Bills 4th Ramsay attempt

21st August 2010

20 miles and 11,000 feet
plus and up and down of the Ben 9 miles and 4,200 feet

The 4th attempt was an epic effort both from Bill, and in the end from Will and I. I can’t remember feeling so tired during and after a support run. Knackered doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt.

Will decided that it would be (it wasn’t) a good idea to join Bill and Andy at the start and accompany them up the Ben. We were already planning to walk in and meet him at allt na Slochdaig and support him on the Mamores ridge to the end at Glen Nevis, and this itself is about a 10 hour stint. So on a cool breezy Saturday morning at 11am we set off up Ben Nevis for Bills 4th attempt on the Ramsay round. The first climb went without incident and Bill held a nice steady pace. Will and I left him to continue to Carn mor Dearg and beyond with Andy as we turned and descended back to Glen Nevis.
We spent the day fuelling up for what we knew would be a tough night. We just didn’t know how tough. We decided to walk in with the mid section support, so we set off earlier than needed in order to help Ian and Rhiannon out. By the time we reached allt na Slochdaig it was 9.45 pm it was dark and had started to rain. As soon as we got there we discovered Yiannis curled up on the floor in a bivi so Will and I copied him and got into our bivi bags (think Orange bin liners with a peep hole). It was the most miserable hour of my life. It was cold, boring, midge ridden, uncomfortable and dark. I could feel the energy being sapped out of me and we hadn’t even begun running yet.
After what seemed a life time huddled in our bivis, but in reality was only about 1 ½ hours, Bill and his pacers head torches appeared. When I got out of the bivi I instantly felt very cold. I was glad when Bill had finished refuelling and we were on our way onto Sgurr Elide Mor. Will Yiannis and I set off at a good pace and soon warmed up on the eastern flanks of this monster climb. Will and I remember this being very tough on our round, we still have mental scars from it. Bill was attacking it more from the eastern ridge to try and ease the gradient. It didn’t make much difference it was still tough. On nearing the summit we could see Bills previous leg and mid section support heading back to Mamore lodge on the track far below. The summit was very cold and windy, especially for this time of year.
We ticked off the peaks nicely and on time, when we approached the long out and back to An Gearnach I made the decision to refill the water bottles at the stream and wait at the col. I knew I would get cold doing this but never realised that for the next ½ an hour I would start to think seriously about not getting hyperthermia. I had to keep moving slowly up the next peak Stob coire a chairn in lea of the ridge just to keep some heat flowing. I was seriously cold and just before dawn it was a very hard place to be. It was a mistake to wait I should have gone with them. I couldn’t believe how miserable I was for the 2nd time in one night. I was so pleased

when I could see their head torches descending the slope opposite.
Re united we continued in cold and ever wetter and windier conditions. Bill was slowing down and not even daylight and the ability to see where we were going made a difference. By the time we reached the last 3 peaks it was obvious that Bill would not make it inside 24 hours, the 11 o’clock Glen Nevis deadline looked impossible. We tried to encourage Bill along but the conditions had drained him. Even meeting Chris Armour on Sgurr a Mahaim didn’t make a difference, although I think it took the strain off will and I, as both of us were feeling very tired. At this point Bill vowed to continue and finish the round.
Will and I found some more energy, and after Stob Ban moved off ahead and carried on, on our own, deciding that Bill had enough help with Chris and Yiannis and that we needed to get off the mountains. We were both at our limits, So when we got to the jumble of logs at the bottom of the last munro were the loggers had made the worlds toughest assault course, we were less than amused. Several cuts from trees later we had cleared it. We then ran the track reminiscing of our round the previous year. We had the dubious task of informing the waiting support that he was o.k. but would be late.
All credit to Bill for toughing out those 26 odd hours. The weather was less than favourable and at this time of the year the longer nights make it tougher. Knackered doesn’t even come close to how I, and Will felt. But compared to Bill when he came in we were full of life, he really had given it everything. As it is his final 1 of the big 3 I’m sure he will be back for a rematch and next time with better conditions I’m sure he will win.

(top image) Me and Bill before the start and the food that proved to be only just enough.

Bills Ramsey Round take 3

3rd July
11.5 miles and 8,200 feet
plus up Sgurr an Luhair and back down (3,200 feet and 6 miles appx)

It has been a while now since Bill attempted the Ramsay round for his third time. I have taken ages to type this up mostly due to the disappointment of writing a report on another unlucky failure.

The weather on the day started off o.k., not too hot but cloudy, and at midday I set off up a packed (as usual) Ben Nevis with Bill. Bill was rushing when overtaking the tourists, so I reminded him to keep the pace even. We did and by the top of the Ben we were bang on schedule. It was raining and very cold on Ben Nevis, this meant slippery rocks on the roughest part of the round. The traverse to Carn Mor Dearg along its arĂȘte was hard going burt we made good progress. By the time we reached the next summit of Aonoch Mor we were just a couple of minutes down. The ascent of Aonoch Beag was good and a steep drop down to Will and Carwyn (who were sheltering in an orange bivvie bag) went without a hitch.

