Samworths Challenge 17th June 2017

Keswick Rugby Club, 6am, light cloud cover and the smell of bacon butties

We check our equipment including food, water, maps, compass, waterproofs, tags and GPS.  Then we re-check in nervous anticipation.

7am and we’re off, following our strategy of slow and steady as all the other teams overtake us.  We have a ‘Tortoise and Hare’ approach and Hannah fights the natural urge to jog.  After 12 minutes, we reach our first checkpoint, relieved to get our first 10 points.  We march on and the reality kicks in.  This is steep.  And it gets steeper.  Following the route David has memorised we collect more points but realise that we won’t reach our original target of Skiddaw.  Re-planning on the hoof, literally, causes discussion but team harmony is maintained and we veer off on our revised route.  Kate twists her ankle.  Does this mean the end of the team challenge?  Competitive spirit briefly asks, could we take her tag and leave her here? Kate soldiers on and the ankle eases.  We collect the last 10 points to get a total of 90, leaving less than 30 minutes to avoid time penalties.  We walk briskly, then trot, then jog down the hillside and through Keswick as the sun shines.  The hare-like Brownlea brothers run past us and we jog on.  They’ve not heard about the ‘Tortoise and Hare’ approach yet.  We arrive one minute late, lose 9 penalty points but we know we’ve done our best and we think other teams will get bigger penalties.  Shame.

A quick break and then we’re off to start our 3-hour canoe.  A 2-minute crash course from the instructor and we start paddling – into the wind.  We follow our pre-planned route and make good progress down the leeward western side of Derwent Water.  Team work and the slightest hint of rowing technique allows us to overtake a couple of teams.  The Brownleas might be reasonable runners, swimmers and cyclists, but maybe they can’t row.  Crossing the lake and we’re making good progress.  The sky is blue, the sun shining, the water feels warm but there’s not time for a swim.  Shall we go for the last checkpoint and risk a time penalty?  Team concensus is to head for home.  We arrive back with 15 minutes to spare and a Cornish pasty beckons.

We mount out bikes, smug in the belief that this is our best discipline and we’ll collect all the points – no problem.  The route is uphill from the start and one part is labelled ‘very steep’.  It’s vertical and we are off the bikes, walking in the heat, sooner than we thought.  We trudge up and up.  The Brownlea brothers cycle past us.  We’ll catch them up later; they still haven’t rumbles our strategy.  The hill continues until we reach the bike track in the forest.  The organisers said this was the fun part, but Hannah’s face says it all.  Chatter drops to nil whilst we concentrate on the job in hand.  Coming down the hill was completed all too quickly and another re-planning session, on the saddle, sets our revised route.  We reach 2 more checkpoints and head for home, arriving 5 minutes late.

We’ve done it!  9 hours of action in glorious scenery with fantastic weather.

A quick shower and we’re off to the gala dinner.  Charity presentations are made and the event total of £385,000 is announced, with one team raising £13,000.  We came 5th out of 32 teams in our category in our first year as a novice team.  What a result!  Hannah and Kate can’t believe it.  It was a pleasure to be part of the team and I hope we do it again – but not just yet.

Jim Highnam – June 2017

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