The Story of my Dalesway attempt

Early Morning in Cumbria somewhere on the Dalesway. A beautiful day in great countryside

Early morning, breakfast time?

So, here we go and sorry for the delay.

Firstly I have a link to a series of photographs that Gareth Aston took during my efforts which capture the thing really well, and also he ha s a short video link which I include here too. It was an awesome day and loads of fun…..

The photographs

The Video

HAving arrived home from work in Uganda in the best and hottest weather in around 7 years I was truly excited and looking forward to a long day out on the Dalesway. I was also wondering whether my training  was going to be sufficient. The longest run I had done since December ( 38km just before I caught malaria) was around 30km , including a 4hr 20 return trip up Fanzipan in N. Vietnam (3143m). All the other training had been based on higher intensityu shorter runsd on a daily basis at work asd that is all trhat I can manage generally due to time constraints….

So it was with some trepidation that I committed myself mentally to the Dalesway mission, as onb my last big run – The Lleyn Peninsula (125km) I had trained more traditionally with a number of long back to back days out on trhe trails and hills….

So July 19th saw me heading up to rendezvous with Big GAz in a quality car park on the outskirts of Windermere on another scorching day in the middle of our heat wave, beautiful weather….

Waiting for Gareth to arrive I wandered into town to Bowness and walked the first few kilometres of the route out of town to make sure that at least during the start of the run I didnt get lost – Its highly frustrating to set off then 5 minutes later back track or start searching for the route…..

On The way to Sedbergh, TNF Ultra Guides on feet, feeling good

Sedbergh Viaduct and feeling pretty good. 50km in and The North Face Ultra Guide shoes feeling great

(Luckily for the most part the route is pretty well signed although around Dent dale the route through the fields by the river is a bit misleading at around 60km into the run….)

Nervously fiddling with my kit and preparing fluids etc, Gareth arrived armed with maps, cameras, lots of encouragement, and after a good feast in Windermere it weas off for a good nights kip ( although short)…..

All too soon the alarm rings at 0300hrs and I am dragging myself out of bed to get some muesli and fruit juice down and a good strong coffee before last minute preparations and heading down to the start of the run, which I decided needed to be right by the boats on Lake windermere with a toe in the water………

A clear sky with the dawn just beginning to cast a frissant of warm light across the scene, the day already warm, Gareth began to get some camera footage and I prepare for off.

Its impossible to delay any longer and I am bursting with energy and enthusiasm so off I jolly well, very steady at first as I don’t want to regret a fast start later in the day.. The mantra is start slow and build up.. Keep the heart rate down and just keep moving until you are warmed up..

The trails are bone dry, the first part of the route is steep up and down, through beautiful classic English Lakes scenery, and the dawn is enlivened by the poresence of plentiful rabbits, the odd Hare , Weasels, stoats and Foxes here and there. I love the mornings in the UK when there is a peace and tranquility pervasding everything and even the aniumals seem to be calm, watching me pass in the semi darkness…. I am feeling great and roll into Staveley then down the riverside to Burneside, feeling in high spirits and well committed to the day ahead.

The route finding is OK for me but I see Gareth now and again ahead of me trying to intersect with my route to ressupply fluids etc whcich is proiving tricky due to my progress, the complicated path route and the short sections where I actuially cross a country lane here and there. We eventually meet after the first couple of hours, just as mybottles need filling, and its great to have a chin wag , restock and get route info from Gaz, as I plough  onwards….

Full daylight and now we continue in a similar fashion for the next few hours, humidity and heat building , but a little cloud cover to reduce the suns impact..I am drinking loads of rehydration and feeding pretty regulalry but I am a bit out of practice of eating on the go and its a bit of an effort….

