Morgan's CCC for YCR
Event: The CCC on 27/08/2010
Team Members: Morgan Williams
£2,805.00 raised of £2,000.00 target
£2,805.00 raised so far
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Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page.25 years ago this year, I completed the Bob Graham Round in the English Lake District.
The link below to the website of the Bob Graham 24 Hour Club tells you more about the nature of this challenge. I am member number 371 and, at 21 years old, was one of the younger members at that time.
Little did I think that 25 years later I would be Secretary of the Club and partly responsible for upholding the very best traditions of amateur long distance mountain endeavour.
As one who gets ideas well and truly above his station, I tried to take things to the next level the following year, 1986. I trained for and organised an attempt on the Lakeland 2,500s, a continuous traverse of all the summits over 2,500 feet in the Lake District, to be completed in 48 hours (116 miles and 42,250’ of ascent). This challenge had only been completed within that time once, by the late Steve Parr back in 1984. Steve gave me advice on my attempt. My event t-shirt said it all: “Lakeland 2,500s No brain, no pain”.
Just as the weather for my Bob Graham was poor, so it was for the 2,500s. It was appalling. Getting from Green Gable to Great Gable across Windy Gap was like being blasted by jet engines. Hands and knees. Somewhere between Wasdale and the Coniston range my knees began to swell in the incessant heavy rain and after 50 plus miles I called it a day and left the challenge for tougher men. (None so far within 48 hours!)
I had decided to use the 2,500s to raise some money for the Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team. Spending time in the fells around Ambleside made me grateful for the knowledge that those guys were there, ready and willing to come out and fetch in the event of trouble (though the shame if it had ever been necessary. Two clubmates were on the team in those days!) In the end all my sponsors paid up, despite my failure to finish the challenge and £4,000 or so found its way to LAMRT. They spent the brass on an extension to their Low Fold base in Ambleside.
By 1990 my advancing career in the legal profession had accounted for my running career, good and proper. Getting married and starting a family ensured no immediate comeback. It took the collapse of my first marriage in late 2001 to propel me back to the sport I love so much. Wondering how to use those long winter evenings made me join my local club, Ilkley Harriers, in the spring of 2002 and the adventures began again.
Since then I have been competing regularly in fell races and similar events, here and abroad, usually finishing somewhere in the middle of race fields, as age takes its toll on a talent that was never that sharp in the first place. Inevitably, with my history, I have gravitated to longer events.
At the end of 2008 I quit my career as a solicitor, resigning my partnership in Lee & Priestley in Leeds. In 2004 one of my partners, Michael Rakusen, was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Within 5 months he was dead. I inherited a number of Michael’s roles. Some of these helped to convince me enough was enough. In mid 2007, a friend and professional colleague, David Rhodes, an accountant practising in Pudsey, was diagnosed with a brain tumour. David had brain surgery and, whilst recovering, suffered a fatal heart attack.
One of my oldest clients was Yorkshire Cancer Research with whom I had been working since 1992. Ideas formed and action was taken. In early January 2009 I started work with YCR, working to help their funded researchers and their Universities with translational projects. My work involves identifying and then helping to put together projects with the potential to move off down the road towards the clinic or hospital, to benefit cancer patients. The work is challenging and rewarding.
Back in 2008 I raced the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges in Chamonix, a 58km mountain race with 4,000 metres of climbing. I love Chamonix and spend time there in the summer most years walking, running, biking and climbing in the mountains with my wife, Alison Eagle, whose talent as a lady fell runner is markedly better than mine as a man!
Signing up for the CCC was a natural progression from the Aiguilles Rouges race. It will be the furthest I have run since 1985. Using the event to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research was an easier call. I see first hand every day the fantastic work done by the scientists and clinicians who are funded by YCR. I see the care and attention that goes into determining who receives Awards. I see and participate in the monitoring to check on progress to generate and maximise value for cancer patients. I am involved in selecting and funding those projects with the best chance of providing benefits to cancer patients. I see the efforts of our fundraisers, both at HQ in Harrogate and all over the county of Yorkshire. So my motivation is strong.
Please support me. When the going gets tough during the CCC (as it will), your support will keep my my feet on the trail.
Details of the CCC course can be found at:
http://www.ultratrailmb.com/page.php?page=parcoursCCC The Yorkshire Cancer Research website can be found at:
The photos posted above show some of the wonderful mountain scenery through which I will be running in August; though with a 10.00 am start for the CCC, it will be dark by the time I get onto the trials above Chamonix which look over to the Chamonix Aiguilles and Mont Blanc!
I get rude comments about my dodgy bandana; but it gets very hot over there at altitude and I don't have much hair left, hence the need for something on the head.
I will post updates every now and then to let you all know how things are going.
Thursday 20 May 2010
Thoughts are turning to my clubmate Nicky Jacquiery's Bob Graham attempt set for 21/22 May. She has been champing at the bit whilst tapering and can't wait to get started. Nicky has a great background in long distance fell races and challenges. With Heather Dawe, another Ilkley Harrier, she holds the ladies record for the Old Counties Tops race, a wonderful 37 mile extravaganza that takes in Helvelyn, Scafell Pike and Coniston Old Man starting and finishing at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Langdale, which will take place while she is on legs 3 and 4 of her BG attempt. She has done the Fellsman and the Lakeland 50 in recent times as well, and has done lots of preparation.
Nicky starts at 7.00 pm on Friday evening. Pacers are all sorted, as well as road support and logistics.
My wife Alison is pacing leg 4 with the navigation duties entrusted to Helene Whitaker (formerly Diamantides), so the navigation on that leg is in particularly good hands.