I left Bill here and Carwyn and Will continued the rest of the leg to Loch Treig Dam. I ran into the valley in improving sunny weather, to follow Glen Nevis back to Wills car and drove back to the campsite. Bill made good progress all the way to Loch Treig, but on the next section over the 3 Munroe’s around the loch he lost ½ an hour and by the time he was at the foot of Sgurr elide Mor he was still a ½ hour down.

At first light, on a wild wet Sunday morning Will and I made our way up out of Glen Nevis and onto Sgurr an Lubhair to meet Bill. We tried to time this right as we knew it would be very cold on the top. We were right when we arrived on the top at 08:00 squally gales were blowing through. Will and I huddled into a large orange plastic bag with feet sticking out of the bottom AKA an emergency bivvie bag. 1 hour of trying to keep warm whilst soaking wet, sitting on a rock in rain, driven by a gale, up a 3,200 foot mountain was not easy. My feet and hands were numb despite constantly banging them together. By 09:15 Will and I decided that Bill did not have enough time to finish it form here and made our way down. He needed about 3 ½ hours in those conditions. On the descent to Glen Nevis we pondered how much use we would have been to Bill anyway. The fight had been knocked out of both of us.

I think in reasonable conditions Bill would have succeeded as he only retired on Am Bodach (1/2 an hour away from Will and I) at 09:00 hours. So given the severity of the wind, he was still moving fairly strongly, until he realised that the weather was slowing him down too much, then the mind probably gave in to the fatigue, and it was game over on Am Bodach with only 3 Munroe’s to go. You will do it next time Bill.

Roll on the 21st of August Wynn and I have booked some good weather.

The Lakeland 100

23rd - 24th July
104 miles and 24,000 feet

Over the last few months I had regularly made visits to the lakes to recce the route of the Lakeland 100. It is actually 103.5 miles which pretty much encircles the Lake District. Starting and finishing in Coniston it visits numerous passes and all the major valleys on mainly rough bridleway paths. During my recces I had realised that the roughness of the trails was going to be very difficult on the legs and feet, I only whish that I had given this more consideration prior to setting off.

Section 1: Coniston to Seathwaite (6.4miles)

It felt a privilege to have Joss Naylor start the race, the weather was perfect and 123 runners set off for the first climbed loop over Walner Scar. Some set off fast but I decided on the restrained approach. Running and walking as I intended for the full length of the course. I ran on my own all the way over Walner Scar and down onto Seathwaite. When I reached the road a polite young lad asked me if I knew were a farm was, I politely replied no sorry. Strange what happens in these ultras? Anyway I went with my pre prepared idea of being quick in the first 2 CPs. I spent about a minute eating some cake and filling my water bottle.

1 hour 26

Section 2: Seathwaite to Boot (6.7miles)

On the next section around Wallowbarrow woods was the first boggy wet section through trees. My feet got wet here and would continue to get wet all the way around due to the large amounts of standing water. 2 miles before entering Boot I met a guy whom I would chat to over the next 2 hours. It certainly made the time go faster. We arrived in the CP together and I left just before him.

1 hour 38 : 3 hours 04

Section 3: Boot to Wasdale Head (5.4miles)

On the climb up to Burnmoor Tarn he caught up with me and we chatted again as the sun began to set below the Mosedale hills. We made our way at a steady pace over and down the rough decent to Wasdale head CP. An indication of how much water was around, was that the organizers diverted the route slightly here so instead of going around the back of the campsite we went across the bridge and joined the road to CP3 avoiding a fast flowing Lingmell Beck.

1 hour 15 : 4 hours 19

Section 4: Wasdale Head to Buttermere (6.8miles)

This is a tough section going over Black Sail Pass and then Scarth gap pass before dropping into Buttermere. On the way up Black Sail We latched onto 2 other runners and eventually the guy that I was running with was 300 meters behind, it just happened naturally and I was now chatting to 2 new guys Neil and Simon We stayed together apart from when I got carried away descending Black Sail wearing my head torch for the first time. They were great company and it felt like we were all very evenly matched pace wise and going into the Butteremere I started to feel like we would be together for a long way. I knew the route and they were good company. So we all gained.

2 hour 05 : 6 hours 25

Section 5: Buttermere to Braithwaite (8.6miles)

Another tough section we made a pact whilst leaving to stay together during the rest of the night to make the navigation easier, I was fairly confident of the route, but it is always more difficult at night and collectively we were less likely to go wrong. We made good time and ran well on the long edges of Whitelss Pike and Crag Hill. On the decent around Outerside we came to another 3 runners and made a large group. It was fortunate for them as they nearly overshot the left turn for Barrow Door. Never mind we all made it and descended to Braithwaite CP together.

