Bob Graham Round Blog 8

This is my final blog post before my round on Friday.
 
In my first blog I outlined the 4 main concerns I had so now seems like a good time to revisit them:
 

  1. Conditions on the day
  2. Still a concern, but during my training I’ve ran in gale force winds, torrential rain and horizontal snow/sleet, mist, knee deep snow, knee deep bogs, freezing conditions, roasting hot conditions. It can’t possibly be any worse on the day than what I’ve previously had to endure and I’m confident my support team have the navigational skills and experience to get me round.
     

  3. Being able to fit in the training I need to do
  4. I feel like I’ve pretty much nailed this, I don’t think I could or would have done anything differently or any more than what I’ve been able to achieve.
     

  5. My ability to traverse steep and technical terrain (especially technical descents)
  6. Whilst I’ll never be a natural fell runner or a good descender I feel like I’ve definitely improved enough in this area for it not to be a concern as I will be moving at a significantly slower pace than I would be in a race.

     

  7. I’m also not an ultra-runner and have limited experience in running any further than marathon distance.
  8. Whilst this is still true I’ve done some long training days or up to 10 hours, and 32 miles and not felt too bad at the end of any of them. I know on the day I’m going to have to more than double these figures but this does give me some confidence.

 
Time will tell how effective my training has been but based on what I know now I’d say the 3 most important factors are getting plenty climbing and descending in your legs, spending long periods of time on your feet and the ability to keep moving when you’re tired and sore.
 
Finally a few facts an figures. The official start of my BGR training was when I did leg 4 with Iain on 15th November last year. Since then I’ve :
 
Ran 1,517 miles

Climbed 277,641 feet

21 run in the Lake District

17 runs in the Cheviots

3 along Hadrians Wall

1 in the Pennines

1 in the Yorkshire Dales

1 in Simonside Hills

Accumulated 7 pairs of fell shoes

 

I’ve been round every leg of the round on numerous occasions and had some epic days in the fells, sometimes on my own and on other occasions with some great company. I’ve enjoyed training for this challenge more than I ever have for anything I’ve previously done and I can’t wait for Friday to arrive.
 
One of the things I’ve came to realise is how lucky I am to have the experience and support from everyone who is helping me out in my round. This absolutely makes a massive difference and I’m humbled that so many people have taken time out of their lives to be part of this journey and look forward to supporting as many of them as I can in their rounds in the future (you know who you are…).
 
Roll on June 23rd……..
 
Rob

 

Iains Bob Graham Report

Bob Graham Round account – 26/27 May 2017

 

 

It is the Tuesday after I ran up the steps and touched the door of Keswick Moot Hall at 23:19 on Saturday 27 May 2017 to complete a Bob Graham Round and I don’t think I have stopped smiling since.
 
For those that are not familiar the Bob Graham Round is a continuous run of around 65 miles and 27,000 feet across 42 peaks of the Lake District to be completed within 24 hours. It is not an organised event but a personal challenge although you require supporters such as people to run with you on parts of the round to help navigate, witness you reaching each summit, carry food, drink and spare clothing and to generally encourage you along. The round is divided into 5 legs and most people choose to have a short rest stop of around 10-15 minutes at the end of each leg which coincide with road crossings. Therefore you also require supporters to drive around to these road crossings to feed and water you. It is very much a team effort. The round starts and finishes on the steps of the Moot Hall in Keswick.
 
There are some variations to the round in that you can run it clockwise or anti-clockwise and start any time you want. I had decided to run a clockwise round starting at 23.00. My planned schedule had me finishing in 22 and a half hours at 21.30 the following evening. This provided me with a relatively comfortable pace with 90mins slack if I needed it. It also meant that I would run through the night first, thus getting it out of the way.
 
Back to the day before my round and as I was not in work I tried to have a lie in whilst my long suffering wife Katy dropped our eldest son Daniel off at school with our youngest son Matthew in tow. The nerves were really kicking in now and I found I couldn’t sleep so went downstairs and ate some breakfast. I was also continually checking the weather forecast. It was forecast to be a boiling hot sunny day for Friday whilst Saturday was forecast for hot, sunny conditions until midday when thunderstorms were due to roll in. As I was likely to be crossing the Scafells (the highest and most technical part of the round) at this time it did not help my nerves!
 
As I had packed all my gear previously and passed it on to my support team (Steve and Gillian Donaldson and John Stephenson) I was sat kicking my heels and must have been pretty poor company. I forced some pasta down at lunch time but didn’t feel very hungry due to the nerves. We then dropped Matthew off with the in-laws (they were also picking Daniel up from school) and then headed off for Keswick and Denton House youth hostel where everyone was due to stay. The temperature in Keswick was even higher than Newcastle but I started relaxing when we arrived at the hostel and bumped into Steve, Gillian and John as well as Fred Smith and Tim Forster.
 
