Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Saul, Bob, Graham : 45 miles, 4400m, 16 hours!

About 5am, Blencathra. Getting the smiling out the way whilst they still can!

Saul had been planning this religiously for months. And months. Probably years knowing him.

Saul and Graham have been my main running partners over the last 5 years. Most of my epics over the years have had one or both of these guys at the middle of them. We've done Knoydart, we've done Elite Mountain Marathons. We've done many, many freezing cold winter crossings of Kinder Scout and we've done my Bob Graham. We're all there or thereabouts in our ability too (well, if Graham's having an off day!) so I wasn't going to miss out on this one hence we'd had this in the family diary for months too firmly inked in.

I kinda wished that Saul, Graham and me had all done our BG's at the same time (last year) but the practicalities of that are always gonna be hard and I just couldn't wait. Anyway, the more excuses for trips to the lakes, the better! Original plan from about Jan onwards was for Saul and Graham to both do their BG's on the same day, but with work commitments for Graham taking a recent upturn then he's had to shelve his running training. So much so that his reccie with Saul a fortnight ago saw him struggling to get round even just leg 1.

Nevertheless, Graham wasn't going to miss out on helping Saul all he could so we assembled a small team of around 4-8 of us and headed up Saturday ready for the off at 3am Sunday. I took over at Dunmail as Saul's sole support runner which was fine - I knew the route well and looked forward to Saul's better line than mine to Bowfell and off it plus the West Wall Traverse to Scafell. Well, I was meant to be sole support but Graham was enjoying the perfect weather that much and his legs felt not too shabby so he thought he'd get to Wasdale too and see how things were going. I think it was about 7 hours to Dunmail so it wasn't slow and I told Saul there and then that I thought he'd gone off to fast and had better take care. 

The climb up Steel Fell saw Saul at a low point far sooner than I'd hoped. Positive words, patience and me taking his bumbag from him saw him getting back on track by Seargent Man. This legs a killer though, so Graham and me were slightly concerned at the enormity of what lat ahead and how Saul was still not talking utter drivel as per usual. Verbal diarrhoea was back on the cards by Thurnacar Knott which was a relief for Graham and me as much as it was for Saul I'm sure !

Lines were all really good through to Scafell Pike which was covered in tourists tottering around on the boulder fields whilst we skipped past. I really enjoyed Lords Rake which was still deep in snow and all new to me. We thought the snow made it easier than the scree would have been and soon popped out about 200m from the summit of Scafell. Again, the descent line was far better than mine last year, but more importantly felt way easier on the feet despite me having a bad blister this time - I remember mine being very painful last September.

Wasdale was a pleasure. A slow one. It was great meeting Andy and Trev in the late afternoon sunshine with I think 2-3 stoves on the go and a food choice which virtually brought tears to my eyes! Saul and Graham relished a proper top up on reserves though and spent 20+ minutes drinking, slurping and chewing through masses and masses of grub.

Graham's legs were still functioning and hence it was looking more now like a double Bob Graham attempt. Yet again, the climb out of the road saw Saul at another very low point. Not the ideal time either - possibly the hardest climb on the whole round : Yewbarrow. He got it together again though just before the summit and from then on did very well throughout leg 4. By the time we'd gotten past Gable, the sun was low and the wind had picked up substantially. I knew Saul struggled with cold hands so I lent him my windproof gloves knowing that when he arrived at Honister he'd need to focus on food and not warming his hands up.

Anyway, I'd legged it down to Honister so they could get the stoves on. Graham got there 5 mins later but we still couldn't see Saul. It turned out he'd slid on his arse into a grassy gully and just fell asleep there! Semi counscious he made it to the car but we knew he was in a bad way when he arrived, struggling to stand up straight. We forced hot food down him and I told him to grab a quick 10 mins kip in the car as sitting outside was absolutely freezing by now.
Graham still managing a smile at Honister, shortly before realising it was absolutely
bloody freezing once you'd stopped running! 
Trev set off with Saul up Dale Head and Graham and me followed after he'd got his top to toe windproofs on. Thankfully, Saul had picked up once again and peaks 40,41 and 42 were despatched with relative ease - passing the "Ian Hays Slabs of Death" on the descent from the final peak to the road. Saul was now proper struggling with pain in his feet and hence descents and flats were hard to run - climbs he seemed to manage! After about 22hours and 45 mins for them (16 hours for me!) we arrived back at Keswick Moot Hall with a double Bob Graham Belper Harriers completion on our hands - Saul showing enormous personal determination to put his body through complete turmoil several times and Graham playing it relatively cool not having hardly run in the last few months! Both impressive but in their own ways.

All this on top of a weekend that saw Krish attempt a Skye Cuillin traverse (aborted due to weather) and Ian complete his London to Brighton run too.

Great training for me though, carrying lots of food and water and legs feeling comfortable all the way round. Pleased, perhaps even wetting my appetite again !

Saul's write up here
Saul, me and Graham on Pike o Stickle, Langdales

"The full works please" : At Wasdale - Thanks to Andy Rose
Skirting Yewbarrow Sunday teatime, Red Pike looming in front


Anonymous said...

Brilliant. I thought they'd done it in 16hrs at first! I love your picture of the traverse around Yewbarrow - great composition.

Alan Billington said...

Cheers. I edited that shot on my phone. I was kinda pleased with how it turned out too !