Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Spine 2017

The long, or, the short of it!
Following Spine 2013 and 2014 when I achieved the FKT for an over 60 year old on the PW at the age of 67 years, then my dnf due to a chest infection in 2015, I volunteered during 2016.
2017 was my attempt at the FKT for an over 70 year old. Due to big problems during the last 9 years my running days are just about done, however I can still walk at a fair lick and manage a bit of a trot.
I had actually managed some training in 2016, so I was optimistic, that was, until the week before the start. I sprained my sacroiliac joint in my lower back moving some heavy furniture. A cocktail of three different pain killers wasn't having much effect, so in desperation on the Friday morning before traveling to Edale, I booked an early appointment with a Chiropractor. He examined me and told me he could give me some treatment but I would be sore for a couple of days. I put off the treatment but as he was assessing me he put some weight on on my lower back and I felt a sort of crunch.
I decided to drive to Edale as I couldn't manage my drop bag to the rail station. I gave Chris Lane a lift as he was doing the Challenger and I was booked into a private room at the YHA for two nights.

I had accepted that I wasn't going to be able to start, but hoped for a miracle.
Well, a miracle did occur, whilst driving to Edale after struggling to get into the car, I became aware that the pain had gone from my back and I got out of the car without any problem.
The back problem never did return during the race or to date (weird!) perhaps the Chiropractor crunch did the trick?
Usual things catching up with others, meal and a few drinks (too many really) off to bed then up early to watch the start of the Challenger. Having the car was a blessing not having to wait for a lift back, to and from the YHA.

Later on Saturday I went to the rail station to meet my Chorley mates, Malc Christie, Adam Chritchley and Ian Williams off the train. They were made up that I was going to be able to start, however we were disappointed for Chris lane who had to retire from the Challenger at Hebden Bridge.

We went to the briefing etc, then back to the YHA. Later back into Edale to the Ramblers for a meal and a few drinks. Then back again to the YHA, where someone suggested we had another drink. We ended up having far too much to drink before an event, witnessed by Scott and Phil who caught us at the YHA with  a table full of bottles.

Perhaps that why I never heard my alarm and awoke with only 30 minutes to spare before we had arranged to meet for the drive to the start. No time for foot tape, quickly got dressed, final packing and down all the steps to the main entrance where they were waiting.

Then the start.
The challengers who started the day before has snow covered ground but apparently according to Dominic the winner, anyway, the going was good, hence the record was broken in around 28 hours for the 106 miles.
The full Spine however, the going was extremely wet underfoot with swollen streams which in places had become raging torrents. Heavy rain all the night before had washed away all the snow to add to the wetness.

The first stream to cross was at Kinder Downfall after only around 5 miles or so. All the care and foot preparation, with taping, Goretex shoes, waterproof socks, gaiters and waterproof over trousers came to nothing as at the shallowest part we were wading through a strong current with water above the knees.
Feet wet and freezing racers including myself complaining of lost feeling in their toes. Feeling just starting to come back when we had to cross another another stream after Laddow Rocks.
By this time I had sort of teamed up with two other guys, Matt Clayton and Bruce Ballagher,even though my plan had been to go solo and not be distracted by others. However, I was soon to be thankful for their company.

