Thursday, 31 August 2017

Ullswater Way & Challenge 2017

All welcome ....

Sunday 22nd October 

Last year saw the inaugural event around the newly established Ullswater Way, with 180 people enjoy some, or all of the 24 mile route.  Everyone had a great time, although some found it a bit tougher than they imagined as not all of it is nice flat lakeside trails, as some of the media photos portray!  Suffice to say, those who choose to get a 'Steamer' back down the Lake were both wise and reward by great views of Ullswater.

2017 Tweaks

This year we are repeating the event, but with a few tweaks and a change of direction.

For 2017, we'll be going clockwise around the lake instead, so if you 'only did the first half .... and it was amazing' last year, now you can do the same again and do the other half, and it's a win-win!

We are also offering two options - Ullswater Way 20 or  Ullswater Challenge 24.  Both routes share the same route to Glenridding at around halfway, and then they split. The UW20 route stays low and uses the 'new NT' lakeside path to Aira Force Cafe. This is by far the easier option as it's flatter and very much parallel with the road and lakeshore.

The UC24 will head up to Greenside and over into Glencoyne, traversing on the higher level fell path to Dockray.   This includes the stunning views down the lake and as well as some 'technical single-track' that many will enjoy.  The UC24 route will continue over Gowbarrow summit, and join the UW20 route at The Old Shoot Lodge.

For an idea of the routes take a look at the excellent FoUW website, which gives you some general maps and information on the heritage and artworks.

The Ullswater Way signage

The start and finish will be in Pooley Bridge. You can start anytime between 8am and 10am, so no mass start, 'elbows out' or traffic worrying malarkey.

The exact start arrangements will be confirmed in the next few weeks as I'm awaiting confirmation as to useage of the Memorial Hall and/or maybe the Sun Inn, as last year, but it will be somewhere in the village.  All will be confirmed in due course, plus you'll get 'Final Details' by email via the entries system of course.  Entries are already open and places are limited, so please don't miss out. If you are undecided on which route is for you, don't worry as you can 'edit your entry' at a later date and change from one to the other.  We will also allow you to do this at the Glenridding CP during the event if needed.

The Ullswater Way route is waymarked with the UW 'roundel' shown above.  We'll be adding a few small orange NAV4 arrows and a few safety tech staff at key points, but it is an easy route to follow. We'll give out carefully written route notes (large text and accurate) and have commissioned a special
UW&C map.  No-one should fear getting lost!

Is it a race?
No, not really, but more of a time trial for those whom speed and time matters.

We take our responsibilities seriously,  so naturally we will time you out and back in again, so everyone will have a 'finisher's time'. And we'll be accounting for you at the various Checkpoints around the routes. Everyone is welcome, walkers, runners, ramblers, as long as you are all tolerant of each other and aim to have a good day out.

Not really typical - UW24 will be going Up this time!

 All we ask is that those who are slowest and want and need more go early soon after 8am, whilst the speedy runners go much later around 10am.

Why? We'll it is logical and spreads everyone out.  It also makes it all a lot easier for us to manage as the finishing 'window' isn't so long, and generally open shorter hours. This means a lot for the volunteers helping you all day.

Our Ethos

We keep things simple, clean and green.  Don't expect unnecessary 'bling, music or a fanfare at the start or finish.  Do expect a great day out, plenty of fun, banter, brews, cake and  ....  

There will be shuttle bus with pick ups from local villages and venues, including Penrith Station and town centre.  We are hoping to resource free parking in Penrith with shuttle bus service to the start.
There will also be secure bike parking at the event venue - ride a few miles from home or your B&B?

Heading to Howtown from The Cockpit ...

Checkpoints are likely to be at Howtown, Side Farm / Patterdale, Glenridding, Dockray and Aira Force, Watermillock or Bennetthead.  Each will supply a minimum of cold drinks, plus some hot drinks and tasty nibbles.    You'll be able to fill your water bottles at each checkpoint and we'll be providing you with special souvenir mug at registration for you to use on route.

A year or so on, the basic route is now well established and the Friends of Ullswater Way, have done a remarkable job of installing eight art structures around the route, with more planned.  We will be donating some money to continue the work and to help with general footpath maintenance, but you can also add optional donations to Fix-the-Fells and National Trust that you can 'tick' when signing up.

