Spine Race 2023 - Leg 2 (Hebden Bridge to Hawes)

I left Hebden Bridge by myself unlike last year and this seemed to be the trend for the rest of my Spine Race.  In fact, I'd estimate that I was only with someone else for <5% of the time, and I'd go as far as to say 75% of the trip was so isolated that I wasn't really in sight in either direction of anyone else either, but I was fine with that.  The next stage for me is always the hardest, some 62 miles is difficult to overlook, even if there are opportunities to refuel along the way.  Any opportunity to run was still impossible for me so it was a case of just keep a sustainable pace going and that I did.  Dare I say that bits were even on the border of being enjoyable!

As time progressed my feet were feeling more and more sore.  Not only did I have the ankle pain to contend with, but my feet had clearly started to swell.  I had noticed this coming into CP1, but I didn't seriously consider changing my shoes for two reasons: 1) How early along it was in the race and 2) My eagerness to get on and leave Hebden Bridge.  I was now beginning to rue that decision.  Other than that my energy levels were good.  I rolled into the Lothersdale aid station in otherwise good spirits and helped myself to a bowl of rice pudding and a couple of slabs of home made cake whilst sitting around the open fire.  I arrived at the station a little after 3.30am and pressed on in about 15 mins.

At 7.35am I arrived into Gargrave.  Last year I was too early to avail myself of the local co-op, but this year, being much slower I bought a strawberry protein milkshake which hit the spot!  I was still feeling good, but my feet less so, every step becoming more and more painful as the space inside the shoe became compressed.  Even though by now some of the pain in the ankle joint had subsided, it was impossible to run as my feet were getting totally mashed inside the shoe.  I was tempted to treat the feet, but I knew that if I did that then it would have been almost impossible to put the shoes back on, so I decided to just suffer it.  It was very much now becoming a fixation on getting to Hawes where my bigger shoes awaited, but then it also laid a further fear as my new shoes were only half a size bigger.

I managed to roll into Malham Tarn CP1.5 rather despondent and I felt it was now marginal whether I could even continue.  What made it worse was that at the time of my arrival, there were two others who decided to drop out, one being for the same foot swelling issues that I was having.  I was now having to compartmentalise each little mini section ahead into bitesize chunks as the thought of continuing into Hawes was just too much to bear.  The next mini goal was to get to Horton, where I knew that another 'pop up' aid station awaited.  I was also hopeful that I could avoid the Pen-y-ghent' climb/scramble as snow and ice was now coming into play and I was hopeful of a diversion to cut off some of the distance.  As I crossed Fountains Fell, my hope dissipated when I saw people ahead climbing Pen-y-ghent, so realised I will just have to do the distance.  Going up wasn't so bad, but coming down was in the 'oh my god' level of pain, with the uneven surface and sharp descent bashing the front of my toes against the tip of my shoes.  I lost a bag full of positions in this section alone.

I reached the Horton aid station in the most negative mind set of the whole trip.  I needed to sort my head out, even if I wasn't able to sort my feet in the same way.  A hot radiator controlled the shivering, whilst some food and drink and some positive vibes from those around got the mind into gear.  Next stop Hawes and from there I can make an assessment.


The Cam High Road I generally don't find too bad, but tonight was different.  I just tried to go at a pace that kept the pain to a minimum but at the same time not so slow that it prolonged my agony any longer than I needed to.  As the ascent continued there was more and more lying snow but then the wind picked up considerably too.  I was getting more and more cold and it was very marginal about needing to put on an extra layer.  It had to have been close to touching -15c when counting the wind chill.  The problem with putting extra layers on is that in doing so, inevitably you need to take your outer layer off.  The cold just immediately went straight through me and I was now in serious trouble.  I just about managed to get my extra mid layer on, but struggled to get the zip of my outer shell done back up.  In the end I had to take my gloves off to do it up and even then it took a good couple of minutes.  I was probably close to having lost the battle altogether as my fingers were instantly numb.  It was so bad, that as I write this I seem to have developed frost nip in the tips of my fingers.  They look perfectly normal but the last cm or so of my middle finger on both hands remains numb / pins and needles sensation.  The other fingers have this as well, but only in the tips.  I'm hoping that this isn't permanent damage as the sensation is not pleasant at all, least of all to type.

I rolled into Hawes at about 10.45pm, almost two hours down on last year, but to arrive at all had been a bloody miracle!  I pretty much collapsed on arrival, started shivering a bit and I was generally sorted out by the CP crew.  I knew there were concerns as I saw the CP crew speak to the medic who introduced himself.  I'd explained what had happened, but once I'd had a warm cup of tea inside me and some food I quickly returned to normal.  I think what had happened was that I had got so focussed on getting to Hawes, that my body just went into a bit of a slump.  I'm also the sort of person that leaves it all out on the course; I'm not particularly talented but I have a tendency to be gritty and determined in a way that sometimes pushes the body a bit further than I should.#

Arriving into Hawes checkpoint.

After the race I bumped into the same volunteer who had looked after me at Hawes (you know who you are), who said that throughout the whole event I was one of his three concerns and he normally gets these things spot on.  I was the only one of the three to finish and he was delighted when he saw me at Kirk Yetholm and we had a good hug!  I did mention from this point onward I felt there were more eyes on me but could never quite decide whether it was due to the gaps in the race at this point and the fact I was mostly going solo or whether it was due to the events at Hawes.  I was led to believe a balanced view is taken of each competitor by each control based on reports that come in and they take a holistic view.

Here I was going to have a sleep, the plan was for a max of 2 1/2 hours, but ended up taking 2 1/4 as I woke slightly early and experience tells me when that happens its enough.  The moment of truth appeared and I went to inspect the damage to my feet...which overall weren't as bad as they first appeared.  A few blisters here and there, but not as bad as they could have been all things considered.  It was then time for the new shoes and... they just about fit.  The issue was more with the width than length; I mean letting the laces out so much made them look a bit ridiculous but at least I was still in the game.

I arrived into Hawes in 27th (lost 1 position since Hebden - I lost lots more positions during the stage but was offset by drop outs).  I departed Hawes in 23rd position so clearly I was either being aggressive in sleep strategy and/or good at checkpoint management.

Day 2 review.


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