27 June 2010

Dallam Ladies Team complete the Billy Bland Challenge

Well done girls.
Here are the photos and stories of the day

Memories of Leg 2 - Ella Jeffs

Leg 2 of the Billy Bland challenge for me began at 5.15am on the Saturday at Threlkeld with Ray and Helen, watching Ruth and Susan scrambling down Halls Fell Ridge. I was jittery with both excitement and nerves at the prospect of being involved in such an event – feelings which were also perhaps due to the lack of mental preparation – as less than 36 hours beforehand my mobile had rung whilst shopping in Asda, with Ray announcing “just a slight change of plans….” which ultimately ended with “Ella instead of leg 5 can you do leg 2?” Gulp.
So there I was at the crack of dawn psyching myself up, with my running partner for this leg, Helen Whitehouse, a kindred spirit and fellow Vet 50. Both of us were relatively new to fell running, having only taken it up in the last couple of years and so this was a big challenge for us. After a quick hug from the Leg 1 girls we were off!
A steady pace uphill soon brought us to the summit of Clough Head. The weather was superb: dry, sunny and clear; all of which made the navigation so much easier. We carried on - the ridge running was brilliant with spectacular panoramic views. As we reached Stybarrow Dodd, three fast runners caught us up and as one pacer paused, he briefly told us it was an attempt by Steve Birkinshaw to break the 24 hour Lakes record. We were in awe of the team and wished them the best of luck as they left us for dust on the Dodds. With inspiration from Steve we ran on and before long we were on Helvellyn. As we paused to catch our breaths and take in the beautiful views of Catsycam and Striding Edge, Helen turned to me and said “I think my watch has stopped, it says it’s only 9.40.” I checked mine too with disbelief and to my surprise: “Helen, I can’t believe it – it is only 9.40!” This was really good going for us; we were amazed to have got so far in just 3 hours.
As we continued on, racing down to Grizedale Tarn, with a renewed vigour in our step, I suddenly spied the sting in the tail with a groan – Fairfield! Having been up it myself once last year, the memory of just how tough I had found it came right back to me, and although Helen and I dug deep into the steep rocky climb together with our heads down, I felt like my legs would give way there and then. I was all of a sudden feeling exhausted and totally dejected. It was at this point that Helen proved herself again as a wonderful running partner and whipped out the Jelly Babies to chivvy me along. That and a drink really helped to put the smile back on my face, so thank you Helen, you were brilliant! But I still found the climb a real trudge and it was slow but steady progress as I counted the steps to the top with the encouragement of Helen beside me, “Come on Ella, we can do this.” Some 40 minutes later we were at the summit and we knew we had lost some time but “Whoopee” we were finally on top! A kindly fell walker took a quick photo of us in our moment of glory and then it was a quick turn around and a steady run back down to Grizedale Tarn.
From this descent, Seat Sandal did not look half as intimidating now and with a renewed determination we were soon on top of it. Helen got us a good line down and before long we were whizzing homeward bound towards Dunmail Raise and the eagerly awaiting pair of Vicky and Cerys. Phew, Leg 2 was over, we had done it!
Looking back at the challenge, I am so proud to have taken part in this event and although our objective was to complete the Billy Bland in less than 24 hours, at the end of the day it really did not seem to matter at all. Each pair agreed that they had a brilliant time on their individual legs and we were all thrilled to have taken part as the first female vets team and to have completed the challenge.
I have to say thank you and well done to my wonderful leg 2 partner Helen for sharing such a memorable event with me and for her encouragement and plentiful supply of Jelly Babies! And a big thank you to Dawn and Ray for organising the day with all the driving and food (of which there was an unbelievable variety) and for such enthusiastic support throughout.
Leg 3 report from Vicky -Dunmail to Wasdale

"What can I say? Utterly, utterly fantastic! 12 hours on from finishing and I'm still completely elated! It was such a fantastic day and even at seven and a half hours, it finished too quickly. The weather was perfect, sunny with a cooling breeze, the air was so clear you could see all the fells picked out in amazing detail - easy navigation.

Low points - navigation error in nearly missing Sergeant Man and having to explain to Cerys that we needed to 'go all the way back up there' [we did] and getting separated from Cerys up Bow fell and scrambling up a rocky exposed bit muttering to myself 'don't look down, don't look down' [I didn't].

High points -

High Raise, Ill Crag, making my way over the huge boulders,
Meeting someone I know on the fells supporting a BGer
Flying down off Scafell, sliding down on the grass, trying to avoid the rocks and laughing hysterically!
The last blast along the path to Wasdale Head, running, running, running.......

Thank you to Dawn and Ray for believing in me that I could do it, [I can!], their fantastic support for the recce days, on the day and thanks to Cerys for sharing the experience with me.
Sorry to the lady at the top of Sergeant man, who was all set up for a lengthy chat, we really couldn't stop.

This sense of achievement will stay with me for a very long time and has made me keen for more!"


Leg 5 report – Honister to Keswick

The pre-run photo says it all! “signs while you wait” cropped top just “you wait”!
It turned out that Saturday nights run wasn’t going to start until Sunday.

At 12:05am precisely we hugged (method of baton exchange) Jessica and Debbie and set off into the darkness, briskly marching up Dale Head, the head torches picking out the eerie glow of pairs of eyes, which freaked us out until we realised they were only sheep. This is all new to novice night time runners.
Approaching the summit, we could really appreciate the quiet and clearness of the night with the summit cairn silhouetted against the skyline, beautiful!!! We then did a left turn and picked up the path to Hindscarth. We felt really confident now, armed with various torches, nav aids, gadgets and gizmos! The going was good all considering it was very dark. We trudged up the path to Hindscarth from the main ridge, touched the cairn and headed for Robinson; this is where the problem started. Where was the path? Conscious of time ticking by, we abandoned our frantic search and headed back to the main ridge path. A good run followed down to the coll, tired legs then climbed up to Robinson summit. Not sure if the campers in their bivvy bags on Robinson were alarmed at the sight of two middle age women wandering around at approximately 1:30am!