Ok, I think that's just about it for now; I'll write updates as and when, and 'Final Details' will be sent to all participants a week before the event.  Check out our facebook event page to share FAQ's, comments, offer lifts or accommodation or whatever.  This is a low-key, community led event so please get involved.

Want to help out?

We do need so volunteers to make the day work smoothly.  Helping at a checkpoint is an excellent way to put something back in to the event. Or, perhaps you can help before with offering a checkpoint venue, minibus or ...whatever.  

If you can please get in touch with me, Joe via email -

Many thanks,

Friday, 19 May 2017

DBR - Why?

Dragons Back Race - Again! Why?

This has been the 'FAQ' that I've been asked frequently over the past few months.  Even today, someone expressed surprise that I was running not working. Perhaps it's because I'm behind the scenes at many races rather than 'racing', or just my increasing bulk and decreasing speed.

It got increasingly worrying when my sanity appear to be in question, and I spent the winter months thinking hard trying to find a good reason not to take part.  I certainly don't want to be the 'fat old git' at the back, arriving late each evening.  But I can cope being the slightly fat chap finishing in the middle of the pack. .

There is a bit of a song and dance about me doing a fourth DBR in twenty five years, but I don't see it as a big deal.  I'm just lucky that I was around in 1992 (just coming into my fell racing prime, actually) and I'm still active now ...and can get fired up for the right occasion.

Last time, in DBR 2015, someone put a camera in front of me as I trundled South on Day Three.
Q: 'What keeps you motivated?' they asked.  My immediate thought was 'wtf' that's a bit of a stupid question and I struggled for a reply.  'er..don't know really..? Somewhere on Youtube there is 27 secs of riveting video.

I trundled on. To be fair, I didn't realise they were filming and I was just in my own enjoyable space and have trouble wasting energy on smiling.

A: But, it is just about keeping moving, and enjoying it.  Walking and running down Wales for five days - what's not to like?  No laptop, no work commitments, no Wifi - no phone signal.  It's not a joke or cliche, I'm looking forward to a holiday.

Q: 'But surely it's a bus men's holiday for you?
A:  Maybe. I'm happy to muck in and help with the event team and I'm not tolerant of prima donnas who expect everything done for them, but first and foremost I going to enjoy some 'TFM' and the j-o-u-r-n-e-y! Eek.

I've also been fortunate to spend some quality hill-time out with fellow Dragoneers recently.  It's been a pleasure and honour to offer my own advice and support to them but it's two-way street and I've reaped support from them, too.  I'm looking forward to spending some quiet time with a few friends, both old and new. but equally so I'm fearful of the hype and egos.

So ,,,,no reason not to do it again - I'm not as old as Facebook thinks I am - and twenty-five years is now't.  I know of two people who are have done events for 30+ years or more, year in year out.  A few years ago, I went to a lecture by a guy who had done every London Marathons. He'd done like 28 at the time, and he was the youngest to do so, so clearly had his sights set on being the 'last man standing'.  Generally people were in awe, but I remember asking him, 'Have you ever thought about choosing NOT to do it?'  The question led to a uneasy pause in the room.

This 4/4 DBR is nothing special.

Steve Redgrave's five consecutive Gold medals is special Katherine Grainger's Olympic record special too.  Casper and Katie's joint BGR is special, and in a DBR context Helene's fourth place in 2012, twenty years on from winning was very impressive along with Jim Mann's run that year.

Q: What changes have you seen over the years?

Not a lot really,  The distance and terrain is much the same.  There are good mountain running performances from well prepared mountain runners. A growth in the event infrastructure, of course. Sadly, in recent years, a greater proportion of people getting out of their depth ... and some high expectations from a demanding race community and media.

A Personal Potted History

1992 - Fit, Young and Ambitious.
Quietly confident but enjoying racing just behind my role models, heroes and leading runners of the day. Sadly, my partner Steve Dubie put his foot down a rabbit hole on the last afternoon and so we lost several hours as he hobbled with severe cruciate ligament damage.  We missed the Saturday morning presentation as we sat in A&E in Cardiff, I remember driving home to Cumbria, non-stop, with a bit of a sulk on.

