I have a love/hate relationship with Leg Three. To be blunt, it's the Leg when people usually start to suffer, and often BG attempts grind to halt. I'd paced this leg twice already this year and both contenders bailed out around Esk Hause and then faced the long trudge down to Wasdale. On the positive side, this is also the Leg where a successful round starts to build momentum and so the rewards are there for the right person.
|Sharon before the start. Very calm ...and trying to sneak a chip?|
Weather (and darkness) plays a big part in BG success. It's well documented that Sharon was blighted with poor weather for her round and I'd sent her a few emails about the 'What if' scenarios of arriving at Dunmail having had a hard night leg. I was only being pragmatic, in effort to save a wasted drive around to Wasdale ... but suffice to say Sharon didn't respond to my emails. I'd also spent couple of weeks explaining how it is possible to make up a lot of time on Legs Four and Five.
So ... What Happened? Well the weather was crap and Sharon arrived at Dunmail a little bit down on (23hr) Schedule but in good form and having had good support along Leg Two, especially navigationally from Alex Pilkington.
Being slightly down on a 23hr schedule means you are actually nearly an hour up on a 'Completer Scheduled' and I truely believe that if anyone was to continue on schedule it would be Sharon, due to her strength and ability to cope with bad weather. Our Leg Three went Ok; we were ten or fifteen minutes behind two Irish runners leaving Dunmail and slowly caught them over the next few hours, mainly because Andy Jackson and myself are good navigators and we have a lot of local knowledge and experience. The Irish lads did really well considering they were self navigating with little local knowledge.
Conditions were poor but not too horrendous. It was windy and blustery, but there were breaks in the rain so it wasn't as bad as it had been on Leg Two, but cold enought to make me stop and point and extra fleece layer on and warm gloves. (We probably lost a few miuntes here as I struggled with numb fingers)
|It's an Alien? - No Sharon approaching dawn.|
Basically, my aim was to continue sustaining a good pace, maintaining good form in terms of mind and body and not losing any more time due bad navigation, not eating or drinking etc. Sharon was going well; both Andy and myself thought so, but I confess that I had forgotten to bring a schedule so was bluffing abit when Sharon asked me once or twice about times. Sharon did say that she found the ascent of Bowfell hard, which was the only time she made any negative comment.
I really believe that the 'average 23hr' scheduled available form the BG website is too fast for Leg Three, especially over the high Peaks from Esk Pike to Scafell. So, 'Yes' we did lose some time but it wasn't too much and we were moving as well as we could given the wet rocks and blustery conditions. Broad Stand was not possible due to the weather but we blasted up Lord's Rake instead. The only time I felt we were a bit slow was coming down from Scafell. We didn't seem to find the best path, but Sharon showed no signs of weakness or slowing apart from taking a painkiller on the final descent from Scafell.
I know Sharon was a bit worried about the time, but with two legs still to go and a slowly improving weather window the chance of succes was still high. However, everyone has a bad patch somewhere on their BG, and I believe this happened on Leg Four? Indeed, as I was mentioning this possibility to Graham and Jill, (her excellent roadside support) we saw Sharon climbing steadily up Yewbarrow with a few uncharacteristic pauses.
Cut to Honister and I was a bit surprised that she was arriving with just over three hours for the final Leg Five. Three hours is OK, and any less can be a bit scary. Meeting Sharon part way up Grey Knotts it was eveident that she was again moving very well, and talking with her pacers she had gone through her bad patch as was now running well, being able to descend as well as climb strongly.
A good strong climb up Dalehead and then run around towards Hindscarth proved that she was gaining on schedule and the 24hr target was safe as long as she kept moving. Sharon had a big support team on Leg Five, so lot's of good banter, but she was now very sore with a painful knee. We managed to get very good runnable lines all the way down to the road and had just over the hour for the five miles of tarmac. Easy ...just keep jogging on the flat and walk the up hills!
Some people really suffer badly on the final run-in, and I've also seen people fight much tighter deadlines. Sharon had about 10-20 minutes spare as we passed Newlands and climbed towards the Swinside Inn. I'm not really sure what was going on in her head at this point, but at some point she asked me if she would make it, to which I jokingly replied. 'Maybe? quickly followed by a more accurate prediction as she grimaced and glared at me.
'Of course you'll do it.' I replied. Which is something I'd be saying for a few months really.