1 hour 45 : 8 hours 10

Section 6: Braithwaite to Blencathra (8.2miles)

I picked up some Marmite sandwiches here and ate some soup. I thought Marmite sandwiches were going to appear elsewhere as they were good, but sadly that was a one off. I set off before Neil and Simon running slowly down the side of the A66 knowing that they would catch me up, they did and after a long road run, we made our way up the track to Latrigg. I explained that this is one of the few points were the course meets the BG route. On the way up Lonscale Valley we were caught by 3 other runners then we caught 2 others and soon we were a large group making our way to CP7 in the beautifully still night.

2 hours 07 : 10 hours 18

Section 7: Blencathra to Dockray (7.7miles)

We left the CP taking care not to go the wrong way but soon we caught a guy that left just before us and he guided us through a tricky section that I wasn’t totally sure of. We then passed him on the long flat cycle path. Here a badger sprinted out of the undergrowth at the side of the track and off away from us he mustn’t have liked the head torches, I think we really spooked him. Finally on the climb up to the Old coach road we could take our head torches off and I vowed not to put it on again (a good finishing time is needed to avoid this). The sun raised a brilliant red over the Yorkshire dales as we ran to CP 8 the rest of the section was uneventful all the way to Dockray.

1 hour 54 : 12 hours 13

Section 8: Dockray to Dalemain (9.8miles)

After a quick stop to eat a banana we were off, still all going at almost the same pace. My blistered feet were now not just something I could feel but something that was giving me significant pain. I started to run as efficiently as possible and tried to avoid slipping on rocks and standing on the pointy ones. We negotiated Gowbarrow o.k. and the woods and farm and after another long road run we arrived at Dalemain.

2 hours 24 : 14 hours 38

Section 9: Dalemain to Howtown (6.8miles)

It was good to see Will and Ian here. But feeling a bit light headed like I was in a dream, and trying to patch up my feet whilst eating and changing clothes I was a bit preoccupied and probably didn’t show my appreciation enough. So thanks, you were a real boost. After 20 minutes of foot repair and food we were underway. My feet were better and we made good time to Howtown were we met Ian and Will again.

2 hour 04 : 16 hours 41

Section 10: Howtown to Mardale Head (8.3miles)

Will encouraged us to get up out of the comfy armchairs that were in the Bobbin mill and leave. I didn’t need much encouragement as I was now feeling awake again. Neil was pleased as he pointed out his count down of CPs had hit double figures, I preferred just to think of the next CP as a rest and press on to the next. We trudged off up to the high point of the round and I made a couple of small navigation errors that meant we had to contour around to pick the track up again. Not too bad though. We were soon over and down the other side to the shore of Haweswater were we all filled out bottles in the water fall. Whilst running strongly along the shores we very quickly caught a runner. He was suffering and had a jacket on even though it wasn’t cold. We were a little worried about him.

2 hours 57 : 19 hours 39

Section 11: Mardale Head to Kentmere (5.9miles)

As we got up to leave the guy in question came in so at least he was safe. I was just about to set off when Simon said he wanted to sit down on a rock for a bit. So I decided to slowly make my way up Gatescarth Pass. Not long after it started to rain and I donned my jacket. Simon and Neil had now been passed by a strong looking runner with sticks who told me they were on their way. My racing head was telling me to go but morals wouldn’t let me, it would have been rude not to have even said goodbye. Anyway we carried on over the pass together in strengthening wind and a heavy shower. When we started descending it was just on off drizzle and this would carry on the rest of the day.

2 hours 05 : 21 hours 44

Section 12: Kentmere to Ambleside (7.1miles)

This CP was beautifully sereal, jazzy trance type music played in an almost empty village hall. It was nice and relaxing, a total oasis of calm. We spent a nice 6 or 7 minutes here before setting off on the long climb to Garburn pass, this was the only part of the route that I hadn’t recced. However we all made it up the rough ascent, my feet were now complaining and I knew the descent was going to trouble them. A guy in front kept appearing then rapidly disappearing I kept thinking that his poles must be really helping him on the climbs. On the rough decent it rained and I rang Mark my waiting friend in Ambledside to buy me some new socks and compedes and warn the waiting physios that I may need to use the Lakes runner shop to patch my feet up. Whilst going up from the post office at low fold the 2 leading 50 milers went steaming past running the steep incline whilst being cheered on by an over exuberant old chap shouting “go on f*****g give it some”. Not long after I had realized that our pace was too easy and asked Neil and Simon if they were o.k. with me pressing on. They said go for it, I did. At high Skelghyll I caught the chap with the sticks and pointed him the correct way. We ran into Ambleside together.

2 hours 14 : 23 hours 59

Section 13: Ambleside to Chapel Stile (4.8miles)

It was good to see my sister and Adrian with their 2 kids and Mark. It felt like a real support group. I ended up with a long stop of about 25 minutes whilst the L100 team assessed and treated my feet. What an amazing thing to do, thanks again to them for that, and for all the CP marshalls and organisers, it was great. I left the CP just before Neil and simon (they had a more usual length stop). I vowed to run hard to the end, forget the feet and go for it. So I did, powering on over Loughrigg and on to Elterwater. On Loughrigg I got the map out for the first and only time as I was unsure of a turn, but the 3rd placed 50 runner put me right whilst telling me how well I was running. At Elterwater I caught up with the stick guy, we chatted for a while but eventually he stopped running and I carried on running almost all the way to CP 14.

