Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Looking back on an amazing week by Emma (AKA Steve's wife)

Last week was unforgettable, with some amazing highs and some very deep lows, all exaggerated by sleep deprivation.
Steve had said beforehand ‘don’t worry about coming out to support me, I’ve got a great team around me, just concentrate on looking after the family and keeping things going as normal’ so I booked some time off work, but intended to do a few half days, thought we could turn up at the odd checkpoint say a cheerful ‘hello how’s it going’ and then get on with all the other things that you have to do with 3 children aged 5, 8 and 10.

I realised things were going to be different on the first night. After having got the children to sleep at my parents’ house in Gosforth I headed out to Ennerdale, where I met a totally exhausted support crew of Jane, Alison and Elaine in a midge-infested car park. Shortly afterwards Steve arrived with his equally exhausted support runners who informed me that Steve had been violently sick and now couldn’t keep any food or water down. I got him in out of the midges and tried to feed him, but he couldn’t eat anything, looked and felt dreadful and was understandably worried about how he could keep going with no food or water inside him, and this was after only one day! He hardly slept at all that night (well that 2 hour break, not exactly a night by most people’s standards), but in the morning set off with a great bunch of runners, minus Bill who was sleeping in his car and we didn’t realise, but he caught up quick enough! Tidied up and then headed back to Gosforth, finally drifting off to sleep at 6.30am when I hear a little voice,
 ‘Emma, it’s morning!’
 ‘No it’s not Hannah, it’s still night time, Pleeease go back to sleep’  
‘No, look outside, it’s sunny!’
And so another day began.
They somehow managed to get him going and by Wasdale he was feeling much better. Steve’s big sister Karen and husband Dan got him through the tricky next leg brilliantly, despite Karen having to do the West Wall Traverse for the first time.  She doesn’t like heights. Enjoyed a quiet Hardknott Pass at dusk, the kids scared everyone by climbing on the rocks, had to miss the Duddon overnight as had no-one to look after the kids, cramming them into the campervan wouldn’t have helped Steve sleep, sounds like the midges were hideous.

Anyway and so it went on, I managed most of the other checkpoints. In between picking up children, taking them to see Steve, getting them to sleep, cooking food for Steve, dashing out to shops for last minute supplies of food, Compeed, Medical supplies, Torq Gels etc. I got around 2 hours sleep a day/night and didn’t get much work done (thanks to Claire for being understanding – I’ll make up all that flexitime soon!)
 I think I saw him at his worst when stopped or trying to sleep, he had some very low moments and was in a lot of pain at times. He would hobble off in the morning like an old man with sticks, but once he got going his mates seemed to manage to pick him up and he would be knocking time of his schedule as if it was a walk in the park.
James, Matthew and Hannah managed remarkably well and were so sweet when we caught up with Steve (apart from at Wasdale when they had a huge argument about who opened the gate). I will never forget Matthew putting his arms around Steve as he winced in agony while Mel dressed his blisters dressed, saying ‘don’t worry, it will be worth it in the end’. He was right, that moment in Keswick at the end with all the support made it all worthwhile. We are all so proud of you Steve and pleased we were able to be a part of this epic in our own small way.

I’d like to finish by saying thank you to everyone, this really was a team effort, there are so many of you I don’t want to mention names in case I forget anyone, but you know who you are, to everyone who supported Steve or me in any way, thank you for making this happen.
I’d like to finish by quoting from the legendary Joss Naylor’s account of his Wainwrights round. While many things have changed in 27 years, some things remain the same. ‘To find words to express my gratitude to those who took part is beyond me……..It will be a very lucky man who is able to make the bonds of friendship which have been my good luck. To all my ‘team’ thank you from the bottom of my heart’.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Finished and recovering

This has been the most amazing week of my life. At times it was so painful and I have felt like giving up. But the reception I received in Keswick make it all worthwhile.

i am finding it hard to write and put everything into words. I get quite emotionally thinking about the entire journey. I would like to thank at team of around 100 people who have helped me in various ways during the week, without whom what I have achieved would have been impossible. so thank you everyone.I will write a proper thank you in my next blog.

