Trans Britain Race Report
There is so much to write about I could possible make a small book up just about this 1 event, its fantastic. There will be lots missed out but these are my initial thoughts and memories of the event.
Friday 10th September My wife left for work at 8am, that would be the last time I saw her for over a week. I set off to work and midnight soon came around, it had been a busy late shift which in a way was good as it kept my mind off the next weeks adventure, however I really didn’t want to end up working overtime so I made my way back to the office to finish bang on 1am. Throwing my uniform into the locker I changed and set off to Graeme Chamberlins house a hour away. He had kindly offered me a bed for a few hours before the journey to Gretna at 6 am. We arrived at Steve’s house for 8am where I met up with Guy Travers and Collin Harris and the journey began, well after a trip to tesco’s so Guy could collect his walking poles which he forgot. I’d only had 4 hours sleep so tried to rest on the mini bus which proved difficult, I also think I was a tad excited. Guy on the other hand slept like a log. I had no expectations for the week ahead, I just wanted to do well on the 2 long 30+ mile stages. I also didn’t want to get injured as JOGLE is around the corner.
I forget the time but mid afternoon we arrived in a sunny Gretna to a camp site set up and ready, Marquee, 12 small tents, 1 for each competitor. They proved to be great little tents if not a little small, stretched out my head and feet touched each end. Still plenty of room for my kit and overall throughout all the rain we had I didn’t get wet once inside them.
Each competitor arrived, the RAF boys being the loudest by far but they proved to be a great bunch of guys and added a extra bonus for me bringing back some great memories of the forces and the unique vocabulary that only a squaddie can understand. There was a great atmosphere with people arriving and getting to know each other with the most popular question being ” have you done one of these before? “, the field proved to be quite new to multi stage events, myself included as the only multi day event I had done was my treadmill run. the Marquee was perfect with tables and chairs set up for each meal. Nick the Chef followed us to every camp site and cooked a great meal twice a day. The organisation and running of the event was exceptional and Steve and the Go Beyond team deserve every bit of credit they get. Right……
7am and I was up, slept quite well and breakfast eaten I was ready, I’d not done much running with my rucksack but weighing about 6.2 kg I felt happy. Day 1, 36 miles, I wanted today to go well. I had planned the entire route onto my garmin 305 which proved to be a great decision, most days I think it saved me 5 to 10 min with navigation. I set off hard wanting to try and keep to 5 mph all the way which I’d not done before with my rucksack. The course was fantastic, I was first into England but then got a little confused in the farm land areas after check point 1 and ended up going through a area of felled trees, stumps, logs, nettles, thorns. Legs cut to bits with blood dripping I plodded on sticking to the line on my Garmin though wet boggy fields and tracks, which was good as it washed all the blood away!! . I felt comfortable and made check point 2 in good time and then hit Carlisle, both my thighs at this point started screaming out, felt like my heart was in each leg, beating and throbbing I need a half mile walk to ease the pain. I’d never felt this before in all of my running and can only put it down to carrying the rucksac. Easing back in I plodded on and can’t really remember much to say. I was alone for the entire run and by mile 25 was getting a little low but happy I was leading. The last 10 mile killed me, a slog through fields and then the woods just outside Caldbeck were filled with slush and sharp inclines which were energy zapping. Passing a local game of cricket in the village of Caldbeck I saw the finishing flags which were a moral boost every day I knew Stage 1 was over. 1st place – 35.92 miles – 7hr 12 min – Avg Speed 5 Mph. Course Record !! Second place was Guy 22 min behind and 3rd Stephen Keywood 31 min behind. I felt a little drained at the end and I’d not eaten well while running so made it a must for the rest of the week to eat regularly during the stages. Dinner in the Marquee was great and watching the RAF boys and the girls Kyoko and Caroline come in was good. The girls were always so happy and the talk of dinner every night was their food supplements, Pinola and various powders and seeds added to their drinks and food. I’m glad I wasnt working as I’d have been tempted to see if they were legal, lol…. It was the highlight of every meal.
