Friday 28th July
'Afoot in 2 Dales' was as hot a day as I can remember in the hills, comparable with Wasdale last year, and the descent from Great Shunner Fell was without even the slightest breeze. This must be the best LDWA 50 miler in the north of England, perhaps simply the best in the country. If it runs again we will be there and you should be too. Depite the heat and Pauline suffering through lack of food in the first 20 miles we took an hour off our 2004 time and were very chuffed to finish in the daylight. To give my legs a chance to recover, on Sunday, I took my road bike out just for half an hour to stretch my legs and get rid of the stiffness, The rest of the week has been short morning and evening sessions, mainly on the road with run over Winter Hill to add a bit of (more) serious climbing. My legs feel as though they are almost completely recovered and next week I should do the 'magic 10,000 feet' and then start tapering for the 12th.
84 miles 9400 feet
Coope's Dozen on Saturday - 18 mile club jaunt over Winter Hill with 'no racing' until the 12th summit. Last year I remember hanging on to the group by my finger nails until Healey Nab when, within seconds, I found myself all on my own trying to work out how to get back to Rivington. This year may well be the same - it just depends who turns up. The rest of the week I'll be less concerned with mileage and more focused on gettiing the climbing done before winding down.
Try to finalise details next week although holidays and other commitments mean that I could still be waiting on some confirmations at the end of next week but things will come together before the day.
Friday 21st July
This week, for the first time, I feel the strength returning to my legs and begin to believe another attempt in August is a serious possibilty which is just as well since, with help from Colin Jones, I have my 5 navigators and some support runners identified. Until now recovery had been a matter of faith rather than a process supported by any evidence but last weekend's outings on Winter Hill went well. 16 miles and 3000 feet on Saturday followed by 21 miles and 3750 feet on Sunday and on Monday my legs were in better nick than they had been the previous week on half that distance and climbing. Three road sessions, including two on Tuesday, and another run over Winter Hill on Wednesday when I met 'Hopey' with a group of runners from Lostock at the Two Lads - good to meet you and thanks for the encouragement. I am pleased with this week's progress and am taking two rest days to ensure it continues.
62 miles 9350 feet
On Saturday Pauline and I are going over to the Dales to do a 50 mile LDWA event with about 6000 feet of climbing. Sunday will probably just be a short recovery run and if all is well I shouldn't have too much trouble getting to 70 miles before next weekend. The great temptation, that must be resisted, is to keep pushing hard to find out how completely my legs have recovered but with last week's progress I can relax about my rate of recovery and this week should just confirm everything is going well without the need to overdo things.
Friday 14th July
Recovery is more prolonged than I imagined it would be so no more track or 'hills' sessions until my legs are recovered. Last Saturday I went to support another BGR attempt, to run Leg 4 on an A/C attempt but the aspirant was so late at Dunmail that it was abandoned. We ran back into Leg 3 to find them, up Steel Fell to Calf Crag and the climb really hurt. On Sunday Pauline and I did a steady 12 miles over Winter Hill and my legs were pretty weary afterwards. Monday and Wednesday I did a couple of steady road sessions with a run over the Pike and Winter Hill on Tuesday and by Thursday my legs were hinting that they might be recovering. Not wanting to spoil things I dug out my mountain bike and had a ride up to the Pike last night. After months of only running it was really enjoyable to get a bike out. Rest day today and my legs feel better than yesterday.
47 Miles 1600 feet
Couple of outings over Winter Hill at the weekend and try to get the mileage to around 70 but everything is going to depend on how I feel on Monday morning.
August 12th with a 22 hour schedule, as before, but with a revised start time of midnight Friday night. The additional darkness of mid-August means a 08:00 start is less practical and a lot of conventional wisdom says it is better to get the darkness done early so midnight it is. Support teams are begining to take shape and I'm looking forward to it.
Friday 7th July
In Ireland, ejoying more rain, for the early part of the week and so I managed a gentle 4 miles on Wednesday night and a hill session on Thursday night. The hill session was probably a bit intense but I needed to find out what my legs are like. My split from the bottom of Foxeholes to the Mast was about 20 seconds slower (in 23 minutes) than the last time, in Feb 2006, which is encouraging although my legs are pretty tired this morning.
Support another BGR attempt from Dunmail to Threlkeld with Colin Jones on Saturday and tour Winter Hill on Sunday with Pauline. The rest of the week will be determined by how I feel after the weekend.
