Monday 9 July 2007

Mark's BGR - 29th/30th June 2007

The night before...

Technically, my BGR started at 6.55 on Friday evening (29th June), but really, it felt underway when I arrived at the hut on Dunmail Raise the evening before. Up to that point, the BGR was something I was preparing for. When I arrived at the hut, unlocked it, lit the boiler and unpacked everything I immediately felt better. Being sure we had the hut was the last critical thing left to sort. Now I was there in the hut, it had arrived.

The preceding couple of weeks were horrible - all that waiting, not running much, worrying too much when you do run and the general basic pain-in-the-arse type behaviour that must have grated on everyone who knows me, works with me, lives with me. All of a sudden, I felt better and was on a mission.

I'd have felt better still during my solitary vigil at the hut on Thursday night if hadn't have been absolutely pouring down outside. I sorted out gear, food and clothes for tomorrow's round, did the crossword and checked out the hut (i.e. grabbed the best bunk). This activity was punctuated by my stepping outside to vainly look for a break in the weather. It didn't come all evening and my mood darkened in sync with the clouds overhead.

I decided on a solitary night up there before folks arrived on Friday so I could get everything together and to be sure I was first there. It was a good idea. I was nervous and would have been crap company. It also meant I was in control, could get an early night and have a lie in.

The hut was great - I would recommend it to anyone doing a BGR as their HQ.

It is the large solitary dwelling on Dunmail Raise, 600 yards from the BGR road crossing at Dunmail. It is right by the lay-by that BGR recce'ers will know well. It belongs to Achille Ratti and is perfect. It sleeps 38, has 4 dorms so various 'shifts' need not disturb each other (e.g. those doing the night leg can get back and go to bed without disturbing those resting in advance of a daytime leg) and a huge communal kitchen and dining area. Thanks very much for Jen for securing our exclusive use of it.
(It's a fact worth knowing that you can only get mobile reception in the front dorms and by the steps leading down to the lay-by!

D-Day Dawns...

I awoke to a better day: some blue, some grey, some white. The tops looked clear. The forecast however did not. At best, it looked like I had decent conditions until 8am Saturday, 13 hours into the round. Then it suggested very poor conditions for the rest of the day.
I decided I would make hay while the sun shone and go out quickly on a 21/22 hour schedule, or at least, to be well inside the 23.5 hour schedule I was aiming for. I decided not to tell my leg one pacers this. This was because a 21/22 hour pace is quite easy when you are fresh. I didn't want to tell them that i was aiming to 'go out fast' because they might have pushed too hard. I decided i would set the pace for the first 2 legs and aim to be an hour up on the 23.5 schedule at Dunmail. I felt better still because I had a plan, but was still very nervous about the weather coming in.
I toyed with a 6pm start rather than a 7pm start. This would mean one less hour to hang around, but also would increase my chances of getting clear of Broad Stand (a small rock climb en route) before the weather came in. Given the support I had lined up and what it might take to change things, I left it as it was. With hindsight, I wish I would have moved the start to 5 or 6pm as this would have resulted in a much faster round, but felt duty bound to leave it. This shows one of the few advantages of having a smaller, nimbler set up re support, although I wouldn't change my support crew for the world.

As Friday progressed, people started arriving. First my long suffering wife, then Pete and Jen, Rowly and the trickle became a steady flow of willing helpers. As the numbers swelled and even the pacers became nervous, I felt pressured - I could not let these people down by simply giving up. If I were to fail, then it would have to be because I fell off something or something fell off me. Pressure gradually built into determination and I felt readier than ever.

And so to Keswick...
Keswick, 6pm and the sky looked great - perfect. Shit, I thought, why aren't I up there now!?! We loitered around the car park and counted time, which of course seemed to be going backwards. Greg and Caroline arrived, virtually direct from Melbourne - the stray Aussies returned just in time to see me off. What a superb feeling that was. To see such good and long lost friends at this time was making this whole day feel as though it was going to work out.

After several trips to the loo, I decided I could wait no longer and we would have to go to the Moot Hall and the start line. As we walked across the car park, a happy looking group ran across the car park: the 6:30 group from Macc. I wished them luck, and meant it. I also envied them - they were underway and I was quietly bricking it. I wasn't the only one - the faces of my friends betrayed their own apprehension (although they may have simply been mulling over where to go for dinner once I was out of the way.)

