Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

May 31, 2011

Housman Hundred, 101 mi, 28-29 May 2011

Smiling before the start, with the halfway bags still piled behind me
Well.  100 miles.  After months of anticipation, my legs have carried me the entire distance, and I have finished my first hundred mile run in 34:54.   

The whole event sort of split into thirds, not of distance or time, but in terms of mental capacity.   I have to admit now, it was the toughest thing I have ever done.  To be completely honest, the distance broke me, and turned me into a blubbering, painfully hobbling wreck somewhere in the middle.  But I digress, and will start at the beginning.    
First a few statistics: 
422 Male and 128 Female starters
154 First timers and 25 have completed 20 or more LDWA hundreds
Entries from Spain, Italy, Holland, Canada, and USA
Average age of entries 54
Youngest 18 and oldest 81
Only 23 entrants less than 35 years old and 202 over 60 years old

The 12 o'clock start

Comments are already circulating about how this may have been the toughest 100 in the last few years for sure.  Out of 524 starters, 158 retired before the finish, with a few taking up to the full 48 hours to navigate the course. 
The LDWA hundred mile event is held in a different location every year.  This year was in Shropshire, and named after the poet A.E. Housman.   Hence the Housman 100, and I will include a few short poems, just because.

Into my heart an air that kills 
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
  What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
  I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
  And cannot come again.
The first mental third was the easy one (duh).
I arrived in Ludlow via a long drive from home, just in time to see the majority of the 500 starters head out at 10 a.m.   I had chosen to start later at 12, just to get a full night’s sleep after working the day before (seemed like a good idea considering it would be another night or two until my head would hit a pillow).   A much smaller crowd of 49 runners started off with me, and although it rained on us on the short walk TO the start, once the clock started, I at least never saw another drop of rain.  Considering the forecast was predicting lots of wet stuff, it was an unexpected pleasure.
The first 25 miles were beautiful forest trails following the Mortimer Trail.   It was sunny at times, the trees blocked the wind, and the vistas were amazing.   It was neither warm nor cold, and I drank lots of liquids to try to stay ahead of dehydration.   I really enjoyed the pine forests as there aren’t many of them near my home in Yorkshire.   But the trail also started a disturbing trend, namely of checkpoints located in the valleys, and the trail in between leading up and over some very steep hilltops. 
By checkpoint #2, I had started to catch up to the 10 a.m. starters and the hall looked like a tornado had swept through it, leaving only crumbs and empty dishes!   I pushed onwards and navigation was easy as a steady stream of walkers were there to show me the upcoming trail junctions.
After leaving the Mortimer Trail, we picked up Offa’s Dyke Path and crossed over into Wales.   The third checkpoint was a welcome sight, and for the first time I stopped for a meal, and so began the parade of the strangest things I have ever eaten during a race.   At this stop it was potato salad and hot quiche, which I must say tasted great and was easy to eat.   Later checkpoint stops offered ravioli on toast, pasta, soups, a full English breakfast (skipped that one, sausages seemed like a bad idea!), and baked potatoes, plus a selection of tea, coffee, cake and other snacks.   It seemed like I was constantly eating and drinking, which I had been looking forward to, really (who doesn’t want to pig out once in a while!), but in the moment, just seemed like a necessary chore to keep my body fueled. 
With daylight failing, I was quickly out the door again, up and over another big hill (or two) to reach checkpoint #4 and the 35 mile mark.   That made 1/3 of the race complete in just over 8.5 hours, and I was really happy with that time as it boded well for my goal of under 30 hours (ha!).   Even better, I immediately saw a few friendly faces from the West Yorkshire LDWA club, so I had people to walk with for the start of the dreaded night section.  They had recce’d the whole route over a long weekend a month before, so as dark fell and the headlamps came out, I was confident in their route choices and making good progress.
The pace slowed dramatically, however, as every step at night required more care on the steep climbs to not slip, slide, or fall down a hillside. Crossing hundreds of gates and stiles slowed us down further, as tired legs made the huge steps over even harder.  The lights of other head torches strung out ahead of us along the black ridge, as the route description promised great views (ha!) over the Welsh hills.  I had been using a brand new pair of Leki Traveller trekking poles, and found them to be absolutely brilliant, in that I could unclip my wrist straps from the poles to get my hands free for digging in my pack, yet not have to finger grip the poles at all to get traction while walking.  The poles made me much faster on the uphills, and helped push me along at a good clip on the flat parts as well (not that there were many flats).   I slowly pulled away from my friends, and pushed on into the dark, focusing on catching the headlamps bobbing ahead of me. 
A downhill stretch to checkpoint #5 was where I first noticed that my knee hurt quite badly on steep downhill sections and I could no longer run downhill for fear it would buckle under me.   I was now using my trekking poles to help me limp down the steep stuff; although on more reasonable terrain I could walk or run without pain.   I set out alone again, pushing through several groups of torchlit walkers to help speed me over the trail.   Another lone walker caught up to me, one of the very few people to pass me over the entire event.  We struck up a conversation and carried on.  It turned out that Al, who had the distinction of being the only person on the event to carry his pack over just one shoulder, had recce’d the night section and knew it like the back of his hand.  Walking at 4 miles an hour, he navigated with no hesitation and I desperately tried to keep up with him.  At times I had to run to catch up, but the miles ticked by and we were at the 55 mile breakfast stop by 5 a.m.   The English breakfast didn’t sound good, but my halfway bag was waiting for me, so I took the time to change my shoes and socks, massage my feet, and stock up on snacks again. 
Al was ready to head out about when I was, so we set off together again, with him navigating and me trying desperately to hang on.  The next ten miles passed quickly with the strong winds at our back and a fine mist coming down.  The trail around the rocky peaks of Stipperstones was beautiful, but this was no time to stop and dig in my pack for the camera.  And so we reached checkpoint #8 and the 66 mile mark in just over 20 hours. 
White in the moon the long road lies,
  The moon stands blank above;
White in the moon the long road lies
  That leads me from my love.
Still hangs the hedge without a gust,
  Still, still the shadows stay:
My feet upon the moonlit dust
  Pursue the ceaseless way.