Leg 5: Threlkeld to Keswick
A very short stop, foot massage, fresh shoes & socks, more rice pudding (I think) and we are off with 4 and a quarter hours left. Lots of reassurance that it is still do-able as we start to climb Halls Fell and despite tired legs and wet rock we make reasonable time, 2 minutes over schedule but back into the clag that is not going to help route finding.
Unable to find the top of Mungrisedale Common we are making slow progress around the end of it below the cloud base but Great Calva remains hidden even when the stream junction comes into site. Briefly the clouds blow away, Great Calva appears confirming our location as we head directly to the stream junction. Still climbing fairly well we reach Great Calva with not much time to spare, 2:06 behind schedule needing to make up, at least, 6 minutes over Skiddaw.
Reach Skiddaw summit about 1.5 minutes faster than the schedule and now nothing else matters, not even the time although I know I probably can't get to the Moot Hall before 08:00 it just has to be worth the effort. Keith, who had bivvied at Stocks Pass to provide a light to aim for, has walked up from Keswick to wait on Skiddaw summit (in really foul weather) to provide some fresh enthusiasm joins in the 'mad dash' for Keswick. Time slips away a little faster than the distance and the 24 hours is reached just at the edge of Keswick. I walk a bit in the park before resuming a trot to the Moot Hall to finish in 24:10 and it is time to start thinking about another attempt.
Leg 4: Dunmail to Threlkeld
About 15 minutes or so down leaving Dunmail for Seat Sandal eating a slab of Chris Heys' famous chocolate covered flapjack (thanks, Chris). Seat Sandal is slower than I would have liked, slower than my recces and slower than the schedule then the descent is tricky on steep wet grass and rocks, more than one slip occurs as we make for Fairfield. Cloudbase is well below the tarn and route choices are restricted to easiest to follow (or find in some instances) but the weather appears to relent a little as come off Fairfield in drifting, broken clag but no rain. Dollywagon is reached but almost 20 minutes slower than the schedule.
The weather is deteriorating and our head torches start to create a virtual white-out in the rain as the light just reflects straight back off the rain drops. Nethermost, Helvellyn, Lower Man, Whiteside and Raise are all 'ticked off' but the pace is deteriorating almost as fast as the weather. The Dodds pass in a blur until the drop off from Great Dodd allows what seems like a reasonable trot towards Clough Head and the descent out of the worst of the weather. Now I realise just how slow this leg has been and that if the conditions are as bad on the final leg I am unlikely to be anywhere near the Moot Hall at 08:00.
Reaching in the cars at 03:37 I am 99 minutes down having lost 85 minutes on this leg. Now I know, now I really understand just what the weather can do. The consolation, if there is any to be had, is that the Clayton team took around the same time to reach Sticks Pass and probably did this leg only about 15, maybe 20, minutes faster which must have been a good way behind their schedule too.
Leg 3: Wasdale to Dumail
Change of clothing, a bit of food, attention to my ankle, foot massage, fresh shoes and socks and we are off on the longest leg with the biggest climb. The Clayton team having passed us on the Yewbarrow descent leave just ahead of us but take a longer route to Scafell. Wasdale is dry and almost warm but before long the damp wind is chilling and waterproof jacket is back on.
Part way up a descending walker pauses and calls out as we climb past "I did mine about 15 years ago. Well done, just keep going". A brief acknowledgment that does little to show how much I appreciate his encouragement is all I can manage.
There is no "easy way" to do this climb and for once the clag helps by concealing how much is left to do. A gel halfway up helps and before long the gradient begins ease, providing the first indication that there might be an end to the torture.
Having previously discounted Broad Stand as an option and, in these conditions, discounting the "climbers' traverse" we go all the way down Foxes Tarn Gully that is pouring with water, washed with rain but sheltered from the wind. Passing a group of resting walkers we cause some amusement trying to run out of the bottom of the gully and up the climb to Mickledore. The 'run' up the climb doesn't last any length of time but perhaps the clag will have concealed how quickly we were reduced to walking.
Scafell Pike requires care to ensure we are not lured down the wrong descent and Broad Crag is passed just ahead of schedule while Ill Crag hides in the clag and we back track, a little, to its summit. Great End marks the end of the ridge and the end of the wet boulders that make progress so difficult. Esk Pike is soon crossed and Bow Fell reached. Retracing steps to the descent literally marks a 'turning point' on the leg because for the first time it seems instead of traveling away from Wasdale we begin to travel towards Dunmail.
