Thursday, 5 December 2013

Jim Mann - Winter Bob Graham Round Report.


Winter BG 1st December 2013

In February this year I attempted a Winter BG running on an 18.26 schedule. There was good snow cover all the way but the weather was perfect – still and clear. I ran leg 1 on schedule, leg 2 I dropped 15 mins in deep snow in the col between Fairfield and Seat / Sandal. I eventually stopped and hour down at Wasdale after losing 45minutes on the way to Scafell. I was delighted – I knew I then and there that I could do it and promised myself to go on the first day of the following winter with good conditions…..

Sunday the 1st of December has been on my calander marked as ‘Break Winter BG record’ since February but it was always going to be weather dependent. As the date approached and came onto the 12 day forecast it looked like there was a chance but little certainty regardless  started to taper.

With things still looking OK but not certain the weekend before I started checking for road and hill support and it looked like it might actually happen.

The normal chaos of the week before soon ensued as I tried to clear things at work, find pacers, organise kit, check with road support etc etc and of course desperately try to get more than my normal 4 hours sleep so I had a sleep bank built up was not easy and maybe is not required but it seems to help and psychologically makes a difference

Then I hit the usual withering self doubt that sets in a few days before (has my training been enough, is this head cold going to turn to flu am I really capable of doing this)  swiftly that gave way into the wanting to be setting off right now zone which all too soon became the that’s really soon reality hit – I wish I had longer and then before I knew it I was in Keswick just wondering Why?

I was met in Keswick by John Oldroyd – John was a teacher of mine when I was at secondary school and used to take me to Fell races in fact he used to tell me he was running when he was injured so I wouldn’t feel bad about having a lift and then when we got there he would ‘decide it was better not to chance it’. Anyway we recently reconnected and I guess this was the first time in 20years I had seen him which was really nice – he had made the trip specially to see me off!
 

Leg 1

Jules Coleman

The weather was a lot worse than forecast – it had looked like I might get still conditions with temperatures above zero all the way and some mist but in fact there was a strong breeze and drizzle which I find energy sapping. I had no real options to delay the start as I wanted light over the middle section and had to be at work early Monday morning so we stuck to the 1am plan although in eventuality we set off at 1.03. Jules was great company and we chatted pretty much the whole way round the leg.  Skiddaw was windy but OK and we were 5mins up on schedule, Great Calva 4 mins further up and I felt good – a couple of little nav wobbles in very heavy mist on Blencathra left us down 1min (3.08) as passed through the normal change over and  3.10 at the end and the first nervous change over. My intention was to run straight through the change point (the reason I had chosen to have the change at the very bottom of the hill was so I could grab a paper cup of pasta and a coffee and consume them on the climb). This is all well and good in theory and I had top ultra runner Helen Skelton supporting so I was confident she would have it all figured out but I had never cut back to a zero stop before. As it was it couldn’t have been more perfect – I collected a cup of pasta from and outstretched arm and jogged right on through without breaking stride only slowing to a power walk when the gradient increased – at that point I started eat/drinking the pasta. So far so good.

Leg 2

Stephen Birkinshaw

Steve caught me up at the gate at the top of the lane having picked up my emergency kit from Jules. I couldn’t have been happier with the change over and despite dropping a minute on leg 1 I was feeling really pretty good and very confident. I could feel a small niggle in my right hamstring that has been troubling me since resuming track training a few months ago and I was drenched but all in all things were pretty good. Despite eating on the climb up Clough head we took 3 mins out of the schedule and the mist & rain that was causing us some issues on leg 1 clearly had no plans of subsiding. We could just about see the path / trod with our head torches and Steve soon got out his handheld torch which helped a bit. Despite that we made a couple of little wanders on the leg going nearly to the top calfow crag, starting down striding edge (thankfully not very far before we both realised) and then I got a really bad line up Fairfield (I take a direct line up the side from the tarn outflow but you need to avoid the bolder scree to get a time saving – I didn’t manage to avoid it at all though and dropped about 3 mins up there). Frustrated with the Fairfield error, a night of being in a spin cycle, the tiny but annoying nav errors that kept erasing the hard workto get a few mins up on the schedule and a now rapidly tightening right hamstring I was having a real low point and was questioning whether I could continue from Dunmail. I told Steve I was having a bad time and he highlighted all the good points - we were on schedule give or take a minute in horrible weather, the forecast was for it to improve, it was getting light and the relentless pace in those conditions was bound to make me feel tired – he lifted my spirits and as I came into Dunmail I was ready to at least try and give as good as the course was giving me. I can’t stress how important Steve’s pep talk was at this point in the round – great pacers like Steve can genuinely change the fortunes of a round.

