The last time Chris and I saw Wayne was all wrapped up in the back of Max and Di’s camper van having a brew in a car park on the A672. We arrived with a few other “Spiners” to a small car park on the A672. On arrival we all spilt up to the various vehicles that were waiting. We headed straight for the camper van to see if Wayne was dead or alive, get some food in us & have a brew. Id learnt my lesson from at the last CP, don’t stop moving for long. So I’ve filled my face and I’m drinking my tea whilst shuffling around trying to keep my feet warm. It must have looked like bad dad dancing. After a quick check that Wayne was in-fact very much alive, although he didn’t look it, Chris, Paul and I agree to head out. Its bizarre crossing a motorway bridge late at night at the best of times, doing it whilst carrying 10Kgs on your back knowing you’ve got just short of 20 miles off unknown territory to cross makes it even more surreal. To the amusement of the traffic below, we set out to Hebden Bridge. Why is it when you’re crossing a motorway bridge you feel compelled to wave at the cars below! It must just confirm what they are already thinking, yes you are mad.
It wasn’t long after crossing the M62 that we met Dr Matt Edwards. An A&E Dr from London, who told friends and family that he was offering his medical services to the Spine and not that he was taking part in the Race.
Over the motorway, turn left, then right, then continues almost straight ahead for over Blackstone Edge for a few miles and you’ll be at the next CP in no time was the instruction given by the marshall in the car park. As I mentioned in my first blog, one of the marshalls had said that some druids went up onto the fells in white robes with no shoes on to do only what druids do best. Something, if I had seen for myself I would have put down to hallucinating. Apparently not though as kindly confirmed by Amanda Crozier who said the following “There were indeed Druids it was Ally and myself who saw them head up to the Aigin Stone from our marshalling point on the A58 – some of them barefoot and all just wearing white robes Nice one, thanks Amanda for confirming I wasn’t going mad. I remember going over Blackstone Edge and the flag stones were really icy. After about an hour of slip sliding Paul Brant decided to stop to put on his Pogu micro spikes taking the view what’s the point of carrying them if you’re not going to use them. So Paul sat down and tried to stretch them over his trainers which out much luck, so I kindly stepped in to help him out. This was quickly followed by me putting on my Yactrax. Confidence restored we set off again to catch up with Chris who had got a wiggle on and was some way up ahead. By the time we reach him he’s like bambi on ice (again) so seeing Paul and I have put on our spikes he decides to put his Pogu on. Wise move as we’ve got about 2 miles of ice rinks to cross. All tooled up, well with spikes anyway, we set off again in to the night leapfrogging other runners along the way and in no time at all we crossed Blackstone Edge had a brew with Max & Di and we are heading out Chedlburn Moor. Whilst going along here I start talking to a guy about any think and everything. Before long we are speaking about books that have inspired us and before we know it we are rambling on, sharing stories that we’ve both read, about books we’ve imported from aboard. One was called “To The edge” A man, Death Valley and the mystery of endurance by Kirk Johnson. Well worth a read. Check out www.ultramadness.co.uk for a previous blog of mine on inspirational books I’ve read
I really enjoyed this section of the course, mainly because it was flat compared to what we’d already covered, fairly dry under foot, for a change, and you could see the orange glow of civilisation off in the distance from all the street lamps miles away, hypnotising you drawing you in. I remember asking Paul if he was okay, are you eating, drinking etc. not much came his reply. Not the answer I wanted to hear. I made a mental note to keep on at him to eat and drink. We past all the reservoirs and were making our way over Warland Drain to Stoodley Pike to the monument. Paul’s Fenix watch comes to the rescue here. As the tracks splits up as we can see other runners in the distance all on different tracks. Personal and I’m sure like Chris and Paul, I didn’t want to waste any time taking the wrong track. So in no time at all Paul gets a signal and shouts out “this way guys” so Chris and I head off in the direction of his little finger and all three of us are bang on track heading to the monument. Things are feeling and looking good. I’m eating ok, although I’m not drinking as much as I should, I’m remembering to drink. I started the race with 1.5 ltrs of water in a bladder and an OMM bottle in the side of the rucksack. I chose to drink from the bottle mainly because I didn’t want the hassle of refilling the bladder all the time. Any body that uses a bladder will vouch that they can be a pain to get in and out to refill when your rucksack is full with other kit. So my approach was little and often from the bottle. Plus during the first few hrs of starting I was drinking the water from my Montane prism gloves finger tips. A great way of getting some little water in you, whilst keeping your fingers gloves fairly water free ish.
Prior to starting off we created what we thought was a realistic timing schedule. This would also benefit Max & Di, giving them a rough guide of where we should be and what time we will be there. Considering we planned on being at Hebden Bridge at 12pm, allowing us to get 8 hrs sleep and we are still out heading to Stoodley Pike and its gone 12p, its fair to say the timing have gone out the window, along with our 8 hrs sleep.
