch high heels to go with the suit, my foot wouldn’t fit into them so I tried my blue and yellow Walshes, looked towards the mirror and said “Mirror mirror on the wall, they’re bound to fail me after this fall, especially if I turn up in my Walshes!”.
So with great pain I squeezed my foot into the high heels and Graham (again to my rescue) escorted me to the exam, walking me to the waiting room at the Reebok Stadium.
After an hour my family pressed me for information on how the exam went, along with the explanation, I told them about my fall and I was told to get to the hospital.
Chorley hospital had declared my ankle broken, they wanted to wrap my ankle up in plastercast and sign me off work for 6 weeks. I looked at the x-rays and could see a fracture, the bone on the side of my ankle was hanging off, I told them that I was prepared to wear a soft bandage and that’s all. I was going to Scotland the day after and I wasn’t going to knit all week.
After much debate Graham and I went to Scotland to support Chris Reade and Ed with their Charlie Ramsey as we had planned. On the way up I started knitting a Bowland wedding book for AW and Gill thinking I’d be chair bound for the week. I wore a soft bandage and didn’t put any weight on my ankle (most times), I used some crutches and rested my ankle as much as I could (so not at all really), but I was conscious that I didn’t want to lose any fitness.
I used my bike to get around Scotland, we sea kayaked several sea lochs with the crutch attached to the side of the kayak so I could still get in and out, one day we sea kayaked 13 miles, and I went swimming everyday (pretty much). With these non-ankle impact sports I managed to lose weight and maintain my general fitness which surprised me. It was still hard, the crutch became a close friend to me and gave me freedom to walk, but I wasn’t sad when I retired it.
After 4 weeks, I started to hop/run kind of thing with my crutches around Fell Foot and then week 8 I did some Ode to Duncan repping on Parlick, on week 9 Graham and I ran around saddle and I started to feel less like someone who was injured.
Sadly I couldn’t join Martin on the hill for his Joss Challenge, after all the training I had done I could only watch everyone else from afar, without Graham by my side as he helped in the support. This experience was very hard but the frustration encouraged me to aggressively build up my ankle more.
After week 11 I was ready for a bigger challenge and I came across an article on Aonach Eagach in Glencoe as if by magic. This inspired the romance of completing this hill on my next trip to Scotland for AW and Gill’s wedding.
Graham explained it was a tough hill, not beyond my capabilities and so the real test for my ankle arrived and we started to climb Aonach Eagach.
Delighted, petrified, happy and sad all in one go, I successfully completed this mountain, feeling physically strong and able, and scared, I met wild mountain goats and there were spectacular views now and again amongst the mist and rain.
After 3,838ft of climbing, Graham asked me if I wanted to run back and I couldn’t resist but to say yes. Overwhelmed with my ankle’s performance I ran back along the side of the road for about 4 miles, the ankle still intact and feeling strong. I have since had the ankle x-rayed and it has knitted back perfectly.
The next events I have planned are in April and June 2015 so I may get around to writing a blog then.
Warning, the content of this article should not be used as a way to get out of a plastercast.
Stick with your plan says Mike. I shift painfully in my seat and concur. This was my first foray for a while and the signs were encouraging.
Comical, I say to myself as I fall onto the broken wall near Blake Rigg before the hazardous descent to Blea Tarn. Embarrassing even and hard to describe. Slipping on a loose stone I’ve somehow got myself into a supplicant’s position and am unable to get myself out of it. Head on the ground and backside in the air can be upsetting for spectators in the wrong circumstances. This is two thirds the way round the route and there are runners queuing behind patiently waiting for me to extricate myself. With my nose two inches from the ground I say Go round Me. Its alight Mate, we’ll wait; says one. It seems an age before I right myself with great effort; sorry, I mumble; no problem, you okay, says the Ambleside runner.
Launching into the descent I stumble on another loose rock and twist to keep my balance; my ribs grate against each other and leave me gasping in pain. Holding my left side I gingerly make my way to the bottom and think about sacking it before the Lingmoor climb.
