First 100 Mountains in the Bag!

After just 18 days officially in the hills traildog Patch and I reached the first milestone (or summitstone) of 100 ‘bagged’ Mountains.

Yes, before you ask, my knees were killing me but after 20 VERTiCAL KILOMETRES (OK, just 19.98 vertical km) it’s hardly surprising! This is shaping up to be quite the adventure which has led me already to meet some amazing new people, run with far more talented runners than myself, spend a day in the fells with a lakeland legend, learn new skills, hang out with super cool Mountain Rescue folk, play chew toy tug of war with Search Dogs in training and really push myself outside my comfort zone. Whew…..what’ll the next 900 bring? Certainly plenty of flapjack!

I have definitely discovered that this challenge will make the 3PeAksRun seem like an absolute stroll in the park. There are many British mountains that are popular ‘honeypot’ summits but it is eye opening just how many others are so rarely visited.

This presents a variety of daily challenges on pathless terrain testing my navigation skills and even on open access land the odd fence or wall that needs to be negotiated without upsetting any farmers or causing any damage ( getting over a dry stone wall is not to be encouraged or even condoned and requires extremely deft movement and yogi master level flexibility in order to avoid tilting a single stone out of place – don’t tell anyone that this ever happened because obviously it didn’t!) And then, don’t even get me started on PEAT HAGS and the good old moorland BOG – two of my particular favourites. On drier, rockier ground there have been some hair raising scrambles and tentative descents which have tested my nerve and the grip of my trail shoes to their sticky limit.

I was very lucky to spend many of those days during the long summer high pressures scooting around over Lake District ridges. Hot enough to invite refreshing river dips at the end of a sweaty run which was such a treat for someone generally a bit wussy about leaping into chilly UK waters! Exceptional views and the navigational confidence of clear skies and miles of perfect visibility made for a uniquely precious time on those fells, the memories of which I am sure I will be channelling many times through the coming late autumn clag and winter chill.

It’s been wonderful to meet other trail runners in their respective back yards to share some summits and pick up some local trail lore and there was that great Kinder ‘downfall’ when the hours we spent picking our way across the Kinder plateau in search of the highest point, Kinder Scout, resulted in a no less impressive but relatively irrelevant discovery of Crowden Head instead. Ooops!

One of the most memorable days didn’t even involve a mountain summit but a fast crossing of the Lake District from Wasdale Head to Brathay, just outside Ambleside with the very nimble fell running legend, Joss Naylor MBE. Joss was tackling a 30 mile run/walk to raise money for the Brathay Trust and many other runners were along to support him. Though no summits were visited on this outing the cumulative elevation for the day was equivalent to climbing three mountains. Joss’ strength, speed and agility over rough terrain and at 82 years of age was truly inspirational. He looks as young, fit and strong now as he did when he ran his 60 lakeland summits at 60 years of age twenty two years ago to the day. To quote his own words, the day was absolutely “magic”.

After 43 consecutive days back at work I suspect it will be quite a different scene when I get back in the hills next week.

The long days and dry trails will be gone and I expect far more of the runs will be shrouded in low cloud, with plentiful drizzle at best. But the advantage of spending so much time in the hills is the increased opportunity of being out in those fleeting yet superlative moments – cloud inversions , crisp frosty mornings and the first dusting of snow under an azure winter’s sky….very poetic.  So, packing my toasty gore tex trail shoes and fleecy buff….bring on the winter season!

Happy trails..👣🐾


Why run 1000 Mountains?

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After my seemingly spontaneous decision to take my #RunningtheSummits Mountain Challenge to a whole new level it seems only fair to answer the big question……why???

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When I had the idea to take myself off on a little jog over the 180 Hewitt classified ‘Mountains’ of England that in itself seemed pretty daunting and to tell the truth I found the whole idea quite scary – I only had to climb a mere THREE summits on my #3PeAksRun, on all of which I experienced bad weather and some challenging conditions, and this was summer time on the most visited mountaintops in Britain with good paths and rarely a place to find yourself really alone. Of the hundreds of other mountains around the British Isles many are much more remote, difficult to reach, pathless and far less visited places.

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I do have a strong background of hill walking, a reasonable level of experience and have taken several courses in summer and winter hill skills and navigation, but I still hold a very cautious and wary respect for the mountains as places where I have often been tested. I relate it a little bit to the person who dives into the ocean proclaiming themselves a strong swimmer – it doesn’t matter how strong a swimmer you are, you will never be a match for nature!

