Saturday, 29 June 2013

Foel Fras Fell race 2013

Not done this one before.
Not only that, but I've never run a race in Wales before. When the Glossopdale Championships included this one on the list, I was intrigued and excited to get my teeth into it.
The marauding 'dalers. 

2 problems. The first was that it clashed with the newly created Daz H memorial race (the old Buttermere horseshoe), and the second being that there is precious little information about the race online.
Up to the beginning of the week I wasn't sure which one I was going to do. However, as the Daz H race was pre-entry only, so that fixed in my mind that I was doing Foel Fras.
I then had to find out about the route. A bit of pre-race knowledge is always good, and luckily there was an old Strava course which gave me a decent idea of where we were going to run.

In the end there were only 7 Glossopdalers racing, amongst a field of about 60 or so.
After registering, and having a sneaky look at the final descent - I really didn't want to come hammering down that into the unknown, we all lined up outside the cafe, and were counted, one by one to the actual bit where we were going to start - just to ensure the race organisers knew how many people were actually starting.
Glossopdale HQ. Johns car.

The day was pretty warm, so for the first time this year I was in just a vest, no arm warmers, no waterproof,
and it had been quite hot and oppressive when I was checking out the final part of the route, not 10 mins before. My number was pinned on my vest... what if I needed to take it off mid route? A very fast start line re-pinning of the number to my shorts commenced, and was completed with just a moment to compose myself before the hooter went and we set off up the road.

From the start, the race climbs. It doesn't actually stop climbing until you pretty much reach the top of Foel Fras. Thats about 10k of continuous up-ness in varying degrees of steepness and on different types of terrain. The guys at the front zoomed off, and I found myself mid pack as we ran up the first 500m of road. Not to worry. This climb will go on for the next hour or so. I'm certainly not as fast as the guy on the front, so the key is not to blow up, just keep a steady pace and see how we go. If I'm right then I'll start scooching through the field after a bit of time.

Along the first stretch of road I overtook a fair few, wishing Chris good luck as I edged past him, and before long I could see only about 10 people in front of me. The road wound around and about, and I happened to see a gate with the words "No Sheep" on it, and reflected whether it was a request, a command, a question, or just the name of a house.
One of those things.

Up the road, and it starts to get steeper. The guys in front show no sign of letting up or stopping, so there is nothing for it but to just keep on plugging.
Steeper still and a couple of guys start walking. I manage to keep running and overtake without going into the red zone, so I'm a little further up the field.

On the way up the climb I was joined by another runner from Buckley and we ran with each other, pace for pace up the hill. I didn't stop. He didn't stop. Runner by runner we caught up and passed everyone except for the top 2 or 3, and the vista opened up above us, showing us just how far we had to go before we got to the top of the hill. It looked like a long way, the clouds were high above the summit, and the view up and over Snowdonia promised to be amazing when we reached the top.

The Buckley guy and I paced each other to the first checkpoint, sometimes he was in front, sometimes I was, and about 100m in front of us was the tantilising shape of the next runner. I stopped for a gulp of water at the checkpoint, and then ran on, away from the solid path that we had been following to that point, and onto the somewhat more boggy ground, and the climb up toward the top.
I was feeling pretty shot by this point, just about keeping myself below the red "blowing up" line, and somehow managing to run every step of the way. I kept telling myself that if I was at this end of the race then I had better well keep running for as long as I possibly could.

There was an awful lot of Jens Voight-esque "shut up legs" conversation going on between my head and my legs.
And then the Buckley runner says "we can catch that guy up there, c'mon".
Oh man.
He started pulling away from me. We can't have that, can we?

So I dug deep, and carried on with him, surprising myself by managing not just to keep up, but also to drop him a little as we reached the crest of the hill. The distance to the runner in front had diminished, but we had not caught him. But the Buckley runner had caught me up again, and he led me over the top of Foel Fras, onto the hard, sharp stones of the tops.
He began to pull out in front of me on the lead down and back up to the next summit, but again, I'd only stopped to walk a couple of times on the climb, and I'd be damned if I was going to let him get away on a downhill section, and then a little climb back up to Garnedd Uchaf. I tailed him, step for step over the varying terrain, and again, we were closing in on that runner, but it still was not to be.

He topped Garnedd Uchaf first, eschewing the water proffered by the marshal, I was only about 5 metres behind him, but grabbed a quick glug, realising that he wasn't going to gain any real time, and I would gain a little from the water. Dashing after him, he hadn't made more than another 3 metres on me, so bang, straight on his tail.
All credit to him, I reckon he must have run the race before as he had some pretty nifty lines across the horrendous, potential ankle twisting rock sections that peppered the course from there down to Bera Bach and Drosgl.
The result of going in a bog
On the way down I managed to clip my big toe on a rock, (and later found that it had blistered quite marvellously - whether from the initial impact, or from consistent rubbing afterward, I don't know), and later on did a fabulously exciting face first dash into a bog, which lost me a little time. As I rolled up and carried on there was another runner bearing down on us. Not so good. Still, this was still a good battle, especially as the Buckley runner subsequently did the same bog tumbling act as me, going down just in front of me, so I had to skirt around him.

Over to Drosgl, and the other runner overtook us, wearing quite remarkably clean Salomon shoes. I have to applaud him for keeping brand new shoes as clean as Boxfresh even half way through a race. Astonishing. At this point I made a slight error. I thought that Drosgl was the final hill, I thought that we had gone over Moel Wnion and this was the final descent, so I stretched it out a bit and tried to get a little distance over the Buckley guy, maybe even catch the one that had just so recently overtaken us.
But up ahead, I could see another runner going toward another hill, another down and up, and I had just been really giving it some speed for the past minute or so.

Damn. Have I lit the powder too early? Are my legs, knackered from all that running up hill, and then across rocks and bog going to cope with this final uphill... and then, more importantly, are they going to support me going downhill after that? This could be a problem.

Following the guy that recently overtook me, we go down into the col, and then hit the tussocky nightmare that is the climb up to Moel Wnion. I congratulate myself on the fact that we must be way ahead of the
Buckley guy by now.
But no.

I glance to the left, and he has taken a different line. A faster line by all appearances, and is actually in front
of me going up the hill. Time to really knuckle down, ignore the legs, ignore the lungs and keep the feet moving. Alternately walking and "running" up the hill, keeping in touch with the Salomon guy, and just managing to pip the Buckley runner at the post to the top, I could taste metal in my mouth and saw spots before my eyes. Again, a chance to grab a sip of water before nodding to the marshals that I am indeed ok, and off down the hill.
This is the final downhill, and marked by bright florescent markers.

Normally a strong point of a race for me, my legs were getting harder and harder to move. The Buckley guy was breathing down my neck, so it was a case of really trying to stretch out and gain some space. The ground was ok underfoot, and then turned into a nightmare of bilberry bushes and tussocky ground. Legs had to be lifted high, which increased fatigue on lifting muscles, and also on shock absorbing ones as they came down.
That faint diagonal line. Thats the last downhill, that is.
I fell once. twice? I have no idea, but just carried on going, hoping I had gained time on the Buckley guy. Coming down to the rather complex sheep fold that marked the beginning of the end I could feel my speed being sapped. Legs were going slower and the finish couldn't come soon enough. A glance to the left.

