Descending along the well marked trod, the other groups in tow had caught us up and we all reached Great Calva together and as we dropped down to Wiley Gill to follow the trod to the River Caldew crossing which was refreshing. One set of lights had dropped behind us and for some reason one group had cut straight across the moor from Great Calva and seem to drop well back. Not what I'd call a short cut as we had followed a good path. All we now had to do was the long ascent over on to Mungrisdale Common and once it leveled off Paul navigated us on to the path; now back in low cloud we started ascending Foule Crag onto the top where we then followed the path to the summit of Blencathra. Now came the descent of Hall's Fell ridge; something I was wanting smoothly out of the way in the Dark. Fortunately the rock was bone dry and grip was good. Paul's Navigation was spot on and the dogs were showing us how to descend it. Looking behind there were no lights! Then looking sidewards we saw lights; the other two groups were descending directly down onto Gate Gill! We were making good progress, we then noticed that the other groups lights were falling further behind. Looks like there choice of route wasn't quicker at all.
Down to the road, we passed a load of support vehicles for the other two groups. We got a good pace going down to the main road to be met by my support crew cheering me across the road into the car park for my 10 minutes stop. Fortunately, my pacers Martin and Paul did a good job of feeding me on leg 1 and Scott supplied me with plenty of fluid. A quick sock and top change; some hot tea, toast and marmalade (Rachel says: who i have Rhys to thank for helping me make them) and half a boiled egg butty (this was going to be the most I hate in the whole of my Bob G). Also assisting Rachel at the stop was as mentioned Rhys and Gibbi and Tom. That was the quickest 10 minutes off my life and no sooner had i sat down i was back up again and we were off for the start of leg 2.
TOTAL LEG 1 TIME: 03:48, 5 minutes up on my schedule.
Setting off and leaving the camera flashes and cheers behind we were on the road making our way towards Newsham, no need for Head torches at this time of day now. Once past the old railway carriage we were crossing Old Coach Road and over the style for the ascent up onto Clough Head which was free of cloud. We could see another Bob G group well in front and the other 2 groups behind us had fallen behind. Clough Head was reached in good time and the way ahead looked great with clear views. A good pace was set and the Dodds were past easily, now being 8 minutes up on Schedule. Running down to Sticks Pass and the ascent up to Raise; the summit was finally reached giving us some fantastic views of the Langdales and the rest of my route in the day ahead!
Passing Whiteside and on the ascent to Helvellyn lower man I starting to feel my first feelings of tiredness, not in my legs but just from the lack of sleep. So I took a SIS gel that contained a high dose of caffeine as well as some well needed carbs. Ding......in an instant; literally as fast as you are read this I felt alert and awake again. The trig point at the summit of Helvellyn was reached and past and then we were off on our way on down towards Nethermost Pike and a fine view of Ingleborough was noted. In the distance I could see the last peak of this Leg; Seat Sandal and not thinking about the ascent onto Fairfield too much as we still had Dollywaggon to reach. Again with no problems I was 12 minutes up on schedule. I kept to the same route as in my training; heading down towards Grisedale tarn via the zig - zag path. On descending I started with a shooting pain in my left knee...not good. I thought once we reached the bottom of the path by the outlet of Grisedale tarn it might ease so once there I gave my muscles a massage and took some Ibuprofen.
We took the path up towards Cofa pike and noticed that the other two groups were going the other way round. The knee was less painful on the ascents and I knew the loose scree of Fairfield would be kinder to my knee. At the summit of Fairfield I was now 14 minutes up on schedule. On the descent we passed the other two groups on their ascent, who had fallen further behind by now. One good thing was one of the runners had picked up my Buff which I dropped somewhere around the Dodd section. A few exchanges of 'Go on lads, keep pushing' and we were flying off down the scree with not much pressure on my knee. Down at Grisedale Hause we ran past a pile of rucksacks left by the other group and pushed on up Seat Sandal.
