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Andys Bob Graham Round Report

BG day, 28 May 2010.

It was here at last, The day started with the kids up early for school, not much chance of a sleep in. Hadn’t really slept much the night before, was running the fells in my mind, going over the route ,the schedule, the lists of food, the equipment and all the other masses of paraphernalia that needs to be remembered. My body was rested even if my mind was not. My start time was scheduled for 6pm.

The last couple of days had felt more hectic than expected; I was staggered at how much organising had to be done. It was like some major military operation

Muesli for breakfast, lots of it, to much to be pleasant. This was followed mid morning by bacon butties and hot chocolate. (To get fat deep into my digestive system, Ray Gills tip) and then lunch comprised of a stack of pasta. So breakfast dinner and tea all before 1pm. I had been drinking lots of fluids, over the past few days; I wanted to be as hydrated as I could possibly be. My chosen drink was SIS Go. This drink is ok when consumed during exercise however it was horrid when being taken during normal day to day activities. I was desperate for some good coffee; I had been on caffeine starvation for 3 weeks in an attempt to gain maximum benefit from some caffeine on the night sections when I was expecting to be feeling quite low.

We set off for Keswick at 3.30pm, it’s about an hour’s drive, so we were going to be early, but with all this preparation the last thing I wanted was to be caught in traffic and arrive late.

On cue we were in Keswick 4.30 pm.

We mulled around the car park and as expected several other BG contenders arrived with various amounts support crew and camper vans. We are all very easy to spot, usually clad in Lycra, displaying several pieces of OMM and Inov8. We went to introduce ourselves and say hello. I felt like a bit of a fraud as these people looked like real fell runners and I had only been on the fells for 9 months and didn’t know what the BGR was only 12 months ago. I knew I was capable of the BG but I felt these other contenders were more experienced than me. Anyway it didn’t matter I knew I had done enough training; I couldn’t have done any more. Those 14 hour days in bad weather covering up to 3 legs carrying my own bag, on schedule, over and over again, were going to put me in good stead. I was more confident than ever that I had what it takes. I had convinced myself nothing was going to stop me, no mater how bad it got I was doing this, I was absolutely determined to carry on however bad it got, in my mind failure was not even a remote possibility.

We talked about the weather and our schedules. Most were on 23 hour schedules (the same as me). I wondered if it was going to be busy on Broad Stand. My support crew had arrived and we discussed our plans, I distributed the schedule the food and drink for leg one and my emergency bag. My crew on leg one were Mark and Dave, in addition Johnny and Baz had turned up to give support, I was very grateful.

My Wife Dawn and brother Paul (ground crew) were all ready to go and fully briefed.

We went into the main street and up to Moot Hall. Several groups were gathering and one by one they set off. Some were off at 5pm 5.30pm and 5.50pm. My good friend Tom who was also setting off at 6.00pm with me was all ready to go with his support crew by his side. Tom had talked about a new easier route off Blencathra, this was a route that I had not had the opportunity to try so I was in two minds as to whether to give it a go. Dangerous strategy some would say given that I had not tried it for myself. However it could save 10 minutes as I didn’t like the rocky route down Halls Ridge. For me to do this route, it meant Tom and I would still need to be together at the end of leg one. We had said that we would do leg one together however we also both knew that if either of us was quicker there would be no waiting. Tom is naturally quicker than me so I wondered if we would still be together at Blencathra.

setting of on the Bob Graham
Andrew and Tom

Leg 1

We said our goodbyes and readied ourselves.

At 5.59pm Tom and I had our hands on the door of Moot Hall. 6.00pm and we were off running to the sounds of clapping and cheers of support and encouragement from friends family and fellow cub members (Dallam and COLT). Through the ‘Sweet Temptation’ ally that leads off Keswick Main Street. Across the road and toward the bridge. We were jogging steadily and approached a small rise just before the foot bridge, I naturally continued to run up the slope and was brought under control by Dave, ‘Whoa’ came the order from Dave, ‘no running on the up we have a long way to go’. He was right but I had Tom ahead of me and the thought that he could show me the new route off Blencathra if we were still together, this may save me 10 minutes on leg one, which could come in handy later. We were barely off the tarmac and I was thinking there was a conflict, my crew wanted me to slow and Tom was gaining ground. I had to listen to my crew they were in charge, I certainly didn’t want to ignore their advice. I had to believe they knew best. I held back and let Tom go. The walk up Skiddaw felt good. Baz was busy telling his stories to keep us all amused on the assent, just what I needed to take my mind off it. We hit the summit at 78 minutes and we were one helper down. (Its surprising how quick you go when you are being fuelled on adrenalin) I felt strong; there is a lot to be said for no bag to carry. It felt effortless and my heart rate was below 150, this was good. We caught Tom on the decent off Skiddaw. The run across to Great Calva was good under foot, it was the driest I had experienced, we hit the top of Great Calva at 7.53 this was 17 minutes up. Tom and I posed for a photo on the top


