Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Supporting the Bob Graham

A call for help supporting a few Glossopdale Harriers attempting the Bob Graham Round went out quite a few months ago. Tim volunteered to help as a support runner on one or maybe two legs, so I offered to be road support. Here's some photos and words of the weekend from my perspective...

In case you don't know, the Bob Graham Round is a circuit in the Lake District, starting and ending at Moot Hall in Keswick. The route takes in 42 peaks, 27,000ft of ascent, and is approximately 66 miles, depending on the exact line you take. The challenge, should you wish to become a member of the Bob Graham 24 Hour Club is to complete the route in less than 24 hours. There's plenty of information on the internet about the route, peaks and records so I won't repeat any of that here - the map on the left gives an overview. The Glossopdale lads (four in total attempting it) were on a 23:18 schedule, departing at 10pm on Friday 7th June, and running in a clockwise direction. You can depart at any time or day, and run clockwise or anti-clockwise - I understand there's pros and cons to all the infinite choices.

Being just a few weeks from the summer solstice enabled the guys to be out on the hill with the shortest possible night time hours - clearly an advantage when you need to see where you are running, and even more important if you want to make any attempt at appreciating the spectacular views.

Alasdair ready to go...

Dan at 21:40 still looking like a very relaxed supporter - he is in fact checking his phone and tracking device are working

Fresh legs and some rather new looking fell shoes

Classic Alasdair pose....all four contenders ready to go

and they're off....supporters left in their wake
So, Dan, Alasdair, Andy O and Paul S lined up at Moot Hall and set off bang on 10pm. My role so far was to get a few runners and running support crew to Keswick. I jogged the first 200m with them snapping a few photos as they disappeared across town heading out to the first peak. Back to the bunkhouse and a quick pint before hitting the sack for a few hours sleep.

I'm up at 4am on Saturday. The weather is still dry, warm and promising to be a hot day. We all express a little concern that it may be too hot, and running supporters prepare to carry extra water. After a wake up coffee and gathering of support crew+support runners the in bound leg 3 gang head off to Dunmail. I managed to get the tracker that Dan was carrying up on view on my phone and could see that they'd already passed Helvellyn....looking like they were 20 minutes up on their schedule. Great news, and all the more reason not to delay getting to the pit stop and set up for their arrival.

I should add here that there had been minimal support needed at Threlkeld, the end of leg 1/start of leg 2. Tim and Phil had driven down there at 12:30am-ish to join the runners, and someone else had stopped there and brought Phils car back. I think that's what happened anyway. I was attempting to sleep at that point.

Great coffee spot
So, we drive to Dunmail in convoy. Three vehicles, including Lins' camper van which was perfect for the guys and galls preparing to set off as support runners on the next leg. Coffee was brewed, sandwiches readied and before we knew it the advance runner (Tim) was spotted coming down the hill with the runners breakfast orders. We then learnt that Paul S had decided to stop his attempt here and was walking down. Tim quickly gave the orders and set off back up the hill to help Paul down - he wasn't injured, just in his words "not fit enough" to carry on.

Tim coming in ahead of the runners with breakfast orders

Tim checking orders are understood before heading back up for Paul

Silhouettes on the ridge above Dunmail
Before we knew it silhouettes of runners were seen high on the ridge. Grabbing the binoculars we worked out Alasdair was first down with the others only moments behind. The expected organised chaos ensued with changing of socks, eating, drinking, replenishing or putting on suncream, checking bags were packed and all the time keeping an eye on time. The stop was scheduled for 15 minutes, but being 20mins up on schedule the actual stop was about 20mins.

Alasdair coming into Dunmail

Andy and Dan plus support runners getting to Dunmail

Dunmail pit stop

Alasdair's war paint...for Dan's version of how to apply suncream head over to the blog Tim has written, it's worth the visit for that photo alone! http://testedtodestruction.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/bob-graham-support.html

Glossopdale Harriers Captain, Julien Minshull, showing us the best way to carry banana's. Super cool Banana Man.

freshly prepared sandwiches
The runners and support group all left together, heading up the hill and into the encroaching sunrise.

Runners and supporters start the climb out of Dunmail

Moments later they're out of the shade and nearly at the top of the first climb out of  Dunmail
Dunmail support stop over it was time to get outbound runners back to the bunkhouse and into a different vehicle so they could whizz over to Wasdale and grab a decent parking spot. After an hour or so they'd left, and me, Lins and Paul enjoyed the sunshine and relaxed while deciding what to do until we were next required in Honister mid afternoon.
Change over back at the bunkhouse....leg 4 support runners preparing to head off to Wasdale
Me, Lins and Zena (the dog) decided to run up to Scales Tarn and Blencathra. It was magnificent. I haven't done much walking in the Lakes and this was my first run so I was very excited. We walked the steep bits, running the easier uphill bits and after about an hour summited. I could only begin to imagine how the runners would be feeling. By the time we were off the hill the guys should be somewhere around Esk Pike, their 25th peak. Checking the tracker we could see they were still about 20mins up on schedule. Our excitement for them grew and I was keen to head to Honister but was persuaded that we'd be better off hanging about at the bunkhouse as we could sleep easier than in the car. Good point. More sunbathing and relaxation commenced.

The day passed remarkably quickly. Numerous updates on the tracker kept us informed the 20mins up was being held so we set off about 3pm for Honister. Arriving at the Slate Mine we bumped into Simon, a Pennine runner supporting their chap Hanno. We'd missed him by about 30mins and he was going well and looked to be on for a good BG finish. Great news.