1 hour 19 : 25 hours 18

Section 14: Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite (7.7miles)

The stew here gets my vote as the best food of the day. I was almost tempted to break my rule and have more than 1 helping. It started raining as I left and I passed the stick man on the way out. I was running strong and never gave much of a thought as to weather anyone in the 100 would catch me. I didn’t really care although I knew that I was now in 7th place and was very pleased about it. I just ran as well as I could so as to maintain my effort to the end. Whilst running through Great Langdale I was passed again by the 4th an 5th 50 runners who were running together this didn’t phase me although I did check to make sure their numbers background were white (white background = 50, yellow = 100). Again they told me I was running really well, whilst easily passing me. I did think that I must be making a good fist of it even with screamingly sore feet. I made a couple of small errors at Side house and at the campsite before the tough climb over to Blea tarn. Blea Moss I knew to be rough but with very painful feet it was torture, I was glad to get on the road and head for Tilberthwaite. This was agony too but I was nearing the end, on the final bit of road before CP 15 I was caught by the 7th placed 50 runner and vowed to try and stick with his pace, sub 28 hours was still on, just, and I had said to Mark I would see him at the finish at 9.30 PM (I don’t like being late).

1 hour 53 : 27 hours 11

Section 15: Tilberthwaite to Coniston (3.5miles)

A quick stop and I set off at the same time as my “pacer” he pulled out a 300 meter gap by the top of the quarry and I kept working hard and ignoring my feet. I ran along most of Hole Rake and was only 100 meters behind on the decent but I then struggled on the rough ground. My feet were screaming, so I hobbled down as best I could and eventually made it to the cinder path that we had gone up on 28 hours earlier. I ran hard to the line but just missed the 28 hours by 4 minutes.

53 mins : 28 hours 04

I am pleased with how I ran from Ambleside. I managed to run it (including foot treatment) faster than any 100 runner and also ran the last 2 sections from Chapel Stile to Coniston faster than anyone. I have to be pleased with that and the overall run. I feel that with more comfort in my feet I could have done better, but that’s for next time. I ended up 42 minutes ahead of 8th place and 50 minutes behind 6th. 7 th is my best ever placing in any race.

Will and Carwyns Paddy Buckley attempt

5-6 th June
22 miles 10,500 feet

Due to a lack of support for Wills planned Friday 18:00 hrs start he decided to team up with another contender, Carwyn Philips. It was a good plan as it meant if the stuck together they would have enough pooled support. The only down side was that Will had to change to a Saturday start.

Carwyn started his round at Bwlcgwernog so as to get the road section done first, Will decided to wait at Aberglaslyn car park and join Carwyn from here and do, as is tradition, the road section last. I waved Will off on his attempt knowing that his foot had been bothering him lately, but also knowing that unless it got really painful he would finish it in good style.

After some food at the Royal Goat hotel in Beddgelert, we waited at the next road crossing at Pont Caer gors. We spotted them on the Nantle ridge as the completed the last hills of the first leg. I prepared myself for the impending arrival. 45 minutes later they were in and the midges swarmed over the food and the sweaty bodies. Christ was I glad to finally get underway with Carwyn, Will, smudge the dog (who was also unwittingly attempting the round) Bill, Ian and I set off for the first hill of this section, Craig wen.

We soon topped out on Craig Wen and on the way to Yr Aran we had probably the most spectacular view of the ridge ahead. I would go as far as to say it was the most beautiful mountain scene I had laid eyes on. The clouds were draped over the ridge and banked in the valleys with Yr Aran and Snowdon popping out of the clouds ahead, behind was a perfect cloud inversion, only the tops of the highest peaks poking through the clouds, and in the fading light it was spectacular. Good decision not to bring the camera. Ouch. We continued into the night and onto Snowdon a surprisingly busy place at midnight, a troup of walkers were descending and 2 tents were pitched on the summit. Will was a bit slower than Carwyn but held a respectable gap, Bill with Carwyn and Ian and I with Will.

We remained in these groups until the final 2 hills Foel Gron and Moel Ellio, were we joined forces again ready for the long drop into Llanberis. A quick food stop and Bill and I decided to move slowly on up Ellider Fach, so as to make it a touch easier with our newly laden packs. We were soon caught by a Carwyn and Will and a large support group. The peaks came and went. Bill also went as he was struggling a bit so he gave over his liquid and cut the route short via the devils kitchen.

The rest of the leg went well, the first rays of light cheering everyone up. Soon enough we had topped out on Tryfan and were heading down to Llyn Ogwen. We were guided by Carwyns support on a rather convoluted longer route than I had ever done. It was probably a bit slower too. But no matter we were soon down. I was pretty jaded and must have looked it as everyone seamed to be asking if I was alright. I waved Will and Carwyn off whished the luck and proceeded to have a stand up bath in an icy stream.