I have the navigation duties on leg 5, all fairly straightforward if it is a nice day, and it should be.
I will be carrying extra water to pour over Nicky at regular intervals. 24 degrees doesn't sound too bad, but constant exposure from sunlight (4.00 am) through to the finish (no later than 7.00 pm) will take its toll.
I had the luck to be able to refresh my memory of all the wrinkles of the leg last weekend, when helping Emma Gregory of Preston Harriers to complete her successful BG in 23.08. Well done again Emma.
Here is a link to her blog:
Sunday 23 May 2010
Saturday was a very hot day indeed. Nicky started her Round on Friday at 6.30 pm. By Thelkeld she had gained 20 minutes on her 23 hour schedule. A beautiful, but warm, night according to the pacers. By Dunmail Raise (12 degrees C at 3.00 am) she was 40 minutes to the good and by Wasdale over an hour in front. An amazing performance in the hot conditions.
My wife Alison Eagle paced Nicky over Leg 4. There is a lot of rock on that Leg and the heat was bouncing off the ground and making life difficult. Regular head soaks were vital, as well as pouring water down Nicky's back every 15 minutes or so.
We continued this regime over Leg 5. Nicky was very quiet going up Dale Head, but seemed to recover a bit going across to Hindscarth. By now her knees were beginning to suffer as a result of the very hard ground encountered over Legs 3 and 4. The descent off Robinson was taken at as fast a walk as could be managed, and it was pretty obvious there would be little if any running from then on. Because of the time gained earlier in the day, I couldn't use the clock as an incentive to speed progress.
We cajoled Nicky into a few spurts of jogging on the road and she managed a good clip up to the Moot Hall, finishing in a fabulous time of 22.43. Without the knee issues on Leg 5 she would have been close to 21 hours which would have been a truy remarkable effort in the hot conditions.
Ultra running often involves putting your head down and suffering for hours at a time. The last 3 Legs of Nicky's BG contained much suffering and not much smiling. But she showed physical and mental strength in bucket loads and deserves her success.
She can now turn her mind to other things. Recalling the words of Maurice Herzog: "There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men" and of course women.
Supporting Bob Grahams is one of life's true joys; helping friends (and sometimes people you have never met) achieve a goal which is not only beyond most people, but beyond many fell runners, brings rewards which many of us find difficult to articulate.
Fell running is a small community; ultra fell running, even smaller. But we help and support each other in and through these crazy endeavours, and all feel strengthened by the mutual experience.
Thanks Nicky. I enjoyed my afternoon out and here's to the next daft idea.
Tuesday 25 May
In preparation for every Ultra, there are milestones along the way, so let's talk about those.
Strangely, I have yet to race this year. My last race was the Wasdale Show Fell Race, a mad blast up and down Kirkfell in early October 2009, the final race of the BOFRA Championship that I finished last year (talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous). I haven't felt the need to race but that must soon be remedied.
The definite milestones from here on are:
1. The Duddon Valley Fell Race (18m and 6,000') on Saturday 5 June; and
2. The Marathon du Mont Blanc (42.2k, 2511m+ and 1,490m-) on Sunday 27 June.
Here are links to the websites for each of these races:http://www.duddonvalleyfellrace.org.uk/
The long Duddon race is one of the Super Long races in the Lakeland Classic Series, designed (very successfully) by Graham Breeze and others to reinvigorate the long Lakes races which had been falling out of fashion. I have run this race twice before in 2007 (4.08.30) and 2008 (4.12.58). I was definitely in better nick in 2008 but it was a shatteringly hot day, which took its toll. This year I predict I will at least 1 hour slower. Whilst I am chugging along for hours at a time, any suggestion of speed in the legs has vanished. This year it will truly be a training run.
The MduMB is a new race for me, but I have run in the Cross du Mont Blanc (23k) on the day before and have supported Alison in her 2008 attempt to finish the Marathon. We are both entered for the race, though I expect to see little of Al who should be well in front of me. Seconds at Rombalds Stride and Trollers Trot, a win at Blubberhouses 25 and a sub 4.20 clocking at the 3 Peaks on a hot day should ensure no inter-spousal competition!
We will be on holiday in Chamonix for the week before and after the Marathon, and as usual expect the weather to be hot and sunny come race day.
In addition to the races, there are a few other challenges on the agenda, if they can be squeezed in. These are:
1. The Cumbrian Traverse (35m and 12,000') details on Tony Wimbush's fine Gofar website athttp://www.gofar.org.uk/
2. A double circuit of the 3 Peaks (50m and 9,000').
3. A chance to do 3 legs of the Bob Graham going clockwise (approx 40m and 15-17,000').
Of these, the CT is the most appealing becasue it contains some ground new to me. The 3 legs of the BG has a great deal of climbing in it, which I need. The 2x3Ps is the least interesting, but with its wide, hard trails might actually be the best preparation for the CCC.
Let's see how things develop!
Saturday 29 May
Alison and I made our way to Wasdale on Friday afetrnoon and snapped up a spot in the National Trust campsite. I knew from traffic on the FRA forum that there would be multiple Bob Graham attempts on the Saturday. A quick scoot into the Brackenclose car park at around 8.00 am on Saturday morning saw at least 4 support parties either getting ready to receive contenders or clearing up after kicking them out and off up Yewbarrow.
We thought it would be good to meet these parties as they continued over leg 4 of the Round, so about 10.00 am we ran up to Sty Head, then directly to Great Gable summit and from there ran the leg backwards (against the usual clockwise direction) over Kirk Fell, Pillar, Steeple, Red Pike and Yewbarrow. Lots of climbing in the section, over 7,000', so great training.
