3 day Ramsay's Round Recce

The final 24 hour round takes me to Scotland. Fort William is the new focus of my attention and specifically the 24 Munros (well technically 23 as 1 got demoted since Charlie’s Round in 1978) that makes up Charlie Ramsay’s round. I have previously been to Fort William on several occasions. At the end of my 2003 walk of the West Highland Way, on completing the WHW race in 2004, on doing the Lochaber Marathon twice (2005, 2006) and in doing the Ben Nevis Race in 2006. Even after all these trips the only 2 Scottish Munros I had “bagged” were Ben Lomond – a detour whilst walking the WHW – and Ben Nevis. So I embark on a real adventure. Over the coming months I will learn the Rmasay Round route in the same way I did the BG and PB.

Day 1 : Ben Nevis to Stob Ban and Back via Water of Nevis. A 12 hour Epic

19th Nov 2008
25 miles 11,000 feet

My first foray into the round beyond Ben Nevis was always going to be interesting. It was even more so because Bill Williamson and Will Houghton accompanied me to do the 3 days of recceing. Bill and Will both had set their sights on the CR as their next big challenge, after their completions of the Bob Graham round earlier in the year. Unlike me they decided to leave the Paddy Buckley round to be the last of the “big 3”. It meant that we could all contemplate making an attempt on the round together, and as the round is tough to get support for, we would all need to learn the route well as we could not guarantee good navigators on the hills on the attempt. After a long drive up the night before we set off on our recce at exactly 08:00 hrs from the Glen Nevis youth Hostel.

It felt good to be setting off from the start point of the route – I never did this on my recces in the lakes or in Wales until I had reccied most of the other sections first. So my first proper run into the Scottish hills would be the same as the start of the round. The weather was heavy and the forecast was for strong winds, the mild temperature was in our favour though, no ice hopefully. We made the top of Ben Nevis in reasonable time, our ascent was not on the ideal line, but 1 hr 50 wasn’t too bad. The top was cold and windy, so thicker jackets and gloves were adorned. Now the discovery began for me, and for Will it began when we set off from the Youth Hostel. Bill however new this ground pretty well and expertly guided us onto the Canr mor Dearg arête, a ridge line that ascends to the next Munro as a ridge for 1.5 miles all the way to the summit.

We then descended to the Col ready for an out and back to Aonoch Mor, up until this point the wind was noticeable but not too strong. But it seamed to pick up to storm force now and at times it was knocking us about. But the ground was good and the small pockets of snow were a help if anything. The descent off Aonoch Beag was interesting. Instead of taking a slightly safer longer route round, we decided to ease our way into a gully and ski (on fell shoes) down the snow filled gully. We all had a shot with varying degrees of success, but it as worth it for the entertainment value. At the Col my camera came out for the 2nd and last time. After this I wasn’t in any mood to get my camera wet in the incessant drizzle and horrific wind.

I don’t remember too much of the next few Munros except that some of the ridges were a battle against the wind, at times we were almost lifted off our feet and at other times we couldn’t move against it. I do remember being blown up the last steep part of Stob Coire an Laoigh and trying to stop myself before being blown into the summit nest cairn, and descending a rock strewn way off Stob Choire Claurigh whilst Bill and Will to the left of me made much better progress. Only a race decent, when I finally cleared the boulder field, allowed me to catch them at the bottom of Stob Ban.

Not fancying the battering that would come from the vicious wind again on the top, Bill had decided to miss out Stob Ban. Will and I continued up taking a pounding from the wind. We struggled to get off the top in the correct direction due to the incredible force of the wind. But once part way down, we soon made our way towards the alt Coire Rath. We caught Bill up after about ½ an hour of following the stream. We then decided to split up from Bill again. The plan was for Will and I to run ahead, do the 7 miles of bog hopping followed by 3 miles of road running back to the car. Then drive back up to Glen Nevis to pick up Bill. This would shorten the day a bit. Well that was the plan anyway!