great calva bob graham
Tom and Andrew Great Calva

No hanging around, we were off through the heather to Musgrove Common. I had two official helpers on this leg (Mark and Dave) and two friends that were along for the ride. As we dropped towards the river we were down to four, Johnny did not make it beyond Skiddaw. And then Baz went over on his ankle and he was gone. We checked he was ok and then we were off. He was experienced enough to make his own way off. So I carried on with my two helpers Dave and Mark. Before we got to the river Mark was struggling with cramp and was having difficulty keeping up. As we climbed up Musgrove common, it was only Dave that was by my side. Much of my food and drink was with Mark, as was my emergency bag! Mark was a long way back by now. Oh no this was unexpected. Problems so early on the round. I thought hold it together, not long to Threlkeld we can sort it all out there. Tom and his party were about 500m ahead; we gained on them as we climbed up Blencathra. This pleased me as I thought we could get the line from them for the new route down. Dave really did not want to try this route as we had not done it in training, he was all for the safe option of Halls Ridge. I hated Halls Ridge with a passion, even if it was very familiar. We hit the summit at 8.51 which was fab. Tom was not far ahead and we managed to catch their line as they went down the parachute run. It was quick and steep, was it the right decision; well there was no going back now. It was quicker but it was quite demanding on the legs. I hopped I hade made the right decision and was not going to pay for it later. Off the fell and down the road, it was full of support for other BGers. Many already in and being tended to. It did feel good running past all these people that knew exactly what I was doing, people that understand how mad we all are. Dave and I arrived at my support venue which was at the remote end of the road which goes past the treatment works. It was all laid out for me the deck chair, the shelter tent, the food and warm soup.

Threlkeld bob grahamThrelkeld, Andrew, Dawn and Paul

Dave my nav man on leg one was straight over to the leg two support crew and they were huddled and whispering. I knew what he was telling them as I looked over, he was saying that I may have gone two fast on leg one and to make sure they do not let me go too quick on leg two. I didn’t feel that I had gone too quickly, I felt great, however Dave had a lot more experience than me so I knew I had to be careful with the pace. The next crew was ready to go but my emergency bag was still on Blencathra. My crew and others managed to find enough spare kit for me on leg two. Dawn and Paul (wife and brother ground crew team) attended to my every need, I was well fed and watered, had a nice warm top on for cooler night section and my head torch at the ready. I took 6 minutes at this stop, it felt a lot longer.

Leg 2

I had two official helpers on leg two, Stuart was sherpa and John was nav man. Neil my work college had also come along for the ride. We set off up the tarmac road, We were probably a couple of minutes behind Toms group. We have differences of opinion about which line up Clough Head. I like the easy longer trod whereas Tom likes the steep direct grassy assent. I thought this would be the last I see of Tom until the end as he left the old coach road and commenced his climb. However as we approached the summit we seen Tom behind us coming up from the more direct route. Maybe I was going too fast; I would need to rein it in a bit. But my helpers were not saying slow down, unlike leg one. We ticked off the Dodds on or near schedule and it was getting to the point where the torches were needed. I like to hold off as long as possible as it always seems to go very dark as soon as the glare of the lights is present. We carried on to Sticks Pass and were met by Mike. He had climbed up to meet us en-route and had brought sliced oranges, and strong coffee. Doesn’t sound like a great combination but it was. The oranges really hit the spot, probably because it was so unexpected. I think I was stunned that someone would make effort to deliver food and drink en-route. I was experiencing BG hospitality; it was great and really humbling.