The world is round, so travellers tell,
 And straight though reach the track,
Trudge on, trudge on, 'twill all be well,
  The way will guide one back.

But ere the circle homeward hies
  Far, far must it remove:
White in the moon the long road lies
  That leads me from my love.

The middle mental third was a nightmare.

I bid farewell to Al, as I knew I could no longer keep up his pace, and set off alone to finish the final 1/3 of the distance.  The trail, as always, left the checkpoint and headed straight up the next hillside.  At the crest, the trail was now heading roughly south back to the start, so we were now facing directly into the howling wind.  It immediately started to get to me.    I hobbled on, following a figure ahead of me, but by now the trail was nearly empty of other walkers, having passed almost everyone that I would catch up with for the whole race.  Everyone else would stay ahead of me now.   After a few miles, we turned down a steep hill directly into the wind, and I focused on just putting on foot in front of the other.  After some never-ending torturous forest trail along a creek at the bottom (I would have thought it beautiful on any other day), finally checkpoint #8 appeared.  

Sitting down in the shelter of the tent brought tears to my eyes, and the nice ladies manning the checkpoint bustled about getting my water bottle filled and asking what I would like to eat.   I didn’t feel very hungry, but focused on getting my emotions under control, which lasted until I took a few steps out the other side and realized that my other knee now was stiff and hurting, this time when I attempted to straighten my leg to take a long stride.  Really hobbling now, and sniffling at times, I started a long lonely climb up to a ridge top open to the penetrating winds.   At the top, it was another 7 miles along the ridge, with the winds in my face and pain in my feet and legs. 