We had tea at Weatherspoons in Keswick with Steve, Gillian and John and their excellent company and banter relaxed me even more and I was able to eat a decent amount. We had a leisurely walk back to the hostel and some of my other supporters and well wishers started to arrive such as Chris Redfern and Lisa McDonald, Paul and Clare Richardson, Peter and Helen Mullarkey and Jonny Kennedy. Chris had been due to support me on leg 2 but was feeling not too well so it was decided that he better not risk it (I was well covered for supporters on this leg). I must admit to feeling a bit jealous when he poured himself a nice cool pint and sat sipping it in the now pleasant sunshine.
 
All the waiting around was starting to make me nervous again so I decided to try and grab a nap for a couple of hours. Unfortunately I couldn’t get to sleep but I still managed to relax and calm my nerves a little. Once it got to around 9.45pm I decided to get up and changed into my gear. As it was still quite warm I would be able to manage running leg 1 (even though in the dark) in shorts and a T-shirt.
 
Supporting me on leg 1 were Rob Brooks, Bob Neill and Simon Long with Peter Mullarkey due to meet us on the top of Great Calva. Peter had now departed for Calva by himself and it was really appreciated given that he would have a long walk-in in the dark.  Talking to Rob, Bob and Simon helped relax me. I was especially happy that Rob would be starting the round with me as not only does he know leg 1 really well but he has done lots of training with me over the past months in preparation for his own round in June.
 
After talking to the guys I had a nice quiet sit down with Katy although the nerves were starting to build again and I was seriously starting to doubt my sanity for taking this on! Katy did a great job of reassuring me however.
 
Eventually it came to the time to get to the Moot Hall in the centre of Keswick which is only a 10 minute walk. The walk really helped relax me and when I got to the Moot Hall I changed into my fell shoes and posed for some photos. I then climbed to the top of the steps on the end of the hall before everyone counted down the final seconds to 11pm and then we were off to a round of applause. We jogged through one of the alleyways along the main street and off towards the leisure centre. My nerves had now vanished as we jogged and chatted. We ran through the grounds of the leisure centre and along a residential street before we switched our head torches on and turned onto the lane which crosses over the A66 and leads to the good track which climbs to the side of Latrigg.
 
The night was fairly warm but not unpleasantly, the stars were out and I could think of nothing better to be doing on a Friday night!. The only thing concerning me was that I was feeling quite sluggish and heavy. Having had a good taper period and not having to carry a backpack I thought I would feel  bit fresher and lighter. I did reassure myself that it was no bad thing to feel sluggish now as that would stop me from going off too quickly and I would likely feel better later on. Rob, Simon and Bob did a great job in making sure I ate and drank as we went up the steepening slope of Jenkin Hill before contouring around Skiddaw Little Man and then up the final climb to Skiddaw itself. Despite feeling sluggish we made it to Skiddaw on schedule before heading towards the fence on its eastern flank and down the steep trod to Hare Crag. The going here gets quite boggy as you head into a big upland depression.
 
It was here that Simon heroically kept hold of an apple for me to eat despite going knee deep into a bog! We finally crossed the Cumbria Way footpath and headed up the slopes of Great Calva. This wasn’t too steep a climb and we made good progress. We could also see a bright torch light on the summit which was Peter. After tagging the summit we headed for the very narrow trod which heads down through the heather towards the River Caldew. Although there was no moon light we still managed to find the trod easily which gave us a steady descent. Due to recent dry conditions the river was very low and so crossing was easy.
 
We now had the trudge up Mungrisedale Common. This is a featureless hill which is an outlier of Blencathra , has no redeeming features and is a steep pathless trudge up a tussocky slope. Luckily Simon had a football trivia question to keep us occupied from the monotony of the climb – who is the only footballer to win the Champions League, European Championships, play in a North London derby and a Manchester derby? (answer at the end of the report).
 
This at least had the effect of keeping our minds occupied as we reached the boggy top of Mungrisedale Common before reaching the slopes of Blencathra. Rob’s spot-on navigation took us straight up to the saddle before heading straight to the summit of Blencathra, startling a couple of wild campers as we passed them! Whilst it was dark we could make out the lights of Keswick, Penrith and Carlisle. We then headed down Halls Fell ridge which can sometimes be tricky but given that we had previously recce’d this in the dark and the rock was dry we made quick progress down into Threlkeld, crossing the A66 and heading into the cricket club car park at 02:51 where my support crew Steve, Gillian and John were waiting to feed me.  I was around 10 minutes down on schedule but not too concerned about this as I never seem to go well on leg 1 on all the times I have recce’d it and it is probably my least favourite leg.
 