AGH. He's got a better line than me AGAIN!
Legs screaming, I attempt to hurtle down to the junction, and just make it through the gate in front of him. Psychologically important. And I can still see the Salomon guy in front, so follow his line again. I know where this is leading, and am waiting for the gate.
Again, the Buckley guy has a different line and I have to really block out what my legs and lungs are saying now, I get to the gate... but its a different one to the one I recced earlier on... I still have another couple of fields to go before the final descent.

Me coming down that last bit
I've been going as hard as I can while retaining some sense of not completely destroying myself for this last section, but I hadn't anticipated it being this long. I need to hold on for another 100m or so of up, and flat before the dash downhill.
Managing it, breath ragged in my throat and thighs burning I crash down through bracken along the line that I now know. All thoughts of catching the runner in front gone, just holding on to the place that I have.
Down, through the gate, a right turn and pound down the path.
Lynne is shouting encouragement to me and there is only 200m to go. Run past her, to the gate, a left turn and a sprint for the line before I collapse, exhausted on the tarmac.

At this point I have no idea if I came 4th or 5th, or even 6th. I'll shoot for 5th until the actual results come out, though Lynne thinks I was 4th. I came in at 1:55:something, which for a first go, with no recce is pretty damn good.
Lins Looking strong at the end. 
15 mins off the guy who came first, so there is still a bit of work to do. I certainly didn't descend as well as I hoped I would after all that ascent in my legs, and I really didn't have any ability to accelerate up the climbs either.
So work to do.

Caity was First Lady, congrats indeed to her. Chris was second Glossop behind me, and Rich White,
Charlie, John S and Lindsay made up the rest of the maurauding 'dalers in Wales.
A cuppa tea and a trophy for Caity. 

Thanks muchly to all the marshals up in the hills, to the organisers, and to John for driving.
Got a little sunburnt, and quite hot and tired, but the food in the cafe was very restorative, and a great away day was had by all.

With any luck, this will link to my strava page for the race. 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Kinder Trog 2013

The day dawned somewhat cloudy.

Going to be one of those days.
The reason I know this was because I was just getting to bed at 4:30 after being out on the hill with Mountain Rescue, eyes heavy and fed up with contact lenses, having hung up my wet and skanky stuff, put batteries on charge and wondered if I would be racing in 6 hours time, or whether I wouldn't really be bothered.

I eventually rolled out of bed at about 8, to a big cup of coffee. Lynne was wondering if I was going to race, so was I really. But if I was up and about, it would be a shame to not run, despite the fact it was claggy, windy, wet and generally not particularly pleasant outside.
After breakfast we had a lovely chat with a couple of friends down in Australia, great to catch up with Matt and Cor who are on track to creating their own farm down in Tassie. You can read about what they're up to on their blog. Very worth reading, as another pair of people escaping the ratrace to do what they actually want to do.

Getting changed in the van
We hurried over to Hayfield, or as much hurriedness as you can muster behind tourists who insist on driving at 25mph over Chunal, and arrived to a growing hubbub of runners in the Scout hut. I registered, and went to get changed in the van - which is a great improvement on getting changed outside a car. Dry, warm, listening to the rain patter on the roof, thinking "the things we do for enjoyment, hey?". Some people get up on a day like today, turn over and go back to bed. But no, there are 170 of us in shorts and running shoes, getting ready to run 21k up onto Lantern Pike, Kinder and South Head, not forgetting Big Stone at the end. No wonder people think we're nuts.

pre race Glossopdale socialising
With the weather like it was, and the wind blowing in over from the West, I decided that I'd start in my
waterproof. Yes, the bright yellow one. I knew I'd overheat on the climbs, but once up on the plateau, I
wouldn't need to faff around putting one on if I started chilling off too much. I can cope with a bit of heat, and would be glad of the protection from the wind.
Others were going variously in just running vests, helly hansens, jackets and all kinds of stuff. I was happy with my choice, and stuck with it.

And having a chat with Nick Ham
After a bit of socialising, (Tom Brunt mentioned this wasn't really a race for him, more of a training run, I considered about hamstringing him, but then thought better of it), we gathered at the start. Somehow, without even trying I ended up right at the front of the race. A nice place to be at the end of the proceedings, but not necessarily at the start. The usual rules were shouted, and the start was called by the race organisers daughter, whose birthday it was today, and with the beeping of a hundred or so watches, we set off down the road.

Lined up at the start. In the fitful sun. Spot the Yellow jacket 
The leaders zoomed off at a fantastic pace, with Alasdair from GDH in close pursuit. Good luck to him, with all his BG training recently, he was certainly going to do well today. I settled down to a pace not too fast, but not too slow, Julien just in front of me, and generally in the top 20 or
so runners. In the first half mile, there is always a bit of banter, and I ended up talking with someone who I ran along with for a while in last years edition of the race, and then someone else. We introduced ourselves, but unfortunately we were going up a hill at the time, and I have no idea what their names are. Sorry. Feel free to say hi at a slightly less incline related time!

Up the hill toward Lantern Pike and I was going along ok. I could see steviek in front of me by about 20 metres, so that meant I wasn't running badly at all. If I could keep him in sight, then that would be a good thing. There was a bevvy of Pennine runners with him, and Julien and Anthony from GDH just in front as we turned left up the steepening hill toward the top of the Pike. I was getting a little warm in my jacket, but making sure I kept pace. If I overheated, it wouldn't be too desperate, as I can always cool down pretty quickly, so I kept the pace up to stay in contact with them.

Coming up to Burnt hill
Toward the top of the pike I managed to keep my legs going just a little faster than the guys in front and overtook 2 people, Julien included. I judged that I was still in the top 20, but certainly a long way from the 12th that I finished in last year. A decision was made there that I would not concentrate on the placing, but rather the time. As much as I wanted to beat last years time, I wasn't sure, in my fatigued state if I could do it, however, I would concentrate on going as hard as I could in order to get a decent time, no matter where I ended up in the race. I crested the hill, and worked my way down, overtaking another runner in the process. Off lantern pike, I was with Julien and another couple of runners, one of which was an ex-Macc harrier, who I had run against in the Great Lakes race last week.
Again, introduced, again, no idea what his name was. I lost it on the hillside somewhere. Sorry about that. As
ever, feel free to say hi again when we're concentrating less on running!

Along the lanes, and I could see Alastair and Stevie in front of me, the leaders already long gone, so I got my head down and started thinking about the hill about to come going up Kinder. Turning the corner onto the road I wasn't in any particular pack, having got myself alone for a short way, and managed to grab a half glass of water at the drinks station. Thankfully I wasn't caught up with cars at the road crossing onto Burnt
Hill, and could see a line of runners stretching up the hill in front of me.
Don't concentrate on the position, concentrate on the time.

Snake of runners up Burnt hill. Before the Clag came back in.
I plugged my way up Burnt hill, with Neil shouting encouragement from the sidelines. (ie. what are you doing with a cagoule on? this is a race~!) and Lynne taking photos. I think at this time a fast Altringham chap cruised past, and he eventually came pretty high up on the roster, he looked like he was running very easily indeed.
There was one guy between me and Alastair and another Pennine runner, admittidly they were a good 100m further on, but on the way up the flag stones I started to consider whether I was running at my current speed because I wanted to, or if my pace was being dictated by him. Always a dilemma. If you pass someone, you have to make it stick, especially on these slippery stones. So I bided my time, reflecting a bit on how lucky we were to be out on a hill, running through rain with visibility varying from 10m to 300m, and chose my place to pass.