I’d not slept well during the night but today was a shorter day and I had no idea how quick the other runners would be, Guy was strong the day before and Steve Keywood, Steve Platt and Collin harris all looked in good form. I was soon running quite comfortably with Steve Keywood, and we stuck together for the whole day, the run into the lakes was wonderful and high peak at 658 meters was our first hill of the week, I soon discovered that coming from the flats of Lincolnshire and now Berkshire I was not cut out for the hills. However Steve looked strong, being a personal trainer I expected that and we powered on together. I decided to use walking poles, I’d never used them before, in fact I only got them a few days before the trip for my birthday. They were great going up hill although next time I need to use the circle attachments at the bottom to stop my pole sinking all the way into the ground. Several times I got stuck and falling once I nearly broke my wrist on the strap. The climb was great, Guy was close behind as Steve and I took a direct route staright to the top, Guy seemed to traverse around in the wrong direction and was too far away for us to shout to him. We made the top, windy and driving rain that stung as hit the face, heads down but in good spirits we started the run down which was fun although slippery as I was only wearing normal Asics road shoes. It made Steve chuckle a few times as I went on my arse. The poles were not as good for descent so keeping them out the way was fun, Steve lost a water bottle on the way down too but we went through check point 1 in good time. Poles were put away and we set off onto Mosedale, Mungrisdale and to an old Roman road. The rest of the journey was on road and trails which meant we kept going well. I got on well with Steve and found out he only lived 10 min away from me, a friendship was formed. We reached the end in Mell Fell Stage 2 done joint 1st place – 18.62 Miles – 4hr 9 min – Avg Speed 4.5 Mph. Course record !! Steve Platt was 3rd and Guy 4th. Colin Harris had gone over on his ankle, it was swollen, massively swollen. I feared the worst. Tumble dryer needed for wet kit which was a god send.. Knowing I had fresh socks each day and a dryer to dry my shorts and top meant at least with all the non stop rain I was starting each day fairly dry. The night was windy and wet, trying to eat in the Marquee became impossible due to it blowing away, strapping it down was fun but even the poles started to bend, we decided to put it down and go sit in the camp site bar area, a welcome rest bite from the wind and a good chance to catch up with the other runners. Although beer was really of the menu a few competitors had a couple which helped and I certainly slept better.
I wasn’t looking forward to this, the main hilly day, with several peaks including Helvellyn 949 meters. Steve Adams ( far too many Steve’s in one event ) was worried about the weather and up in the mountains he was right to be concerned. I know he had a few plans and alternative routes, I really wanted to complete the main route and was please to hear we were going ahead. The only rule was to be in pairs after check point one for the hills. Guy set off at a rate of knots and I knew his game plan was to stick with me and Steve K so that he was paired up with us for the hills. Check point 1 was only 4 miles into the route and then the hills began. Poles were out from the start of the event. The route up into the Cumbrian Mountains was great, up over Raise and onto Sticks Pass, the weather was holding out and the view was great. Stood on Raise we looked to the west and could see the clouds and rain coming in , the 3 of us, Guy and Steve K pushed on up to helvellyn where we called Steve Adams to check in, visibility clear and good but so so windy. 5 min later my face was again being battered by the wind and rain, Guy was looking strong by this point and Steve K was beginning to struggle a little. Heads right down, in fact mine was covered in a BUFF to stop the elements we headed onto Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike, lots of up and down hill and the wind blowing me over a cpl of times made it tough going. Also having no check points meant we had to live on what we had carried from check point 1. The drop of Dollywaggon provided a shelter from the wind but the rain was still lashing down. We made it to Grisedale Tarn and I had to put my leggings and base layer on, I was freezing and knew the signs of hypothermia, keeping my core warm helped and the left hand turn came for Fairfield, the last hill of the day, *%#! steep, moral a little low with the constant barrage of the weather we plodded on. If this had been a family walk or hike I’d have pulled off the hill by now, but the best option for the race for us 3 was to battle on, Fairfield was blasted out and the run came down the otherside to the end. It was great to get out of the wind and the rain subsided for a bit. Guy was itching to push the pace, a few times he waited for us and even popped back to see where we were. He was good and when the finish was in sight he shot off. I have to say i was a little cheesed off, we’d just spent the last 17.5 miles together through the elements and done well together, so to dash off in the final moments i felt broke the un said gentlemens agreement to finish together but there we go, he was strong and I have to say he deserved the win. Me and Steve finished just over a minute behind so Joint second today. Stage 3 18.07 Miles – 5hr 53 min – Avg Speed 3.1 Mph. No course record, i put that down to the elements. Again tumble dryers at the site provided dry kit for the next day. I prayed for better weather. Steve Platt had stayed with Colin, Owen and Arnold, Colin had soldiered on with his ankle, they made it to the bottom of Fairfield. Steve P knew the mountains quite well and decided the others would not make it in the weather, I wasn’t there with them but I imagine Steve P made the hard decision with all the right reasons involved and brought them off the mountain for safety. This meant Steve gained a time penalty, a huge shame as this could have played a part in the final 3rd and 4th places. I had my first blister now, due to constant wet feet. I used tape on my feet for the rest of the week to protect it.