One of countless stiles to climb over
Here, the distance really started to get to me.  I tried to tell myself that I only had a marathon left, yet a marathon suddenly seemed an enormous distance.  I tried distracting myself with food, drink, and music, but nothing was enough to take my mind off the pain.   For a moment I would feel under control, but just a few seconds later the tears would roll down and I would blubber for a while (luckily no one was around me to see it).   At the same time, somewhere deep inside me, I was strangely content to feel so broken, as it had never happened to me before.   My athletic exploits have been getting longer and harder in an attempt to find my limits, and finally, I had.   Wow.
Needless to say, those hours on the ridge passed about as slowly a root canal without Novocain.  I never had a thought of stopping or quitting, but my finish time, which I was constantly recalculating, started creeping possibly late into the second night.   Finally the ridge ended, with just a steep downhill and another small hill left to checkpoint #10.    Ouch, but the downhill was almost too much for me.  I sat down for a minute, practically sobbing with pain, as another walker caught up to me, hobbling equally badly.  Brian and I managed to distract each other from the pain for a while with conversation, and so got into the checkpoint with 18 miles left to go.   More nice volunteers bustled around us, obviously caring and concerned, filling water bottles, reciting their food choices from memory, and bringing me hot chocolate and a baked potato with cheese.   A few faces started to appear familiar as well, as the event photographer seemed to be always waiting as I came into checkpoints, along with a couple of other friendly marshals to show the way.
It was hard to leave again, and my legs had stiffened up from sitting for just a few minutes.  An immediate downhill cracked my fragile pain threshold still within sight of the checkpoint, and I sat down unable to conceive of walking farther.  Brian soon came up to me, and although I never take pain medication, I begged him for a dose of the anti-inflammatory pain medicine that he had offered a few minutes before at the checkpoint.  

In my own shire, if I was sad,
Homely comforters I had:
The earth, because my heart was sore,
Sorrowed for the son she bore;
And standing hills, long to remain,
Shared their short-lived comrade's pain.
And bound for the same bourn as I,
On every road I wandered by,
Trod beside me, close and dear,
The beautiful and death-struck year:
Whether in the woodland brown
I heard the beechnut rustle down,
And saw the purple crocus pale
Flower about the autumn dale;
Or littering far the fields of May
Lady-smocks a-bleaching lay,
And like a skylit water stood
The bluebells in the azured wood.
The last mental third was…a breeze (really)!

After the drugs started to kick in, walking was still painful, but in a distant sort of way.  I kept up with my drug-lending savior and his friends, and the conversation soothed me as evening fell and the wind dropped dramatically.  Our pace was quite slow now, but in a rather pleasant way.   Although I felt a bit guilty that my husband had been waiting for me at the final checkpoint for hours (and we were still hours away from it!), I finally gave up all pretense of a fast finishing time, and just walked along enjoying the sunshine and forests and the company.
All 4 of us appear to be grimacing, about mile 94
Just before checkpoint #11, I was amazed to see my husband walking up the trail toward us!  Turns out he had gotten bored of waiting and followed the trail “upstream” to find me.  I was happy to have his company, and after a short stop for snacks we were off again.   Perhaps the drugs were making me a bit loopy, but after seeing Rob, I almost felt that we were close to finishing, but we still had 10 miles left to go.  At our hobbling pace, that would take us into the second night for sure. 

The section between #11 and #12 was the only flat section on the entire course, and it was a welcome relief to stay in the valleys along flat roads and trails.  Soon we were getting into the final food stop, refilled our water bottles one more time, and downed some snacks.   Our little group of five set off with the hope that we wouldn’t have much time in the dark before the finish, but between us and the end was a very 
large hill.  My husband didn’t feel like tackling it, and took the road back to the school instead, and I wished that I could have done the same, but nothing was going to stop me from finishing the route now.
Darkness fell as we entered the forest on the final climb, and extra signs and marshals helped us find our way through the thick, dark, deep trees.   There suddenly seemed to be a lot of people around, with a few lost ones searched out by volunteers, and close to 20 people finished within a few minutes of me.  I was convinced that everyone had taken wrong turn somewhere, as the final few miles took forever, but that was just fatigue and darkness making me confused.  The lights of the school were a vision from heaven, and I walked into the hall to the sound of clapping, with everyone looking at me.  I couldn’t help smiling.   

