As day broke last Sunday morning, and I descended into Langdale I'd done 36 miles 22 tops and 14,000'.
Saturday James kindly drove me up to the Lakes. I was rested, fed, and generally feeling rather good about heading out on a mid winter Bob Graham round. We arrived just in time to have some supper in a local hostelry, but of course without beer.
We'd maybe left it a little tight on time, so I had to be quick to get ready. But there was time for a quick leg massage form Ali before I headed for the Moot Hall.
At the Moot Hall there were lots of people. Along with some of my helpers, and supporting runners were Dave Ward's team. Dave a fellow Pennine runner was setting off at the same time. We must have cut it fine, as apparently we had 3 minutes before our 8pm off. No time for nerves, just as I like it.
Below Steve and Mark, a couple of my leg 2 pacers.
Having not run for a week, I'd feared this first section, as I'd thought my legs would have forgotten how to run. A foundless fear, as one of my pacers said I was running too quickly, when I thought I was jogging. Dave's team were in sight for quite awhile as we headed up Skiddaw's lower flanks, but I made sure I wasn't going to chase them. We were making good progress and thankfully unlike the last two times I'd been up there, the wind was manageable.
Skiddaw was summited with time in hand against schedule. Next a steady jog down into some very damp ground before the climb up to Great Calva. The exact line of the trod to the top proved elusive until we were a fair way up the hill. We weren't the only ones to take an alternative route to the top that evening. As I neared the top Dave's team rolled up a short distance behind.
On the descent Dave's lot were away ahead of us. The River Calva when we reached it was a mellow calf height deep, and in seconds we were across it and on our way towards Mungrisedale Common, and then in turn to Blencathra, though this section seemed to take an eternity. Still, plenty of time in hand.
On Blencathra a few dabs of snow reminded us that this was winter, even though the lack of wind rain and cold seemed to suggest otherwise.
Playing safe we jogged down Doddick Fell. The wind that hadn't really been much of a nuisance briefly reminded me of its presence by whisking my HCtB winter hat from my head before dumping it somewhere near Scales Fell. Sadly I didn't have the time to go and look for it. Hmm a bit of a niggle in my right knee.
Leg 2 a trudge through bogs and tussocks to gain the slopes of Clough Head. A bit of wind, but not enough that we couldn't hold a conversation and be heard. Good progress through the occasional mist that came and went. Skirting Calfhow Pike we were soon on the Dodds ridge. As we picked them off in the distance we could see lights. Steve and Alan now joined us.
On over the rest of the ridge towards Dollywagon Pike we kept close to schedule, but as we descended each hill my right knee started to hurt more and more.
Years back I'd had some ITB (illiotibial band) problems, but throughout all my recent training had never had more than the tiniest twinge. Not impressed.
Climbing Fairfield was painful, and descending even more so. By the top of Seat Sandal I'd lost a good chunk of time, and by the time I reached Dunmail to the sound of my crews cow bells a good chunk more.
It's hard to describe the emotions I was feeling there, except to say I was definitely emotional. I felt strong, not tired and really wanted this. But my ITB was murdering me. Failure had never been a possibility until now. I was not going to chuck the towel in. Emma and Ali had tea and noodles for me which I devoured.
Ali again looked after my legs gave me a cuddle and Hey Presto I was ready for Leg 3.
Dunmail to Wasdale was the leg I'd thought if I could get through then the rest would go.
I was encouraged by Hanno thinking that the ascent of Steel Fell was a toughie. For me it was a steady effort, and a short one. The knee was not too painful after it's massage, but that didn't last for long.
The next section should have been quick. I managed to run the few flat bits, but the ups and down were slow. Even though I'd been up here a few weeks back, without my GPS I wouldn't have had a clue as to where we were. Paul (now to be know asThe Seer) without map and compass however knew more or less excatly where we were. Most impressive.
I got time checks as we attained each summit, and as I'd feared, was hemorrhaging time.
Dawn broke accompanied by a chill wind, not giving the usual lifting of spirits that dawn brings. By Thunacar Knott, I was nearly 1:30 down on schedule. Ahead of me some of the biggest roughest climbs of the round.
Not lightly, for sure, but the decision was made. Getting round in 24 hours was not going to happen. Paul made the call to James to let everyone else know what was happening.
The drop down to Langdale if I was fit would have taken 15 minutes tops, on the day probably closer to an hour aided by my walking poles which I'd picked up at Dunmail to take the pressure of my knee.
Down at the New Dungeon Ghyll we were greeted by Jenn with tea coffee, and gingerbread biscuits. Yeah. Some walkers commented on how gauche we were having tea and coffee before we set off on our walk. I said "Start? I've just finished, and started from Keswick". I don't think they believed me.
Back at Keswick were Ann and the kids. It was great to see them. We adjourned to a cafe where Emma, Ali and James joined us for breakfast. I ate, chatted, and shortly after was struggling to stay awake.
So, as I finish writing this a couple of days after the end, my current reflective thoughts.
A winter round is a toughie. You have to love the night. I'd trained in the dark and being able to cover rough ground quickly by torchlight is essential. When I was not hobbling, I was on, or ahead of pace, so I feel that part of things was good. I ate reasonably well, and at one stage I probably ate a bit too much which my stomach didn't like. The logistics of the round went well. Having a number of helpers on the ground proved useful on a couple of occasions. I see no reason why I wouldn't have got round if my knee hadn't flared up.
I am indebted to a number of people who haven't been named here, but they have been thanked in person. I certainly wouldn't have got as far as I did without them.
Will there be another attempt at the round? Indeed there will. I'm going to find a nice day in the summer when my knee is fixed and do the round with some friends and have a few beers afterwards.
Next Winter though I'll be back. The Lake District is a special place as you all know, but having it to yourself and a few mates in the dark is something else.
PS. Congratulations to Dave Ward, 23:02 for his round. :)