I'm not a natural blogger and I'm no techie. I'm an ultra trail runner by passion, and a journalist by profession - in that order of priority.
In this blog I use the one to talk about the other - my trail thoughts, musings and meanderings about running mountains and trails.
I call it rockhoppin', just because... well... that's what we trail runners love to do!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Less about the one who didn’t - and more about the one who did: Ryan Sandes, winner WS100 2017

                                                                                                   photo credit Corinna Halloran | Red Bull Content Pool
Anyone who knows anything about Ryan Sandes knows he epitomises the phrase less is more. The less I’m referring to isn’t less training, less speed or less talent – not even by a smidgeon. Instead it’s less talk, more action. Unlike others on the start line, the winner of this year’s Western States 100 is renowned and respected for his humility, and for his knack of approaching races with a quiet self-confidence.
Now two weeks on from his US win, Rockhoppin’ Trail interviewed Ryan at his favourite coffee shop in his home town of Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa.

LD  It’s now 2 weeks on from your WS100 win, and you’ve had a chance to digest the experience. What are your thoughts about it?  (physically, emotionally, etc.)

RS  Crossing that finish line brought huge relief because it had been such a tough day, but also a great sense of fulfilment. But having come 2nd in 2012, and during that race passing Timmy and then having him then overtake me, meant that this year I did run scared the last 20 miles or so.
At the river crossing, about 30km to go, I hit my lowest moment, I felt really shattered. The crossing only takes about 30 secs so it’s not much of a rest. From there Ryno ran with me, for the next 20km, which really helped me mentally. Physically I managed to cool myself down in a couple of creeks – the water was pretty cool because of snow melt.
At the aid station after Green Gate (about 20 miles to go) I learned I was about 22 min ahead. But then when I came into Pointed Rock aid station (about 9.5km to go), I got conflicting reports that Alex was only 5 min behind me! I panicked and took off – I even ran straight through an aid station where Vanessa tried to give me stuff but I just ran through. Then thankfully one of the guys I know drove ahead and at about 8km to go told me the info I’d been given was incorrect, so I knew I could back off a bit, I didn’t have to kill myself! So the sense of relief crossing the line was huge.
And since then I’ve had a great sense of fulfilment, and of course pride. It’s hard to describe. Max at a race finish was super cool. I visualised that for weeks leading up to the event. During the race, with our times so slow, I started to worry that my finish might clash with Max’s napping time and he’d not be there!
I think my achievement only really sunk in the next day when I was holding the cougar trophy. Vanessa joked with me that I’ve finally got my second cougar. I told her it was harder to get than my first!
And the other huge confirmation for me was looking back at Bruce Fordyce’s inspiration message to me in my copy of Tim Noakes’s book Challenging Beliefs. Finally achieving this goal I’ve wanted for so long means a lot to me.

LD  Six years ago you won Leadville in 16:46. That was a massive win on the US trail-ultra fraternity, how does Western States compare to Leadville? 

RS  Leadville is a bit more mainstream – it has the biggest participation of all 100 milers in the US, and with the exposure that “Born To Run” gave it, it will always be popular. But in the last few years, Western States has attracted a far stronger field, particularly internationally, since being on the Ultra Trail World Tour.
They’re both tough – Western States for its heat and Leadville for its altitude. But it’s difficult to say which is tougher – it’s all relative to the individual, and to the day.

LD  Analysis of your times and splits during WS100 have shown you ran a near to perfectly executed race. What was your race plan, how did you plan it, did you stick to it precisely, and would you regard this one as your perfectly run race?

RS  I generally don’t run according to planned splits, but because I knew the route, I had a pretty good idea of the splits between points. I expected the pace would be fast, and I think we all under-estimated how slow going the first section of the course would make us, because of the deep snow. People used up a lot of energy trying to keep to their planned splits in those conditions, and I think that’s what contributed to the big drop-out rate. I was fortunate, I felt pretty good from the start, and although I kept the splits in my mind, I stuck to my strategy of running according to how I felt. That meant I ran quite a bit harder in the first half than I’d done in previous races, but I had expected the pace to be fast and I knew that I wanted to not be far off the front pack during most of the race. There’ve been other races when I’ve hung back a bit far and then when coming through the field not had quite enough time to make up positions, and ended in 3rd or 4th place.
I knew Jim would either do something amazing or completely blow up, and I wanted to be within reasonable distance to be able to act. But when he was 40 or so minutes ahead (Forest Hill area, 100km), I realised it would be crazy to push to close the gap.
After I passed him, I ran pretty much according to feel. I had slower and faster sections – like from Rucky Chucky River up to Green Gate I was slower, but I picked up nicely when Ryno joined me. Then from Pointed Rocks I was on my own again – that was when I was told incorrect splits and I took off!