2102 - Very Fit, Not-so-Young, Tired.
But a bit tired and battered from a week's AR Exped race the week before. Shane's extra special Day One was tough, we dug deep, I nursed my battered body efficiently to the finish,  Overjoyed, yet a little jealous of Helene's 4th place performance, it was an evening of very mixed emotions as we waited for Wendy Dodds to finish late in the evening.   And all a bit of a head mash, as I'd got some tragic news as phoned home, just after the finish line.   A week later another tragedy.

2015 -  Fit Enough, Getting Older and Wiser. Try Again.  
So, this is the last time? Let's get it right and finish on a high, please.  Finished strongly, enjoyed all but five minutes, but perhaps under-achieved. Bugger...!

2017 - Not Dead Yet - let's have fun.

2019 - enough to take part, or working on the event side which is harder?

Have fun, everyone.


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Ullswater Way Challenge - Sun 23rd October 2016

The idea of a path all the way around Ullswater was mooted many years ago. Indeed, some of us used to run it regularly but until recently there were some gaps in the paths and trails, which pushed you onto the tarmac, and it was unsuitable for more than doing with a small group of friends.

One of the 'good news' stories coming in the aftermath of Storm Desmond was the launch of the Ullswater Way, by the Lake District National Park and various Ullswater associates.  Having lived and worked primarily in the valley since the mid-80's it's quite amazing how 'The Way' has evolved and I'm now able to organise an event around The Lake.

More recently I have become a member of The Friends of The Ullswater Way, a group dedicated to celebrating the culture and heritage of the valley by commissioning a number of installations around The Ullswater Way.  So, if you want to enjoy and walk or steady run around Ullswater with like minded people, this is the day to do it.  

This event would not be happening without the support of LDNP, and The Friends of The Ullswater Way, and you can make an optional donation to Fix-the-Fells and 'The Friends' if you so wish. We will pass on your donation for you.

Route and Logistics

'Ullswater Way Challenge' is a new 24 mile event starting from Pooley Bridge and going anti-clockwise around the Lake.  Start anytime you wish between 8:00am and 10:00am; giving slower walkers and early start and with faster runners later on. Our route is a few miles longer than the normal Ullswater Way, but the extra three miles will be well worth it.

From Pooley Bridge, you'll climb steadily up to Maiden Castle, then on through Bennethead to Watermillock and Gowbarrow Fell. The route will use the high level route over Gowbarrow summit, then descend down to High Cascades Bridge, up stream from Aira Force.

Aftera check point at High Cascades car park you'll stay high and traverse around the head of Glencoyne Park, to Greenside and down to Glenridding.  There is a chance to bail out here and enjoy cruise back to Pooley Bridge on a 'Steamer', or to continue through to Patterdale, and along the lakeside path to Sandwick, Howton and the finish at Pooley Bridge.

We will not be using the new 'NT-path' from Aira Force car park to Glenridding as it is not suitable for our purposes, being narrow, busy and with a dangerous road section.   We are grateful to the National Trust for allowing access over Gowbarrow summit.

Nature of the Terrain   

The route is on a variety of paths and trails. It is way-marked using the Ullswater Way symbol and you will be given a simple written route description. No map reading skills are required.  Please note that the path from High Cascades to Greenside does go high and can be exposed in poor weather.  

The high level section around Glencoyne is not marked by these signs but will be signed and staffed.

However, it is a distinctive path and our professional event staff will be monitoring and safe-guarding your progress.  

Food and Drink 

We will have a number of checkpoints with cold drinks and 'nibbles' (maybe hot drinks as well)   We'll be confirming checkpoints locations and facilities in due course; some details and permissions are yet to be confirmed.

You'll also pass through Glenridding which has a selection of cafes and shops for ice cream and other essentials! And be rewarded with tea and cake at the end.

We are just awaiting conformation of our start, finish, HQ which will affect what refreshments we can offer

Equipment and Safety

The route is walkable by most competent and experienced walkers and runners.  However, there is a surprising about of up and down and some rough paths, so please don't expect manicured 'lakes-side-way' gravel trails!  