Pit stop Honister was established with the Wasdale support crew joining us. Chairs, tables, bags, water, suncream, food, blankets, and other items gathered at the ready. Icecreams and bacon sandwiches were consumed. Binoculars and eyes scanning up hill eagerly awaited the runners. There were a few false alarms - clearly the route off was popular with runners.

Well earned icecream and bacon sandwiches

Honister support waiting....and looking....

After a while, and at about the expected time two runners came into view. It was really damn obvious they were our chaps. They were running strong and purposely. It was contender Alasdair and support runner Andy F. Brilliant. Two in and being attended to. Eyes scanning again for the others. Ali told us that contender Andy O had been ill and most likely wouldn't be carrying on. Such a shame. A massive chapeau to him getting so far and off the hill safely.

Incoming Alasdair behind support runner Andy F....encouragement from Caitlin below
Alasdair having a long drink
Within a few minutes of Ali arriving we had contender Dan and support runner Tim in view. Both running well and into the pit stop safely.

Dan dropping the final descent into Honister with Tim to the right supporting

Last minute checks before runners and supporters head out on the final leg from Honister to Keswick

Repairs completed to John's shoes....knew that gaffer tape we packed would come in handy somewhere

Tim and Dan told us Andy O was with Julien and Andy A (three Andy's in the group made communication interesting!) and Andy would be stopping here. The hectic bag repacking and eating/drinking came and went in a flash and before I knew it the group was heading out of Honister up the next hill to Dalehead.

Departing from Honister 

Climbing out of Honister 

Tim hung back a bit to double check all required items were packed then ran off to catch the group up. He hadn't been certain he'd carry on to leg 5, having already done leg 2 from 1.30am-6am, then leg 4. But he was running well and happy to keep going. Brilliant.

With just support crew left behind we packed up and worked out who would need to wait for Andy O, Julien and Andy A to arrive to give them a lift to Keswick. Stuart with road shoes drove of fairly smartish, he needed to get to the road head at Newlands Church before the runners to ready all their road shoes for the final 4.5miles. Within only another 5 minutes Andy O and 2 two support runners came into view. Great, Andy was running under his own steam and didn't appear to be requiring urgent medical attention - I was so pleased to confirm he didn't, phew. It was such a relief to see he was running, talking and with us safely.

Off to Keswick we all went. Down the steep road and into town. Now all we could do was wait. Amazingly it was about 7pm so there wouldn't be too long to hang about. Planned arrival was 21:18 and if they held their gains it would be just before 9pm when they'd arrive. We bumped into Hanno from Pennine who had finished his BG round - I was pleased to see him and offer my congratulations, a stirling effort by him, his dogs (who ran some of it) and his wife who was on support duty with others. We had just enough time to grab dinner then get outside to Moot Hall in readiness for Dan and Ali's arrival. Our food seemed to be taking forever to get to us as we sipped our drinks. The tracker was consulted. They still seemed to be up by about 20 mins. Would that make it a sub 23hr round? We calculated and recalculated as we ate dinner, constantly watching the clock and the door - just in case they'd flown down the last few miles. Sikobe and Nev arrived and said they were back to being on schedule so we relaxed a little. The tracker had the guys finish line getting closer to the start point with each refresh. More calculations...more guestimates.

I couldn't bare being inside any longer so with dinner hastily finished I went outside with camera at the ready. A few rushed texts sent to various club members as I kept glancing down the road. I'm mid-text at 20:47, thinking if they'd stayed up on time they'd be here any minute. Then knowing they were back on schedule so dismissing that thought. Head down to finish my text and then a few cheers of encouragement exploded from fellow supporters standing by Moot Hall.........I look up...........it's Dan and a few support runners......grabbing the camera quickly I'm torn between cheering and clapping or snapping some shots. I opt for the latter, I seem to have adopted the very amateur role of photographer in this so best get this shot!!

Dan just feet away from Moot Hall

Dan launching himself up the Moot Hall steps....

Well done that man...you can stop running now
Dan sprints towards Moot Hall and up the steps.......fabulous. One in. One to go. Where's Ali........? Caitlin has run in with Dan but doesn't hesitate to double back down the road to find Ali.......before we can  congratulate Dan properly Ali is charging up the road. Tim and the others are close by. Ali touches Moot Hall and we all encourage him up the steps, as we're told is tradition. I'm sure it's just cruel to make a man climb 10 or so steps after such an epic day, but he obliged and the photos show his joy.

Ali and the support runners.....charging up the road towards Moot Hall

The photo says it all......one very pleased Ali

The next moments go by in a blur of congratulations, fish and chips, relief, beer and merriment. We all then jump in cars and get back to Scales so showers can be had, feet rested and beer drunk and some very well earned sleep. It was an absolute pleasure to be part of the guys BG round, an experience I know they won't ever forget, but one I won't either. I loved being there supporting and sharing the experience from a supporters viewpoint. It was also great that I got some time to have a brilliant run with Lins up Blencathra - I'll post some photos of that separately. Congratulations again to Dan and Ali, bad luck to both Paul and Andy - a cracking run and we'll be there supporting when you're ready for another go.

Here's a small selection of photos taken in the moments after Dan and Ali completed their 42 peak, sub-23hour Bob Graham Round:

Sikobe and Julien congratulating Ali. Dan appears to still be not quite believing he's finished.

Ali and Dan. Job done.

Caitlin supported on legs 3 and 5, and Tim supported on legs 2, 4 and 5 - well done to you and all the other supporters

Andy F and Hannah

Zena the dog who ran leg 5

no words required

nor here

Tim pretending to offer Phil chips..?

Lins and John H

Ali with Andy A and John H in the background

Moot Hall

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