LD  I know this win has been a goal of yours since you signed up for your first WS100 in 2012. You’ve had a testing past couple of years since contracting glandular fever – it knocked your system good and proper, leading to issues with gut issues during races and seeing you having to pull out of a few big events. This must’ve have tested your confidence in a big way. Speak me through that, and through the deep determination you’re known for that has seen you to the achievement of this win.

RS  I’d always planned to give myself three years to do the best I can be at Western States, and then give UTMB the next three years – because they’re such different races. When I came 2nd in 2012, and had what I still consider to be the best 100 miler I’ve ever had, I thought I could come back in 2013 and do even better. But I sprained my ankle badly about six weeks before the race so I was out. It was my focus then for 2014, but that year I packed far too many races into my schedule – I did Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, the Drakensberg Grand Traverse, etc. and I went into the race feeling a bit overcooked. I was happy with my 5th place, but I knew I hadn’t been able to give it the build-up I’d wanted because I’d just got carried away with races between January and June. In 2015, I picked up a bug – the Friday morning before the race I woke up with my worst nightmare, a stomach bug was going around the Squaw Valley and a lot of people got sick. My system is usually strong enough to resistance those sort of things, but I think my immune system was still so low from having had glandular fever that I was prone. 
After that I started thinking that maybe a win for me at WS100 just wasn’t meant to be. I gave the race a complete skip in 2016, but e-watching it gave me huge FOMO, so when the race director Craig Thornley sent me a special consideration entry to Western States after my Grand Raid of Réunion last year, I changed my mind – I realised I’d never actually put it out of my head, and that winning Western States was still a goal I wanted.
I think I’ll go back next year. While I feel I’ve achieved what I wanted there, it’s a race I really enjoy – it’s one of the few races I want to go back to.
             Ryan's 'tougher to win' cougar          photo credit Bryon Powell | iRunFar.com

LD You kept your support team at WS100 small, and made up of some of your nearest and dearest – Vanessa and Max, your mom, Ryno,Griesel, Dean Leslie. I’m a great believer in heart-happy-run-strong. Do you think this played a role in your success on the day?

RS  Dean was there filming for Red Bull and came to join us – he and I are old friends, we’ve known each since junior school, and he’s filmed a lot of my races. And then Ian Little came over from Portland and it was great to see him along the route. And then there’re a couple of great local guys like Bill and Tony, who I know from previous years, and they’re super helpful. And Bill’s friend Karen, who helped Vanessa crew, and whose house we stayed at for a few nights. They’re all such awesome people. It’s one of the things I love so much about this race – the sense of community. The whole vibe is more low key than something like UTMB, where for the week leading up to the race Chamonix is just crazy with media and hype. The community in Auburn are so laid back, and everyone gets involved in the race.
This year I managed to keep quite below the radar, which I far prefer. We only arrived at Squaw Valley a couple of days before the race. And having my mom and Vanessa there meant such a lot to me. Ness hasn’t been able to come to any of my races for the past year and half now, because of Max, and having her there was great – it was a good distraction. Often before a big race I’m often almost too focused, and leading up to this race I tried to keep as busy with other things, fun distractions, as possible, which helped me to not over-analyse things. I went into this race as relaxed as I could’ve been.

LD  What do you consider to be your strongest characteristic where your running is concerned?

RS  I guess I’m quite adaptable, which has meant I’ve been able to do well in different types of races, from self-sufficient multi-day, to long distance, to ultras. I don’t think I’ll ever be as strong as someone like Francois D’haene on the mountains, just because I’ve not grown up exposed to mountains that big.
Also head strength is a strong point of mine. I guess I’m also stubborn – I keep on going back until I achieve my goal (Ed: I’d rather refer to it as determination!)
I’m certainly not the most talented athlete – I don’t have the natural ability of a Jim Walmsley, for example, I have to train hard. I also look after my body with cross training and strengthening, which definitely helps with longevity of performance. So many of the elite guys out there last just two or years at the top. I’ve had a fairly long career so far, and hopefully I can still keep going for a bit longer.

