Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Leg 3: The Company I Choose Is Solidly Singular, Totally Trustworthy, Straight and Sincere…

Leg 3 was the one that worried me most. Not just because it comes at a time when you’re starting to feel that first bit of tiredness and there’s a long way to go. And not just because you know you’re heading over the highest fells in England and the going gets rocky. But also because this was where it all went wrong last year. Seven hours this leg had taken! Seven hours! It sounds ridiculous now, and I’m not quite sure how it happened. But the doubt was still in my head…

Which is why I was determined to get together a team of supporters on this leg who would ensure that wouldn’t happen again – people I trusted and respected and would know exactly how to deal with the low points, how to keep me on schedule.

So I was thrilled when Karl agreed to navigate, and listened when he told me that Lords Rake was a much better option than dropping all the way down to Foxes Tarn gully. Add to that the fact that Yiannis had agreed to do legs 4 and 5 and I already had the best with me. Then Morgan said he wanted to do 3 legs with me…and I liked the idea of having the BG Sec with me all the way from Dunmail!

And, of course, there was Emma. I always wanted her on this leg. We’ve swapped plenty of e-mails during BG training, one day worrying that we couldn’t do this BG thing, the next feeling confident after a good training run. I was so thrilled when she completed in under 24 hours in May, and was also inspired by the huge resilience and mental strength she showed, having had an horrendous 2nd leg. I knew that she now knew what it took to get round and her recent experience would be invaluable. Plus she’s great company! And that’s what I wanted out on this leg.

If that wasn’t good enough, in the week leading up to the BG, we got a text from Darren saying he could make it for leg 3. I was so pleased by that. Having had chats with him in various places over the last couple of years, and having seen his BG support style first-hand during May when he was leading a Pennine runner across the Langdales, I knew he was exactly the sort of person I needed – encouraging when it’s deserved, he also tells it as it is and gives you a verbal kick up the arse if it’s needed!

So off we headed up the steep climb onto Steel Fell, with me feeling rather full and wondering if the sickness would start here. Although I felt sluggish, the climb was made on time and the run out to Calf Crag in thick clag was done under schedule. From there to Sergeant Man, there was the bizarre spectacle of Emma trying to force feed me rice pudding from a spoon!! Not easy when she’s 5ft nothing and I’m over 6ft! :-)

The visibility was poor but Karl and Yiannis were doing a tremendous job, navigating perfectly, taking shortcuts off path. I was feeling good, my feeding routine now settled into sour worms and Kendal mint cake, together with lucozade sport drink.

I was still feeling a bit anxious and this wasn’t helped when we took a completely new line (to me) over to Harrison Stickle, and I could hear Darren asking Yiannis to check if he was going the right line. But, as it turns out, it was spot on and I hit Harrison Stickle on schedule.

I enjoyed the climb up Pike O Stickle but then we went “off-trod” across Martcrag Moor and, for the first time, my spirits dipped at having to negotiate rough ground. But soon we were down to the low point and climbing up towards Rossett Pike. A quick stop was made for Darren to undo my shoes and get a stone out….bless him, he didn’t complain about the smelly socks!

Rossett Pike was reached a minute over schedule and, again, I had a slight thought that this might be the “beginning of the end”. But I’m made of sterner stuff than that plus I’ve come to love that climb up to Bowfell. And sure enough, the climb up was done 6 minutes under schedule and we embarked upon my best spell of the day, with Yianni’s great lines knocking minutes off across to Esk Pike and up Great End.

Conversations were going on around me, rather than involving me, but that’s fine. I really enjoyed them. Morgan and Darren spent an hour talking about the BG, its tradition and its future…and one of these days, I’ll add my thoughts as well! Emma and Karl joked about setting a record for carrying a rice pudding over the most tops on a BG round and, to my request for sweets at one point, the immortal line was uttered, “Emma’s got worms”!

The next section is the bit I struggle with. Great End to Scafell is a challenge. But I was feeling good, going well and the weather seemed to improve slightly on Great End. That didn’t last! As we headed across to Ill Crag, the rain started and, pretty soon, we were down to poor visibility and soaking rain. The rocks across to Broad Crag and then the Pike were slippy, but we stayed on schedule.

And so down to Mickledore and Lords Rake. Little did I know that Yiannis and Darren had been discussing whether it was advisable in deteriorating conditions! Best I didn’t know that! In fact, I take my hat off to Karl, it was absolutely fine and I’d even say enjoyable. A couple of moments on the West Wall Traverse where you realise there’s a big drop off to the left, but otherwise I enjoyed using the arms and hands instead of just legs.

And straight up onto the top of Scafell…excellent! Yiannis had already asked which way I’d like to head down and I said grass all the way, believing it to be quicker. He agreed, and said it was shorter…so off we went. But, of course, this being Yiannis, we didn’t stay on the path, but cut the corner on longer grass. It was quick, but I did curse a wee bit at the time! :-)

And then we came out of the cloud and I saw my sister standing at the gate. We trotted down and into the car park having done the leg in 14 minutes under my schedule, despite the weather. I was elated! In my mind, I’d done it. This sounds daft with over 20 miles and over 8,000ft still to go, but I knew leg 4 well and knew that even at slow pace, I now had time. I was 1 hour up on a 23.45 schedule. The leg 3 crew had done exactly what I knew they would and more! They’d kept me on schedule, they’d kept my spirits up and I’d loved their company.

Time to get some food down me. More Corned Beef stew, some rice pudding with bread and butter pudding, Dave A bouncing around impatient to go, Kirsten and Carolyn all smiles, me feeling on top of the world. This was how the BG should be!

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