There were a few other cars and camper vans there as well and it was clear that a few other people were also attempting the round.
 
My support crew were fantastic (like a Formula 1 pit crew) and sat me down whilst I had a nice cup of tea, a banana and some rice pudding. I also changed my t-shirt to a long sleeve top as it had got slightly colder. I said my goodbyes to Simon and Bob (unbelievably Bob was driving straight home to go straight to work!) and supporting me on the next leg were Rob (carrying on from leg 1) and Jim Thompson.
 
We ran down the lane from the cricket club towards Newsham House before heading up the rough fellside towards the next peak of Clough Head. This is a tough, steep climb mostly on grass and Jim was setting a good pace. The higher you climb the steeper it gets but eventually we reached the summit plateau and the trig point, clawing a couple of minutes back on the schedule. I had a sandwich and energy drink and then we ran down the lovely grassy descent which skirts Calfhow Pike before climbing steadily to Great Dodd. There was now enough pre-dawn light to switch head torches off which was a good psychological boost even though I still felt a bit sluggish. From Great Dodd it is nice grassy running to Watson’s Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd and descending into Stick’s Pass I stopped for a quick toilet break before ascending up the other side to Raise.
 
The pre-dawn had now given way to a beautiful sunrise and we could see mountain upon mountain rolling away into the distance as well as the glistening of Ullswater and Thirlmere. The downside of the good visibility was that I could see all the fells left to be climbed!
 
From Raise the summits of Whiteside, Lower Man, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike all seemed to come and go quickly with the sunrise casting a beautiful light on every rock and ridge. Jim and Rob were doing an excellent job of making sure I ate and drank regularly. From Dollywaggon there is a steep descent down to Grisedale Tarn which was calm and still and from there we reached the sting in the tail towards the end of the leg which is a steep climb up a zigzag path to Fairfield. I was feeling pretty low on this climb despite the wonderful surroundings but I tried to put negative thoughts aside and get my head down and reached the top a little quicker than expected before descending the same path and then striking up Seat Sandal which is the last peak of the leg. From Seat Sandal there is a steep, tricky descent down to the roadside at Dunmail Raise where the next rest stop is. Sure enough we could see Steve, Gillian, John and crew as we descended and I made my way across the road to lots of encouragement but feeling a bit worse for wear (07:13). This concerned me a bit as I had completed two legs and still felt tired and sluggish with the really tough legs of 3 and 4 to come.
 
I sat down and had some tinned spaghetti hoops and rice pudding (not together!) even though I didn’t feel like eating much and had the 1000 yard stare of tiredness. In contrast, Rob who had accompanied me for 2 legs looked as if he had just gone for a quick jog around the block! However, Steve in particular offered some good words of encouragement and I had a change of clothes which made me feel better. I had also been able to minimise any lost time on leg 2.  Keith Wood and Gemma Bradley were accompanying me on leg 3 and Keith jokingly threatened to leave me if I didn’t cheer up! By the time I was ready I was feeling a good deal better.
 
Leg 3 starts with a very steep climb up Steel Fell which from a distance looks vertical! Luckily, the climb is relatively short and we soon made good progress, making up a couple of minutes on the schedule. It was a lovely sunny morning and there was no sign of any emerging thunderstorms. However, I was starting to feel a dull ache just below my right hip and whilst this wasn’t impeding my movement it was causing a bit of discomfort.
 
After Steel Fell there is some undulating, grassy ground before the next summit of Calf Crag and this allowed us to pick the pace up and I was starting to feel a lot better.  After Calf Crag there is a monotonous, mostly pathless climb up to High Raise which sapped my energy a bit. On top of High Raise we had a quick chat with a couple of walkers who were reccy’ing part of the route in preparation of an attempt later in the year. From High Raise it was nice easy running across to Sergeant Man and then Thunacar (or Thundercats as Paul Richardson calls it) Knott. Then followed a short scramble up Harrison Stickle and a wonderful view across the Langdale Valley and over to Lake Windermere. We had a couple of minutes rest on top and a bite to eat before heading down the steep descent and up a steep ascent and scramble to Pike O’ Stickle.
 