LD  You’re well known and much loved for your humble approach to your talent and to your achievements. Asking you to explain it is You have a quiet confidence, a determined self-belief, and the ability to always to ahead to the bigger picture and the long-term goal. Not easy for you, I know, but speak us through this winning attitude.

RS  I think ultra-running is quite humbling – it doesn’t allow you to get too far ahead of yourself. As soon as you get too confident, you get knocked down pretty quickly. I guess I’ve always been quiet about things – always super-competitive but mainly with myself, wanting to do the best I can do. If I know I’ve done absolutely everything I can to achieve a race, and it’s only good enough for last position, then so be it.
With some races I’ve just had a really good feeling beforehand. This year’s Western States was one of those – going into the race I felt quietly confident. Dean, who’s known me since junior school, told me afterwards that he’s not seen me so laid back and relaxed before a big race as with this one. I just had a really good feeling about how it would turn out.
But I think I get the humble approach from my dad. While my mom’s quite outspoken in her approach to life, while my dad has a quieter way about things.

LD  Ever-interested in race nutrition as I am, tell me about your fuelling throughout this race.

RS  It was really super-hot. There was no way I could get any solid food in, so my fuel involved a lot of gels and GU chomps – all the soft stuff. From as early as Michigan Bluff (90km) onwards, I drank a lot of Red Bull mixed with water, which is something I usually only do near the end of a race, but in those conditions it called for it! At one point I tried to smash a rice pudding, but it just wasn’t going down, so I stuck to gels and diluted Red Bull.
All that sweet stuff meant I felt pretty yuk the next day – enough was enough.

LD  Next up – what are your race plans for the rest of the year?

RS  In two weeks’ time I’m off to compete in the pack burro racing champs in Colorado. It’s a 30 mile (50km) race, and you have to run next to, push or pull your donkey, you can’t ride it. I spent some time with Micah True when I did Leadville, and I watched him do some burro racing – it looked brilliant and I put it on my bucket list straight away! So that’ll be fun. I suppose I should read up on mule-whispering techniques beforehand!
But my next proper race will be CCC at the end of August. It’ll be my second race of the 2017 Ultra-Trail World Tour. This year you only need two races to get a ranking. I might also do Ultra-Trail Cape Town, but it all depends how the next few months pan out. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Less about the one who didn't win WS100...

It’s a week on from Western States 2017, and yet still we’re seeing articles focusing on the guy who didn’t win the race. I’m flummoxed. Anyone would think this was the first time in running history a race favourite didn’t end up the race winner!

Surely the answer is simple? He didn’t win because he wasn’t the fastest on the day. That’s a fact no one can deny. But then why is it so difficult for the US media to understand?

And the thing is, it’s not as if the guy was pipped at the post, or lost the race by a few minutes. No, Jim Walmsley didn’t only not win; he didn’t feature at all in the final quarter of the event – in fact, he didn’t even finish the race.

Many factors matter on race day and help the lead runner to a win. Careful strategising and management of race plan, effective nutrition, disciplined pacing, attentive navigation and constant mental strength are just some of the many ingredients that make a winner. All these, of course, being the culmination of months, if not years, of dedicated physical preparation and dedication to become what it takes to even have hopes of featuring in the top percentage of a race – any race.

There’re always elites who don’t win when expected to. Take, for instance, Scott Jurek’s second place at Leadville in 2004, the then twice winner of UTMB Lizzy Hawker when she came second at UTMB in 2009, and even the great Kilian Jornet at Hardrock last year and Transvulcania in 2014. That’s just the way winning, and losing, rolls – it’s all about who is best on the day.

The thing is, when these runners didn’t win in those races, they still featured in the top 5 placings, which meant they warranted significant post-race media coverage. What’s puzzling me is the media’s preoccupation with why Jim Walmsley did not win at Western States.