Once done I increased speed slightly, and my ears popped by the time we got to the Liberator Wreck. I was slowly gaining on Alastair and the Pennine guy in front, though it would probably be a while. I shouted my number at Geoff, marshalling on Mill hill, and piled down the stones to the bottom of Kinder corner, hoping to gain some time on the guys in front of me. I could see a string of runners, and a couple of walkers, going up the steep part of the climb. I decided that I'd run up that bit as far as I could, and see if I could make some time up.
All a good plan, and I closed the distance on Alastair, but once I stopped running, and started walking up the really steep bit, I was wondering if I hadn't gone a bit too far up running as my legs didn't really seem to work so well. The distance wasn't closing anymore. My legs were pretty tired, and I felt like they just didn't want to climb, or even run any more.

Flashback to last year Kinder Downfall, following Alasdair across the top of Kinder in the clag, he has a powergel, and that was the last I saw of him til the end. I really didn't want that happening this time, and toward the top, as soon as he started running, so did I, and managed to get almost within touching distance of him.
The wind really hit then.

Running across the stoney, slippery and unpredictable terrain of the Kinder path with a wind strong enough to blow you - if not over, certainly off balance - was an interesting experience. I don't think that I've done a race along this path without falling over at least once, so foot placement was key. I didn't want to lose Ali or the Pennine guy, as there are a couple of sneaky shortcuts, and if I lost them, I'd have to think a bit more about route finding, and a bit less about where I was putting my feet. Alasdair excels on this type of terrain and kept opening up a small gap on the various downs and ups, but I managed to keep with him with short bursts of acceleration.
I was very aware of the fact I was wearing my yellow jacket, thinking that I might as well have a massive "FOLLOW ME" sign on my back. Apparently there were a few runners behind me who thought much the same thing... so nothing to do but keep running.
Across the top toward the Downfall I stayed in touch, and was happy with my placing and pacing. The wind was battering across, and helping and hindering in equal parts, and I was looking forward to kicking back a little on the run down to Redbrook as I didn't need to think too much about placings. Lynne had told me I was about 17th on the climb up to Burnt hill... but don't think of the place... think of the time!

We cut through the clag and over Downfall, up onto the otherside, and a group of figures appeared wraith-like through the mist to our right. Who else, but Steviek and a bundle of others.
They must have taken a dodgy line across to the Downfall.
Part yay - I'm now running in a race and being competitive with runners who I have always seen as way way faster than me,
Part damn, I'm going to have to continue to really give it some. No let up. I've already been operating on a line close to the limit for the past 20 mins. I've always wondered what it would be like to go hard early on and then have to hang on for the rest of the race. I suppose I'm about to find out.
Alasdair had extended out his lead on me and the rest of the runners and continued to do so for the length of the path. I ran behind Stevie and another runner for a while, and suddenly thought... am I running at this pace because I'm being dictated to by them, or could I go faster?

I overtook the other guy, and then was head to head with Stevie, and then overtook. Somewhat unprecedented, but it felt like the right thing to do. I slowly closed the gap on Ali again, but he kept a decent distance ahead - maybe 20m or so, just in the ghostly part of the clag.
We ran on, down and onto the slippery paving stones off the hill, which my x-talons provided no real grip on, but we all held our places. I could hear someone behind me, but dared not look behind, partially because I didn't want to know who, or how many people were behind me, and partially because I didn't want to take my eyes off where my feet were going to land next.

The final descent off Kinder and all of a sudden, crack, over I went on my left ankle. Same as last week. Pain, swearwords, limp and thoughts of last week where I only had 400m to hobble before finishing. I'm only about halfway through this race... just keep going and don't go over on it again.
Behind me I hear a muffled "ooof" as someone else went down. No idea who, but I was too busy intent on half hopping half hobbling down to the checkpoint, and past it, on the way down to Dimpus clough. Ali still in front of us, and me pulling up in a bit of pain.
I let Stevie and the other guy past me, no point in holding them up because I'm being slow. I reassured them I'd be ok, and watched them plunge down toward the bottom of the clough.

Time to think about just how bad my ankle felt. I was running on it, it was becoming a little less painful with each step, so I made sure I kept the guys in sight in front of me, and just kept running. As we came into the bottom of the clough I could see a train of runners going up the other side. 3, 4? maybe 5 runners. I had no idea where I was in the race at this point, so it was a good thing that I wasn't really thinking about it. We crossed the stream, shouted our numbers at John Doyle and sons (I think - I was a bit knackered by now), and started up the other side of Dimpus.
The first year I ran this race I lost about 8 places on this ascent. Last year I didn't lose any, I was determined to do the same this year.

Stevie and the other guy quickly made their mark, pushing up in front and extending out up the hill, quickly catching Alasdair. I was equal to them along the top, but the definitely had the measure of me up the hills. I kept going. Kept the legs moving, and kept believing that I could get to the top without losing a place. And then I passed Alasdair. Not really enough breath to converse with him at this stage, but assured him my ankle was ok, and then moved on, up out of the clough and right, toward South head and Mount Famine.
Right into a massive headwind.

Argh. I was already tired, and this was almost the last straw. Horrible running into it, but I reassured myself with the fact that everyone had run the same race. They had all just climbed the same hill, and they were all going to be battling the same wind. I kept my legs going, but couldn't keep enough speed up to keep another Pennine runner coming past me. Time to grit the teeth and dig in.

From here to the road was just a case of keeping it together. Don't slow down, and keep the three runners in front of me somewhere in sight. They were all pulling away from me bit by bit, which probably meant that the guys behind me were reeling me in, bit by bit. No time to not run. No time to think about anything except step after step. Down the path and to the road, cross the road, and there is Nev, shouting that I'm doing well, and in 9th place, I turn the corner into Peep 'o'day, and Neil is there handing out water, still commenting about the fact I have my waterproof on, and saying that Stevie is just ahead, waiting to be caught.
But now for the drag up to Big Stone.

What a drag. It took everything I had to not stop and walk. All I could think of now was 2:04. I want 2:04. No idea how long I had been running, not willing to look at my watch, just believe that I am going fast enough to make it. Legs turning over, and the other runners going ahead of me, slowly ecking out their lead. Teeth gritted I plough my way up the hill, and only stop running to take some walking steps right at the top as I shout my number to the marshall. Breaking my rule, I permit myself a quick glance to the right, down the hill, I see vests behind me, but don't register how far away they are. Can I hold on to this position for the rest of the race? It's almost all downhill now, but how good are the others at descending?