Oh whence, I asked, and whither?
  He smiled and would not say.
And looked at me and beckoned,
  And laughed and led the way.

And with kind looks and laughter
  And nought to say beside,
We two went on together,
  I and my happy guide.

Across the glittering pastures
  And empty upland still
And solitude of shepherds
  High in the folded hill,
By hanging woods and hamlets
  That gaze through orchards down
On many a windmill turning
  And far-discovered town,
With gay regards of promise
  And sure unslackened stride
And smiles and nothing spoken
  Led on my merry guide.

By blowing realms of woodland
  With sunstruck vanes afield
And cloud-led shadows sailing
  About the windy weald,
By valley-guarded granges
  And silver waters wide,
Content at heart I followed
  With my delightful guide.

(All poems by A. E. Housman)
Running though a flock of sheep being herded to the same gate we want to reach!

No, I'm not "leaning"...just avoiding a tree branch!

May 22, 2011

Open Adventure 5+ delivers a BIG "+" in North Wales

After completing two previous Open5 Adventure Races, I already knew to expect a mix of running and biking during the 5 hours of racing.  However, the kit requirements on the website listed climbing harness and helmet as well as spare clothing.  Spare clothing?  Uh-oh, I’ve already heard stories of race director James’ penchant for adding water events (he calls them “trouser fillers”) to nearly every race, so I am mentally prepared for…something.

Photos on Flickr here.

Teammates Tim, Sarah, and Jon showed up just before the registration window opened with staggering news.  What, KAYAKING?   Then we got our maps, with more confusion.  A BONUS SWIM?  Abseil with sea-cave exit?  THREE possible transition areas? This is only a 5 hour race! A frantic shuffling of gear ensues among the four of us.  "Have you got a bigger pack, my shoes won't fit?"  "Do we need to carry everything on the swim, it will get soaked!"   Tim and I study the map, conclude that our bike section would be the smallest portion of the day, and decide to bike with just running shoes to avoid changing shoes a minimum of 4 times.  Unfortunately we only had tiny clip pedals, so we wouldn’t be speedy on the paved roads while riding our mountain bikes!
(Photo courtesy of Open Adventure)
 Of course, the event was for pairs, so with staggered start times, our two teams saw each other only in passing.  Tim and I set off first, stuffing our control descriptions into our pockets without even glancing at them, and heading straight for the kayaking portion.  In the face of gusty Welsh winds and heavy surf, the sit-on-top kayak section had been shortened from what would have been suicidal, to a meandering short course in the bay.    And so I found myself fully dressed, with water splashing over me at every stroke, and getting passed by teams who evidently had been practicing paddling much more often than we had.  Grabbing the buoys to punch our dibblers was a bit wild as well, while maneuvering around other teams with the same intent and trying mostly to avoid falling overboard at all costs.   It was luckily over in less than 30 minutes, and then we finally had time to look at our maps and point counts and start plotting the rest of our race.  It figured that the bike points would worth more on one side of the island, while the large run points were to be found on the south side. 

 The cliff abseil (Photo courtesy of Sarah)
 In my recce the evening before, Holyhead Island (off the coast of Anglesey) in Wales didn’t seem very large.  But our race would take us to almost all four corners of it and many points in between.  We plotted a course that would skip some of the bike points (as we could always come back for them later), and sped off to the 50 meter Abseil portion, nabbing huge bike points enroute off a ride out to the end of the windy pier.