You'll need to wear and carry some basic gear - waterproof jacket, spare fleece, water bottle and snacks, etc. Again, we'll up date you on this is due course.

Parking - Public Transport - Spectators

One of my aims is to limit the amount of cars this event brings into the valley. Fortunately, Pooley Bridge is close to the M6 and Penrith, with it's mainline railway station. I'll be posting details of buses from Penrith and Rheged soon, and offering a shuttle if necessary.

Ullswater has it's 'Steamers' which service Pooley, Howton, Glenridding and Aira Force, so if you want a shorter day, then these and the public bus, plus our own shuttle bus will result in less car traffic.

Our actual start / finish / parking arrangements are yet to be confirmed, but suffice to say they will be in Pooley Bridge.

Naturally, you may have family and friends who wish to see you during your challenge and whilst we want them to enjoy their day, and visit Aira Force and Glenridding for example, please ask them not to meet at any road crossings as cars and spectators will cause congestion and will be dangerous.   

Want to Volunteer

We need several volunteers to help organise this event.  There are various tasks, start and finish admin, roadside checkpoints, tea-pot managers, roving footpath event staff, even a Wainwright hill-top to look after.  If you want to volunteer please email me with your preferred role and availability.
Thank You.

Afterward Party?

Well 'party' isn't really our style but Pooley Bridge offers a good range of pubs.  We have a reputation for tea & cake ...details to be confirmed.

Entries Open - Wednesday 3rd August - via sientries 

More Updates here, and via our facebook event page soon

Friday, 1 April 2016

Lake Mountain 42 - 3D

The Lakes in 3D - Deviant Desmond's Diversion

With our Lakes Mountain 42 fast approaching and so you can look forward to striking Spring trails taking in the summits of High Street and Helvellyn.   The route is a glorious mix of fast mountain paths but with a big dollop of ascent that tests the very best of ultra mountain runners and walkers.

Sadly, Storm Desmond continues to assert is destructive powers and so it has been necessary to arrange a wee diversion around the Wythburn checkpoint.  This is near where parts of the A591 just north of Dunmail Raise.  This is somewhat ironic as whilst there is a somewhat contrived route through on the 'upgraded' Right of Way, the access issues to and from the car park make it unfeasible.  The final straw is the closed permissive paths, which are patrolled by jobs-worthy security guards, hence, I have decided to give the whole area a miss. I'm not normally shy of access issues but all things considered this is the right thing to do in these circumstances.

Grisedale Tarn to Helvellyn Summit

The 'good news'; is that it will shorten our route by two or three miles and save around 400 metres descent and re-ascent.  
The bad news is that you will lose a roadside drinks station.

Core Event Details

Registration / HQ 

Askham Village Hall - (512 236) registration between 7pm and 10:30pm on Friday, or 5:15 and 5:45am on Saturday.

Start - Mass start at 6:00am, briefing in the small hall at 5:50am. 

Parking - please park very neatly and tightly at Askham village hall - plenty of space if you use it all including the grassed area at the rear of the car park. Early arrivals please set this off well.  Campervans - be discreet


CP1 - Loadpot Hill - 457 181
CP2 - High Street - 440 110
CP3 - Angle Tarn - 417 144
CP4 - Side Farm, Patterdale - 398 162
CP5 - Grisedale Tarn - 351 122
*(CP5A - TBC - Whiteside - depending upon weather / snow on ground)
CP6 - Helvellyn Summit - 341 151
CP7 - Side Farm, Patterdale - 398 162
CP8 - Place Fell - 405 169
CP9 - Martindale Church - 435 192
Finish - Askham Village Hall - 512 236.
* Weather and underfoot snow conditions will determine whether you can descend Swirral;s Edge safely or have to go via Whiteside Zig-Zags... c.347 169

MMandatory Kit 

  • Waterproof jacket and overtrousers
  • Spare mid-layer micro fleece
  • Hat and gloves
  • Map - your choice but most be weather proofed 'paper' map - not GPS. 
  • Headtorch - you may well be out in the dark.
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Survival BAG - not a blanket.
  • Water bottle or Mug - you won't get a drink at our checkpoints without one.
  • Remember this is a Winter / Spring event going over the high tops of the Lake District fells - don't skimp on gear! 