The next section  on leg 3 is my least enjoyable as the route crosses Martcrag Moor which is usually boggy and soaking wet and you lose a lot of height before a steep and seemingly never ending traverse to Rossett Pike. Sure enough, the moor was wet but I felt I was climbing strongly. This was helped (?) by Keith regaling us with some hymns, most notably belting out Jerusalem for the benefit of anyone in a 30-mile radius! On Rossett Pike I felt very tired and wanted to have a quick break but Keith told me to keep going – even at a slower pace – and I took some comfort that this was approximately the mid-point of the round. Coming off Rossett I stopped for a quick toilet break.
 
Following Rossett  is an even steeper traverse through Hanging Knotts on the eastern face of Bowfell. This can look pretty daunting but I had recce’d it a few times and it looks worse than it is although you do have to concentrate as there is a bit of scrambling required. I got stuck into the climb and it passed very quickly – both Keith and Gemma complimenting the speed I was managing to maintain. A quick crossing of the rocky plateau to Bowfell’s summit and we were heading off towards Esk Pike. Ahead we could see the bulk of the Scafell range and whilst normally this would be an intimidating site of how much climbing remained on the leg, I felt confident and was looking forward to getting there. This was helped by how clear the conditions were.
 
Esk Pike from Bowfell is a fairly gentle climb and a hop, skip and a jump down to Esk Hause. This is one of the main routes up Scafell and sure enough we could see the hordes of walkers making their way up. There was a big group of people milling around the stone shelter on Esk Hause who Keith spotted as his local Boys Brigade group who were over for a trip (he had apparently let them know that we would be in this location at around this time so they could provide some support). Sure enough, I got a wonderful ovation as I passed them which gave me a great boost on the climb up Calf Cove and we filled up some of the water bottles in the stream here. From the col at the top of Calf Cove, we made for the top of Great End on the increasingly rocky ground. I was starting to feel quite strong and as the rocks were dry progress was quick. Keith reinforcing this by telling me I had made up 15 mins on schedule since Rossett Pike!
 
The two rocky outcrops of Ill Crag and Broad Crag were bagged quickly in the dry conditions before we headed down to Broad Crag Col and up the short steep climb to the summit of Scafell Pike. As you would imagine on a sunny Saturday lunch time on a Bank Holiday weekend the summit was packed. Despite this Keith shouted to everyone that I was on my 29th peak out of 42 and had been on the go since 11pm the previous night. When the response was fairly muted he informed everyone again a bit more forcefully and I got a generous round of applause. I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or not so I shuffled off with my head down and my arm half raised in acknowledgement! It was actually a nice gesture from Keith and gave me another boost. Another positive was that there were still no signs of any storms and the conditions were nice and clear, although very warm.
 
Only one more peak to go on leg 3 and this one is the trickiest. Whilst Sca Fell is just a short distance from Scafell Pike standing in the way are the foreboding rock faces of Sca Fell Crag. There are a number of ways up to Sca Fell and all but one involve bypassing the crag but losing a lot of height and having to regain it. However, my chosen route was the only one not bypassing the crag and climbing up a rocky “step” called Broad Stand. Whilst Broad Stand can potentially be done as a scramble and has the advantage of being the most direct route, any slip is likely to end in serious or fatal consequences. Therefore I was to be roped up Broad Stand and very kindly Jonny Kennedy had been waiting there with a rope to help me. With Gemma deciding to bypass Scafell and meet us on the descent to Wasdale, Keith and I made our way through a thin gap in the rock (called Fatman’s Agony). I elected to go first. As I have no rock climbing experience I had been quite apprehensive about this section but had put it to the back of my mind. Keith helped tie the rope around me and then I grabbed on spurred on by the shouts of Jonny above to pretend I was Batman! Luckily the roped section was very short and Jonny hauled me up onto the rocky ledge above. Thanks Jonny!
 
I knew that whilst it was still a steep climb to the top of the crag it was a relatively simple scramble so I went on my merry way although I was still shaking from the excitement of the rope climb. I also hadn’t realised that Keith had had a small slip on the rope when he was climbing up after me but he caught me up seemingly no worse for wear and it made me realise again how lucky I was to have such good support from people who would put their own discomfort aside to help me.
 
From the top of Scafell comes the single biggest descent of the round to Wasdale with potential to trash the quads. It was here that I realised that the pain below my hip had got worse and was giving me quite a bit of discomfort and was slowing my descending. Never mind, I just had to get on with it. As we descended the stony ground gave way to a pleasant grassy descent before we reached the scree shoots next to Rakehead Crag. When viewed from across Wasdale, these scree shoots look impossibly steep but are not as bad when you are on them and can give a quick “sort cut” descent if you can manage to ride the moving scree. I didn’t manage too badly in my discomfort and soon we reached the lovely cool waters of Lingmell Gill and met up again with Gemma. The waters were lovely and soothing on my feet particularly given that it was boiling hot in this sheltered area of the valley. To be honest I could have quite fancied a quick dip, however, we descended down the main path down to the campsite at Brackenclose where the support team would be ready. I was in good spirits and felt I had bitten off a good chunk of the round whilst still feeling fairly strong (apart from the pain below my hip).
 
