Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Spine Race Epic Adventure !! ( Part 2 )

Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3 ( 33 miles )

So we'd made it to Hawes, Checkpoint 2.
Once in we started getting a picture of the attrition taking place on the race behind us. Several runners had withdrawn through various injuries and one runner with hypothermia. Now there were only 10 left in the race.
I was pretty dog tired, ready for plenty of food and a few hours sleep. I also needed to get my feet checked out. The harsh mix of terrain, frozen rough ground, rock, deep bog, mud and stream crossings were all having an effect on my now throbbing feet.
I removed my shoes and socks to reveal some pretty impressive blisters and a few raw spots. I'd been doing my best to treat any early signs of hotspots, but this terrain was mashing my feet.
Now was my introduction to the 'feet team', Anna, Becky and Dan. Here on in I developed a love / hate relationship with them for the rest of the race.
Whilst I had my fill of a really tasty Muligatawny soup Anna got to work draining blisters, squeezing my right big toe to remove the fluid & pressure building behind my nail. To say the air was blue is putting it mildly !
If you are reading this and have a desire to take part in the 268 mile Spine race, at some point you will need to embrace and deal with the pain in your feet !
Trust me, in the picture above I'm not laughing !!
Once my feet were dealt with and I'd had my fill of soup, noodles, bread, tea etc, I settled down to 2 hours of blissful sleep. I'd been on the go for 41 hours without sleep.
Surprisingly I awoke refreshed. I waddled penguin-like to Becky who then dressed my feet, taping up some of the damaged areas.
I re-stocked my race pack from my drop bag, then along with Steve and Richard, departed Checkpoint 2 for Middleton-in-Teasdale, Checkpoint 3.
Our stomachs were full, we were well rested, our spirits high and we were on a mission to Finish !
We had overtaken Mark Caldwell without realising, the previous night.
Mark had decided to Bivi down on the trail somewhere between Horton and Hawes. I was now ahead of Mark.
However if I wanted to win the Elite class there was no letting up.
Mark Caldwell is an incredibly driven, determined athlete, with a wealth of mountain experience.  He just keeps going and going and going, no matter what the pain, he'll push through it.

Mark Caldwell

Steve, Richard and myself headed out of Hawes and up over Shunner Fell ( 716 metres ). The day was beautiful, a cloudless sky, bright sun but extremely cold. The route up over Shunner was very icey. Whole sections of the route were virtually impassable. We had to take detours around the ice onto peat bogs. The moorland was desolate but had a beauty to it, an untouched landscape. After Thwaite we passsed by Arn Gill Scar with gaping cave entrances, and onto Keld.
Still the banter between us all rolled on. I looked back often into the darkness to see if I could spot Mark's headtorch, but it seemed we were well ahead.

From Keld we crossed over Stonesdale Moor, conversation was dropping off, we were all starting to feel the biting cold. Richard then broke the silence with  a random 10 questions at Steve and myself. This took our thoughts away from the cold for a while.
Our next aim was Tan Hill Inn situated 520 metres above sea level.
On arrival we burst through the door into a lovely warm bar. I asked for food, to which Sarah the barmaid replied they were shut. I was totally downcast. Then everyone in the bar started laughing.
We then feasted on the best ever homemade Mushroom soup, huge chips and giant mugs of coffee. Fantastic !!
We were asked as to why we were out on such a god forsaken night on the Pennine Way. We explained we were in a race to Scotland, not just for ourselves, but also to raise money for charity.
So on hearing this the Tan Hill Inn gave us free food and coffee, and a customer donated money to the Help for Heroes charity. This restored our faith in the human race. A great bunch of people.

We headed off into the night and onto the peat bogs. It was bitterly cold but the Tan Hill Inn had warmed us up. 17 miles to go and we would be at Checkpoint 3.

The temperature was around -10, and in the wind it reduced further. Steve and I were feeling great. Eating regularly, keeping our furnaces stoked we marched on. Richard was starting to succumb to the cold.
Further on the route became obscure, difficult to navigate. This slowed us down and the cold started to affect Richard more. I kept urging Richard to eat, I asked him if he had another layer to add. He did, but couldn't make up his mind if he wanted to put it on or not.
The pace was slowing and the cold was now starting to affect Steve and I.
Richard was becoming increasingly confused, his speech started to slur. He was slipping into Hypothermia.
Richard made the decision enough was enough, his race was run after 135 miles. He wasn't warming up. Richard's core temperature had probably been dropping over the last 2 days.

So at Blackton Reservoir he decided to call for rescue.
Richard turned on his reception !
So Steve switched on his reception !!
So I tried my phone, turned it on, reception !!!

By this time Richard had taken off his pack and there was some relief that it was all now over. Errr....
not quite. Richard asked what we were going to do, I replied, 'put your pack on and we're going a further 1.5 Km across the fields to a road-head' Richard was not happy, Steve and I chased him up and off we went.
Fortunately 1 Km further on I managed to get some phone signal, so I phoned the Spine team with the grid reference. Steve and I sat with Richard until he was collected.
Part of me was sorry to see Richard go part of me relieved.
Richard is a great guy, spend any time in his company and he'll brighten your day. However in his hypothermic condition he was slowing Steve and I down, to the point that we could also become victims to Hypothermia.
Richard Lendon retiring from the Spine race at 135 miles is no failure. Prior to the race, the furthest Richard had ever run was 50 miles in favourable conditions. On the Spine race he covered 135 miles of the most brutal, gnarly unforgiving terrain imaginable in extreme cold weather conditions.
This is an impressive feat, and I expect Richard will be back toeing the Start line in 2013.

With Richard now safely in the hands of the Spine team, Steve and I cracked on.
We upped the pace considerably, I now meant business, I had a lead to maintain.
Navigation was spot on and we flew through the next 5 Km to Middleton-in-Teesdale. Ironically the last 5 Km since Richard had been picked up were the easiest of the entire section.
On reaching Checkpoint 3 we met Richard, who was now in great spirits and back to cracking jokes. A brilliant guy !!

Feet were the order of the day again, more lancing, draining, squeezing, swearing etc etc. Then huge feed followed by a pleasant 2 hour sleep, Perfick !!!

To be continued.......


  1. Nice one Gary. Enjoying the blogs so far and will be looking forward to part 3.

  2. You're still not selling it to me!!!
    Good read though!

  3. Awesome to everyone that went for it, and to your conquest Gary! Gary Tompsett

  4. A gripping read, Gary! Keep 'em coming!!