We discovered another group all ready to set sail at 7pm on the same schedule. This was a shame as I wanted clear air and no distractions. Balls to it I said, we would now start at 6.55 and give both groups some space. A quick annoucement to pacers and support alike to tweak everything on their hymn sheets by 5 mins and we were soon to be off. How decisive! It sounds silly, but that made me feel in control and ready. As I lined up with Pete, Andrew and Simon for leg one in the evening sun - everything felt right.

Leg One - Keswick to Threlkeld. 15 Miles, 5300' ascent.
My covert fast start didn't feel fast. This was good. We jogged merrily through Fitz Park and marvelled at the weather. Paul appeared and took a photo as we crossed the bridge; I mentally subtitled it "Before".

We took to the slopes of Latrigg and walked the ups. It felt faintly stupid to walk up such runnable slopes, but we all knew it was the right thing to do. Noone suggested we do any uphill running.

My pacers all got right into the habit of feeding and watering me. As we plodded up Jenkin Hill on Skiddaw, the first climb of any significance, the view south opened up and we were all agog. It was stunning.

For me though, it had an entirely different siginificance going well beyond the aesthetic. I could see the whole round and relearned in an instant that the BGR is a bloody long way. Someone asked how far the BGR was. I swept my arm in a huge southern arc and said, "that far". I gave Robinson, peak 42, a quick glance and realised I had slowed down a touch. I was starting to cower. This would not do and so we ran the gradual rise behind Skiddaw Little Man towards the final climb. Simon advised that we were 'well up' on schedule, to which I did not react. I needed a peak to calm my nerves; the fellrunning equivalent of Dot Cotton needing a fag. Getting up Skiddaw would set me off fine, and so it did. Arrival there in 71 mins, 14 up on schedule and at a canter made me feel much better.

Onwards to Calva, and some heathery fun. The perfect conditions meant locating that tricky trod over Hare Crag was easy. We took a great line to that, cutting a corner off and saving a minute or two. My GPS chirped at our arrival at the tiny cairn which sent us over Hare Crag and to the beck. No dramas and very high spirits accompanied us Calva as Simon's local knowledge guided us expertly on the best possible line. We were making such good time that Paul, our offical BGR photographer didn't make it round on his bike in time to catch us before we started this climb, but his long lens reeled us in as we climbed (see us at bottom left of picture).
I've always felt that the 51 mins the 23.5 schedule allows for the journey from Skiaddaw to Calva is very generous and must be something to do with the fact that many people do this leg at night. It came as no surprise to me that we got up there in 39 mins and at an easy pace. Knowing that the heathery slope on Calva has claimed many a knee or ankle, we picked our way down easily from the south summit and headed on a line just left (east) of Mungrisedale Common's summit (perhaps I could include it and claim a 43 peak round?!). We met Paul at the bottom on the 4x4 track. Although we knew we were going well, it was terrific to hear someone else say it! We were the best part of half an hour up.
One more climb and leg one is done! Blencathra was bathed in rosy sunlight as we plodded up its sprawling northern slopes. Passing the summit of the common 150 yards to the east, we found and used the track towards Foule Crag. Simon's local knowledge came in handy again as he took further up it than i have ever been before traversing a slightly rising line to the summit. It was a superb line. He knew the precise boulder at which to turn off the track - handy! I had already made up the time i was hoping to gather on leg one and didn't even think about the pace on this climb, yet we made another 8 minutes up on this section.
Just Hall's Fell, and 31 mins of descending to get down to the first road crossing. I was exicted - I was looking forward to seeing everyone and hearing the various whoops and congratulation that we were so far up and feeling good. Simon said he had a really unusual line of the summit, but i didn't want to take any chances on the round and would rather keep things simple coming off this rocky top. So we followed the ridge and he dropped almost immediately towards the gill on the right (west). He appeared soon after some distance ahead - proving his route was bloody quick! I will look into this for future supporting of other attempts!
We descended with such ease and joy - I've seldom felt so alive. The sun was setting but still up, so no worries about coming down this tricky ridge in the dark. The ground was dry and we felt fresh. We arrived in Threlkeld about 40 mins up on schedule and extremely confident.

This was this Tattenhall BGR support crew's virgin road stop - but they were like pros. Chair was out, jacket to hand, new socks ready, towel handy, rice pud and tea done to a turn and lots of similing. Superb.