We reached the campsite at 13:32 and it was lovely to see Steve, Gillian and John at the car park in Wasdale as well as my supporters for leg 4 – Paul Richardson, Fred Smith and Tim Forster. They had picked a lovely shaded spot and whilst Steve kindly checked my feet out for any blisters I got stuck into some tinned ravioli, a packet of crisps and a tub of rice pudding. After this, I had a quick change of clothes. There were lots of other supporters here for other people doing their rounds , in particular a group who were supporting Tom Hollins (former Spine Race winner) on his double Bob Graham Round attempt. Just one round was enough for me!
 
I felt really refreshed after the quick stop and I knew that leg 4 would be crucial as it is another tough leg where lots of people give up. However, I was really confident especially with Paul, Fred and Tim supporting as they have all successfully completed the round themselves and I knew their banter would keep me smiling.
 
Unfortunately there is no easy way out of Wasdale and a quick jog out of the car park and along the road led me to the nightmare climb of clockwise rounds – Yewbarrow. This climbs nearly 600m (2000 feet) in half a mile and coming well into the round when you are fatigued  there is no other choice but to grit your teeth and get on with it. Fortunately I had recce’d this climb a few times and was familiar with it. Paul and then Fred led a stiff pace upwards and I felt I was still going well. Sure enough we reached the top in 41 minutes , knocking 5 minutes of the schedule.
 
Descending off Yewbarrow down to Dore Head was tough given the pain underneath my hip and I regretted not taking any painkillers at Wasdale. This was slowing my descending  but I was still in a good frame of mind as my climbing was ok and I was still eating and drinking plenty. From Dore Head comes the long climb up to Red Pike. Whilst this is not particularly steep it seems to go on and on. On top of Red Pike, the sky had dulled and we could hear rumbles of thunder. However, the main rain clouds were passing to the east of us and with a bit of luck we would miss them.
 
We then set off for Steeple – bypassing Scoat Fell and reached the rough wall along the ridge. The pain was getting worse and I asked if we had any painkillers. Unfortunately it did not appear that there were any in the little first aid kit we were carrying so not point in worrying. Paul and I left Fred and Tim at the wall whilst we quickly bagged the pointed summit of Steeple which is a quick out and back. We then followed the ridge and the trod which bypasses Black Crags and down to Wind Gap before striking upwards to Pillar. As we reached the flat summit the rumbles of thunder got louder and it started to rain – big, heavy drops. As we stopped to put on waterproofs a bolt of lightning flashed fairly close by. It was clearly not a wise idea to stay on the summit so we headed off towards Black Sail Pass and Kirk Fell pretty sharpish!
 
Normally this is a nice fast descent on fairly easy ground but my discomfort was slowing me down although I was still able to go at a quickish jog. Once at Black Sail pass we stopped for a quick bite to eat as the rain had eased off. At this point, whilst I did not feel the round was quite in the bag I was fairly confident doing it within 24 hours as I was still moving relatively well and I knew there were only two more big climbs left on the leg before we would get to Honister and I would see Katy and our boys who were to be there.
 
We decided to climb Kirk Fell by the rocky gully which is used as the descent off the fell in the Ennerdale Fell Race. Although I had never used this route before I knew that it was meant to be very direct and we scrambled up it whilst the rain set in with a vengeance (and was to keep on until midway through leg 5). This also brought the clag (hill fog) in and very soon visibility was limited to a few metres. We tagged the summit and then Paul and Fred took a careful bearing leading to the steep descent down to Beck Head. At this point we bumped into Jim Thompson and Graham Stephenson who had ran up from Honsiter to meet us. Their presence added to the good spirits despite the weather.
 
The last big climb on this leg – Great Gable. The rocky path up to it from Beck Head seemed to take ages and my energy levels felt really low. After what seemed an eternity we reached the top and again took a careful bearing for the descent to Windy Gap. Unfortunately the descent off Gable is very steep and this made it very painful which slowed progress considerably, not helped by the poor conditions and slippy rocks. I was feeling quite chilly so put on my waterproof trousers.  Once down to Windy Gap there was a short pull up to Green Gable before the easier ground which leads across Brandreth and Grey Knotts and down to Honister. Again, Paul and Fred were really careful with their bearings and led us really well over this section. Normally the descent from Grey Knotts to Honister is nice and grassy and quick but I was reduced to a pathetic hobble. However, I could see the slate mine buildings below where I knew everyone would be waiting and better still I had plenty of time in hand and knew the round was almost in the bag!
 
