Okay not the best way to start a blog but i guess i should aplogise (you know who you are) for taking so long to write part three. Shit happends, time passses you then think nobody would read it anyway so why bother. You get badgered by friends, which you makes you shit cause you know youve let them down. All crap excuses i know but anyway – So with all this god damn talk on FB about kit, kit and more kit kinda made me think again so here goes.!!! Part three.
I set off from CP1 with Matt, fully charged on one hour’s sleep, a bowl of porridge in my belly, a pocket full of determination and a smile knowing I’ve got a pair of new boots in my drop bag if needed. We had arranged to meet Max and Di – the Ultramadness support crew – at Ponden Reservoir but before then we had a few miles to cover over Heptonstall Moor, round the Lower Walshaw Reservoir up and over Withins Height and down in to Buckley, all of which passed in no time at all with Matt and I getting to know each other a bit more. Reminding myself that Matt was an A&E Dr in a London hospital, I thought if I was going to get injured, possibly die Dr Matt’s not a bad bloke to have at my side, result!!!
Matt said his excuse of I’ve entered as a race worked until the eleventh hour, when word leaked out about what he was doing so he had to own up. As for me, I told him that a friend text me saying “I’ve just entered the Spine” followed by “enter quick before it fills up” and I did. I then felt sick thinking “what the ****** have I done. Along our journey we continued to share stories about our adventures, family and friends. To the surprise of both Max and Di we had arrived at the support camper in amazing time. We topped up on tea, jaffa cakes and nibbles before starting out again to head towards Cowling. I was now really starting to enjoy this. I was in good company, had a great support crew, felt okay in myself and my kit was working great. I’ve not talked much about kit so basically, after entering we all read up as much as possible on last year’s race, which was very useful and frightening at the same time. All this did was confirm my worst nightmare “what the **** have I done”
At times, temperatures dropped to -11 and they had huge snowdrifts and horrific winds etc to overcome. So with this information the next 10 months was spent shopping for new kit. I had deliveries coming out of my ears. They were being sent to work, home, to anywhere and anybody that would sign for a delivery. I’ll make a list of all the kit pictured below and what I packed in my drop bag in my next blog but here is a list of the following companies whose product we used.
We also set up this website to share the highs and lows of our training and races entered over the year to get us in tip top condition. We also contacted the following companies to see if anyone could help us out. To our surprise they did.
Wayne Singleton already had a relationship with Montane from when he completed the MDS in 2012. As we already had lots of Montane kit, used for different events we knew it was a brand that we could rely on and potentially save our lives if the proverbial hit the fan. So that took care of all our clothing needs.
The good people at Beta Climbing Designs helped us out with Klymit Inertia Xl sleeping mats. This was great, as Klymit have been at the forefront of technology for years for sleeping mats. So if I had to get my head down I’d know it would be quality sleep.
Dave Thomas kindly gave us discount on his product. We used Elete for all our training so it was a no brainer for us.
Tim Taylor gave us some Chia Charge to train with and use on the day.
We had connections with Haglofs so pretty much we had all clothing bases covered.
Travel Monkey helped out with solar powered chargers keeping mobile phones GPS and head torches fully charged.
We spent a day on the fells with Charlie Sproson who assessed our navigation skills. As it happened Charlie was competing in the Full Spine Race, and had the infamous Dragons Back under his belt but to name a few for experience. So who better to get assessed by! I can highly recommend Charlie, a good guy who knows his stuff and has lots of sound advice on multi day events to pass on.
On top of all this we spent most evenings firing off cheeky emails to companies asking for support. Some worked some offering serious discount didn’t but wished us well.