It was all going well; even in the early 4 pm gloom we were making good progress, down the boggy side of the water of Nevis. But as we continually crossed over the river – to find better ground – we found ourselves on the left hand side of it. Unknown to us this is the wrong side. We continued to go up and down through boggy land that now and then forced us up away from the steep sides of the river. Eventually, just as will and I were tiring, and getting tired of the blackness in front, we came up against a 200 foot crag that jutted straight up from the river. Bills head torch now seemed nearer than ever, so knackered and having run out of food and water, we decided to wait for Bill.
In the mean time Will attempted to cross the flooding river and after almost getting swept away thought better of it. Bill reached us and shouted over the noise of the raging river, that we had to back track to the bridge. ½ a mile of back tracking got us to what Bill and the Scots call a foot bridge. I would call it more of a high wire with hand supports. One at a time we carefully edged our way across the 2 bits of steel cabling that was the foot part of the bridge 100 feet or so to the other side. Now on good ground we both felt happier. I was on the verge of bonking and so asked Bill for some food, he supplied me with a small amount of fruit cake. This revived me, and Will and I ran most of the 3 miles down the road to the car. We saved Bill about ¼ of a mile by picking him up. We all vowed that recce day 2 would have to be an easy one. We were all wasted, although the Indian and a couple of beer that night did partially revive us.

Day 2. The last 3 Munros

20th Nov 2008
16 miles 6,500 feet

Bill decided to have a rest day, due to the effects of the previous epic day. So Will and I vowed to have an easy run. So the last 3 Munros on the round were a good suggestion by Bill. The plan was to take a direct route from Glen Nevis up onto Sgurr a Mhaim. We started off on a well worn path at about midday, and missed the cut up directly onto the top. So having realised this we looked at the possibility of cutting across onto the ridge, we both decided that we would take the longer route and dismiss this potentially dangerous short cut. So we tracked along to Lochan Coire nam Maseach and then proceeded to do the out and back on the Devils ridge. This was a bit up and down, and in places very exposed. But we took care and made it across. Going on to the summit of Sgurr a Mhaim we got hit by a wall of wind that pushed us to the floor – we were getting used to this level of obstruction now. We fought our way onto the summit and huddled behind a, thankfully, large cairn. I, or rather Will quickly got the camera out of my rucksack, and we speedily took some photos before retreating. Luckily there was only snow on 1 side of this summit so when we set off through this snow I realised we were heading in the opposite direction, a quick about turn and we were off fighting our way back down and across, the thankfully relatively sheltered ridge.

The next 2 Munros Stob Ban and Mullach Nan Coirean Were relatively uneventfull, occasionally we would take the usual battering from the icy wind. But as we started to descend the final Munro the wind gave us a pasting so hood in hand we fought our way off the summit. In failing light I missed the descent line, and instead of taking the right hand ridge we veered off to the broader left ridge. This lead us to the wrong part of the Sron Riabhach Forrest, and consequently we got lost. After the best part of an hour of me cursing and Will trying to draw positives, we donned head torches and vowed to continue to the end of the track. The end of the track was where it joined the West Highland Way. Luckily I had done it twice and so recognised the thistle symbol. We then followed the route to the Restaurant, which ironically brought us out about ½ mile form the bunkhouses we were staying at, and about 3 miles from Glen Nevis, were the car was.

So after a quick stop to de-cloth, we ran most of the way down the road through the blackness back to retrieve the car. 6 hours 10. Not exactly an easy day. But I suppose its all relative.

Day 3. The Mamores dressed for winter

21st Nov 2008
9 miles 5,000 feet

After a day of rest Bill was keen to have a look at the Mamores so we decided on a run based on what would be the first 4 Munros of our clockwise attempt. We drove from our base in fort William to Mamore lodge just above Kinloch Leven. From here we would start our run.

It was a cold start to the day and it took a while before we warmed up a bit. By the time we headed off the shooters track and up the side of Sgurr Elider Mor it was snowing and I was now warm everywhere except for my feet. Going through the snow line meant trudging through slushy snow. This was a learning curve for me as I have, until know, avoided going for runs in the lakes in such conditions. I was about to learn the value of Seal Skinz socks over my inadequate Thorlos.

So with numb feet we climbed steadily onto the shoulder of Sgurr Elider Mor this was in the form of a plateau area. Unfortunately at the same time it stopped snowing, the wind picked up and as we passed by Coire an Lochain and we got blasted by spin drift whipped along by a fierce wind, this was another painful lesson in winter conditions. I started to – for the first time – see the point in balaclavas and ski goggles!