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But at the same time, being in the mountains has brought me moments of my greatest joy, and certainly nowadays, running trails. As trail, mountain and fellrunners will surely attest, there is nothing quite like the feeling of freedom and agility of moving quickly along a technical trail skipping lightly from rock to rock. When the trail stars align the experience is that of a sublime dance with thd landscape. Then again, when they do not and you faceplant into a tree it can smart a bit!

So the decision to attempt to reach the tops of 1000 Mountains was not taken lightly. But I was feeling that the challenge needed to be something bigger, something to really test my mettle, but also a (dare I say) ‘journey’ to experience and learn so much more about our high places. I wanted the whole experience to last longer and have the opportunity to involve many more people. I had also set a ridiculously big fundraising target and felt it needed a challenge to match.

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I also seemed to be getting signs ( I know, sounds a bit sketchy) – but I kept coming across inspiring adventures of others, relating to their motives and experiences while my own growing obsession with mountains was quietly cultivating away. I was beginning to get strong emotions attached to random hills and was discovering I could recognise many peaks from photos of their ridgelines or surrounding landscapes as easily as old friends. The time was right to spend some serious time in the hills!

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I recently came across a trailer for the upcoming film ‘Edie’ starring Sheila Hancock which is the story of an elderly woman fulfilling a long held dream to climb a mountain in Scotland. The mountain in question is Suilven, an enigmatic peak which had held me quite entranced when I finally saw it for the first time last winter while spending some time in this remote corner of Scotland. I was equally as inspired by Sheila Hancock. Although the story behind Edie is a work of fiction the true story is that Sheila at 83 years of age did indeed climb that mountain proving the films tag line that it’s never too late.

assynt-suilven-autumn-glencanisp-lodgeThe majestic Suilven – photo credit James Barlow Photography

A final and far more straightforward reason to up my game to 1000 Mountains is simply…..because they are there? Not in a flippant sense but because we actually have so many incredible peaks in the British Isles and it seemed a shame to limit my adventure to so few of them. Climbing only those classified as Hewitts did seem to mean missing out on so many beautiful summits so the #RunningtheSummits 1000 will include peaks classified as Hewitts, Nuttalls and Scottish Munros…..all meeting the loosely accepted definition of a mountain by rising to a minimum of 2000 feet, and Marilyns, which include some lower hills but they do all have an elevation of at least 150 metres relative to the surrounding terrain making them really dominate their surroundings – true ‘mini mountains’. I also plan to include some people’s choice favourites that may not have made it onto any peak-bagging list! There have already been some fantastic hilly recommendations!

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Perhaps a bit of a cliché but #RunningtheSummits has all the potential of an adventure of a lifetime for me and I can’t wait to begin. But what I am most looking forward to is seeing some of you guys out there in the glorious British hills and meeting more of the incredible people who voluntarily give their time to help others as part of the Mountain Rescue Teams, Search Dog handlers and Fix the Fells – the real heroes of this story!

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Please join this mountainous adventure by following this blog, liking the facebook page and supporting the mountain charities by donating a little if you can.

 
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Happy trails – see you on a summit!  Tina and trail dog Patch😁👍👣🐾

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Super Support from the Queens of Flapjack!

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WARNING: this post contains copious amounts of made-up adjectives, excessive exclamation marks and gratuitous flapjack photography!!

I am totally flapperjacked to announce the wonderful squishy hearted folk at Flapjackery are as super amazing as their scrumilicious flapjacks and will be supporting me in my Running the Summits quest.  As many of you know,  flapjack is my go-to fuel of choice so I am very excited to be powered by some the absolutely finest flapjack in the country, nay,  the world! ( I have tested a LOT of flapjack…..(Ellen Cattanach and Val Allport- your homemade flapjacks are still totally brilliant!))

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I discovered my new gurus at the inaugural National Running Show at the NEC in January (tickets are now on sale for 2019!) , but heartbreakingly never got to taste their oatilicious wares as no sooner had the show opened than the entire weekend’s stash of gooey, chewy, flapjack goodness had been snaffled by avid runner fans of the mighty oat! But Flapjackery were not to be beaten, travelling a late night round trip from Birmingham to Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor back to their kitchen to stock up with a new batch for runners at the second day of the show where remarkably, once again, just a few oaty crumbs remained by the time I made it through the crowds to their stand!