Last night and today I have been sleeping and eating. sleeping has been helped by some painkillers to relieve the pain but it has still been a bit fitfull. I can hobble around the house very slowly. Everything is very swollen and it was quite a scary sight looking at my myself in the mirror for the first time in seven days.

Thanks everyone who has turned my dream into a reality.

Friday, 20 June 2014

New Wainwright Record for Steve Birkinshaw

Steve Birkinshaw sets a new record of 6 days and 13 hours (almost exactly) for the 518km Wainwright round of 214 Lake District summits. He runs into Keswick town centre with his posse of about 100 support runners with a jubilant crowd of supporters cheer him on.

Update - Steve will finish earlier!

2040 - Steve is just passing over Maiden Moor just south of Cat Bells. He is an hour faster than his schedule and is expected in Keswick at approximately 2200 now. Don't be late!!!!

A Message from Hilary - aka Steve's younger sister

Like many of you I have been addicted to the tracker this week, as one person has said it is far better than the football. But I have also developed a minor addiction to what Steve's Just Giving pages are saying. I am thrilled by the amounts that have been donated and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to each and everyone of you that has made a donation in recognition of Steve's amazing endeavours this week.

The Samson Centre plays a key part in my life, delivering physiotherapy and a host of other therapies and support, and keeping me as active and mobile as possible. It's annual running costs are in the region of £200k so this kind of donation total makes a big difference to the centre. The MS society and it's branch network around the country ensures that all patients have access to the support and information they need to manage life with MS, and all donations are key to allowing this to happen.

The other pleasure I have got from the Just Giving pages is reading all the donation messages. The superlatives of awesome, amazing, incredible, inspirational, astonishing, phenomenal and a whole host of others are written with such regularity that I hope Steve eventually gets round to reading some of them too and see what an impact this last week has had on so many people.

Thank you aswell to everyone that has been part of the support crew that has been with Steve this week. A massive team effort I know and I am sure Steve will be the first to recognise that. Well done in particular to Emma for being there every step of the way this week with Steve whilst also trying to maintain a normal (?) family life - don't know how you have done it.

So congratulations to my brother (though as I write this he has approximately 3 hours left on the fells) on an achievement that deserves all the recognition it is getting, and finally thank you to Steve for choosing to support my two MS charities. Very proud of you bruv!



Homeward Bound. A New Wainwright Record Beckons for Steve Birkinshaw

There were quite incredible scenes at Newlands Hause as Steve Birkinshaw arrived at 1800 this evening. He was accompanied by a huge posse of around 35 support runners who had joined him at various stages on the leg from Crummock Water.

Steve arrived 8 minutes ahead of his schedule despite being nearly two hours off it earlier in the day. It is a mark of Steve's experience and his careful planning that it looks as though his estimate of 2300 finish in Keswick tonight will be remarkably accurate.

To get this far Steve has already run 500km in the previous 6 days and climbed 208 Wainwrights. Right now, Steve has just 18km and 6 Wainwrights remaining to complete his record breaking run. With 214 Wainwrights in total Steve is 97% complete of an overall journey of 518km with an incredible 35,000m (yes, 35,000m!) of ascent.

At this checkpoint Steve was in a great mood and clearly delighted with the number of support runners who had turned out. He said, "My blisters aren't so sore anymore and I am getting a real boost running with friends and so many other well wishers". 

Steve's son Matthew asked what was his favourite Wainwright was. Steve's response; "The last one!"

Joss Naylor’s 1987 record of 7 days and 1 hour looks certain to be broken this evening with Steve due back in Keswick at 2311 tonight (according to his schedule) and with a new record of 6 days and 14 hours to boot...

...However, I'll make a prediction. I think Steve will be quicker as a huge number of runners, close to 50, left Newlands Hause with Steve and many others had said they will join him along the way. I am sure there will be massive reception for Steve waiting in Keswick.  The surge of adrenalin from running with all these people, and being so close to the finish will push Steve along faster and faster as the end approaches.

