This climb was long, but not as hard as to Greenup Edge and I felt semi-revitalised by the stop at the Hostel and the cooling night. Towards the top the wind was getting up a bit and I got my windproof on for the night.
The top of this climb was marked by Grisedale tarn looking spectacular at Sunset. And I had a few looks up to Dollywagon Pike and Fairfield, glad I wouldn’t be tackling another steep ~300m or so to top these today. Then came the long and fairly steady descent into Grisedale. Rocky in places, but pretty runnable this terrain played to my strengths and I could see I was gradually reeling in somebody in front (Ed Strong). He was going pretty well himself and I didn’t catch till he stopped at Grisedale. We chatted as we tackled the wooded road section into Patterdale with just enough light to avoid needing to dig out the headtorches tonight. Towards the bottom we caught up with Malcolm and Iain Smith-Ward (somebody I’d be seeing a fair bit of over the days to follow).
The George Starkey hut was our CP1 – 10.23pm – and I’d decided quite awhile ago after a tough day of hills and heat that I would be sleeping a few hours here per my pre-event plan. Joe Faulkner cooked up some cracking hot food and I picked at other food from the layed out tables. I also got my bottle filled up so I could take on a recovery drink before sleep. The group I was with were about the first to take up the sleep in tents option, those before were obviously a hardcore bunch or suffered tiredness well.
With my multiple stops I was running lonesome again so pushed on a bit as the lake path flattened to try and catch others up and take advantage of runnable ground. After the lake I made a small nav error of a few hundred yards, but back on route quickly and onto the almost endless track up the dale (in my head the lake runs most the way up Ennerdale, in reality it doesn’t go even half way. So onwards on a dusty, stoney track that undulated upwards gradually.
Towards the end of the valley came the world renowned remote Black Sail Hut youth hostel and a kitchen to refill water again and also mix my second energy drink of the day. I caught up here with Charl, Malcolm and others (apologies exactly who, here, deserts me). Now the first tough climb and in the low twenties miles and near enough hottest part of the day it was a steep trudge. Over the top and down towards Honistor slate min visitor centre and I was again looking forward to liquid. Thankfully it was before the 5pm closing time so I grabbed a bottle of coke for variety on the run. I had just stopped to put the empty bottle in my bag till I found a bin a mile or so later and got going again to find a small group of runners gathered. Charl had gone down hard on the stoney path and battered his knee’s, but more painfully sliced open one of his hands. Between about 5 of us we got his hand cleaned and temporarily bandaged and got going again.
Our group of 5 was the largest I’d run with all event and stuck together down the pass and through Rosthwaite. The group splintered a bit on the good path tracking Stonethwaite Beck and moreso as the climb begun. I started positively, but soon had to slow down from the pace Malcolm was making uphill. It feels pretty steep up to Greenup Edge after a day’s running. And I started to experience issues. My legs started to run out of fuel and I started to get minor pain – from cramp I think – in my left quad. Further up, hot and tired I had my first bad spell of the event. “How the hell am I going to keep going X days if I feel like this now!”. Exascerbated, by losing the track if there was one over a boggy moor on top of the pass. And worst came as I tried to jump a small stream, landed on soft ground on my non-cramping leg only to cause a calve cramp to accompany my quad cramp. At this point the quad cramp briefly hurt so much I thought it might actually be a muscular strain. But just as soon as it felt this bad it cleared again.
This signalled the start of a more positive spell again, downhill for a good few miles through Easedale. It was a rocky, winding and slow going descent (with bits that climbed again thrown in). But I set my mind to trying to catch up with Malcolm and a few of the other guys I was running with previous to the climb. There would also be a free drink stop at the bottom at the Thorny How hostel. I started to move more fluidly again and near the bottom where it flattened out and the patch improved I was running well into the hostel just before 8pm.
