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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Bob Graham Round Recce #1

It is official. I have completed my first RECCE of the BGR over the last few days. Now normally I have just blogged about races over the last few years but this time it feels like this plan is beginning to become reality. I have been thinking and talking about this for about 5 years or so and now it is in the very first stages of coming true.

So the family packed off to stay in the most amazing valley in the Lake District; Borrowdale. The whole Windermere coach tours and cream tea thing is not my potato, but the northern reaches of the Lakes are the business. We stayed in the village of Grange. Highly recommend it...4 miles from Keswick.

So Susie and her good buddy Ann get to run the Buttermere 10 fell race and I get to play in the mountains over a few days. 4 runs over the period and I can now report quadricep DOMS that is more painful than George and I's new year 100 minute up and down Snowdon run.

So after the race and my second run of the day was a mid afternoon run from Buttermere taking in the main peaks from the last leg (leg 5) of the BGR. Prior to that I picked High Snockrigg (526m) before heading off to the last peak of the BGR, 737m high Robinson. This was a big ascent as was 2150ft straight up from the lake. Only seeing 1 person on the ascent, it was a lovely quiet run.

Making a mistake I ran the route of the BGR and slightly descended and then up again to Robinson Crags, realising then that I wanted to run the next 2 peaks in reverse. So about turn and down the 750ft or so to the valley and up to Hindscarth at 727m. This was more runnable as had a gentler incline.  Off Hindscarth and then a slightly shallower drop to pproach Dale Head, the parent peak of the day. Stooping at the top for a hot cross bun, I chatted to a chap who was 39 peaks from bagging all 214 Wainrights. Legend.

This peak was the highlight of my day. Pure unadulterated Valley spread out like a scrunched up green and brown duvet with a sparkling snake-like river at its base. 

Then it was a steep drop down, then up again to High Spy. A nice vista all around and now on the lower more accessible peaks, more people out finishing their own peak bagging for the day.

Finally Maiden Moor and Catbells and it was off done for the day and a few beers. Add my morning peaks in that was 13 miles and 5000ft of ascent.

Morning and a windier and more menacing sky than the perfect conditions of yesterday. Catbells, straight up 1400ft before breakfast to stretch the aching quads and what a view, Blencathra covered in it's own cloud.

It was difficult to stand tall at the top owing to the wind so it was straight back down and a lap of Derwent Water and scoping out a run for Susie as we tag-teamed the children back at Grange. She disappeared for a 2 hour run, then it was off to the chippy in Keswick for sustenance. 

On return, and with the weather closing in, it was off to scope as much as I could on tired legs and run 2 of the day to do an out and back of part of leg 4 of the BGR. Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable and Great Gable. 

Apart from the last section, the early part of Grey Knotts can be a hands and feet up the wet rocks and I was rewarded, if not shocked by a Hercules thundering through Honister Pass. I only managed to get my phone out to catch the back of it but it came from below to above me, not 100m from the rocks. Loudly!

Grey Knotts is a rocky outcrop and the view over Honister is lost as soon as you go back a bit. 697m and the wind meant that standing on top was brief. Over now to Brandreth and this was quick. A fairly flat bowl and only down say 30-40m and then up to 715m for Giles Himself. A peak is a peak and although no real drop on any side, the view to Great Gable at another 1000ft climb was menacing.

 As the wind turned to heavy rain I wanted to do Green Gable but had not seen a soul and for some reason, with the wind and the rain, this spooked me a little. Not sure why but I felt like it was time to head back. Only a short outing but I was reminded of the sheer unpredictability of this landscape as withing 5 minutes, this entire view was replaced by thick dark cloud and heavy rain. Time to go. Happily it is about 8 mins run from Brandreth to Grey Knotts.

This I think, is going to be like a drug. I want to do every peak and run this legendary trail. We will be back in the summer for the next chapter. 

Sevenoaks Circular 31.4 miles. Marathon #81

Not feeling the greatest after a bout of food poisoning, I turned up on the day at a private school that once schooled no other than Lady Diana Spencer, although now is a private refuge for naughty posh kids....anyhow this was the start just south of Sevenoaks for the LDWA Sevenoaks Circular 30 (billed as 30 but 31.4 on the route map.

Within minutes I had bumped into Robert Cameron Wood, fresh from his 261st marathon and also Michael Bennett from Orpington Road Runners. I think he was off on more of a bimble today and also David Thompson.

Out of the blocks like a Nagasaki greyhound was Robert CW. He ran off down the hill to Knowle Park. After about the first mile, I thought I'd hang back and get into a rhythm rather than go off with the big boys. The day was cool but clammy and I stripped down to just a short-sleeved Helly and promptly lost contact with the front group of about 18 runners. I wanted to just do my own thing today and enjoy.

Getting my head into the instructions I then ran with RCW for the next few miles, plus another runner, Paul Bracey from Bromley. We ran for some miles and then the legend himself slowed down on an incline and clearly feeling the marathon the day before, duly cantered some distance back. Paul and I struck up some conversation, although mainly map reading and double-checking the route. I didn't look at the number of CPs and was surprised to find them every 5 miles or so, clearly not having read the route map! So we decided to not hang around for too long, apart from at CP2 for some delicious LDWA sarnies. Rising up to the Weald felt a slog and then coming back down we went through a recently felled forest which was kind of eerie but beautiful at the same time. This is where I found out Paul's dad used to work at my school. Small world! We overtook a number of runner who looked to have gone wrong.

We didn't see another runner for about 2 hours and were well into our run. CPs came and went...none as well stocked as CP2 so we never hung around. Off the Weald and onto the NDW climbing steeply at Chevning to Knockholt at the final CP and then back down to the Weald for the last 6 miles. Clearly tiring, we bimbled at a good ultra pace across muddy fields, some parts of town centre and along riverbanks to the finish with a nice 800m long incline where I put my foot down to finish in the bang-on predicted 5 hrs 45 and 12th place.

Felt fresh, never smashed or too far in the red. A really nice training run that was marathon #81