But Leigh Warby is there so I can’t and I automatically follow him upwards; I find there’s less jiggling ascending so less pain.
I’d stalked Leigh since Wetherlam knowing he knows every blade on this course and sure enough he took some reet good lines; lines I can’t hope to repeat even now so shortly after the event. There’s a bit of low cloud but not enough to shake me off and of course the bright orange of his vest is a tiny giveaway; discuss. Past The Stone he realises I’m stalking him and allows me to pass and of course I immediately miss the left bearing so he shouts directions from behind to get me back on course. Okay Leigh, now listen, you’re not on; me getting lost and going a’wandering is like Laurel and Hardy or gin and tonic or sausage and marmalade; they just go together – right.
Anyway, back to the chase, my clubmate is some 150 yards ahead at the summit of Lingmoor and I need to keep him in sight, mainly because I’m in danger of going wrong here too. I carry my ribs and try to run in a smoother more controlled fashion, doing just enough to keep tabs on him. Sure enough, we go into the descent perfectly. A few overtake but, happily, I’m reeling Leigh in a smidge. By the time of the second kissing gate I’m right behind him, a look of surprise crosses his brow. Memories of past eyeballs out finishes between us flicker across my mind, and his. He lets me lead across the field; you’re a natural he yells before we hit the road finish, I turn around to look and he comes storming past to take the honours. Heh, heh, nice one Leigh, a finish with a certain karma.
What else happens; loads of people get lost at the danger points of Great Carrs, Blisco and Lingmoor in spite of the good weather. I see quite a few doing a Duncan E and ending up coming down the road from the wrong direction; Jules from Lonsdale being one.
Mark Chip just pips Mike J who just edges Mark I who has a belter. Chris B is not too far off that bunch either. Huw states he has the best round on this, his bogey race, that he’s ever had. Daz F’s good form is now a given and he outdoes all the Bowlanders. Mick Green of Horwich pulls out within 10 minutes due to some indefinable affliction, poor blighter.
The ever humble and all round top bloke Rhys Findlay-Robinson wins by a distance; well done Rhys.
And well done Selwyn, great as always – organised and compered with care and class.
Two pasties and two cups of tea, don’t tell Selwyn, and a hobble back to the car and a vibrant discussion with Mike on training by heart rate round off a return to the arena.
22nd August – 25th August 2014
I have been asked to write a report on my challenge to run along the traditional ‘Wainwright’ route, from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hoods Bay in North Yorkshire. This is a part way marked route of 192 miles (309 Km) that is normally walked in 10 to 14 days. I decided that in order to run the route, in my target of 4 days, it would mean I had to achieve 4 consecutive Ultra Marathons of between 46 and 50 miles per day.
Why would I want to do this? I have done a number of challenges, in the past, including the ultimate for many fell runners, The Bob Graham Round (this is 42 named peaks in the Lake District in 24 hours). On completion of that challenge I was asked, “What next”? I had no idea at that time, but I knew that the next one I did would be for charity. I, therefore, decided to divide the sponsorship money between two local charities that I have previously supported – The North West Air Ambulance and the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team.
I like to do my homework before a challenge, so back in January I bought the Harvey’s maps of the route (West – St Bees to Keld and East – Keld to Robin Hood’s Bay). I have also read a number of reports/blogs and photo diaries on the web, I read Matt Beardshall’s ‘Coast to Coast, A Life on the Run’, book and studied Julia Bradbury’s Coast to Coast DVD’s. During the week before my challenge I checked the Wainwright society website http://www.wainwright.org.uk/ where I learned that there were 2 diversions in place that that would add approx a mile each to my route (making it 194 miles or 312 Km).
The weather forecast was changeable during the week before and looked to remain the same for the following week!