This hostel was much like the ‘free drink’ stops to follow in that it offered more and was kind of an intermediate checkpoint in all but name. I topped up water, had a glass of cordial and bought some crisps, the saltiness of them making my day! I caught up with Malcolm and others here and before I left Charl made it in with discomfort from the hand, bloody knees, but moving well. I set off on my own, but once I started the climb up alongside Little Tongue Gill I could see quite far in front and behind, with Malcolm in a group about 10 minutes ahead now, another guy between us, and a few guys in intervals behind me within about 15mins (one I reckoned to be Charl).
After a group photo and last minute comfort break it was time for the off. It was going to be a warm day so I didn’t start too hard at the gun. Even though soon onto narrow tracks on the clifftop I figured no need to hurry with 192 miles in store. Took a few pictures on the opening ‘prologue’ along the coast before we turned land to start our quest for the east coast. With a starting cast of about 50 runners I soon found myself having to navigate rather than follow blindly – which isn’t a bad thing as even at this early stage several people I saw coming back on to route after a wrong turn. The fool isn’t the person that makes a wrong turn, the fool is the fool who follows! Through a few small villages and the first hill loomed. Dent - at around 350m is by no means massive compared to what was to soon follow, but is not insignificant and higher than any point in my home county. A good time to practice a brisk walk up hill - whilst also addressing map changes and hydration on this hot and sunny day. My uphill walk is average at best and I soon lost ground on Charl Erasmus and Malcolm Hicks who I’d made acquaintance with just a few miles earlier. But my downhill is good and I soon would catch up again and was somewhere near these guys all day.
Over the top and after a good run down the route meandered along a narrow valley with the patch criss-crossing a useful stream for dipping the cap in and throwing water on my face. Around here I made the first of my ‘finds’ a pair of sunglasses on the track near a stream. I asked Charl and Malcolm when I caught up with them next, but not there’s. So perched them on the brow of my hat wrapped around my head so I could potentially reunite them with their owner on route. Leaving this little valley the hours of heat and being on my feet reminded me for the first time to keep steady as I puffed up the small hill.
It was now downhill on a roadside path to Ennerdale Bridge and the first place I’d considered stopping for food drink. As I peered down the drive of a café on the edge of the vllage offering ice cream Charl and Malcolm caught up and I went with their plan of a stop near the lake or after at one of the Ennerdale hostels. My water and mountain fuel filled softflasks were still at a good level and I know that alongside the lake I could refill from one of the streams cascading off the fellside. Through the village and down to the lake I was moving well and only stopped at the edge of the lake to take on one of the chicken wrap I’d made for pack-up the day before. On the rocky, but for the most part runnable lakeside path I was moving well enough, but with no shade I soon took advantage of one of the paths drops to lake level. I ripped off my hat to dunk it, “PLOP”, what was that? I looked into the lake a few yards out and there sinking into the clear waters were the sunglasses I had become custodian of. I debated whether to wade in and grab them, but decided to save my energy. So I’m sorry if our reading this and think they may be your glasses and were hopeful of being reunited - unfortunately the village ‘eejet’ found them.
Onwards and about this time my second route treasure. On the ground in front of me was money, double take, yep £15 if I recall. Now at the lake this could have belonged to a runner or one of a thousand bank holiday pleasure walkers near the lake. So I stashed it and figured if anyone I ran with during the event mentioned to me they’d lost cash then I could reunite them. I was a bit stop start on this stretch as hit the midteens mileage as I stopped again to fill a flask from a stream that was flowing pretty fast down to the lake.
With a 7hr+ train/bus/taxi journey for me to get to St Bees my first challenge was not wanting to be lugging 4 x bags around. So I didn’t pre-pack all of this stuff and got it all in a big 80L holdall I could convert to lug on by back and one of my smaller dropbags.... Oh and the little bumbag I’d have round my waist the whole journey for additional quick access items over what I could get from my s-lab 12 pack.
