This Blog is a tribute to Lloyd Newell, my wonderful little brother, to document our trials and tribulations as we embark on numerous events in the build up to The 100 Peaks Challenge in 2017. We have two aims; keeping his memory alive and trying to raise as much money as possible for some wonderful causes.
Lloydy was KIA June 2011 and we hope in time that our endeavours will enable us to create a foundation as a permanent tribute to the man he was, and the legacy he created.
Spa day par excellence!
The concept of a spa day is as
alien to me as carrying 70lb on my back, although the latter became a reality
last Sunday (20th September). The Spa day however, well that's just a dream but
there was a lot of mud involved, some swimming, and there was definitely no
dressing gown or towling slippers!
The weekend began with our
first Core Management Team Meeting for The 100 Peaks Challenge, the subject of
which will command it's own, very much overdue blog post.
Once the meeting was done it
was a hot footing exercise to Brecon. Everyone who knows me knows how much the
Avalanche events mean to me, I'd missed out on Ironman because of the London
Marathon and expected that I'd miss out on Ricochet too because of the date
falling on the weekend of the first opportunity we had to get The 100 Peaks CMT
together. Luckily KJ was relaxed as to when I could get myself there.
My training in the last few
months has consisted of base miles and strengthening work, thankfully about a
month before Ricochet I'd managed to kiss the constant niggles of training
volume goodbye and had been able to step up my training again to include
intervals and hill work. The old man Achilles niggles still remained though.
Physically I know I'm fitter
than I have been since I first embarked on this little journey, but I still
have some weight to shift and I also hadn't had the Bergen on since the Summer
Fan all bar my 'panic' 10 miler with 60lb the Saturday before Ricochet. To be
fair though the 'panic' tab was a decent workout, I cracked the 10 miles out in
1:55, albeit on a pretty flat track, but I wanted to accustom myself to what
that weight felt like more than anything else. To be fair to myself I was
coming in to this off the back of my best effort to date on the Summer Fan and
a decent London Marathon under my belt this year. I'm pretty comfortable at
cracking out miles and spending a lot of time out on the ground, with and
without pack now, so it really was nothing more than a getting familiar
exercise. The weirdest sensation was the circulation issue the additional
weight seemed to have, the fingers got numb pretty quickly and a lot of that
1hr 55 was spent giving it the jazz hands!
I decided that I needed to
rethink the Bergen packing because something wasn't working. At 35lbs the
Bergen doesn't really weigh enough to 'cut' but with 55lb of kit and food and
water on top I knew I had to really think about where I was loading kit to
ensure I was going to be as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.
In prep for Ricochet I
stripped everything out, and decided that I'd make a change with my bladder
position in the first instance. The likelihood was that we'd need a minimum of
5 litres and that meant two bladders, I decided that I'd pack them at the sides
and try and balance things out from there. I thought it better to configure
that way than risk issues with circulation and endure a little lower back
trouble (which packing water at the sides generally gives me as it messes a bit
with my COG). I pulled the doss bag up higher than normal, almost to the top of
the Bergen to give a little extra padding against the back, and repacked. Dry
kit, warm kit, emergency rations and extra first aid supplies, poncho and
jetboil and a mallet for a bit of extra weight! Side and front pocket,
contained waterproofs, mess kit and first aid/emergency bivi and all my utility
items in the top flap.
We banged in on the money at
the weigh in, with a few tins of extras, should the proverbial hit the fan.
Everything was loaded up Friday night and Strokey and I set off just after 3pm
on Saturday. The traffic Gods were kind to us and a little after 6 we're
parking up in our new home for the next 24 hours. Not even out of the car
moments and familiar and some of my favourite faces appeared, the chat was
nervous and excited and laced with a little bit of fear of what was to come. KJ
and the DS had promised us some proper naughty scenarios, the first of which
would become evident pretty quickly.
I got myself registered and
noticed that Rob, Steve and Scott had a spare bunk in their room and asked
Staff Bigg to put me in there. He joked (or at least I think he was joking) at
me that he was getting fed up of seeing 100 Peaks Tess at his events and where
was my AEE one, I pointed at KJ and said "he sold it". I'd managed to
catch up with everyone and there really is no finer company, just as I'm
beginning to get my pasta and meatballs down my neck and feel content with my
lot, we're interrupted by a call from Staff Bigg to get our
Those of us who hadn't
attended the training day were marched up to a store shed where he delighted in
presenting us with our new best friend for the duration. A piece of scaffold
tube weighing in at 10 to 12lbs to act as a mock SLR for the exercise. I knew
the terrain was going to be shit when KJ joked in a message to me to
"bring my flippers", I retorted at the time "I'm packing my
water wings just in case", I wish I had, come 0610 the following morning
that wish was compounded!