Eventually we ascended the steep southern slope up onto Sgurr Elider Mor, this was a tricky ascent due to the rocks being covered in powder snow. I ran up the grassier parts in a vain attempt to get some feeling back into my toes. We made the top after some precarious boulder hopping and were met by a fairly strong wind. A quick look at the snowy vista, and a shocking look at how far Ben Na Lap is away (this is will be the previous Munro on the round) and we sped off down the snowy slopes. A fast descent led us to the track that skirts Binnein Mor. We decided to miss out the out and back to Binnein Beag as the conditions were proving a bit testing and the skies looked threatening. So at the Col we took a left turn and headed for Binnein Mor. Will and Bill took a line out to the right which was a less steep incline leading to the ridge. I shouted to them “are you taking the tourist route” I was to rue those words. My steep more direct route onto the ridge was quick but the snow kept giving under my feet, so I had to dig my hands in the snow for more traction. Anyway after what felt like an extreme cardio gym work out I finally made the ridge. The small consolation was that I had warmed up and I had time to get the camera out and take some really good photos of Will and Bill ascending the ridge. Another bonus was that the camera had defrosted after its ice induced erratic behaviour on Sgurr Elider Mor.

A blasting by the wind on Binnein Mor and we quickly descended to a sheltered are for a bit of respite. We then ascended the small bit of ridge and were on the last part of Na Gruagaichean before we knew it. We even had to check the maps to make sure that we were already there. Normally you have to fight harder for a Munro on this round, but this one seemed easy, it probably won’t feel that easy next June!

From the summit Bill pointed out the next 3 Munros, and we decided that we had done enough for the day and descended down the snowy West flank of Na Gruagaichean. We made a rapid descent in the nice snow covered grass, only pausing to observe 30 deer running across the valley bottom. We carried on and 20 minutes later we were back at the car. Not a long day out – only about 5 hours, but it was fun, and my first taste of true winter conditions.

It had been a great 3 days of recceing in Scotland. We topped it off by going to a get together at Stair Village hall near Keswick on the way home. Will and I did a half day half night reverse run around the Anniversary Waltz. We then had a few beers with some good running friends. A kip on the floor, and then we set off home to end a great 4 days of Fell running.
Lancaster Half Marathon
9th November 2008

A cold windier than Ideal day was the setting for 1 of my local half marathons. It had been 4 years since I had done a half marathon and decided it was time to lower my PB from 1 hr 32, set in May 2004 at the Chester half. So I lined up determined to break 1 ½ hours. I pushed hard at the start into the head wind on the mainly out and back course. On reaching the edge of Glasson the course joins the road before looping back onto the cycle track and back the way we had come. After setting off too quickly I struggled at the end even though I had the wind at my back, and my lack of fitness started to tell. I hung on to the chance of sub 1 ½ hours. I pushed hard at the end to make sure I didn’t let it slip, and as I entered the running track I knew I had it. To my relief I achieved something I knew I was capable of, plus 1 29.44 sounds better than 1 31.54.
The winner was Dave Norman in 1 09.39 and I came in 71st out of 419 runners.

The Scafell Pike Race

27th Sept 2008
4.5 miles 3,000 ft

What a great race. I along with others – before and after the race - tried to figure out why it is not as popular as its Welsh and Scottish equivalents. I came up with the conclusion that it is because 1) it is hard to get to. 2) It has no large population nearby 3) and probably partly due to 1 and 2, it isn’t fashionable. But I think a lot of people are missing out on one of the best races in the UK. It is a really great up and down, and the route is far superior to the likes of Snowdon and Skiddaw.

I decided that due to the length of drive needed to get there (4 hour round trip) I would double it up as a camping trip. So I decided to go up on the Friday and stay until Sunday.

As we massed for the race at the back of the NT campsite, the organiser announced that the race would not go the usual route up Lingmell, but instead take a detour a long way around by the stream and up the side of Lingmell to the style. This was so as to miss out the newly mown land owner’s field. I am told this added about 10 minutes for my sort of pace.

The start was the usual scramble, followed by a queue at the first style. Then it was a steep lung busting ascent to the large style part way up Lingmell. I had to slow down here as I started to feel tired already. So I eased off and kept a more measured pace to the flatter part. My legs felt heavy but I managed to raise a jog along the flatter section up to the start of the crags. I ascended these in a random fashion, which left me wondering if the path would have been just as fast. I reached the top in 54 minutes and turned for the rocky descent down the path. Not long into this, unseen by me, the runner just in front of me took a heavy fall. I stopped to inspect weather his head was cut. He seamed shaken but generally o.k. so we ran down together for a while. He then overtook me when I got a stitch on the flat shoulder of Lingmell. I then got a second wind on the steeper final decent and overtook him. It showed he was o.k. anyway.