Leg Two - Threlkeld to Dunmail Raise. 15 miles, 5900' ascent

Jamie (aka NotonurHelly on the FRA Forum) and Dave Sykes were also primed and ready at Threlkeld. They were already pratting about when I got there so I knew this was going to be a fun, entertaining night leg. The sky looked clear, which is all you can ask for a night leg. Who knows, perhaps I could nick another half hour on this leg, but it was really about taking it easy and hoping I could nibble away at the schedule without breaking a sweat

(By the way, all the 3D gimmicky images show the actual line I took).

Jamie (who I had only met hours before), Dave and I made good steady progress as the darkness fell. We made up 10 mins on Clough Head before I slowed things down and kept to schedule as far as Helvellyn. This was made easier by repeated games of 'Who am I?'. How Jamie got Trevor McDonald by ascertaining that he was 'on the telly' and 'probably a nice bloke' I'll never know. The man has powers. I'm not even sure we got anywhere near 'black' and 'newsreader'.
The recces came in useful on this leg, simply through shaving corners off here and there and generally having the courage and confidence to leave the path in the dark to favour a slightly quicker line. Thanks to our efforts on leg one, we had residual sunlight for that first cold climb up the north flank of Clough Head. We didn't don headtorches until Calfhow Pike - which is pretty good going. The effort level was low and yet we nibbled away the odd minute or two from the schedule - it was all very satisfying. As we moved across the Dodds, a pink moon rose almost obviating the need for headtorches. It's hard to remember ever feeling as satisfied as this on the whole round.
Better still, we could see some lights ahead. Earlier, Paul have ventured that he and Carole were going to place themselves atop Helvellyn to capture our arrival there. Sure enough, there he was at some unnatural hour with an unnaturally large flashgun! How nice to see someone here! We grabbed at bananas and water and sped off towards Nethermost with renewed vigour - wihilst Paul and Carole, already with a hour or two's plod behind them, made off back down to the valley having seen us for all of 1 or 2 minutes.

Now this is taking his role as BGR photographer to the extreme, and who am I to argue!

The rest of this leg went well. We took good lines off Nethermost and Dollywaggon, areas I have often found confusing in the past despite the proliferation of paths and cairns (perhaps that is the problem). The sting in the tail on this leg are those two climbs up Fairfield and Seat Sandal. We chose the 'out and back' route up Fairfield and in doing so, crossed paths with the 6.30 group during our ascent (and their descent) of Fairfield. Spirits were high, both groups were going well!

As we climbed Fairfield, we noticed the pinkish moon reflecting in Coniston Water to the south. It was stunning. There was as yet no sign on the sunrise meaning we were well up on schedule, something like 80 mins. I still felt as though I'd just set off - things were augering well.

We actually lost 2 mins on the FF section, possibly due to a very deliberate descent of Dollywaggon Pike. This was the first stretch where we were down, but I didn't panic. No point. I could already feel myself and the round itself moving into a different phase. As we climbed Seat Sandal and leg 2 was drawing to a close, I realised that big central leg was upon us and I was soon to be really tested. Confidence turned to a purposeful urgency. I was less flippant but felt just as good. I withdrew a touch from the banter and realised as I approached the headtorches looking up at us from Dunmail Raise that the real work was to come.

Leg 3 - Dunmail Raise to Wasdale. 16 miles, 6300' ascent

The road support at Dunmail was just 600 yards from the hut and a warm bed, but that thought only crossed my mind when I realised that the leg 3 supporters were being dragged from theirs prematurely due to my early arrival almost one and a half hours ahead of schedule. It was still dark, although a hint of dawn tinged the eastern horizon.

Alison was planning on sleeping through this one and reuniting with me at Wasdale, but she joined Cath and Liz at Dunmail as she could not sleep - a nice surprise.

I could see the leg 3 posse, real experts, were up and looking ready to move. Ian and Simon, BGRs, Ramsey rounds and race wins amongst their CVs were ready with their boundless energy, judgement and advice. Pete, joining again after leg 1's exploits, was to witness a change in pace for sure and James, Simon's eldest, was joining us for the experience as far as Esk Hause where his mum would await. I suspect this means another BG to support in many years to come - he's just 14 now! He looked in rude health!