Some contenders looked in better nick than others, but all were progressing at decent pace and I think everyone we saw did complete the Round later that day.
The descent off Yewbarrow down to Wasdale is a further reminder to me that anti-clockwise for a Bob Graham is a stern test indeed.
Weather was cool, sometimes cold, with plentiful mist, some rain and a strong breeze.
Sunday 24 May
The weather improved on Sunday. We set off over the Screes (Illgill Head and Whin Rigg) following the route of the Wasdale Fell Race (July, 21 miles and 9,000' and a realt test of stamina) and were delighted to bump into Joss Naylor at the base of the Whin Rigg descent out for a Sunday walk with his youngest daughter and grand-daughter. Joss is always up for a chat and we passed 5 pleasant minutes with him nattering about this and that.
The run across to Greendale through the valley bottom was warm and so was the start of the climb up Seatallan. On top of Seatallan, the wind was gusting tremendously and my lightweight poles were blown well out of the vertical. We stopped for a bite to eat by a large boulder after the Pots of Ashness, keeping out of the strong wind, and then continued the contour to the col between Red Pike and Scoat Fell.
The traverse path round on the Mosedale side of Black Crags has become very visible with increased BG traffic and the last few hundred feet up Pillar is a bit of a grind. Pillar is such a broad mountain and it seems to take ages to get across to the col at Black Sail Pass.
A refreshing pint at the Wasdale Head Inn beckoned, ensuring a swift descent under Kirk Fell down Mosedale and a short jog back to the campsite. A nice steady 15 miles or so with plenty of climbing.
Monday 31 May
After two good days packed with climbing, another longer day seemed inappropriate. The day dawned beautifully sunny and warm. What better than a quick blast over England's highest mountain. We both kept a good clip on until about half way up Brown Tongue and then snapped into a proper fell runner's walk; bent double and hands powering on thighs. It was proper warm and sweat was drippping off noses and ears, well mine anyway! There's a flatter section before the final steep climb up to Mickeldore which provided enough momentum to see us up the loose final gully. A jog was sustained over the section to the summit, followed by a slurp of water before skidding off down the rough descent to the Lingmell col, then onto the Wasdale descent down the Lingmell nose which tests the quads to breaking point.
I haven't done many short, fast runs this year, but I really enjoyed this hour and a half. I climbed strongly and the descent felt easy, even in trail shoes. Probably the effects of the two previous days of efforts paying off at once. Also probably the liberating feeling caused by running without a rucsac full of gear, food and water!
Thanks to Alison for keeping me company over three days. She is doing the Marathon du Mont Blanc and Sierre-Zinal in early August, so she needs the climbs too.
Saturday 5 June
It was hot for Duddon and it was an interesting day out! I travelled up on Friday afternoon and found a spot for the van at the Turner Hall campsite. I sneaked under a tree to try and keep the van cool. A double portion of pasta for dinner and bed by 10.00 pm.
I said above that a finish time beginning with a 5 was likely; indeed the last thing I needed was a foolish blast over a Lakes Classic on a boiling hot day, and I was determined to take it very easy, to slot into my ultra pace and let the course roll on by. To further handicap myself, I decided to carry a small rucsac with a Platypus with around 1.5 litres of fluid and to wear my Salomon Speedcross 2s, a trail shoe with limited grip; these things would help offset any rushing!
A field of less than 200, probably caused by the proximity of the Ennerdale race next Sunday which is a counter in the English Championship, meant not too much congestion on the run out past Wallowbarrow Crag and I felt I was taking it nice and easy. I had my trusty bandana but had decided not to don it at the start. (That was almost certainly a mistake!)
I arrived at the summit of Harter Fell after 54 minutes; when I ran 4.08 I made it here in 50 minutes, so I concluded this was way too fast, and I decided to back right off. On the descent of Harter, I rolled my ankle and tweaked the ligaments and hobbled somewhat across to Hardknott Pass.
I was very grateful to see Helene Whitaker and daughters on the first part of the climb up Hardknott and took a couple of swigs of water from the proferred bottle. The heat was beginning to build and I took it easy on the descent into Mosedale and the crossing of Mosedale Beck. Off with the sac, plunge the head into the beck and soak the bandana.
The climb up Little Stand is singularly poorly named; it isn't little, its big and steep, pretty much all the way. On the climb all energy left me, and I started to feel dizzy, the heat taking its toll. The traverse across to Three Shires Stone was taken slowly in the heat, and it was great to slurp a few cups of welcome water there.
The second half of the race is notoriously dry; basically no streams at all in 8 miles or so. I still had fluid left and was conscious of the need to husband this. The dizziness continued on the climb up Swirl How and I started to wonder if the wheels were really coming off! The field had thinned out completely (partly because of my intended slowness) and so it was very much solo progress. Good practice for the CCC. The climb up Dow Crag seemed easy enough but on the traverse of Brown Pike, I suddenly started to feel like the heat and the lack of water were all too much. I had been eating pretty regularly but my stomach was feeling sore, probably the heat again.
I walked much of the drag across to White Pike. The checkpoint marshals had mysteriously managed to get 2 huge water containers up there and to be greated with a big plastic mug of water was brilliant. This seemed to energise me a bit (though I could feel the water sloshing about in my stomach) and after the rough descent of White Pike I headed off towards Caw feeling the best I had since Harter. That feeling continued all the way to the finish and I pottered over the line in 5 hours and 12 minutes, exactly 1 hour slower than I ran in 2008!
It was good to get 5 plus hours running in the sun, even if the effects were a little unsettling. I was pleased that whatever was bothering me for about two thirds of the race did finally depart; in ultras several hours of feeling rough is not uncommon, and you have to struggle through until better times arrive. The best news is that my legs felt fine all the way round, and continued to feel good on the drive home and on Sunday; no soreness in the quads after a long race is most unusual.