 

Discovering that runners would happily wade their way through a soggy 10k bog run to get their hands on these proper lush treats, Flapjackery recently had a record weekend fuelling runners and visitors at the 2018 London Marathon Expo.

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Flapjackery founders Carol and Sally, both passionate about flapjack (totally understandable!)  took an idea 6 years ago and really ran with it. In their own words…

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We take the humble oat and raise it to a luxury level by adding top quality ingredients and a dash of madness to create our range of luxury Devon flapjacks in interesting flavours in huge chunky pieces, with a range suitable for vegans and lactose intolerant now available. British oats, locally sourced West Country butter and fairtrade brown sugar are some of the reasons our flapjacks taste so good.

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What’s not to love?good, wholesome, nutritious and lovingly made ‘real food’ fuel – perfect for outdoor adventures!

I will be chomping away on a piece of Flapjackery heaven on every mountain summit, I’d love you to join me though I’m not sure if I’ll be willing to share😁

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Now, if you are thinking…

‘Where can I get my hands on these flapjacks of irresistibleness?’

as…obviously, you must be,

check out the Flapjackery website. You can try these uberlush treats for yourself by ordering online or they may be attending a show or exhibition near you soon!

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But don’t just take my word for it…reviews of Flapjackery flapjacks are full of words like    ‘WOW’  ‘AMAZING’  ‘GORGEOUS’  ‘IRRESISTIBLE’.

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Sorry, but I am all out of mouth watering flapjack photos for now but listen out for the next adventure on this Mountain climbing, downhill windmilling arms, running madness challenge as the time gets closer to start…..Running the Summits!

 

P.S. SSShhhhhh…..nobody tell Patch about the flapjack!

 

My #RunningtheSummits Challenge is raising funds for the Mountain Rescue Teams of England and Wales, The Search & Rescue Dog Association England and Fix the Fells. Please support their incredible, selfless work via my fundraising page at VirginMoneyGiving.com

 

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Introducing Running the Summits!

So….one or two people have been asking me

“what’s your next challenge?

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Well, I cant deny I had been thinking about a few ideas for a new, challenging adventure. The #3PeAksRun was a run into the unknown in the sense that i had no idea if my body would hold up to such intense multi day running and, indeed, just two days in I was almost convinced that it wouldn’t. But one of the points of this challenge was to push myself to see if I could go beyond what I thought I could do. More than one person suggested that I couldn’t pull it off but we never know what we are capable of unless we give it a go.

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With that in mind I plan to attempt a bigger, tougher trial by mountain starting in 2018 –

Running the Summits –A jog over 1000 Mountains of the British Isles in 365 Days

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It’s quite a leap from 3 mountains to 1000 so this will be a real monster of a challenge and I dont mind admitting I’m trying to construtively channel the fear on this one. Our diminutive mountains may lack a little in stature but they certainly pack the punch of far loftier peaks in terms of challenge. Even in summer conditions our mountains can possess huge difficulties with terrain, weather conditions and navigation. When I summited each of the 3PeAks, the conditions were far from ‘summery’, each one shrouded in mist and cloud and I struggled through poor visibility, high winds, rain and hail – imagine that 1000 times!

With this new adventure I hope to raise further funds for the phenomenal work of our Mountain Rescue Teams and Search and Rescue Dog Association England as well as the double award winning volunteer manned charity, Fix the Fells. Though Mountain Rescue Team members would never refer to themselves as heroes the work they do must certainly be described as heroic not to mention the huge amount of commitment and sacrifice they make and the unwavering support from their families, friends and colleagues in order for them to carry out this work, and all for no financial reward. These highly skilled volunteers involved in Search and Rescue are called to a myriad of situations – lost, injured or disoriented walkers, climbers or runners, school groups, missing children, vulnerable people suffering from mental illness and depression, avalanche victims, flood or weather related rescue or downed aircraft to name but a few and the teams are receiving more callouts every year!

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What can YOU do to help?
Support my mountainous challenge by donating to these charities at

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Vicariously share the journey with me 

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Follow on Facebook  Twitter and Instagram

If you are more social media savvy than me (not difficult) please retweet and share as much as you can

If you would like to climb a mountain with me please

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SEND FLAPJACK!!

