Ladies Lake District
24 Hour Record
I did it !!! 64 Peaks in 23 hours and 15 minutes.
The previous record was 62 Peaks in 23 hours 17 minutes. This was set in 1994 by Anne Stentiford (now Johnson) who increased the record by a very impressive four peaks - Catyscam, Lingmell, Haycock and Grasmere. Using the rules laid down in 1986 Anne and I both had to do the same tops as the previous record holder in either a faster time or by adding more peaks within 24 hours. The extra tops must also meet the criteria of having more than 250' ascent / re ascent and be more than 0.25 miles from each other.
I looked at various possible extra tops and had decided on Fleetwith Pike with maybe Sand Hill if I was ahead of schedule. Then in May I ran the Fellsman Hike and broke my own record by 48 minutes finishing in a time of 11.51, 3rd overall, 1st Lady. That made me think I should have another top in case I was flying. Grisedale became the obvious however due to weather and an injury I got supporting on the BG two weeks prior to my attempt I never accurately timed the splits myself.
So my plan became to get ahead of schedule. I factored various influences into my schedule - like the dark and the heat but couldn't pinpoint exactly where I would make this extra time up. I told my supporters my plan so that I wouldn't be springing any surprises on them on the day. While supporting on the Dark Peak BG on 17th/18th June the back of my left knee had got to be very painful - not enough to stop you running but for 24 hours would have been unbearable. I went for two sports massages and was doing all the right things - ice, rest, stretches and Ben had said it would be ok so I had to put my trust in him. The week before July 2nd the weather seemed to be going right for me. A low that was loitering out in the Atlantic seemed to be moving north and so on Monday it was all "Go" for the weekend. I had sorted all my food and kit out and so was able to relax and slept well.
Friday afternoon Amanda arrived to collect me and we drove up to the campsite at Thornthwaite. There I was told by the owner that my dad had arrived .....this was news to me. An incredible surprise and one that means very much to me as its not a short journey from the Isle of Lewis. After introductions he left me and Amanda to get down to business. By 8.30pm I was in my tent reading and resting. 2am came around slowly and then it was time to go. I had changed the traditional start from the Moot Hall to the "Fence at Stair" so that I could run the road in the dark and while fresh.
Leg 1 - It was a lovely morning and we could already see the sun rising as we set off at 3am. It was good to be off and the road went quickly. I had cut the overgrowth back under the A66 bridge and so we were soon on the track leading to Skiddaw. The first peak is Lonscale and we were up on schedule. Not a surprise. Off we went as the sun was rising. I was trying to curb my pace and overall was happy I could maintain it. I was eating well and tried things like bars that I didn't think I would eat later on. The views were excellent and the birds kept singing. The only downside was I could feel the back of my left knee but came to the conclusion that it wasn't actually hurting and maybe the tightness would wear off (or maybe when I had other things to worry about I wouldn't notice it). I have always disliked Mungrisdale Common but it seemed to be quite easy. Thinking ahead I hoped that the similar ground before Raise would feel as good when I got there! Yiannis was there on top to lead me down his "parachute drop". It was lovely and dry and we made good progress. It was getting warm and I took off my long sleeved top. At the road stop there was some confusion as I had left my supporters and kit behind but I had some beans and carried on with Mike Robinson.
Leg 2 - Clough Head is not a favourite of mine but Mike's line was good and we were quickly approaching the top. It was too hot though and I was craving water. Reaching the summit I was pleased to see we had only dropped a couple of minutes on the schedule. Neil had caught us as he had decided to do two legs and he had some much needed water which was good. Overall I made good progress over this leg and was still eating well. The rice pudding and fruit salad mix was going down easily. I had only ever been on Catsycam in the rain or the snow and so wasn't able to accurately time the split. It was an absolute joy to be able to skip over the dry rocks and gave me confidence that the Scafell section would also be good. We collected Kirsty from Hellvellyn and ran on towards Fairfield. I was determined to do the split in the allocated time and pushed quite hard on the ascent even though it was now quite hot. We topped out on time and then ran off towards Seat Sandal. More food - a banana - went down well and finding the path off we were soon at Dunmail.
Leg 3 - After more beans we were off up Steel Fell. It was now hot for me and I was hoping that my Norwegian weather forecast (theyr.com) would prove itself and it would cloud in by midday. Some clouds were evident but not enough! Going across to Raise it wasn't as easy as Mungrisdale and I was feeling quite sick. I had eaten a banana and it didn't stay down on route to Sergeant Man but I felt much better afterwards and ate a packet of Hula Hoops. Going across to the Langdales there were a few Saunders competitors and we actually saw Ian Charlesworth's wife within shouting distance! I remembered my nice line from Pavey Ark to Harrison Stickle and overall I was making time up. Coming off Harrison I heard a shout and there was Anne Johnson!! It was lovely to see her and receive words of encouragement. I ran on feeling quite honoured. My stomach was bothering me now and I was starting to find it hard to eat. I tried some pizza and that was good. On Rosset Pike we met some runners who shouted encouragement and near Angle Tarn we were met by Bernice Nixon and Yiannis. Bernice had brought Lucozade Sport and that was like nectar. Off up Bowfell we went and I hoped it would be cooler as we went higher. Still making good time which was encouraging as I wasn't feeling too brilliant. I was sick again near Eel Crag - this time projectile to the amazement of nearby walkers. Bob just handed me some water and we ran on. I enjoyed the climb across to Scafell and we had a photo stop on the summit. Broad Stand was not new to me as I had done it on my BG in 2005 but that was the only time I had been up it. However I'm not scared of heights and just made sure I didn't look down before climbing. Yiannis (the mountain goat) had flown up solo in front of me. Bob made sure the rope was tight and off I went. Easy in the dry conditions. There was some discussion about fallen walkers and ropes but I left them to it and climbed on. I had to remind Yiannis that I had to do Lingmell as he was heading off direct to Wasdale - although not doing a descent of the West Wall Traverse was an inviting option!! Gavin lead me down - I could have gone faster but more out of control and rather liked being in control and not falling head long down the gully. There was some weird mist swirling in the gullies and I enjoyed the feeling of getting cold after being so hot. The traverse path across to Lingmell is a nice trod and with another leg nearly out the way I was cheery. The descent to Wasdale I have done many times on the Wasdale race and so settled into it. Running into Wasdale I was happy again. More beans or was it pasta and we were off.
