Stuck firmly in my brain, somewhere in-between London marathon 2004, the Lakes 50 2012, my 55 minute run at Derwentwater 10, and my first ever race win, at Langholm Doctors Run, are the great days I've spent running long in the fells with friends.
Among those best remembered are,
the first time I ran the Derwent Watershed (aka Borrowdale Watershed) with Iain Kelly,
Pete Beers BGR leg 3 with Dale and Karl,
the Four 3000s with Ian Charters,
Xmas on the fells 2009 Fairfield Horseshoe in deep snow taking 4hours!!
Stustods BGR leg 3 with Stu and Iain (slippyhands) Kelly
And I like to think that last Saturdays run will make it into that same category of fondly remembered days out - only time will tell, but it was certainly a fantastic day.....
Craig Smith is to help me on my BGR - he's doing leg 2, over the Dodds and Helly etc. After spending a day in his company, I know I'll be in good hands.
I hadnt known Craig prior to the TWA race a week earlier, he was one of those lads who you see all the time but don't know their name.
Craig suggested we begin our day at 0730! Thats a bit on the early side for me, I am famously lazy and disorganised so I opted to drive through to the lakes on Friday night and sleep in the van so as to be an hour or so nearer. Penrith Stu asked WTF I bothered doing the overnight thing when I live so close? Well, apart from the minor time saving I already mentioned I'd say.. Why not? Its great fun and not at all cold once inside a decent sleeping bag. As I drove out of the city in the last hour of sunlight I noticed that a lot more fresh snow had been dumped on the fells since I'd last been up. As I drove from Bothel to Keswick the Skiddaw massif loomed in front of me looking quite spectacular with its pure white cap against an ever darkening, but still blue from the glorious cloudless day, sky.
At the location I chose as my 'campsite' I wandered around for 10 mins with Scamp in the last remaining light. Across Thirlmere the skyline was jutted with trees sticking up into the night, the silence was awe inspiring despite the torrent of Helvellyn Gill merely 50 yds away. Scamp took the front seat of the van and I settled down for what was a surprisingly good sleep - only a few raindrops about 5am stirring me awake.
Before I drove up to meet Craig I popped along to Wythburn church and left some water and food in a stash for later. At 730 I was parked at Keswick, but still not sorted out re my pack, clothing etc etc. We got off at 0737hrs - jogging at a relaxed sub 10 min miling along the railway line to Threlkeld.
It was a chilly morning and I was wearing a fleece over my base layer and compression top. As we climbed Clough Head I got warm, but as our altitude became more significant I felt the chill wind and was pleased to be wearing as much. I hadnt bothered to time the climb to Clough Head, this wasnt a BGR day, and anyway, I'm pretty sure we smashed the 59 mins allowed as we were on our way toward Calfhow in what seemed no time at all.
Gt Dodd was invisible. We were not fussed about climbing it anyway, and contoured the path to the RHS which gives a natural line South past the other Dodds and on towards Sticks Pass, Raise and eventually Helvellyn. Craig had put on an extra layer and I did too at Sticks Pass - it was seriously breezy and therefore cold but the great thing was knowing that although still early, we were almost at the highest point of the day and would soon be enjoying views, sun, less wind and much more warmth.
Coming off Helly toward Wythburn we took a while to stop here and there as Craig was keen to learn of the best way down for the forthcoming Old Counties Tops race. At the Southern junction of the back-o-Thirlmere road I grabbed the stash and tucked into a pasta pot as we walked.
To this point we had taken just over 3 hours to cover almost 14 miles. Craig reckoned on it being 22/23/24 miles altogether and with the highest climbing done, we agreed that it may be another 2 hours to go. I had been keeping an eye on the average pace all day long. After the early sub 10 pace it had steadily dropped to nearer 4mph (15min milling), which, in BGR terms is about right for a run so 'short'
A crappy involved section before we got to Harrop Tarn slowed us down and we eventually opted to climb over one of the huge deer fences to gain a much better path on the other side. Then we were climbing up and over the boggy ground past Blea Tarn toward Watendlath. Dropping down toward Watendlath we opted not to go all the way to the village itself but swing across left a bit to join the path out that leads to Rosthwaite.
The run down into Rosthwaite was speedy, real good running ground. Lots of walkers knocking about there too. Then a flurry of what (even though they were all walking at the time) were clearly runners. It was Ian Mulvey of Hi Terrain events leading (I presume) a recce of the Borrowdale trail race route. Moments later, in Rosthwaite, Craig stopped at a car window to chat to the driver who he knew. As he told me who he'd been speaking to I realised it was the dad of Adam who I had recently been to Majorca with on Appleby Stu's training camp.
Before we left Rosthwaite Craig stopped again to chat to a farmer he knew as he skinned a dead lamb (apparently they put the skin onto another lamb which is at risk of non survival, then the ewe of the dead one thinks its hers and looks after it. Everyone happy, (with possible exception of the dead fella).
Id been glancing at my GPS and noted we had been bringing the average back to nearer 15min/mile but the stops in Rosthwaite had let it slip again to 15:40. Climbing up toward the base of Dalehead/High Spy we lost yet more average but then saw steady gains all the way back to Keswick.
Climbing High Spy we were on the same ground as the previous week in the TWA. In TWA this was about 11 miles into the day, this time it was about 21 miles in, and this time I felt much better too, still full of running. This is most likely explained by the fact that the TWA was a race and also much more ascent per mile (approx 480 feet per mile for the whole TWA race compared to 300 feet per mile by the end of this run).
I felt so good that as we approached the col between Maiden Moor and our final climb of the day, Catbells, I asked Craig if if he thought we could run up it. He said no so I tried to. I'm sure I could have ran all the way to the final rocky bit but Craig was walking so i waited for him.
All that was left to do was drop off the back of Catbells, along the track to Mrs Tiddywinkles Cottage (I have no idea - I think Craig is into romantic fiction) then along tracks to the marina, Portinscale and finally across a couple of fields into Keswick.
We stopped at the police station in the town and I realised then why Craig wanted an early start - he must be on some kind of tag and needs to report in at a certain time every day. Summat like that anyway.
Craig said this route is called the Northwest Frontier. I've never heard of that before but shall forever now call it that anyway.
Final stats of the day can be seen here. And can be summarised as;
28 miles in 6hrs 33 mins (4.3mph) with 8500ft of ascent