Thursday 21st August – Gosforth
Today was simply a matter of getting to Cumbria without the car. Two trains and I was at Seascale railway station being picked up by friends, Ben and Amy, who then took me to their house in Gosforth. The plan was to eat with them and get a lift to the start in St Bees in the morning, but it turned out far better than that. Amy’s parents came over with family friends and we had a good old chat. Soon after they left we went to the local pub, The Lion and Lamb, for a few games of Pool and a couple of beers. I am not sure what the locals thought of me in my running gear (I had to travel in the kit I was going to run in the following day)! Then Danielle (Garstang Running Club) and Toby came over and joined us for more Pool and then back to Ben and Amy’s for a lovely meal. All too soon it was time to break up the party and settle down for the night and, surprisingly, I fell asleep easily!
Friday 22nd August – St Bees to Patterdale
After a quick breakfast, Ben and Amy drove me to the beach at St Bees for the start. There are 2 traditions associated with the C2C: one is to select a pebble and carry it to the sea in RHB and the other is dipping your toes in the sea before you begin. So, these done, we had a few photos and I set off at 08:10am (a few minutes later than planned but it didn’t really matter)! The odd thing about this West to East route is the fact that you start off by running further West around St Bees Head. This is a lovely part of the run and I was cheered along by seabirds and sheep (just me and nature, life doesn’t get better…..)! After the lighthouse the route turns inland and we say goodbye to the coast.
It wasn’t long before I was running into the village of Cleator (33 minutes ahead of my schedule) which is where I had to make the first diversion. (The normal route was out of action for some water pipe work). My route took a different bridge and re-joined the main route at ‘Black How’.
The first notable hill on the route is Dent; from here you can see Black Coombe and Sellafield to the south, the coast to the West and Scotland to the North. At the summit of Dent there was a cairn that had an England flag on it. I asked a couple of other runners if they would take my photo here (new Facebook profile pic)! The weather at this point was already starting to get a bit warm for me!
Now it was a fast run down to the hidden gem, ‘Nannycatch’, a small valley that takes you towards Ennerdale Bridge. This time I made no mistakes and quickly made it to the road, down to the village and onwards to Ennerdale Water itself. The shoreline is a mix of scrambles over rocky outcrops and tree roots that destroy any notion of fast and efficient movement. Heading down the shoreline deeper into Ennerdale you can nearly always see the vast shadow of Pillar looming (far left of the picture below).
The value of my reccie came into play as I reached the end of the lake and this time I got it right! I cut left on the track and crossed the river Liza just before the Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre. Then a long and boring section through the forest trail to the Black Sail hut, straight onto, what Julia Bradbury states on her DVD, “is arguably the steepest ¼ mile on the whole crossing”. As I looked up from near the bottom of the climb, I saw a silhouette of what could have been Ian France (Bowland Fellrunners), who was running in from the Honister Slate Mines with some food and drink supplies, but when I reached the top he was nowhere to be seen… I settled down to finish what drink I had, and wait to see if the person I had noticed returned. Sure enough, after a minute or two, Ian came back from the crag opposite, explaining that he had seen this figure below but dismissed it as a much younger man (cheeky) so went to see if he could see me coming down the valley. Apparently, he mistook my buff for a full head of dark hair, plus the fact that I was over an hour early (you’re forgiven Ian)! After taking on the new stock of fluid, and eating the pasta pot he had brought, we ran off under Grey Knotts to Honister and without stopping we continued through to Seatoller and Rosthwaite, where my wife (Sue) and kids (Harry and Jodie) were waiting at the Scafell Hotel. This was a proper refuel stop and an opportunity to get rid of surplus stuff. Sue had a brew ready and Harry refilled my bottles. Ian decided to run a bit further then return to his car later. Just beyond Stonethwaite Ian turned and made his way back to his car. I continued up Greenup Edge to Flour Gill and down Far Easedale Gill to meet Sue again in the layby on the A591 just north of Grasmere. Another quick drink and a couple of sandwiches, then I was away on the last leg for the day (I really enjoyed the reccie of this section a couple of months ago). This time though it was quite different! It is a bit of a slog up Tongue Gill to Grisedale Tarn but the run down the other side was both fast and technical (rough). I was also to be a little slower due to a massive downpour of rain just after the tarn around Ruthwaite Lodge and it lasted until just before the road at Patterdale where Sue was waiting for me in the car park.