Am I missing something here?
This guy is fast, sure. But it’s not as if he’s won this race before and was hoping for a comeback. He has never won this race! He didn’t win it last year, and he didn’t win it this year. Get over it, folks. He wasn’t the only race hopeful who didn’t take the finish tape.

The thing is, he didn’t only not win…   did I mention, he didn’t even finish?

It’s simple: he blasted off way too fast, and he blew – spectacularly.
He’s not the first to have made such a rookie mistake, or to suffer the heat.
Runner’s World <read article here> refers to his taking off at a “torrid pace, running into ice, snow and deep mud within the first 20 miles, then coping with triple-digit heat. Even when conditions started taking a toll, he didn’t slow his pace to something more sustainable.”
Well, yes. There you have it, in a nutshell. Every participant endured those same conditions, he was not unique. Nor was he a novice to this race. He should’ve known better. Perhaps with a little more respect for the race, he would’ve tackled the day a little more wisely, like the race winner did.

In my opinion, too much pre-race hype around this man – who is elite level, yes, but one of many – distorted the reality: that there were many others on the day who approached the race far more wisely, making them better equipped to conquer the race.

Perhaps a touch of humility might be something this talented runner could benefit from in his approach to racing. His pre-race confidence and his ambitious goal to not only take the win but smash the course record may have been viewed as bold, and his self-belief commendable, but many would question whether he was even qualified to have such an audacious goal. After all, as I’ve already said, it’s not as if he’s won this race before. Perhaps aiming for a race win first, would be more appropriate, before loudmouthing about an intention to smash the course record?

Extracts from Walmsley’s pre-race interview on iRunFar.com <watch interview here>:
“The longer people try to go with me, they’re going to get dropped at some point…”
“I love the heat – it gives me an astronomical advantage.”
“My goal is to run the fastest 100 miles at Western States ever.”

Not to labour the point too much, but blasting off at blistering pace is not something that should impress anyone, unless that pace is sustainable. Clearly Walmsley’s pace was not, particularly for a 100 miler. Personally, with a race like Western States, UTMB, Grand Raid de Réunion or any of the other notably challenging big-name 100 milers out there, I only start e-watching the front runners with any seriousness from about the 120km mark. Anyone worth their salty sweat will know the race only truly starts at that point.

Oh how oft over-confidence comes before a fall…

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun 2017

photo credit Mark Sampson
I’m torn. And I mean, really torn.
My head wants to write about the wonderful experience I had last week, telling the world how fantastic it was to run in the African bush with wild game and to see, feel, taste and smell true southern African bush veld. But my heart wants selfishly to keep it secret, sharing it only with those closest to me for fear of word spreading and hundreds of humans flocking to spoil a corner of beautiful, unspoilt Africa.

I’m going with my head this time, trusting that the folk who’ll be reading this blog aren’t like the average tourist out there who has little respect for nature. Trail runners are different, thankfully – most of us hold the environment close to our heart, and protect it in every way we can. So let this post be a secret shared amongst ourselves, protected from the world out there and closely guarded amongst those who respect and treasure the natural world.

I love the African bush. I love everything about it – from the twitter of the first bird before the dawn dances its gentle morning light across the horizon, to the deep golden hue of the after-glow in the evening sky; from the deep-throated hollow roar of a distant lion, to the thundering hooves of a herd of wildebeest as they charge across the open veld; from the lonely cry of the fish eagle circling overhead, to the gentle scraping sound of a black mamba as it stealthily slithers between two rocks and out of view.
I love the vastness of the horizon, the hugeness of the moon, the blanket of stars brilliant against the night sky, the ancient trees that have seen generations pass beneath them. I love the smell of the rain on the baked earth, and the way the air is alive with energy before an African storm. All this is what real, unspoilt Africa is about.
photo credit Mark Sampson

Imagine blending all of this with trail running. Imagine running with elephants, kudu, wildebeest, eland, impala, klipspringer and giraffe, being woken up in the night by the grunts of a hippo in the river near your tent, and standing under a gigantic baobab tree that’s more than 2 000 years old. Imagine.

All this was part of what I experienced last week, shared with 75 other lovers of trail running, on the Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun. And I’ve spent the whole of this week barely able to concentrate, my mind constantly drifting back to the banks of the great, grey-green greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees (so perfectly described by Rudyard Kipling in one of my favourite childhood stories, The Elephant’s Child), wishing I was back there.