Leg 3 Carol Morgan, Mark Ruscoe,  James Byrne

I was in fighting mood and I think it showed. The headtorch was off and passed to Steve before I crossed the style off the fell (I wouldn’t need that till later). The windproof was next and then the base layer was off all before I was across the road. We were after another ‘rolling’ stop a clean dry base layer was handed to me and my wet hat and gloves were dumped on the verge (I grumped a few words at Helen (sorry!) who again had everything perfectly organised and again I went straight through) and off, the fresh top was going on as I climbed Steel fell,  pacers quickly sorted the kit change and re grouped with me on the way up. Pasta in, coffee in – lots of chatter – lots of banter and we were well on our way. Steel fell was surprisingly easy after the battle I had just gone through on Seat/Sandal – that was strange – maybe, just maybe things were turning? Carol, Mark and James were relentless in forcing me to eat and drink. When I didn’t fancy any of my food on the way through the Langdales they starting trying to tempt me with whatever they had for themselves and Mark found the solution with a block of Kendal mint cake – He had a whole bag of it which I proceeded to consume on the way round (I’m pretty sure he stopped eating it himself to ensure there was plenty for me as it was the only thing I was eating for a while) I am fairly confident that it got handed over at Wasdale too as I’m sure I was eating it again on leg 4!? By the time we were at Harrison Stickle I was finding my stride, the day was starting to warm up a bit and my confidence was slowly rising - we were right on plan:

·         Leg 1 – nothing stupid

·         Leg 2 – don’t screw up and reach Dunmail in decent shape

·         Leg 3 – game on – get a few mins on the schedule for the tricky bits – get to Wasdale on time

I had reason to be feeling better – I was eating and drinking well – it was light, getting warmer, the wind had dropped and I was moving pretty well - everything was to play for and the underfoot conditions were OK too for the time of year although the rocks were wet and very slippy but there was hardly any ice or snow except a few patches that could be avoided.

 

John Oldroyd had taken Ice axe and crampons up to the col before Bowfell  as last weekend there was a good layer of ice and snow on the high fells (it was comical in the end as there was no need at all) – in fact my poor pacers were carrying microspike with them still at this point too – sorry! Regardless it great to see John and the flap jack and coffee he had brought was really nice (Note to self … ask for flapjack recipe). As we approached the top of Bowfell through the mist I could see a few walkers up there and must have looked up 2 or 3 times before realising that 1 of them wasn’t just a random walker but was in fact Liz Barker who had told me she didn’t think she would be able to make it – she had even brought coffee ( a very pleasant surprise – both seeing Liz and the coffee!) A quick swig reviving me a little more and again without stopping. Just the Scafell Pike ridge and then the decision on route to Scafell - despite being great conditions I was keen to drop to foxes after dropping 45 mins on the traverse after lords rake back in February and in the end I went with the foxes better safe than sorry approach.

The run down from Scafell to Wasdale has never been so easy I was relaxed and striding out – that was weird I was expecting to be tied up. Through Wasdale on time and I knew I had it – I really like leg 4 and leg 5 is short so can be ground out. At the first view of Wastwater I was aware that I was grinning ear to ear – another near perfect leg – just hold it together now. It was disappointing to leave Carol, Mark and James – leg 3 was a lot of fun and it was great to finish in better shape than I started.
 

Leg 4 Bill Williamson

I was delighted when Bill said he would do leg 4 – he’s great fun to run with and as a bonus leg 4 is a bit of speciality of his – he knows all the best lines and on leg 4, more than any other, that can make a big difference. Gill had taken over for road support at Wasdale but Helen (who was meant to be having a rest before running leg 5 had made the trip round anyway. Again we went with a rolling change – I literally ran straight through and Bill caught me up with another cup of pasta. We got stuck in to Yewbarrow – it hurt but we were on schedule and Bill was coaxing me along – Red Pike was a fight and I started to worry that I was going into another low (eating had become hard with a bit of acid burn) but on the way to Steeple I had a toilet stop and instantly started to feel better – from then on we started to wind it up and from Pillar to the end we were really motoring, or at least it felt like it we even had a little bit of a race down the Borrowdale race route descent from Great Gable – my legs felt great – I was going to do this.

Liz made another appearance at the top of Great Gable again with coffee (hmmmm perfect)– I spent a few mins trying to work out what route she had come from Bowfell – then realised it was lots of hours earlier and she wouldn’t have come straight over – my brain wasn’t at full speed by this point clearly.

The drop into Honister was fantastic everything was working and we were striding out and Bill’s perfect nav meant I was headed out a few minutes ahead of schedule – just leg 5 to grind out and I was home (thoughts of beer and real food started to creep into my mind)

Leg 5 Andy Blackett, Helen Skelton and special guest star Martin Stone

Honister was strange there were quite a few people about but I had no idea who as it was now pitch black again but thanks to all of them for being there and sorry I didn’t say hi or stop or anything. I just did the same as on all the other road crossing I ran right on through letting my pacers switch and catch me with yet another cup of pasta (good job I like pasta!).