As we got lower I could see Katy waiting with Daniel and could hear him shouting “come on Daddy” at the top of his voice. I started to feel quite emotional but put this to one side as I knew I wasn’t finished yet. I gave Daniel and Katy a quick hug and then we jogged down the road together towards the buildings where my parents in law were with Matthew and all of the support team. I had a sit down under the sheltered area and a bite to eat something to drink and finally some painkillers. It was nice just to sit and try and take everything in and I no longer felt any pressure, just relaxed in the knowledge that I was going to make it.
 
It was time for the final leg. My support on this leg was Chris Kennedy, Adam Leggett along with Rob Brooks, Simon Long and Peter Mullarkey. There was a nice relaxed atmosphere as we went up Dale Head – a climb I am pretty familiar with and although it is not particularly steep it goes on a while. We made the top a couple of minutes up on schedule and whilst it was still raining I knew that was the last major climb of the round done. From the top of Dale Head it is a lovely run along the ridge on a good path to Hindscarth (reverse direction of the Anniversary Waltz Fell Race) and this summit was quickly reached.
 
As we jogged down from Hindscarth to the col leading to Robinson the rain stopped and the cloud started clearing leaving a wonderful view down the Newlands Valley towards Keswick. We made quick progress to Robinson and suddenly I was on my 42nd and final summit. I didn’t really feel any elation but had a nice feeling of satisfaction. The improved conditions meant that there were good views towards Buttermere and the setting sun to the west. The initial run off Robinson is over a nice grassy path before you reach steep, rocky ground. This technical ground slowed me down quite a bit due to the soreness below my hip and I was reduced to shuffling down on my backside. The steep grassy ground below was a bit easier and finally we were running along the nice track towards High Snab. It was turning into a beautiful, peaceful evening and we got in to the small parking area just beyond the Chapel where the support team were waiting. A change into my road shoes (which felt like slippers!), shorts and vest and a quick bite to eat and we were off down the road for the last 6 miles or so to Keswick. I set off at quite a fast pace but realised I could not sustain this due to the soreness and stiffness so settled down and walked the uphill sections past Swinside.
 
It was now getting quite dark and the road to Portinscale seemed to take ages but eventually we were there and across the wobbly bridge, along the bridleway and out into the main street in Keswick. I knew there was only about 500 metres or so to go but strangely did not feel really emotional, I just had a nice feeling of satisfaction but broke out into a big smile as I ran through the market place to generous applause from everyone who was gathered there (including my brother and my parents who had driven across just to see me finish). I ran (hobbled?) up the steps of the Moot Hall and touched the door 23 hours and 19 minutes since I set off the previous evening.
 
There was lots of photos and a nice hug with Katy before someone thrust a pint in my hand and I managed a few sips!
 
I am still smiling now and it is starting to sink in what I have achieved. However, I could not have done this with all my supporters and people who have helped, encouraged and advised me. In no particular order (and apologies if I have missed anyone out!):
 
Steven and Gillian Donaldson, John Stephenson, Rob Brooks, Simon Long, Bob Neill, Peter and Helen Mullarkey, Jim Thompson, Gemma Bradley, Andrew Softley, Chris Redfern, Lisa McDonald, Keith Wood, Jonny Kennedy, Fred Smith Tim Forster, Paul and Clare Richardson, Adam Leggett, Chris Kennedy, Catherine Vicarage, Darren Smiley and Mark Smith, my parents, my brother Stephen and my parents in law.
 
I have to mention my biggest supporters – my wife Katy and our two boys Daniel and Matthew who have been wonderfully supportive and have had to put up without me (some might say that is a good thing!) for long periods of time when I have been out training in the Lakes and the Cheviots. Again, I would have got nowhere near without them.
 
My legs are now recovering from the challenge but I still have a bit of a pain in the tendons in the top of my left foot so have just been doing some gentle exercises. In the first few days afterwards I did not have too much of an appetite and did not feel too tired but a few days on and my appetite has returned with a vengeance and I have felt very tired – the body’s way of recovering I suppose.
 
In terms of the training I did this was concentrated on long days out in the hills – either the Lakes recc’ing the route or in the Cheviots. This started in earnest at the end of 2016 so a lot of the training was done in the winter in wet and windy or snowy and icy weather. I believe this did a lot of good and built up my “fell hardness”. These days were measured more in time on my feet rather than any particular distance and the maximum I did was 10 hours (any more I felt would be counterproductive as it would take me too long to recover). I also suffered bad patches in these sessions where I would sometimes feel sick or very negative and especially when I was out by myself I learned to push through these patches.
 