Descended Robinson, aptly now as we were really getting into our stride, to be met by our faithful supporters with our road shoes. A quick pit-stop and off on the final push into Keswick. We spotted words of encouragement from Mike in chalk on the road “Go team Dallam!” which boosted our spirits no end.

And finally Keswick, avoiding the drunks draped over benches, we finished hand in hand in three hours 15 minutes. Exhausted but elated! it had been a brilliant experience of night running.

The Billy Bland challenge was superb and exciting with a fantastic team effort from all taking part, the exhilaration and joy at the leg changeovers will stay forever.
A massive thank you to Ray for your initiation of the BBC and faith in our abilities. Also, to the supporters who came to cheer us on and good luck messages received – it really helped!

Same again next year?
Helen and Dawn


Roving Ray writes:
"With one thing and another, the Lady VETs attempt on the Billy Bland Challenge Race was left with a team, which were perhaps not the fastest possible, but were the most determined to make it work. Prior to the start we had a team of 10 lady VETs with no reserves eager to set a record. Any one competitor with an injury or a serious illness would have scuppered the whole event. My pre race memory sees Helen Whitehouse, our leg 2 navigator, on the forest floor having fallen on a Wednesday evening run and also at Threlkeld on Daves BG. Though she is a tough cookie and no damage was caused. Well time passed and race day arrived. 1:50am at the Moot Hall with Sue Goodfellow and Ruth Webster, both, indeed like all throughout the day, like giddy school kids rushing off to the toilet, though this was a rush with a difference. Ruth took the only injury of the day on her toilet trip, falling over and scuffing her knee. Well 2:00am arrived and we were off. Ruth was armed with a wind up Cow torch to illuminate her way, still it was funny.

I camped down with a bivvy bag at Threlkeld in the midge infested grass between 3am to 5am, during which time about 4 BG teams went by. Well Ella and Helen arrived at 5:15am full of beans and in due course Sue and Ruth were seen to be steadily descending Halls Fell Ridge. Both Ella and Helen were filled with trepidation and I believe a photo shows Ella looking quite scared prior to the run. Well Sue and Ruth arrived. Unlike the blokes who basically set off without a hello, the girls set about talking for 30 seconds or so full of excitement, I got absorbed until reason got the better of me and drove them off.

Dawn and I drove back to Dunmail later in the morning, only to receive a text from Helen on the way saying they were at the top of Seat Sandal very much on schedule, "come on Ray we may miss them". Both Ella and Helen arrived at 11:30am and passed the baton in the form of a hug to light weight clothing Cerys (ask her) and Vicky. Off they went up Steel Fell.

Other than excitement from the teams and supporters there is not much to report. My mind tells me Ella persuaded me to go to the pub on the way round to Wasdale as she was keen on the odd pottle of beer. I had intended to climb up to Ill Crag to check up on Vicky and Cerys, though Ella and Dawn forced me to stay in the pub by taking about 2 hours to eat the last of the chips. Then I was forced to lie down by Wastwater in the sun and drink coffee and eat stuff. Eventually it was deemed a good idea to go to Wasdale where we met Debbie and Jessica. The binoculars were out and we were looking up towards the base of Scafell. After some time two red shirts were seen descending the rocky path off Scafell. Then later on, flying down a grassy slope after the screes. They were going so fast I thought it was Leechy and Stuart coming to see what was going on after an earlier race. I need not have worried, it was Cerys and Vicky looking very much like fell runners with a touch of the warrior about them.

Jessica was ready to go but Debbie had rushed off to the loo once more. Off they went at 19:05 and they were seen climbing Yewbarrow at a good rate, going out of sight in less than 30 minutes. The toilet rushing was a sure sign they were putting the pedal to the metal.

Round to Honister for cups of tea in the Youth Hostel with Helen Smith, Mike, Helen Whitehouse, Ella and Jessica’s friend. It was a glorious evening with crystal clear sky illuminated by a sun which was just below the horizon, this been mid summer. Helen reminded me of some sort of Mexican Bandito armed to the teeth with ammunition and weapons of every kind. In real terms this included every sort of navigational aid possible, mobile phone, aluminum foil bags, clothing and a bothy bag. Nothing was going to stop this girl.

Waiting for Jessica and Debbie I went up Dale Head a little way and saw two torches coming off Grey Knott, though I did not have mine on me to illuminate a direction. After a short delay I was back up with my torch though the lights had gone. Some time passed and they reappeared in a different location. Jessica and Debbie arrived in due course just after midnight. They were glad to be back, having had a few navigational problems descending Grey Knotts and a little surprised to see Dawn and Helen wanting to continue, though continue they did.

On the way round to Little Town a ghostly voice started talking to me from the back of the car, I had completely forgotten Ella was in the back, it gave me quite a shock. Helen and Dawn were met off Robinson and given road shoes for the final push with Ella cheering as they went past. The time now was about 2:30am

Round at the Moot Hall, Mike Smith, myself and Ella sat outside the Moot Hall. It was kicking out time and the area was full of drunken youths. It was quite surreal how not one of them noticed our presence. Though when the girls arrived, the remnants of the clubbers were quick to join in the support.

The girls had done it, arriving at 3:18 am, having set a record for the event at 25 Hours 18 Minutes".