I think he will arrive around 2230 but please keep watching the tracker for the latest information. We think it will take him about 45 minutes from the summit of Cat Bells to the finish at Moot Hal.

We hope to see you there!

Day 7 (Friday) - News from Checkpoint 23 (Crummock Water)

Steve and his posse of support runners arrived at Checkpoint 23 (Rannerdale Car Park by Crummock Water) at 1215. The schedule had been to arrive by 1105 so although Steve is 50 minutes behind, he has made up an hour after leaving the previous checkpoint 110 minutes behind the schedule.

As before he has been moving reasonably quickly once he got going and Sam Ware who ran leg 22 with him to Crummock Water explained that, “Steve was moving well up hill and knocked 30 minutes off his planned split on the very first climb to Grisdale Pike”.

On arrival at Checkpoint 23 Steve sat down outside and was surrounded by his helpers. Nurse Mel dealt with his feet and gave instructions to the support runners for the following leg on how to deal with any new problems; John Bardgeet sat next to Steve with plates of different food on offer; whilst Marcuss Byron gently massaged Steve’s legs. Steve managed to eat ½ a croissiant, a mug of soup, one bread roll and some fresh fruit whilst everyone busied around him. While all this was taking place, Jane Soul and the other support crew were ensuring that all the support runners for the next leg were organised: who was taking Steve’s spares shoes, who had his food, who was carrying his fluids and who was going to be in charge of his medication? These were just some of the questions asked.

Then, just as averyone was preparing to get going again, Steve decided to have a 30 minute sleep! He disappeared into the campervan, the curtains were pulled and we promised to wake him in 30 minutes. Suddently there was nothing to do and the support crew and runners just enjoyed sitting in the sun, waiting to get going again.

Steve had explained to me just moments before that he’d had a really low point each afternoon and yesterday had slept on the fells for 20 minutes, just curling up on the spot and falling asleep on the grass. I presume he had decided that he may as well sleep on a bed now, and try and preempt the afternoon low point.

It is clear that as Steve gets more tired, his fluid intake is switching from a combination of water and electrolyte to a greater proportion of flat coke. Obviously the need for instant sugar and caffeine are driving Steve's appetite.

It is also clear that Steve's general health is now suffering. This is no longer about sore feet and tired legs but total systemic body exhaustion. After sucking on his asthma inhaler, Steve has a productive chesty cough that might keep some people off work for the day! When you glance at Steve, some times he looks a little jaded but on other occasions you can see a deeply drawn expression on his face that only comes with extreme fatigue.

The support runners assure us that each time Steve gets going on the fells, he is chatty and seems much better than when he stops and rest. Apparently we are only witnessing Steve at his lowest points at each of the checkpoints.

And then he appears! The campervan door swings open and Steve steps out with an obvious sense of purpose. “Right, lets get going”

Steve and support runners Sam Ware, Vicky Ware, Howard Leslie, Craig Smith and Andy Slatery set off at 1305. The original schedule should seen them leaving at 1115 but Steve was still confident that he'd be moving quicker than his schedule once on the fells and would make up time on the long leg to Newlands Hause. According to his Scedule he is due there at 1818 this evening...

...and there is just the final leg into Keswick and, fingers crossed, a new Wainwright record.

As I put this blog live Steve is approaching the summit of Whiteless Pike. His original ETA was 1306 and at 1410 he is only a few 100m's from the summit. It looks like he has already made time up on his schedule.

Below are some pictures from the previous leg.

Have you Donated? Run with Steve Today. See Steve Finish.

Three important messages for everyone supporting Steve.

Most importantly, please make a donation to Steve's charities (links on the left of the blog). Just a small donation from everyone will really make a collective big difference and each time I tell Steve how much the donations have increased you can see how motivating it is for him.

Run with Steve
If you are keen to run with Steve this will be a once in a generation opportunity to see a major fell running record broken (fingers crossed everything still goes to plan). Regardless, it would be fantastic for Steve to have a big crowd of runners to accompany him on the last leg into Keswick.

