Client Corner! A Tale of DC Client Camaraderie by client Anna Troup!
We’ve just come to the end of Tour de France season and so we are all used to hearing that standard refrain at the end of every stage, “I couldn’t have done it without the team” or “the team did a great job for me today”. But it’s not just in professional cycling where the team is key to ultimate success. Outside of Arran from DC keeping us all vaguely in one piece (thanks Arran), a number of us have been supporting each other in some long and interesting events. We think we enjoyed them, we certainly enjoyed finishing them, and that’s the definition of Type 2 fun.
5 years ago Nick Jones decided to turn his love of the Lake District terrain into a quest to achieve a Bob Graham Round (BGR). Immortalised in the book “Feet in the Clouds”, a BGR consists of 42 Lake District peaks (including the highest and most famous such as Skiddaw, Scafell and Scafell Pike, Helvellyn, Great Gable and Kirk Fell). There is no “set route”, but there is increasingly what is considered a “fastest line” between the peaks and if you get that right it’s around 66 miles. Then there is the small issue of the ever ticking clock. You have to start and end the BGR at the Moot Hall in Keswick, you have to touch the top of each of the 42 peaks and be witnessed doing that, and you have to complete the round in under 24 hours.
This means, generally, you need support. You need running support to witness the peaks, help with the navigation, remind the person racing to remember nutrition, and to keep calm about the schedule. Psychologically a runner ahead of schedule is in a far happier place than a runner who was ahead of schedule and starts to lose time, even if both runners should still complete the round in 24 hours. The running support crew on the fells need to be mindful of their runner’s mental state as well as his or her physical state.
You also need road support. The BGR crosses 4 points which are easily accessed by a car and crew. These 4 points are crucial for providing the runner with extra food and drink to minimise pack weight out on the fells, provide moral support and encouragement as well as the all important clean, dry socks and trainers. The BGR crosses what can be very boggy terrain as there are no paths and looking after your runner’s feet is a key role of the road support crew. Often, not the most pleasant job, but essential!
For Nick’s successful BG Round, Anna Troup provided fell/running support on Legs 1,2,3 and 5 and Richard Staite provided support on Leg 4. Usually Richard would have shared the load more equally, but he was in the final week before travelling to Brussels to take part in Le Loop, aiming to cycle the whole of the Tour de France, and he didn’t want to risk injury running across difficult terrain during the night. A sensible decision, as Anna and Nick experienced really tricky conditions overnight. The cloud and rain was so bad they couldn’t see their feet and navigation was difficult, but crucial to get right given how close the BGR takes you to dangerous edges, particularly on the Helvellyn ridge on Leg 2.
Jess, Nick’s wife and his mum Mel provided Nick with road support and Milly Troup, straight from her last GCSE exam, provided road support for Anna and Richard. It was a tough and anxious 24 hours for the road crew and without their organisation and focus the stops would have been longer and the round would have been slower.
There is no question a BGR is a team effort. It was Nick that crossed the line, but it wouldn’t have been a recognised attempt without a support team. The BGR club don’t recognise solo rounds deliberately because they want runners to have support on the fells. It is not a straightforward “run” to complete and weather, injury and tiredness could all take a solo runner into mortal danger.
A BGR also takes support in the months and years preceding the attempt. As there is no prescribed route and a successful round requires the fastest lines from point to point plus the ability to travel at speed over fell and mountain terrain, including some scrambling and very technical descending, the time commitment can be quite considerable. Jess, Nick’s wife has spent many wet weekends (and weeks) dropping Nick off or meeting Nick in far flung areas of the Lake District at the start or end of big recce days. This family support can’t be underestimated when a successful round takes place.
One of the unwritten rules of the BGR community is you will always support others in their quest for BGR success if you can. Anna and Richard completed their BGR last year and there was never any question that if work and family commitments could be managed they would support Nick. Nick and Jess then took the BGR ethos one step further and appeared unexpectedly at the Wendover Woods 100 last weekend at 11pm where Anna was doing a 100 mile ultra running race. Any 100 mile ultra run is going to include physical and mental highs and lows. You train for them, you expect them, but nonetheless you still have to suffer through them and often the small hours are the most difficult times. The Wendover Woods 100 consists of ten x 10 mile loops and includes 6100m of ascent and descent including some very steep, almost BGR style, climbs. After 15 hours of running and with about 40 miles to go Anna was the leading lady and 3rd overall, but the dreaded ultra nausea had hit and she couldn’t eat at all and drinking was becoming harder and harder. It was very very hot and humid so avoiding being sick was key to avoiding dehydration. Seeing Nick and Jess so unexpectedly in the aid station at the end of Loop 6 was a huge mental boost. Nick took charge, refused to listen to any negative discussion and became very clear and persuasive about what she had to do finish and to win. He and Jess then procured information on the other competitors and kept Anna updated on where the chasing field was and how much time she had in hand. One loop later, Anna still couldn’t eat and was still only sipping at water, but with 3 laps to go the end was more “in sight” and Nick and Jess left her in a much stronger position than they found her. Their support was invaluable and incredibly timely.
Aid station and support crews in ultras can be the difference between success and failure. A runner who is thinking of dropping can be encouraged to keep moving and often everything can turn round in the space of a couple of hours. Obviously some ultras, such as the Lakeland 100, are designed to be unsupported, but others state you must be supported out on the course (eg the West Highland Way) or allow you to be paced in the final sections of the course. The WW100 didn’t allow pacing on the course, but seeing Nick and Jess was the difference between a successful finish and a potential DNF. The last 50 miles are always the key times in 100 Mile ultra races and when the 2nd man had to drop due to foot problems at mile 85, Anna moved into 2nd overall and stayed there to the finish line. However, you can’t podium without finishing in the first place, and Anna credits Nick and Jess with being key to her crossing the line.
The DC community is full of incredible athletes performing incredible athletic feats. Supporting is a hugely enjoyable and rewarding thing to do. The DC practitioners send us all out there with the best medical and nutritional support available, but we can all be involved in each other’s successes outside of the clinic. Supporting is also a very good way of “learning your craft”. Milly and Bella Troup (16 and 14 years old) and also Arran’s clients will be tackling their first 100 mile ultra in October. In preparation they have been volunteering at the Centurion Running events over the summer. Manning the aid stations has taught them both about how runners look when they are truly in physical distress and need to stop, versus thinking they are in physical distress and needing to be moved on and back onto the trail. They have learnt about nutrition, about runners’ inability to think clearly in the later stages of races, and the mental highs and lows and what can help solve them. They love their aid station work so much they are becoming volunteering regulars. They won’t be allowed to run long ultras in the U.K. for a few years yet due to U.K. age restrictions, but they will be part of many ultra runners’ journeys to successful finishes and as a result will be better ultra runners themselves.
See below for pictures from their latest events including the Lakeland 50 and 100!
Thank you Anna! Do you have stories from the DC that we could share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!Categories: Clients Stories
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