They both stayed together over the remaining 2 legs and only parted on the final decent of Cnicht. Carwyn raced ahead and Telitha and I spotted them first on the final steep part. This worried Telitha as there was no sign of Will. But soon enough we spotted another group. It was Will and his support group. I knew he would do it. He walked the final 1.2 miles of road as his foot was bothering him. But he had plenty of time, and finished in 23 hours 12 minutes, Carwyn finished in 22:48, and unfortunately Smudge had to retire at Llyn Ogwen tired, and with sore feet. Will has joined myself as one of the few (less than 40 I think) big 3 completers. Nice one Will.

Robs Meirionnydd round attempt

22nd May
18 miles 5,000 Feet

This was Rob’s second attempt at the Meirionnydd round. Last year he was thwarted by a combination of bad weather and severe fatigue. The round is incredibly tough it is in the very rough hills on the mid west side of Wales. To cover 75 miles and 25,000 feet of this terrain in 24 hours is a real challenge; a serious step up from the big 3 rounds. There is a reason that the only man to complete it in 24 hours is the man that first did the round, and that man is a truly exceptional ultra runner; Yiannis Tridimas.

I helped Rob last year, so whilst running down the side of Llyn Tawsfynydd to meet Rob, I knew that I was in for a tough day. Neil and I ran about 1 ½ miles to the dam to meet Rob with some road shoes. On meeting him he seemed in good spirits. But even at 9am it was apparent that the heat of the cloudless day could be a problem. Rob even said that the night was very hot on the Rhinog section.

Rob had a longer than scheduled break at the main road then Carwyn, Rob and I set off on the section to Arenig Fach. The heat was building and we took every opportunity to dunk Robs hat in any bog water we could find. But on these boggy tusocked hills there was no breeze and at times it was oven like. Carrying enough liquid for Rob was to make for a tough day for support too.

After a long build up on very tough ground eventually we were aiming for a significant hill, rather than the mounds that we had already visited. Arenig Fach proved a tough steep climb on loose scree mixed with heather. We eventually made it up, but it was starting to slow Rob down. We descended well to the next support point. Rob was already suffering with the heat and half heartedly mentioned quitting, but as he said he was going to well to justify it, at this point 20 minutes up I think.

I decided to carry on with a large team over Arenig Fawr and 2 other tops, having agreed a lift with Alan Duncan form a minor road crossing back to my car. The long climb up to Arenig Fawr laden with water started to wear me down. I hadn’t drunk enough and now that I had realised this and started to do something about it, it was too late. Five hours of this heat wore me down and I struggled to keep up, on the last hill I found I had to rest on the nicely angled grassy slope every 2 minutes, I had blown up in a big way. I missed the top out and caught them on the descent. Eventually I met up with Rob and when I asked how he felt, he said he was quitting. The heat had really worn him down and his quads were sore too. At the minor road crossing His support convinced him to finish this section and see if it was just a bad patch. It proved to be more than a bad patch and 3 hours later his attempt was over.

I felt sad for Rob as it was a very antritional day (a high of 29c) for such a tough round. Whilst waiting for Rob at the dam Neil and I mused over how this round would compare to a Bob Graham round, and we agreed that it would be equivalent to moving at a sub 20 hours pace, then doing the 4 plus extra hours at that pace aswell. It has got me thinking of asking Rob if I could have a go at it next year with him. I think it may be possible with him almost as a guide, but I don’t think I could put the time into those hills to be confident at the micro navigation which is needed for most of the route. It would certainly give me a serious challenge, one that would be a true adventure as success would be uncertain at best!

Glyders Recce

1st May
16 miles 8,000 feet

Ian, Will and I made a much delayed trip to the Glydders and Tryfan section of the Paddy Buckley round. The heavy snow had put us off until now. We had a good day out on the hills, perfect weather, not too hot and not too cold, no rain brilliant and even the route up through the quarries was free now that Clash of the Titans has finished filming there.

We followed the PB route over Elidir Fach, Elidir Fawr, Mynnedd Perfed, Foel Goch, Y Garn, Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach to reach our final ascent on the route, Tryfan. We chose a good line up the left hand side to avoid the Far South peak and the knoll prior to the top. The only bad thing about the day was that Ian didn't fee too great on the final part of this ascent. He decided to walk down the valley to the Pinacle Cafe in Cpael Curig. Will and I carried on with the planned route, and ran down off Tryfan and the over the Devils Kitchen down to Gwastadnant then on the road back to the car in Llanberis.

It was a good 6 1/2 hour run in great conditions. We drove back to meet Ian at the Cafe and have a well earned Bacon bun. On the drive home Ian decided to cancel his planned joint attempt at the Paddy Buckley round with Will. It is a shame because he has the ability to do the round, but worries over how he feels on long days has knocked his confidence and made him reassess. It is probably a wise move.