This was an easy ascent and I had a good shot of adrenalin pushing me on now knowing the end of the leg was very near. Once at the summit it was head down for the easy descent down to Dunmail Raise and I could taste the bacon butties waiting for me by now. Keeping to the well worn trod that has now developed due to vast numbers of Bob G recce's and attempts; we were on the descent down to Dunmail and our first sight of the road. The steeper path was greasy and there were a few slips and slides on the descent. Looking down there must have been 20 plus cars parked at the side of the road waiting for groups of runners. The group that were well in front were now not that far in front. Nearing the cars I was welcomed by shouting and cheering and it was nice to see some good friends down there cheering me in to my stop at Dunmail and a scrummy bacon and egg butty. I had made good time on my schedule, increasing it to 33 minutes. Another sock change, a quick massage to my calf and I managed to eat the sandwich as I hadn't eaten on leg 2 as I just couldn't get anything down. A couple of brews and my 15 minute stop was nearly over. I was over whelmed with the support here at the stop. Rachel again in full flow running round like a headless chicken, Val and Kev cooking the wonderful bacon and lots of brews. Gibbi and Tom was there and once again Rhys was there assisting with my sock change. It was good to see Paul and Martin had come through from Threlkeld to see me into Dunmail also.
LEG 2 TIME- 07-57, 33 minutes up on schedule
Ken set off 10 minutes before me to get his legs warmed up. The rest of us crossed the style to make the steep ascent out of Dunmail and up the gulley to the flat path that took us on to Steel Fell. The views ahead were good and not far in front was another Bob G group. I was starting to feel very tired and low at this point and was still getting pain from my knee. Ken started a word game of naming ports from the letters of the Alphabet. This helped to take my mind off the task ahead and passed the time as we were soon passing Calf Crag and I was now overall 21 minutes up on my schedule. We were now ascending the side of Mere beck when the group in front turned right to make the climb to High Raise first. We continued up and across to Sergeant Man and the summit was reached still keeping my 21 minutes, up on schedule. We set off across to High Raise when we noticed the other group were coming along the path leading from the other small cairn north east of High Raise! Hmmm. We were now on our way to Thunacar and I tried a slice of pizza which had now lost its appeal to me. I also had another Gel with caffeine to give me a much needed kick. Thunacar passed quickly and the group in front were moving off into the distance. Harrison Sickle came and somehow I was still 20 minutes up on schedule. A fine run down and then the ascent up to Pike 'o' Sickle. Ken and Ian went on the path below and waited for Ed and I to arrive from the summit. More drinks were passed to me ready for the run across to Rossett Crag. We follwed the direction of the Langdale fell race trod and on the descent to Stake Gill we had once again caught the other group up. My knee was certainly feeling the descents and having to put the pain to the back of my mind was barely working. On the path up towards Rossett Crag we over took the other group by the summit and I was now 17 minutes up on my schedule. Now we were on the descent to Rossett Gill to meet Alan Stockdale with some supplies for the next section. Katie had also walked up to meet us at this point and cheer us on. Fortunately Alan had brought some rice pudding and I managed to down one of these and drink a half litre of water and get another 1.5 litres of liquid as I had drunk the other 1.5 litres. I was certainly getting the fluid down me on Leg 3. Katie had a good look at m leg and was happy there was no ligament damage but more like swelling to the ligaments maybe caused by a tight calf muscles. This stop took 10 minutes off my schedule but it was much needed and I was really glad Alan had come on the day and brought plenty off stuff for me and my support. It was really shame I couldn't get the butties down my neck as they looked really nice. Now for the ascent by Hanging knotts to Bowfell. No sign now of the other group ahead but near the top Ken and Ian saw the other group had gone too far right instead of upwards. Just me and Ed ran to the summit of Bowfell as the others waited for us. Once past all the masses of walkers and sticks around the summit I was still 17 minutes up on schedule. On making our way down towards the others, the other group appeared over the lip off the path. At this point I realised we hadn't seen the other 2 groups that set off at the same time as me from the moot hall. Esk Pike was passed and we were making good progress now to Great End now 22 minutes up on my schedule. I had come out of my bad spell and wasn't thinking about my knee, Katie left us now to return to Langdale. As we made our way to Ill Crag Ken decided to push on to see Alan at broad stand and give him heads up we were getting near. Ill crag was passed and a scramble over boulders back to the path and the climb up onto Broad crag; we had to climb amongst the