Some background
The Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun, brainchild of Wildrunner, and facilitated by Boundless Southern Africa, marries untamed Africa with trail running, in a three-day stage event that covers 93km through the Limpopo-Shashe basin in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area that connects Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

So many factors make this event special, but for me three stand out:
  • It’s not a race, but a run. There are no placings, no positions, no podiums – this is not about speed, but about the experience. Let’s face it, in Africa no one can just go racing into the wild bush yonder, it would be irresponsible, if not suicidal, so staging a race there would be impossible. In the Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun, runners choose the group they’d be comfortable in – faster pace, medium or slower. Each group is led by a (very fit) qualified game ranger, and safety is the highest priority.

  • It crosses the borders of three countries, requiring all the relevant documentation, visas and passport-stamping by customs officials – everything specially organised for the runners on the banks of the rivers that border each country. It takes one hell of a lot of planning, paperwork and preparation to coordinate the diplomatic and logistical permissions for undesignated border crossings on foot in deepest darkest Africa, and it shows just how much needs to be prepared in advance behind the scenes before an event like this can happen.
    photo credit Mark Sampson
  • You’re in the best hands. Like all of Wildrunner’s events, everything is carefully thought through to the finest detail. Participants enjoy five-star bush treatment, from several delicious refreshment stops along each day’s route (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits, biltong, potatoes, jelly babies and more…  not forgetting the peanut butter-stuffed mini pitas, champers and freshly-made wraps on the wooden deck overlooking the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers), to hot showers and even a gin bar, set on a koppie above camp and overlooking the setting sun. All this, yet more than 160km away from even the nearest spaza shop. It’s impressive stuff!

Highlights from the three days:
A 210 million year old dinosaur fossil
  • Standing next to the mineralised fossil of a dinosaur, Massospondylus carinatus owen, which roamed the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana some 210 million years ago during the early Jurassic period. That's a whole 65 million years before brachiosaurus stomped the earth!
  • Seeing the Limpopo River, which is usually nothing more than a wide sandy river bed dotted with a few stagnant puddles, now full and flowing from the abundant rains. Wading across the river was not nerve-wracking at all...  I was assured crocs aren't so keen on shins, they prefer whole bodies. Hah, right!
  • Climbing the Mapungubwe Hill onto the citadel of an ancient African kingdom that dates back to the 13th century, preceding that of Great Zimbabwe. Mapungubwe is a World Heritage Site, home to the famous gold-coated rhino that was a symbol of the power of the king of the Mapungubwe people. We then ran along the valley below the citadel, where more age-old baobabs than I was able to count stood guard, silent in their stature, ever-watching as they’ve done for more than a thousand years. Those baobabs have witnessed a civilisation rise and fall, they’ve shared every season for millenia, endured droughts and floods, watched millions of animals pass by, and still they stand guard, sentinels of that valley.
  • Watching from a koppie as about 15 elephants gradually made their way along their trail – one that's probably been trodden by ancestors of those same elephants for hundreds of generations.
  • Running along the edge of the riverine forest as a huge herd of wildebeest galloped across the open veld to our right.
  • Enjoying the bountiful meals cooked over open fires by the wonderful women from the local Maramani community under the guidance of the ever-energetic Marion. Steaming stews, freshly baked bread, pesto, cheeses, locally-grown salads and herbs – our food was hearty and delicious, perfect for post-run refuelling.
  • Sunset from the gin bar on the koppie above camp was something special. Somehow an African sunset has a majesty like no other, and every evening I quietly held my breath to hear the tiny 'pop' sound that giant orange-red makes as it gently drops below the horizon. (It does, you know, you just have to listen carefully...)
  • The non-competition: we ran an average of 30km a day, each group at its own comfortable pace, stopwatches and pace-markers the furthest things from our minds. It was about being out there, together, immersed in untouched Africa, running on tracks that might well have been trodden for eons by the ancestors of those living there today.
I can write on for hours about the Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun experience, but I fear I’ve already overstepped the so-called ideal word count that a blog post should be. This run is exceptional for so many reasons, and while my heart is still hesitant to shout out about it, my head knows that special experiences like these should be shared, particularly amongst those who’ll best appreciate them.

photo credit Mark Sampson

Monday, May 1, 2017

There is no Map in Hell - blog tour day 1

Imagine covering 515km with 36,000m of ascent – under the pressure of a ticking clock and a specific number of peaks to be bagged…

The Wainwrights are the 214 fells in England’s Lake District, and visiting all of them is a popular challenge for peak-baggers. There’s even a register kept of those who have completed the Wainwrights.