Loadpot and High Street will be staffed but will not have drinks as they are fell tops.
Angle Tarn is unstaffed - CP is a control punch at the boulder on the 'Isthmus' - Google it!
Side Farm, Patterdale - will be staffed with hot and cold drinks and 'nibbles'.  Note that the Tea Room will probably be open to the general public so our checkpoint will be a vehicle and table in the farmyard, and may not be inside.
Grisedale Tarn - Small tent by tarn outlet - staffed but no big buffet!
Helvellyn (and Whiteside?) - Unstaffed CP - control punch on Helvellyn Trig Point.
Side Farm, Patterdale - as above
Place Fell -  Unstaffed CP - control punch on Trig Point
Martindale Church - Unstaffed CP - control punch by roadside gate at church. - Staffed by sweep team later..
Finish - via the back door into the small hall at Askham.
*'nibbles' means our unique selection of NAV4 food, which is primarily savoury bites.  No gels or energy drinks here...sorry.  Food is healthy and hot drinks plentiful if you need them.

Cut-off Times
There are no formal 'cut-off' times on this event but we do expect you to finish for 'last orders' at the pub, so hopefully ...10pm, please?  

We strongly believe in 'Go Steady, Go Strong ... Go Long!'  and will continue to support anyone who is moving adequately in the later stages of the event and  Please consider short routing from Patterdale CP4 if you are 'having a bad day' and returning over Place Fell under your own steam. Our CP staff will advise you appropriately.

Finish Food Fun
Copious amounts of tea, coffee, squash, soup, cake and more cake.   Sadly the Queens Head pub right next door is closed but The Punch Bowl Inn at the bottom of the village is open and so is the 'official' LM42 pub.

Accommodation is plentiful in and around Askham - floor space in the village hall is bookable via your sientries log-in for Friday and Saturday nights.  Breakfast of porridge, toast and drinks of course free to all 'campers' - just sign up at registration.

Lift Share /  FAQs

Please us the NAV4 facebook page to offer or find lifts or post FAQs 
I'll be in touch again just before with an update on snow and weather conditions.           

Thank you - Joe

Thursday, 31 March 2016

'DaffyRun' a Blooming Success

Thank you everyone, and I mean everyone; walkers runners, families, the villagers at Pooley, the Hall committee, Sun Inn, Parish Council and Ullswater Association. You all contributed to a great fun event in some fine Spring weather.

 A new event is always a strange and exciting project and in the aftermath of Storm Desmond a bit of a gamble but everyone was buzzing about the route and the nature of our 'walkers and runners' event, especially the family ticket which allows children to run / walk with their parents.

Tom briefs the 'Mass' Start; many had chosen to set off earlier

With an original 50/50 split between the 'walkers and slower runners' start window (9-10:30) and the mass 'race'start at 11:00 there was something for everyone regardless of speed or ambition.

Spot The Daffs?

The original idea was simply a 'Run From Pooley' to support the community and businesses in wake of Storm Desmond and the destruction of the 251 year old Pooley Bridge. The Ullswater Association were eager to support the 'run' as part of their Daffodil Festival, annual event in the Ullswater valley. Hence, the Daffodil Run and Walk was planted and bloomed into a great fun day out for all.

Ironically, Pooley New-Bridge opened the very next day

The route is simple: an out-and-back route from Pooley to Hallin Fell and back, which is a total distance of about twelve miles. It is a mixture of good wide trails, easy to follow paths and the short steep ascent onto Hallin Fell, to the magnificent view point over the whole of the lake, Helvellyn and the Ullswater valley.    

The 'Daffy-Run' is very easy to follow and adequately signed, and it is also possible to turn around any one of three or four of our staffed safety checkpoints for those who don't want to do the full distance. Our highly experienced (and entertaining!) NAV4 Adventure event staff had a great day and took some great photos out on the route.  
Thank you to Pyro for the photo - more on the NAV4 Adventure facebook page

Did Someone Say Cake!

Free 'brews' and cake to everyone ...then beer and food in Pooley!
Back at base I just about managed to keep on top of the finish and results admin, and serve up tea, coffee and copious amounts of infamous cake to the rapidly returning finishers who caught me slightly unprepared.  Some very impressive times were recorded  .... but overall people seemed more intent on fun and cake then race splits and prizes.

