It’s Friday morning, my alarm goes off at 4am. I test out my new trick for getting myself up and ready…
It works! I feel more awake and less inclined to slide back into the sleeping bag and drifting back into a warm and hazy slumber.
Last night was spent under a tarp, sleeping somewhere in the glorious Peak District next to the #AdventureTaxi to test out my new sleeping bag. Luckily it only rained for most of the night and the Alpkit tarp worked perfectly. Sleep for the last few months has been limited to 5 hours or less on average, so this is now a norm.
I make my way back to Buxton, meet up with Lucy, an old training partner and we start the mornings training run shortly after 5am. Something had made me slightly grumpy, so I moaned a bit, acknowledged to anger and moved on. The pace was slow and steady and the weather was fortunately drier than the night time. 5 miles later, we were done and t’s time for work.
5 lessons later, a class set of exam marked in lunch time and its time for the mad panic rush to get to Wales early enough to sleep before starting Leg 2 of the Paddy Buckley Round to support Ode (who helped on leg 3 of my Winter BG attempt). Things don’t always work quite as planned and I arrive in Wales without enough time to get an hour of sleep.
I turn on the stove, boil some water and opt for a coffee instead. The taxi is a complete mess from throwing everything in there after work had finished, so a little reorganising is going to be needed at some point!
10pm arrives… The other two people supporting on that leg arrive and we set off for the meeting point. 10:40pm and we start. It’s raining, visibility on the peaks is down to between 3 and 4m and we are moving through streams and saturated bogs. In parts the ground was so saturated it warlike walking on a water bed. The wind is bitingly cold and after an hour I’m completely drenched, squeezing the water out of my gloves by clenching my fists repeatedly. One of the other people supporting makes the decision to drop down before the end of the final climb. I grab Ode’s extra clothing, food and water and begin the chase. It’s incredible how far people can move when they don’t stop. I lose site of both Ode and Clive as they move over the brow of the first climb and I resort to using the glow of their head torches in the clag to find them. I pick up my pace and start to feel the burning in my calves as the hill gets steeper and eventually I catch up. It’s time to resume the duty of care for Ode, making sure he’s fed and watered. When you take on these challenges you tend to lose track of time, focusing purely on the act of moving forward.
The temperature drops as we climb higher, visibility gets worse, the wind picks up and blows us around like dolls but we keep moving forward. We made a couple of navigation errors, I’m aware that I’m getting colder and colder and my hands and arms are beginning to show signs of poor coordination, so I stop and get an extra layer on. I have no idea where we are on the route. Ode and Clive continue along the ridge and vanish into the mist and eventually even the light of their head torch is gone.
This is were things can go wrong. Very wrong! I’d taking a general direction bearing just before the light from their head torch vanished, so I start to run in that direction. Running with out a bearing or visible land marks makes it hard to stay on a given line if you are off trail. I remember a friend telling me about the bushman in Africa using high pitch whoops to communicate.
I cover my head torch stand still and look. I see the glow of a head torch light up the a small patch clouds we’ve been running through, so I start to run towards.
Again and again I whoop out loud, until I reach the brow of the ridge and can see them making their way down the descent to the valley floor and heading for the next climb. Finally, I reach them and we carry on. Ode is in good spirits still, and I carry on with my duty. Make sure he’s warm. Make sure he’s drinking and make sure he’s eating.
Why didn’t I take out a compass and take a bearing or refer to a map? If you have no idea where you are and have zero visibility, a map is next to no good. My only other option was to find a hold to hide form the weather in, get in my survival bag and wait for the morning and better weather before making my way back down the mountain. Phoning was also not an option since there was absolutely no signal.
Eventually the leg is done, we drop out of the clouds, the rain stops, the sun is rising and we are on our way to the next check point. It was tough, but I loved it. I was amazed that Ode had chosen to do this and at the single minded determination he’d shown in getting his goal complete. We’d lost two and a half hours and Ode grudgingly decided to call it a day on this attempt and reschedule. He was strong enough to continue, but the idea of meeting a given time had buried itself in his head and once that happens, it’s hard to let go. I’ll be joining him on his next attempt and I may even have a go myself before the E1. It was just incredible running and I genuinely didn’t mind the wind, rain or cold.
3 hours of sleep later and I get the 4 hours drive to Keswick out of the way, present a talk on my summer run in a daze, grab some food, organise the taxi and by 10:30pm I’m asleep!
The alarm rings! I press snooze and go back to sleep for 9 minutes until it rings again…
I wake in a panic! it’s 5:00am and I have to get my kit ready for the 50k, drive back to Keswick and start running. No time for breakfast! No time for coffee!
Sophie pops along at 5:30am and realises she has no food with her. I give her a pack of walnuts and tell her to go to the race briefing and the start of the race. I arrive just in time to see everyone run off and I haven’t even pinned my number to my chest yet!!
4 minutes late, I run over the start line and chase the runners…
This is where the story stops. The race came and went, I relied more on the natural resources of the Lake District than I did the checkpoint stations, I ran keeping my heart rate at an average of 150 beats per minute (5 beats higher than my training limit) and ran the 55Km distance taking on just 800 calories. The more I push, train and learn, the more amazed I am at how this simple machine responds. Now to carryon with training and get ready to support a BGR attempt on Saturday.