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I look forward to seeing you on the trail ( virtual or actual👍)
Tina and TrailDog Patch 😁 👣🐾

 

‘3PeAks’ Patch, the Pudding Puppy’s Grand Cake Tour

So, a few of you might have noticed, little Patch likes cake…….alot!!! (nothing to do with me, honest…can’t stand the stuff personally! I am certainly never one to equate my Strava calorie count literally into the difference between a slice of shortbread and a double helping of sticky toffee pudding…..nope, not me!)

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Impossible to choose…Rainbow Cake? Coconut & Lime? Courgette & Avocado…really?

Patch began his tour in Wales with a traditional offering of a fine slice of Bara Brith…pretty good run fuel really and delicious with lashings of butter (or so i’ve heard) …and the local Welsh Cakes from Betws y Coed are worth a detour any day of the week!

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Upping the stakes on the next cake break Patch went for this delectable slice of coffee and walnut….his argument being fair once again…nuts are healthy run fuel, there’s fruit on the side and coffee has great ‘perky up’ qualities for any endurance event..fair point well made there, Patch!

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Already in England it was soon time for more cake trials and alongside Esthwaite Water in the Lake District a slice of Lemon soaked Drizzle Cake came highly recommended! Aside from the fact we were outside getting a good dose of fresh air with our dining Patch was effusive about the health benefits of Lemons……something about its many nourishing elements like vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A,vitamin E, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus and protein………ALRIGHT Patch, just eat the cake already!!!

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Al fresco caking…watch those ducks Patch, they heard about the lemony health benefits!

Still in ‘Lakeland Cakeland’ we were doubling up on the cake days with this little slice…..a soft, chewy Cherry and Coconut Slice….proper lush! ‘Nuff said!

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Sadly for Patch there were times when I just had no time or appetite for cake (impossible to believe, I know) despite the tempting choices for ever on offer!

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Sorry Patch, we just popped in for a water top up!….wait a minute, Honeycomb Golden Nougat Cheesecake……!

Soon we had made it to Scotland with so many traditional delicious, sweet delicacies… shortbread, tablet, cranachan, clootie dumpling, dundee cake, tipsy laird, irn bru and deep fried mars bars!! Patches choice at the start of the West Highland Way was this gooey, zesty Orange, Ginger Whisky Cake…however, I was completely addicted to the homemade wheaten bread… definitely a taste sensation, and I had to keep returning for more. I would have probably taken some away for later if it wasn’t likely to become a bag of crumbs in my pack, not to mention I had just collected another supply parcel from the post office and my pack weight had bulged by another 1.7kg already! Maybe we needed to start cutting down on the cake?

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Incredible, homemade wheaten bread at the Tea Cosy Cafe, Milngavie…i need the recipe!

With every cake tour extravaganza there has to be an element of judging favourites. This little number at the St Mocha Coffee Shop in Balmaha was a clear winner for Patch and I….. Cinder Toffee & Scottish Tablet Cake…. need i say more?

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The King of Cakes…

Of course this journey was not all about cake. Flapjack was my main fuel of choice and along with a very generous donation of the little oaty treats from the generous guys over at Graze.com many people brought me some homemade varieties to top up the stores on route. Clear stand outs were a wonderfully sticky traybake variation pack with nuts from @SARDAEnglands Val and Brian and a perfect classic recipe plain flapjack from Ellen Cattanach…..thank you soooo much.

 

Sadly our days of burning 6000 calories are now at an end so the cake consumption has to be reined in, but they will all long be remembered…

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A rare moment when Patch is NOT eating cake!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the cake pics even if you didn’t get to tuck into the goodies themselves.  #3PeAksRun is supporting outdoor volunteer charities. If you can spare the PRICE OF A SLICE please donate to Mountain Rescue Teams HERE

 

Patch, step away from the giant mushroom…..that is NOT a cake!!

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Hopeless….

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Reflections…

Returning home, after a good scrub, some clean clothes, a giant dinner of comfort food and finally putting my feet up I can only now begin to digest the experience of the last 19 days and 18 hours!

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People have suggested I must be feeling ecstatic, euphoric, celebratory and proud but to be honest I am currently feeling a strange sense of calm – an inner peace almost with the relief that I reached my goal and completed the challenge, tinged with a little melancholy that despite the comfort of a warm, dry, cosy bed right now I am no longer on the trail, no longer immersed in the simple act of just keeping moving forward. And despite the foibles of what the weather has been throwing at me I already miss being at its mercy and breathing those deep lungfuls of fresh air.