Today (Monday 7 June) I managed a "recovery" run of between 16 and 17 miles, admittedly over easier ground, but the fact that I was able to knock that run out only 24 hours later is a very encouraging sign.
Weekend of 12/13 June
A good weekend of training; the 3 Peaks on Saturday, using the Tourist route down from Whernside, not the race route (26 miles and 4,500') and on Sunday the Tour of Pendle from Barley, 17 miles and 4,830' . Feet fine and legs ok too. The grip on my Salomon Speedcross 2 has finally given up; parts of the sole are smooth now. So I started to break in a new pair on Sunday.
Sunday 27 June
So how was the Marathon du Mont Blanc? Well it was very hot, but that was good becasue it will be very hot in August. And I was very slow, which is also good. Having taken 2,000 entries, there were some traffic issues on the course (even 15 or so miles in with the descent of the Aiguillette des Posettes). I started too quickly (again) but slowed up after Vallorcine and dropped into my super-steady ultra pace thereafter. I didn't eat enough, and didn't drink enough either, but there aere never any real crises and the finish was never in doubt; 7 hours 30 minutes. Whilst this seems like a long time, CCC pace would have been nearer 9 hours for the same distance, so nothing to be unhappy about. A very worthwhile piece of preparation.
Didn't see Alison after the first half hour or so. She ran 6.30ish and placed 6th lady vet 40. A good result!
Tuesday 29 June to Thursday 1 July
The long awaited recce of the CCC course was finally upon us. We took the bus from Chamonix to Courmayeur and set to at once, with a long day ahead.
(Sadly, the race route book with maps had landed on the doormat, but 2 days after we left, so the nuances of the route were a mystery to us and we didn't follow the course perfectly as a result!)
Despite my best efforts with the map, we couldn't escape Courmayeur on the correct trail; the roads seemed to be in all the wrong places and we found ourselves hemmed in by concrete walls in every direction. Finally losing our tempers, we opted for the "normal" TMB ascent to Rifugio Bertone and after all the buggering about, we must have done most of the same mileage as taking the true CCC route.
The day went pretty well despite more late snow patches than I was expecting, a re-ascent and descent for me to collect my sunglasses after leaving them near a stream, the road trog after Rifugio Bonnatti to Arnuva and a nasty rain storm as we crossed the Grand Col Ferret at 2,500 metres. We covered 42 kms to La Fouly, where we gratefully showered and consumed a decent meal before sleeping like logs.
Away by 8.15 am, we followed the beautiful descending line of the trail to Issert, before popping over the hill to Champex, where we stopped for a cold drink. The climb up Bovine, which will be done in the dark, looks a key section; quite technical, steep in parts and rocky. maybe it will go easily in the dark after 60 kms!
Another cold drink at Bovine followed by a bit to eat next to a beautifully clear alpine stream, then the descent to Col de Forclaz and Trient. There follows a slog up to Catogne and a long descent to Vallorcine and we did another 20 minutes up the valley to Le Buet for a second overnight stop. Huge amounts of food were consumed after another welcome shower; it had been hot all day.
Off by 8.15 am again, we romped up to Col de Montets, then faced the steep climb to Tete aux Vents in blistering heat. Try as we might, we couldn't match the slowest time on the schedule from TaV to La Felgere of 37 minutes, clocking 38 even when pretty fresh!
Having to guess at the descent wasn't ideal, but a check of the maps showed we guessed well and we chugged into Chamonix for a Mojo's sandwich and a cold drink, 23 hours of travel after leaving Courmayeur. 3 and a quarter hours we took from Le Buet to Cham which is pretty fair.
So a great 2 and a bit days. Sacs were a bit heavy, and of course we had stops for food and drink. But the time is quite encouraging as we walked the climbs and barely jogged the descents.
I feel much better acquainted with the challenge now and can start to prepare mentally as well as physically.
Time to get some longer runs completed, 30 miles plus, so the next 5/6 weeks will be quite intense!
Thanks to my darling wife for coming along with me and sharing a great few days on the trails.
Thursday 15 July
I have finally been able to dedicate some time to publicising this site amongst potential donors. Some donations are coming in from members of the FRA Forums, including one significant one from someone I have never met but with whom I have simply had email contact the last year or so. And I'm pleased to say that former colleagues at Lee & Priestley are putting their hands in their pockets.
I must also mention that we have had a wonderful donation from the law firm Hammonds, or rather their in-house charitable trust. I went to speak with them last year with our fundraisers and we established a fund-raising partnership with them which included them sourcing a load of volunteer marshals for the Leeds Half Marathon in May, where YCR was a charity partner.
One of the CEOs of one of the spin-out projects we have funded has promised a decent contribution too; and no, that won't influence any decision-making at this end when the next round of funding is considered!
I am hoping for some good contributions from club mates at Ilkley Harriers, having kicked off a thread on their Forum.
As I reminded them, 1 in 3 of us will suffer from cancer at some time, and 1 in 4 UK deaths is from the disease. Much remains to be achieved, and its all expensive work!
Thank you to everyone who has donated so far.
Tuesday 20 July
Just when you want the weather to be hot and sunny, it lets you down. It would have been great to be able to continue the hot weather acclimatisation from the Alps, but no such luck.
I have logged close to 90 miles in the last 10 days or so, including another 3 Peaks crossing last Friday in damp and windy conditions in about 5 hours 40 minutes.