I stopped the clock at 19:28 having completed day one in 11 hours 18 mins (19 mins inside my estimate for the day).
The first night was spent at the excellent Greenbank Farm B&B, Patterdale (Tel 01768 482292).
Just as we reached the B&B, friends Gabby and Mark were just arriving, they would be my extra support through day 2 and half of day 3. After a shower and some stretching I emerged ready for tea which was at the White Lion just down the road in Patterdale.
Saturday 23rd August – Patterdale to Keld
At breakfast, I was asked was asked about my run by the couple on the next table. They were also doing the Wainwright Coast to Coast at a much more reasonable pace (11 days). After discussing my run and reasons for it, they very kindly gave me a £10 donation. Sue dropped me back off where I finished the night before, in the car park at the Patterdale Hotel. The start this morning was bang on schedule 08.00.
This section is a great one. After the initial climb you are rewarded with stunning views across Angle Tarn. Continuing along the path past Satura Crag (and the herd of Red Deer), past The Knott onto the highest point of the C2C, Kidsty Pike (below).
Again, the weather was being kind. I now had a hot and sticky run down to the shore of Haweswater and onwards to Burnbanks. I stopped for a quick Coke at Tim’s honesty box at Naddle Bridge. Before very long I was running along the main road in Shap to meet up with Sue, the Kids, Gabby, Mark, Paul from work, and his wife Kirsty. A fairly quick pit stop and top up then on to Orton. This was reccied as part of the recent “3 Rings of Shap” race (62 mile LDWA event held a few weeks earlier) so navigation was very easy. I was 40 minutes up at the next refuel stop on the car park and caught the support crew unawares. Next stop was Kirkby Stephen, via Smardale Bridge. Here we had a very short but hard hail storm and a bit later I made a small navigational error, coming off the fell into the small hamlet of Smardale. I had two choices here, either return to the path and take the correct route back off the fell or detour a bit round the road. I decided the road would be better as if the path was easy to see, I would have already seen it! I was soon on track (or rather under it) as the path goes under the railway on its way to Kirkby Stephen. On arrival, I was met by the parrots making a right racket on the main street! I made it to the car park just ahead of schedule. Again, the same old routine was followed eat, drink, bottles filled and then on my way. This next section was to be the longest of the day taking me over Nine Standards Rigg and on to Keld (the halfway point).
Looking at the map there are a number of seasonal variations to the route across from the Nine Standards to Keld (this is to minimise erosion of the peat bog and ground nesting birds). The next couple of hours were pure hell. You would have thought training on the Bowland fells would have prepared me for this, but no, there was deep black bog, thigh deep sphagnum moss and ankle breaking tussock grass. Somewhere in there, I also managed to get bitten three times on the right leg, just above the ankle (more of that later)! Eventually, after running, wading and struggling for what seemed like eternity I reached the North – South valley of Whitsundale Beck. I thought it would be a short hop and I would be at the road, but I must have been further north than I thought so I pressed on because it would be dark soon. Eventually the path got better and I arrived at the Ravenseat café. Time was ticking by so I picked up speed when I hit the road to Keld and I arrived at the campsite bang on schedule at 20:22 (12 hours 22 mins). Sue and Gabby were waiting with a bit of a surprise for me here as, despite me booking in to the campsite months ago, my support team had moved me to the Rukin’s Campsite further down the road (the first site was full but The Rukin’s site could accommodate the camper and better still, the owners had given me permission to camp for free due to the charitable nature of my visit). Sue and the kids returned home after I had had my shower and left me to dine on Pasta alla Gabby and beers provided by Mark. Cheers guys!
Sunday 24th August – Keld to Osmotherley
After breakfast I walked back to where I had finished the night before with Mark and Tully the dog. We started the clock at 08.04 then walked all the way back to the overnight campsite and I said farewell until Reeth. Soon I was running along the River Swale and climbing into the disused Lead mines that this area is famous for; then past Crackpot Hall into Swinner Gill (a spectacular gully carved out by a small tributary to the Swale and of course the mining industry). Several relics of this bygone age are scattered around, bits of old tractor and winch machinery as well as the smelting mills. The climb out of Swinner Gill takes you to a plateau and across to an easy to miss path down to High Gorton. I crossed the river and climbed the other side behind the ruins to a signpost that pointed up a narrow gully call Bunton Hush. This short section was like climbing a sand dune, my new trail shoes struggling to find any grip.