By now it was proper dark and the lights were on. Ahead of us we could see lights on the Helvellyn range, strung out like a line a boats out at sea. Some how they appeared to be way above us and near the cloud line, did we really have that far to climb. We approached the Helvellyn range and we were gaining ground on the contenders that were ahead of us. There had been several groups before us some choosing to set off at 5.00, 5.30 and 5.50pm. Gaining ground on and overtaking some of these groups was giving me more confidence, I was feeling strong and was surprised that I had no fatigue at all as I dropped off Dollywaggon down to the tarn. Only 2 weeks previous I had done legs one and two together at night and felt absolutely rotten. At the time I thought how on earth will I be able to do another 3 legs after this. It was a worrying thought at the time, however tonight was different I felt great and stunned that almost 2 legs done and the miles were not yet taking their toll. We could see the leading groups on the assent up Fairfield, we had gained on them considerably. They passed us on their way down as we were still climbing up. It was only John the nav man that came to the top of Fairfield with me. Its a horrible climb, not because it is steep or seems futile as it is an out an back and one of those summits that’s been thrown in just for the shear hell of it, but because the path is so eroded there is no easy way up without constantly falling to hands and knees and clambering on bare scree. On the way down we passed Tom on his way up. This gave me even more confidence as I did expect him to be miles ahead by now. Or it could be that I was going too fast. I was pleased to be ahead of schedule as it was like building in an insurance policy. I don’t move across very rough ground as well as others so I was going to need all the spare time I could get for leg three. As we dropped off Seat Sandal we passed the leading groups.

We all arrived in mass at Dunmail at 1.22. I was exactly one hour up on schedule. Perfect! I was on top of the world. Dawn and Paul were all ready for me as were the leg three crew. I had several cups of warm soup and some tea. I was handed a chicken tikka baguette and ordered to eat. That was hard work. Paul tended to my feet, new socks a bit of talc. And then we were ready for the off.

Leg 3

On leg three I had Steve as nav man and Mic and Jarv as sherpas. We started the long assent up steel fell at 1.35am. Looking behind me it was like a convoy of people, I have never seen anything like it, there was head torches everywhere. As we approached the summit and it levelled out the other groups were hot on our heels. This worried me as thought it would cause problems at Broad Stand. Steve is a fantastic mountaineer and knows leg 3 like the back of his hand. I was happy for him to take us on some alternative trods, ones that I had not known about. We could hear some of the following groups debating the route choice and then came the comment ‘their nav man seems to know the way pretty well, let’s stick with them’. This amused me but annoyed my sherpas who had strong opinions about a contenders ability to navigate. I am sure they knew the way. It wasn’t long before we were well ahead of all the following groups. I was pleased with this as I wanted a clear run at Broad Stand. Broad Stand is my nemesis. I have heard too many stories about accidents on BS from my brother Paul who is in Wasdale mountain rescue. It’s easy to do Broad Stand and not really appreciate the dangers. There was no chance of this for me as the dangers had been spelt out to me in graphic detail several times over. It was Tom’s friend Dick who was providing a rope at Broad Stand and Tom had reassured me with tales of how good the ropes would be and there would be a harness and lots of safety devices so I had nothing to fear. Dick was a top climber so it would be top notch. We continued our journey across the tops over the Langdales and toward the Scarfell Range. I had planed for it to be coming light by the time I was at Sergeant Man. No chance of that, I was too far ahead of schedule. It didn’t start getting light until somewhere around Rossett. Pike This was not as plan as the last thing I wanted was to be on the roughest section of the round (Langdales) when it was dark. Well I suppose this is the price I pay for being ahead of schedule. My sherpas were doing a great job of making sure I was eating and drinking. I was trying to eat every 30 minutes without fail. I knew I would not feel like it but it is a necessary evil if I was to keep going. I was eating a lot of energy gels as these seem to be easy to digest, however they do become very sickly.