I raced past Bill at the last style as he took a few photos and ran well into the finish to place 20th in 1 hour 19. It was my first top 20 finish. It was one of my best runs, in terms of my performance and my overall enjoyment.

The next day I had a good run around Wastwater in perfect weather. I got up early and decided that it was so cold the best way to warm up would be to run. So I did a circuit of Wastwater, going over Ill Gill head and Whin Rigg, and then joining the road down the side of Waswater back to the campsite.

Bill's Bob Graham Round

20th Sept 2008
Leg 4 and Leg 5 Wasdale – Keswick
21 miles 9,000 ft

By chance – whilst reconnoitering the Duddon Valley Fell race in early 2007 – I met Bill Williamson. He, at the time was not a Bowland member but attended some of Bowland runs, which made the encounter all the more fortunate for me. He proved to be a big help with my B.G that summer. Now it was my turn to repay that favour.
Will and I traveled up to Stair village hall, in Stair to lay our bed on the floor of what would be our sleeping place later that night. We then set off for Brackenclose where we – along with Duncan Elliott and Yiannis – would accompany Bill on his final 2 legs of his round. We had heard reports of him being 4 minutes up at Dunmail. This worried me a bit as I knew he had good weather, no wind or rain, and his route knowledge was very good. I expected him to be ½ an hour up at this point.
But to my relief he ran into Brackenclose not long after we arrived, and 24 minutes up on his 23:47 schedule. Bill was going to do 44 peaks, 1 for each year of his life – akin to Bob Grahams original idea for his round – but he decided no to include Allen Crags on leg 3 and go for the standard 42 peak B.G. This to a degree accounted for him being so well up when he reached us at Brackenclose. He seemed to be going at a good steady pace, and this is what was required for the rest of the round.
So after a rest and some food Bill along with us supporters headed up Yewbarrow. This is a tough steep peak, and is renowned as tough on a clockwise BG because of the severe incline and the fact that it comes after about 14 hours, when you are getting tired. Bill found it tough up here but made the top only 4 minutes down. His knee bothered him on the decent, and I think this accounted for another 4 minute loss up to Red Pike. I was a bit concerned as he was loosing 4 minutes per hour. This could not continue he had to speed up. His knee seemed to improve and we started to cover the peaks more on schedule from Red Pike to Pillar. One of the problems of doing a BG at this time of the year is the longer nights, and by now it was dark. Pillar to Kirk Fell went o.k. We were in awe as to the beauty of the night. The stars were glinting and the moon was an orange ball rising over Ennerdale. This along with the glinting stars was a welcome distraction from my progressively more obsessive checking of my watch and then checking this against the schedule.
We seemed to move well from Kirk Fell to Great Gable, but the watch doesn’t lie and it took 11 minutes longer than the schedule. Rough ground at night was proving tricky. But from here the ground is much easier and with a bit of gentle encouragement we started to motor. By Grey knotts we were exactly on schedule. I asked Bill if he wanted to know how he was doing – I am glad he said yes as if he hadn’t I was going to tell him anyway – I informed him that he was bang on his schedule. Will and I ran ahead to sort out a shortened stop at Honister. Bill had about half of his allotted 12 minutes here and we headed off. I told Bill he was now back on his schedule – they had lost time on the decent of Grey knots – and that meant he had 13 minutes to “play” with. I encouraged him by saying something like “I know you want to finish this inside 24 hours failure isn’t an option”, or words to that effect. I felt a motivational speech was needed. Maybe I was caught up in the moment.
Steve handed me the time sheet whilst telling me to keep a check on the times. I took this as meaning that as I had that sheet I had a bit of extra responsibility to judge Bills push to the finish. He went well up Dale Head and even though we took 38 minutes, instead of the allotted 33, I knew from my round that this was o.k., sure enough with Bill digging in and a bit of nagging from Duncan, Will, Ian (whom had just joined us at Honister) and I we ended up right on schedule by Robinson. The decent off Robinson went well and we found good lines, missing out the rock steps. By now all the worries were gone and I, along with most others, realized that it was in the bag for Bill. He made good progress down the road followed by a whole mass of runners that had joined him from earlier legs. Soon enough we all triumphantly followed Bill up to the Moot Hall for his finish in 23:40.
We probably made a bit too much noise for 01:40 on a Sunday morning, but this was a special occasion so never mind. We all had a group photo and then headed off for some drinks and some of Wynn’s lovely food at Stair Village hall, to complete a fantastic day.
Well done Bill on a fantastic effort, it was a privilege to return the favor.