Back to the mess, the
next interruption to eating came the way of why we were instructed to
bring colouring pencils, ruler etc. We were given a map sketching exercise of
the area we would need and we were given 45 minutes to get as much detail on
our maps as we could. The next 45 minutes were spent realising that I was
pretty dire at cartography whilst trying to get as much food into my gullet as
possible! Time was called and relief was felt, more so it meant I could finish
my apple crumble and now cold custard. No hardship really, but I was flapping
enough already as is SOP for me anyway! Our maps were gathered up and subjected
to scrutiny by our peers and then handed back to us, with what felt like a
rhetorical question "would you navigate with your map" to which the
stock answer appeared to be "no Staff"! We were then issued with
Staff prepared sketched maps and instructed to ensure our OS and/or Racing
snake versions were tucked away safely in our bergens, they were not to be
With the enforced panic over
I could now begin to flap properly, safe in the knowledge I still had to get
all my kit to the room, pack my bergen again and get my water in there and get
my food sorted for the march. With some very welcome help from my friends,
notably Andy Heller, Strokey and James N, who fabloned my map for me, slung my
scaffold tube and filled up my bladders. Bergen reweighed it hit 65lbs dead on
loaded with water. Finally I get my kit up to the room and get the stuff I
didn't need squared away back in the car.
I was very conscious
back in the room that I was still flapping for England when I should have been
letting the guys get their heads down. We had a good chat about what was
happening with the 100 Peaks and finally I managed to switch the light off at
11, knowing that in 4 short hours we'd be climbing back out of those bunks
again! Those short hours got even shorter as God only knows what must have been
going through my head because before I knew it, it was 1am and the next time I'm
aware of anything it's just gone 3 and there is plenty of movement from other
rooms around ours. My alarm hadn't even gone off, I'd set it for 0330, trying
to cram as much sleep in as possible, I guess on some level we all knew there
wasn't going to be much sleep had that night, so there was little point pulling
the doss bag over your head and ignoring the noise.
Dressed and packed away, the
bergen is dropped outside the mess at 0350, I load up my mess pocket with food
for the march, grab my new best friend, place it next to my bergen and stand in
line waiting for the steel cut oats. I'd kept the trail mix with me that was
given to us in our 'packed lunch' to throw it on the oats for extra energy, it
struck me as a stroke of genius at just after 4. Oats down, I tuck in to the
cooked breakfast, I manage most of it, but like so many find, it's tough
throwing that much food down your neck at that time of the morning, especially
against the clock.
Bergen's on we file in, it's
0515 and we're off in two ranks. 10 minutes in I'm sure if it were light we'd
all be looking at each other with puzzled faces, wondering if the exercise had
started. This was no ordinary warm up and we were going at a decent clip. After
30 mins we see the white van pulled up as promised by Staff Bigg, make our way
through the barrier and drop Bergen's. The instructions are to layer up as we
might be there a while before being called forward to start. I don't, I'm
running pretty warm and I just get a bit more food down me and top up with a
bit of fluid.
The banter is already flowing, it's amazing, despite the
realisation of what we're about to embark on, sure, some
of it may be down to nerves but there is a fair buzz among the group.
Over breakfast Al, big Dunc,
Mick, Paul Southerwood and myself had teamed up, Al relayed that to Staff Bigg,
Staff insisted we weren't going out as a five, which we expected and were
separated out to Paul, Mick and myself and Al and Dunc. Just after 6 we were
called forward, Bergen went back on the scales and with food now topped at
70lbs on the nose, this was gonna be an arduous day.
First grid given we are
instructed to get over the sty and from there we begin, it's just after 0600.
It's still pretty dark out but the sun is slowly beginning to add a little glow
to the darkness. We decide on our bearing and off we set and it isn't very long
before we realise what we're in for, within moments we're lifting our feet over
babies heads and each footing is wet, very wet, it's only 0610 and I go back to
the wish that I had indeed packed the water wings or at least taken KJ at his
I lost track at the amount of
times we were pulling ourselves out of water or trying to find easier places to
tread only to end up in deeper shit. It pretty much carried on in that vain until
we reached RV1 where Staff Bigg jovially remarked "anyone get wet?"
Only up to my chin Staff!
By the time we had got ourselves to RV2, the three had become a significantly larger number, in so much as we piled in to the RV with Strokey and Chris D. RV protocols done we unload for a few minutes, quaff the pie handed to us and take stock. Everyone hits the RV with a similar expression, it's comforting in a way! We know the next RV and it's a long haul up to what is referred to (affectionately now) by some of the group as 'Lloydys Point'.
Heading out of the RV Fordy joins us, he's not having a lot of fun, but for me this is why I do these events, to share the misery and fun, that's where the bond comes from, and I wouldn't give that up for anything. It's all up hill and it's all bog, by now my lower back is in rag and Strokey breaks the pills out. I'm not one for pills unless things are dire, the little capsules are welcome. Thankfully the discomfort gives way to hilarity as Fordy decides to try and jump a bog, the only issue is though his Superman Cape is under his bergen and he hits the shit in dramatic fashion, which somehow manages to happen in slow-mo! There is serious concern for his welfare as we watch his bergen begin to slowly lower him further in to the muck' "Strokey get the f******g camera out quick!" Laughing at his expense was just what the group needed, because it did put a massive smile back on everyone's face, those last few km's became a little easier once we'd dragged his arse out of there.