I was lucky to stay injury free through my training. I put this down to having adequate recovery (at first it was a bit of trial and error to see how much recovery I needed between hard sessions), doing pilates, weights and stretching every day.
 
As I was doing lots of long, slow days in the hills I made sure that I did not neglect speedwork too much. This included sprint reps, including uphills and I felt this maintained my leg speed which increased my speed uphill even when going at a slower pace. I also did lots of plyometric  and agility exercises such as fast feet, jumps, hopping etc in order to move more quickly over rougher ground and being lighter on my feet. Again, I feel that this work really paid off.
 
Looking back now I am thinking, perhaps greedily, that I could have done the round at least an hour quicker if I had not had the discomfort below my hops that really hindered my descending. However, the objective is to finish within 24 hours which I did do and I may have even taken longer if I didn’t have my brilliant supporters around to push me through the tough sections.
 
Finally the answer to the football trivia question is Nicholas Anelka! The time it took us to think of the answer certainly did the job of taking my mind off the effort of going up Mungrisedale Common!
 
Iain Armstrong

 

 

 

Bob Graham Round Blog 7

It seems fitting to base this blog post on Iain’s successful round on 27th/28th May.
 
I drove over to the Lakes on the Friday afternoon and arrived at Denton House where we were all staying at around 7-30pm. We walked to Weatherspoon’s to have some food and met Bob who had left his car at Threlkeld and ran from there. He wasn’t staying the night as he had work at 6am the next day.
 
It had been an absolute scorcher of a day and the forecast was good for the night, 16 degrees on the tops with little wind.
 
Also running on the first leg were Simon, Bob and Peter who set off around an hour earlier and was going to meet us at the top of Great Calva. I was glad that the forecast was good as the top of a mountain isn’t a good place to be hanging around if conditions are bad.
 
I was leg leader for the first leg which meant it was my job to navigate and organise everyone else. It’s a massive responsibility – I would hate for Iain to not get round in time because of a mistake I had made and I was determined for everything to go smoothly. I did this leg last year on Paul’s round and we got round without any problems and to be honest Paul didn’t need any navigational help – he knew exactly where he was going. Although Iain is a good navigator himself he was very clear that on his round we wanted other people to have that responsibility so all he needed to do was concentrate on the running.
 
11pm finally arrived and we set off through the streets of Keswick and onto the first and biggest climb of the round to the summit of Skiddaw. We made steady progress with some good banter although it was very warm and I was sweating quite a bit.
 
We reached the summit 2 minutes down on schedule and then the navigation came into play. We veered off the summit path and made a beeline for a fence which we needed to cross where there is a trod leading down over Hare Crag towards Calva. There is a style here and someone has tied a bright reflective band around the post which makes it very visible, although this type of this is against the ethos of the round as it is supposed to be a navigational challenge.
 
We got onto the trod and I was very careful to stick to it. During the day in good visibility you can see it all the way down but there was no moon and very dark so all we could see was the few feet our headtorches were illuminating. The trod goes through some very boggy sections and if you go off course then the going is very heavy.
 
Going down we could see Peter’s head torch at the top of Calva which I was pleased about as it meant he had got there safely.
 
We reached the bottom of the trod and started the next climb up Calva. Iain mentioned that the pace was a bit quick.
 
I’ve been on the fells many times with Iain and I knew that the pace we were going at was sustainable for him. We had stopped a few more times since Skiddaw too – just for a couple of minutes each time but those minutes add up so we had lost a little more time. I agreed to slow down but continued at the same pace and hoped he wouldn’t mention it again.
 
He didn’t and we reached the top and met Peter. I took a bearing to find the trod that leads down to the river Caldew and we got onto it no problem.
 
We forded the river no problem, I took another bearing and we started the long slog up Mungrisdale Common. Spirits were high and Simon kept everyone entertained with football related trivia questions.
 
We found the quad bike tracks which lead up to the top of Atkinson Pike – one of the subsidiary tops of Blencathra and then cut across just before the summit to traverse over to the top where we passed a few people wild camping.
 
We were about 10 minutes down but I wasn’t concerned as Iain was moving and eating well and he had an hour and a half contingency in his schedule.
 
Peter had fallen back a little on the climb but made up ground so we all started the tricky descent down Halls fell together which I was pleased about.
 
Conditions were dry and still and we made good progress down the ridge. We (myself, Iain, Bob and Simon) had came over the week before to reccie the ridge in the dark and that definitely paid benefits. I also had fun and games on the ridge with Peter the year before, on one occasion I fell around 20ft into a gully and on another Keith sliced his hand open on a rock requiring stitches so I was relieved when we all made it down safely and into the first changeover at Threlkeld.
 