Descending Bow Fell is slow and conditions underfoot are treacherous but Rossett Pike is reached about 5 minutes ahead and now the wet boulders are left behind. Pike O'Stickle seems a long way away and more than a 1000 feet above us and I think this was the part of the leg I was dreading. Having recced it early in the year the climb into the Langdale Pikes seemed hard with relatively 'fresh legs' and I wasn't looking forward to it with legs that had already done over 14,000 feet of climbing. Improved fitness, the occassion and strong support team all helped to make it far less difficult than I feared. Even Harrison Stickle's 300 feet weren't too bad and are off looking for Thunacar Knott and it looms out of the mist, right on schedule.
Sergeant Man then High Raise along with careful route finding ensures we lose no significant time but we are about 7 minutes down by Calf Crag and the same at Steel Fell. A slow, careful descent to Dunmail costs a few more minutes but arriving 15 minutes down doesn't seem too bad and I felt as though I had got through the longest leg, almost on time and in reasonable condition.
Leg 2: Honister to Wasdale
Again it is better to be running and fresh shoes & socks and the massage help enormously. Grey Knotts seems a stiffish climb but is achieved ahead of schedule but not by one of my support runners who is left behind in the clag. The significance isn't immediately apparent but he is carrying half my carb drinks and all my food for this leg (lesson to be learned here).
Brandereth, Green Gable and Great Gable all pass in the clag and I am beginning to relax for the first time as we leave Great Gable summit. The most direct route is no worse than the slightly longer route (nearer Ennerdale) but the wet slippery rocks make it unpleasant and seemingly slow. Kirk Fell is left behind and now I find out about the food & carb drinks 'left behind'. Other food is produced and eaten but I am probably still going to be short of carbs on this leg. Pillar is a long drag but we are almost 25 minutes up on the schedule and the steep rocky descent passes without incident or cramp. Thoughts of early retirement are banished and although the weather makes 'enjoyment' seem like stretching a point but everything is beginning to feel much better.
The clag conceals the wall over Scoat Fell and we miss the turning for Steeple. We probably don't miss by much, just enough to need most of the time in hand to find it. Leaving Steeple a couple of minutes ahead it isn't possible not to compare Steeple on the last recce where we sat in the warm sunshine having a bite and enjoying the slightly hazy views down Ennerdale.
By now it is obvious the 'isolated showers' in the weather forecast have joined forces and will be
a constant companion for the rest of the attempt. Leaving Steeple we see a team for Clayton who left Keswick an hour behind us. Red Pike is crossed quickly, Dore Head passed without pause and Yewbarrow climbed faster than schedule. Descending to Wasdale was also faster than schedule and I should have gone done the scree (as we did on the recce) especially because my trail shoes weren't capable of providing the grip needed on the steep, wet, grassy slopes. A number of slips, stumbles and falls are the consequence as well as rolling (painfully) a couple of rocks on to my right ankle.
Despite the clag and everything else we are at Wasdale about 5 minutes ahead and I feel much, much better than I did at Honister. With only around 7 hours done there is a long way to go but at Dale Head I was doubting if I could get this far.
Leg 1: Moot Hall to Honister
Away on time at 08:00 and seemingly OK having drunk my first bottle of carbs while waiting at the Moot Hall. So far things have gone to plan, having had a good nights' sleep followed by usual breakfast of porridge with dried fruit and despite appearances a weather forecast that seems reasonable - isolated showers in a generally overcast day.
The road pace might be a little quick but it is good to be running and we are soon passing Newlands Church and heading up the valley. Despite having eaten more than two hours earlier I still feel bloated and can't eat a carb bar on the way up Robinson, as planned. Gaining the ridge takes us into clouds and the first of the 'isolated showers'. Waterproof jacket is donned here and will be worn for the rest of the attempt.
Descending from Robinson brings on a bout of retching and vomiting that help my digestive system a little but by now I feel so bad that I almost can't imagine continuing. Hindscarth passes in a blur and the climb up Dale Head brings a blast of diarrhea. I feel pretty dreadful now and reel with the prospect of all the training being wasted with a retirement at Honister. A poor line off Dale Head means a slow descent that costs a few minutes but we arrive at Honister just ahead of schedule.