By the time we'd gone through RV3 we also picked up Mr Dando, who looked like he'd been dipped in chocolate. He'd managed to find the same bog as Fordy, however it would appear he'd managed to go in backways and frontways. For me there's not much point talking about the rest of the march, it was pretty uneventful, we took the cautious route on the advice of DS from RV3 to RV4 and again erred on the side of caution from RV4 to FRV, which probably added time to our day, but hey when your among friends, hell ain't a bad place to be!
I think in the main, getting it done in the group we had kept everyone going. The banter flowed as often as we ended up balls deep in water and although at times it was nothing but utter misery we had a day none of us will ever forget.
FRV - Endex
So to all the guys I finished that march with, Chris, Paul, Micke, Dando, Strokey and Fordy, thank you boys it was emotional (and dare I say it a lot of fun)! On a personal level it's so humbling to be able to count so many incredible people as friends and share that time in the hills, especially in the rawest moments. Nothing gives me greater pride than seeing so many of them tabbing those hills wearing the Tee that has now become the symbol of tribute to Lloydy.
I know he's not the only soldier who's climbed those trails and his aren't the only 'giant footsteps' we tread in, after all KJ and the DS laid down that marker for us too and have given us that opportunity in the first place. However, Lloydy's example and the pride I have in him and what he achieved gives me that reason to do so. I find it amazing that so many who never even met him, want to pay him tribute too.
As is customary I'll finish with my thank you's, firstly to Ken, Staff Bigg and the DS, without whom this wouldn't be possible. I owe so much of what I've achieved in the last few years to you and The 100 Peaks was born out of the confidence and desire to get myself into a position where in 600 days or so, I will be aiming to pay the ultimate tribute to my little brother. I don't think I'll ever be able to express my thanks fully for that.
To all the friends I've gained as part of this journey, thank you for sharing this with me and for the friends that are always there, big love.
And of course to my very understanding wife and beautiful boy, who instantly take the pain away and supports these crazy endeavours. You are the strength that keeps me walking! Nothing beats getting home to that gorgeous face and hearing "daddy home" as the little man's first words the morning after! TTDOF xxxxx
To the reason I do this, who is and will always be my hero, big love and blue skies little brother. You may be beyond the glimmering sea but my heart walks with you always and together will continue to climb the mountains barred with snow. xxx
.......in every sense, and I can honestly say, in the last few days, when it comes to emotions; I've been through them all.
There are tough events, and then there's the Fan Dance!
Let me put it into context:
Saturday 20th July, I'm awake at 0440, the alarm is due to go off at 0515. The bed is unfamiliar and the room is like a frickin sauna! I lay there just waiting for the ducks to start quacking (if you have an iPhone, you'll understand) and listening to and watching my wife sleep. My admin is sorted, so I've got nothing to keep my mind occupied, well that I can get on with, without disturbing Caroline. When I return to the room from the shower, my beautiful wife as she always does, had placed a card where I had been laying, every event she has done this, and boy does it put a lump in the throat. I'm just waiting for breakfast to turn up and to get myself in my kit. Breakfast arrives and to be fair, I can't face it, the banana loaf that's on the tray lo…
........it's been two weeks now since we completed The 100 Peaks Challenge and to say the post-challenge blues have set in is an understatement of epic proportions. Don't get me wrong being back home with my family is the best thing ever, especially after a month of what we had to endure. The moment the hotel door opened in the Travel Lodge in Merthyr, the night before we completed the Challenge, to reveal my littleman and gorgeous wife standing there, will live with me as one of the most precious moments of my life, ever.
However, there's something magical about pitting your wits against everything that nature can throw at you (bar midgie hell), which is immeasurably a lot easier to tolerate than being back in the daily big city grind, which poetically itches like midgie hell! There is no substitute for the freedom that affords you.
Over two years ago I had an idea, and I nurtured that idea (with some pretty significant help) into reality, on three fronts it has been suc…
Firstly my apologies as I publish this post, I've still got loads to catch up on from the second half of 2016 and the first part of 2017! I will get back to that I promise, there is some great stuff to write about, The Cateran Yomp, Berlin Marathon, The Winter Fan Dance - Trident Edition and my first official Ultra and a few Marathons in April (this month)!
But with 30 days to go and the weekend just gone being Lloydy's birthday it seemed appropriate to pen an update on The 100 Peaks Challenge.
We are now as you can imagine into the business end of the Challenge, with Ops and Logistics being the spearhead of our focus at the moment, even relatively simple tasks of getting to the start of the Challenge (Basecamp 1 - Glen Nevis) are more difficult than you can imagine, especially when you have no money as such to fund a Challenge like this! We have though been fortunate in the last week to receive a cash sum towards the Ops costs which means at least now we have some cashflow an…