Think of the time, and just run.
Coming in at the end
I hammer down the hill, and across the path along toward the gate that leads to the final descent proper and I find my mind wandering. I have no idea what I was thinking about, but it wasn't running.
Focus. Back to making sure my feet are landing in the right place, getting through the gates ok, down the hill. Have I done enough to keep this position? I have no idea, and there is no way I'm going to look behind me. Just run.
Nothing is certain even at this stage of the race, so I keep a stable head on. Through the trees, across fields, and a slight twinge of a stitch threatens.
No. Not now. Not in the last 1k of the race. Just keep breathing. Can I hear someone behind me? Or is it something in my bumbag? Slow down a little, and let the stitch let up a bit. It's not crippling yet, but I can feel it coming on.
Through the stile and a sharp right down concrete to the road crossing. I swear I can hear someone behind me. I need to keep it cool, I slow down a bit, speed up a bit, and still can't work it out. To the road and there are cars there.
No! I stop and let them past, and leap ahead again. Am I going to have to rely on a sprint finish again? Do I have enough in the tank for it? I have no idea.
Down, following the marshalls, and as I cross into the path to the bridge I sneak another look behind. No-one there. Not a problem- but I still want that 2:04, even though I have no idea what the current time is.
Over the bridge, see Tom, hang a left and then lay down everything on the line to get to the finish as fast as possible. How annoying would it be to miss out on a target because I just sauntered the last 50 metres?

2:04:06. BOOM.
9th! Another top 10 finish. Something that I really really wasn't expecting. That takes off 6 mins from last year. Brilliant.

I get up immediately as I felt my legs cramping up, wander around and congratulate Alasdair who comes in 10th, a minute behind, and then had to go for a quick warm down jog before my legs started to spasm.

I have to say, I was astonished that I managed to run so well. Very very chuffed with that.
Caity - First Lady. 

Tom Brunt won, despite having a bit of a jog around, Caitlin from GDH came in First lady, which is fantastic, Julien was first V50, John H was 3rd V50

And this is as many as I could see from GDH on the board.
Tim Budd, 9th in 2:04:06
Alasdair, 10th in 2:05:14
Julien, 19th in 2:09:31
John Hewitt, 23rd in 2:12:28
Anthony Walker 25th in 2:12:49
Caity Rice 27th (1st lady) in 2:13:10
Chris Jackson 39th in 2:20:11
Dave Hogg 44th in 2:21:10
Richard White, 63rd in 2:26:16
Ian Oates 92nd in 2:36:01
Andy Burnett 129th in 2:47:44
Jude Stansfield 156th in 2:54:47
Alison Holt, 158th in 2:55:46

Thanks muchly to all the marshalls who were out there in such horrible weather, to Nev and neil for their support and cheeriness along the way, Lynne for the photos, Rod for pointing out that my lips were going blue and I that I might want a cup of tea, and of course all the runners for racing. Good effort all around. Twas good to chat with a load of runners that I see at other races and don't normally get a chance to talk to. Tea and sandwiches at the end of a race. marvellous idea.
What a Great day out.

Caitys prize

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Isle of Wight country roads

sign at the top of the road
I have been back on the Isle of Wight for a couple of days now. It's been a while, and this time I decided that I'd bring a road bike. For a number of years I rode around here on a mountain bike, but the frustration of always getting punctures led me to get rid of my only road bike a long time ago, having barely ridden it here at all.

After getting here on Sunday I popped out for a quick ride to loosen up my legs after having sat in a car for a good few hours. Coming over on the ferry, steely grey skys had welcomed me, with banks of cloud threatening rain. By the time I had driven the short distance home and got my gear on, the sun was out and I was contemplating sunscreen! 
I ended up just following the Isle of Wight cycle way. There are signs for it pretty much at the top of my lane, and I've never really gone on it on a bike, so I rode to the top of the lane, turned left and just pointed in the direction of the signs and rode. No real plan of where I was going to get to, I know the roads pretty well, from 18 years of living here, so I probably wasn't going to get overly lost. And even if I did, it wouldn't take long to find myself again. 

on the floating bridge
It eventually took me right to Niton, where I came upon a sign, freshwater in one direction and Newport in the other. I had been out for an hour and a bit, and took the Newport option, coming back through Rookley and Arreton. It ended up being about 65km. Although the Isle of Wight isn't renowned for its hills, it certainly undulates a lot as I recorded just over 1000m of ascent and descent. 

A couple of days later and I went out again. The weather had been hot and sultry for most of the morning, and it really looked as if it was going to rain at some point during the afternoon. Nevertheless, I kitted up and headed out the door, this time following the cycle signs the other way from the top of the lane, and going on an anticlockwise trip of the island. The plan was never to go all the way around, but rather to get over to Cowes, maybe a bit further, and then use my knowledge of the area to get me back across the island and home without too much difficulty. 

Within 40minutes I was on the chain ferry, waiting to go across the river Medina from East to West Cowes. The promised rain had not arrived, but there were a couple of drops in the air. On I went, finding the signage around Cowes a little confusing, but managing to get the right of it, and found myself cycling along the seafront, on my way toward Gurnard. 
All the little lanes I recognised from my youth, but I couldn't tell you how to get there, or what each place was called, and on I went through to Shalfleet, past Corf camp, the scout camp of my childhood, until I decided that I would no longer follow the signs, and broke off down toward Calborne mill.

After working my way through a number of roads, and making my way to Brighstone I picked up the cycleway once more, and continued across the Island back the other way. I had completely missed out Freshwater on my circuit, but I had never really planned on going that far anyway.

The return journey went through more clag, more back roads and eventually the sun started coming out again, and once past the hill that runs up to Blackgang, I recognised the route from the day before, and sat back to enjoy the scenery going past.
The entire route took about 3 and a half hours, during which I had a single bar and a single water bottle. It was 91km and 1150m of ascent.
An excellent ride out.

If you are thinking of coming to the Isle of Wight for a bit of biking, I can highly recommend it.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Great Lakes Race 2013

This time last year, it was a Championship race. This year, the big names were all over at Buckden Pike, battling it out, and I thought it was about time I got involved in solo racing in the Lake District. Yes, I did the OCT, and I was a part of the Ian Hodgeson relay, but I've never actually done a proper Lake District race.
So this is as good a one as any to start with.

The weather looked promising. Well, it looked promising to give us rain in the morning, or at least, for the first hour of running, and then to brighten up. It rained on the car as we made our way up, but nothing more than that.
Sitting in the car in the farmers field, waiting to register, Julien and I looked up at the fells, which were covered over in clag at the top, but not too much. It looked like a splendid day to be out in the hills, be it a race day or not. We weren't expecting many people to turn up and register, as the Champs were on across the way. I didn't expect to be registering in a barn, either, but every race has its little idiosyncracies.

We got back in the car pretty fast after registering, as the breeze was fairly chilly. Others were running around warming up, but I've always wondered about warming up for a race as long as this one. Is there really any point? Would it just herald blowing up earlier? Does it prevent your legs from aching any more or less? I really don't know. So we sat in the car.
Pretty soon the time came around, and a small gaggle of us, perhaps 30? I don't know, congregated at the beginning, and pretty soon, we had been started, were out of the gate and up the track, straight into quite a climb.
Julien had, of course mentioned he would be taking it easy on the first climb of the day. And, of course, he went out of the gates like a rocket. Apparently he had seen another guy who was also a V50, and it would have been rude to let him get away up the hill.
I plodded along up the hill, legs not feeling particularly fired up. Like lead actually. No spring at all, though I managed to keep pace with some people who were somewhere down in the group behind the leaders- ranking somewhere in the 20's I guessed.