The Montane Highland Fling 2010

24th April
53 miles 8,400 feet

I spot Will at the other side of the bridge that leads to Beinglas Checkpoint, I feel hot, dehydrated and tired I shake my head in disappointment, I am late, I hate being late. Will knows I am shattered mentally and physically my 6 hour 45 minutes to Beinglas was my only time check and I can’t believe I have missed it by 10 minutes. I now know that my sub 9 hours target will not happen.

After much reflection, 5 days later I am still as disappointed as I was on arriving at Beinglas CP. Irritated that I went out too fast and ended up in a sorry state again at the end. I was not running strong after Inversnaid, but I ran the hills, downhill and flats well at the beginning. Next year I hope to try and run it more evenly in terms of the effort. This will mean having a walking break on Chonic Hill and not running most of it like the last 2 years. What actually happened to leave me disappointed at missing on my goal and mistiming my effort, but happy with my overall placing of 14th. Well ……

A year has passed and I am in Milngavie car park again preparing to start this tough 53 miler. This time Will was my personal support. He is concentrating on a Paddy Buckley round later in the year so decided not to run it. So I hand over my Inversnaid drop bag to the Race organisers and head for the line. I feel fitter this year and have a simple strategy to run as much as I can and walk when I can’t.

I set off strong and tried to settle into a comfortable pace. I ended up just behind two runners that I would see from time to time all day. We made a good link through the gates, each keeping them open for the next, and made Drymen in a swift 1 hour 35 mins. Will was on hand to take my jacket and give me a fresh bottle of lucozade. By now the sun was poking through the clouds and although it was only 09:40, it was quite warm. I ran most of the next section to Conic hill and even ran parts of that, in fact up to this point I had run almost all the way. I ran most of Chonic Hill and enjoyed the descent to Balmaha overtaking a few of the earlier starters as I entered the car park. A quick switch of an empty for a full bottle and I continued walking through the car park chatting to Willl and stuffing food in my mouth and my bum bag then it was off to Rowardenan.

I felt comfortable all the way to Rowardenan and enjoyed the up and down proper trail running. I reached the car park in good shape and had my first sit down and a chat with Will about, possibly being in 8th place (I was 9th), and a rice pudding then I set off for Inversnaid. The long uphill stretch out of Rowardenan was tough I ran some of it and walked some. Then on the long downhill stretch I had my first bad patch. Feeling cramps in my sides and calves. This worried me; it was too early for this. I did my best to slow enough to not let this get a grip, but it did ruin the fluidity of my movement. I became more rigid for a while and worried that this would continue. Luckily by the time I reached Inversnaid I got into a reasonable rhythm. Will did not meet me here because of the long out and back car journey around the mountains that is required.

I retrieved my drop bag and had a rest for 5 minutes to eat. I even walked 100 yards the wrong way to hand over my litter, it felt like a heroic act. I performed an about turn and headed for Beinglas. This section is very rough and it knocked me out of any rhythm I had and seamed to drain me more than it should have. I reached Will at Bein Glas shaking my head at him as I realised that it was 6 hours 52 minutes in to the run and I had no chance of sub 9 hours, feeling sorry for myself I did not even think about the fact that I was in a race and doing pretty well. I was in 7th at Drymen 9th at Rowardenan and 14th now. After an unnecessarily long 4 minutes on my backside Will told me to get a move on “ as you will on my Paddy” I agreed that I would, and so levered myself up and onwards.

I lacked serious motivation and knew that the 12 miles left to go were going to be painful. The 6 miles of mainly uphill passed with me only running when the trail was virtually flat or downhill, or when a photographer’s camera appeared; strange I know. Will had gone to Tyndum to park up and retrace the trail back to me. As I approached the top of the hill onto the highland plateau I negotiated the cow latrine by snaking passed the rumps of some bloody huge cows (I think I have mentioned on the blog my fear of these creatures) I was too knackered to bother. So I just ploughed my way through the slosh. By now my lucozade had run out and I was getting dehydrated. My 2nd toilet break confirmed my fears, bright green fluid, and I had not eaten any asparagus. Not good. Eventually, after what felt like a long time traversing the rollercoaster path through the woods, Will appeared like a bronzed Adonis descending off a mini summit. Shirt off and proclaiming “I only have water” thank god for that, I was sick of all that energy drink. I ran as much as I could for the last 6 miles with Will.

I felt pathetic, walking any slight incline and jogging the flats slowly. All the time I was imagining myself running up Conic Hill 6 odd hours earlier. Will said he had feared he would struggle to keep up with me. No Chance, more like he was struggling to run slow enough. It felt like he was kidding me about the distance left my glass was half empty and Wills was full. Finally we arrived at the last bit of road. He left me at the start of the last field and semi triumphantly I passed the bagpiper and headed for the finish line. A runner that I had jockeyed position with from Beinglas was 200 yards ahead and for the last 2 miles I could not be bothered to even contest it. He probably deserved it anyway.

14 th in 9 hours 20 mins. I suppose I should be pretty pleased it is a new PB; 9 minutes faster than last year. I know I can do better so it will be interesting to give it a go in a years time, roll on the Highland Fling 2011.

