Spine Race 2023 - Leg 4 (Middleton to Alston)

This was the big day ahead.  No more comparisons for me to last year beyond Dufton as it was a little beyond there where I dropped out in 2022.  It was also the stage I feared the most, last year I had the most horrendous section through Falcon Clints and Cauldron Snout.  I had assumed that if the diversion was set up last year (which I ended up not taking, but that is another story) then it would be a given this year, but no.

No heroics following the River Tees on what is otherwise a very runnable section.  I continued to take the view that at night a solid pace is all that mattered and I wanted to avoid the Shin Splint that started to develop last year and then got steadily worse as I headed to Dufton.  As I was doing this section I could actually feel my shins starting to ache.  Not again!  I think with the benefit of hindsight it was sympathy pains from last year coming through and if you think things are there then they will be, even if they are not there in practice.  Either way, it gave me a bit of a fright!

Just before the Falcoln Clints section I put on my ice spikes for the first time in the journey.  I'm not a massive fan of them, but together with a different brand of shoes, they did the job they were supposed to and I made short work of the section including Cauldron Snout itself which was extremely slippy to say the least.  I'd even go as far to say that there was nothing to fear - what a difference a year makes.  After this there are well made tracks to High Cup Nick.  Last year visibility was so bad I remember saying that I couldn't even see my feet.  This year it was much better, albeit there was heavy snow on the ground.  I was actually enjoying this section, with no head torches in either direction the feeling of total isolation in a snowy landscape was amazing.

High Cup Nick itself was a bit trickier than I thought with quite a few false trails and it took some time to find my way through, but other than that I had descended into Dufton at 6.40am and was very much still in the game!  I only need a brief pit stop (18mins out of the allotted 30) to rehydrate some porridge I was carrying and soon pressed on.

First up was Knock Old Man which is the majority of the climb from the valley and it soon became clear it was a beautiful day with amazing views extending well into the Lake District.  The snow was gradually getting deeper and deeper and I guess it wouldn't have looked ridiculous to use snow shoes.  For me the ascent onwards to Great Dun and then finally Cross Fell were a highlight of the whole trip for me.  It was so alien; the amount of snow was more than I've seen in many years, following a semi-broken trail with amazing views.  It was also lung bursting, especially as the gale force winds that Cross Fell are so well known for were in full swing making it feel somewhere around -10 to -15c.  I stopped by for some famous noodles at the Gregg's Hut bothy and it was then a case of follow the long winding track down to Garrigill and finally Alston.

At the famous Greg's Hut

I was now starting to get a fresh wave of Sleep Monsters so I did what I did the previous time and downed a caffeinated gel.  This time?  Nothing.  I quickly downed a second once for a more powerful hit.  I felt exactly the same.  I guess it gets to the point when your body cant be tricked any further and it just needs sleep.  It became an increasingly slow trudge down to Garrigill and even slower beyond to Alston.  Yet I got there somehow at 2.45pm.  Absolutely cream crackered and having developing a very temporary side lean which concerned the team, but again was just reflective of having put it all out there on the course and there being nothing more to give.

Arriving into Alston

Just a few hundred metres from the checkpoint.

One portion of the famous Alston lasagne was all I could muster.  #epicfailure.  It was time for bed despite there still being some daylight left.  I felt it better to utilise better quality sleep rather than poor quality outside in the dark.  2 hours of sleep was all I took and I hoped it was enough.  I arrived into Alston in 24th position (gained 5 places on the course) and departed in 19th at 6.30pm.

Leg 4 review.


Popular posts from this blog

Spine Race - Some Stats (2012-2024) - Updated following 2024 race.

Ranger Ultras - High Peak 100k

Ranger Ultras Pennine Bridleway 270km