Then, after a km or so, there was a significant split, the different ways up to BowFell. I chose the less direct route, which I vaguely knew, as opposed to the more direct route which seemed more popular, but I really wasn't confident of.
The climb went on, and I was pretty much on my own. The clag closed in around me, and I was completely unsure of where I was, and, indeed, where to go to get to the top. Up was the best option, so I carried on moving up the hill. For a moment, I was lost, all alone in my world of cloud, looking at my map and my alitmeter. I realised there was another 100metres to go until the summit, then, I heard a couple of flapping numbers, pinned to the chests of other competitors, followed the sound, and made my way up to the first checkpoint. Excellent. I have no idea if I have kept my place that I had at the beginning of the climb when we split, if I have gained places, or if I have lost them.

I was a bit concerned for a short time there, but now I had another couple of people around me, I was feeling a little better. At this point, I realised that I was a little faster than them, but my speed would be for nothing if I was constantly going the wrong way and having to re-navigate. So I chose to throw my lot in with them for a while, and get across to the next couple of summits. From Bow fell, my on the ground knowledge isn't rubbish, but it certainly isn't great enough to navigate at speed in clag.

So we set off across the spiky rocky terrain, and quickly came to the second summit, which confused me completely, as I expected to be getting to Great End next.
Oh. No. My mistake. I missed a summit in my head that was written down. Now it makes a bit more sense.

More running across spikes and rocks and up to Great End. I can see a large group of people going up the hill in front of us. Maybe I have lost more places than I thought? I speed up my legs, as I know where I am now, up to the top, though my quads are really feeling it by now. Perhaps I should have warmed up and my legs are complaining bitterly about it. Ah well, not to worry about it now.
We catch up with the large group as we about turn and head back off Great End. (though I think not on the best line that we could have taken), and it turns out to be a large number of guys supporting a Leg 3 Bob Graham.

As we crash on up the hill toward Scafell Pike, passed Ill crag and Broad Crag, I make sure that I don't make the same mistake as I've made a number of times before, heading off too far left or right. Thankfully I don't, and teetering over the rocks I make up good time up onto the top. Figuring that I was getting hungry I reach into my bag and grab a bar. Fingers a bit numb mean that its a struggle to open, I take half a bite, and go to put it back in my bag, the bar slips out of the wrapper and down into a crack between some stones. Damn.
At least I still have another bar and a gel, so that should keep me going.

I'm overtaken by a runner, and overtake another one back, and we hit the top of Scafell Pike. It's surreal in the middle of a race to be running through cloud and on your own, and all of a sudden be in crowds of people at the top of a hill, and equally suddenly, be away from them again.
Off the Pike I followed a Bowland Fellrunner and a Dark Peaker, who appeared to take a very direct line down to the ascent up to Foxes tarn. On the way down I tried to get some more food out, and again, dropped it. Damn. Not turning into a very good race for nutrition! I suppose I'm just going to have to ignore the hunger and get to running, we're nearly at the part that I know, but there is a group of about 8 of us climbing up to the tarn and beyond.

Astonishingly I am making time on them, and by the time we have gone up past the tarn and are making out way to the top, I'm in front. Not what I expected at all.
Once we reached the top of the climb, again it was someone elses turn to lead. The clag was still down, we could see very little, and to keep up speed for all of us, we followed, and hit the checkpoint.
All of a sudden, who should appear behind me, but Julien! I thought he would have been through this area a long time since, but it seems he didn't get quite the line he was expecting off Scafell Pike and up to Foxes, meaning he lost a bit of time.

No chance to say more than a quick greeting as we skipped off across the slippery rocks. Shoes as effective as iceskates as we slid around trying to gain purchase. I kept as close as I could to the Bowland vests. There was meant to be an easy grassy sward somewhere around here, but as far as I could tell, no-one really knew where it was. Stones and rocks almost all the way then.\

It was a good thing I was following someone as the checkpoint on Slight Side was a lot lower down from the summit than I was expecting, and from there we took a direct line off the end, rather than cutting around the back down a more forgiving route. It was part run, part scramble, part jump as 6 or 7 of us hurled ourselves down the hill, trying to find the fastest line. Down the rocky, grassy steepness, and then onto a massive scree field that started with large rocks, and gradually became more and more runnable as we plunged down it. What a fabulous descent.

The only minor issue was all the small pebbles that were now inside my shoes. Ah well. Do what Joss does. Let 'em bed in.

500 metres later, I decided against Joss's wisdom, stopped and emptied the what seemed like kilogram of stones from my shoes. It took a while, with relatively numb fingers, and I lost every place and all the time I had gained on the descent. Such is life. I just need to go a bit faster and catch them up and overtake them again.
As we had come down into Mossdale, the cloud had lifted, and we were blessed with a beautiful day. You could see everything, most usefully, you could see exactly which bit of bog you were going to plant your foot in next. I had caught up with my fellows and overtaken them by the time we got to the Esk, and managed to keep my pace going across the marsh towards Lingcove beck. I discovered a sneaky little line which was a bit faster than my OCT line, which was very cool, and waded across the beck with only one other runner.

We could see a group of runners wending their way up Swinsty Gill, but I had already decided that I was going to take the alternative line across and over Stonesty Gill. No idea why. I think it had something to do with Juliens suggestion before the race. I can see why he likes the ascent. It is long, arduous, off camber over horrendous terrain and generally a complete pig of a line. It took forever, and I was utterly convinced that the 5 guys behind us, who had taken the Swinsty Gill line must have got over the top and been on their way a long time before we were even approaching the top.
There were another couple of guys taking the same approach as us, which raised my hopes slightly, and cresting the top on my own I glanced at my map to make sure I was going to take the right line across the grassy plateau toward the correct gully to go down. Nearly finished. One last climb and descent, and it will all be done.

I was feeling pretty hungry, and there was a nagging pain in my right side, the dreaded stitch. It tends to appear during, or immediately after really rough terrain, and the vast majority of the race so far had been just that. Not good at all. The speed at which I could negotiate the flat, and then the downhill would be severely compromised unless I managed it well.
Speed was kept down as I traversed around toward the gully between Great Knott and Cold Pike, giving myself a bit of a scare as I leapt across the top of Gaitscale Gill, expecting it to be a little stream, and jumping over the part that was actually a 10ft waterfall! Heart pounding I continued on, but I could feel myself slowing, and others were catching me.
I could also see figures coming down from the top of Swinsty Gill, who had taken the other ascent, and all I could do was keep on the pace which I knew would not become debilitating. I lost about 3 places coming into the bottom of Pike of Blisco, but managed to hold on to a couple of them on the ascent, finally getting enough brainpower together to work out how to rip open and get most of an energy gel down my throat. (some of it went on my watch, and I could barely get the buttons to work today. Lots of button pressing and licking off the offending gel worked quite well though).

The final checkpoint was reached, and just the final downhill. I'm certain the view was fantastic from the top, but I have no idea because I didn't stop to look. There were 4 people in front of me, that, on a good day, I could have kept up with and maybe even beaten, but it was getting to the point of really having to concentrate to not have the stitch really hurt. However, that Dark peak vest was still only just behind me - despite the fact we took different routes up the previous hill, we were still at Pike of Blisco at the same time.