If he is on schedule it'll mean leaving Newland Hause at roughly 1800 on Friday evening and running/walking (slowly) to Keswick. It is 17km with 1000m of ascent. Steve should arrive in Keswick about about 2300. Anyone joining Steve will need to check his tracker to make sure they arrive at Newlands Hause in time to join him as obviously his timings may change. I'll keep the blog as up to date as I can with the ETA.

Here is the location of Newland Hause:

It would of course be possible to run a shorter leg and Steve  from Catbells onwards. He should arrive at Catbells at 2201 if he is on schedule.

Don't miss out on this opportunity to run into the records books with a fell running legend!

See Steve Finish
Steve is due to finish at 2311 at Moot Hall in Keswick. Please come down and cheer him in. It'll be an amazing atmosphere and definately an occasion to say..."I was there"

Day 7 (Friday) News from Checkpoint 22 (Whinlatter)

Steve arrived at checkpoint 22 at Hobcarton Car Park in Whinlatter Forest at 0900 this morning. This was 53 minutes down on his schedule. However, he had left the previous checkpoint (Pheasant Inn) at 0525 this morning having planned originally to leave at 0319. Basically, Steve is moving quicker than his schedule on the hill but taking longer than planned at each of the transitions points. They had planned to leave the Pheasant Inn at 0425 this morning but the extra hour was taken up with additional care for Steve's feet and 're-moulding' of his running shoes... they needed to cut strategic holes in the sides, to match the swelling around the worst of Steve blisters.

On Leg 21 to Whinlatter Steve was supported by Graham Watson, Jim Davies (who continues to provide some much needed massage at the support points and on the hill), Howard Seal, Nina Walkinshaw, Lee Newton, Nick Rae and Andrew Davies.

The medical team have also started to be concerned about Steve deteriorating condition. The pain from his blisters and swelling feet, after being relatively stable for the last few days, has markedly increased overnight. Doc Alison described Steve as, "Weepy and concerned about how on earth he was going to get started this morning"...

... but get going Steve did and as has been the pattern for the last few days, Steve was slow for the first 30 minutes and then built a head of steam. His support runners on the leg said he was moving strongly up hill but struggling on the downhill.

On the final descent into Whinlatter from Barf, Steve resorted to wearing someones waterproof trousers and sliding down the steepest sections on his bum! The true magnitude of a continuous Wainwright run and the physical stress of it on Steve bodies is showing and when one the greatest mountain runners of his generation is having to bum slide downhill, you know things have got bad! Usually Steve is fast... very fast downhill!

Steve explained to me that his feet were so sore now that he was literally screaming in pain when his footfall wasn't perfect. As if on queue, a dog began howling outside and Steve said, "Yes, just like that, but imagine someone was standing on his tail at the same time!"

Steve is still eating well and enjoyed a nice continental breakfast at Whinlatter this morning including croissant and fresh fruit. He is drinking a mixture of electrolyte and water on the fells and is staying hydrated enough to keeping weeing, which is one of the first questions his medics are asking at each stop.

For pain management Steve is mixing a concoction of different pain killers and the medics and support runners are keeping a careful note of what and when he is taking them. To illustrated the point yesterday evening Steve asked for some more Ibuprofen and said he, "hadn't had any for hours and hours"... We checked with his support runners and they said he'd just had some less than an hour ago!

There really is superb team of people, both on and off the hill looking after Steve now. They are making decision on his behalf and allowing Steve to focus on the goal of finish his record breaking Wainwright attempt later today.

Chatting with Steve while he had his blisters dressed this morning, he was determined and focused and despite being about at 2 hours behind his schedule (when he departed from Whinlatter) he still hoped to be arriving in Keswick close his scheduled 2311 time this evening, and felt confident that he'd make up some time again once he got into the day proper.

Below are some photos from leg 21 to Whinlatter.

Steve left Whinlatter at exactly 0952 this morning with Sam Ware, Nick Rae, Paul Hainsworth, John Kewley and Nic Davies (plus some other runners who names I don't have - sorry)

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Day 7 - Early Start & Ahead of Schedule

Its 0644 and Steve is close to Checkpoint 22: Hobcarton Car Park in Whinlater Forest. He was due here at 0807 so from the tracking data he looks to have more time in hand on his schedule.

