The Bob Graham Round #BG20 – April

27th ~ 3rd (May): Weekly Stats: 74km / 15,695ft

I’m knackered and my left leg won’t stop aching so I am going to take a few days off. The past 3 weeks have been fairly relentless, not running every day but it’s been 20,000+ ft a week and the battering both up and down is getting to me. My head also feels a little drained. Plus the weather is shite. Its freezing, there’s snow on the fells again and it generally feels blustery and damp. I’m making excuses but at the moment they’re convenient. So 3 days of complete rest, some self-diagnosis to conclude my Piriformis was causing the pain in my leg before a light run over Potter Fell on Thursday and plenty of stretching to get my legs working again. Friday would be a new month and a long run.

Fear & Doubt. So after a quiet mid-week I today (Friday) ran legs 1, 2 and part of 3 (as far as Sergeant Man before dropping down to Langdale). A total distance of some 30+ miles.

My pace was just under 19 hour schedule. Exactly as planned. But rapidly into leg 2, the wheels started to come off. It was really hard and my head is now full of self-doubt. I arrived into Langdale a broken man. Nicky Spinks, who recently beat her own record to become the fastest woman to have completed the Bob Graham has been quoted as saying that in order to complete a challenge you need to be scared of it. Well I’m not sure whether I’m fearful of the challenge I’ve set myself, have a rapidly deepening respect for it or am simply shitting myself. Failing that I was having a bad day, was dehydrated for 2/3 of the route, am tired, unprepared, my pack was really heavy or I’m simply not good enough to go that fast. Take your pick.

I left Moot Hall in Keswick shortly after 7am. It was cold, but clear and sunny. The trog upto Skiddaw doesn’t get any easier or any more enjoyable. I hate it. But at least the views were at their best and a covering of snow greeted me as I pulled past Jenkins Hill. I’d seen no-one.

Bob Graham Round Training: Leg 1 recce

On Jenkins Hills en route to Skiddaw

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On Skiddaw looking across to the Dodds & Helvellyn

I punched through the 2-3 inches of frozen snow as I descended off Skiddaw to Hare Crag, before it was back to business as usual, traipsing through the boggy ground across to Great Calva. Taking the direct line off Great Calva I made quick progress down towards the beck, stopping to take on-board water and eyeing the line onto Mungrisdale Common. After numerous recce’s I’d finally found ‘the line’ – and its worth searching for. I reached Blencathra 6 minutes ahead of my schedule.

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‘The Line’ across Mungrisdale Common is there…..somewhere!

I opted to not search out the Parachute descent, the rock was dry and Halls Fell wouldn’t be too slow and instead enjoyed the technical rock hopping down to Threlkeld. I arrived at the A66 in 2 hours and 58 minutes, 9 minutes ahead of my schedule. I felt good.

It had been a while since I’d last been up Clough Head and this time opted to run to the right of the fence that leads beyond Newsham House onto the open Fell above. Pointless, despite the obvious trod, the left-hand side is more direct and faster. My lack of time on this part of the route showed and I fired up Clough Head, my pacing shot to pieces, 6 minutes ahead of schedule and 17 overall. Probably a mistake although it didn’t feel it at the time.

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On Clough Head looking towards Great Dodd

From Clough Head it was a hard mixture of running and walking, sometimes on firm ground, sometimes on an annoying crust of partially frozen snow, some legs I was quicker, some I was slightly slower as I made my way towards Helvellyn. But by the time I reached the summit my reserve had slipped back, only some 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

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Plenty of snow by the time I reached Stybarrow Dodd

From Dollywagon I currently favour the direct line, down to the Tarn outflow before hitting the steep trod besides a small stream before following another stream straight to the top. Its real hands on knees / hands on ground stuff. But even today, wobbling, tired, dehydrated and snow masking the firmer grassy lines it got me to the summit of Fairfield in 31 minutes, 12 minutes ahead of schedule.

By the time I arrived at Dunmail, the benefit of descent had seen me take more time out of the schedule. I finished Leg 2, 19 minutes ahead of my schedule in 3 hours 32 minutes, 6 hours 39 minutes since leaving Keswick. But I’d had enough. I was dreaming about coke and bowls of pasta and bacon. I munched through my remaining sandwich, swallowed some cake and stared at Steel Fell. I could ring home. I could call it quits here. I didn’t need to do this. I sat at Dunmail for 18 minutes, got the phone out twice before deciding to get on with it.