Matt and I left the support crew at Ponden Reservoir, making arrangement to meet them in Lotherdale, before Gargrave. Just before we set off to go over Bare Hill we saw Jonathan Fletcher helping out, and after a quick picture and a big thumbs up from him we set off heading for Cowling. Now, I was looking forward to this as I would be running towards familiarly territory, ground I have recced. So off we set again on the “yellow brick road” – heads down trotting away where ever possible. I say where ever possible because every paving slab was either
A: Uneven, so would tip when you place your foot on it,
B: Covered in a thin layer of ice that you’d hope would break the moment you stepped on it
C: The slab would have a think layer of ice that wouldn’t break and the slab would start to sink under your weight. So time was wasted prodding slabs with you pole before you put your foot down. After awhile every step and prod blurs into one so I don’t remember much of this section other than prodding slabs, looking at my feet for a few hours and eating energy bars. To top it all off it started raining and the mist came down, soon the ice covered paving slabs was replaced by mud and fields and cows with me thinking when did this happen..!! I do remember hallucinating though. I thought I was trotting past a long line of really noisy school portacabins. Then I quickly realised they weren’t stationary but on a steam train rushing past at full speed for hours. Matt was laughing at his own hallucinations. He confessed that every step he took butterflies would fly up from the muddy grass then settle only for it to happen again and again. That’s nothing I said I’ve been trotting past a train full of school portacabins for god know how many hours.
Now, I have no recollections of going past any landmark that I had seen when we recce’d this part of the course from Cowling to Gargrave or no idea how long it has taken but eventually we arrived at Gargrave. As we were making our way to the CP in the car park, Matt said that he was stopping, withdrawing from the race. He had been suffering from really bad blisters and they were only getting worse. I was gutted for him. Subconsciously it must have affected me, as within 15 minutes of being told I’d made up my mind that I was stopping too. I was already making my excuses, trying to justify a DNF to myself and Max and Di and everyone else who would ask me how I got on. When I arrived at the CP, Max and Di had the deck chairs out and after I managed a brief smile I dumped my rucksack and crashed in the chair. Slumped, defeated and feeling fucked. Not a lot was said apart from someone saying “here you go get some of this down you Glyn” It was chicken soup with everything thrown in, I ate in silence staring at the car park wall. I don’t know what happened, why I changed my mine. I remember the soup absolutely lush the best soup I’d ever tasted. If Carlsberg made soup…. So after another portion and lots of positive comments from all around I stood up sorted my head out and got my act together and pushed on towards CP 1.5 at Malham Tarn with a guy called Rob who arrived with us at Gargrave. Now Rob was a top bloke, but a quiet bloke. Not a lot was said between us from Gargrave and Malham, apart from the time his GPS signal put us in the wrong area. I wasn’t impressed. We ended up in a field far away from the path. We had to climb over a dry stone wall that ran down a step wet muddy hill into more mud. The wall was about five high which wasn’t so bad for me being 6.1 but posed a problem for Rob being around 5 foot nothing.
Once down the hill we got back on track, following the route along the river which had burst its banks days before making this part of the course very tough. It was one step forward two back. So getting to Malham was going to take some time. Now I remember Malham being quite posh from the time we had spent there on our training runs but I never realised just how posh. One minute we were running through mud up to our ankles the next thing we went through a gate and all the mud had gone. We were on a gravel path that took us into the village. It was like someone had drawn a line in the mud. I remember thinking “should I wipe my feet before I carry on”. Going through Malham I remember seeing tents pitched, I presume “Spiner’s” getting some well earned sleep.
I also went past the Ultramadness support crew in the camper van. Curtain drawn, lights out, fast asleep . I was so tempted to bang on the side as I went past. But no, next stop for me was Malham Tarn, so I prepared myself mentally for the 100 + steps to get us up to the top, the ramble over “moon rock” and the short climb up to get to the tarn. It worked. We arrived at the tarn in what seemed like no time at all. So at 5am I walked into CP 1,5 to be greeted by John Bamber, a marshalling legend amongst the ultra running, climbing, basically all the outdoors community, and the ultra runner Charlie Sharp who’s having a great year, winning every race that’s going all snug up in his sleeping bag, resting his feet on Drs orders.
I said to Rob that I wanted to set off at 8am so I’d be up at 7. I put on some warm clothing, got a brew inside me, whipped off my boots and got into my emergency bivvy bag to keep warm and try and get 2 hours sleep. How wrong was I, the next 1.5 hours was spent with my feet up on a chair shivering for England. Now John Bamber doesn’t miss a trick, seeing my shivering, he came over with his Nalgene bottle filled with hot water. Smiling saying, “Don’t worry this ones clean, the one I piss in has string stuck on the outside”. Not that it would have mattered. I stuffed it down my top got some hot food down my neck and my body started to come back to life. I woke Rob up and started to get my stuff together, ready to leave.