It was time to say goodbye to Peter, Simon, Bob and say hello to Jim who was running leg 2 (Chris was also supposed to be running but unfortunately had to pull out). We set off up Clough Head – one of the hardest climbs on the round in my opinion as it is incredibly steep and unrelenting. We reached the top in good time and it had started to get light – we could see the full ridge stretching out in front of us, a fantastic sight. We ticked off the Dodds and had a brief stop where Iain did what bears do in the woods.
 
I have to say Jim did a fantastic job motivating and keeping Iain going on this leg. He had become very quiet and was complaining of feeling tired and a little nauseous. He was still moving well though – walking strongly on the ascents, running the descents and flats and he was eating and drinking.
 
The sunrise over that section was absolutely amazing and a memory that will stay with me forever. We steadily ticked off the peaks on the ridge before reaching Dollywagon Pike and the steep descent down to Grisedale Tarn.
 
Then followed the next big climb of the round and the last for me which is an out and back to Fairfield.
 
Then a smaller climb up Seat Sandal and the descent down to the 2nd changeover at Dunmail Raise. We were 5 mins down now so had made up some time as at one point we were 15 mins down.
 
Iain was very quiet and I knew that he was suffering, but Gillian, Steve and John did a fantastic job looking after him and making sure he had something substantial to eat. They also made me some pasta and a coffee which went down well as I had only had some maltloaf and a few chocolate bars since setting off from the Moot Hall.
 
He then set off on leg 3 with Gemma and Keith and I went back to the hostel with Jim to try and get some sleep.
 
There was a long wait before we heard any more news but when it came through it was good – Iain was strong coming into Wasdale and still well within the 24 hour schedule.
 
I had decided to do leg 5 too so at around 4:30 we made our way up to Honister to eagerly await his arrival.
 
Although the thunderstorm and torrential rain had now stopped it was still steadily raining and the clag had descended and shrouded the tops.
 
After a few false starts we finally spotted the party coming down – Graeme blazing a trail in front followed by Iain, Fred, Paul, Tim and Jim.
 
It was great to see him again and he was a different person to the Iain I had left at Dunmail Raise 12 hours ago. He was in good spirits, chatty and still moving well.
 
We set off up the last big climb of the round, Dale Head – Chris, Adam, Peter and Simon all part of the company. We seemed to reach the top in no time and made steady progress over Hindscarth and Robinson where the clag began to lift and opened up the view down into Keswick – the final push.
 
The last descent led us down to Little Town where Gillian, Steve and John were waiting with a change of shoes and luckily some insect repellent as the midges were starting to come out in force.
 
The last 4.5 miles along the road were in great spirits, and Iain ran up to the Moot Hall, touching the door in 23:19. I felt quite emotional at this point, it’s been such a long journey for Iain and I’ve spent so much of it with him it was hugely satisfying for me to see him finally achieve his dream.
 
Iain went back to the hostel to get some much needed rest and then everyone else headed off to the pub to mark the end of a fantastic weekend.
 
It’s my turn next and I can’t wait – few things to sort out but essentially all of my hard training is done now too so it’s a case of tapering and winding down.

 

Rob
 

Ronnie Walker

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I write to let you know that our Life President, Mr Ronnie Walker, passed away on Thursday.
 
Ronnie was 95 and as many of you would have known had failing health in recent years.  He died peacefully at home, in his sleep, surrounded by his family.
 
Many of you who attended our 125 year Summer  Ball, where Ronnie made a video message, will remember his humour, wit and most importantly his wish for Saltwell to flourish and become a force to be reckoned with. He enjoyed nothing better than a visit from many a Saltwellian who kept him up to date with the comings and goings of the club and I am sure he was proud as punch seeing a photo of a Saltwell vest in the Evening Chronicle on more than one occasion recently.
 
Ronnie was a member of the running community since 1939, keeping detailed training diaries, and up until recent years ran/walked most days.  His stories of days gone by were the highlight of many an AGM when he addressed the club.
 
As yet, we do not know when/where his funeral will take place but as soon as I know I will let you know.  In the meantime, if anyone wishes to send a personal card/letter of condolence could you please address if to Mrs Bev Jobson (Ronnie’s daughter) c/o 46 Cromer Avenue, Low Fell. Gateshead, NE9 6UL
 
As you will not doubt know it is our club 10K tomorrow night – as a mark of respect and remembrance we will be holding a minute’s silence before the start.
 
Regards
 
Gillian