Some Stuff About Me ......

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I live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire with my wonderful wife and soul-mate Helen. I have two incredible sons - Evan and Matthew - who are occasionally show up at home, usually when they're hungry or need money. The three of them are the best thing that ever happened to me and I love them all. I spent over 24 years in the Royal Navy, but since I packed it all in and got a proper job my life has gone from strength to strength and I've never looked back. I am a die-hard soul music fan and this remains a serious passion, but in recent years my life has been dedicated to running on the fells and trails of Northern England, it's what I was made for. Please read about my adventures and experiences ...

Friday, 21 October 2011

A Bit of an Epic ....

Haven't said much lately have I? I've been meaning to, but a combination of a busy life, work, acute writer's block and a vaguely embarrassed feeling about my fall at the Three Shires race have all contributed to, well, my keeping stumm I suppose. Seeing as my injured pride (and injured leg) is on the mend, perhaps it's time to give a brief precis of recent events.
So, yes, the Three Shires race. This was actually on the 17th September and it should have been a truly enjoyable day out, but it turned into a bit of a nightmare. I arranged to meet up with some lads from my "new" 2nd claim club (Dallam A.C.) so drove up to Arnside in what I can only describe as Monsoon Conditions. One disaster seemed to lead to another ... we had delays, flooded roads, cars breaking down and it meant that we were late - and I mean WELL late - for the race start. Our driver opted to head for Tilberthwaite, as we could most easily run to Little Langdale from there. So, that's what happened: we screeched to a halt in this deserted little village, dumped car and then ran along a trail that took to the bridge at the bottom of the lane leading to the Three Shires pub. Not a good start to the race .... I was knackered before we started! As it was, we needn't have bothered - there was a huge queue for registration and the race was delayed for at least 30 minutes.  Bugger.
I suppose that given the circumstances and my already tired legs, the race started reasonably well. We got a much better line up Wetherlam than on my previous recces, it was still a hell of a slog but no major problems. Swirl How and Great Carrs weren't a problem, but given the damp conditions (it had rained like hell the night before) I was finding it very tricky going as we went down Wetside Edge to Wrynose Pass. We got to the boggy bit at the bottom and I went in up to my thighs, causing me to do the classic full-frontal dive, totally filling my jacket with about 3 - 4 gallons of bog. Lovely.  The climb up Pike O' Blisco went without drama and I very smugly got the drop off the top bang-on, crossing the summit plateau and finding the trod quickly, overtaking about a dozen other runners who were still messing about trying to get down the rocky crags off POB. It's good when that happens :-)
Now, I know the route down Wrynose Fell to Blea Tarn well, having ran it at least 4 - 5 times before this race, but it didn't save me on the day. Just before you trend right towards the drystone wall, I slipped on a rocky outcrop and am sad to say that I took a bad fall and really cracked my right shin against a rock as I fell.  I got up to inspect the damage and was a bit shocked to see lots of white bone visible through a big hole in my shin - the first time I've actually seen one of my own bones, truth be told, and I'd have happily waited longer. My immediate reaction was one of anger, as thus far the fates really had been against me in this bloody race, but my bigger problem was how to get down from the fell as I assumed I was going to have to retire. A few runners who had been following me stopped and saw the mess, they elected to run to the next checkpoint and warn them I was on my way down in an injured state. Typically, the descent down to Blea Tarn is probably the worst on the entire route, steep, covered in bracken and lots of slippy rocks to trip you up. I made my way down (slowly), swearing and cursing like the bad-mouthed idiot that I am .... I got down to Blea Tarn and guess what? No marshalls .... apparently somebody else had got injured - worse than me - and they were taking the victim down to the finish for immediate treatment. I had to make a choice - it was retire and a long walk down the road, or carry on over Lingmoor Fell and finish the race. I went for Plan B (perhaps foolishly) and washed as much blood off my leg as I could in the tarn, then got moving up the fell, yes, it was painful but not impossible (nb - I'm told that a real fell runner would have had some gaffer tape to stick the skin down and plug the hole). As I was going up the fell, a voice behind me said "Is that blood I can see? Can I help? I'm a doctor" so obviously I turned round and showed the runner following me the damage. He looked at the gory mess and said "Well, actually, there's not much I can do - I'm a psychiatrist and the best I can do is tell you that you're f***ing mad, but I suspect you know that already". Not much use there then, but very funny in retrospect.  I do like a man with a sense of humour.