large boulders to get to the summit still being 22 minutes up on schedule. As we dropped down we had to again pick our way through the masses of walkers when another very fast moving Bob Graham threesome passed us and they were actually running up to Scafell Pike. It turned out later that this lad (not sure of his name) completed the round in 14 hours 59 minutes- the fourth ever fastest time, good effort. Back to earth and the top of England was reached 21 minutes up on schedule. Just the descent to do, passing the Mountain rescue box to hear shouts of encouragement from Alan and Ken. What a cracking job Alan Scowcroft had done with the rigging up Broad Stand and we were soon up it. I was a bit slimmey in places thanks to the previous weeks rain but was passed without problem. Just Scafell left on this leg and once reached I was 26 minutes up on schedule. The descent wasn't good for me; the stress on my knee and the knife like pains piercing through me kept making me stop. I thought this knee problem was going to stop me from completing my round. Just in time the scree had arrived and I could now ski down taking the pressure off my Ligaments. We were now on the bottom section of Brown tongue and crossing the river to take the track ready to be met by a large crowd cheering me on at my next stop. I saw some familiar faces and I shouted 'I'm going straight to the stream, get my stuff down to me' so i ran passed the cars and I was over the fence and in the icy water, thank god for cold mountain water. Amazingly I was still 24 minutes up on schedule. Rhys soon arrived with tea and flap jack and amazingly I got it down my neck. The tea tasted good. I spent a while in the water as the rest of my team started to arrive including Watto with my pasta. Out of the water on a rock I drank more tea and tried to eat the pasta as Watto and Rhys removed my foot ware and socks. The next set of pacers were being loaded up with Leg 4's food, drink and the much needed gels by Rachel and co. More Ibuprofen down my neck and the 20 minutes were nearly up.
LEG 3 TIME - 14:09 21 minutes up on schedule
Off we went and I knew at the back of my mind I had the largest ascent of the Bob Graham facing me; Yewbarrow some 500 meters of ascent up to the summit. Before the style I had a pee stop which worried the team below, wondering what i was doing and thinking I'd burnt out before the climb had even started. Up and up and up we went and I remembered trying not to look behind me as this ascent is unforgiving when your tired and after being on your feet 14 plus hours it can mess with your head. Rhys kept drip feeding me with jelly beans and chocolate peanuts what was welcome. Sam kept passing me water and I have to say the lads did a great job of getting me up to the summit of Yewbarrow, now being 24 minutes up on my schedule. Maybe it was the drip feeding by Rhys or his terrible jokes. On to the cairn and we dropped on the trod below stirrup crags and onwards to the start of the climb for Red Pike. This goes on for quite a bit, it's not as vicious on the legs as Yewbarrow but the summit does seem to take its time to arrive. Still 23 minutes up on Schedule we still hadtime to take in the views and beautiful skies. Over Scoat fell and then down and up to Steeple; now 25 minutes up on time and we were back tracking to Scoat fell and after the summit we passed the other group that I had passed at Bowfell. The knee was still reminding me it was there on the descents (ouch), and the team kept thrusting bottles to me in all directions and Rhys kept the nibbles coming. I necked some more Gel just to keep me on top of things as we were now at Pillar summit dropping to 21 minutes up on my schedule. We now noticed there was extensive cloud starting to build up behind us, boo. We were soon down to Black sail pass and the climb up to Kirk fell. I was slowing up on the steep climb but once on the less steep ground, my pace picked up and I was much quicker; we eventually got to the top of Kirk Fell, now only 16 minutes up on my schedule. Not to dwell on time, we were soon making our way off Kirk fell and onto the steep drop down towards Beckhead tarn where Drew was waiting for us with a fresh top up of water and goodies. What a excellent job that was as again i was drinking lots but still not able to eat much. Not to hang around we started the ascent of Great Gable when the heavens decided to open making the top rocky section wet and greasy, undeterred by this the summit of Gable was reached, still 16 minutes up on schedule; this was a good feeling now as this was the last real climb on this leg. Down the rocky path I managed to side step to large boulders coming straight at me that tried to stop my Bob G attempt!!! Down at Wind Gap we were then climbing up to Green Gable in low cloud and I asked for a bearing to be taken for Brandreth as this could have easily be missed meaning a loss of precious time. It wasn't missed and we were there, 18 minutes up on scedule and now easy going, following the fence towards Grey Knotts and the lonely Silhouette of Adam Collinge was met with some extra juice. A quick hello and goodbye and we were on the final descent of this Leg. It was worth noting here that the rain had stopped and the cloud had lifted.