After much needed and appreciated tea and rice pud, we were off on that grind up Steel Fell. I felt good here but reigned it in. I worried that the pace was too slow in the company of these super-quick guys. That worry probably accounted for the nearest i came to a bad patch - a real attack of nerves as we passed over Calf Crag and ditched the headtorches for our climb up Sergeant Man. Ian noticed almost immediately that something was up, even though we were moving inside the 23.5hr pace. I said that my legs were just starting to feel a little tired - his response, typically reassuring, was something along the lines of, 'of course they are, you've been going 9 hours'.

We still had good weather, in fact the Langdales and the run over to Rossett Pike were done in the company of a gorgeous morning. Nothing nasty looked like it was brewing in the west - perhaps the forecast was wrong as rain was due in an hour or so? That would be wonderful, I'd breeze round at this rate...

Rossett Pike came and went, and we had a welcome sighting of Paul, Carole and camera at Rossett Gill at @5.30 in the morning!

I felt good here, really good. 11 hours in and I was comfortable, well ahead of time and satisifed that if the weather came in now, my plan of making hay while the sun shone had worked. The nature of the company had changed from companionship to full-on support. Ian and Simon were feeding and watering me constantly and Peter was acting as packhorse - or so it seemed to me. I felt happy that I'd chosen this team for this crucial leg, and very grateful - something i was to feel even more within the next few hours...

As we climbed Bowfell, I felt little raindrop. It seemed weird, the sky was clear? As soon as we summitted Bowfell, we realised its bulk had been hiding the bad weather, and we could see a black-grey wall coming towards us. The forecast we spot on. Soon, it enveloped the Scafells, and the comparativly puny Langdales of recent memory were shrouding up.

The rain didn't come right away, but it was in the post. We got through to Esk Hause still on schedule for leg 3 and well inside overall, and dropped James with Sue. How nice to see her and how surreal be up there at this daft time (@0630).

I started to feel nervous and almost sick that the bad weather was finally here. As we came off Great End, to another audience with Paul and Carole, we drifted into the clag and into Ill Crag.

Here, the benefit of getting out in all weathers pays you back. I had recced this section across the Scafells, but only ever in good weather. We found Ill Crag no problem but I took an awful line off, almost heading into Eskdale. I realised what was afoot and overcompensated and returned to the main path back towards Great End! We were back on track but it cost us ten minuites. Broad Crag and Scafell Pike were easy enough, but we dawdled a touch getting off the Pike (cairns everywhere, which is the right track!?) and found ourselves not much later at a greasy and lonely Broad Stand. If only I had set off at 6pm!!

We had a plan for Broad Stand, which was for Jen Taylor (Pete the packhorse's wife), who had gamely wild camped in Eskdale the previous evening, to walk up and set up the belay. As she approached from above, she found that the intervening ground was too slippery and she didn't feel safe. As it happens, she came across the guys doing the 'double BG' attempt who informed her that a rope was already in place. I'm very glad that Jen stayed put and didn't risk her neck to come and placate us.

We arrived at the pitch and despite having done some climbing in the past, I got nervous. We found the rope but couldn't trust it until we could get it checked. This is where having Ian and Pete, two good climbers, was so very useful. Ian free climbed the pitch in the greasy murk and checked the rope. Having established it was OK, Pete tied me on a bowline and I climbed up. I thought it was easy until my foot fell out of the crack I'd lodged it in. As I was about to have another go, Pete just made me stand on this thankfully broad shoulders and I climbed the rest of it with ease. Ian expertly handled the rope and Simon and Pete followed up soon after. Ian had quite rightly took his time before allowing us up (time for half a tub of rice pudding, leaving Simon to have to carry an awkward cargo of a half eaten pot) but this, and getting four of us up there cost us about 20 mins on the schedule. We were still 45 mins up.

We saw that someone had marked the way out of Broad Stand towards Scafell's summit with very small patches of white powder - a practice that some have subsequently kicked off about on the FRA forum. I didn't give it much thought at the time but we used the marks to pick our way up the hill, despite knowing the way anyhow.

We soon met Jen, waiting well above the main crags. It was great to see her. We left her with her husband Pete, whose pacing duties were now over. He'd been great, running leg 1 and most of leg 3 - good experience for his probably much faster round next year.