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Big weather ahead!

Don’t get me wrong I am very much enjoying this reflective mood, the whole journey has been such a whirlwind of activity that it is lovely now to just stop and relive each day in my mind.

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Serene moments up in the clouds!

It does seem like a very long time ago when I was bounding up Snowdon feeling very energetic and strong, I remember wishing that I would feel in such good shape every day but just two long days later I was so exhausted and creaking, my feet red, rubbed and blistered, the worry that I might not be up to this challenge sneaked into the corner of my mind. In the evenings I could barely walk and waking up was even worse but slowly, gradually, my body seemed to get with the programme and each day I began to feel stronger. I still hobbled about like an old woman in the morning but I knew that so long as I didn’t make any sudden movements and made sure  to warm up slowly, soon the engine would be humming and I could complete another day on the trail. I also attributed this recovery to the practice of a good, long stretching sesh at the end of each day and the speedy intake of some protein, generally in the form of a shake and/or protein bar kindly supplied to me by the guys at Clif Bar and MountainFuel.co.uk , thanks guys – life savers! I think I have eaten more protein in the last two weeks than I normally would in about 6 months! I’m also quite impressed with my newly defined quads!

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Hmmmmm…chocolate or strawberry, chocolate or strawberry….?

Day by day was quite a rollercoaster and I never really knew when I set off how the day would pan out, sometimes easier, sometimes tough. At times my backpack would feel comfy and light and at other times I would be swearing profusely at the very same pack and kicking it unceremoniously into the undergrowth. Some days I chatted with lots of different people , occasional days I actually saw no one at all.

Bivvys, Bothies and Bunkhouses!

Towards the final days my legs started to rebel with shin splints, unusual spreading aches, sore tendons and tender heels which created a whole new challenge for my mind – to handle the frustration and fear of being thwarted at such a late stage. I was also a bit suspicious that somehow these physical manifestations may have been directly linked psychologically to the fact that I was so near the end, my mind and body now conspiring against me….ggrrrr!

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Times of trail running pristine perfection!

Even on the final morning I was unsure if I would complete the challenge or have to be satisfied with a ‘2andAhalfPeAksRun’ ( which just doesn’t have the same ring to it does it?!) given the daunting weather conditions on Ben Nevis but I decided to set off and see how far I could get. In the end the fact that I was super over prepared ( gps, back up gps, two maps, compass, recent Mountain skills training course fresh in my mind (thanks Carol Emmons) and even the correct bearings to find the way off the summit in total whiteout!) gave me the confidence to keep plodding on through the brutally buffeting wind and lashing rain slicing like shards of glass against my cheeks, divining each cairn shrouded in the swirling cloud to reach the very top which was a genuinely exhaltant, if cold and wet, moment.

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Jubilant spirits heading into Glencoe!

The highest mountain in Britain reached all the way on foot from the highest mountain in Wales with a little evening jog over the highest English mountain on route….the ‘3PeAksRun’ in the bag! All that remained was to get down off this majestic wintery rock without breaking my ankle and we could call it a wrap! (I did slip over three times on the wet rocks of the descent, my trail shoes by now split, worn almost smooth and held together with some gaffa tape…not advisable!)

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Bleak summits!

A wee soggy traildog, Patch, and I made it to the warmth and welcome of Glen Nevis Youth Hostel wet, tired, hungry and dirty but very very content….the perfect end to any adventure!

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One soppy Patch Puppy ( he’d definitely be shivering if he had a central nervous system!)

One of the best parts of this adventure has been the incredible people I have met or been in touch with along the way. I have been so touched by the kindness and support of those who have come out to meet me, run along with me, brought flapjack or cake or posted endless encouragement via the social media pages. Your support, encouragement and advice has brightened dull days and motivated me throughout. I met many lovely people along the way too who despite being in the midst of their own adventures took my challenge to heart.

Although this was technically an ‘ unsupported’ challenge in that I was without a support crew to take care of logistics and be on hand along the way I have actually received massive amounts of support by all those who have followed and shared this adventure and I bow to you all with a huge THANK YOU and boundless gratitude.

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Patch having a bit of Search Dog bonding time with the lovely Tess!

