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 ...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Bob Graham Round Success - Part #1


121st Psalm - Stained Glass in St Olaf's Church, Wasdale
Leg 1 Support Runners:
Patrick Bonnet (navigation)
Emma David

I'm not a particularly religious bloke, but there is something about the 121st Psalm that I find quite inspiring. Those that hang around in far-flung places like Wasdale may well have seen it before, because there is a tiny piece of stained glass in the window of St Olaf's chuch that has these words beneath a nice little picture of Napes Needle. It was paid for by the Fell and Rock climbing club, the same that stumped up for the Great Gable memorial in 1924.  Actually, I've just realised that on my last long training run prior to BGR attempt #1 in June I dropped into Wasdale on a gorgeous sunny day and dared to put my name in the prayer book in St Olaf's. It was something like "Please give Martyn strength during his forthcoming ordeal", so obviously something went badly wrong here.  I refuse to believe that God wasn't listening, so can only assume that the vicar of Seascale (Wasdale is too small to have its own clergyman) must have had a few too many communal sherries that morning and missed me off the list! I could have done with a bit of that strength going up Yewbarrow if I'm honest.

In retrospect, there is something about an initial failure that makes success taste very sweet indeed, but leading up to my second attempt it only served to magnify my apprehension. Would my body hold out?  Could I focus for 24 hours on moving quickly over some of the rockiest terrain in the country? Would the weather be kind to me this time?  Therefore, you'll understand my angst when the forecast for Friday 17th August slowly deteriorated and it became obvious conditions were going to be crap. I had both the Thursday and Friday off work (the intention being to sleep), a good thing too because I made the difficult decision to delay by 24 hours and spent most of the Thursday contacting my support team and trying to rearrange things. As it transpired, I was lucky ... most of the team could make it for Saturday. Also had a bit of a boost when Dave Almond (who is chiefly to blame for all this Bob Graham malarkey in any case) got in touch to say he had managed to swing the time off work and would be joining me on leg 2. A major bonus!

A BGR attempt can be a logistical nightmare, it really can. I've supported a lot of attempts and there's no prescribed way to do it, but the ones you remember are when the contender makes an effort to look after his/her support team and feed and water them properly. It's not always like this. My view is that supporting an attempt is no small matter, apart from the cost and expense of actually getting to the Lakes in the first place, there's also a high chance of intense physical discomfort over a prolonged period with little to show for it.  It's a pretty selfless task, so when you get right down to it the contender should try and make a bit of provision for his supporters.  Anyhow, Helen handled the logistics for both my attempts and I have to say she did it very well, for my latest attempt we were laden down with cake (thanks Stef/DT!), tea and bacon butties and enough biscuits to choke a horse, I sincerely hope that nobody was hungry or thirsty at any point. You know where to send complaints if you were (i.e. not to me).

Saturday came and it appeared that the Weather Gods were smiling at long-suffering Martyn and about bloody-time too. It turned into a fantastic day and as we headed up to Cumbria it was wall-to-wall blue sky, the forecast was good for the night with the possibility of rain later on the Sunday - looking good! We got to Keswick in good time and met the support team, quite a few of the people on later legs had come to see me off and I was grateful as the chatter and hubbub helped keep my nerves at bay.  Everyone kept on assuring me that it would be fine and I really wanted to believe them, a lot of time and effort was invested in this moment.  I didn't want to fail.   6.00pm came and we were off, Patrick and Emma supporting. Patrick successfully completed his BGR a couple of months back and Emma has spent a lot of time on leg 1 of late - only the previous weekend she'd paced leg 1 for our friend Carol (who got round in 22:33), so I was in very good company.

The Support Team
My friend Martin Gardiner from Dallam R.C. (who was doing leg 2) also decided to come along as far as Latrigg, so the four of us wound our way out of Keswick and very soon we were on Spooney Green Lane and heading upwards. I felt strong, I could feel the nervous anticipation in my legs and all I wanted to do was get to the top of the monster they call Skiddaw and get my teeth into it.  Who could blame me? 

Skiddaw - It doesn't always look this good!
Helen and Dave Harrison were there at Latrigg (they had taken the rucksacks up there) and I got a quick peck on the cheek before heading through the fell gate. What an evening! There wasn't a cloud in the sky and I was flying upwards and feeling that I could really do this.  The summit came in a flash and before I knew it Patrick was leading me down towards the Cumbrian way and Great Calva. The rain from the previous day meant that it was heavy going over Hare Crag, but no mistakes this time (i.e. I didn't fall into a bog) and before I knew it we had crossed the Caldew and were heading up the back of Mungrisdale Common.

I turned round as we started the traverse under the summit ridge and were treated to one of the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen.  I knew I didn't have time to mess about, but as the sun sank over the horizon and we neared the top of Blencathra, we were treated to a sky of burning red and oranges, it was truly spectacular and I realised just how lucky I was to be alive and capable of enjoying this, it was a very special moment. We hit the ridge about 50yds to the right of the summit, a bit of a hiccup but OK for navigation by dead-reckoning (a lesson there I suppose) and before long we were on out way down Doddick Fell, Emma's monster headtorch floodlighting the side of the mountain and the lights of Threlkeld winking below us. You could spend all night arguing about the rights and wrongs of the "best" BG descent off Blencathra, all I will say is that I've tried them all and in wet conditions the Parachute -which I used on my last attempt - doesn't buy "normal" runners like me much and possibly has an adverse affect in terms of impact on your descending muscles, as it's so incredibly steep at the top. I'm not a fan of Hall's Fell (no matter which way you go down it) so Doddick is really the only sensible option and the extra few minutes it costs is well justified. Anyhow, I pulled into the first rest stop at Threlkeld Cricket Club dead on schedule and the place buzzed with energy, everyone was enjoying the occassion and I was overjoyed to see Jules Coleman, Brian Stallwood (Stolly), Martin and Dave lined up, smiling and ready to go.

This was a lot different than my last attempt and there was a tangible sense of optimism.  I'd been here a week before with Carol on her BGR and it was a beautiful evening, tonight maybe wasn't quite as good (the stars were absent) but it was a pretty good second best.  A quick change of socks, a cuppa, a big bowl of oatmeal granola and I was ready to go. Headtorch back on and we were off down the lane to Newsome house and Leg 2, everything looking good!

To be continued - watch out for the next part!

1 comment:

Simon Childs said...

Great stuff Martyn. In the words of one great public speaker "I have a dream".