Journey to St Bees on event day -1 was relaxing enough and soon passed, the only slight discomfort being the Carlisle – Whitehaven leg on bus replacement for train. It was 20c+ and cloudless in the area so the bus was a tad uncomfortable at first. On arrival to Whitehaven it was bank holiday Sunday evening so the pubs were fleshpots as expected, I was going to have some food in Whitehaven Wetherspoons pub, but decided against and got straight in a taxi to St Bees. On arrival in St Bees at the beach side hotel I’d booked in as it was near the start - it was showing all the signs of all day drinking in the bar area from where I had to extract a member of staff to get checked in. It was also insinuated at this point it might be best I not get food in hotel as staff had been working flat out all day so kitchen might close early. The place didn’t exactly tantalise my taste buds anyway, so I dumped bags and walked into the village. It’s a strange village, being split into three settlements, one on the beach, one at road junction to other two and the main bit from the railway station. I headed into main street and found more pubs that weren’t serving food as their busy bars were serving the required liquid diet to the punters.
So back to the hotel and the very nice steak pie I’d bought from a deli the day before – intended for my pack – was my dinner, alongside some fruit and a cereal bar. I then scattered my gear all over the room before repacking in the racepack, 2 x dropbags and finishbag. I was 75% done by about 10pm so popped downstairs for a pint of cider to get relaxed. The bar was now a lot less busy and there was an entertainer singing to a small crowd, I opted to sit outside in quieter surrounds.
I was up reasonably early in the morning to complete my packing and get a good breakfast. I filled up with cereal, cooked breakfast and pastries as could be my biggest feed for a few days now. I caught up with a few people I knew running the event including Matt Neale and Jesse Palmer. Then back upstairs and down after 8am with my kit requirement - not in racepack, as it’s usually easier this way at a kit check rather than unpacking the racebag just to pack it again. Kit wasn’t checked, which moreso showed that the organiser had put to trust that anybody taking on this event was adequately prepared. I did get my bag tags, event sweatshirt and my tracker was fitted. Many were milling around chatting, more relaxed and prepared than me seemingly as I still had final packing to do and to bring down my drop/end bags for transport. I was about done for the 9.15 event briefing with two of the four bags shuttled downstairs (I was at the end of a long corridor so two trips seemed sensible). And by about 9.40 I was outside and on the phone having a final catchup with the family before the start. I even had time to stroll down the beach to dip my toe in the sea.
Ok, taking me a while to get this written so I'll drip feed it. Not going to link a blog so people can read it here if they want or avoid. Btw plenty of others have reported already if you have access to the facebook group.
I think the learnings from several multi-days in the past and some good 24+ hour runs last year gave me a good insight into requirements for this event both from a training and an equipment point of view. There was a kit requirement, which wasn’t maximal compared to some events I’ve known – which I’m savvy enough to know means the onus is on us big boys and girls to know what we might need that won’t necessarily be provided. Although many questions were asked and answered in both the pre-event ‘live webinars’ and on the facebook group page (pretty much the only thing I’ve looked at on facebook in last month).
From a kit point of view we needed our racepack of course, but also could provide two dropbags, which would alternate between the four major check/food/sleep-points (bag A to CP 1,3, bag B to CP 2/4). So it mostly made sense to duplicate the contents of one bag into the other. We could also provide a bag for the end. What to go in these bags?
Well the usual suspects were needed for kit req:
upper & lower waterproofs,
long sleeve top,
maps (provided), compass
torch and spare batteries (or spare torch),
small first aid kit (with minimum contents definition),
phone (Not O2 or Three network).
Beyond this I deemed the following necessary in the bag at various stages:
2nd set of gloves (so a thin and thick at times, even carried a warm waterproof pair on one stage in case),
running leggings (on colder stages),
additional batteries (for both GPS and my 2 x headtorches),
money and debit card,
note on food locations.
And of course 2 x 500ml softflasks (one usually for water, one for energy drink).
USB charger (for phone just in case, all my other powered stuff was on replacable batteries)
Dropbag A and B would be almost carbon copy for me and would have the following in drysacks: