Saturday, 18 September 2021

3-10 September: Yorkshire & Lincoln

Background
Mick's brother, who we've not seen in person for three years, was visiting his mum, so we thought we'd gatecrash the reunion. As his visit would relegate us to the bunk beds, we took our own accommodation, in the shape of Bertie, and as we had a week free between commitments at home, it seemed wasteful to just do a there-and-back journey.

Friday 3 September - Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Where was Bertie? He spent the night at Savill Town Wharf Marina, a Caravan Club Certificated Location in Dewsbury, where it costs £13 per night, including electric (and allegedly toilets and showers, although we didn't investigate).
Weather: A disappointingly damp morning followed by a grey afternoon.

It has been a long time since we did anything cultural and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, being outdoors, seemed like a good choice. Alas, the fair forecast that had held steady for days (and even on the day) didn't come to fruition, so we got drizzled on during our drive and for the first hour or so of our visit.

Five and a half hours were spent in the park, during which we walked around 7 miles, yet still we left a large area and lots of exhibits unseen. We were in agreement in our verdict: it's well worth a visit, but probably best enjoyed by not reading the information signs about each sculpture (many an exclamation along the lines of 'what tosh!' was made about the narratives surrounding the pieces; relatively few such exclamations were made about the artworks themselves).

Rat on a stick, and others.
Awful quality of snap, but see the big head across the water? 
Close up of head, showing that it's not the shape one might expect when viewed from across the water. 

The drive to the marina (which sits on a spur off the Calder and Hebble Navigation) at Dewsbury took less than half an hour and after our day of exersion we were rather lazy on arrival. In fact, the only time I stirred myself to step outside of Bertie during our stay was to open and close the entrance gate. In hindsight, we really should have made a bit more of an effort to take a stroll along the canal.

Saturday & Sunday 4/5 September - Halifax
Where was Bertie? He spent two nights sitting on Ma-in-Law's driveway, which is fortunately level and just big enough for a Bertie-sized vehicle.
Weather: Ummm. I have little recollection other than that it was dry, save for a few minutes of a shower at about 5am on Sunday.

An early breakfast on Saturday morning then a drive to Brighouse, where I ran my first parkrun since last January. The venue was selected for its flat course as I felt my something-behind-the-knee was probably up to a 5km run, but was unconvinced it was yet up to the undulations of Halifax parkrun.

My something-behind-the-knee voiced no objections and a good time was had, although I found it odd how few people were chatting and that no-one else in my vicinity thanked any of the marshals.

There's not much to report for the rest of the weekend, most of which was spent variously sitting on a sofa chatting or eating and chatting (and sometimes combining the two).

Monday - Wednesday 6-8 September - Lincoln
Where was Bertie? He was in The Lawns Car Park in Lincoln where it costs £8.80 for a 24-hour ticket or £3.80 overnight (6pm-8am). We got through two of the former and one of the latter to see us through 3 nights.
Weather: Spectacular! Sunny and 28 degrees.

In the persistent drizzle at the Sculpture Park on Friday we'd rued not packing Paramo trousers to go with our Paramo jackets and it felt like autumn was upon us after a disappointingly cool summer. By Monday evening I was ruing not having packed our it's-too-hot-for-the-duvet topsheet for the bed (topsheet+blanket being one notch down from the duvet; topsheet alone being two notches down), along with not having packed myself any shorts or sandals. (I found a spare duvet cover tucked away in Bertie that took the place of the top sheet and I resolved the lack of shorts with a £2 sale rail purchase.)

Back to Monday lunchtime though, when we parked up in a large layby outside Lincoln and frittered away some time with a walk along some waterways. The ploy worked and by the time we arrived in Lincoln at around 6pm there were parking spaces aplenty free in what would have been a full car park earlier in the day. 

The council making a bit of money from what would otherwise be an empty car park overnight. It'd be nice if it caught on in all under-used council car parks!

A partial view of the castle and cathedral from the car park.

Our intended one-night stay became extended to three, during which we:
- ran a circuit taking in the school Mick attended and the house he lived in from 1968-1971, along with other sites of nostalgic value.
- wandered a lot (been here 3 times before yet was unaware of Brayford Pool)
- didn't visit the cathedral, because it was in use the whole time for university graduation ceremonies.
- ate a lot (including two meals out plus an order from Wagamama's that they successfully delivered to us in our car park)
- frittered away hours on shaded benches in the park behind Bertie,
- at one point found we could barely open Bertie's door due to the proximity of the motorhome parked next to us*.

Nostalgia points of interest in Lincoln

Brayford pool
Brayford pool entrance
Wagamama delivery to Bertie

Thursday 9 September - Whisby Nature Reserve/Thorpe on the Hill
Where was Bertie? He spent the day at Whisby Nature Reserve at a cost of £2, and the night at The Railway Inn, just around the corner, at a cost of £15 including electricity, toilet and shower.
Weather: Murky start, clearing to sunshine, then clouding over to showers, some thundery. Still shorts and t-shirt temperatures.

Leaving Lincoln before 8am (the expiry time on our overnight ticket), we drove against the flow of traffic to the location where I intended us to spend the day, walking along the River Witham. Bertie breathed in to squeeze down the overgrown lane only to find the parking spot unsuitable for our purposes, so we turned around and headed back out. Gah! We were now heading back towards Lincoln with the flow of rush hour traffic. As we came to a standstill we pulled into the adjacent's restaurant's car park, from where we witnessed someone's failure to notice that the traffic in front of them was stationary, writing off their car in the process.

After an age of looking for somewhere to go, I settled on Whisby Nature Reserve which (once we'd battled the traffic) turned out to be a good choice. After a morning stroll around one of the lakes, at lunchtime we ran all of the waymarked trails.

Where to go for the night was the post-lunch question. Resources were consulted again and, due to our desire to shower, and due to a seriously dwindling quantity of water on board**, we opted for a campsite. That this one was 2 minutes away from where we were parked, and has a shower, it was the obvious choice, even though we may be in for a disturbed night (for two reasons, one of which is apparent from the name of the pub!).

Photo (not zoomed in) taken from inside Bertie, through his side window. The passenger trains (of which there were many) weren't too noisy. The freight trains (of which there were quite a few) were loud, could be felt, went on for ages, and continued through the night. The site's description of 'occasional train noise' was wildly inaccurate.


As it turned out, the classic car meet caused us no bother at all (although there was a mini episode when a visitor driving a HGV tractor unit decided that on our pitch, for which we'd paid good money, was an appropriate place for him to park too. The landlord of the pub soon put him right).

The bottom left photo was taken about 100m before a "haven't we been here before" moment. 

Friday 10 September - Thorpe on the Hill
Having realised the day before that we'd walked through Thorpe on the Hill during our Big Walk in 2014, we'd discussed where we'd stayed the night before. I described our field-margin pitch in as much detail as I could recall (including the content of the conversation of two dog walkers who passed the other side of the adjacent hedge), but Mick drew a blank.

Not needing to be off the campsite  until 11am, we had plenty of time for a reasonably leisurely start followed by a 5km circuit taking in part of our 2014 route. The 'this is where we pitched' part of the plan didn't come to fruition due to a missing footpath (obliterated by a field of maize in one direction and completely absent from its other end), but it was a pleasant bit of exercise all the same.

Then we went home intent on having some productive days. As it turned out construction supply chain issues scuppered us, such that we may as well have stayed away over the weekend, but at least we'd had a good week in what will surely have been the last really good weather of the summer? 


(*There was nothing technically wrong with how they'd parked and surely they'd only done so because it was the only available space when they'd arrived, but it did cause us an impediment for a few hours as we arrived back whilst they were out.
**We left home with about 30 litres in Bertie's tank, which had sat there since the Lakeland 50 weekend at the end of July, having decided not to top it up as we expected to be at a campsite on Monday night. I'm not sure how many times we have to go through water shortages on this exact basis before we learn a lesson from it.)

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Pennine Way - Abort! Abort! Abort!

There’s a whole story as to how I found myself setting out on the Pennine Way yesterday with the intention of trying to walk its distance in a week, but it’s too long, and probably not overly relevant, to relate that here. Suffice to say that after putting a significant amount of time and effort into a level of planning and preparation that I’ve not engaged in for years, we set the alarm clocks for silly-o’clock yesterday morning to drive up to Edale and at just gone 7am I headed off up the road towards the Nag’s Head, as Mick (driving support for me) set off to jump ahead to Crowden. 

It’s now Tuesday evening and I’m writing this post from home, having travelled today from Ma-in-Law’s house, where we spent yesterday afternoon and last night. From that snippet of information you may gather that things didn’t go to plan.

I made no secret of the fact that I was highly pessimistic as to the chance of me succeeding in my goal, but equally I knew that unless I started I had absolutely no chance of finishing, so set out I did. What I hadn’t anticipated, in my expectations of failure, was that my mission would end so soon after it started.

I was still on my way up onto Kinder Scout when I felt a pull behind my left knee, in the same place as the niggle I’d felt in the Lakes a couple of weeks ago. Should I have anticipated this recurrence? Perhaps, but given that the niggle had disappeared the moment I stopped walking two weeks ago, and that in the following week and a half I’d been for a walk on Cannock Chase, a flat run and done a hill-reps session, all without any hint of an ongoing issue, it hadn’t entered my head that it would be a problem. Even when it did make its presence felt, I was optimistic that it would soon settle down.

By the time I reached Mill Hill on the far side of Kinder Scout I was in no doubt that I was going to have to abort, and for a short while I thought I was going to have to call Mick to pick me up from Snake Road. Then, between Mill Hill and the Snake Road, I ascertained that I could walk downhill without any hint of an issue and that I could run without a problem too, so I thought I may as well continue over Bleaklow. The uphill bits of that  extra 10km confirmed, without doubt, that stopping was the only sensible option. 

Disappointing to have such an early end to an endeavour like this, particularly given how much effort I put into the preparation (moreover, considering the good weather forecast was for this week!). Pulling out later, after a couple of days say, would have been a harder decision to make, but would no doubt have left me with some ‘lessons learnt’ and a better view as to my capabilities (both mental and physical). On the positive side, I did have a lovely morning’s walk, even with the fog and rain. 

I reckon I’ve got five more weeks this year before the available hours of daylight dictate that a rerun has to be postponed until next year. Five weeks is also the timeframe to another endeavour I had pencilled into the calendar. In the unlikely event that I’m confident in my ability to walk pain-free uphill again by then, I’ll have the challenge of deciding which one to pursue.

Obligatory Nag’s Head selfie

A long way to go!
 (or so I thought when I took this snap)

View back along Hope Valley, not long after I’d passed a chap just setting out to backpack half of the Way.

Heading for the foot of Jacob’s Ladder (note the cloud is now down over Kinder Scout)

Kinder Low trig point. The cloud, into which I’d ascended after Jacob’s Ladder, finally lifted just before I got to Bleaklow. It also started raining on me just after Kinder Downfall (which I could hear but not see) and continued for far longer than was reasonable on a day when rain wasn’t forecast.

Glorious surroundings, with the heather coming into bloom. I met Mick, who’d walked out to meet me, further down Torside Clough. 
 

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Lakeland 50: Part 4 - The Good Things

Whilst the Lakeland 50 didn’t go well for me (as described in Part 3), there was more to the event than covering 50 miles on foot within 24 hours and thus, even with the 10 hours of digestive distress and my dislike of the experience of Fusedale and Haweswater, overall I had a good weekend. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Once past Mardale Head, and the frustrations of the single file, we had a nice walk!
  • Whilst many complained that it was too hot, and I certainly wouldn’t have minded more cloud cover, we were incredibly lucky with the weather, getting the coolest day of a hot week, without any threat of rain and with uncommonly dry underfoot conditions.
  • The benefit of walking 50 miles, rather than running a goodly chunk of it, is that it’s much easier on the body. Whilst I developed a minor niggle in the back of my left knee late on (whilst Mick suffered with a sore lower back), at no point did I feel like my body wasn’t capable of the distance. Indeed, if someone had told me at the finish that I had to go another 10 miles, I don’t think I would have cried. So, we finished in pretty good shape, feeling strong and not feeling like it was going to take long to recover.

Dawn giving hints of breaking at 0425

The moon about to dip out of sight 30 minutes later

  • I’d hoped that we would finish in the early hours of the morning, but in the event we walked straight through the night. That had its own highlights, ranging from the quantity of bats flying around just above our heads as we descended from Garburn (pity there weren’t more to make a dent in the midge population!), to the impressive sight of lines of headtorches. At Troutbeck Post Office we succumbed to a bench for a couple of minutes (it was the first time we’d sat on anything but the ground since we’d started) and it took me a couple of moments to realise that the line of lights I could see coming down the hillside were headtorches, not car headlights. Similarly in Langdale I wondered why all those cars a little ahead and to the left of us were moving so slowly, before again twigging that they were headtorches.

It's worth clicking on this for a larger view of the line of headtoches coming down the hillside opposite

  • As well as meeting new people we got to catch up with a few TGO Challengers. 
  • It was truly inspirational to see how good and strong some of the 100 runners looked (they'd been going for 18 hours longer and had covered 55 more miles than us). A special mention goes to Fiona, who I decided is a machine. She was the only person I struggled to catch as I powered over Gatescarth to find Mick and she later passed us on Garburn. Then there were the three 100 chaps who ran past us in the full dark at 3am on some terrain that I couldn't run even in daylight.
  • It was a fun weekend in general, with a good festival feel in the camping fields at Coniston. There was even live music, albeit we didn’t attend, choosing instead to have a quiet evening in Bertie.
  • The volunteers manning Coniston and all of the Check Points (a whole army of them) are incredible. We didn’t take best advantage of what was on offer at the Check Points, but we still came to appreciate how hard the volunteers were working, putting in a phenomenally long shift to ensure everyone was looked after. I’m sure they all had a significantly more tiring weekend than we did.
  • Finally, a word has to be said about how well organised the event was. There’s clearly a massive amount of organisation that goes into an event on this scale (there were 2250 registered entries across both the 100 and the 50; with pre-event attrition, that translated to almost 1700 starters), and whilst I will never be happy about the wait we had at CP1, in all other respects I couldn’t fault anything I saw or experienced.

Will I do it again?

Never say never, but as much as I can see the positives, and would love to attend again in some capacity, I have to conclude that an event this big (as in number of people, not distance!) is not my cup of tea, and nor is setting out at 11.30am - I'm very much an 'early start' sort of a person. As for Mick, he says he wouldn’t mind having another crack at it. 

 

Refueling. These M&S Lemon Curd Iced Buns were superb!

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Lakeland 50: Part 3 - Things That Didn't Go To Plan

 

In Part 2 I listed the things that did go to plan in our race. Unfortunately, the list of things that didn’t go to plan is rather longer and is set out below. Mick has commented in proof-reading this post that it comes over as entirely negative and like I had a miserable time. Well, it is entirely negative (see Parts 2 and 4 for the positives!) and I did have a miserable time … whilst at the same time having a reasonable degree of fun (yes, that is possible). If Mick was to write a similar set of posts then there would be much more positivity, because many of the issues that affected me didn’t affect him. Anyhoo, here you go with… 

Things that didn’t go to plan:

  • Starting in a rested state. In a completely irrational attack of anxiety (really, I had a lot of hours to think through all aspects of what could be worrying me and the only thing that had any rational basis was the Covid risk of the bus ride to the start, but I’d worked through all the stats on that earlier in the week and resigned myself to it) I managed just 3.5 hours of broken sleep on Friday night.
  • Pre-Event Eating. Associated with the anxiety referred to above, I awoke feeling like I would never want to eat again. It took me an hour and a half to force my usual bowl of porridge down. It took me an hour to eat the single wrap I’d made myself for lunch. What a fine start: a lack of sleep and food. At least I was going in well hydrated, wasn’t I…
  • Pre-Event Hydration.  I’d taken electrolyte tablets the night before to give my body the best chance of hanging onto as much fluid as possible, yet I still had to get up for about 87 wees overnight (an outrageous exaggeration, but it is what it felt like each time I crept out of bed trying not to disturb Mick). Then there was the bus ride, which meant that I didn’t dare drink too much until we got to the start at Dalemain, but at least we would be there an hour before the start, giving me plenty of time to neck a decent amount of water…
  • The Bus journey. A whole fleet of coaches take competitors from Coniston to Dalemain. 1134 people started the 50-mile race this year, some of whom had lifts from family and friends. The rest went by coach and clearly that requires a lot of coaches. Only one of those broke down en-route and that was the one we were on. A hose ruptured on the way up Dunmail Raise and by the time the driver found somewhere safe to pull over alongside Thirlmere the engine had dumped its water over the road. The driver happened to be one of the bus company’s mechanics, which would have been handy if he’d had any tools available to him. In the absence of tools, it would have been handy if we hadn’t been in a mobile phone blackspot, but as it was a busload of competitors was stuck in a layby with no immediate way to let the organisers know. Fortunately, there were at least 5 more coaches of the fleet behind us and each of them was flagged down and any spare seats filled. I suspect that the one Mick and I got on was bringing up the rear, given how many empty seats it had. We then hit traffic just before Dalemain and finally made it into the car park to disembark with 2 minutes to spare before the race was due to start (not that I had any intention of starting until I’d visited the Portaloos and drunk some water). We eventually crossed the start line at 1150, only twenty minutes late. Starting late was of no great importance, as official timings were based on individual trackers rather than the clock (although had we started in the 16-18 hour position in the start pen, would we have been held up so much later? We’ll never know).
Loitering in a layby with a broken bus
  • The First Check Point. We were focused on not getting sucked into a vortex at Check Points and our objective for CP1 was 4 minutes. We would enter with water bottles in hand, get them filled, grab some food off the table and leave. What a blow then to find ourselves in a 300m queue just to reach the check point. It took us 28 minutes to get to the front of that queue. 28 minutes of standing in the heat of the day, whilst likely everybody we’d passed as we ran the previous kilometres caught us back up. I was completely demoralised. To add insult to injury, the queue transpired to just be for water; if we’d known* we would have carried our water filters and used streams. (*We couldn’t have known; apparently there’s not been a queue there in previous years)
    Many thanks go to friend Vic for grabbing this screenshot from the live feed of CP1. I think it conveys nicely our contemporaneous feelings about the queue. 
  • Fusedale. A significant difference between our recces and the event (other than the number of people around!) was that in the intervening period the whole landscape had been changed by the growth of bracken. Paths that had seemed reasonably wide were now hemmed in. The impact on Fusedale was that, in a location where I knew we could make reasonably good time, overtaking proved difficult, giving us great stretches where we were limited to the speed of the slowest person in front of us. On the one hand it made the going really easy, but on the other hand I hadn’t spent 5 months training hard to go up here at a slow walk.
  • Haweswater. I already knew that there were limited opportunities to overtake along Haweswater and that was made worse by the bracken. The only people we overtook along this section were those who stood aside for us. The impact of the delay at CP1 and the ‘speed of the slowest person in front’ in Fusedale and Haweswater was that, even taking into account the Dalemain Loop at the start (which I’d not been able to recce), we arrived at Mardale Head over 2 hours slower than the times I’d done in training. Had there been any easy way of getting back to Coniston from Mardale Head, I would have taken it, having decided I’d much rather cover the distance on a different day by myself rather than in a ‘follow the leader’ fashion. I suppose I should count my blessings that getting back to Coniston from there would have taken 8 hours*, as the congestion/narrow path issues ceased to exist from that point on. Theoretically things should have got better from there…
Not my photo, and thanks go to whoever took it. It's Mardale Head CP before it was beseiged by competitors. Look how low the water in Haweswater is!

(*We arrived at Mardale Head at 6pm. The next bus was scheduled to leave at 11pm and it’s advertised as a 3-hour journey back to Coniston.)

  • Indigestion agogo. I had a nice time up Gatescarth Pass, walking a good distance of the way with someone we know, before putting a spurt on to catch Mick who by now was on the other side of the pass (I caught him 30 seconds after he’d sat down to wait for me; he was most miffed!). Alas, coming down the other side I started getting indigestion (on reflection: I knew I was dehydrated at Mardale Head, yet didn’t drink any extra water there. I then ate a packet of crisps (the tastiest and best crisps I’ve ever had in my life!) whilst walking. Dehydration + movement + fatty snack = recipe for indigestion). For the next 10 hours I variously felt pretty rough, absolutely awful, and ‘is this actually a heart attack?’. Ridiculously, on the way to Kentmere I spent a couple of miles contemplating that I might feel better if I consumed some antacids, before I paused for the ten seconds required to get them out and eat them. Over the course of this event, I reckon I consumed more Rennies than I have in total over the last 30 years.
  • The running bits. Theoretically from the top of Gatescarth Pass we could finally do the running we had trained so hard for, but that plan was scuppered by the indigestion. There was a direct relationship between speed of movement, how much pain I was in and how poorly I felt, so I resigned myself to walking until the indigestion resolved itself. Even with my antacid consumption, that didn’t happen until after the finish.

 One of a series of motivational signs on the way into Kentmere.
  • Keeping on top of food and water. We’d also trained hard to make sure we could eat whilst running and run immediately after a meal, but that was of no use when I lost the ability to eat. Once the indigestion hit, I could only manage the tiniest bites of food without making myself feel worse and I could only manage little sips of water too (although I sipped so regularly that I felt like I was well hydrated for the whole second half of the course). I’m pretty sure the root of the problem was drinking too little before the start and in the early stages, in the hottest part of a hot day, so I only have myself to blame.
  • Surveying the food table at the final Check Point at quarter past four in the morning. I was sure I wanted something to eat, but I had no idea what, beyond the fact that whatever it was, it wasn't on that table (which is no bad reflection on the CP - they had lots on offer)
     

Oh dear. What a tale of woe! I'll be back in Part 4 with some more positivity.

Lakeland 50: Part 2 - Things That Went To Plan

In Part 1 of this series I described the Lakeland 50 and how we came to be there. Here's Part 2 where I'll start talking about our experience of the race. 

Rather than posting a blow-by-blow account (I have written one for my own benefit, but it’s over 8000 words long!), I’m just going to post my thoughts on what went to plan and what didn’t. I’ll start today with the positives, which is a disappointingly short list.

Things that went to plan:

  • We finished!
  • We executed the first part of our race plan to the letter: in order not to get swept up in the moment and start too fast, we were going to walk the first 6km loop around the Dalemain Estate, before adopting a run/walk strategy for the rest. In fact, we didn’t run at all for the first 12km. It was heartening that we were easily keeping pace with, and even getting well ahead of, many run/walking around us (they’d pass on the downs; we’d pass on the flats; we pulled well ahead on the sustained ups). 

Part of the 6km loop on the Dalemain Estate

  • We were in and out of Ambleside Check Point in 4 minutes. Okay I'm clutching at straws to find positives here, but one of our objectives was not to lose unnecessary time at Check Points.
  • We were also in and out of Chapel Stile Check Point in 4 minutes. This was perhaps my proudest achievement of the whole event, other than finishing, in that we both ate a bowl of stew here, and that involved me having to empty out half of my pack to find my spoon (wrapped in the sock I’d taken off a while before; how hygienic). We also ate sequentially because Mick couldn’t be bothered finding his own spoon. I would think I had mistimed us, but our official trackers both confirm our stunning efficiency.
  • We managed one heck of a sprint finish! The final mile was our fastest.

Oh dear! What a short list. The next post, with 'Things that didn't go to plan' will, unfortunately, be significantly longer. 


Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Lakeland 50: Part 1 - What and How We Came To Be There

Mick and I have just taken part in the Lakeland 50 event. Before I launch into some posts about how it went, here's a bit of background:

The Event

The Lakeland 100/50 ‘Ultra Tour of the Lake District’ is a set of two races (105 miles and 50 miles) that has taken place each year on the last full weekend of July since 2008. The 100 is a circular route from Coniston involving 6300m of ascent…


 …and starts at 6pm on the Friday.

The 50 is a linear route from Dalemain (just north of Pooley Bridge) to Coniston, involving 3000m of ascent…

…and starts at 11.30am on the Saturday. The start time of the 50 has two purposes: 1) it puts the main field of the 100 runners and the 50 runners on the same part of the course at the same time; and 2) it ensures that all but the very fastest finishers will have some experience of running in the dark. For the slower competitors, they will go through the whole night.

The cut-off for the 100 is 40 hours. For the 50 it’s a significantly more manageable 24 hours.

How We Came To Be There

In 2019 an acquaintance and fellow TGO Challenger worked insidiously in encouraging us to apply for the Lakeland 50. Somehow her tactics worked and on 1 September 2019 we entered our names into the ballot. A few days later we got the ‘Sorry but you weren’t successful’ email, giving us a whole year to decide whether we wanted to apply again.

The 2020 event eventually got cancelled due to Covid, which seemed like it would remove any option to apply for 2021 due to the rolled-over entries. However, some people had removed themselves from the entry list and the decision was made to increase the field, resulting in an announcement that a limited number of places were going to be made available. It seemed that our chances of nabbing one of those places was remote, but I threw our names back into the hat anyway. The “I” in that sentence is possibly what resulted in the “Congratulations! Your application was successful” a few days later, as I understand there had been some level of positive discrimination towards women and our application had me as the lead.

With the knowledge that we were in, we were then able to sit back and do nothing specific for the best part of six months. Come February it was time to start training, whereupon the reality of what we had committed to belatedly struck me, along with the knowledge that last time we did anything even vaguely comparable to this was in 2006 when, it now occurred to me, we were 15 years younger.

Happily, training went better than expected. I managed 115 outings amounting to over 1600km, over the course of which I went from “Oh my, what in the world was I thinking in entering this?” to “I can do this!”. Mick’s plan was always much more conservative than mine, with the main focus being for him not to get injured. He did miss a few sessions due to niggles, but incredibly (given his history) managed to avoid any significant injury. He completed 81 outings covering just over 1000km.

When we headed north last Thursday ready for race weekend, we felt well prepared for what was ahead.

To be continued...


The school field and a lot of competitors camping
The other field (spot Bertie with his blindfold on) and even more competitors camping
View out of Bertie's door



Saturday, 17 July 2021

Saturday 26 June - Friday 2 July

(Doh! Another post written some time ago that I failed to publish) 

Where was Bertie? He spent the week in the car park of the Park Hotel in Montrose.

Weather: Still unseasonably cool (many days with a daytime high of 14 or 15 degrees), but dry.

Saturday 26 June

We weren't needed in Montrose on Saturday, which gave us the whole day to travel the 2.5 hours from Newtonmore. On that basis, we could have had a nice long lie-in and recouped some of the late nights. However, Mick was also due a long run, so I sprang out of bed at just gone 5am to make him some breakfast and chivvy him out the door, as he needed to be done by early afternoon so that Bertie could be extricated from Newtonmore Hostel's driveway (definitely a 2-person job) before the hostel's new guests arrived that afternoon.

I joined Mick for the final section of his run, hence the action shot. 

An adductor strain caused Mick to cut short, but having managed 40km of off-road trails it had already been a meaningful session. 

An hour or so later Bertie breathed in and ducked again to squeeze back through the gateposts and under the rowan tree to leave the driveway. It turned out to be a trickier exercise (due to the approach angles) than entering had been (and that'd not been easy). 

Sunday 27 June

With more bodies than were needed for Challenge Control on what was due to be a quiet day, I excused myself for the early part of the morning and took myself out for an excursion to the lighthouse at Scurdie Ness, although my intended circuit became an out-and-back when I got put off by the combination of cattle and the need to pass through a farmyard. It turned out not to be a bad thing as on the return leg I met a chap who pointed out the dolphins in the estuary, and we had a good chat as we made our way back towards the harbour. 

Monday 28 June

We continued to have more bodies than needed to man Challenge Control in Montrose, but it had been decided that, due to a number of factors related to Glen Esk, it would be beneficial for a satellite Challenge Control to be sited at Invermark for a couple of days ('Remote Control' as we dubbed it). Mick and I were nominated for the task on the Monday, and we set out late in the morning. In the afternoon, with some egging-on from Mick, I nipped up Mount Keen - a summit Mick had already visited on a TGO Challenge of his own a few years ago. 



The first TGO Challengers finished their crossings and arrived in Montrose that evening. 

Tuesday 29 June

Challenge Control had started the week in its usual location of the Kinnaird Room (on the first floor of the Park Hotel), but due to Covid considerations it made its scheduled move down to the Garden Room (a bigger room on the ground floor with two sets of external doors such that we could operate a one-way system and serve refreshments to Challengers in the garden). I failed to take a snap of the Kinnaird Room, but here's how we set up the Garden Room:



Strawberry tarts from Charleton Fruit Farm. Quite a few of these were consumed and they're bigger than this snap makes them look.

Wednesday 30 June

Challenge Control was getting busier with finishing Challengers signing in, receiving their certificates  and t-shirts, then being served cups of tea by Mick. Mick also did a good line in chatting:

The benefit of being outside: no need for masks. Whenever anyone other than those manning the desk was present in the Garden Room, masks had to be worn. 


Don't leave the biscuits unattended! Turns out a seagull can swallow a custard cream whole.

Thursday 1 July

The busiest day on Control with arriving Challengers ... except that it was another nice sunny day, which causes Challengers to loiter at their end-points, enjoy sitting outside cafes and the like. By early afternoon we were getting a bit concerned about how many were still due and (with a Covid-related limit on 3 Challengers inside Control at any one time) the logistical issues that could be caused by a rush. It all worked out just fine.


A tired Challenger succumbing to an under-table kip? A frantic search for the last biscuit? Or a bee-saving mission?
Scottish Covid restrictions precluded indoor speeches, so presentations happened in the garden.

Friday 2 July

The final day of the TGO Challenge, and, my goodness, after a couple of late nights and early mornings, I was tired. Really tired. Ridiculously tired. I'd got as far as swinging my legs out of bed at 0730, to get ready to go for a run with Martin & Sue, before swiftly deciding that staying in bed for an extra half an hour was the better plan. I started my shift with caffeine.

The final two Challengers signed in at 1635 (the deadline is 1700) and within the hour Challenge Control had been deconstructed, with just a pile of rubbish to show for what had been before:

I promptly took myself off to bed, for a kip before the final dinner at 1930. 

The dinner set-up also had to be different this year, with just small tables for 3 or 4 people (the 4-people tables involved one couple plus two singletons, so as to stay within the 'no more than 3 households' rule).

By good fortune (from my point of view; did I mention how tired I was?) a strict 11pm curfew was in force in Scottish hospitality venues, so whilst it was still a late night by my standards (although at least I didn't have dishes to do once we got back to Bertie, as we had at this hour the night before!), it could have been later.