Sunday, 26 June 2011

Another Amazing BG Weekend - 24-25/06/2011

Adrian climbing Bowfell, powered by Pauline's cake. Cake deliveries by me!
What a fantastic sport this is! I'm just back from an amazing weekend in the Lakes, supporting my friend Adrian's BG attempt. I didn't want to let anyone down, so had opted out of pacing / navigating to go on "resting" my various niggles. Not that this was going to stop me helping!

We all gathered at the Moot Hall just after 6pm on Friday to see Adrian off, with the two RR's, Rick and Richard pacing leg one. The weather was dry and not too cold, but the overcast was threatening worse. Another group set off a couple of minutes before Adrian's, and there was also a local group going at 7pm, all clockwise.

Richard, Adrian, and Rick ready to leave the Moot Hall

As a non-runner for the weekend I thought the best thing I could do was to head over to Langdale and hike up Rossett Gill (yes, hike - the rucsac was too heavy for running really) to camp at the top between Rossett Pike and Bowfell.

Walking up Mickleden with The Band in front
View up Mickleden to Bowfell just as the first few raindrops started to fall...

As I got to the top section at about 21:45, the rain started. I put the tent up quickly on a spot just in the lee of the ridge (Angle Tarn side), had a brew and set the alarm for 05:00 (the schedule was for 06:04 at Rossett Pike) and tried to sleep. Excitement and incresingly wild conditions outside kept me mostly awake but I got off about one, and was woken at 04:30 by the wild weather and full daylight.

Working out when Adrian would be arriving, 4:45 am.

I boiled water and filled the thermos, got dressed and went outside to try to get a mobile signal and check what the score was from the Dunmail handover. Eventually I got a text from Pauline to say Adrian was going strong but an hour down on schedule at Dunmail. Looking around, I wasn't suprised. The weather was gross, I was cold, and I'd been in a relatively sheltered tent overnight, not running along the Hellvellyn ridge.

Anyway over the next hour I got the brews sorted and then headed up to the top of Rossett Pike to see the groups come through. The local group (I think the chap was probably an Ellenborough runner from subsequent conversations) came through first, Jackie Winn was navving (I've met him before but didn't recognise him from the 3 square inces of exposed flesh under his cag hood until it was too late). Ten minutes or so later came the next group, with a lady aspirant. I'm not sure what happened to her later on.

Finally Adrian appeared, with Dale and Andy. They came from such an odd angle that I nearly missed them - I think Dale must have a trade secret line onto Rossett Pike. Anyway I got my scates on down to the tent and poured drinks for the three of them. I grabbed a couple of cakes and some sandwiches and headed up Bowfell with them for a few hundred yards, feeding Adrian and the others. After a few minutes I turned back to the camp.

By now everything was absolutely soaking, with about quarter of an inch of water on the tent floor! What had seemed a nice flat sheltered hollow had turned into a big puddle overnight. I packed up and headed down to Langdale to get the car. I was in Keswick by 1030, and while I was having a coffee I got the message from Pauline that Adrian was still looking strong, but was an hour and a half down on schedule at Wasdale - this would mean that with a 23 hour 15 minute schedule he'd be 45 minutes too late at Keswick...

I thought I'd do my best to try to help him keep going, so I headed up to Honister, where I met Val who'd be pacing leg 5. She was obviously now rather too early, but not to worry. I got some water boiling and filled the flask while I changed into my second lot of running kit, then headed off in the rain up the incline and onto the Brandreth path. When this crosses the fence you can drop down onto Moses' Trod, which cuts around the north of Great Gable to Beck Head. With some fast hiking I was there at about 13:30, ten minutes behind when Adrian should have got there and now about an hour to an hour and a half ahead of his ETA based on the timings at Wasdale. It was hammering down, and very misty and the path isn't all that clear so I was worried I'd miss the group. I was also cold, so I hiked on up to Kirk Fell.

On the way across the plateau I saw the Ellenborough group, still going well, although there was only one nav / pacer with the runner. I hunkered down in the shelter at the summit and pretty soon I heard voices, then saw Adrian. He had Oz and Tiggy, two of his ultra running mates, with him, and two others I couldn't recognise under their cags. Anyway I got a cup of coffee down Adrian (on the run), and poured a weak black tea for the pacers, which they took with them on the way up Gable. Again the navigator's lines were superb - the route of Kirk Fell was so smooth and straightforward compared with the tourist route I'd come up.