Bagging those 214 peaks within a specific time, however, is quite another level of challenge. The first continuous round of all 214 Wainwrights was completed in 1985, in 9 days and 16 hours. The following year a new record of 7 days 1 hour was set by the legendary fell runner Joss Naylor. This record was said to be impossible to beat – it was, after all, the ultimate British ultramarathon.

Nineteen years later, hardcore ultra runner Steve Birkinshaw made an attempt at breaking that record. With a background of nearly 40 years of running elite orienteering races and extreme-distance fell running over the toughest terrain, if he couldn’t do it, surely no one could…

He smashed the record in 6 days and 13 hours – that’s over 515km and with 36,000m of ascent.

Steve has now written a book, There is no Map in Hell, accounting his extraordinary achievement, and it will be hitting the shelves in the UK this week.

Rockhoppin’ Trail has been invited by the publisher to take part in Steve’s blog tour – a nine-day innovative online strategy to market There is no Map in Hell during the week of its launch. Each day a unique blog post written by Steve will be hosted on a different award-winning international blog site.
And excitingly, Rockhoppin’ Trail has the privilege of hosting the first blog of the tour!

Today is that day – Day 1 of the There is no Map in Hell  blog tour, and here is the post Steve has written for Rockhoppin’ Trail:

The persistent need to push harder, faster, further
by Steve Birkinshaw

During most races I take part in there are times when I think, “This is really painful, why am I doing this? I want to stop”. This happens on short races when my lungs feel like they are going to explode. It happens on long races when I get an energy dip and on every step up a climb my quads are screaming at me to stop. It happens in an ultra when all my muscles and joints are agony and I am shuffling along like an old man.
Day 6 - Leaving the campervan at Dodds Wood in a lot of pain to start the final section

However, almost as soon as I finish I will be thinking about the next race. If it went badly, I will immediately be thinking of doing it again but doing it better. If it went well I will be happy and want to do another race – but push myself harder or further. There have, however, been a couple of occasions when a run has been so hard and it hurt so much that I have needed to take it easy for a month or so while the mental scars vanish to be replaced by the positive memories. In particular I can think of the Lakeland 100 in 2009 where I suffered badly over the last thirty miles. I even sat down on a wall for five minutes at one point and decided to give up before I started moving again.
Day 5 - Mel Culleton-Wright and Emma putting on my socks over the blisters at Patterdale Post Office

For me, worse than the pain of running is the mental anguish of not running. When I have been injured or ill I have found sitting watching a race exceptionally hard. The excitement of the preparation and the emotional high that everyone has when they come back exhausted is very hard for me to watch. I want to be out there and experience that high. I want to know I have pushed myself to the limit and achieved a good time. It is really nice to win races but I get the most pleasure from knowing I have given it my all. I think I crave that high from the endorphins released during running. When I have finished the stresses in my life have completely disappeared and I am happy and relaxed.

But then there is the need to push it further next time to see how far I can go, how far I can push my body. I am never going to be the fastest runner – I am too big and weigh too much – but I seem to have an ability to run for long distances and the mental attitude to push myself and keep going when many others might give up.
Day 7 - Jim Davies treating my tendonitis at Whinlatter Hobcarton car park

Some of this explains my progression from orienteering through to fell races, long fell races, mountain marathons, adventure races and then ultras. The longer the race the more satisfaction and emotional highs I get from running hard and pushing myself to my limit. The longer the race, the better I also seem to do, which also increases my satisfaction. Running round all the Wainwright was for me the pinnacle of forty years of running. Over time I have gradually increased the distance I have run and pushed it further and harder than before. Finally I had the experience and stamina to push it hard for six and a half days round all the Wainwright fells in the Lake District.    Steve Birkinshaw