Simon, Ian and I moved onto Scafell and took the path down to the valley. We dropped quickly out of the clag, ran down the quick and enjoyable scree run and were feeling good. It was good to be off that rocky stuff and almost running free again. Halfway down what is the single biggest descent of the round, I tripped and fell, banging my knee in the process. It was one of those you think nothing of normally, but I could feel it start to swell slightly as I ran down. I decided not to say anything unless it impeded me. People can worry too much and dent your confidence even when they are trying to help. I didn't want that to happen.

Arrival at Wasdale came quickly, with a good and seemingly effortless descent off Scafell. It was a real turning point - I was 14 hours in, 40 mins up on schedule and feeling confident. The weather, so crucial to these events, was on the turn, a turn for the even worse...

Leg 4 - Wasdale to Honister. 13 miles, 6200' ascent.

Over the recent few days and weeks, leg 4 is what I was dreading most. Barring accidents, bad luck or a severe underestimation of the task in hand, leg four is likely to be the leg where doomed attempts are most likely to come to grief. It's a route littered with thrown-in BGR towels.

It's a tough leg in its own right but more so for being at a critical point in the round. It's not as far as leg three, but has about the same amount of climbing and two-thirds of it is on rough and steep ground. I was dreading it.
I set off from Wasdale in light rain and feeling optimistic. My legs felt good, but I was aware and deeply respectful of the climb that was facing me: Yewbarrow. I wouldn't be surprised if it ranked top in 'bits you were dreading' when it comes to BGRs. I knew there was plenty more to come, but knowing that was behind me was something I was looking forward to.
Nick Holmes and Steve and Sarah Hammond - good friends and equally good runners and pacers joined me on this leg. I'd previously recced it with Nick, and the Hammonds had supported Simon on his BGR on this leg so I'd chosen pacers wisely. I also knew that this crew would get me through any bad patches, which I was expecting.
I wanted to do Yewbarrow within myself but without losing time. I wanted to hit the 50 min target in the 23.5 hour schedule without really working. This was all about pace judgement and would be a good test of how I was doing. I wanted the schedule times to still feel manageable, and this was the tester. To my absolute delight, we reached the cairn dead on 50 mins, and at an easy effort rate. The climb was made easier by the chatter and encouragement from my supporters. We then made up a few mins on Red Pike and again on Steeple and for the first time on the whole round I began to feel like I was going to make it. This was a turning point, so much so that the weather gods thought they would make it interesting...
It was at this point that the rain, wind and clag got nasty. Conditions became abominable. We moved well and kept the faith and were inside schedule on Pillar also, 10 mins up for the leg! I was euphoric, inwardly at least. I was obviously tiring as I withdrew more and more into myself but the rate of climbing was still going well. It was on that climb up to Pillar, which was made difficult by the wind tearing through Wind Gap (!), that I realised that the 10,000' per week maxim was worth adhereing to. If you can climb well enough and jog the descents, you'll make it.
The summit of Pillar was wild. We started seeing walkers on the hills - strange after having hours to ourselves. The wind and terrible conditions played a hand in one of the few mistakes we made on the round. We went off Pillar towards Pillar Rock on an improving track, but only descended about 100' before we realised that this was not right. We climbed back up with no panic and took the right line off. Total cost = 10 mins. We'd wiped out what we had gained on this leg so far but were still 40 mins up overall.
We dropped to Black Sail where Richard B and Greg were waiting with more food and some warm tea. This was part of my plan to avoid a bad patch. Many people have a terrible time on Kirk Fell, and so I wanted something there to look forward to. Many attempts flounder there and I was determined mine would not be one of them. We arrived slightly later than they had planned (people were getting used to me being ahead of schedule!) and we had a short break of about 10 mins with them as we ate and drank - investing some time here in the ability to do the rest of the round.

We moved on, but i felt sluggish. Not bad, but not as good. Inevitable I suppose. What was good was that there was no panic - I still felt in control. We dropped 15-20 mins on Kirk Fell due to the break and the pace, but made 5 mins back on Gable. That's when I knew I was ok - I was still making time up when I was moving, even in the awful wind and rain. Brilliant.

That climb up Gable was nowhere near as hard as I thought it was going to be. My support were wonderful, each slipping into complementary and yet unrehearsed roles. Steve navigated and set the pace. Nick fed me. Sarah walked just in front of me, allowing me to simply put my feet where hers had been. Greg and Rich were the entertainment. I was thrilled to see them. Greg was still in the throws of jet lag having come over from Australia, and hadn't touched a fell in almost 2 years. Now here he was in just about as bad conditions an English summer can throw at you and he was loving it. I felt very humbled by what everyone was doing.