Massive Thank Yous toos! to everyone who has donated so far to the Mountain Rescue Teams, Search and Rescue Dog Association England and FixtheFells whom the #3PeAksRun is supporting. I am now over two thirds of the way to my fundraising target and will continue to try to reach it ( My fourth mountain, if you will!). Please help if you can by donating a little here at my VirginMoneyGivingPage

EVERY PENNY DONATED GOES DIRECTLY TO THESE WORTHY CAUSES!

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Patch and I are now enjoying some serious shut eye…..see you later 👣🐾

 

 

Countdown Is On!

Only 1 day to go til the start of my (in the words of BBC Radio Lancashire)  ‘totally bonkers’ 3PeAksRun!! 

So with hours to go to my monster Challenge with a capital ‘C’, how am i feeling? Ready? Prepared?
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Weather forecast for August in Britain…..check👍
I am not an athlete, really,  just your average, everyday, person( OK,with a slightly unconventional lifestyle, its true) and a below average runner its fair to say, though i know some of you are saying ‘yeah yeah, sure you are’ but honestly, its true!
Ultra Running and challenges such as this though are about endurance and if theres one thing i do well its endurance. i.e the sheer stubborn – mindedness to just keep going! When it hurts, when its miserable, when you’re too hot, too cold, hungry, tired or can’t really breath I can just keep moving. Fool…you might say…and you’d probably be right!
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Kit, good to go…..how am I supposed to run with that lot!! Can you spot my mobile physio…. tennis ball Dave?
Physical readiness?  I have a sore hip, little niggle in my right achilles ( thats a totally new one) , very tight left calf ( not sure what it’s problem is) and sitting in the back of my mind the omnipresent fear of shinsplints, particularly those born of the dreaded ‘stress fracture’ possibility (hereforeafter referred as ‘that which must not be named’) Coupled with the fact that i struggle to climb up four steps if I need the loo in the middle of the night onboard the boat i have to wonder if i am really cutout for this!….oh, and half a toenail came off a couple of days ago which is now really sore!!
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Accommodation sorted…..check 👍 
Fortunately, i believe ( or just naively convince myself) that these last minute irritations are mostly just a figment of my over active imagination trying to convince me to just crawl into the duvet with a selection of chocolate bars and watch Netflix for the next three weeks…..how unadventurous my brain can be at times! Come on head, get with the program!
Talking of super tasty sweet treats check out the amazing selection of energy goodies the generous people over at Clif Bars have sent me….i’ll be way too energized to be crawling under any duvets after that lot!!
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Energy in abundance….I notice ‘3Peaks’ Patch is snaffling my crunchy peanut butter favourites! 
Then, there are the crazy flapjack loving folk at Graze .com who have very generously provided me with enough flapjack to get me all the way from Wales to Ben Nevis! Brilliant!!
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Hmmm….once again, Patch is guarding my favourites – honeycomb flapjacks….there’s going to be trouble! 

 

So, in less than 24 hours I’ll be off to Wales to face my first summit, the mighty Snowdon…..Follow on Facebook at 3PeAksRun – The Long Way Up to track my progress
and see what Patch gets up to!👍👣🐾
Remember, you can support the amazing charities I am running for
by donating a little if you can.
Thank you 👣🐾

 

so…… just need a nice soak in the bath and an early night……*#$!@ it’s already after 11pm! #hownottoprepareformonsterchallenge

Introducing 3PeAks Patch

After my incredible weekend amongst the inspiring folk at the Search and Rescue Dog Association England I felt a fair scoop of ‘enviousness’ of the owners and handlers of such fabulous dogs and the incredible bonds between them. But as much as i love our furry friends my lifestyle – splitting my time between life on a boat and living in a ‘nano campervan’ is totally non-conducive to responsible dog ownership!

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Then I discovered Patch . My new ‘trail runners best friend’ – an extremely low maintenance pet substitute mascot with aspirations to become a Search and Rescue Dog trainee….hmmm, good luck with that, Patch!

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3PeAks Patch….potential Search Dog trainee?….hmmmm

This miniscule traildog is not without his charms, he has already proven quite a hit around the boat and is about to get into all kinds of mischief,  i can tell.

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Overdoing it on the post run treats!