I am having a rest for a few days, to be ready for Rich G's BG attempt starting late Friday. I came across Rich when he did the road support for Emma Gregory's BG with his partner Kirsten. Rich emailed me a few days after that asking if I could help him this coming weekend and I was happy to oblige.
I have pencilled myself in for Legs 3, 4 and 5. I need a really long day with lots of climbing and the first 2 of those legs will give me exactly that.
I can see from the schedule that I am down to navigate Leg 5, so I will keep my options open, and if anything doesn't feel right, will come out of Leg 4 to save myself for the glory leg. Rich has plenty of support on Leg 4 which will be navigated by Yiannis Tridimas, the first man to do a round of 60 peaks at 60 years of age, put simply a living legend, and, rumour has it, a man hoping to be the first to do the basic 42 peak BG round at the age of 70!
Hopefully, the weather will sort itself out (looks promising at the moment).
Rich has been keeping a blog of his journey towards his attempt here:
Good luck Rich.
Saturday 24 July
A long day. My phone beeped at 4.40 am when I was eating a bowl of cereal. It was a text from Rich's partner Kirsten to let me know that Rich was 20 minutes up on schedule at Threlkeld. I left home at 5.05 am and drove along the A65, across the M6 and on to Dunmail Raise above Grasmere. The trip was uneventful and relatively quick, even in the van and I arrived at around 6.40 am.
Kirsten was setting up food and drink ready for Rich's arrival. Emma Gregory arrived shortly after with Darren Holloway. Yiannis had been snoozing in his car. Karl turned in a little later and the pacing team was complete.
Rich arrived nicely up on schedule and proceeded to wolf down a plate of corned beef hash and spuds, always a good sign in a contender!
The forecast for the day was occasional light drizzle and some hill fog, but nothing too serious. After splitting up mountains of food and drink (too much in truth) we started the climb of Steel Fell.
It was an excellent leg across to Wasdale with pacers and contender chatting away happily. There was no need for the map, even in the mist, with so many experienced heads around. Even the climb up Hanging Knotts on to Bow Fell seemed relatively painless and Rich continued to move well.
The day took a turn for the worse shortly after the climb from Esk Hause to Great End. On the jorney across to Ill Crag it started to rain heavily and thick, wet mist descended. By the time we arrived at Scafell Pike we were all thoroughly wet, but the relative closeness of Wasdale kept spirits high.
I left the others at Mickledore to descend directly to Wasdale, missing out the climb up to Scafell via Lord's Rake. I wanted to let the support team know Rich was close to arriving (they couldn't see anything), to ensure I got a decent amount of food and drink in to me before the strain of leg 4, and get a full change of clothes.
Rich slotted another big plate of food at Wasdale! Great effort. Yiannis, like me was carrying on. Darren and Emma decided 1 leg was enough. Joiniing us was Dave, who had done leg 1 in the small hours.
I slimmed down the huge food parcel to more manageable proportions and took only what Rich said he wanted; a bit risky but worth a shot.
The climb up Yewbarrow is merciless. Rich did this really well on a full stomach and we arrived slightly in front of schedule. Once on the ridges we were battered by some grim weather. Fortunately this didn't affect us too badly and Rich continued to climb well and make decent progress on the descents. The climb to Great Gable is the last big, rough one on a clockwise round and there is some lessening of the tension once this is out of the way. The climbs to Brandreth and Grey Knotts are small and it's a reasonable run down to Honister. I had to answer a call of nature on Grey Knotts and struggled to catch the guys up!
Yiannis' navigation was pretty much faultless over leg 4; a great display from him. Rich was still nicely up on schedule and seemed mentally and physically in pretty good nick..
A quick break at Honister. I tried to eat another filled roll, but only half went down. A hot cup of tea helped a lot but I could have done with eating a bit more. The last leg across the fells to Newlands church is about 9 miles, with another 4 on the road to Keswick. the brain says it's not far, but after 12 hours on your feet, that's a trick!
I have navigated leg 5 twice previously this year, so the gloom and impending darkness held no fears. We were pretty much bang on schedule across Dale Head, Hindscarth and Robinson and Rich continued to climb strongly. We slowed up a bit on the descent of Robinson. With plenty of time in hand there was no need to rush. Parts of the descent are very steep which is troublesome for tired legs and there are some rck steps that need care. Once doen the steep grassy banking and on the wide path that leads to Hig Snab the navigator can relax a touch. Once we were on the flat I started to suffer with a nasty hot pain in the right shoulder blade and this jarring as I jogged along. Not wanting to inflame this any further, I suggested the others go ahead and I would walk in to the chapel as quickly as I could manage. I arrived a few minutes after Rich had changed his shoes and set off for Keswick.
Late night BG finishes can be a bit of an anti-climax and this was no exception. Rich finished brilliantly in 23.20 but then what next? He needed to get back to the campsite to get some kip, there were cars to sort out and pacers to be reunited with vehicles and kit.
Eventually, all was sorted and I was dropped at Dunmail at around 12,30 am to begin the journey home. I needed a couple of short stops to compose myself on the way back but arrived home at 2.35 am. Quick shower and then off to bed.
A great day; around 40 miles of mountains with around 15,000 feet of climbing. I slept well. Well done Rich.
Saturday/Sunday 7/8 August
I seem to have settle on a routine at around 60 miles per week. I've never been one for high mileage training; I just get knackered and it takes too much time to recover from a big week.
I arrived in the Lakes last Friday evening in drixxly weather with a few plans circulating in the head. Camping in the van close to Blencathra made that fine mountain immediately available on Saturday after a short bike ride.