We picked our way down through the rocks, a myriad of different routes exist, and he had the better of me for the most part, I just didn't have the ability to stretch out. From the car I had seen the massive grassy slope leading down toward the finish, and I couldn't wait to get there. He had taken one line down through some rocks, and I was sure I saw a better way, so I took that, and ended up at the top of the grassy slope at exactly the same time as him. The others had already nearly reached the bottom of the steep, steep slope, a long way down, and we began our knee breakingly, thigh burning descent. I could see now why a good number of people wore mudclaws throughout the day, they were a complete necessity for a hill like this. I kept slipping and sliding, and there was almost no sensible way to keep my feet.

Apparently last year, a number of people had just sat down and slid.
Well, it was wet enough, it was close enough to the end that it wouldn't matter too much if I was completely soaked, and sitting down wasn't going to make my stitch any worse. So I chose a line that looked pretty good, few rocks, few drops, and decent grass, and just slid.
Whoosh. I'd say it was a great way to descend, but it wasn't completely comfortable, and it took a lot of concentration to brake myself to ensure I wasn't just going hell for leather without control, but I certainly outdistanced the Dark Peak guy.

Once the gradient got back to something approaching easily runnable, I regained my feet and plunged on toward the finish. Less than a kilometre to go now, the stitch can happen and I think I've got enough distance on the other guy to make it work. Through some ferns, through a bog, through a... crunch. My left ankle goes over, agonising pain and lots and lots of very load swearwords. I keep running with a pronounced hobble type limp. There must only be 400 metres to go now, and I have to go through a stream, so that means a bit of cold water to go on my ankle to make it a little bit less horrendous.
Wade through the stream, still a limp, up a hill, I think I have enough distance to keep this place. Jump a gate and a final run type limp type hobble type fall down a path to the end. Where I sit down and don't get up for quite a while.
17th, in 3 hours and twenty or so minutes. 21km and about 2300m ascent. That'll do.

I had time to get changed, eat some food, chill out a bit and wait for a decent photo before Julien came in. He had been led astray(!) by another runner, thinking they were somewhere they weren't, and ended up losing about 20 mins of time, so he just took it easy and jogged the rest of the race, walking some of it, and just generally soaking up the atmosphere. (so much so, another runner even enquired if he was actually part of the race).
despite this, he still came in about 22nd.

It was a glorious day out in the Lakes, and it wa a shame we didn't have a few more of the club up there to enjoy it with, but they were off enjoying themselves at other events.
I think it will be nice to have a couple of weeks to run and bike without massive Lakeland descents taking it out of my legs.
What a great introduction to solo racing in the Lake District. I now know what I need to practice, to begin to get good at them as well. 

Blogging on a phone, so apologies for the lack of witty coments on the photos.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Wormstones 2013

This week I was meant to be doing my second ever timetrial over with Glossop Kinder Velo. It had been in the diary for a good couple of weeks. However, it clashed with Wormstones Fell race, which, although not actually a classic, seemed like a decent little race on which to test my current form.

I debated for a couple of days, thinking that really, it would be good to do the time trial, to see if I could get a faster time, but in the end, Wormstones won out. I'm a fellrunner, and a racer, and although I started to cycle in earnest to get better at running, if I start doing cycling events rather than running ones, where would that end up? All cock-eyed, thats for sure.

So I got a rucksack full of stuff for post-race, and all my gear, and toddled over to the start. It is not more than a mile or so from our house, so really quite convenient. The race registration was in the Beehive, quite possibly one of the best pubs in Glossop- and certainly the one with the best whisky selection and the best Thai food. I got there in plenty of time for the 7pm start, only to be told that it had been changed to 730. Ah well, best use the time wisely, and not have a pint, but rather go for a quick run up and down the closest bits of the course to get an idea of the start and finish.

Running up the hill to look at the finish, my legs were a little tired. Perhaps 3 legs of the BG at the weekend followed by a 60k bike ride on monday might have been a little ambitious? Nevermind, I've paid my entrance fee now.
So after a short bit of recce-ing I got back to the pub as it started to rain. Everyone crowded inside, Stefan from Pennine and Steve from Glossopdale sought me out and told me that they were running the race on the back of the race report I wrote in 2011. Which wasn't actually all that useful- as the course was completely different to that which we ran last time!
Once the start time came the rain had passed and the sky was brightening. Very much like most midweek races I have ever run around Glossop!

We lined up, I was somewhere ahead of mid-pack, but not quite at the front, and the race was started by John the Publican- and we pounded off down the road. Well. Most of us did. The unmistakable figure of Tall Chris streaked off down the pavement on the right and came out ahead of pretty much everyone -leading the race for a short while. After all the races he has been doing, he really has some pace off the line!
Running along the road at the beginning I sensed a bit of a split starting to separate the front runners from the midpack, so I lengthened my stride a bit to bridge over to them. Then, as the road hit a slight incline, that pack began to consolidate into about 10 runners. I was still accelerating from the midpack to the front, and they appeared to be slowing a little.
Well, I was damned if I was going to let them dictate the pace, especially with a bit of a pinch point coming up, and as I was feeling pretty good, I might as well sit on the front, hammer out a good pace and see if I can split them into smaller fragments.
So I slipped between two Pennine runners and just carried on going. No-one in front of me, just a pack of 100 or so runners behind.

It was quite peaceful. I knew I couldn't hold on to the lead, but I thought I might just have it through the pinch points.

Down the lane, through the gate, straight down the steep bank, across the stream and round the corner, and then overtaken by 2 guys. Unsurprising, but now at least I was quite well placed through the trees up to the first climb, and held onto third until we crossed the road and up to wormstones when Stevie K led a motley crew of Pennine runners passed me. 4 in all, and then a guy from Buxton.
The hill to Wormstones isn't all that bad. It is long, it drags a bit, but generally it is a nice hill. My legs were really feeling the previous few days mileage, actually, maybe they were feeling the metres of ascent and descent, I just couldn't wring any more power or speed out of them, but slowly, as we ascended, I gradually began to catch up with a Pennine vest and the Buxton chap. We overtook the Buxton guy before we topped out at the Harry hut trig, before turning left and thrashing along the trod to the Grouse butts. Pennine vests skipping across the hill in front of me and being chased down by goodness knows who else.
Never. Look. Back.

I tried to relax across the trod, through heather, across groughs, and over what would have been really boggy ground if it had been wetter recently, and as soon as we turned left again to go downhill I knew I had at least 2 Pennine guys in sight. I just hoped I wouldn't have to go too far into the red to catch them.
Down the peaty track to the Shooting cabin was a delight to run on. A little bit dodgy underfoot in places, forcing me to take longer strides, which accelerated me downhill, and within the 200 metres to the cabin I was right behind the 2 guys.
Now the track turned into a hard quad track with lots of random bits of stone in different places. Technical, but a different challenge entirely. The Pennine guy I had been following overtook his compatriot, and I swiftly followed suit, just catching a glimpse of him- it was Stefan - running really well, but my concentration was on keeping the other guy in my sights and I matched him stride for stride down the track until it steepened slightly, I extended my legs and gained a metre or so by virtue of the fact that I was gambling on getting my feet on some decent ground. It worked, and I led down to the gate.

To go through? To vault it? If I go through, he'll vault, and I'll lose time. If I vault and screw it up, he can go through and I'll lose time again. Don't screw it up then.