Scarfell was approaching and I was anxious that the following contenders were gaining on us in the distance. I really wanted Broad Stand to ourselves. Was this still going to be possible? Next time I looked round they were there, but it was Tom, back from the dead! I was pleased to see him even if I did secretly want to do my round quicker than him. Probably not much chance of that now. Tom moved across the rough ground well and as he approached BS he as ahead of us. At the foot of BS I was surprised to see our ‘super dooper safe rope system’ comprised of a single tired looking rope, no harnesses and certainly no continuing rope to the top. If my brother could see this he would not be pleased. Tom went up first with ease. It was my turn as I stood at the bottom of the climb and held the rope in my right hand, I was visited by a cold sweat. I let go of the rope and turned to Steve and said I don’t think I can do this, can we go up foxes tarn. Steve was firm with his response, ‘no you’re going up and you’re going up now’ before I knew it I was being pushed from below and guided from above. I was trembling all over and was absolutely petrified. I did not look down as I reached across the wet slimy rock which it by far the worst bit. I clung on for dear life. I made it past Dick and he congratulated me on my round so far. I was very grateful for the rope and his encouragement. I continued to the top still a bit of climbing and clambering to do. I did not look down once. I was pleased when I made it to Scarfell. I felt like I had lost time on BS but I had actually gained one minute.

Just the decent into Wasdale to contend with now. We went down the BG scree and across to the river to follow the tourist path. I was keen to take it easy on this decent as it had taken so much out of me on previous occasions. I had time in the bag so was happy to go slow on the decent.

wasdale bob graham
Andrew coming into Wasdale

We arrived at the car park at 7.26 over an hour up on the 23 hour schedule. Here I was in for a real treat, new socks, new shoes new blister pad on a blister that had been bothering me and best of all a bacon and sausage bun with lashing of brown sauce. The food was great and I was certainly ready for it. It all seemed to be coming together, and it was largely thanks to the great bunch of friends and family and fellow Dallam club runners that were supporting me. This was my longest break of the day a full 19 minutes. They were very welcome but there was no holding me down, I wanted the high to continue. Along with my 2 new helpers I was off.

Leg 4

We left Wasdale at 7.45. My nav man was Ray and my sherpa was Mike. We commenced the climb up Yewbarrow, it was tough, probably the toughest of the day so far. Was this the start of the bad feelings to come? My stomach was jammed full of food and I felt quite nauseous. I had to stay focused as this is probably the most critical time on the round. I had lots of time in the bag so I could easily afford to take it easy and relax. As we climbed and I slowed we were over taken by one of the 5pm start groups. He looked strong as he went past. This knocked me down a peg or two. However I was heartened by the fact that I was sill one hour ahead of him due to the difference in start times. Ray and I discussed the line to take at the top of Yewbarrow, Ray is keen on the direct route which is slightly shorter, I prefer the longer more shallow curved line as you approach the summit. Ray and I ran this section a few weeks ago as part of the Billy Bland Challenge Relay, to be fair we took the direct route then and it was quicker. However that day we did complete leg four in 3 hours and 18 minutes. No chance of that today! The nice easy long route for me today please Ray.

yewbarrow bob graham
Andrew, Yewbarrow

As we got to the top of Yewbarrow I felt rotten, I was hoping I was not starting to go down hill. We took it easy up red pike but I was disheartened to see the 5pm group disappearing into the distance. They were really motoring now. Once over Red Pike I was starting to regain composure, I put the low point down to setting off with a full belly. Better that way then the other!

steeple bob grahamSteeple. Andrew and Ray

The weather was starting to turn, the clag was descending and there was a small amount of drizzle however based on the very rough forecast that had been predicted it was very mild. In fact I would go as far as to say a bit of light rain was welcome as it helped to cool me down. I was approaching Kirk Fell and I knew I had two monster climbs left. The rest would pail into insignificance after Kirk Fell and Great Gable. I was feeling good and confident that I definitely had it in me. Word had got out at how much I liked the oranges on Sticks Pass and as a consequence Mic had made a special journey up to Kirk Fell to please me with some sliced oranges. They were fab. Off we went, up Kirk Fell I was slowing by now but I was surprised that I was still managing to hit the summits on schedule, or there abouts. My legs were becoming a bit weary but I knew there was enough left to get me back. My big psychological mile stone was reaching the top of Gable. I really like this climb, it is very challenging but its like climbing a massive set of stairs, big step after big step, all good under foot. On training days at the summit of Gable it became custom for us to crack open a can of peaches. Today was no exception and they tasted better than ever. Mike was really pleased I was now eating this large tin of peaches, as he had carried them from Wasdale. The fingers were in the tin like I hadn’t been fed for a week, there was syrup everywhere. Why is it that all sense of personnel hygiene goes out of the window and you revert to cave man like behaviour in situations such as this?