I woke to the pitter patter of yes you guessed it rain and not one of the RAF boys outside my tent as the loo’s were too far away. I was gutted and to be honest I’d now lost my sense of humour and adventure. I was pissed off. We set off and I was with Guy and the 2 Steve’s for the begining. I’d lost my sense of humour as mentioned so plodded on with the guys, Ambleside, Troutbeck and Windermere soon passed, the pace was steady but I felt drained and again un interested. I don’t really remember much from the first part of the race, I remember the hill into Kendal, this was down the road and at that point i felt good for the first time, it was about mile 15, I still had 20 to go but I felt that was the start of the race for me, no rain, no wind and I zipped into check point 2 with the other 3. I refilled drinks and grabbed a bag of crisps, the salt felt great. I walked off quickly and noted Steve K was coming, eating my crisps in about 30 seconds I started to jog through the streets of Kendal and over the bridge. looking back I couldn’t see anyone. I found the path out of knedal which needed a bloody step ladder, it was vertical and onto the fields. No one in sight although I knew they could only be seconds behind i set off with a new lease of life. It was field after field, sticking to my Garmin i ended up going over barbed wire fences and over small streams upto my calf’s. I was piss wet through anyway so it made no difference. I felt like i was flying and CP3 arrive, Steve Adams was there, again another quick refill and some food I set off. Little did I know I had gained 50 minutes on 2nd place, 50 min in 6 miles. I couldn’t believe it. I was getting a little lonely again but the run to the finish in Dent was wonderful. It was a long journey but nothing of note to add apart from plodding on. Being alone without the other guys also means nothing of note really happened.The final leg following the river and the trails was nice. Stage 4 37.12 Miles – 8hr 21 min – Avg Speed 4.4 Mph. First place and another course record. I was now about 1hr 20 ahead of Steve K in 2nd place overall.
back to the shorter days I knew I wouldn’t be able to shake the other 3 guys, Steve K, Steve P and Guy but I felt ok. Well I thought I did. The climb out of Dent was tough going and the two Steve’s which by now I had labled the “SS” were motoring. We had dropped Guy and I was struggling to hang on. Today was pure determination, If i stayed with Guy, which is what I wanted to do i feared I would loose about an hour of my advantage on Steve K, in turn giving me only 26 min advantage on the last day. Make or break for me i though so I dug in. I hung on to check point 1 and Steve P was pushing the pace, I didn’t even get time to eat my crisps, they were cheese and onion so I didn’t mind too much lol. The course was up and down and my normal pattern of walking the hills went out the window as both Steve’s ran up most of them. I was gutted and had the hump. I cant remember when but Steve K was being far to happy, saying out loud ” come on boys “ 99% of the time its good to hear that and it often kept us going, however that particular day and moment I didn’t want one Steve encouraging the other to push the pace as I WAS DYING. so i shouted out ” Shut the Fuck up”. The way I said it was meant but looking back on it over all we knew I was just struggling and for the rest of the evening and next day Steve K was quite happy to take the piss out of me about it. Check point 2 arrived and Andy Mouncey was manning it, he had been about on a few other days and it had been good to meet him and say hi. He told me it was good training and I agreed. Next it was Pen-y-ghent, the last hill of the journey at 694 meters, poles out for the final time we pushed up the hill. I was actually quite pleased for once to be going up hill. I could keep the pace with them both and we eased up fairly easily. What was a nice surprise was a lunatic legging it up behind us, ” god he’s quick” we all commented on. He reached us and to our surprise it was David Wilson, last years winner. He chatted for a moment until the top and then offered some fluids and drinks. Graeme Chambelin also joined us at the top with a GoBeyond flag. A check point made up to make sure people came to the top. The first section down was a bit of a clamber due to the rocks and crags, a fell runner came quickly passed us, making it look easy. Steve