Using the fact I was in front I positioned myself bang in the middle so that he couldn't come either side, and went straight over it. Excellent, now a straight downhill section to another gate. I easily kept in front and took the next one.
I could sense his impatience at wanting to be in front of me, and he tried to surge. Everytime he nearly came alongside of me, I accelerated, just a bit, to keep him behind. Then I slowed a little, until it happened again. That must have gone on 4, 5 times or so, until we hit the bottom of the hill, and a slight incline to another gate.
I let him get in front of me, and he went to vault the gate. I shimmied (yes, I shimmied) left, and went through the gate, not losing any time at all. But he kept ahead of me up to the road, and onto the last section of climb, over to a farmhouse. He was slowing a little, and I swear I could hear steps behind me, so I picked up the pace ever so slightly, knowing that we really didn't have far to go.
Catching up with him, matching him, and then going past. Trying to breathe evenly, but feeling like my lungs were on full capacity, being constricted by some unseen hand. Having to keep it together when really you just want to stop. Actually. Just want HIM to stop.

I had to give it full beans now. Through the farm, over a gate, blast across a field, we're into the final 300 metres now, this place is mine, and I'm going to give it hell to make sure it is. No time to glance back, and its through a wall, up a track, past Des, giving some encouragement, and then a plunge down a tarmacked drive to the end. Hell for leather, and really really going for it as hard as possible.

I didn't get overtaken.
6th. Not bad, all things considering.

A fantastic evening out, unfortunately I had to rush off so didn't stop off for a pint afterward, but I shall be over at the Beehive in the next few days.

Apologies about the lack of photos, but my official photographer was at work... If you have any, drop me a line.
So instead, here is an attempt at a link to my movescount page

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Bob Graham Support

Phil sorting water at midnight
Well, a successful round, Dan and Alastair both got around in sub 23. On the way back, Alastair mentioned that he might like to see a blog about the experience from the support side of things.
So I thought I shall oblige him.

From back when the BG was first mooted, my name was down as a pacer/helper. I made it clear that I'd do whatever they wanted me to do in order to help them get around. Dan was the original man with the plan, writing out spreadsheets, recceing and generally sorting out the organising. Alastair, Andy and Paul were also running it, though the organisation was Dans thing.

As such, my role was always going to be a pacer on leg 4, though at other times I was also pacing on leg 1. Or 2. or 3, maybe 5 as well. It ended with me on 2, 4 and 5, and with a 10pm start (curiously an unfashionable time on which to begin a BG attempt), I had a little bit of time in the evening to try and get my head down before getting on out to Threkeld for 1am to wait for the guys to come down off Blencathra.
Thelkeld stop

Lynne and I had organised ourselves pretty well, with me running, and her driving to various support places, we had different clothes and food in various bags. Not quite as specific as the actual contenders, but just as precise and exacting.

After getting my head down (though not necessarily sleeping), I was up at quarter past midnight, meeting Phil in the kitchen, as the only place with enough light for us to organise ourselves, bags, lights, spare water for the changeover, and then pack the car and over to the Stop.
We sat there in the dark in Thelkeld, looking up at the hill, seeing a line of impressively bright lights advancing down toward us. Once they dropped out of sight behind the trees we got out of the car, and readied ourselves. When the guys arrived water bottles were filled, food eaten and a quick change of socks, and off we trotted.
At this stage it was all quite civilised. Ensuring that we weren't talking as we went through the small roads in Thelkeld, and then having a good chinwag on the way up to the Dodds. Although it was dark, there was a sliver of light across the Eastern sky as we climbed up Clough Head, a steep, slow climb. With everyone well fed and watered, there wasn't much to do as a pacer. I wasn't there for navigational assistance, mostly as sustanance and moral support. Dan was feeling a little dodgy, perhaps from lack of sleep, maybe from
Running through the dawn
over feeding at this point, but as the sky lightened, little by little, his spirits improved, and, as it happened, never dropped for the rest of the day.

Across the Dodds we never really had any issues, apart from the fact it was a beautiful dawn, and we had to make sure we didn't stop to look at it for too long. It was a glorious morning to be out. As it came light I got the guys to drop their torches so that that I could stop and pack them away in my bag without them having to stop and faff for too long, I did so, and caught them up before too long.
Ensuring that they were all eating and drinking enough was a constant battle, not because they may have been feeling hungry, but for the future of the run, making sure that they never ended up running on empty.
running off with orders...
Off Dollywagon it was decided that one of us would peel off down toward Dunmail with breakfast requests for the road crossing. I offered the run off to Steve, who had been running since leg 1, and phil, who was also going to be doing leg 2, but they both declined, so I took down orders and the news they were 20 mins or so up on schedule, and ran off down to the road. Alastair had a minor issue as his Platypus water bladder decided to leak - or explode. Whichever it did, his back, rucksac and shorts were soaked with water. We have the same sack, so I said I'd empty mine out and have it ready for him to dump his stuff in at the stop.

It was at this point that Paul, one of the contenders, decided to pull out, so we placed him on the path down, and once I had run down to the road to the support crew, I ran back up to help guide him off.

The road support and leg 3 runners were all ready for the action. After a period of getting things together and sitting in a glorious morning waiting for something to happen, squinting up to the skyline, a shout went up- silhouettes! Contenders and pacers peeled off the hill and down to the waiting supporters, chairs, coffee, tea, sausage sandwiches, and lots of banter.
Dan covered himself in sunscreen, hats were got, waterproofs dumped, and weight conserved in the rucksacks. Lynne and I counted down the amount of time that they had been there, giving 5 minute shoutouts to
make sure they didn't get too comfortable, and start losing time just through sitting around. We decanted Alastairs stuff into my bag, and I took his to dry, and use for me on the next leg.
Before long, everyone was up and out, over the stile and up the hill, leaving the rest of us to pack away various food, chairs, tables, washing up and making sure everything was packed away in good time.

Getting ready for the off to wasdale
In the car and back to base, to pick up some clean gear, jump in another car and start out to get to Wasdale. We didn't need to start out early because we were expecting a super speedy time over leg 3, but rather so that we could
get a decent parking place for the van and the support gear. I was a bit tired, and dosed slightly on the way there. Once at Wasdale, the day had turned out beautifully, we got a decent space in the
Pit stop ready for action at Wasdale
carpark in a shady area, set up "camp", more tables, chairs, food, drink, blankets on the floor, and then settle down to wait.
I got my head down for a while, snoozing a little, and just generally not being on my feet. I figured that I needed to be as fresh as possible as I'd need to carry a lot of water for the next stage- and of course a litre of water weighs a kilogram. The contenders would need to carry their own, but should any of them run out
of liquid, there really isn't much chance to pick up any across the tops, so taking our own was certainly the best option.

During our wait, we saw the Pennine BG attempt come through, Hanno looked like he was going strong, and came across to give us a sweaty hug, before powering on over to Yewbarrow.
We knew the guys were about 20 mins up on their schedule, and Phil came took a shortcut down off Scafell Pike with lunch orders and news for us, as the rest of the guys carried on up over Scafell. He gave the orders while sitting in a stream, and generally cooled himself off, having run 2 consecutive legs in support. The crew had run out of water on leg 3, and some of the pacers had to take a detour to look for a source from which to fill up water bottles.
The climb up Yewbarrow
That settled it, I stuck another bottle in my bag.