I left the bike on the back road between Scales and Mungrisedale, and headed off up Mousthwaite Comb and up onto Scales Fell. The weather deteriorated from the drizzle to heavy rain and a stiff breeze as I got higher. There was no time to waste on the summit and I dropped down the zig-zags just climbed and tipped myself off down Doddick Fell, which was a little greasy to say the least and a sign of things to come.
Running from the base of Doddick to the base of Halls Fell succeeded in me becoming thoroughly soaked from the chest high bracken. A Clif bar was shovelled in at the base of Halls Fell and some walkers high up provided a moving target to catch on the climb.
The top section was pretty hairy in Salomons and the rain wasn't stopping. My intention had been to descend gategill Fell then climb back over Blease Fell and return to the bike. Instead, I called it a day after the second big climb and trundled my way back to the bike and then a bit to eat and a hot shower.
Two long climbs and two long descents; good work for two and a half hours on a Saturday morning.
The weather was supposed to improve on Sunday so I awoke at 5.00 am and get some breakfast together. I am fond of the North Western Fells, the Grassmoor group, which have wide paths and not too many rocks, good training for long Alpine races. So I tootled off on the bike and arrived at Braithwaite by 7.30 am and looked for somewhere to park the bike.
A highly amusing incident followed when, whilst cleaning my water bottle in the beck that flows through the village, it was carried out of my hand and away downstream. After realising that the beck flowed through the village in a deep man-made channel, some extreme measures were called upon to retrieve the bottle; I hope no-one was watching my antics!
I was about 200 feet up the climb to Grisedale Pike when the sun poeekd through the clouds and I reached for my sunglasses. Ooops! They weren't there and I had to rush back down the path to locate them in some deep grass close by the beck.
Nearer 8.00 am when I finally got underway, I traversed the NW fells via Grisedale Pike, Hopegilll Head, Sand Hill, Grassmoor, Wandope and Whiteless Pike mostly in thick cloud and occasional rain (but never really cold) and was pleased to drop into Buttermere at about 10.40 am. Too quick! I walked across to the far side of Lake Buttermere, stuffing a humous bun and a choccie bar down as I went. A quick fill of the water bottle on that side and I jogged steadily round the lake to arrive at Gatesgarth Farm under Fleetwith Pike.
I've never been up Fleetwith from this side and the climb was all new to me. It was steep and quite rocky. I passed plenty of walkers on this section, but fortunately they were all so out of breath that they didn't stop to question me about my day, which saved long explanations. thick mist on top lked to a gentle descent off the top to ensure no diversions either left (massive crags) or right (into the head of Buttermere valley) and I trotted down to the slate mine car park.
A quick pit-stop at the YHA toilets was most welcome and I started on another humous bun on the climb up Dale Head with half a bar of Fruit and Nut. I followed the BG route down to the road at the base of Robinson and then took to the country to get back to Braithwaite. This was relatively easy, but did involve a mile or so on the road, but there was no improvisation to be done.
I arrived back at Braithwaite 7 hours and 45 minutes after setting off feeling slightly weary but no worse. My quads held up all day and the descent off Robinson was taken at a decent speed.
After dropping off at the village store for a very welcome cold Coke, it was back on the bike to get back to the campsite.
So, 2 hours on the bike and nearly 8 hours on my feet. Close to 30 miles on foot and most of that on the bike.
Maybe the hard work is starting to pay off; I just wish it was hotter to prepare for the nightmare of 30degrees plus in the Alps.
Next Saturday I have some BG pacing duties for my friend Andrew Kitts, who is making hsi second BG attempt of the "summer". The first was thwarted by some shocking weather. I'm on for leg 3 and maybe more if I feel good. 30 miles or so would be great, leaving me most of 2 weeks to calm down before the race on 27 August.
Onwards and upwards!
Saturday 14/Sunday 15 August
The final weekend of training didn't go quite as planned. The idea was to go over leg 3 of the Bob Graham with my friend Andrew Kitts, rest a while, go to Black Sail Pass and finish leg 4 with him and continue over the fell section of leg 5. That would have been 30 miles plus.
Sadly Andrew retired at Dunmail Raise at the end of leg 2, having fallen behind on legs 1 and 2. This was somewhat deflating (though more so for Andrew I'm sure) and my hastily constructed plan was to go over leg 3 to Wasdale, then take a slightly shorter route back cutting out some of the summits.
Well, I made it to Esk Hause and then came back to Dunmail over Esk Pike and Bowfell, making my way back to Dunmail missing out the Langdale Pikes and High Raise. So about 20 miles in total in around 6 and a half hours.
A quick dip in Raise Beck (it was warm by the time I'd finished) then off home for an earlier finish than expected.
The slightly underwhelming nature of Saturday's effort made me do some extra miles on Sunday. I climbed Simon's Seat from the Cavendish Pavillion on the Bolton Abbey estate, came off down to Howgill Lane, then followed the Dales Way back to the Cavendish.
It was a warm morning, and I was encouraged by how well I felt after the long day on Saturday. The run back along the river was taken at a proper pace and I was back from the 10 miles (?) in 1 hours and 39 minutes; decent speed after all the ultra training.
So that is essentially it; no more long runs before the race, just a few runs of less than an hour this week to keep the legs ticking over.
Have I done enough work? Who knows? I never feel like I have done enough training for any race, short, long or ultra. Does it matter? Yes, to a point. But I have never been one for training huge mileages. That makes me tired, and I perform best when I start fresh.
So much of this challenge is mental, like any effort that lasts more than 10 hours. My way has never been to train too close to the distance I'm going to run. (For a 62 miles run, some would train up to 50 miles; not me.) I like to leave some uncertainty in the situation.
I feel good, and my legs feel strong. Much of the training has been done on difficult ground, at least compared with the Alpine trails. I can't do any more. I'm looking forward to the race. At this stage, that is enough.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the fundraising effort; it has been a revelation!