After reaching the top I had a quick confidence check on the compass and then found the track taking me all the way across this desolate lunar landscape to Surrender Bridge. After crossing the road at the bridge there was a marked change in the landscape; now we had grass – ah bliss! Before long, I was dropping off the hillside into Reeth. It was about here that I started noticing pain in my right shin area – it was inflamed and swollen. I couldn’t recall hurting it, so got Gabby to have a quick look. There were three small bite marks and I thought maybe I had picked up some sort of infection in the bog the night before. On the upside, however, Gabby and Mark gave me another donation of £20 from the campers in the van next to them at Keld!
Next stop would be the largest town on the Coast to Coast, Richmond, but before then there was Marrick, with its Priory, Marske with its Hall and miles of the River Swale to enjoy. With the sun out again it would be a great day to take it easy and enjoy the area. It was too hot for me though! Richmond would be the last food stop for Gabby and Mark and time for the baton (food bag and camping gear) to be passed to my Dad and his partner, Carole. I didn’t spend long here, just time to fill the bottles and down a few egg sandwiches. Thanks Gabby! Keen to get cracking, I thanked the crew and disappeared out of the car park the way I had come in. Down to the river and away towards Catterick Bridge and the second formal detour. My route was to take me over the A1 re-joining the path by the Swale just next to the racecourse. This was the last time I would see the Swale as from here we were into farms and roads, loads of them….
At Bolton on Swale (no, you can’t see the river), I could see another figure with my Dad. I was surprised to see that Mick Cottam (Garstang Running Club’s ‘long distance specialist’) was joining me already. Mick had run from the campsite at Osmotherley, about 18 miles away, only to turn around and then run back with me. He could have gone further but decided that as there were a number of possible route choices he would stay put! It was just another short stop as my clock was ticking. Farm, fields filled with wheat and corn and roads were to make up pretty much the rest of the day except for another short stop in Danby Wiske (2 minutes up on schedule).
After this quick stop, where despite my best efforts, I could not eat the pasta pot, we had to endure more roads and even more field edges. I just wanted the day to end, I wasn’t tired, just bored! Eventually we had a bit of potential excitement as we had to cross the infamous A19 at Ingleby Arncliffe and then into Ingleby Cross. After crossing another main road, the A172, we climbed through the woods to join the Cleveland Way. We stopped the clock at 19:40 (11 hours 36 mins) (39 mins inside the day’s schedule).
From there we walked to the Cote Ghyll campsite. My Dad had booked us in and advised us that the Youth Hostel café would be closing soon so I had better get a very quick shower. Then off to get some much needed food, a big plate of Lasagne and chips (although it was a step too far with the chips)! There then followed a really poor night’s sleep due to the sound of the river just outside the tent and my ankle was really painful as the swelling appeared to be restricting movement now.