Bigger Growth in Spring 2017

We like to start our events small and nurture them into something special, and never forget that fun for everyone and sustainability is very important. After such a great day, and listening to the very encouraging feedback from all sides  I'm pleased to announce that  The Daffodil Run and Walk, will be back next year on Saturday 18th March 2017.  Details and entries to follow soon.

Ok, we (I ) will be a little more organised ....but the cakes will be even better!
Thank You, 


Friday, 12 February 2016

Daffodil Run and Walk Sat 19th March

The Daffodil Run, or walk is a new event from Pooley Bridge on Sat 19th.

Entries are open now for individuals and families....for both 'walkers' and 'runners' starts.

The primary aim is to remind people how beautiful Pooley Bridge and Ullswater is, and how it has suffered following the loss of it's famous bridge.  Come and enjoy and good run or walk, see the new bridge under construction and support the pubs and shops of Pooley Bridge.  The event has the support of the Parish Council, The Daffodil Festival and the Ullswater Association.

Hallin Fell is the small dark fell in the centre of the photo....
In Brief:
  • The route runs from Pooley Bridge to Hallin Fell, via The Cockpit and Martindale Church, and then back the same way. It is easy to follow.
  • The route is a mixture of good trails, and paths, some wet under foot, a little bit of tarmac lane and the open slopes of Hallin Fell, but still on a reasonably good path.  The route returns exactly the same way.
  • The route will be simply sign-posted, with event marshals at key points, but is very easy to follow. It will be very easy to 'navigate' - no special skills needed. There will be two drinks stations that you will pass twice each.
  • This is an event for everyone, whatever your speed or competitive edge.
  • The event is open to all abilities, with walkers setting off between 9:00 and 10:30am, then runners at 11.00am. 
Heading from The Cockpit towards Howtown

  • You can run the full distance (12 miles) in the main start at 11:00am, or set off earlier and do a shorter distance turning around at one of three manned safety points.
  • The entry fee is £20 per person, for runners and walkers.
  • A Family ticket of £30 for an adult and up to three children is available for the 'walkers' start. Or, two adults and two children if both parents which to walk / slow run.  
  • Runners aged 14-18 can run in the Runners start if accompanied by an adult.
Free tea, coffee and cold drinks and a tray bake will be available in the Village Hall post walk / run to all participants. And of course, there are pubs and cafes in Pooley for post race refuelling.

The Parish and Ullswater Association support the 'Daffy Run'

More details will be added very soon, but you can enter now via

I'll be adding to this blog, with more photos and details over the coming week or so. We welcome offers of help from anyone who wishes to get involved, whether with race entries in the hall, out on the route, or helping at the finish....

Our Daffodil Run facebook page will also contain more information and advice.

Meanwhile, please contact me if you wish to help or have any concerns about the event.

Many thanks - Joe Faulkner

01768 864 909 (Stainton) 07749 364 249 email -

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Dragon's Tale Revisted

Dragon's Back Race - 2015

So, the DBR is over for another two years and there will be so many different memories and stories from a wide range of people.

Firstly, I'd like to thank Shane, Heather and Tom for amazingly professional delivery of 'The Third Edition' which appeared to be faultless to me.  Backed up by a highly competent team of hand-picked marshals and with the generous title sponsorship of Berghaus, this was a very slick production.

There is no doubt this is a tough race. It's a tough week on everyone; at least we runners get more sleep generally than the event team, who work tirelessly to make the event happen.  Some 'big names' bailed out, some due to injury and some realised mid-week that it wasn't going to happen for them.
I was sad to see to the two 'Jim's, and my Spine mate Mark, all very experienced mountain running men,  choose to stop through 'SMJ' decisions when things weren't going there way.

There are other people to thank as well,  I spent a bit of time with Carol, initially on the Glyders and especially on Crib Goch, but she is much faster runner than me and quickly gets away on the flat. My tent companions whittled down to see me sharing with Damian Hall, Pavel, Jonas and a certain Mr Tobias Mews who were all great entertainment and a source of inspiration in various ways.  ('Stop Faffing'  Tobias...)

