To celebrate James Hoad's 21st birthday, DRONGOs James, Natalie, John O and Jeremy, Honorary DRONGO Phil V, and unregistered DRONGOs Jess, Paddy, Becca and Bowers headed to the Lakes for the Buttermere fell race.
On Friday, everyone based in London met promptly at James' house at 8:30. Jeremy definitely didn't think the pickup time was 12hrs later, and therefore didn't need to be picked up from the M40 instead, as this would have been very stupid. Other things that didn't happen on the journey include:
• James missing the turning and having to pay to use the M6 Toll
• James having lots of fun with car in "envigorising" mode on the M40 and the M6
• This and the bikes on the roof meant James's car could play a fun game of which would come first: the car arriving at James's selected petrol station, or the car running out of petrol. Jeremy and Paddy wondered what would happen if petrol station was closed, which Jess didn't find very funny. Thanks to drafting behind a caravan at 50mph for the last motorway section, over the 325 mile journey the petrol station won by 8 miles.
Once we had arrived at the YHA with no drama whatsoever, the Londoners decided to make use of the sunlight to go for a run and swim. James declared the run to be 4km, so complaints will be written to the multiple GPS watch manufacturers who's gadgets said the run was 8km.
John and Bowers arrived suspiciously just as dinner had been cooked. Unfortunately personal alcohol is banned in YHAs, so many trips were needed to James' room to top up coffee mugs with 'latte'. Some very red looking tea was also 'brewed' in a teapot.
At Jess's recommendation, pudding started strongly with some Cartmel's sticky toffee pudding. It then went quickly downhill with some Eton Tidy, which Jeremy had entirely deliberately dropped on the floor to make Eton Mess. This was bottomed out with some very dense Booths own brand Cheesecake.By this point John and Jeremy had had enough 'latte' to decide that late night dip in Buttermere lake was needed. Unfortunately they managed to choose a spot with a stonebank, and had to walk a long way out to get deep enough to swim.
Just as Jeremy was going to bed, Phil arrived, which was fortunate for Phil as Jeremy could show him where his bed was. Less fortunate was Becca, who's unregistered DRONGO "friends" had failed to tell her the room number. After wandering the corridors and trying to call people with no phone signal, she decided to sleep in the lounge with a camper who's tent had blown away and had smelly feet.
Saturday was James' big day, so he was presented with a card made out of an old Amazon parcel, his broken Garmin charger and some shoe tape that he'd left in Finland. Jess also gave him a “Birthday Boy” badge so everyone at the race would know he was a big birthday boy.
Once James had sufficiently enjoyed his gifts, we drove to the start of the Buttermere fellrace. Whilst getting out of the car, James's bum bag didn't like the sound of 35km with 2500m climb, so promptly split open just before race start. As it was his birthday, he was quickly rescued by John's spare after only a small amount of laughing at him.
The race started with a difficult to hear cheer for James' birthday, followed by a mumble that we should probably go. Phil missed the start because he was in the portaloo like an idiot. Fortunately he was able to catch up by the first hill. Unfortunately his map remained at the start, because he is an idiot.
More used to boring starts as a road runner, Paddy showed true pace from the start and ran off the front. The top fell runners were somewhat confused as to who the weird man dressed in pink was. Unfortunately the go-faster pink wasn't fast enough on the descents for Paddy to hold off all the fell runners, so he had to settle for 2nd on the 21km "short course". John O came in next for a very lonely 3rd, 10 mins behind Paddy and 5 mins ahead of 4th. Becca, Jeremy and Jess all followed in with the pack, happy to have completed the course with relatively little incident.
On the long, Phil was first DRONGO back in 8th having been mostly successful at guessing where the course went until the end where he went to the carpark before the finish to let a couple of people past right at the end. James and Bowers both managed top 20 finishes, with James looking sufficiently worn out on his 21st
Thankfully, this being a Lake District Fell race, James and all the DRONGOs were soon revived by the smorgasbord of pies, cake and brews served at the finish by the friendliest volunteers ever, and included in the £8 entry fee(!) Jess was particularly proud to be affectionately referred to by the locals as "duck".
After some swimming, the party headed to a pub. Then it headed to another pub because the first one wasn’t big enough for 9 of us. This was good though because the barman at the second pub turned out to be fellow orienteer and lakes local Spenny. This meant:
• Informed food recommendations based on portion size
• Permission to eat Pam’s cake
• Provided with birthday candles for aforementioned cake
• Free drinks for following the pub on Insta (or Facebook if you’re a Grandad who doesn’t have Insta)
Bowers drank a pint very fast and then went to challenge a hen party to a boat race, but ended up just giving them free cake. James looked tired after his big race so was fed Jagerbombs to revive him. Somehow this turned into everyone drinking Jagerbombs, which is appropriate as it was a 21st. Because we had such a good time, we left a nice tripadvisor review. Hopefully Spenny gets promoted because of it.
The next morning it was raining, and some legs hurt, so the DRONGOs drove to Honistor Pass for a shorter low level walk. Upon arrival, Phil was first to discover the car park was £5/car, which seemed outrageous. He therefore spent £10 in petrol driving between other car parks (which also charged £5/car) unsuccessfully trying to find somewhere cheaper to park.
The key feature of the walk was the rain - in the words of the world's best runner:
"We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath." At the end of the short walk, it was still raining and everyone was now cold and wet, so we headed to a cafe to warm up. However the cafe wasn’t very warm and the butties advertised as being served on “Artisan rolls” were actually served on white hovis loaf. After everyone had enjoyed a hot chocolate (or other hot brown liquid), it was still raining so we drove into Kewsick to another cafe. This time less brown liquid but more brown food was ordered. Jeremy was quite full so ordered a side of chips, but this backfired when the plate was bigger than the mains.
At this point it was still raining, just not as heavily, so John, Natalie and Jeremy headed back to Lancaster where Natalie discovered the Ockenden snake. Phil went for a run on his own because nobody else wanted to come with him, possibly because it had lots of climb, or possibly because he has bad chat. Everyone else went back to Borrowdale YHA where James couldn’t hack the spice level of Bowers’ curry and didn’t finish it because he clearly isn’t a spicy boi.
Keen for a warm up cycle, Bowers did a double Honister pass climb to go back to previous YHA when he remembered he had left some of his stuff there. Other exciting athletic achievements included a spectacular black ball pot by Jess despite still having multiple balls still to pot on the table. Becca performed an elaborate stretching routine to provide a moving obstacle for the pool and table tennis players. James & Jess sat in the cold river by the hostel and drank beers - this has been proved to be 110% more effective for recovery than elaborate stretching routines.
On Monday morning Natalie left early for a train back to London to do things to rats. John and Jeremy had an excellent work from Lancaster party, featuring lots of tea, meetings and yawning.
Whilst serious amounts of work happened in Lancaster, more fun people continued their weekend with a "gentle" cycle around the Lakes. Whilst the author wasn't present apparently this included James being repeatedly dropped by Bowers & Paddy on every hill (which seems unkind to do to the birthday boy) and being rained on on every descent.
Luckily lots more DrongOs will probably be turning 21 soon so we will have excuses to go on more fun trips!