Soon enough, the guys came pounding off the hill, looking forward to tea and food, and once more, the team support crew sprang into action, boiling water, handing out food, getting requests for things for the next leg, and generally ensuring that everything will run smoothly. We had a time caller, and before long, I was the proud owner of another bottle of water, everyone was oiled up with more sunscreen, and we were saying our goodbyes to the supporters at Wasdale.
Straight onto Yewbarrow. The climb was horrendous. It goes on forever, and by this time Alastair, Dan and Andy had been going for about 12 hours straight. Running on all terrain, leg 3 having been particularly horrible underfoot, so they were going well, up and up, with the constant watch of Great Gable over our right shoulder... waiting for us to complete the horseshoe and standing as a gate keeper to the end of the leg, and beginning of the last.
the wheels fall off

The pace was being kept to a steady trot, and funnily enough the time gains were all being made on the
uphills, the straights and downhills were bang on target, right the way through the day. All were going strongly, until, suddenly, on the way up to Red Pike, Andy dropped to his knees, and was fairly violently ill.
The rest of the team were ok, and carried on for a short time, while I stayed with Andy.
What followed was an attempt to get Andy back on his feet by any and all means, progress slowed, and slowed the others too. The sun was relentless, and inbetween the short gusts of wind, the midges flocked to us.
Up toward Red Pike, slowly, losing time, with Andy unsure of whether he was ill with heatstroke, or just having his body rebelling against him. Alastair had gone on ahead, and Dan had hung back with Andy. We were doing all we could to cajole Andy to his feet, but he was having none of it, and told Dan to go on.
The decision was made and I accompanied Dan on the way over to Steeple as Andy A and Julien stayed with Andy.

Dan, enjoying the day out
Dan was really gutted to leave Andy, but we dug in and got on with it. By now Alastair was about 10 mins ahead, 10 up on schedule, and we were pretty much bang on as we hit Steeple. Across and back, we saw that Andy was now at least on his feet, and the others were with him, and we carried on apace over toward the looming monster of Great Gable. Ahead of us was Alastair and Andy Fox (yes, I know, 3 Andy's on the same leg, confusion in the retelling...) who were going strongly, but we could tell we were slowly gaining on them over the peaks. Dan was keeping it together, and never showed a moment of weakness or a hint of slowing down. Although we were now only just on the cusp of being on schedule (a 23:18), we ploughed on, and true to form, gained time back on the uphill sections.
The looming head of Great Gable
It was just at Kirk Fell that we caught Andy Fox and Alastair, with Al looking a little rough on the descent, and was very grateful for a tab of ibuprofen, and was running a lot more smoothly as we approached the flanks of the Gable.

To be honest, the scramble up really wasn't as bad as we thought it might be. Keeping a steady and even pace we climbed it as a tight knit group, taking in the fantastic view down the various valleys that lead to the Gable.
The run off was not a run in the slightest. Underfoot was the same as it had been for a good few miles. Sharp, unforgiving rock, with no pattern, rhyme or reason, it was the best we could do to keep up a semi-fast walk. Although it is said that the Bob Graham is nothing more than a walk, it is equally obvious that to keep up a meaningful tempo across all types of ground is very difficult indeed, especially as the miles and metres accumulate in your legs.

Down off Great Gable, I felt like I was really starting to have to coax a bit more than the rest of the way.
Alastair, looking strong up to the summit of Great Gable
Encouraging whoever I was with to not stop running, to make sure they had taken on fluid and food. By this point we knew that barring some silly incident, it was in the bag, which meant that ensuring there was no silly incident all the more important.
Honister support crew
As a 4 we descended Green Gable, but Dan had to stop for a pit stop, and Alastair and Andy Fox continued on.
I sat and admired the view, and we continued on through the magnificent countryside. Up and over the last 2 peaks of the leg with little trouble, they seemed a whole lot less of a deal than I remember from a recce a couple of weeks ago, and a last plunge down into Honister, to a crowd of cheering support crew. I still
Alastair coming into Honister
hadn't decided whether I was going to carry on with leg 5, but as we rocked into the support area, decked out with food, drink, chairs etc, I replenished the bottles that had been used up on the last leg, and found that I was really feeling pretty good.
Dan and I coming into Honister
Along with that, Andy Fox, who had also done 2 legs said he was going on, so I thought I might as well go too. I'd not consumed as much food as I thought I would, and just made sure that I had enough electrolyte to get me to the end.

Leg 5 was crowded with pacers, 11 or so by my count, so it wasn't essential for me to be there. They left in a massive, enthusiastic bunch as
Alastair and Dan took off up the hill. I hung about for a couple of minutes, chatting with the support crew and making sure everything I had was shipshape, and then set off up the hill after them. I caught them way before the top of the hill, and I slipped back into my role of supporter, offering encouragement, cajoling whoever was at the back to carry on going, and that they were nearly there.
I have no idea if this was useful to Al or Dan, but I wasn't going to shut up unless they told me to.

Me, catching up with the rest
The final leg off the hills was beautiful, and I was very glad I had the opportunity to reflect on the day and the setting without having to worry about doing the whole challenge. Route finding off was quite fun, but by this time, Dan was back flying and it was Alastairs turn to really feel the fatigue. Blisters, soles of feet on fire, and legs feeling like lead, I ran with him off the hill, forbidding him to stop on pain of being fed excessively sugary snacks to blast him off the hill with. Running on ahead at points to open gates, I worked in tandem with Linds to get him down to the road as fast as possible
where a car was waiting with road shoes. A quick change, and we were off. The guys were taking no
prisoners at this point, with the chance of a sub 23 hour round on the cards, they pounded on down the road at quite a speed. Dan leading out and pulling ahead on the flats and downs, but walking the uphills, and Alastair going at a constant pace no matter the gradient. I ran with him administering water occasionally, and ensuring he wasn't slowing down. Dan and the rest of the pacers
A gaggle of Glossopdaler on Leg 5
disappeared off into the distance, and it was just me, Al and Linds. None of us really knew the way into Keswick, so Linds ran on ahead to ensure she could see the route the others were taking so that we didn't lose ourselves.

I gave Alastair the countdown of 20 mins to go for a sub 22. "does that mean we can make it?" he asked me.
"I have no idea. Lets have a go". And that was what he needed. The pace picked up again, we crossed the bridge, and Keswick was around the corner. Bang, job done.
Dan was sitting at the steps of Moot hall as Alastair pounded up the street to the cheers of a lot of people, running up the steps and finishing his round.
Dan, rocking up to the Moot hall

A very happy Alastair
Mission Accomplished.
I felt remarkably well for having just run 55km and climbed 4000m, nothing in comparison to Al and Dan,
but not an inconsiderable day in the hills.
It was a fantastic day out, the kind of day you dream of when faced with clag and rubbish in the winter, fighting to get through the rain and sleet. It was wonderful to share it with a few friends, in the sun, in the hills, with a couple of beers at the end.
Andy Fox, pacer extrodinaire, and Hannah, background mastermind

A well deserved beer
Caity and me, mission over

And the obligatory fish and chips, trying to make sure Phil didn't nick any. 
And all the better for helping them get through an epic challenge.
Well done guys. All credit to you. I hope my constant chatting, cajoling, nagging didn't annoy you too much.