By this time I am chafing at the top of my legs pretty badly due to sweating and salt and by the time I reach Sedbergh at around 50km, I am in need of Vaseline to control the chafe… Not a pleasant sensation. I should have applied vaseline first before I started to chafe zones , to exclude salt and sweat, because once it starts its a bit too late and the salt crystals are already in the skin……As the day wore on, allied to my tired legs the application of vaseline increased exponentially to manage the soreness……

Landmarks on the route begin to pass now – The West Coast Mainline, The M6 motorway, Sedbergh, then a stiff climb over a spur into Dentdale. A short wrong turn in Sedbergh had me ploughing along the tarmac before I doubled back to the river – some of these signs are easily missed….

A nice pice of wiggly tarmac and an easy roll past Gaz with more fluids and snacks for support had me following the river up Dent dale, where I must have wasted a lot of time, as the mapped Dalesway route seems to some what illogically zig zag about the fields whereas there is a greast path along the river, and I couldn’t decide which was which and whether I was going to end up in the wrong location , so again , leg energy was expended, and wrong turns were taken and retraced. Its actually all part of the day and I am philosophical – there is a long way to go yet….

I  can by now feel the first strings of my endurance  starting to unravel but this is nothing new… On my Lleyn circuit I was suffering from about this point onwards….Nothing to be alarmed about, just keep  eating and drinking…..

Looking crap as I rolled into the bottom of the climb over Cam Head and the Pennine Bridleway over into wharfedale, I refuelled below Dent Viaduct and before the hour long climb.. A steep tarmac road and then dirt track over the summit. Again Gaz was there to feed and encourage me, also keeping an eye on my condition.. It was hot and sweaty but on I go after a good break again ( Brie and Bacon Sandwich in bits over a few km was helping, nice one Gaz…

A change of shoes just beacause I can and psychologically it gives me something to look forward to about half way, feet are looking very shrivelled… New shoes, new day , new energy ( maybe ?!…..) is what I hope for….

Just about this point however I began to struggle to take on fluids and couldn’t face eating , and pressed on hoping the feeling would pass. I was feeling good over the summit although tired but just couldnt take on board anything to my stomach.. I was starting to come apart…..

At around 75km in and close to  Oughtershaw I am sick but then feel more refreshed and after refuelling at the first tarmac road crossing for a while I head for Buckden via Langstrothdale and  Hubberholme. Some of this feels good and some bad, it is almost easier to run more quickly than plod at times…

The Dalesway takes its toll, as does my lack of distance training....

Battered!! Struggling to keep it together but managed some hot pasta soup.Spot on!

By the time I hit Kettlewell  and despite Gaz’ ministrations of food and liquids plus plenty ginger tea I am in a mess, bnut I have to continue. Its only 5.5 miles to Grassington with a climb up onto the plateau above the wharfe valley. The weather is beautiful and it inspires me to move forward ( Luckily after I set off, Gareth took the main road to Grassington and my phone was flat, other wise I would have called him or flagged him down and got into the van!!!)

By now its pure survival and relentless forward progress as I surmount the steep track ( surprisingly OK) and climb over the endless styles and clatter through the numberless gates… The trail goes on forever in a world of pain and chafe, energy levels a bit critical and finally I can see Grassington in the distance. I am glad I have pressed on, I am over 100km in ……

As I begin to weave and stagger, I realise its all over for me if I want to stay healthy…. One thing I think I can do now is decide when enough is enough…

I weave into Grassington, and I realise that its time to stop…. Gaz has also become concerned as i look terrible…. Only 30 km to go but I can’t manage it….Cest la vie…. What a trip.. and what a meat and potato pie I am handed by Gaz, mmmmm superb… the best one I have ever tasted….

I collapse on the road and take off my shoes…. Well pleased at how far I have come based on my training … A fine adventure and a great journey even if I didnt get to the destination….( I am writing this with a couple of weeks reflection and I can’t avoid the feeling that just maybe I could have pressed on, after all it was only another 30km, but based on sense, I am glad for the sake of continuing to be healthy and now recovered fully from the trip that I pulled the plug. Did my mental ability run out or was I actually physically unable.. I think the two are tied together and the food/stomach issues I had porecipitated the ignominious end to the day…

Time to plan for the next adventure and tweak my training a bit more… Masybe I need to focus on some shorter adventures until I can get some back to back long days in for training?……

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