Ladies Bob Graham Record
28th July 2012
18 hours and 12 minutes
Friday 27th July - a busy day for me as we were haymaking on the farm. I was all packed as I knew we had planned to bale the hay on Friday but we were still in the fields at 5.30pm when Keith was collecting me at 5.45pm! A quick bath and something to eat and we were off. The weather looked promising but I knew more rain was forecast for Saturday. It was just a question of "how much?". Since I attempted a Paddy in atrocious conditions I have always advocated that the weather is one of the most important things to get right but what was influencing my decision this time was... 1) It being my only weekend to go this year 2) good training for Dragons Back Race which I'm doing in September 3) the forecast was exactly the same as for the Wasdale race which actually turned out perfect for running. How would I have felt then if I hadn't even started? 4) I thought I could break the current record of 18 hours and 49 minutes in semi-decent conditions.
When we arrived I got my tent up and cooked more food then sat around eating with my supporters. Amanda Heading from Racekit arrived at 9pm and we sorted out the finer details as she is meticulous with road support. I got into my tent around 10.30pm and did a bit of book reading before actually falling asleep (a first for me as I never usually sleep before a big challenge).
Saturday 28th July - I heard rain overnight but could see stars through the clouds when I got up at 3am. The wind didn't seem bad and I couldn't decide what to wear but went with my first choice of Raidlight shorts with Haglofs 3/4 knee tights over the top, then a Raidlight short sleeved top with a Patagonia Capilene over that. This combination has worked in the past. I really didn't want to get too hot. The support on the 1st leg was Neil Talbott and Simon Cox. Simon was sleeping at the Skiddaw carpark as he was worried about the pace (having completed his Paddy only 2 weeks ago) and would set off early up Skiddaw.
The Start - 4am and Leg 1
I was nervous now and worried about the weather. A lot of people had turned out to see me off and Yiannis even appeared at the Moot Hall reassuring me he would be on Blencathra.
Me and Neil on Blencathra taken by Yiannis.
Neil and I set off at 4am at a steady pace chatting. I wanted to get an idea of the pace over the 1st Leg as when making the schedule it had been hard to gauge some splits while on others I just used my times from my 24 hour round. Neil said it was quite fast so I slowed down. We saw lights as we approached the carpark but on catching them met competitors doing the Lakeland 100 mile race. They were all walking and we caught and passed about 30 people. Simon was at about 400m; he said the 100 mile front runners came through at 11pm and he hadn't got any sleep!!!. The clag came in at 500m but it was light so at least we could turn the headtorches off. I started eating hoping to stave off the sickness I felt on my 24 hour round. I soon put my gloves and hat on as it was quite cold and the wind was picking up all the time. By the top of Skiddaw the wind was very unpleasant blowing us across and making talking unrealistic. We ran over the top and descended to the fence where we saw the stakes but not the path. Neil was happy on his bearing and so we went with that soon hitting the path lower down. The valley was soggy - also a reminder that the lakes had had a lot of rain. I was trying to assess the conditions to see if I should make adjustments to my pace in accordance. We had made up time on the early splits but lost a bit to Calva. I realised that the pace was fast and minutes were not easy to gain in the conditions so pushed on. I was constantly comparing myself to last year and couldn't decide whether that was good or bad. Mungrisdale comman felt energy sapping - I thought about Raise as it's similar and hoped I would feel better by then.