At this stream we had caught up with two others. One of them had managed to wade across. I was directly behind the other on the edge of a steep muddy bank, when suddenly he was in and shot past me as the flow took him. In desperation his pall shouted "Stop him!" He stretched out his hand with his pole and I grabbed it which brought him back to the bank, and the other two behind managed to drag him out. No sooner had that happened, my foot slipped and I was in. Full immersion up to my neck. One of the guys at the back Matt, had managed to cross, but stepped back in to stop me being swept away downstream. The other guy who had crossed reached out with his pole which I grabbed and managed to clamber up the other bank. I stood up and water just poured out of my jacket sleeves. We all had got across, in shock, but then all we could do was laugh. However we now had to go at speed to warm up and prevent hypothermia. It worked and eventually we were comfortable again.
My plan had been to take it easy paced which I did and then speed up after Standage at around 28 miles. Standage came but I couldn't speed up my legs were dead. A result of being on three pain killers for the week before or what, I don't know.
Anyway we arrived at CP1 Hedbden Bridge over 3 hours later than I had ever been before. This I knew was really not good. With the cut off for leaving there being 24 hours, we only had 3.5 hours left. We left after 2.5 hours without getting any sleep.
Through the many series of saturated fields sliding about in all direction in the quagmire of mud, it was strength sapping.
At Gargrave I told the other two that I was going to bivvy, they decide to stop too. We found some umbrella covered seating outside an Indian Restaurant on the main road and got into out sleeping bags and bivvy bags. A couple of hours later we were on our way once more. The pace was still too slow and we now chasing the cut offs, so early on, this was not good.
Ascending Fountains Fell my legs began to feel better, so I stretched out a bit to try them. The signs were good but I was leaving the other two behind, I slowed and they caught up.
Ascending Pen Y Ghent, approaching the first steps, I looked up and spotted the Japanese cameraman who had been ambushing me periodically since the start. Apparently he had been instructed to keep an eye on me, 70 year old and all that. This had created much banter between the three of us, but by this time it was becoming quite boring.
We had soup in Horton cafe that opened up especially for the Spine Race.
I told the others I was going to the WC, hoping they would carry on, but found them waiting outside.
Legs now feeling much better I stretched them out again, soon leaving my companions. I looked back and was surprised by how much they were behind, obviously struggling. I looked back a couple of times - same situation. I slowed a bit, looked back again and they were even further back. Now worried about even making the cut off at Hawes, feeling a bit bad about leaving Matt and Bruce, none the less, I made the decision to go ahead and get there as fast as I could.
I was storming along now passing others ahead of me quickly and leaving them behind. Up the cam High Road I stopped an American guy (Ben I think, his name) from making a bad nav error and went ahead of him. He shouted to me whether we stayed on this track and I shouted back that we turn off it in about a mile.
At this junction I looked back and pointed with my pole (yes, a pole was vital in the slippery conditions) he acknowledged with a thumbs up.
Then came the long slippery descent in Hawes. My knee and right foot began hurting, it got worse and worse. I looked back repeatedly to check that our American friend was still on the correct line. I could see that he was. By the time I reached the tarmac road, my knee was a mess and my foot even worse, I was now down to a painful shuffle. It was obvious that I would have to retire at Hawes. I turned to take the road shortcut but changed my mind as I realised that if I did that, there would be no turning back, if I decided I wanted to carry on.
America himself limping badly caught me up and we entered Hawes together. His pal who had come over with him had come out to meet him. It turned out this was the guy who had won the Challenger. This was Dominic an English guy living and working across the pond.
By the time I entered the CP2 at the YHA, I had made the decision that I really was going to retire. Not only the knee and foot pain, but with the knowledge that I had no chance of any sleep there as well. I knew that losing time on the cut offs, through simply being late at CP1, sooner or later the cut off would arrive before i reached it, and there would be no chance of any sleep whatsoever. Being late at CP1 was the worst thing ever and had put paid to the rest of the race. If I had, had 2 or 3 hours longer at Hawes I would probably have continued.
It turned out that one of my prior companions Bruce didn't reach Hawes before calling to be collected and the other Matt who wanted to carry on, was withdrawn by medics at Hawes after feeling faint while being assessed. He had been having problems for a while after falling against his water bottle which cracked a rib.
I went home but soon returned in a pals camper van to watched my other two pals Malc and Ian finishing at Kirk Yetholm in a very credible time and in joint 20th place..

 A third pal Adam had retired some miles North of Alston with exceptionally swollen feet and blisters. His wife came up to collect him.
On returning home the two that finished were in quite a bad state of affairs with badly battered feet. Malc was the worst and went to A&E eventually to have a really bad looking toe treated and was put on antibiotics. Adam who had dropped out after after Alston, phoned me. He told how painful his feet were and that he couldn't walk as every time he put his feet down from being elevated they felt like they would burst (I knew well that feeling).
Later that day he noticed a red line on his foot, which by bedtime had reached his knee. Following morning it had reached his groin area.
He went to A&E, where he was immediately admitted and put on an intravenous antibiotic drip. The doctors told him and his wife that they couldn't have left it any later, they had caught it just in time! The infection was spreading up his body.
Now two weeks on I'm glad to say he has fully recovered.
The Spine this year - carnage!
Next year.............?