Green Gable was bizarre - we were blown up the hill! I was happy now as I knew it marked the end of the rough ground for the whole round and arriving there anywhere near the schedule was a portent to success. We were doing fine, and I allowed myself some optimism. We dropped out of the clag as we approached Brandreth and my pace quickened. I started joining in conversations I had previously withdrawn from over Kirk Fell and Gable and I started thinking about Honister and Alison and tea and victory. Most of all, I thought about my friends right here with me on the hillside and those that had helped so far. It was a strange time to reflect given there were 3 or 4 hours of running left to do, but I arrived at Honister happy, tired and pre-occupied.

I was also wet. We all were.

Still, my minimum target for Honsiter was to be leaving there with three hours to go. I had over four to play with and really thought that things were well placed, despite the fact it continued to hammer it down.

I thought Honsiter was odd though. I felt bouyed and in good shape, but understandably tired after 20 hours on the go. My support crew had last seen me at Wasdale where I was a little damp but going well. Now they were faced with this soaking wet, gaunt figure and I could detect little expressions of worry where there had previously been confidence. I don't think anyone thought I was going to fail, but I could see doubts in one or two people. I decided to just stick to my routine - eat, drink tea, eat a bit more, get changed and get going. My inlaws appeared, out of nowhere, and for a while I thought I was in the twilight zone. They had driven over from Newcastle to see me. They looked quite shocked when they saw how soaked and knackered I was.

Leg 5 - Honister to Keswick. 12 miles, 2400' ascent.

I needed to get going before other people's well intentioned nervousness allowed any demons to set in. I actually felt a bit stroppy and just got up and went before the 15 mins were up. My leg 4 crew carried on, but this time Richard Kenworthy joined us and was in charge of keeping me moving and sustained over leg 5. He did a great job. It's easy to look at time in the bank and get complacent. Rich was having none of it. He didn't force me to eat or drink anything, but was a constant presence that ensured I did not forget. With his banter and encouragement, I was up Dale Head in scheduled time and it felt really easy. Now I felt good. A quick pee and Hindscarth was under our belts with 4 mins to spare. Running off Hindscarth towards the trod up to the final peak of Robinson, I wanted to sprint! I suddently felt amazing and duly plodded up there making up 5 minutes in the process.

It felt in the bag now.

I gave the summit cairn, my 42nd of the run, a little triumphant peck before heading off down that ridge. I was warned that my legs might not like the rock step and that I might need help getting down it - pah! No drama. Scrambled down it without a pause. Then a moment of hilarity. I really needed a crap - my first and only of the whole round. I'm known at the running club for the frequency of my alfresco dumps (I needed to go twice during a four mile fell race just the previous week!) and yet had held off until the final peak. If anyone was running a book and which peak I'd crap on first, Skiddaw would have been amongst the favourites.

I dropped off the ridge line and did what I needed to do and tried not to notice how much I was chaffing. The tops of my legs and groin was red raw and really sore. Contast this with no blisters on my feet at all. All very unsavoury, but it's part of the experience without which this blog would be incomplete!

We dropped down off the main ridge early and followed the valley route in towards Newlands Chapel. Still raining hard, we got a brighter sky and a stunning rainbow beckoning us towards the end. It was a magical sight. Sat behind it was Skiddaw, masked by a translucent veil of cloud that betrayed a heavy shower. Looking at peak one from peak forty two was, on some distant level, satisfying, as was the rainbow and the brightening sky. But my mind was more focussed on the matter in hand, i.e. getting to the road head, getting some road shoes on and getting this thing done. I was still on a mission and would not scupper it now by spending valuable time enjoying my surroundings! I know, silly isn't it.

I was delighted to find that my wife and some friends from Tattenhall Runners were waiting for me on the track before the road head. I was wet through and feeling the weight of my waterproof. Rather than greet her with a kiss or anything like that, the first thing i did when I saw Alison was give a wet cagoule to carry. Poor thing!

I wasn't great company as I was not looking forward to the road run. We arrived at Newlands in due course, and my spirits, despite almost having this sewn up, were low.

This was for a number of reasons. I was wet and the chaffing was really sore. I was tired and knew the road section was going to be a bore. If I had have been with-it enough, I'd have probably realised that the main reason I was down was because it was almost over and I was having a brilliant day out on the hills. You'd have had a job convincing me of that at the time though.

Arrival at the road head and off came the fell shoes for the last time (Innov8 Mudrocs if you're interested). I dried my feet and Sue Ellis, who presided over things in her caring yet authoritive way, asked around for some talc. All that was available camed from Lauren's private stash, some expensive girly stuff which she was loth to sacrifice for my minging plates of meat. As Sue dusted my feet, they felt wondeful, like new feet. I cheered up a bit and took a swig of tea. Cold! Oh dear, the strop returned and I huffily asked if I could have a warm tea. Honestly! Well, I could hear the activity and concern - they were obviously worried about me as they should have told me to bog off. I didn't plan to have a drink, just to stop and change shoes - but the extra time in hand (1hr 25mins to go) allowed for a longer stop.

Once I got going, I relaxed. The road crew probably did too. They had been magnificent, all day and night. The fellrunners were wonderful too, but their support was provided by fellrunning, something they like to do. Road support involves driving, waiting, preparing food and drinks, getting cold and wet, seeing an increasingly tired and withdrawn (and stroppy) contender for a few minutes at a time before packing up and doing it again; stuff they wouldn't choose to do. It's done out of friendship and support, and I felt pride, and a little guilt at my cold tea strop as we left for the final phase - the road run.

I hoped this would feel like a victory lap, but my poor legs were not able to cope with tarmac. I'd rather have climbed a 43rd peak than done that road section. My quads were screaming. I could barely register a shuffle. Andrew, stalwart from leg one, ran by my side as various others ran together ahead, chatting, enjoying themselves and all that. This was perfect - they provided at atmosphere and left me to it, whilst Andrew stayed with me, offering support and making it all seem to go just that bit more quickly. He was a real brick and I was very grateful. Cath pulled alongside me at one point, walking as I shuffled, and asked how the legs were feeling. I couldn't bear to rip her head off, she'd been a great mate over the last few months and provided wonderful road support on the round. I counted to ten and calmly added that my quads felt like they had serrated kitchen knives inserted into them, each tipped with a dose of particularly sting inducing acid. Being a wordy type, she congratulated me on the metaphor and sidled off, insisting that I relate that desciption in this blog. Here it is Cath!

Quite suddenly I was just about home. Paul appeared again and took some snaps at Portinscale bridge and before I knew it, I was in Keswick. What followed is a bit of a haze. I ran straight across the mini roundabout near the supermarket without caring about traffic, only to find Andrew directing it!!

Hilarious! Watch out - 12 minute miler coming through!

The Moot Hall appeared and I just lapped it all up. I could see loads of people, champagne and, weirdly, party poppers being set off at me. People were clapping, it was great! Pete jokingly tried to stop me touching the Moot Hall, but a stroppy shout of MOVE! put paid to that. Sorry Pete.

Before i could plan for it, the Moot Hall was in touching distance and after 23 hours and 32 minutes, it was over.

My initial feelings were divided between relief and gratitude, but i found myself unable to express either. I was overcome.

I just wanted to sit down. I found a bench and put my head in my hands - just about suppressing a sob. I was in another world, one based on survival where one could only focus on a small number of things. I could not take all of this in. I was not happy, euphoric or satisfied. Quite simply, I was tired, wet and cold. I had to change that, it's all I wanted. Sucessfully completing the BGR had registered, but in a somehow detached way.

So many people were there and I wanted to thank them all so much. I couldn't though. I had an animal craving to get inside and get changed into dry warm clothes. My inlaws appeared and tried to give me a gift, which they had wrapped up. I was out of it and could not understand what they were giving me. Alison stepped in and swept me away. I couldn't even appreciate kindness at this point - I needed to get inside.

Somehow, we ended up in a pub and I was alone. Those that had dumped me there were variously getting me a drink, telling the others where we were and getting my warm clothes. I had about 2 minutes alone where I sat in a pub and just glazed over. That would have been a great image - perhaps the only one missing from this well catalogued day. I was spent.

Rowly arrived with my bag. I hastened to the loos and got changed and soon felt like a new man. When I got back, more of our crowd were there and the hugs and kisses started. After about 15 mins of otherworldlyness, I returned to Earth and cracked a smile.

Just about a week later, it's still there.

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