It’s now a week since I dropped Dougie Zinis off at his home into the bosom of his family after an epic week supporting him on his Wainwright’s Round. I’m still shattered from the experience, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It was by pure chance that I got the opportunity to support Dougie. I made the mistake of letting him know that I was available all week and then I found myself in charge of driving a Transit van round the Lakes. The fact that apart from doing the Newlands Memorial fell race I hadn’t been to the Lakes didn’t put Dougie off and it never occurred to me how vast the Lakes are. I said yes and looked forward to a quiet tour of the Lakes while Dougie did what Dougie does best.
There were only two rules we had. Mine was I wasn’t under no circumstances going near Dougie’s feet or I would be sick, and Dougie’s was that I wasn’t to be left to make decisions by myself under any circumstances. That was fair enough as I often wonder how the hell I’m still here sometimes! I sometimes think people assume I can cope because I live on my own…how wrong they are!
Dougie wanted me to be in the Lakes on the Monday ready to take over from Toby. I said I’d go up on the Sunday so there was a smooth changeover from Toby. This also meant I could have a relaxing drive up on the Sunday morning and avoid all the Monday morning traffic and I might be able to get a run in too.
I spent the Saturday getting the van ready and ended up taking more than Dougie had packed. This proved beneficial as some of the items I took such as my protein shaker came in use making up Dougie’s recovery drink. Other stuff such as my fell running shoes never came out of my bag.
So off I went on a bright Sunday morning to pick up another CVFR runner Andy Ford and a fell running legend Kim Collinson from somewhere in the Lakes. I had the dropped pin for the pickup but decided I would be clever and put them in my satnav after Tebay services. This proved to be not as clever as I hoped it would be.
The drive up to Tebay services was good. Through Keighley and Skipton and onto the very well signposted road to Kendal and the Lakes I was soon on the M6 and taking in some of the best countryside anywhere in the world. I got to Tebay, got something to eat and drink and put the dropped pin co-ordinates in my satnav. Go north she said, come off the M6 she said, turn right, turn right again, and go back down the M6 for 20 miles! Bollocks I thought. I’d gone too far up the M6 and made the first navigational error of the week and already Dougie’s instruction on not leaving me on my own to make decisions was coming true.
I was soon on the right road and going along in a direction that didn’t seem right, but I put my trust in the satnav and after what seemed an age I turned right and began to enter the interior of the Lakes with the roads getting narrower and narrower and more like the trails I’m used to running on.
The roads went on forever, HRH’s voice telling me ‘2 miles’ down here and then telling me ‘4 miles’ more when I got there. I decided I would drive along this road until I saw 2 baldies looking lost and my plan worked! I drove around 500 miles before I saw 2 baldies in the middle of nowhere, one running around aimlessly, Andy Ford and Kim just looking for a white Transit van. I picked them both up, turned the van around and headed up Hard Knott Pass to go and meet Dougie at Nether Wasdale.
Kim knew the way so there was no need for me to use the satnav but Kim told me we were already late and running behind schedule so I did what anyone would do and put my foot down. I did my best impression of Colin McRea over the moors hitting speeds of 60mph at times. I could see Kim’s knuckles going white which only made me drive faster. I reasoned time was of the essence and I had to get there as fast as possible despite scaring my passengers shitless.
Soon I came across a white van parked by the roadside and correctly assumed that it was Dougie and his team. I parked up and we went over. Dougie was soon on his way, and I went back to the van to park it in a better position. Perfect parking done I got out and went round the back of the van only to find I had a few millimetres to spare before the back wheels went down a 2-foot drop! Toby took the photo as proof of my parking skills, and I moved the van forward a few feet to make sure it didn’t disappear down the drop.
Toby suggested we went for a run up Middle Fell and another fell, and we set off on a path up to the top. We climbed and climbed, Toby telling me the names of fells that meant nothing to me and pointing out the Isle of Man which seemed within touching distance. We continued upwards and soon my lack of fitness and being too fat began to take its toll on me and I was increasingly struggling as we went further and higher although I was determined not to give up.
We reached the top of another fell and Toby pointed out Scafell Pike and Scafell which I had heard of and Yewbarrow which looked evil as if daring anyone to climb it. We took the customary photos and set off along the ridge and back down the side of whatever fell this was towards the vans. I not a good descender at the best of times and carrying far too much weight only adds to my nervousness when coming down the side of a fell or a hill but we eventually made it and we were heading back to the vans on the road. I tried to run but my legs weren’t having it and it was arduous work to get them moving above walking pace so a steady walk it was taking in the beauty of the Lakes.
Toby said that he had booked a table at the Brook House Inn and said I could join him if I wanted to. Seeing as this was the only offer, I had, had in years of dining with someone I said yes and set off on another manic drive round the Lakes and we made it to the Inn with 5 minutes to spare. We had our meal and then set off to our next stop at Hard Knott Pass to meet Dougie, Kim, and Andy after their leg.