After the good run at Marlborough in early May we went to Montenegro for three weeks in the mountains. Unseasonally poor weather for the first half of the stay plus an exceptional amount of winter snow still on the ground rather restricted our activities. On the basis of all the informatio and advice we had gathered we did not take ice axes or crampons as we were assured snow would not be a significant problem by early June. A mistake. We were in good company, nobody we met was getting to summits or even, in most cases to the passes. I did get some hill runs in though, rather more than I expected, and later in the holiday some of it in temperatures of up to 30C in preparation for the Lake District in high summer! I also managed to sole one big summit right at the end. Bobotov Kok is the highest in the Durmitor range at 2500m+ The approach to the north side took me into a hugh bowl surrounded by high mountains and filled with snow. It is one of those situations that I really appreciate being by myself. I think what was at one time in the schools national curriculum as 'awe and wonder'. Anyway, from there it was straight up 250 metres of snow. Before starting I almost baled out for an alternative option but decided it looked doable. As with all these approaches to cols the snow got steeper as youi got closer to the top with the last few metres being almost vertical. There comes a stage on these routes when trekking poles become of absolutely no use (the angles are all wrong). This usually occurs at about the time that turning back also starts to look a bigger problem than going on. looking down I thought at least it looks loke a soft run out if I came off, very few rocks and no significant clifflets. Though sliding 250 metres (height) on snow in teeshirt and shorts was not something I relished. So it was kicking steps and digging in fingers (fairly soft snow by this time) and I crawled over the top. Imet a Montenegrin guy at the top who had come up the south side, he showed me in the summit log that he was just the third and I the fourth to get up this season. And mine was a first ascent this year of the north side so i was quite chuffed. I had already decided to go down the south side and now had the advantage of somebody who knew the way so it was a quick trip out. The road though was a long way from our tent but i luckly quickly thumbed a lift with a Slovakian couple who were heading to a lake 200 metres from where I was camped.
After that I decided that there was nothing left to do that wold live up to it so we headed for the coast and had a couple of pleasant days in Kotor and then the same in Herceg Novi.
Three Rounds of Shap
Notwithstanding that I had managed a few runs in Montenegro I was still a long way short of the mileage I needed before the Lakeland 100. So a couple of days after getting back it was up north for the 100km Three Rounds of Shap. I did not know too much about this event but I really enjoyed it. I spent the night before in the village hall with an excursion to the pub over the road to watch England -v- Algeria. This left me thinking that whatever kind of day I had it could not be any worse than what I had just seen.
It is a LDWA association event and had a much more relaxed and less competitive feel about it than most races with the added novelty / temptation that at the end of each of the first two rounds you pass back through race headquarters at the village hall. Plenty of food there plus the option of changing your mind and settling for one or two rings. I was met at the end of the first ring with the news that I had won first prize in the raffle. A large (about 3 feet long) photograph of the Lowther Valley including part of the race route. I never win raffles but I am quite pleased with this and it will go up on the wall when I get time. It was suggested that I might want to take it with me on the second and third rounds but I passed at that. I finished in a fairly modest time but at least I had run the distance and felt quite good at the end.
I felt now that I was back up to a reasonable level of fitness at last and was looking for a time around or better than my 6 hours 55 last year. The weather was quite good, if a little warm but after Montenegro that was not a problem. I started well enough and coming down to the first rad crossing after a couple of mles I heard a tremendous thump about 50 yards behind me. I turned and saw a youngish wman had gone down, obviously very heavily. There were plenty of people around her so I pressed on. I found at the end she had a double fractiure of the wrist and was the first hospital case of the day. Little did I know at this stage that I was to be the second.
Things continued pretty well for much of the rest of the race, I was running well at about last years pace, I did well with the route finding in the tricky bit at around 20 miles and though I was losing a little time on the pull up onto Black Hambledown it was still OK. Coming doen again was another story. On the good descending track I tripped. I normally fall quite well but this time I don't think i knew I had fallen until I hit the ground...with my chin. I knew it was bleeing and my teeth did not feel right but I got up and continued. Within yards it was obvious thatmy vision was blurred and I was not sure what to do until I realised that I had lost my glasses in the fall. So I had to re-trace my steps for a 100 yards or so and find them and the blurring was completely cured!
But I was obviously quite shaken and things became s struggle from then on. The shock brought on cramp (something to do with blood and oxygen being redirected to main organs at the expense of leg muscles etc. I think). I had another fall without further injury, the cramps got worse and I just about made it over the line. I felt, and probably looked, rather like the Italian in the 1908 London Olympics. But I did finish and was loaded into the St John's ambulance for treatment including oxygen to deal with reduced blood oxygen levels (again as a result of the shock I think). The race organisers were really excellent, looked after me in the village hall. Those of you who were in the event may have seen me at this stage with a very strange bandage around my head. They then took me to the hospital for 9 stitches in my chin from where my family picked me up.
It was a couple of days before I got to the emergency dentist (I was not at home so could not go to mine). They made some temporary repairs and I have just this morning seen my dentist who has confirmed that two broken teeth will have to come out next week.
This is getting rather long so I will comress the rest. The week after Osmotherely we had a week in the Lake District where I did a recce of the Lakeland 100 route plus fixing some garmin waymarks on what will be night sections in the race. For those running the 100 the section up Grassguards Gill was exceptionally boggy just over a week ago and I heard an item on the weather saying that since thenSeathwaite has had record levels of rainfall - you ight need to bring a snorkel! Then a second week with all the family (wife, all three children and their partners plus all 5 grand children)also in the Lake District (Keswick) staying at a great self catering place that I strongly recommend - Greta Hall.
So, I am looking forward to the 100 this weekend, feeling reasonably confident that with the added incentive of being sponsored for my Nepal education and health project that this time I will make it. It is not too late to sponsor me if you want to.
Good luck to any readers who may be running in the 100 and to all of you, I will be posting again after the race but there may be a bit of a delay as I have a lot of work over the next couple of weeks - some more arrived in the post today that I was not expecting.