Little Patch will be joining me on my 3PeAksRun Challenge,  and weighing in at 36 grams (less than a small flapjack) I have agreed to find him a comfy spot on my backpack as his tiny legs will struggle to keep up…even with me! (and even if he could actually move them!?)

You can use the follow buttons below to keep up with Patch’s (and my) adventures and see what trouble he gets himself into. He may look clean and smart now but just wait til he gets to the top of Snowdon!

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My new traildog buddy…3PeAks Patch

Paws on the Moors

20170723_153937So, after dragging a spade up a mountain with the intrepid Fix the Fells crew what new adventures could be in store on a weekend with Search and Rescue Dog Association, SARDA England? Well, a good bit of rolling about in the bracken as it turned out!!

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Brrrr….glad I joined a summer training meet!

Eager to learn about the work of SARDA England I recently joined the team on a National Training meet in the beautiful countryside of Northumberland. And if I thought it was a long journey from the Lancashire coast, spare a thought for the Dartmoor team who travelled all the way from Plymouth! But commitment and dedication knows no bounds to this (in their own words) eclectic, ‘dog mad’ group who are all unpaid volunteers, giving their time and courage to help others who become lost, injured, trapped or go missing.

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Exuberant young Search Dog, Angus kept us all on our toes

As a National Training meet, there were many handlers and dogs from all over the country and all at various stages of their training – from puppies starting out their journey with obedience training and socialising to graded, operational dogs keeping their skills refreshed. Making the grade as a Search Dog is a long process with a lot of work, but one which is thoroughly enjoyed by dogs, handlers and trainers alike. Though not without frustrating moments – one young dog fluffed a skills test when the examiners were watching but then went on to complete it perfectly when the score sheets were put aside! I’m sure we can all relate! But that is what these weekends are all about – an opportunity to learn and practise in new and different environments, share information and knowledge, as well as the opportunity for a good catchup with fellow SARDA members over a pint at the local pub.

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Search Dog Shola keen to show off her skills

The social scene was fantastic. Accommodations were ‘back to basics’ with team members laying out sleeping bags on the floor of the village hall, pitching tents on the front lawn or sharing a campervan with a lively collie or two. We patiently queued for the showers each day with towels and toothbrushes in hand. No airs and graces here! Each morning there was a bustle of brews and bacon butties aplenty kindly cooked up by Val, Brian, Kath and Ian to get everyone’s day off to a great start. Then there was a quick team brief before ‘deployment’ to the hills for the various training activities.

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Search Dogs train for around two years before reaching operational status and there are no guarantees. A handler must have already been a fully trained and operational member of a Mountain Rescue Team for a minimum of a year before beginning the process of training with their dog and it is recommended to start at the puppy stage as some of the obedience training is specific to Search and Rescue work and the pups also have to quickly learn to quell their interest in livestock – not good practice on a live search for the dog to go hareing off after a sheep! A ‘stock test’ is one of the first assessments they will have.

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Early training days…

Then follows several stages of training and assessment to develop the skills required to be an effective Search Dog, and its not just about the dogs – handlers learn many skills relating to how to determine search areas and carry out effective searches as well as how train and get the best from their dog – this is totally a team effort!

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Handlers Ian, Mark, Paul, John and Bill with newly graded Search Dogs Ollie, Abbie, Flo, Shola and Angus

It is a huge commitment and prospective handlers also have to accept the fact that not all dogs make the grade. Some might not be suited to the work, not retain enough interest or simply not reach the standard required to pass the final assessment and these guys accept that its possible their dog might not become a working colleague but simply remain a loyal and faithful friend. And the team are certainly mad about their dogs! No where else have I witnessed 6 foot plus, burly men leaping about in the undergrowth and whooping like a child to reward their hard working four legged friends!

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Young trainee Wynn taking a breather

Training involves alot of ‘play’ for dogs and handlers alike. SARDA trainers explain..

All of our training is undertaken with praise and rewards for the dog. Some are happy to work for their squeaky toy while others prefer food!

The training encourages the dogs hunting instinct and they use ‘air scenting’ to find their ‘prey’ i.e. a prone human. No matter how much you scrub in the shower with YlangYlang and Jojoba or douse on the aftershave a dog can detect your human scent (almost literally) a mile away. Depending on the breed they can smell up to 100,000 times more effectively than we can, can pick up scents 14 metres underground and can even smell human fingerprints that are a week old. That said, after Saturday nights’ barbecue I think the dogs were most enjoying the smell of sausages and steak that was eminating from everyone’s pores!