The plan now was for all of us to get to Hebden Bridge, safe and sound. We got past the monument, which is huge by the way. No wonder it never got any smaller only larger the closer we got. I ask Paul if he’s eaten recently, no was the reply so we stop to allow him to eat. This was followed by him saying he’s struggling and doesn’t think he can carry on. Chris and I both jump on this with “yes you can mate, look how far you’ve come already, small steps and all that”, or something along those lines. It worked what every was said as before long all three of us are off Stoodley Pike, round Rough Head and dropping down to Callis wood to a CP that’s by the main road. We met the CP crew, shouted out are numbers had a quick chat and ploughed on. We could smell Hebden Bridge from here and I think it’s fair to say we all wanted to get there as soon as possible. So we said are good buys to the CP crew and carried on. For the next mile or so took a winding path up a cobbled lane besides some houses. I remember thinking how on earth would you get a car up here to get home, quickly followed by I would get my shopping delivered by Asda if I lived here. The cobbled lane then gave way to a step path which zigzagged left and right taking you up further and was no wider than half a meter. On your right you had a gushing stream with little or no fence stopping you from falling in. After lots of silent cursing, we made it to the top. Now it was a case of going through a few fields then Hebden Bridge and more importantly are beds would be waiting. Chris, Paul and me had spilt up coming through the fields. I guessed that they were about 15, 20 minutes behind me. So I carried on with Dr Matt and we arrived in Hebden Bridge after step decent to the CP just after 5.00 am, some 5 hours later than planned.
I entered the building only to see Mimi Anderson and Javed Bhatti who were doing the race, getting ready to leave looking refreshed after a good few hrs sleep. We all shared stories on how tough we thought the first section were & how our equipment and footwear was holding up. We eventually said our good buys and I went for my tea, Hungarian Goulash, washed down with lots of cups of tea. I spent the next half hr chatting to others challengers who had just come in or some racers who hadn’t got to bed yet. Depending on whom you spoke too, including Scott the race organiser the distance for day 1 varied from 43 – 47 very wet and cold miles. Chris and Paul came in around 5.30am and got some food down there necks. I remember saying to Chris that in order to keep to our schedule, we need to be leaving here at 8am, giving us only 1 hours sleep at max, taking into account, sorting out our kit for day two, have some breakfast, shower etc. Chris was a bit unsure at this because mainly because of the swelling in his leg after hitting it on a flag stone early on in the day. Paul said he would see how he feels in the morning. Wayne then came in looking a lot healthier than when we last saw him carrying our drop bags. So at 5.45 we retire for the night, finding a bunk trying not to make to much noise as to wake the others. This never goes quiet as planned. I remember dropping my tin cup and tripping over my drop bag. It was like church bells going off in a confined space. The next few minutes I spent saying sorry to anyone I passed in a bunk who stirred at the nose I was making. Empty bunk found, I set my alarm for 7am, covered my legs in tiger balm to help keep the cramps at bay and got my head down for the best hours sleep I could possible have. I woke up what and felt that id had 8 hrs sleep, I wish.
Once I got my head together the next 20 mins were spent sorting my kit and food out for day two, packing away my sleeping bag and general getting sorted. At breakfast, Chris sadly broke the news to me that the Doctor had said he couldn’t carry on due to server swelling – hematoma in his lower leg from falling yesterday. He was gutted, again so much training and sacrifice had been put in to get to the start line, but deep down he new it made sense. He had been out some time earlier in the yr from a previous shoulder injury and new if he carried on and made his leg got worse this could put him out of action for some time. And his wife Karen would kill him, if the hematoma didn’t get him first. I was gutted for him. I was gutted. Three became two that became one in less than 24 hrs.
God this race is brutal!
At breakfast we saw Paul who was unsure if he was going to carry on. I told him my plans and that I would be leaving at 8am and to meet me outside of he was coming. I also met Dr Matt Edwards who said he was carrying on and would meet me outside in half and hour. So I gave my drop bag back to Wayne who would pass it back to the support crew. Said my goodbyes and thanks to the cooks, and people munching there breakfast and got all my stuff together. On my way out I said my good bys to the Ultramadness crew. Before leaving Chris and Wayne asked if I needed anything kit wise I wanted off them, what size are your boots Wayne, 11.5 he said, great ill have them please. Can you give them to Max and Di for me.
So with pats on back and good luck all round, the one remaining member of the Ultramadness crew who can get lost driving on the M6 set off into the great big yonder to beat this race.
Suddenly I felt a huge weight of responsibility on my shoulders. Not only was I doing this for me, I put so much in and lost precious family time training, I was also doing it for Wayne & Chris and for everybody who had helped us along the way, like Montane who’s support had been brilliant, Klymit and Haglofs’ to name but a few, and could possible be watching my progress for all I knew.
With this in mind I met Matt, we checked out with Scott and off we set up the long path back to the main road for day 2 off unknown ground for me. At least the sun was shining though.!!