Looking through the drop bag I couldn’t see the boots that I’d asked Wayne for at Hebden Bridge, I was gutted. I was so looking forward to putting on clean dry boots. As I was about to leave the CP, I turned to do one last sweep, making sure I’d not left anything behind and BOOM there was Wayne’s inov8 boots under a chair, sparkling. So after a quick change of footwear I was off and raring to go.
Now my secret weapon for the final day was caffeine gels. I knew I would be taking a risk as I’d not trained with them at all. In fact it had been years since I took a gel of any sort, but I figured that I may need some help keeping me awake. Charlie Sharp didn’t need any such thing as he raced past me over Fountain Fell with a big smile on his face, clearly loving it.
It was fair to say that the last day was also my best day, I was flying along. I told Rob that I wanted to be on top of Pen-y-ghent by 2.00pm, we had done it by 11.30am not even I could believe it. I guess the caffeine had kicked in and everything just clicked and fell into place, and truth be told I was loving every minute of it. Rob was some way behind now so shouted for me to go on.
So what I started to do next was set my sights on people I could see in the distance and secondly sing 80s songs to myself. Don’t ask me why but I did, so here I was going nicely along Cam High Road shouting out ABCs song the “The look of love” on repeat. Then as I got near to the end of Cam High Road I was met my Matt Green from http://www.summitfevermedia.com the official race photographer, who asked if he could walk and talk with me. To me this sounded really surreal, even more surreal was someone talking to me about non-Spine stuff for the first time in nearly 60 hours and it all seem really weird. I had been so use to talking “Spine” that anything else threw me. So after a few pictures, a confession to singing 80s songs we said our goodbyes and I head off to Hawes.
I don’t know when it started to sink in that I could completed the Spine Challenge. I don’t know if it was stopping on the fells for a few minutes looking and seeing Hawes in the distance or meeting Wayne who was still alive and trotted up to surprise me coming off the fells on to Gaudy Lane.
An emotional moment. At first I couldn’t make out who it was but then the abuse started (he shouted ‘alright you f***er, what you doing here) and I knew it was Wayne. Both our bottom lips quivering, fighting back the tears of joy. On coming into, Hawes friends and family were there to cheer & congratulate me. Wayne told me that everyone had been following me via the live tracker website http://www.opentracker.co.uk all mesmerised by an orange dot to see if it was moving or not.
As I entered the CP hall on the high street, it was all very quiet, some people were getting their heads down, others sorting their feet or kit out, some just leaving heading out again I remember Scott coming over to me, not realising that I finished the Challenge, he shook my hand, gave me my t shirts, medal and embroidered patch said well done etc. Matt was there doing what he told friends and family he had signed up to do, being a medic, he also stayed for the week joining the medic team.
So that was it 108 miles done in just over 56 hrs and all with only three blisters and later id lose 1 toe nail
Well as you will see from our website, the aim was to get enough experience to compete in the 2015 Dragons Back but I’ve suffered too many injuries over the last 8 months and as a result I need to focus on getting fit and healthy. I am pleased to say that one member of the Ultramadness crew has secured a place on next years Dragons Back race though but I wont tell you who just yet.
That said I did enter this years Lakeland 100 but had a DNF. I’ve got entry for 2015 so 2nd time lucky. I’m convinced I’ve got a 24 hour 100 miler in me but I struggle getting that training & family life balance right. Guess we will find out the end of July .!
I’ve marshalled at a few events and it’s been great seeing things from the other side of the fence so to speak, cheering competitors on, so I’ll continue to offer my services when ever possible. I think I am really keen to do a 5 day event so who knows maybe my next race will be the Spine Race in 2016.
Thanks for reading this, I hope I’ve not bored you too much. My next blog will be a list of all the kit I took and what worked, what didn’t