Wyresdale Circuit

10th April
24 miles and 3,300 feet

As I sat down on the side of Ward’s Stone, cramping, dehydrated hot and tired, I thought to myself, it wasn’t meant to be this hard ……

The Wyresdale circuit was first completed by fellow Bowland Runner Duncan Elliott in the summer of 2006. He decided against the original route which was a horseshoe (Wyresdale Skyline) starting and finishing at the post offices in Scorton and Qeurnmore respectively. This was first completed by Andy Verden in 2005. I decided that the Circuit made more sense, as well as the obvious benefits of starting and finishing in the same location, it made a nice loop of mixed; not just boggy, terrain. After recceing the part from Clougha Pike to Abbeystead Chapel, I decided that starting at Jubilee Tower was the better option, for the large free car park, and the old monument to mark the start and finish with. Originally I had planned to have an easy run around it, but after reading reports and realising that no one had yet beat the 5 hour mark for either the circuit (which is 2 miles longer and 400 feet less ascent) or the horseshoe, I decided to have a go at doing a sub 5 hour round. Fellow Bowland member Ian Cookson joined me for an attempt. We would be together only until the top of Harrisend Fell were we agreed to go at out own paces.

It was hot t-shirt weather at 08:50 as Ian and I touched Jubilee towers modest turret and set off on our round. We made our way through the farms feeling the heat straight away. After about half an hour we reached Abbystead Chapel, this was to keep the same line that Duncan did and be true to his circuit. After a brief stop and a check of the map we set off into what was uncharted land for both of us. Map in hand we negotiated our way to the crossing of the Wyre easily enough; a woodpecker was working hard on a tree and shattering the silence of the Saturday morning. Passed Swainsdale Hall, again being true to Duncan’s Route! And then after crossing the main road we went a bit off track and had to make our own way onto Harrisend Fell. The line wasn’t too bad apart from the fact that we were accidentally trespassing.

On Harrisend Fell (1h 13) I wished Ian good luck and set off on my own gradually pulling away from Ian I made my way on good mown ground to Grizedale Head (1h 21) this is were the familiar peat hags and bogs started. I new this was tough terrain but thought that the land may have dried out a bit. No such luck, it was as boggy as ever and on more than one occasion I had to leaver my knee deep trailing leg out of a deep bog. Never mind at least the weather was good. Too good, no cooling wind and about 17c was a shock to the system after such a long cold extended winter. I continued working hard and sweating hard onto White Moss (1h 30) then turned for Hawthornthwaite I now realised what everyone means about the Trig point. Amazingly it still stands (1.42). As I set off for Holdron Moss I looked back to see Ian was only about 500 meters behind, he was going well, but this was the last time I would see him on the day. I made an effort to keep my legs moving over this particularly sodden section of Holdren Moss, this was tough going and at times I had to walk a bit to regain my momentum. Over Holdren Moss (2h 02) and I could see the last hill before my drop down to the Trough of Bowland. I made sure I drank my ½ litre bottle of Lucozade dry, ready to fill it up at the stream. So over Top of Blaze Moss (2h 15) and then a nice fast descent to the Trough road, I was enjoying this. But my enjoyment ended when the stream that I was relying on was not there. I really should have paid more attention to this.

So annoyed with myself and with no water at all I set off in the baking sun up Whins Brow. No amount of map reading now would locate any drinkable water on this route; I scoured the map trying but, was kidding myself, I knew that I was in trouble. I think about what bear grills would do, and conclude he would read the map better before setting off. Onto Whins Brow (2h 36) trying to forget my hydration problem I decided to just go for it, no sense hanging around wasting time trying to find a stream. My only strategy was to keep wetting my Buff in bog water; the cooler I kept the less I would sweat etc.

Hydration issues still playing in my head, and being mesmerised at following a fence all the way around, well almost, nearly side tracked me from the little summit of Threaphaw Fell (2h 47) So a quick out and back and I powered on passed the serene Canada Geese at Brennard Tarn, and the laughing gulls (yes they must have been laughing at my stupidity) on Brennard Great Hill (3h 07). The tough going continued to the start of the out and back of Wolf Hole crag. Just prior to the out and back I met my first people of the day, I begged some water off 2 guys, they took pity but only had hot water, I was desperate 200 ml of clean water was very much appreciated and needed. I thanked them again as I passed them on the way back off Wolf Hole crag (3 h 25). I was now on familiar ground again, but this was offset by the fact that I was starting to wilt in the midday sun.

On my way over to Ward’s Stone I had my first sip of the now warm water. I knew it was too little too late. I had only drunk ½ a litre of fluid in nearly 4 hours of hard bog trudging work. I found that I was now walking more of the bits that earlier on I was running. The tank was flickering to empty. On the final approach to Ward’s Stone I sat down, legs cramping and feeling a bit rough. This was a hard day, made harder by my serious error with the water. It was never meant to be this hard.