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Search Dog Tess has just picked up the scent of last nights sausages!

Of course,  for all this searching to be successful the dogs need somebody to find and this is where the kind, volunteer ‘dogsbodies’ come in. And on Sunday morning  I was excited to get a opportunity to join in. Suitably lathered up in Avon ‘Skin so Soft’ to keep those pesky midges at bay, four of us ‘bodies’ were led to our individual hiding places in the woods. I struck gold as my patch was right next to a huge covering of wild bilberry so I had a fresh fruit buffet on tap. Shuffling down into my bivvy bag and camouflaging myself with bits of bracken I was also happy to discover that the forest floor was extremely comfortable. The trainers kept us informed via radio as to what was happening and as each dog began its test we were all routing for them to do well. As a dogsbody your simple task is to shuffle down into the undergrowth, blend in behind a rock or maybe perch up a tree if you are blessed with that kind of agility, and then wait. There can indeed be a good bit of waiting so some snacks, a hot flask and a book of crosswords might come in handy. As a respite from all the relaxing in your bivvy with a good book, every so often one of the dogs will find you, perhaps letting you know with a sloppy lick, then ‘indicating’ to their handler and leading them to your position. If the dog is still in the earlier stages of training then its your job to make a big fuss ( you are in fact, highly encouraged to ‘ham’ up this part as much as physically possible!) and reward your ‘rescuer’ with his or her favourite toy, for which they go completely bonkers….and I mean, seriously, bonkers.  ( Not disimilar to my own reaction when unexpectedly faced with a giant slice of cake….for example)

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Dogsbody John having a tug of war game with Search Dog Blitz

The role of a ‘Body’ is invaluable to the training and volunteers are often found amongst family, friends and potential handlers but there’s always a need for fresh dogsbodies. No specific skills are required, perhaps a penchant for playing hide and seek and a willingness to leap about, play tug of war with exuberant canines and generally make a bit of a fool of yourself. A DogsBodies’ safety is paramount and you are issued with a radio to keep in contact with trainers who will allocate and monitor your position and even keep a tag with your name on to make doubly sure no one gets left behind when the hide and seek is up! If this sounds much more like the kind of weekend activity you’d like to have a bash at every month or so instead of wandering around Sainsburys complaining about the price of bananas yet again check out the link below for more info and how to get involved.

 

At the end of a long day in the outdoors there is always time for some well earned R&R in the local pub while the dogs take a nap back at base, dreaming about their favourite toy, no doubt. Handlers, trainers and dogsbodies alike certainly enjoy a lively bit of banter and story swapping.

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Search Dog ‘Ollie the Collie’ taking his preferred style of chill out time

This kick back time is also very important I think as the work they do can be very demanding and stressful at times and yet, outside all the tall tales of training mishaps the team are very modest about what they do and the people they have helped in live search situations.

I was very privileged to be able spend time with these amazing folk and their dogs. It was a fantastic weekend with lots going on and plenty of laughs. They were a super positive and welcoming crowd who had me very quickly initiated into leaping through the heather, calling and waving chew toys over my head without self conciousness (well, not too much, anyway)! The dedication of the team is also very inspiring. There is a lot of work involved, not only through the training but also after becoming operational. Being on call at all hours of the day and night, going out on a search in sometimes very harsh conditions as well as keeping the dogs skills and fitness up is all in addition to the regular daily responsibilities of work and family life for these generous individuals who recieve no income for their commitment and sacrifice. These people are truly passionate about what they do and I applaude them all. Please, please support them by donating a little at Sponsor 3PeAksRun

Search Dogs can be used in many situations and quite often in urban environments to locate vunerable or elderly people with mental health difficulties, or people who have gone missing in emotional circumstances. You never know when you or a family member may need their help.

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Handler Bill Batson with experienced Search Dog, Glenn

At SARDA England there are currently 33 graded dogs and handlers on the callout list and a further 15 in training with 20 supporting dogsbodies. Please help me support their selfless work by sponsoring my 3PeAksRun at virginmoneygiving.com/3PeAksRun.

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If you are curious about becoming a dogsbody find out more at SARDA Dogsbodies  # getinvolved 

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this blog. Happy trails😁 And dont forget… #getoutside

See you soon👣