Ultra running is my life and I love it but it can get a bit samey sometimes. I found myself getting bored of stuff so I decided a few years back to mix it up and try as many different running related things as possible. One of my favourite things is to do is create mini adventures and just go off exploring for a few days. In 2016 I bought the Harveys Bob Graham map and started studying it. It wasn't long before me and my buddy Dave Bowen arranged a 3 day round stopping in b and bs. It was a cracking weekend although Dave was recovering from surgery and I was coming back from injury. We mainly hiked, took terrible lines and got lost quite a bit. It was great fun but took us about 34 hours moving time and a 24hr round just seemed impossible.
|Not long now|
Coming into 2019 I had Western states to run but this was going to be my other "A" event. I was okay on the route and now was the time to put it all together. I got some coaching from Kim Collison who has done a winter and summer round and all my efforts were going to lead to this. So to make it official I set a date, August 17th Anti Clockwise. I ramped up the weekends up there and worked out I could leave home at 3am on a Friday arriving in the lakes at 10 am. I'd rest for an hour then run for 6 hours. Saturday I'd run all day and Sunday I'd run for 5 hours from 6am before travelling home. Then back to work Monday. My mountain legs were certainly coming on but even in May I was wondering how the hell I could make this even ringing Kim after one weekend in total despair questioning my capabilities. He put my mind at rest and told me to man up. It helped.
I had enlisted an ace team for my attempt, some of the best runners I know. It had to be a good idea to surround myself with runners that were equal or preferably a better runner than myself. Leg 1 was going to be Richard Leahy, Annabellle Stearns, Ian Brazier and his daughter Katie. Things had happened though and it ended up just me and Richard doing the leg with Kim Collison pacing for the first few miles. Leg 2 was Paul Nelson, a fantastic mountain runner. He had a fast BGR and multiple race wins under his belt. He would be navigator for the leg. Joining us muling was one of my best running buddies Scott Ulatowski. Scott and I are on a very even footing and often train together. He can get the urge to shoot off too fast but he was recovering from the Lakeland 100 so that would hold him back nicely. For leg 3 Scott was hoping to stay on for but would see how he felt. James Elson would be nav for this leg. He is a top class mountain man having done a Bob and helping on lots more. He has also been a team GB 24 hour runner, definitely a very good runner to have on board. Juhanna Kirk was the third helper on this leg. A good friend of Scotts and a Hardmoors winner. Leg 4 Kim would nav, Kim has coached me, is a world class runner and winter BG record holder. Plus he could probably run Leg 4 blindfolded. Muling was John Melbourne another buddy who had made the trip up. John is the Centurion Grand slam record holder and sub 15 hour 100 miler. He is also a massive piss taker and wouldn't be letting me slack off. Kim and John would stay on for leg 5 plus anyone else in the team who fancied it. Lastly was my road crew, my wife Jacque. No body knows how to crew me like she does. What I eat, drink, have on my feet, when to bollock me and when to listen. Above all I know when I arrive at any given point she will be there ready to go. The A team for sure!
|Countdown with Richard|
We all met at Moot hall for photos and I was buzzing, this was a dream moment. I was fit, well, good weather and I had a great team ready to go. My parents even rocked up with a few minutes to go to wish me luck. They had travelled up from Kent with us and it was great to have them there.
On the dot of 7am we were off. I bounced down the High street with Richard and Kim. We chatted and tried to reign the pace in as we followed the undulating roads towards Little town. At the Swinside Inn Kim left us and Richard continued with me. I had elected to use La Sportiva Mutants for the day and they are not too bad on the road so there was no need to change. We left the road and headed up the track towards the foot of Hindscarth before turning right up the steep bank toward Robinson. I was chomping at the bit and working a bit too hard pushing Richard all the way up. To be fair he was carrying all the kit and water for two of us. We reached the summit in 88 minutes a massive 22 minutes up on my schedule. Although I had a plan on paper the plan was different in my head. I figured I could pick up time early and then cruise it in later on. We soon reached Hindscarth in the allotted 17 minutes. The storm was now well and truly passed and the wispy clouds were just rising above the summits. It was like they were lifting for us and guiding our way through. We made Dale head in 13 minutes and gained another 4 minutes. We had an absolute ball descending into Honister. I tried to hold back but couldn't I was having too much fun. We could see everyone was there as we approached, it was a big turn out of family and supporters. We were a massive 31 minutes up and had caught Paul off guard who had arrived with minutes to spare. He'd seen my tracker and had to toe it to Honister to be on time. I used my allotted 5 minutes to change socks as my feet were soaked already. As I sat on my chair trying to sort my socks I couldn't reach down I'd had a massive fall on the North Downs Way a few weeks earlier pacing a friend and smashed my ribs. I was pretty sure one was broken. Only Jacque knew about it as I hadn't wanted anyone telling me the attempt was a bad idea. I'd kept quiet but I was in agony now I couldn't even lean forward to untie my shoes. I decided to take a pain killer and try and forget about it.
|Honister slate mine|
|Come on Scott!|
|Running into Wasdale with Scott|
|Gulley into Lords rake|
|and out the other side|
|Bringing up the rear|
|Chin up man|
|Descent to Dunmail|
I sat on my chair in the carpark and could have stayed all night but Kim was keen not to mess around and I needed to push on. I didn't change any clothes I just shoved as much food in as I could and we left after only using 5 minutes of the allocated 10. Juhanna and Scott had turned up to keep Jacque company. Juhanna decided to join us for the final push. I had actually had enough now and sense of humour was at zero. With John there this isn't good because he would just rip into me some more. We reached the gate at the base of Halls Fell and I knew I was capable of making the summit in around 30 minutes on fresh legs well this wasn't going to be the case tonight! Kim obviously knows the route better than me but we took the ridge all the way up whereas I would've gone further left from halfway up and picked my way up the grass. I'd tried it a few times and its a cracking way up but who was I to argue. Near the top is a massive rock on the ridge that you have to climb up but I had no strength and couldn't pull myself up. I had to get a boost up from John. Had I been alone I wouldn't have had the power to pull myself up. We summited 62 minutes after leaving Threlkeld. 2 to go!
It was now 2am and I just wanted to go to bed but no time for dithering. We took a direct line off the summit and straight down through the tussocks. I was very slow through here and kept falling over where I had no power in my legs or ankles to hold me up. Juhanna and Kim went ahead and John stuck with me. We jogged all the way to Caldew and I was helped across. We soon joined the fence line that would take us to Great Calva. I can honestly say I have never been as tired in all my life as I was at this point. I dropped to the back as we climbed constantly stopping but Kim was having none of this and made me go to the front. He wouldn't let me stop and I literally could have cried. We reached the summit at 3.17 and lost nearly 20 minutes but to be frank I couldn't give a crap anymore this was a war of attrition and I was giving it all.
|Half the team|