Meeting Yiannis on Blencathra was great, a quick loo stop and we were off. I really enjoyed the descent and even the clag lifted and I could see right across to Clough Head. "At least it's not too hot" I thought. Neil had a couple of spectacular tumbles - quite worrying Yiannis but Neil, like a toddler, just rolled over and got back up!! Schedule 3.27 Actual 3.09 hours
My support were there at Threkeld with tea and beans which I ate easily. Setting off with Digby Harris he said Ian Winterburn would meet us on Clough Head. I was now thinking I was glad it wasn't too hot - this was where I started to overheat last year. We overtook more 100 mile race competitors on route and gave them some encouragement. I had hoped we would see them again; it always helps to see people looking worse than you feel but Digby said not. Oh well. I knew this leg would be fast as most of the splits were mine from 2011 and it was. Ian was his bouncy Tigger like self and neither complained of the pace so I thought it must be ok. I concentrated on more eating and left nav to them. The clag had lifted and we could see across to Scafell. I kept looking round for more weather coming in but couldn't see any. Running down to Sticks Pass we could see someone laying out goodies. It was Neil and his tea was superb! Carrying on he said the pace was much quicker than Leg 1 but we were bang on most of the splits so I just kept going. Dropping to Grisedale Tarn a very sharp shower came across before we really had time to get our waterproofs on. "Wow that was horrid" we thought. Fairfield came and went quickly. I tried to eat something more on route to Seat Sandal. I had been eating well - beans and rice pudding were going down very well. Dropping to Dunmail I was looking forward to Leg 3. It's the one I know very well and I thought I could make up a bit more time on the schedule there. I hadn't gained anymore time on Leg 2 but I didn't expect to. Schedule 3.33 Actual 3.32 hours
I ate some pasta and changed my short sleeved top for a Halof long sleeved top at Dunmail as it was now obvious that it wasn't going to get hot. Setting off with Tim Whittaker and Joe Mann I enjoyed the climb up to Steel Fell and made a couple of minutes on schedule. Trotting across to Calf Crag and then High Raise I was in good spirits. I could see clag on Bowfell but thats not unusual and didn't worry me. We got a couple of showers but they passed quickly. The tops came and went quickly although I noticed the ground was boggy knew that would be slowing us down. I added another top and my Haglofs Endo jacket across to Rosset Pike as I could tell the conditions were going to be worse on Bowfell. Yiannis waved from the top of Rossett Pike and then ran off to get the kettle on! The coffee he handed me at the col was definitely the best thing I consumed on the whole round! And what a kick it gave me. I shot up Bowfell making up more time until we hit the clag and rocks but it felt good. The rocks then worried me as they were very slippery but we continued on across the Esk Pike where we met Willy Kitchen and Lewis Ashton doing the Cumbrian Traverse. It's lovely meeting people you know, exchanging a few words and knowing you will see them later to catch up properly. The wind had picked up and along with clag we started to slow across the rocks and route finding missing a grassy line or two across to IIl Crag. I only hoped to do the rest on schedule as up to now we had been gaining and were now 22 minutes up. I knew on Ill Crag and Broad Crag that I was going too slowly as I had to hold onto the rocks while descending but tried to climb faster to compensate.
Me, Joe and Tim on Scafell Pike
Yiannis asked us to pose on Scafell Pike for a photo - no blue skies this time! Then off to Mickledore. Arriving there I saw some ropes to the right and thought what mad climbers in this weather and made for the crack. There wasn't any ropes there though and then we heard shouts from above. It was Ian Fitz. Having never done Broad Stand before and having come down from the top he thought he was in the right place. "Oh my God" I thought. "There is no time to go round, I'm going to have to go up that!" At least with a harness and also a rope with knots in it I had a lot of safety - and I needed it. I couldn't find purchase with my shoes at all and a lot of the time poor Ian was just manhauling me up the rock face. I remember leaning back and thinking "I hope he's got me". Which he had. Reaching the top I was shaky and took the harness off. I had to rest and drank some lucozade while I waited for my nerves to calm as I knew there was still a lot of horrid slippery rocks above that I had to get over. I started off up glad that I had reccied this bit on a hot sunny day when we had taken our time and been down and up to learn the way. Even still looking up it looked impossible but I knew that was the way. Following the obvious worn bits I contoured back and forth across the rocks having to slither on my tummy sometimes as my shoes wouldn't grip anything. I heard a voice below and gave a sigh of relief. Tim had climbed up behind me and was soon catching me. We summited the plateau and ran off - in the wrong direction at first before I gathered my wits and headed left to the stone cross then up Scafell. Glad that was all over we headed down to Wasdale. Unbelievably we hadn't lost much time and were now still 14 minutes up. Only two legs to go I thought!!! Schedule 4.55 hours Actual 4.56 hours
It was sunny in Wasdale and although I could see clag on the tops I was heartened by the fact we hadn't had much rain across Scafell and the wind was drying the rocks on the descent. I almost took off my 3/4's but thought I could always do it on the ridge if I needed. I did change my socks though (thanks for the foot massage Olly!) which felt nice and although cost me a few minutes I knew getting the shrapnel out of my shoes was the better decision as last year I had ran round with a stone in my shoe for 20 hours and ended up with a very bruised sole. Setting off up Yewbarrow with Olly Stephenson, Dave Sykes and Tim Whittaker I knew I could make and lose time on this leg as the schedule was quite tight. I wanted to start pushing it a bit but to do this I had to breath faster and therefore couldn't eat. But onwards up we went and I tried to eat a little as obviously I couldn't not eat. Topping out we had gained. That's good I thought. The split to Red Pike was silly. I had just taken out Stirrup Crag (6 minutes) and used the split from Stirrup to Red Pike (35 minutes). Why? I don't know- I thought it would be ok. But it wasn't - I tried to do 35 minutes. I got really stressed and was very angry with myself for not working a proper schedule out. I sulked and snapped at Olly and Dave who were by now badgering me to eat. We actually did 39 minutes which wasn't bad at all but by now my stomach had started to say it wasn't going to work at this pace and I couldn't think of what I could eat. I was getting bits down, gel blocks and a couple of biscuits but I knew that wasn't enough. We weren't making very good progress. I was distracted by my stomach. The rocks were slippery. It had started to rain again, sometimes very hard and the wind was constantly blowing us around. We were also missing some of the best lines and ending up in rocks. All the stuff that generally costs you minutes.