There were a few run points on the way up to the abseil at the North Stack, and then I found myself wearing harness (and PDF!) and roping into a sheer cliff over the sea.  Literally.  After lowering myself about 30 feet, the cliff became overhanging and I found myself dangling in midair far over the crashing surf.  A volunteer holding the rope below guided me into the beach, but I still landed about waist-deep in crashing surf, tumbling about a bit until I could stumble into shore and get my rope unhooked.   After dibbling in, I followed a small sign into cave blackness.  Luckily a team had gone through just before me, and I followed them down
 (Photo courtesy of Sarah)
 towards the exit, which was unfortunately was filled with water!  Soon enough I was swimming (SWIMMING! while wearing shoes, gloves, long-sleeve shirt and waterproof jacket!) for my life, trying to get around the corner to where I could climb out again.  After a frightened gasp at the absurdity of it, I had time to think, “Hey, the water isn’t very cold”, before losing sight of everyone and frantically climbing up onto sharp rocks, happy to be wearing gloves.  The waves were quite gentle considering the winds speeds, and I worked my way around to where spray-soaked volunteers helped me find my way back up the cliffs.   
 Cave swim exit (Photo courtesy of Open Adventure)
The experiences of such an abseil (and swim!) were not to be missed, and I was glad that I had gone for it, soaking wet or not (My teammate, with a fear of heights, had taken a pass, but we later were awarded half points, as there were quite a few teams with only one member completing the abseil).   Only two hours had elapsed at that point, which gave us plenty of time to continue bagging run points.  I put on my long tights again, wrung the salt water out of my gloves, and set off with water squelching out of my shoes and waterproof socks, which now seemed absurdly pointless.  I still felt quite warm even in the face of drenched shirt and jacket, plus high winds and only 10C/50F temps.  

The highest points on the run controls were down at the south stack and over the tallest point on the island, small at just 220 meters.  With time in hand, we set about clearing the run points, skipping just a few that seemed like a waste of time.  With the winds blowing us sideways off the tops, my drenched thick socks finally came into their own, as a deterrent for the spiky gorse bushes poking through our clothing.  We still were both muttering “ouch!” at various points on cross-country forays, but at least I couldn’t feel the spikes through my shoes like Tim did. 

An hour later we were dibbing in at the windy bridge bottom over South Stack, and climbing back up the steep stairs with the realization that we had to get all the way back to the other side of the island to find our bikes again.  We pushed on a bit faster, but on a lower route the winds weren’t so bad, and we had time in hand once back on two wheels.  Too much time, in fact, as we found a couple more bike controls, but didn’t have enough time to go back for the distant ones anymore, and finished 15 minutes early with 60 points left out on the course.  We were quite pleased, though, to have done so much in just 5 hours!

A HUGE THANKS to all the volunteers (and qualified safety personnel) who were manning the kayaking, abseil, transitions, registration, start and finish.  It takes dedication to stand around in mist and cold and wind and waves for hours waiting for us to run through and head on out again.  We couldn't race without you all!
Trying to formulate a strategy for the race

Frantic last-minute planning by everyone involved

Sarah and I rolling with new 29 inch wheels!

Pre-race briefing

(Photo courtesy of Open Adventure)

(Photo courtesy of Open Adventure)
Old meets new:  checkpoint in a burial chamber
 (Photo courtesy of Open Adventure)

 (Photo courtesy of Open Adventure)

 (Photo courtesy of Open Adventure)
 (Photo courtesy of Sarah)
Abseil cave exit via a swim!  (Photo courtesy of Sarah)
Sarah climbing up from the abseil and cave swim (Photo courtesy of Sarah)
North Stack (Photo courtesy of Open Adventure)
The pier (Photo courtesy of Open Adventure)
If it had been sunny, the run course would have looked like this...


May 15, 2011

Ready or not, Housman 100 here I come!

As I was running home from work today (it's all of 3 miles, and somewhat downhill), I realized I will have to cover that same distance 33 times, plus a bit extra, that to finish the 100 miles.  Complete with hills, wind, probably rain, darkness, and perhaps even a bit of sunshine.  The sadistic organizers of this years LDWA Housman 100 actually admit that the route is not 100 miles either, its at least 101.   That last 1 mile is going to take forever, I just know it.   Added to that is my propensity for getting really, really lost, and I'm sure to go well over the advertised distance. 

