As you may already know, this Friday I will be setting out on another bizarre adventure. Once again I will not be alone in my endeavour and will be joined by the barefoot cultivator of stupidity himself – Aleks Kashefi. This time the adventure doesn’t have such a grandiose appeal as the ‘big one’ I set out on last year, however, the closer we get to Friday, the more I realise this may be just as ambitious and with a greater chance of failure. In fact if we do manage to complete this one I think I will be a little bit surprised. And thrilled of course.
So – what is this big adventure?
It is called the ‘Frog Graham Round’ – a clever play on the ‘Bob Graham Round’ which is a well known running challenge in which competitors aim to cover 66 miles around the Lake District, taking in the 42 highest peaks and climbing 27,000ft, in less than 24 hours. And if you’re thinking reading that made you tired – you are not alone – typing that made me exhausted.
Luckily, the Frog Graham Round is a little more forgiving on the running front. It is only roughly 40 miles of running, 24 peaks (three of which are islands on Derwent Water), 16,000ft of climbing, with no time limit. Sounds easy in comparison right? There is only one catch – being the amphibiously named FROG Graham Round – one also has to swim across three of the famous lakes. A full traverse of Bassenthwaite, Crummock, Butteremere and Derwent Water are also included in the route – with the longest swim at 1km and a total swimming distance of approximately 3.6km.
All the above images originate from the Frog Graham Round website where you can find out more information about the UK’s Ultimate SwimRun Challenge.
And being the daring adventurer types (idiots) that we are, we decided (one of us under the influence – the other just pure idiot) to take this on at the end of this week. So we will be swimming, in the Lake District, in April.
It’ not going to be warm.
Right so one of the big problems with running this attempt in April will be water temperature. This means that we have to wear wetsuits – or face inevitable hypothermia. Wearing wetsuits in itself isn’t such a problem – however the ‘self supported’ nature of our challenge means that we actually have to carry it with us over the 40 mile, 16000ft climb, 24 peak running route. For the swims we will also be wearing as many warmth providing options as possible – swim hat, neoprene gloves and neoprene shoes will all be on my kitlist. And will all be added (sopping wet) to the pack for each run leg.
I am also toying with the idea of a tri suit or swimming costume under the wetsuit to aid change overs – changing in/out of a wetsuit is never a graceful affair – and plan to carry a big pot of Vaseline for a bit of added ease in sliding in/out of that neoprene sleeve. The wetsuit I have is an Orca something or other – leant to me by the very generous Max – so thanks must go to him as without the wetsuit I wouldn’t even attempt the lake swims at this time of year.
In terms of running kit – I will be wearing my Vivo Barefoot Trail shoes – which I have added an insole to for a little bit of added comfort over the long miles. I will be carrying a pack – either a lightweight racing one or my Alpkit Gourdon 25 depending entirely on weather conditions and how many warm layers I need to carry. And lots of warm layers and a lightweight waterproof for keeping warm on the peaks. Then there is also food to consider. I will be carrying cheese and adventure sausage of some nature, in addition to protein shakes which I will be consuming after each swim. In total we could be running for up to 18 hours, which means carrying lots of sustenance to see me through. I will of course also be carrying a water pack – which I hope to be able to top up halfway from a mountain stream. If there is room in the pack – I will also stash an emergency mars bar or two – you know – just in case.
All of the above will be contained in an assortment of dry bags because let’s not forget – we will have to carry the packs as we swim across the lakes.
You are probably – by this point or possibly for a much longer time – now thinking that this is completely mad. And you’re not wrong – without proper planning and precautions this would be near enough a suicide mission. And we in no way want to encourage anyone to go out into the mountains – or the lakes – without being properly prepared. However, between us we have a lot of experience in the outdoors, and we are taking a number of precautions to make sure we don’t land ourselves in any unnecessarily risky situations.
Firstly, there is the running side of things. Aleks has reccied just about every inch of the route, and is really experienced with running in the mountains. He will know how to read weather conditions better than I will, and he will know the safe routes for ascending/descending from the peaks. I will be very much relying on this knowledge – and hopefully learning a few things myself in the process. We will both be carrying phones with extra batteries – and will never be out of sight of one another. We will also have head torches for the sections which will be done in the dark (the planned start is 00:00am), reflective clothing and whistles just in case. I also have a foil blanket and basic first aid kit in my running pack at all times – just because you can never be sure when you may need it.
Swimming wise, I’m really pleased to say that we have been able to find not just one but two safety boats to accompany us on the swim. One of whom is one of my favourite people on this planet – who I would 100% trust with my life. This is Steph – and she will be paddling alongside on each of the swims – as well as being an emergency contact should we run into any difficulty at any point in the route. Steph has over 10 years of padding experience and is extremely proficient – so shouldn’t have any trouble in keeping us safe in the lakes (no pressure pal). The other safety boat has been arranged by Aleks and I am sure will be equally as valuable – so thanks to both of these for signing up to help out with our idiocy!
So that is the plan. We kick off from Keswick at 00:00am on Friday morning (assuming the weather gods are good and provide us with a half decent window). We will be filming throughout and even have a media god ready to work magic on the edits after we (hopefully) make it back to Keswick safely on Friday evening. I will try and post some updates throughout the day – though will try to preserve phone battery for safety and Strava purposes.
Over the next few days I will be going through everything that could possibly go wrong – and making a plan to mitigate anything that does. I am, for the first time in a while, actually pretty nervous about this one, but with a bit of good fortune I think we may just make it…
Wish us luck. This could well be one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do. Naturally, I’m dead excited to give it a go.