I decided to send Sam off ahead to Honister to tell the support that I was wanted rice pudding and lots of cups of tea again with my inability to eat during the leg. This at first probably worried the support at Honister as the lonely figure of Sam flying down towards them (Rachel adds, it did, we were all stood there wondering where you were and if you were ok. If anyone who knows Sam he does fly on the descents! But not to worry as we were soon on the small rise before the decent down to the cars and we were spotted from below (Rachel add: to great relief to all of the gang who were going...."come on Andy, where are you"). I once again put the pain of me knee behind me, as down at the bottom I was again greeted by large cheers and clapping from my own support and the support teams from the other runners. This was going to be a quick stop and it was good to see everyone once again. Rachel set off on leg 5 a few minutes before I was due to, to get a head start on the ascent. Support here was Gibbi and Tom, Viv and Mick Platt and this was another cracking job done by support keeping me going and my support runners fed and watered me up ready for the final leg and push to the end. My last sock change thanks to Watto and I was ready to leave.
LEG 4 TIME- 19.32 17 minutes up on schedule
I was really glad Rachel was joining me on my last leg, all I needed to do now was keep going and hope the knee didn't just give up, not fall, or get lost. No pressure then. To say this is the last big ascent, it really is a kind one and the summit of Dale head was met, 12 minutes up on Schedule. Only 2 summits left!
The run was good and towards the summit of Hindscarth the cloud was met again. We returning to the direct trod towards Robinson, spirit was high, liquid and nibbles were been passed to me and the last part of the ascent for Robinson was in low cloud. Sam managed to find Rachel already waiting for us at the summit of Robinson after luckily finding the summit in about 2meter ziv and touch down; I was touching summit 42, my final summit of my attempt. A cheer from my support and a very big smile from me...(Rachel adds: and me and the gang inc Sam).
Some back slapping done and it was then once again, back to reality, we still had to negotiate the rocky section down to little town and the few miles of road that lay ahead. Down we went and the cloud was left behind on the peak to leave open views of the task ahead and a fantastic view down the valley to Keswick in the distance which unfortunatly still looked along way away. Passing the first rocky section which had been affected by the rain as it was quite greasy in places. We passed another Bob G group, unfortunately for them they were 25 hours plus over their time. The last rocky section was passed safely, more smiles from me and we heading along High Snab Bank to the last descent down to the track. My pace seem to pick up as we were now on the tarmac and round the corner we met the support where I downed a quick brew, Rachel and Rhys called it a day and what a job Rhys did on the last 2 legs. He did a great job of trying to feed me and feeding my more with plenty of encouragement. Thanks for Rachel as she had spent the last few hours running here there and everywhere making sure I had everything where I needed it and now got to run Leg 5 with me and share the elation of summiting my last summit. (Rachel adds: I was so pleased to run your final leg with you after such a hectic 20 odd hours making sure you got here alright).