I stretched off the cramp and steeled myself for the final 5 miles. I had an hour left I, in my deteriorating state I knew it would be tight. So I pushed on to Ward’s Stone East (4.02) steeled myself on the flat run to Ward’s Stone West (4.06) then cramps in my sides and legs over cabin flats and I painfully pushed it running up Grit Fell . (Normally a very run able gradient). I couldn’t stop looking at my watch, as if time would slow down. On Grit Fell (4.27) I met another chap who kindly let me have a drink of his water, I knew it was too late but it made me feel a bit better.

Pushing hard to Clougha Pike (4.38) and I now knew I would make it inside 5 hours. So on the sedge and tussock strewn descent I took a couple of walking breaks just to stretch my cramped up calf muscles. My car was shinning like an oasis in the desert as I approached it and Jubilee tower just meters beyond it. I was glad I had plenty of water in the car. I ran passed it and across the main road to touch the tower. I had done it. 4 hours and 52 minutes 50s. I collapsed on the bench feeling rough but happy with my effort. Ian finished in 6 hours 36 minutes and said he enjoyed the day too. Wisely he set off with more water than me.

It may only be 24 miles and 3,300 feet but it is a lot tougher than those statistics suggest. This was originally planned as a training run for my upcoming 53 mile Highland Fling race, but it became much more than that. There is no doubt I made it harder than need be for myself. But either way I never envisaged having to work so hard to duck under 5 hours. It was a really enjoyable, if slightly torturous, day in the Bowland hills.

Carneddau recce take 2

3rd of April
15 miles and 5,200 feet

We were good to our word and returned to Wales to have (we hoped) a proper recce of this wonderful ridge. This time fellow Bowland member Chris Reade joined us.

It was a much better day and Will and Ian got an expert guidance of the best lines by Chris. This time the weather was beautiful. Apart from a little bit of snow on the ascent of Pen yr ole wen, we had clear visibility. The only thing to slow us down this time was the amount of snow on the ground. It was all the way down to the valley floor in patches. We decided to use the summer lines even though these had deeper snow on them. The reason for this is that they are mostly grassy areas away from the main ridge. Still it gave us all a good work out. As sometimes our feet would hold near the top of the crusty snow and other times we would break through 6 inches down, really energy sapping stuff.

Still we persevered and completed the circuit on 4 hours 50 minutes. Not bad given the 1 hour run to Pen yr ole wen and the underfoot conditions. All in all a great days running in what at times looked like and alpine scene, and was almost as warm as a summers day.

Fiensdale Fell Race

20th March
8 miles 2500 feet

A dank miserable day didn’t deter Ian and I plus 69 others from having a crack at this BFR arranged Fell race. It was one I have meant to do for a few years but it never quite worked out. So this was my chance to have a go at, a shorter than usual course, due to access issues.

I gave it my best shot but always felt like I should have had more to give, but my lungs were heaving most of the way around. I think I may have still had the tail end of a chest infection. Still I managed to hold a good race together and finish 16th in 1:08:08, and Ian had a good run finishing 25th in 1:14:32 out of 70 runners . Congratulations to fellow club runner Mike Johnson who won in 58:59.

Paddy Buckley Carneddau Recce

13 March
15.5 miles 5,500 feet

This run could be summed up as Will Ian and I enjoying a nice flattish trail run from Capel Curig to Pont Pen-y-benglog via Llyn Ogwen then a high level run over Pen yr ole wen and the Carnedds on snow covered ground in a freezing windy white out that was horribly cold, followed by a slight thawing over Pen yr Helgi Ddu and Pen llithrig y Wrach, then a major warming up off Pen llithrig y Wrach and back to Capel Curig followed by a feed at the Pinacle Café.

At times the wind chill on the Carnedds must have been about -15 c. We all felt very cold my hands were so numb I could barely get the map out to look at the bearings. We only made 1 mistake and that was going down the wrong ridge off Pen yr Heli Du, still as Will rightly said this was another 20 minutes of training, a grear positive atitude, no wonder he is good at these long challenges.

I have got into a minimalist mind set when going into the hills at the moment, and most of the times that I do, I end up promising myself that next time I wont be so minimalist with the kit. Instead of a Bum Bag I will take a rucksack with a good winter jacket in it. I type this so I am more likely to remember the lesson. It hit home when I was seriously cold whilst ascending a gradual slope up to Carnedd Dafydd., Will and Ian said “we are putting more gear on”. I thought to myself I am freezing and I have no (or next to no) more gear to put on. So I was reduced to running up and down the hill to keep warm, and that didn’t even work. Still once we got on to the descent and out of the wind I gradually warmed up. Note that I did'nt take any photos from the top of Pen yr ole wen all the way to just before Pen yr Helgi Ddu. It was a kick up the arse and a reminder that winter isn’t over in the high hills yet. It’s amazing how debilitating and how rough having numb hands makes you feel. I along with Will had thoughts of going down at this point, but we unbeknown to each other, toughed it out. Ian was as hardy as ever and had no complaints.

It was still fun though. Although I don’t think Ian and Will learned much in those white out conditions, for their impending joint Paddy Buckley attempts. Still it’s a good excuse to go back down ASAP.