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On Steel Fell looking north across Thirlmere

I pulled my pack on, and stumbled upwards. Ok, Steel Fell in 2o minutes, bang on schedule. Calf Crag in 18 minutes, slightly behind my schedule but I’m never quick on this section even when fresh so no problem. 5 minutes to talk some ‘knowledgable’ Americans who’d read ‘That Book’ (Feet in the Clouds of course!) and a quick photo since I was ‘de-ranged’ and ‘one of those people mentioned in that book’ on Calf Crag before on towards Sergeant Man. I reached Sergeant Man, 8 hours and 9 minutes since leaving Keswick and I’d had enough. The call had gone in, and I was heading down.


20th ~ 26th: Weekly Stats: 100+ km / 21,391 ft

This week has been a mixture of fast-ish laps of the Kentmere Horseshoe, a partially successful fine-line recce of leg 1, a successful fine-line recce of the ‘direct’ line up Fairfield plus a moderately long 20 mile run around some other Lakeland Fells, looking at the Old Counties Tops route for a change of scene. The pounding around Kentmere seems to be taking its toll a little, or maybe it’s just the cumulative effect of mileage and ascent, but either way the legs are feeling a little tired. The one saving grace is that the weather has mostly been amazing……….until winter decided to return.

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A moment of rest and recuperation above Grasmere

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Winter returns….Will head down into snow on Greenup Edge

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Looking as bad as I felt! Near Fairfield

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Take the two highest patches of snow, and go straight up between them!


13th-19th April: Weekly Stats: 20,367 ft ascent / 95km

This week has been split in two by a brief foray north of the border for some late season ice climbing on Ben Nevis. The two days on the Ben were in themselves pretty long days with plenty of uphill training but either side it’s been business as usual. Monday evening saw me out on another lap of the Kentmere Horseshoe, Friday night I was back to my winter stomping ground of Red Screes and Scandale Beck whilst Saturday was a 4 hour sortie around the Duddon Fell race route.

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A warm evening above Kentmere

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Clear skies on Harter Fell during a round of Duddon

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Two Grade V ice routes on the Ben were a welcome diversion


6th ~ 12th: Weekly Stats: 21,863ft / 100 km approx.

Ran 5 out of 7 days this week, the longest outing of which was a recce of legs 3 and 4 combined. Early in the week the weather was fine and warm and Monday and Wednesday found me running around the Kentmere Horseshoe, of the which the 2nd round resulted in my fastest non-race time ever, excluding the summit of High Street itself, in 1 hr 48 minutes. Proof that I don’t buy into the one-size fits all argument for not neglecting speed work when training for long distances. Speed will come to those who are strong.

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Skirting High Street looking north

But by Saturday the weather had changed. At 630am I left Dunmail Raise in horizontal sleet, which soon became horizontal snow, my plan to run legs 3 and 4 didn’t seem such a good idea. Running across to High Raise, I was only just under a 20 hour schedule, the driving wind and snow was taking a massive toll on my energy and speed. I was cold.

But the weather was forecast to improve somewhat and by the time I reached Rossett Pike the cloud base had risen, just the wind remained. A slow line to Rossett Pike (following one of the recommended lines over the ridge itself – last time I do that, it’s definitely faster to follow the trods further around to the west after reaching the col at Black Crags and not follow the ridge itself) meant I was only ‘on 20hr schedule but re-gained time heading onto Bowfell via the ramps and across to Esk Pike, despite the snow and slippy conditions.

Given the snow, wet rock and ice, Broad Stand probably wasn’t the hottest decision that day but I needed to remind myself that it was straightforward. Having nearly had a moment, once fully committed I reminded myself that it was, just not in those conditions. I ran down to Wasdale a humbled being and told myself that ‘going’ on Broad Stand would be a crap way to bow out.

Despite deliberately taking it easy up Yewbarrow, I flew up it and reached the summit in 38 minutes, Red Pike, Steeple all came and went. I was now well up on my 20 hour schedule and eating into a sub 19 hour pace. Climbing up Great Gable I was blown off my feet, I was battling but physically not knackered, just mentally drained from fighting the wind and the cold.

I arrived at Honister 9 hours and 2 minutes since leaving Dunmail. I was cold but physically in reasonable shape. I felt pretty good.

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Looking back towards Scafell Pike from Scafell

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Looking down a snowy Broad Stand. My footprints can be seen bottom left.

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Keeping fuelled and trying to stay warm on Steeple.

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About Richard Talbot

An accomplished fell-runner as well as being a keen climber and mountaineer. Since 2005 he has worked for the UK based manufacturer Mountain Equipment and is currently Director of Product. He has worked in the outdoor industry for over 15 years.
This entry was posted in #BG20, Fell Running Diaries, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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