P also took a little tumble but luckily no damage. We hurtled down and had to cross some crags. both Steves took a clamber around a wall while I in true Airborne fashion jumped a 3 to 4 foot gap which had a 30 foot drop in the middle, very comfortable but interesting.. Steve K said he needed a beer first to attempt it…… MAN UP STEVE !!!! ( with the RAF boys about MAN Up became a common phrase most days ). We flew down the rest of the course, Steve P wanting to beat 5 hours, pushing us on and in true Hitler fashion the SS boys were pushing hard telling me to keep up. The flag could be seen, it was tempting to take a direct bee line for it over a few walls but we curved around on the path and sprinted around the corner untill we hit a hill, lol, walk time !!!! Over a very narrow bridge we made the finish, Stage 5 21.96 Miles – 4hr 52 min – Avg Speed 4.5 Mph, joint first and another course record. Guy finished over an hour behind in 4th place., i’m glad I kept with the Steve’s. I now had a 1hr 26 min lead going into the last day. Steve Adams knew a local physio so it was arranged for him to attend. He did a great job with everyone although personally I wish I had missed out, he worked well on my right leg which was tight and the morning of day 6 I felt like an iron bar and that my calf was going to snap.
A different routine today as we had a coach journey to Wrexham. The bus driver even had to stop due to his drivers hours, i’m sure he could have arranged it better so instead of starting at 10am we ended up starting at 12. It was the final day and I felt good apart from a tight right calf. Day 5 had taken it out of me but i was now only 18 miles from the finish and still in 1st place. I have to say myself and Steve K who was in 2nd never really talked about placings, we just talked about life, fitness, familys and had a laugh. It was an adventure we both just wanted to finish in one piece. Again it was me and the two Steve’s at the front, Guy joined us for a bit but soon dropepd off as the pace was quite high. We ended up off course around Bramble Farm, Steve P mentioned we would re join the path further up but when we did we couldn’t find it. Up and around the side of Esclusham Mountain we were way off course and in the end decided to take a direct line to the edge of Llandegla Forest. Bramble up to our waists, bogs and very heavy going Steve P got a little down and we all were fairly quiet. Steve K found it funny when we started falling down holes of water up to our waists until a few moments later the same happend to him.. He did chuckle at himself. We were begining to think that Guy had overtaken us if he took the right path, the heather really took it out of us, we made the woods and a style ( one of about 100 we had crossed this week ) appeared. a proper track and all down hill through the woods to check point 1 was great running. We were first there to out surprise and only 9 miles left. I pushed the pace as best I could, they were both comfortable keeping up and I felt strong today, the end in sight. We made the edge of ruthin and followed the route given on the maps, however this took us to the back of the castle, we would have been 5 minutes quicker and this wrong turn got me stressed. Aparently we had missed some big yellow GoBeyond signs which would have directed us in. I put it down to running so fast we missed them lol. The castle was there and we made the finish from the wrond direction, Steve A was surprised.Stage 6 17.03 Miles – 3hr 31 Min – Avg Speed 4.8 Mph joint first and another course record for the day and me for over all 1st place.
I was elated, 150 ish miles in 6 days and it took me 34 hours 19 seconds, Dam those 19 seconds.Trans Britain Course record although its only the second year its been run. This event is a must for multi day ultra runners, an amazing adventure for meeting new people, their experiences and running every day in great places with a great team. The evening meal at the end was great and a nice comfortable bed, although I still didnt sleep well. I feel better prepared for my JOGLE attempt on the 31st of October.
Lee Chamberlain 34:00:19 / Steve Keywood 35:26:04 / Guy Travers 38:30:54 / Steve Platt 40:44:41 / Grant Cambell 51:57:02 / Jason Lewis 51:57:02 / Mark “Ginger” 51:57:02 / Colin Harris 61:38:56 / Arnold Van der Kraan 65:28:46 / Owen Beales 66:42:54 / Kyoko Grimsey 71:46:31 11 / Caroline Williams 71:46:31