great gable bob grahamPeaches on Great Gable. Ray and Andrew

The party of walkers huddled in the shelter looked at me like I was a mad man. When Mike explained what I had done/was doing they responded with gasps of ‘how far’ how long’ ‘Bob who’. This was a good reminder of how extraordinary this challenge was. I was on a high for the next three summits which pale into insignificance compared to others on leg four. Ray took me down a quick line into Honister, it felt like we were down in no time. Ray said we didn’t do this as quick today as we did last time, but not a bad effort considering. (Reference to our BB Challenge a couple of weeks before). I arrived at my chair very please to see my wife and brother and several friends supporters and club mates. We were all thinking it’s in the bag now, still an hour up on schedule. My brother told me after that I was looking pretty rough by then but chose not to mention it at the time. I certainty didn’t feel as bad as expected. Still being fuelled on adrenalin I expect. Dawn fed me and Paul as usual tended to my feet. Here I had cream teas, home baked scones with jam and cream and some lovely lukewarm tea. They mentioned that only 15 minutes previous one of the other contenders who was ahead of me came in to Honister and thought my support crew was his support crew. He sat down in my chair and complimented my brother on the food and cream teas that were laid out, only to be told to ‘’clear off, It’s not for you’’! To which he was responded in a very dejected way as he made his way across the car park to what my brother described as ‘his own meagre support arrangement’. Poor guy, but it did make me laugh.


Leg 5

We set off at 12.58 from Honister. OH yes!! 5 hours left to do the last leg. Short of a disaster I was going to make it, however no room for complacency. It would only take a momentary loss of concentration, a twisted ankle and it could all be over. So stay focused. I had been eating every 30 minutes and I was really fed up of eating, I didn’t want any more. But I had given my sherpas instructions to feed me every 30 minutes and on q before the top of Dalehead I had yet another sticky horrible energy gel. Baulking as it went in, holding back the sick. a necessary evil that was keeping the engine going. On leg five I had several friends, plenty of good chat and support which helped me to block out the increasing pain in my legs. My nav man was Dan and my sherpa was Dave (who also did nav on leg one) and those welcome encouragers Richard, Mic, Helen and Julie. Dalehead, Hindscare and Robinson all pretty much on schedule, stopping for a quick photo at Robinson to the capture the moment of peak 42.

robinson bob grahamRobinson. Dan and Andrew

This was almost job done. The weather had turned and the refreshing drizzle was rapidly becoming miserable drizzle. The decent off Robinson was a real killer, I had been feeling ok on the up but now it was becoming unbearable on the descents, every step was done in a way so as to cause the least amount of pain. Just like the times I can’t walk down the stairs the day after a tough session, walking down sideways or backwards, after 21 hours it was taking it toll on my body. Before long we were at Snab Farm, quick stop for road shoes and we were off again. It was 21 hours on the clock, I could have walked from here comfortably however, after discussion with my trusted companions I was encouraged to give it my all and get under 22 hours. I had no intention of anything less than 23 hours but now the option was here it was worth taking. Richard stated that pain was temporary but a sub 22 hours will live with you forever. He is correct of course. So off we went, how I found the energy to run at the pace I did I do not know, I felt like a bionic man. I would not of thought it humanly possible to run like this after so long on my feet, however I was being carried by the moment, the atmosphere the encouragement and the adrenalin. It felt fantastic. 45 minutes later and Moot Hall was in the distance, I now had several other runners joining me for the finish all brilliant with their encouragement.

Keswick, Helen, Andrew, Dan, Julie, Dave and Richard.

The last 500m up the main road and into the pedestrian area of Keswick Town centre were now here, months and months of preparation for this moment. Welling up inside as my wife came into view, what an unbelievable sensation. Exhaustion, relief, satisfaction, joy and an immense amount of appreciation for all those friends and fellow Dallam Running Club members that had sacrificed so much time and effort for my pursuit of the BG challenge. I laid my hands on those doors. It was done. Fantastic Experience. One that will live with me forever. 21 hours and 50 minutes.

moot hall keswick

Andrew. Moot Hall steps.

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