I'd also like to congratulate our NAV4 Adventure clients who did so well: Lizzie, Tremayne, Michelle and Richard for completing the full race, and in very good times, along with Louise, Anna, Carlos, Katharine, Wayne for going so well and so far.  I was really pleased to see Braddan complete this year after being so close in 2012.  I actually didn't see much of him all week, as he started early, got to bed early and was wary of any cut-offs.

More Than Just a Race

'More than just a race' is what Angie from Berghaus quoted today; and she should know having been there working all week and running the complete Day Three, the long tough day, in tough conditions. In some ways it's a family affair, although with different branches of the family.  I've been taking my time to catch up with some social-media, and have particularly enjoyed Helene Whittaker's videos, if only to see what else was going on around me during the week.  Helene is very much part of the DBR team, as is Wendy Dodds;  Steve were conspicuous by your absence.

Great Videos and Media Coverage

There are hundreds of photos on the web, and with more surfacing each day.  Helene's video presentations were the highlight of yesterday's media catch up, and before we all become yesterday's chip paper please take a look at a few videos on the dragonsbackrace website

If you only watch two video shorts then please try these those of Jim Mann, Huw and Glen Davies and myself from Day Five   Jim's words are very poignant, and the bit about Glen and Huw Davies is pretty special for me too.    The camera does lie: the twenty or so seconds of me walking up that lane doesn't show how steep it was.  Plus, I would have answered questions with a more lengthy response especially if Helene or some had asked me something interesting. And....I think Ian Corless's camera has a special filter on it to make us look more rugged and knackered than we really are.

'So, Three Dragon's Back Races in 23 Years?'

I was often asked which was best , or which was hardest, or whether this one was tougher than The Spine.  If truth be told I found this one the easiest.  1992 was very daunting and way beyond the physical limits of what any of us had done then.  2012 was hard from an emotional and psychological point of view as it came just a week after the Sting Exped Adventure Race in Scotland. So, I started a bit battered and sore but was fit that year.  This year in 2015 I was far from running or race fit, but had enough mountain miles in my legs from working outdoors, usually with a sizeable sac on.

I'm just not running fit any more.  Someone once described my running as similar to an old 2.0 litre non-turbo Diesel Transit van.  There the ones that look tatty, and you'd never think they would pass an MOT, but they just keep going.  As long as you keep putting the right fuel in they keep going.

Well, if that is so, in DBR 1992 I (think?) I would have been and 'L' reg Transit. That 'L' plate means a lot to me. In 1992 I was just thirty, and coming into my long distance prime (the media hadn't invented the word 'ultra' then, in fact social media was invented!)  But I was surrounded by the great and the good of long distance mountain running;  Stone and Diamantides, Belton and McDermott, Walsh and Clark, Cudahy and Kyle, Wendy and Sue, Turnbull and Jones, someone called Crane, John get the idea.  So, I was the young unknown tea-boy, the fat 'mid-packer' (sic) who survived and came to the fore.  I was just lucky to be born when I was and be invited to take part.

However, in '92 I was also quietly confident. I'd chalked up 3 Bob Graham Rounds, a good handful of hilly '100' milers, dozens of mountain marathons (proper two day jobs, not 26.2 miles of trail)  and so I had miles in the tank, topped off by an eagerness and passion to have specifically made a Soft Option 'Event' running sac.  In other words, well prepared and with eyes wide open.

Enough of memory lane; but when someone asked if I was going to finish 2015, I immediately thought of Sir Steve Redgrave, when he was asked, 'When did you know you had won?' after that amazingly close finish for his fifth gold medal.  'After ten strokes,' said Sir Steve. Now, Sir Steve isn't arrogant, and I hope I'm not, but having started and got through Day One, and baring injury such as befell Ed or Pavel, I was going to finish this jaunt down the wonderful Welsh mountains.  The destination was a certain, just the speed / time and maybe condition I'd finish in being a little unknown.

Speed Kills

So, just like a 23 year old Transit van, the body work is knackered, the paintwork very much past it's best, and the chassis may be a bit twisted, but inside the engine block refuses to die.  No amount of lycra will hold the wing mirrors on and there's no i-pod socket, tinted glass, nor electric windows.
Air condition involves removing layers of clothing.  Thankfully, smart new Berghaus zip neck short sleeved shirts negated the need to be shirtless this time.