All that aside, I am really excited for the big day to arrive, and want to start packing already, even if it is still two weeks away.  After recovering from the Bob Graham recce a week ago, which made me really, really sore, I now feel ready to go for the 100.  And I'm going to make sure that I get a good taper, which includes plenty of rest, heathly eating, and not a whole lot of exercise.  Except for that little matter of the Open Adverture 5+ race next weekend, which, as a combination of running and biking over (you guessed it) five hours, shouldn't tire me out too much. 

To get in the right frame of mind, I am re-reading the book Out On Your Feet: The Hallucinatory World of Hundred-Mile Walking by Julie Welch.  It is about the crazy people who attempt to do this LDWA 100 mile walk every year, and I laughed like crazy the first time I read it.  Soberingly, that was before I signed up to do my own attempt at this 100 mile event.  What was I thinking?   I'm sure the reality of it will set in after my second reading, that this one hundred miles is going to take a really long time, and will perhaps require walking through two nights. 

Hopefully not, though, as the plan is to start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, walk/run for between 24-30 hours, and finish well before dark on Sunday.  That is, if I don't get too distracted by all the goodies on offer at the numerous aid stations, and the nice comfortable chairs wooden benches that will call out to me sit down for just an hour a minute or two.  I'm looking forward to the hallucinations that Julie Welch promised will eventually visit us all, and mostly, to the finish line and a big pizza feast afterwards.  Ok, honestly, I really just want to eat whatever looks good (and lots of it) for 24 hours in a row!   Although that strategy might turn 24 hours of running into 48 hours of painful nauseated walking. 

So for the others that will also toe the starting line in Shropshire in two weeks, let me know when you are planning on starting so I can keep an eye out for you to pass me like I am standing still, while munching at every aid station!

May 10, 2011

Bob Graham Round (Leg 3-4 Recce), 20 mi

With just three weeks to go until the Houseman Hundred, this weekend was a perfect time for another set of back-2-back long runs.  I've been fascinated with the Bob Graham Round since first hearing about it, and after volunteering to help out with fellow blogger Mike's round in July, he let me know about a recce he was doing of legs 3 and 4.   We met up at his house south of the Lakes, and then drove up to Rosthwaite with Jarv for the start of our recce.   Since all of the legs of the BG are point to point, it can be difficult to do a recce without 1) adding other routes to make a full circle, or 2) using two cars.  We would be taking the first option and adding in a few extra bits of trail.

For some reason I wasn’t too scared of doing a section of the BG, but as I look back on yesterday, I know I should have been.   Our projected time of 8 hours to do 23 miles, turned into almost 10 hours to finish 20 miles, and the route we walked and ran has quickly blurred into a never ending rollercoaster of steep climbs and sharp descents, peppered with every more climbs and a few rock scrambles.  To be fair to the BG route, the section we did claims some of the worst rocky parts, but I’m sure the rest of it has its moments as well!

To start from the beginning, we made the climb out of Rosthwaite under cloudy skies up to Glaramara and Allen Crags, before joining onto the BG route.  It was about at that point that we rose up into the clouds, and as it was also cold and windy, we skipped the summits of Great End, Ill Crag and Broad Crag, heading straight for Scafell Pike instead.   And so I summited England’s highest peak.  Skipping Scafell and the tricky rope crossing (uh, we had no rope), we descended straight down the valley to the top end of Wast Water reservoir.  It was raining quite heavily on the descent, and under the meager shelter of the dripping trees, we stopped for a snack while looking up at the ominously steep climb to Yewbarrow. 