Now the last 4 to 5 miles of tarmac laid between me and Keswick and the completion my first ever Bob Graham Round. I didn't change my footware as my feet felt good; surprisingly. It was head down and off we went. Paul kept committing; I was still strong and I felt good until I hit the up hill bits. Its not always a good idea to stop running as it gets harder to get going and back into a rhythm again. But as the cars passed us Tom Hainsworth joined us for the last section to Keswick. We passed the Rachel, Viv and Gibbi as they had stopped to take photos of me passing. Deja -vue Paul? It was getting dark now in the tree sections and I saw a sign post that said Portinscale 1.5 mile.
As we got to Portinscale Paul said "you could make a sub 23 hour time". That's all it took and I was off; down and over the foot bridge, flying to the gate and the long path through the fields which seemed to go on and on and on. Eventually we hit the gate and the turning onto the tarmac and the straight run now for Keswick town centre and the Moot hall. As we got closer the feeling inside was amazing; I knew i could crawl now and I'd make it. Just a few drunken people on their Sat night out to weave in and out of and then there it was; beckoning me on. Suddenly there were loud volumes of cheering from my support and an even from the bigger crowd of other Bob G teams that had congregated round the Moot hall waiting and then in a flash; there i was slamming my hands down on the doors of the Moot Hall. Yes yes yes I did it and under 23 hours. What a feeling as Rachel grabbed me with a fantastic congratulations, followd by Rhys and Paul. What a great feeling that all the time, effort and hard graft that I had put in in the past half a year, surely had just paid off. Afterwards we all stood for about 20 minutes talking about the day, lots of pictures being taken for the future look back it was time for Rachel to drive me home to a welcomed bath and bed.
LEG time and completion of the Bob Graham round 22.49 - 11 minutes up on my 23 hour schedule.
A big thanks to the runners- Paul Aitken, Martin Holroyd, Scott Newburn, Matt Richardson, Mark Rowley, Ken Robinson, Ed Poulter, Ian Harland, Rhys Watkins, Peter Keron, Sam Watson, Keith Hill, Rachel Platt, Katie Bedford, Tom Hainsworth
Support- Ian Watson, Kev & Val Rowan, Mick & Viv Platt and also to Rachel Platt for been at every stop running around and organising and also supporting me through my hard running schedule this year and joining me on runs and providing a very good taxi service. Offering me words of encouragement and sorting out my achey legs in the early parts of the years as I pushed myself outside my comfort zone. Rachel did a fantastic job at all levels.
Gibbi for been at every stop except Wasdale and for giving me lots of useful tips and advice over the 6 months or so, which I took on board and used to its fullest.
Also another big thanks to Paul my running partner on many Bob G recci's this year, some fantastic days out in all weathers a really good mate to have by your side, and it was really nice to be part of his succesful Bob G round back in May, as he was part of my successful round. wooooo:)
Come on Paul we need to get p!$$ed now.
Alan Scowcroft for rigging Broad stand - a job well done the rigging was spot on and to a really high standard ( I wasn't supprised, just pleased). Alan Stockdale for feeding us at Rossett Gill. Drew Holland for much needed extra liquid below Great Gable. Adam Collinge for extra liquid and a friendly face at Grey Knotts.
Thanks to everyone who sent me good luck messages and for congratulating me after wards.
On reflection, Maybe I could have done it quicker if the knee hadn't pack in and maybe I might sort out the inability to eat when running long distance. Not a foot wrong was put, but i was very lucky with the weather. Would I do it again, of course, what a cracking day out on the fell. What next? Wait and see and i'll keep this blog live, it would be nice that any would be Bob Graham first timers read it and use any part of it to assist them on their attempt. What advice could I give? Get to know the route, try different foods and drinks out. Do plenty of stretching and more than anything plan your attempt well in advance and get plenty of mile in't legs.
It as been a humbling experience for me of how much support I have recieved from all levels and from all parts of the Globe. Thanks Simon, Fiona and Wap man (William) for your messages from Oz and I loved the card- cheers guys.
Cheers Andy J ( the very Happy One)
P.S I am now an offical member of the Bob Graham Club :)I will hopefully up load photos somewhere for you to view, watch this space