It is worth noting that although this 'day 7' of Steve's run, as in he started on Saturday 14th and has been running Sunday 15th, Monday 16th, Tuesday 17th, Wednesday 18th, Thursday 19th and he will finish (all being well) on Friday 20th. However, in terms of complete 24-hour periods of running this is the sixth complete day Steve's record attempt.

The current Joss Naylor record for completing all the Wainwrights is 7 days, 1 hour, 25 minutes and dates from 1987. If Steve comes in on schedule he will complete all the Wainwrights in 6 days, 14 hours and 11 minutes.

Day 6 (Thursday) - Round Up

Today Steve completed arguably the crux of the Wainwright run with 68km through the rough Northern Fells. He has just one day to go and should finish at about 2300 on Friday evening in Keswick.

He set off just before 0600 this morning on Leg 18. This leg starts from the old A66 Souther Fell Road and goes through to Mosedale Road and was 13.6km with nearly 1000m of ascent.  Chris Baynham Hughes, Phil Davies, Andrew Davies, Schoffer and Schoffer's dog Nell were in Support. Phil had also been on had to provide Steve with a massage when he finished the night before. Chris had also ran the previous Leg 17 with Steve.

I've added some photos of Steve arriving and going through his ritual re-dressing of his wounded feet in the previous post. I think more than any other sequence of photos I have so far seen, you get a real sense of the suffering and the determination just to start over again. How many people would be able to get out of that chair again after 6 days on the move?

Leg 19 from Mosedale to Dood Wood is a monster 37km with 2200m ascent. The route takes in many of the great peaks of the Northern Fells including Great Cock Up, Great Calva, Skiddaw, Carl Side and others. Steve was really worried about this leg before setting off and was expecting to take about 10 hours. Some awesome impromptu planning meant that the support team manage to split the leg in two with an extra support point established at Dash Falls by John Bardgeet, Nurse Mel and Kate. All the transition kit (clothing, food and medical supplies) was shifted so that Steve got some decent treatment in the middle of Leg 19 including a massage! John Bardgeet said, "Mentally Steve is still spot on but physically he is very very tired and he managed to doze off whilst his feet were being dressed".

The support team for Leg 19 included Martin Indge, Chris Baynham-Hughes, Jim Mann, Nic Davies, Schoffer, Paul Cornforth, Chris Lines, Emma (Steve's wife) and about 4 other runners I don't have the names of (sorry). The size of Steve's running support team keeps growing as he edges closer and closer to a new record. We are all hopefully that there will be a big team to run with Steve on the final leg tomorrow and welcome him back to Keswick.

Leg 20 was today's final section from the car park at Dodd Wood through Pheasant Inn at the top of Bassenthwaite... via Binsey! This section has some road running and Steve was supported by a John Bardgeet and Gavin Bland who were cycling the next to Steve with lots of flashing warning lights. Lee Newton, Bill Stewart and Morgan Donnelly were the running support.

This evening I was able to chat with Steve again, whilst he paused at Dodd Wood and nurse Mel tortured his feet. I think it would be fair to say that Steve's discomfort and pain whilst moving has leveled off but his speed has dropped. He is clearly knackered in a deep and fundamental way to such an extend that at times he was clearly disconnecting from the conversation surrounding him and drifting off into semi conscious waking. Just as quickly he would snap back to the reality of the situation (often when nurse Mel inflicted some pain!) and we talked about the surge of adrenalin tomorrow will bring, knowing that if he just walks to Keswick, he will almost certianly break the record.

Steve is not planning to walk though and with ten hours in hand over Joss Naylor's 27 year old record, he is determined to make it count tomorrow.

Day 6 (Thursday) Photos - Checkpoint 19 (Mosedale Road)

I think more than any other sequence of photos, this one sums up Steve's determination.

Leg 17 (Wednesday Night) Photos

Photos from Wednesday nights leg over Gowbarrow Fell