The Noth Face Ultra-Trail Tour Du Mont Blanc 2008

29th Aug 2008
166km 9400m
After my completion of the race in 2005 I went to this year’s race with a goal of beating that time. I set myself a target of 32 hours with a fall back of 34 hours if this proved too tough. The route for this year’s race was slightly different to when I first tackled it 3 years ago, in that the course was 11Km and 900m of ascent longer. So I was looking for a large improvement, but due to my other long distance successes I though it to be realistic. My main goal for the year was to complete the Paddy Buckley round so this was a bonus.

On arrival in Chamonix it was as beautiful as I remembered from 3 years ago, and I mused over why it had taken me so long to return. I came up with the conclusion that at the time it was a goal just to finish and it was job done and onto the next challenge. These ended up being the BG, which also led onto the thought of doing all the big 3, of which the next step was the PB earlier this year.

I decided that although it was a bit tougher than before, the challenge for me now was to finish it in a good time. I used all my knowledge gained over the years and formulated a plan based on the likely hot conditions. Part of the plan was to go fairly quick during the night whilst it would be cooler, this would have an added bonus of getting me ahead of the mass scramble at the feed stations. The other part of the plan was to use salt tablets to add to the water (the only liquid supplied in large volumes). But unfortunately I left it too late to order some, and could not find any in Chamonix. Big mistake. My food would consist of mainly energy bars, and energy gels nearer the end, all supplemented by whatever I could grab at the checkpoints.

All preparations were done the bags for Courmayeur and Champex were left with my fresh clothes and food in them. I then spent the day dodging the sun and taking it very easy.

I took my place on the start line which felt more like I was about to watch a concert rather than run for 30 odd hours. The atmosphere was electric and the sun was scorching. Soon enough we were off, walking at first, and then jogging down the road to start our first bit of trail to Les Houches. I felt good and started well. My only issue was feeling like a steak meal from the previous night still hadn’t settled. My back up plan of eating crackers and anything high in salt started well and my progress was good. Col De Voza was the first climb and I found this very comfortable, even queuing at the checkpoint didn’t bother me I just decided the break was nice. Further into the night I got into the routine of filling up the bladder in my rucksack with water taking some food and sitting down for about 4 minutes with a stop watch, so that I didn’t “lounge” around too long.

Lac combal checkpoint was the first time where I felt anything like cold. This was in the early hours and at 6,000 + feet. Which tells you how warm the conditions were? After de gritting my shoes, and 2 bowls of soup I donned my jacket, hat and gloves and continued along the plateau. 1/2 hour later on the climb to Arete mont Favre they all came off again, and no thought after this entered my head to put them back on. The long decent off Mont Favre into Cormayeur got hotter all the way down and it was only 07:00hrs.

A 40 minute stop at the first major ckeckpoint and it was off on the long climb up the valley wall. On reaching the top I started to feel the heat, and had a long 12 minute stop. The next section is more run-able and I felt o.k. apart from I had muscle ache on both sides of my abs making descending painful. Eventually I reached Arnuva and next was the big climb up to the highest point of the course, Grand Col Ferret. I reached the top fairly tired and sat on the trig stone at the top for 2 minutes. The sun by now was beating down.

I descended slowly with the pains in my sides inhibiting my normal efficient downhill gate. I stupidly missed the water stop at Peulaz and ran out on the run to La Fouly. On arriving at La Fouly having drunk small amounts of stream water I felt dry. I immediately drank some water and this made me feel ill. I felt that I could not eat or drink. Simon – a very nice English chap I had previously met at a pub the night before – gave me a salt solution to mix up. I drank this and it worked I felt better. I got up and decided to continue and eat some food whilst I felt I could.

On the longer than it looks ascent to Champex I started to feel ill again, I began to look at my watch and started calculating how long I had to go until the end. The result of my calculation horrified me, 12 hours at this pace and much longer if I slowed down. In my addled weak dehydrated state I never considered anything other than quitting. Once it entered my head it was impossible to ignore, I tried to fight it off, “what else are you going to do, watch other people finish?” no matter how much I fought the demons in my head with thoughts like “this has cost a lot of money”, “all that training”, “all them people that entered but didn’t get in, and at least 1 because you are here” I couldn’t defeat them.