The dreaded taper
Quickly summarised; a run of around 40 minutes every other day on Ilkley Moor.
I left for Chamonix on Tuesday 24 August. My final outing was a 47 minute jog at 2,000 metres from Plan de L'Aiguille to the railway station at Montenvers, not too much up or down, but quite a rocky trail to get me in the mood.
Applying my retrospectroscope, this taper seemed to work really well.
The race itself
Well, what can you say; an epic day, and an historic one also, but perhaps fopr the wrong reasons. here is my account of how the day developed:The weather forecast for race day (Friday and Saturday) wasn’t great; localised storms and strong westerly winds, so I knew I was in for a treat, but at least the heat I had been fearing would likely be absent.
As the 2,000 of us packed the centre of Courmayeur ready to start at 10.00 am, the weather did just what was forecast and at 9.45 am on the dot the heavens opened and we all suffered through the initial powerful bursts of a huge alpine thunderstorm. To set off with huge peals of thunder mixed in with Vangelis’ Conquest of was quite some way to start. This huge storm continued for the first 2 hours, meaning that we were all nicely soaked through as we climbed up to our first of 2,000 metres.
I started pretty close to the back and as a result became caught in much slow-moving traffic with human jams, over the first couple of hours; this was a good thing I think, though it meant I was down on my projected time though the first 11 kms.
The storm then blew itself out and we had a few hours of sunny but very breezy weather which saw us up and over the Grand Ferret at 2,537 metres and into for the long descent to La Fouly at the 42 kms mark. I picked up over 250 places through this section of the race. It was here that things took a turn for the worse, weather-wise. Whilst I was grabbing some soup and a few other bits to eat, the heavens opened again and it started to rain in biblical quantities. Looking out of the door of the aid station tent all we could see was a wall of water falling out of the sky. This would be about 7.00 pm.
Having 59 kms still to cover, it was out into the thrashing rain. During the next section through to Champex it just poured down, and it was great to arrive at the 55 km point and get some more warm food in at around 9.30 pm to prepare for the long night section.
With over-trousers added to the existing clothing armoury, I left Champex at around 10.00 am with the head torch on and headed off into the foul night. The next climb up Alp Bovine was always the key point of the race for me; it’s steep and rocky, but if I could be through by 1.00 am, I knew I had an excellent chance of finishing the race nicely under the 26 hour time limit. The mountain was running with water, the trail was essentially a small river and deep mud started to make an appearance; thin sloppy stuff that poured over the tops of my shoes. Even with all these factors, I was fantastically pleased to claw more time back and arrive just before midnight, with a nice buffer against the cut-off times. Coming off Bovine, I knew I was going to finish the race. I was getting stronger and faster (relatively) as the race went on, I was eating and drinking well and the conditions, whilst extreme, weren’t holding me up too badly.
The next stage of the race to Trient is all downhill, 6.5 kms of descent. The underfoot conditions were now so bad that it was not possible to run the downhills. The trail had turned completely to mud and in the dark it wasn’t possible to determine quite what your feet were landing on; sloppy, deep mud, slimy rock or treacherous tree root. Even with walking this descent as quickly as possible, I was still in no danger at all from the cut-offs at Trient.
The next section is a climb and then a descent over about 10 kms to Vallorcine. The climb is long and quite steep but I was still full of energy and happy to grind this out, coping as best I could with the continuing heavy rain, hill fog and worst of all the incredible mud on the trail. Approaching the high point at Catogne, I stopped to change the head torch batteries, not wanting these to expire on the downhill section; this only took a few seconds as I had the spares close at hand and then it was off on another nerve-wraking descent. The last couple of miles of this downhill will stay with me for many years; it was like the mountain was literally on the move with us. I was moving faster than most and kept becoming “stuck” behind long strings of slow-moving runners. Overtaking was out of the question; this would have meant taking to the very outside of the trail with its steep drop offs, and with the appalling underfoot conditions, one slip would see me down at the Vallorcine check point rather quicker than I wanted to get there!
I arrived at Vallorcine at 5.30 am really delighted with progress. Having been on the go for 19 hours 30 minutes, I had 6 hours 30 minutes to get back to over a section that I had walked in 3 hours 15 minutes. Planning to down more soup at Vallorcine, I would soon be on my way again.
However, having monitored the conditions and with reports of mud slides and rock avalanches on the course, the organisers took the decision to halt the race sometime around 3.00 am whilst I was in transit between Trient and Vallorcine and this news was made known to us on arrival in Vallorcine. So with only a few hours of running left, over 1,300 of us still out in the mountains had to face the fact of an early end to our race, in my case with 82 kms covered in some highly trying conditions and with just 18 kms to go. 10 minutes later I was on board a bus bound for .
The main race, the UTMB, over 166 kms, which started from late Friday afternoon was halted after just 20 miles and 2,300 runners had to be returned to their starting points. A third race, the TDS, scheduled to start at midnight on Friday didn’t start at all.
There was much comment and counter-comment about these decisions, including in the local and national French press, because these races are a major sporting highlight. It is easy to be critical, but the organisers were responsible for the safety of over 5,000 runners out on 3 separate high mountain race routes and I have no issue with them making the call they did. I was disappointed, but I understood their reasons.
One report of events I read used the French word “dantesque” to describe the conditions; the best English translation is “infernal”. For me though, the weather was not the real problem; it was the effect the weather has having on the terrain, which was truly horrific.