It was a relief to reach the top of the fell, but I wasn't really able to take advantage of the fast run down to the finish, my leg was in agony and it was as much as I could do to stay upright .... I limped into the finish tunnel to some cheers from the Dallam contingent and advice to stop fannying around etc, until the mangled state of my leg became clear and I was carried off to the St John's Ambulance caravan. I won't bore you too much with the rest of this story, suffice it to say that it really, really hurt to have a syringe full of neat TCP squirted in the hole and that the drive back to Harrogate wasn't funny at all, despite the painkillers I'd been given. I should add that one of my Dallam pals is a GP and was responsible for the TCP blast-out, I hope he's more sympathetic to his daily patients!! Not much more to this story, other than I finished the race in about 3.10, so that's not terrible and given the circumstances and I should be happy. I definitely wasn't happy with the 5 hours I had to spend in A & E while they messed around, Saturday night is not a good time to be in such places. It was something like this: Inspect, X-ray, local anaesthetic, scrub out the wound to get bits of fell out then cut all the loose skin off - I believe it's called "debriding". Nearly 4 weeks later I still have a bullet-sized hole in my leg, although thankfully the fat-lass cankle (caused by all the swelling) has gone. If anyone is morbidly interested, there is a morning-after piccie in my Flickr gallery.
So enough of my moaning and I'll cut a long story short by saying I was back training within a week and that the X-Trainer was a great way to get all that fluid shifted from my leg and get my lymph glands working properly. I was relieved to be running again, as myself and Helen were focussed on the forthcoming Langdale Horseshoe race, but really wanted to get back up on the course to finish off our recce, as the last time we tried it was a bit of a disaster, getting as far as Esk Hause before we had to call it a day due to bad weather. Lady Luck and Dame Fortune smiled on us, we both had the Friday off during that lovely little Indian Summer ( Sept 30th) so quickly arranged for a final camping weekend up in the Lakes - this time we managed to get a pitch at the Great Langdale site and it was a real treat, much better than that bloody awful Bays Brown place in Chapel Stile. So, up bright and breezy on the Friday, we headed for Cumbria and as the dawn came upon us it was evident that we were in for a gorgeous day. We met our friends Mark and Emma at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, still pinching ourselves at the splendid panorama and bright sunlight ..... I've spent quite a bit of time up in the Lakes this year and I swear this was the nicest day, weather-wise, that we've had. Truly magical. We scooted round the Langdale course without too much problem, finding the proper line under Esk Pike and spent some time debating the right way down from Bowfell, which I think is tricky. I don't think I'm doing justice to describing what a glorious day it was, but the memories will stay forever.
We found the prescribed route around The Bad Step without too much of a problem, going up and down a couple of times to make sure it was firmly burned into our memories. I am indebted to Rich G for this info and have to echo his thoughts ... knowing this, why on earth would anyone try and downclimb the BS (or worse, jump it) especially in wet and slippy conditions? A lot do.
We had Magnum lollies back at the campsite to cool off, then Mark and Emma departed, leaving us to set up camp. I have to say it was a brilliant end to the day, I sat in my chair, sipping a glass of wine and watched the sunlight melt away over Crinkle Crags and darkness envelope Langdale. Does it get much better? I suppose it does, but at that moment I was in my special place and very happy.

Anyhow, we wanted to take max advantage of the weekend and although we were meeting Dave and Alix on Sunday for a Newlands Horseshoe outing, we decided on a trip out to Scafell on Saturday. Nothing strenuous you understand, although that's probably a contradiction in terms in this territory. Anyhow, we went up to Bowfell via The Band then cut across onto the Climber's Traverse, taking me past bits of Bowfell I haven't seen before like the Great Slab etc. Then it was over Esk Pike and the tourist route to Scafell Pike (very busy) then over to the Mickledore ridge for a poke around on Broad Stand, as I've never been up it before and wanted to make my own judgement prior to next year's BGR shenanigans.