Monday 25th August – Osmotherley to Robin Hood’s Bay
Just 47 miles left to go! No serious injuries and no dramas so far, but, no adventure is complete unless there is a drama! Oh, wait a minute, where are my running shoes? DRAMA! I had quickly put them in the back of my Dad’s car while I ran off to the shower the previous evening. I had got no signal at the tent so had to climb up the hill towards the main road. Eventually there was a signal, I made the call, no answer, and so I left a text. Then it felt like a long and agonising wait (although only actually about 2 or 3 minutes) before he responded. Brilliant, we were back on! Time to get breakfast sorted and the tents stowed in Mick’s car for picking up later. Dad arrived at 7.20am so we had an extra few minutes to make sure that any kit needed for the end of the journey was packed with him. This left us a few minutes more to get back to the day’s start point. We arrived at 07.45 so set off early. This first section was 9 miles and followed the Cleveland Way, the majority of which was purple heather covered ridge running. Again the sun was out but it was a bit breezy on the tops. After one short sharp descent to Lord Stones Mick and I could smell bacon! That was it, a few minutes were spent here downing a bacon barm and a cup of tea which gave us a boost! It wasn’t far now to Clay Bank and the first planned stop of the day (a couple of minutes down on the schedule). Again, Dad and Carole sorted the provisions and we were soon on our way. Another climb away from the road and up onto the moors. This section was the longest one on the whole route at 18 miles. Most of the route is good gravel and looks like a disused railway line sitting about 15 feet above the moorland. The path contours around numerous gullies carved out by streams and eventually there is a short narrow path that takes you to the Lion Inn (often used by Coast to Coasters for accommodation); we just grabbed a glass of lemonade and carried on round Rosedale Head onto Glaisedale Moor and into Glaisedale itself. My Dad and Carole had been for a brew at the Glaisedale Tea Garden and, on saying what they were doing; the owners then gave them a donation of £5.00. Next was quite a short section to Grosmont (famous for the steam engines and railway station used in ‘Heartbeat’). As we ran along the road we could hear a steam engine and wondered if we would be held up. Just around the corner we got the answer as the level crossing barrier was down.
Just through the crossing we came to another steep road climb and the last pit stop. Bottles filled etc. we set off for the last leg of 15 miles. Again, it was a steady climb up the road and the wind was blowing against us. I thought I felt a few spots of rain but it didn’t amount to anything. I really had the desire to complete the run inside 48 hours but felt sure that the pace needed picking up to be certain. I had been running a bit then walking a bit for ages and felt sure I wouldn’t make it. Mick kept telling me not to worry about the time as it was an achievement to complete it in 4 days. After an age on roads and frequent sightings of the sea and Whitby Abbey, it now started to feel close. Then Mr Wainwright decided he hadn’t had enough and we turned South at Littlebeck and headed down to the Falling Foss Waterfalls and other off-the-beaten track beauty spots. More farm land and moorland and then we approached Hawkser. At this point Whitby stops being the centre of attention and we head straight for the coast down past the caravan sites to the coastal path. 3 Miles to go and soon we can see the inlet of Robin Hood’s Bay. I put the map away at this point as all we had to do now was keep the sea on our left. If you have ever been to Robin Hood’s Bay you will know that it lies at the bottom of a very narrow and STEEP road. This hurts… a lot! Anyway, Mick backs off a bit and allows me to run straight into the sea which is the 1st tradition at the end of a C2C! Dad and Carole and few total strangers cheered and applauded me in. I am sure a few folk wondered why this guy had just run straight into the sea and didn’t want to get out! It felt sooo good, my feet loved it….. !!
The clock was stopped at 19:34 (11 minutes up on schedule; but because I started 15 minutes early the net result was 4 minutes down).
I still had the 2nd tradition to take care of so I dug the small pebble from St Bees out of my pocket and threw it into the surf.
My Dad then went and got the car to save us from the climb back out of the village and took us straight to the pub on the edge of town where I had a pint of ….’Wainwright’ (what else)?
After collating all my times for the 4 days, I had completed the 194 mile crossing in 47 hours and 5 minutes (including the 2 miles of diversions). I am happy with that!!
Clearly with any adventure or challenge there are many people that need to be thanked:
- Ben Seed and Amy Fisher
- Ian France
- Sue, Harry and Jodie
- Gabby, Mark and Tully
- Dad and Carole
- Mick Cottam
- Paul and Kirsty Yates for coming out to support
- Ahmed Rawat and Neil Dutton (Sponsorship coordinators)
- Greenbank Farm B&B (Patterdale)
- The couple at breakfast at B&B (Donation)
- Rukin’s Campsite in Keld (Free camping)
- The campers in the next van on the Rukin’s site (Donation)
- Cote Ghyll Campsite (Osmotherley)
- The owners of Glaisedale Tea Gardens (Donation)
- All my friends, family and colleagues that have sponsored me