Adrian had picked up maybe 10 minutes, so was now only an hour and 20 down on his schedule or, more importantly, about 35 minutes down on the 24 hour time. I know of some amazing last leg runs, so I was still hopeful. I dashed back to Honister (a full on run) to get everyone there ready and geared up to expect Adrian maybe a little earlier than we had thought.

When he showed up they'd made good time over Gable and not lost any. He was still looking ok-ish, and he had a great set of pacers for his final leg - Andy (again), Val, his son Joe, and another chap I didn't know... Pauline told Adrain in no uncertain terms to get a wiggle on, and so he grabbed a soup and headed off into the mist up Dale Head. We all charged round to Newlands, where we waited what seemed a total age. The chap from Ellenborough came through, looking ok-ish, with plenty of time for his run in to Keswick. Very soon behind him Adrian and the team appeared. Sadly though, despite making up a load of time, there was only 35 minutes left for the five or so hilly road miles into Keswick. The team went straight through to our cheers, and we set off to follow them in.

I hared round to the Keswick side of the Portinscale bridge, parked up and changed yet again, this time into a pair of shorts (it had finally stopped chucking it down) and a Lifa. At this point one of life's surreal moments occured. I looked up and there was a bloke standing on the opposite side of the road who looked the spitting image of Billy Bland, Bob Graham superhero. I have a picture of him on my wall!

At these moments no one ever says anything sensible so my opening gambit was "You are who I think you are, aren't you?" Evidently he was, and we had a really nice chat for ten minutes or so. Billy is well into his cycling now, and it was good to see that his competitiveness is still there as he told me about his quest to get under seven hours for the Fred Whitton Ride. He was very humble, but had a few words of advice for me too. He asked about Adrian, and I was able to fill him in. Just then the Ellenborough guy appeared across the bridge. He looked pretty beat, but was clearly going to make it. Billy wished Adrian good luck; I said he'd probabl be along in fifteen minutes or so - I'd passed him on the road near Swinside.

Just as Billy turned to go, amazing Adrian and the team appeared over the bridge. He'd cut the Ellenborough guy's fifteen minute lead at Newlands to just a minute or so. I got in with the group and tried to be useful over the last mile to the Moot Hall, but sadly as we hit the track through the park the 24 hours clicked over. At that was left was to run up the main street to the Moot Hall...

Adrain put a little spurt in over the last fifty yards or so and finished his BG attempt, about 24 hours and 10 minutes after he'd started. He'd made up over 35 minutes on the final leg, but sadly it wasn't quite enough. The Ellenborough guy finished just ahead for what must have been about a 23:35 round. I didn't see any sign of either of the other groups at Honister or in Keswick so they must have cut (or been very fast).

Anyway, despite the disappointment I think Adrian can see that he is well capable of doing it - we would just need better weather or a slightly quicker second leg. Billy Bland told him that he'd cruise it on a good day after he'd finished.

The most important thing is that we all had a brilliant time, and everyone really stepped up when it counted and did everything they could. The competence of some of the guys on the hills has to be seen to be believed. Andy's speed and the ease he moves with, Dale's clever lines and knowledge of the hills, Oz and Tiggy's assuredness and teamwork, and Joe's dedication, supporting his dad physically in the last mile or two as the pain from the feet started to tell... I also admire the generousity and kindness of everyone who came to support. Above all though, it was Adrian's quiet determination and spirit in the face of 24 hours of truly horrible conditions which made it's mark with me. This is a brilliant sport, and out in those wet, cold fells I saw a lot of great people doing inspirational things.


  1. Great blog Jim. Sorry to hear Adrian didn't make it. I was potentially helping him but hadn't heard anything for a few weeks so assumed he'd got all support organised. Doing leg 2 in the dark is a mistake I think, so many attempts flounder up there. He'll do it, no doubt. He's stronger than me and I did it.

  2. Thanks Rich. Leg 2 in the dark can be ok but you either need good clear conditions, or a bomb proof navigator, or a combination of the two. The thing is it's the easiest running ground on the whole route (except the road bit), so if you're going the right way you can make good time, even at night...