Start Day Four - Bed Hair - Photo by Angie and Berghaus 

Any stage race or 'ultra', or expedition requires you to look after yourself, preserve energy and limit body damage.  The evening's recovery is crucial and a skill set within itself; eat, drink, stretch, (self-medical?) eat, drink, sleep, drink, drink, eat, run...repeat.  Pacing yourself is key, and most of us are only racing yourselves not others.  Although some seem intent on following and steal minutes of others.

Route Choice

Fortunately, this transit hasn't got a Satnav to go wrong; but it does have a map, and good solid navigation skills.  It also grow up in Shropshire and spent it's early years roaming around Snowdonia and Mid-Wales, especially. Seriously, I was efficient throughout with my route choice, 'Yes' in some ways from prior knowledge but you still have to navigate, which at times includes slowing down rather than going the wrong way. I made some small errors, everyone does, but often those are because of 'race head' and trying to gain time on people around you.  One was within a mile of the finish following the 'marked route'! (NB- There is no such thing as a marked route )

I was very happy with my navigation and route choice.  Day Two is the awkward one and I took a direct, and consequently lonely line, enjoying some solitude overlooking Tremadog Bay.  I messed up the end of Day Two, getting swallowed up by some runner-eating-boulders and vicious heather which had me travelling a mile in about one hour and subsequently suffering a mild hunger-bonk on the mandatory route run in. Bit of a sad finish to that day.

Overall, I really enjoyed navigating in poor visibility and certainly passed several people in the 'clagg' with slick lines. However my biggest strength is just keeping up a steady pace,  (as seen in the video on Day Five) which makes it surprising easy to pass people at the Support Point, or even at gates, road junctions and hill tops. Indeed, the ability to navigate effectively is a core mountain running skill and so mastering this will enhance your mountain running performance without doubt.  'Yes' - check out our NAV4 Adventure courses for details.

Diesel Fuel

As long as I keep putting the right fluids in, I keep going. Fuel, water and 'oil' in the right places.

I don't have any complicated nutrition and hydration strategy, but I do like food and drink. I drank water all week, with just two quick tea stops.  I eat sandwiches, 9bars, cashew nuts, cheese and tomato cubes, oat cakes and Peanut M&Ms.  I have been using some Mountain Fuel powders before during and after the race, which make up great milk shake based drinks.  I also had a few Bounce Balls and Cliff Bars from previous expeditions but find them hard work at times.  No gels for me  #gelfreerunning

Gear - Less is More

I bought home more food than I eat.  Heather's catering was great - plentiful food and I've no problem with being vegetarian.  But, I did run out of Early Grey tea bags, had the usual cravings for odd foods and missed semi-skimmed milk.

Clothing: I was lucky enough to earn some Berghaus shorts and base layers, along with a Vapourlight Hypertherm Reversible Smock which is really useful for its weight.   These base layers fit me well, have great length neck zips for ventilation, which is an essential for me.  The Vapourlight Hyper smock also kept me dry in tough weather on the Brecon Beacons during Friday.   That was the only time I put a waterproof on.

Overnight Kit needs careful thinking about. Again 'Less is More', and it's about flexibility and thinking through needs, not necessarily wants.  I know many of you kit fanatics will be after details, but as Helene said at the original briefing, 'Its' not about what you wear, or what you eat .....It's in here (inside) what makes a difference.  Naturally, a NAV4 Adventure course will be a source of further knowledge if you need more advice and input.


The Dragon's Back Race has had a successful third edition.  Well Done Shane and team.  Of course, Shane wasn't in charge in 1992, but I reckon it takes any event to get to three years before it's matured and found it's groove, so he's done it early.  What next for 2017, I wonder.

Finally,  I'd like to thank Mr Stuart Smith. I'll single him out from the many hard working Event Team as he quietly gets on and does the do without any fuss or bother.  I always feel safe and sorted when he's on board.

Thanks for all the messages, support and I wish everyone a happy and swift recovery.
See on in Conway in 2017.


NAV4 Adventure