We had covered 9 miles relatively easily at that point (if reaching the highest peak in a country could be called easy), and were at the end of the BG Leg 3.  Leg 4 in its entirety waited for us as an obstacle to return to the car, but our route still led away from the comfort of four wheels.  The climb up to Yewbarrow took almost a full hour, but at least the rain stopped and we could see sections of sunshine everywhere but where we were.  Typical in the lakes, I reckon.  Mike and his dual trekking poles was soon high above us climbing like a mountain goat.  From the cairn at the top it was down again (surprise!) steeply to a saddle and then back up to Red Pike.  Sheer cliffs along the edge of the trail rolled off into foggy depths.  A choice of routes from Red Pike let us bypass an unseen Steeple and continue on to Pillar.  I wasn’t arguing as I was slowly getting left behind on every climb by the guys, who were kind enough to wait at the top for me to come back into sight. 

The fog slowly started to recede, and as we curved around to Pillar the top of Scafell Pike was almost out of the clouds.  From there on, the day got nicer, the clouds lifted, and we were treated to the sight of the Lakes District in all its glory.  Unfortunately for me, we could also see the remaining summits still far in the distance, including the mushroom top of Great Gable.  First it was up and over Kirk Fell, which required a steep scramble up a crag, and then a more rounded path to the cairn.  Great Gable awaited us after  rest and nibbles inside the shelter cairn, and it looked a lot steeper from up there than it did at the foot of it, thankfully.   Not that it wasn’t still steep….  By then I was thinking at some point that my legs would refuse to carry me either up or down, and wondering how I would get home if that happened! 

Somehow I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and reached the top of the mushroom summit.  With 360 degrees of clear views, we could see the islands of Scotland in the distance, and trace the line of peaks that made up the Bob Graham route, from distant Skiddaw to the ridge containing Helvellyn and back around to Scafell and the peaks we had just walked. 

Mike, trig point, Jarv
  Just three summits remained in our route, and we ticked them off on the mostly downhill route, hitting Green Gable, Brandreth, and Grey Knotts.   A passing storm cloud, which we had seen from atop Great Gable, hit us midway through to the finish, dumping not rain but hail, hitting us with marble-sized bullet-shaped ice pellets.  They stung even through running tights and a rainjacket, and the guys in their shorts and thermal shirts had the worst of it. (Imagine Mike desperate burrowing into a bog in an attempt to shield the backs of his legs.) The short bout of hail left the ground peppered with ice, and we were gratefully nothing bigger had fallen.   A second hail shower hit us as we were descending steeply to the summit road over Honister Pass, and then a loud clap of thunder over our heads made me grateful I wasn’t still standing on a summit!  My knees and quads were slowly giving up the ability to keep me running down the steep boggy slope, but the thunder spurred me on and got me down to the road.  At least by that point my shoes were cleaned off with fresh rainfall, although Jarv managed to fall into a knee deep bog and had to scrub off his leg. 

Bullet-shaped hail stones
 At that point it was raining heavily, and so we were surprised and overjoyed to see Mike’s wife Helen and her friend Helen (no, that’s not a typo) waiting for us at the coffee shop.   Taking pity on us, after getting soaked earlier on a nearby hike themselves, they had driven up to save us the final three road miles running back down to our car. We were so grateful that we crammed our dripping packs in the boot and soaked the backseat as well with our wet clothes.  A brilliant rainbow dropped pots of gold several times along the drive and was still shining when we stopped at the car.  After over 10,000 feet of climbing for the day, we stood in the late-day sunshine chatting, and I refused to move my feet at all, it felt so good just to stand still. 

 The Day’s Summits:
Allen Crags
Scafell Pike
Red Pike
Kirk Fell
Great Gable
Green Gable
Grey Knotts

Climbing the gully up to Kirk Fell (Photo courtesy of Mike)

Great Gable looming in the distance (to the left), and Scafell Pike in the clouds on the right

Jarv's attempt to show me Steeple summit without actually walking up to it (photo courtesy of Mike)
I think this is actually to scale...

View down from Yewbarrow

Yewbarrow on the right

Climbing up out of Rosthwaite

Below Green Gable summit

The hail piled up on Brandreth cairn

Scrambling up to Glaramara (Photo courtesy of Mike)