I entered the Champex Checkpoint to cheers of Bravo, alley alley and I felt such a fraud. In my head the battle was lost. When I sat down in the checkpoint area, and felt sick and light headed, the battle was over. I had been defeated. This was a first for me. Up until this point I had never quit on anything. I decided better of carrying on with the 24 hours Paddy Buckley attempt in 2007, after Navigation and other issues, but did not consider this quitting. At first, although devastating, I thought I had made the correct decision in quiting on this race.

Part of the reason for the delay in this post is that I wanted to research and rationalise why I had quit so soon. I had 9 hours to play with on the cut off times, but I could not even think of using them at the time. I think that my lack of a proper fall back “get to the finish” strategy, combined with my successful round in 2005 left me in a state whereby anything but a good finishing time, would be viewed as a failure. The reason I quit at the time was also due to the discomfort I felt. I had salt deficiency which caused all manor of issues like thickening of the blood, so increasing the effort when climbing, and a sickly feeling making eating almost impossible. I have never felt so rough with so far left to go. I now know that the disappointment of watching people finish – who had probably won such mental and physical battles – was much worse than the disappointment would have been had I took sleeps and long breaks and finished in 45 hours.

Lessons learned:

1) Salt tablets are very useful for making sure your salt intake is high enough.
2) Poles won’t necessarily guarantee success but will make it more likely. They will also be good to lean on if feeling rough.
3) Have a back up plan, and never forget how it feels to quit.
4) Sunglasses are a waste of time until Courmayeur – Champex. The valley walls and trees shield the sun most of the way until its dark. A minor thing but lees gear to mess with.

Before the event I thought it may be a few years before I go back and do this again. Now I desperately want to go next year and have another go and hopefully erase this mental scar. I have my fingers crossed that I will win a place in the December ballot.

My distance covered 100 km 6400m
Well done to Lizzy Hawker (right hand side of the photos) who won this for her 2nd time. The first time in 2005 took everyone by surprise including herself. This time - after many great ultra race victories - it was an emphatic win.

The Borrowdale Fell Race

2nd August 2008
17 miles 6,500 ft

Well it felt like déjà vu, apart from on this trip up to Borrowdale we had an extra Bowland Runner in the shape of Declan. We were off to do the Fell race this time, a week after feeling that the hills and the weather had beat Will, Ian and I into submission. This was going to be interesting. The weather seamed to be on our side this time. So we had a chance of revenge on the same tough hills.

On arrival we got a bit of a soaking, in one of the many showers we experienced during the day. Never mind we did all the usual things and milled about for a while meeting some fellow Bowland runners. The tension was rising, but for me not as much as it would normally. I did not have high expectations of a finishing time. I wanted to beat my time of 4.28 set 3 years ago, and if possible go under 4 hours. But I was not going to kill myself trying to do either, as I wanted to be able to continue my training straight after the race, in preparation for the Tour of Mont Blanc at the end of the month.

Soon enough a quick briefing from the race organiser Andrew Schofield, and we were off down the narrow track and into queuing mode. As we stop started our way through the narrow passages I made a mental note to myself, next time start nearer the front. I felt good as we started the steep climb up to Bessy boot. A long string of runners stretched out up the hill, making navigation simple. Just follow the set of heels in front. From Bessy Boot to the next checkpoint is runable and for me this is good as I tend to cover the ground better when it is like this. I made places up all the way to Scafell pike. We tentatively found the rout off Scafell down the scree shoot that leads to the Corridor route. After a few miner errors I soon arrived at sty head. I filled my water bottle up and took some banana off Andy Farmer and made my up the long drag to the summit of Great Gable. I remember 3 years ago suffering on this climb. I think every time I climb this hill I suffer a bit, and this was no exception half way up I was feeling it, and eased off a bit so as not to go into the red zone for too long. This worked and I reached the top in good shape. A small error on the descent in cloud meant 2 minutes were lost. But I quickly corrected, the guy I was following carried on that way down some steep crags to god knows where. The rest of the runners following me backed up and we tracked back the correct descent line.

I ran the next bit well all the way to Honister; this is probably the nicest running on the route with great views of Ennerdale and Buttermere to the left. Straight through Honister and I had 42 minutes to get up Dale head and descend down to the finish. I thought it might be possible to break 4 hours, so gave a bit of an effort, but not too much. I judged the effort well to the top, and had plenty left for the descent. With only 18 minutes left to get back in less than 4 hours I knew it was not going to be possible due to the length of flat running in the valley floor. I still made a push and finished in 4 hours 7 minute 38. I will get under 4 hours next time.
Thanks to Rob (Topofahill) for the use of his excellent mid race photos.