Leg 4 - I was determined that the food I just eaten was going to stay down and so I wasn't going to rush Yewbarrow. I plodded up not feeling too bad just concentrating on my watches - one an altimeter, the other a stop watch (which displays split times). At the top only 2 minutes lost and food still intact so pleased. Stirrup Crag seems a pointless peak and a rocky descent. Across to Red Pike I made a typical "contender" error. Looking at my split I could see we were losing minutes and eventually I said to Simon "well maybe it was an impossible split anyway", he said "what do you mean? We're up on time". Of course I hadn't pressed my watch at Stirrup Crag so there I was beasting myself while all the time we were gaining time. And there was also Dave Sykes desperately trying to keep up! That cheered me no end and across to Haycock we trotted. I admired the views but mainly kept my head down concentrating on which peak was next and what I was going to eat next. Pillar, Kirkfell and Great Gable came and went. I was feeling strong and back to eating better. Maybe I overdid it a bit as once again on Grey Knotts I threw up. But I was encouraged by the thought that the next peak - Fleetwith Pike - was mine. It felt good to be adding one at last. Chris's line was excellent and I enjoyed the ascent and descent down to Honister.
Leg 5 - After some soup and a quick change of tops we were off up Dale Head. It was nice to be still running in the light and it was promising to be a good evening. The leg passed quickly and seemed very short compared to the previous ones. There was some confusion on the descent off Robinson and instead of following my own line I blindly followed others. Not a good decision as we ended up walking through marsh before hitting the path again at the top of the waterfall. Whiteless loomed in the darkness and I got very worried about my lack of eating and inevitable lack of energy. I needed a big hug and that's what I got from my brother Charlie at Newlands. Amanda took me aside and told me to "frame myself" - a phrase apparently little known outside Yorkshire but I use it a lot and it means "sort yur self owt lass".
Leg 6 - Plodding up Whiteless it was decision time - 55 minutes up on schedule so Sand Hill definitely. I was supposed to be an hour up and feeling good to get Grisedale Pike in. My mind was already made up - there was too much at stake and I wasn't happy (neither were my supporters - Rick, Helen, Nick and Mark) about my lack of eating. By now I was refusing everything except gels. I only accepted a gel block to pacify my supporters half way up Whiteless and had a job keeping that down. It just wasn't worth the time and effort I had decided. Gels were staying down so that's what I lived on. This is where previous experience of just how far you can go on just what energy plays an incredibly important part. I had been remembering my Paddy where I lost a gained hour and more on the last section through not eating. I was going very well but certain I couldn't maintain it forever. Sand Hill it was then. Another one for me. It felt fantastic to touch the top and know I had time to spare. Down to the col and now just (just!) Eel Crag to climb. Once the loose scree was over I liked the clambering and it started to dawn on me that it really was going to happen. Running over the last ridge I could see a light on Causey Pike - Ian Winterburn being "lookout". It was good to have a final target. Over to our left the sky was amazing (noctilucent clouds apparently) but there was no stopping to soak in the atmosphere. The last descent went on for a while - my legs were beginning to complain (and incidentally my left knee hadn't hurt since I started feeling sick). It was quiet running down the path but as I rounded the hill and came into view the cheering started. A big grin broke out on my face- there was the fence. I crossed the road and hugged it. I had done it !!!
64 peaks in 23 hours and 15 minutes.
There were so many people there at 2.15am in the morning. There was a real party atmosphere and now I could be properly part of it. It was amazing. I had hugs and sipped champagne. Steve brought me a much needed chair and wrapped me in a sleeping bag. I just felt so happy to have done it.
Many, many thanks to all my supporters. I could write just as much again on where, when and how each person helped me through but that could get tedious! Also to all those people who sent words of encouragement beforehand. On the Sunday we had a celebratory lunch at the local pub. As I walked in there was a big cheer and Anne Johnson was there to congratulate me. Excellant.
This is my Schedule and Actuals
Photos below - I will upload more as I get them (please!)...
Run BG Album - Lakes 24 Record
Dark Peak Fell Photos - Nicky Spinks 24hr record
And a couple of telephone calls from Tom Westgate to Base from Leg 2
Tom on Helvellyn Lower Man .wav
Tom on the Dodds.wav
I'm always interested in what people wear and use on ultra's as hours and hours in uncomfortable kit can be purgatory. I often spend ages studying photos of races just to glean information on what clothes, shoes, packs and other kit people use. So to help anyone along who is similarly interested I have written a piece about the kit I used Kit review.