The weather was what I had feared. Only one forecast had showed the weather crapping out at 4pm and it was. I knew then it wasn't going to get any better, if anything worse. I had come too far though and was still on for breaking the record so there was no giving up now. Losing time constantly I had a absolute battle with myself. I had two options 1) to keep eating bits (but what as I didn't want anything) and gels or 2) to get something solid down like a rice pudding then suffer the consequences for 30 minutes while my stomach tried to throw it all back up. I knew the 2nd option would get better results and I wanted to feel strong for the last leg.
So taking the plunge I asked for a rice pudding after Pillar. It got it down ok. The rest of the leg till after Great Gable I felt awful. Dave Sykes sympathised with me which helped. Poor Olly got more of my sharp tongue though. I promised myself "never again". We met Neil once again with tea but too milky for me and it was nearly 1-0 to my stomach! Onwards to meet Ian off Great Gable we went with no-one being confident in knowing the way to find the grass we just headed for Ian's loud cheery voice! It must have been freezing waiting for us up there so thank you guys! Climbing Green Gable I knew it was 1-0 to me! I felt good and could think about food again. "Lets get on with it now" I thought. And then what did we get but an absolutely horrid hail storm come through. The wind and hail came across at us sidewards. It hurt! Pulling my hood right over and using my hands to shield my face I just ran as hard as I could. It wasn't worth stopping to put bottoms on. I just wanted out. It stopped on the climb to Brandreth and we all got our breaths back except now I could run the hills. It was great. I started to see what I could run up and just cruised right across Brandreth and Grey Knotts. Running down into Honister I thought "Right, I'm not stopping, I'm going to get back as much as I can". I asked for tomato soup and coffee and just walked right through. I so wanted to get under 18 hours but we had lost a lot of time. Schedule 3.48 Actual 4.07 hours
I was joined by Keith Holmes and Helen Elmore. Tim Whittaker, Olly and Joe Mann all tagged along but kept a wide berth after I snapped once again at Olly who was trying to persuade me me to stop and drink my soup. I got it down gulp by gulp (and apparently I missed my mouth quite a bit). With a few more gels I felt good and was going well. I knew I should be running bits of the hill but on the other hand didn't want to push my stomach so with a truce we continued across Leg 4 with me running what I could until I was breathing hard then walking. The wind was constantly buffeting us about and every now and again it rained on us.
I was tired of this weather now and just wanted to descend to some calm valley! Nick Cable met us on Robinson and I followed him off as I had confidence in his lines. Reaching the grassy track I tried a few knee ups to see how the legs were feeling. Surprisingly good. Excellent I thought. Running along the road even the chatty supporters started to concentrate so I knew I was going ok. Keith and Helen ran alongside giving me gels, water and energy drink. It was an excellent feeling to know I was going to do it. The only trouble was - not on schedule. I asked for a Dark Peak vest which Keith burrowed in his rucksack for and then sprinted to catch me. Oh joy the end is in sight. Lifting my arms and knees I sprinted (was I?) on the road through Keswick, over the roundabout and up to the Moot Hall at 10.12pm 18 hours and 12 minutes after leaving it that morning. Schedule 2.13 Actual 2.17 hours
I was very pleased to have finished in style and to have broken the record. My only disappointment is being over 18 hours but in those conditions I couldn't expect more. It was a very hard day out in fantastic company. I did stay awake long enough to shower, eat half a pot noodle and join my supporters for a beer in the "shower room" back at the campsite before retiring to bed!!
Here is a video that was taken by Claire Maxted from the Trail Running Magazine just after I had finished at the Moot Hall. .