We just set to trundling round the last 3 summits – uneventful and for me pretty much on autopilot – just follow Andy and Helen and let them do all the work J. Martin hot footed it over from Dale Head to meet us again up on Robinson and take us down to Newlands church.

Helen tried to feed me and I had a couple of sweets and some more Kendal mint cake but not a lot else as my stomach was really not good by then but I wasn’t concerned as we were pretty close to home.

At the church I stopped moving for the first time since leaving moot hall to make a quick shoe change – off with the Mudclaws which had done me really well and into road shoes – I was glad I did that as my feet were really sore and the hard road wasn’t nice. We ran pretty steady but consistent all the way back into Keswick and were soon greeted by the welcome sight of the Moot hall.

A very satisfying time of 18.18.








We went to the Scafell Hotel for some dinner as in the past they have let me use their toilets in the early hours of the morning before a BG attempt – that sort of service earns you custom – It was delicious but I couldn’t eat it with my stomach so trashed so took it home and had it for breakfast as 5.30am Monday morning Jand it was still delicious.

This has been nearly 4 years in the making and I am really pleased that it came together. So many people have played a part in this not just those that were there on the day - thank you so much – it was a really special day.

I wouldn’t have even dreamed I could go that fast 3 years ago. Its deeply satisfying to push yourself to your mental, physical and emotional limits and emerge on the other side.

The Schedule

Sunrise
8:18
 
Sunset
15:50
 
Companion name
Leg 1 – Jules Coleman, Leg 2 – Steve Birkinshaw, Leg 3 – Carol Morgan, Mark Ruscoe, James Byrne, Leg 4 – Bill Williamsom, Leg 5 – Helen Skelton, Andy Blackett, Martin Stone
Road / Hill Support
Helen Skelton, Gill Chapple, John Oldroyd, Liz Barker
Location
State of light
Leg time
Estimated time
Your time at this location (notes)
Moot Hall
Dark
0
01:00
 01.03
Skiddaw
Dark
69
02:09
 02.07
Great Calva
Dark
36
02:45
 02.42
Blencathra
Dark
57
03:42
 03.46
Threlkeld - Arrive
Dark
25
04:07
 04.08 (04.11 at bridge)
Threlkeld - Depart
Dark
5
04:12
 04.11
Clough Head
Dark
48
05:00
 04.59
Great Dodd
Dark
24
05:24
 05.23
Watson Dodd
Dark
7
05:31
 05.30
Stybarrow Dodd
Dark
7
05:38
 05.37
Raise
Dark
15
05:53
 05.52
White Side
Dark
6
05:59
 05.58
Helvellyn Lower Man
Dark
15
06:14
 06.13
Helvellyn
Dark
5
06:19
 06.18
Nethermost Pike
Dark
8
06:27
 06.28
Dollywaggon Pike
Dark
10
06:37
 06.38
Fairfield
Dark
34
07:11
 07.15
Seat Sandal
Dark
20
07:31
 07.35
Dunmail Raise - Arrive
Dawn
20
07:51
 07.55
Dunmail Raise - Depart
Dawn
5
07:56
 07.55
Steel Fell
Dawn
20
08:16
 08.17
Calf Crag
Dawn
16
08:32
 08.35
Sergeant Man
Dawn
28
09:00
 09.04
High Raise
Daylight
7
09:07
 09.11
Thunacar Knott
Daylight
12
09:19
 09.24
Harrison Stickle
Daylight
8
09:27
 09.32
Pike o Stickle
Daylight
10
09:37
 09.42
Rossett Pike
Daylight
36
10:13
 10.18
Bowfell
Daylight
28
10:41
 10.45
Esk Pike
Daylight
20
11:01
 11.06
Great End
Daylight
20
11:21
 11.26
Ill Crag
Daylight
12
11:33
 11.38
Broad Crag
Daylight
8
11:41
 11.47
Scafell Pike
Daylight
10
11:51
 11.58
Scafell
Daylight
26
12:17
 12.34 (foxes)
Wasdale - Arrive
Daylight
28
12:45
 13.01
Wasdale - Depart
Daylight
5
12:50
 13.01
Yewbarrow
Daylight
40
13:30
 13.42
Red Pike
Daylight
40
14:10
 14.23
Steeple
Daylight
19
14:29
 14.42
Pillar
Daylight
27
14:56
 15.06
KirkFell
Dusk
40
15:36
 15.45
Great Gable
Dusk
35
16:11
 16.18
Green Gable
Dusk
12
16:23
 16.26
Brandreth
Dark
15
16:38
 16.38
Grey Knotts
Dark
6
16:44
 16.44
Honister - Arrive
Dark
11
16:55
 16.54
Honister - Depart
Dark
5
17:00
 16.54
Dalehead
Dark
27
17:27
 17.23
Hindscarth
Dark
17
17:44
 17.38
Robinson
Dark
21
18:05
 17.59
Keswick Moot Hall
Dark
81
19:26
 19.21

 

 




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