So now I see what all the fuss is about. From a distance, it seems like nothing but once you've squeezed up through Fat Man's Agony and got onto the the platform, what seems like an easy climb takes on a whole new perspective and I wouldn't like to do this without a rope, though I know several who have free-climbed it. I'd hate to be just another statistic, AW had it right.

After this, it was back via Esk Hause and a long and fairly tedious slog down Rossett Ghyll, but I was starving and wanted to get to the pub before the afternoon got too far along. We fairly flew down the last few miles, diving into the ODG like it was an oasis. I suppose it was, in a way! A couple of pints of Yates' Cumbrian bitter and I was fully restored

We'd arranged to meet Dave and Alix at Newlands at 0930 next morning, so got as much stuff ready the night before and then hit the sack early. Bad news is that the nice weather was over and it rained more or less all through the night, meaning we had a very wet tent to pack up next morning, pretty much everything else got wet too.  A bacon butty and cuppa in Ambleside perked us up a bit and despite some faffing around we weren't desperately late to Newlands. Dave had a plan to do the whole Newlands Horseshoe with maybe a drop down to Honister for a cuppa, so after a bit more grade A faffage we got moving. A funny day, from a weather perspective .... I mean, it was grey, drizzly, windy on the tops (it got seriously rainy later), but the air temperature was relatively high, making the whole experience a lot more pleasant that it could have been. After the initial slog up Catbells our legs felt a lot better and we had a tremendous zip across Maiden Moor, Bull Crag, High Spy and then down to Dale Tarn. A load of walkers saw us bombing past in the wet and the mud and I do believe we were the object of their amusement - you know - look at those daft buggers, what do they get from doing that etc. The answer was Quite a Lot, we were having a good time! I'll caveat that with saying it's a bit galling to slog all the way to the top of Dale Head and then go immediately back DOWN for a cuppa at Honister Slate Mine, but hey-ho, I know Dave had our best interests at heart and that cuppa and chunk of Mars Bar cake WAS nice. I think they must be used to people going in their like drowned rats and leaving a lot of water behind them Sooo, as you can imagine the next stage was a slog back UP Dale Head - yes, the one that we'd just climbed - but we stomped back up there strongly. Once we'd hit the top, a pretty good run followed to Hindscarth and I was reminded what a bloody good runner Dave is, he claims "not to have done much fell running" since his BGR in June, but he flew down from Hindscarth like Billy Whizz .... I stomped down after him, but truth be told I had approximately zero chance of even keeping up. He makes it look very easy, but it's really not.

One of the things I wanted to do was recce the alternate routes off Robinson (never done 'em before), so we dropped off the ridge path and headed down what is a pretty steep descent down to the path at the bottom of the Dale rather than continuing down Robinson Crags and heading across High Snab Bank. We've had a bit of a post mortem on this already, so I won't bore you with details, what I will say is that this could be quite a nasty descent on knackered legs and it gets very gnarly along the path. I will have to consider this route option carefully. It was raining quite heavily by the time we started this descent - "proper rain" - as we decided and I was wearing Roclites rather than my Mudclaws, so it was a bit exciting to say the least ..... I did a terrific mudslide and was very fortunate not to hit any rocks, I've had enough of hitting rocks if I'm honest.

Once down at Newlands car park there was a bit of a risque kit change with minimal towel coverage (we were all soaked and covered in mud) then into Keswick for cuppas. I'd been promising myself fish and chips from The Kingfisher all day, so resisted the gorgeous looking muffins that Dave and Alix had, it wasn't easy though! I have to say that I wish all my weekends were like that, but of course they're never going to be .... we had a great time with some great friends, covering over 40 miles and some serious ascent into the bargain. We got home late on the Sunday with a car full of wet, muddy and smelly kit but it was worth it.
This has turned into a bit of an epic and it wasn't my intention to waffle on quite so much, so I'm packing in for the moment. My account of the Langdale Horseshoe race will have to wait for a bit.