Disappointed in any way? No, not at all. I feel I met the challenge in full. It would be nice to jog through that huge finish arch in Chamonix to the strains of Conquest of , but that’s just my ego talking. And I can’t run if the organisers say “no”. I know that if I had been allowed to continue that I would have finished the full 100 kms course; the shocking weather and underfoot conditions were not deflecting me from my task (they were perhaps having the opposite effect) and all food and drink systems were in full working order.
My legs felt fantastic all race (indicating that I have finally learnt how to ultra-run downhill without trashing my quads; it’s only taken 26 years) and I had no soreness at all in the hours and days after the race; my feet were another matter. Long hours of exposure to water, mud and grit took their toll and they weren’t a pretty sight when the shoes and socks came off once back at the hotel. They are recovering fast though.
These long mountain challenges take great preparation and require great physical and mental strength on the day. They also need a decent slice of good luck, which was markedly absent on this occasion. It is always wise to remember that nature has the upper hand and can flex its muscles at a moment’s notice. It is very satisfying, and an integral part of the challenge, to be prepared for whatever is thrown at you, to cope and to press on.
As always the company of fellow competitors is both humbling and inspiring, as are the efforts of the aid station volunteers who help provide sustenance during the journey. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of these long Alpine ultra events is the contribution of the ordinary people who live in the valleys and villages through which the races pass. They come out of their homes to encourage you on your way, some in the most unlikely of locations and at utterly unreasonable times of day, to give you a cheer, a “Bravo” or an “Allez, allez”, calling you by name which they can see on your race number. These ordinary people are for me the true heroes of these incredible races. They seem to have a deep-rooted respect for the competitors; it’s a pity that our swift passage through their lives doesn’t give us time to tell them how much respect we have for them, and how important they are to our effort.
Finally my love and thanks to Alison for helping me in a whole variety of ways to get ready to undertake this challenge; she was with me every step of the way.
Maybe some further reflections in due course.
Afterthoughts - 14 September
Some time has passed since the race now.
I am missing the focus that the race, and training for it, gave me. I am though enjoying the chance to run for shorter periods, and to run fast and unencumbered by the rucsac and other gear that are the lot of the ultra mountain runner.
The beauty of the day has not yet departed; that feeling of being so fantastically alive that I only get when stretched to the limit over many hours of effort.
These feelings are something I don't want to lose, and already my mind has turned to what next. It hasn't taken long to realise that I want to return to Chamonix and the UTMB weekend; the atmosphere is quite extraordinary and unlike anything else one can experience in this odd sport of ours.
So, as I have all 3 qualifying points from the 2010 CCC, I plan to apply again to run the race in 2011, and hope that I will get an entry. That process takes place in late December/early January.
The test of the CCC hopefully awaits again, this time perhaps in more reasonable conditions. The training will be great fun (maybe more done with Alison once her plans for 2011 become clear) and I have the added confidence of knowing that the challenge has been all but done in difficult circumstances.
I can't wait!
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Well done Morgan, amazing achievement! Caroline
Donation by Caroline Soulsby on 01/09/10
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Good luck, enjoy and make sure YCR spend it well!
Donation by Garry Cochrane on 27/08/10
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Wishing you all the luck Morgan, don't drop your gels! ;-)
Donation by emmilouuuuu on 27/08/10
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Good luck Morgan, for a very worthy cause. Kind regards, Gerard & Nick
Donation by Gerard Harford on 24/08/10
Morgan, this venture confirms that you are as mad as a hatter. However, great effort for a great cause.
Donation by Adrian Fitzpatrick on 23/08/10
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We know you'll do it, Morgan. Enjoy!
Donation by Nicky Jaquiery on 22/08/10
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Very best of luck Morgan - I will be thinking of you next Friday!
Donation by mark stevens on 20/08/10
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Good luck, Morgan. I'm glad it's you and not me!
Donation by John Knights on 19/08/10
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Go for it Morgan! Fantastic challenge.
Donation by Christine Solloway on 19/08/10
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Good luck, Morgan. Not long now!
Donation by Margaret Chippendale on 16/08/10
Good luck Morgan
Donation by john bashall on 16/08/10
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Incredible your legs are still up to that kind of punishment. You must be mad! Good luck though
Donation by Richard Hartley on 10/08/10
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Good Luck Morgan! I'll look forward to hearing all about it!
Donation by Claire Tonks on 10/08/10
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well done and keep going
Donation by Jonathan on 03/08/10
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Good Luck Morgs, LAH x
Donation by Louise Handley on 03/08/10
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Hi Morgan Great to hear about your extraordinary endeavour!... Wishing you the very best of luck. Dave and Clare x
Donation by Clare Cheesewright on 02/08/10
Good luck Morgan!
Donation by Richard Gilbert on 28/07/10
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Donation by Justin Phillips on 27/07/10
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Good luck Morgan, its a fantastic cause, we are tremendously proud of your grit and determination, we'll be thinking of you. Jackie & John
Donation by Jackie Hunter on 26/07/10
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Hope it goes well Morgan - enjoy it!
Donation by Bill Johnson on 26/07/10
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Best Of luck Morgan
Donation by Steve Foster on 25/07/10
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I know just how much work you have put into this ... having seen your pain at Duddon! go and have fun... & you are doing it for a great cause.X
Donation by Helene Whitaker on 25/07/10
May the mountains be kind and the weather be fair - good luck!
Donation by Sarah Grant on 23/07/10
Good luck !
Donation by jonathan eagle on 22/07/10
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You are truly mad (but I say that with the greatest respect and admiration!). It's a fantastic cause Morgan; hope all goes well.
Donation by Christian Peace on 16/07/10
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- * Online donations£1,200.00
- Offline donations£1,605.00
- Text donations£0.00
- Total raised£2,805.00
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