Spine Race 2024 - Hawes to Langdon Beck

I happened to set off at the same time as another competitor but it was clear we were going at different paces (me being the slower), that we wished each other well and went our separate way.  Its a long old chug up Great Shunner Fell in the dark, but I kind of like it and there was clearly a bit more snow and a lot more ice to contend with.  I was also overtaken once more but I was fairly happy with the progress being made, again running sections that I would normally have walked.  The section between Thwaite and Keld is a traverse along a hillside that includes lots of rocky sections and it dragged on for far longer than I could remember.  I however progressed knowing that entering into Keld is a village hall with a roaring fire.  Although a small diversion from the Pennine Way I decided to make use of it, partly to defrost my water bottles (only one of the two was successfully defrosted such was the ice), but also the opportunity to purchase some home made cake.  I had three slices of Banana Bread for £6 - yum!  I also decided to sort a blister or two in my little toes on one foot that were starting to become problematic (which incidentally were the only foot troubles along the whole route).  I was there about 25 minutes in total which was far too long really, but it was a welcome respite.  I did consider sleep, but again I didn't feel like I was ready.

It was then the slog up to Tan Hill and it was this section where the sleep deprivation really started to hit.  It was very different to last year where it built up slowly from seeing mostly farm animals in various states, to eventually seeing plastic bags growing out of the Cheviots and prayer flags etc.  This time it was a bit more mundane - just extreme tiredness and the need for sleep.  I knew I probably needed to lie down soon but entering Tan Hill still didn't feel like the right place for it.  The next section is Sleightholme Moor which is famed even by Pennine Way standards for its boggyness.  This year was very pleasant as it was frozen solid so progress was easy.  It also coincided with a more alert phase that lasted several hours so I made as much progress as I could whilst I was able to.  During this section I was totally alone and I enjoyed it all the more for this - sometimes its just an amazing feeling to be so isolated and not seeing anyone else in the vicinity.

The alert phase eventually waned and just a few miles from Middleton I was now having to fight the urge to sleep and my progress was suffering for this.  I knew there was a tuck shop at Wythes Hill Farm so the plan was to grab a drink and see whether I could find somewhere sheltered to grab a few minutes of shut eye.  As it turned out the owned appeared just as I arrived at 8am, insisted he made me a cup of tea and allowed me to sit on his garden chair under a covered section.  I closed my eyes and again no sleep (so nothing meaningful at 48 hours into the race), but it was enough to keep me going for a bit.

I arrived into the outskirts of Middleton at 9am, so now about 8-9 hours ahead of last year, albeit the section along the River Tees had to be negotiated as the checkpoint was moved further up the course to Langdon Beck.  Again, I've only ever done this section at night, so made a pleasant difference to do it during the day.  However during this section my shin started to hurt and increasingly so as the morning progressed.  I was trying to tell myself that it was sympathy pains / memory pains from two years previously where the same injury ultimately resulted in me dropping out at Dufton.  Eventually it got worse to the point I had to stop and take pain killers.  It was a worrying moment for me in the race.

As this was happening, the snow started to fall and steadily so as I traversed the River Tees section.  It was lethal as the fresh snow covered the extensive ice and before you knew it you were on the floor.  After several repeats of this I put on the ice spikes - I don't like them as they compress already sore feet but they are effective.  However, the cheap ones that I carry are not really designed for these conditions so were important to use sparingly.  The snow came down heavier and heavier that to the point of reaching the checkpoint there was already a good couple of inches.

Langdon Beck in the snow.

On arrival I had some Chicken Korma that I had been looking forward to for ages, but as is often the way I just couldn't get much of it down.  I asked for it to be set aside and then I'd give it another go after some sleep.  I cant recall exactly how much sleep I had, but I arrived at the checkpoint at 12.20pm and was back out by 3pm, so guess it was in the region of 1hr 45mins.  I fell asleep easily and it was the first meaningful sleep I had in the first 53 hours of the race.  I knew the next section involved some very exposed sections so there was no mucking about - I was wearing three mid-layers and had a couple more in my bag.  Whatever the next section threw at me, at least I'd be warm!


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