You only sing when you’re winning….
So, where do I start? At the beginning then.
2014, I entered the Spine race, DNF’d with 34 miles to go 2014 blog
2015, Spine race again, finished but with breaks in the race due to the severe weather 2015 blog
2016 No Spine
2017 ah, here we are again then.
Making my way up to the race & yet again, I stayed over at Liz & Simons house, it’s becoming a bit of a tradition this. We met up the day before at registration then went back to theirs for dinner & wine, maybe a bit too much wine for me, but hey-ho I was off adventuring the next day. Morning came around way too quickly & I found myself double guessing my kit choices. It still amazes me that no matter how many races I do, I’m never quite sure that I’ve made the right choice of kit. However, with Simon telling me we had to leave in 10 minutes, I sorted it out pretty damn quickly.
Off to Edale & let’s get it done. The weather was wet & cold at Edale & the village hall was packed but we quickly got a small space by the table to finalise all the last details. I got my tracker fitted & then caught up with a few old friends who were also racing, crewing & supporting. I love the camaraderie of these events, we all know just how tough it’s going to be & there’s never any “Machismo” from the veterans, just that steely eyed stare that speaks volumes on its own.
Just before 8am we were told that there was a slight problem with some of the trackers & that the race was delayed by 30 minutes, no worries, just more time for faffing.
Section one:- Edale to Hebden Bridge
8:36AM & we were off, I had no expectations this time round. I’d trained reasonably well up to a couple of months previously when I’d got injured hyper-extending my back at work. I’d worked really hard with my osteopath to get me to the start & now it was up to me to get to the finish. I’d talked over a “Strategy” with a couple of my buddies & the general consensus was to take it easy up until Hawes to see how the back was then to give it guns if I felt it was ok.
Heading off & I took it fairly easy for the first few miles with a steady climb up Jacobs Ladder & onto Kinder Scout, we didn’t have the snow that the challengers had the day previously, we had all the meltwater & slush to battle through. My feet although nicely dry in their Dexshell socks were blinking freezing as we just trudged through it all. After a few minutes, I just gave up trying to avoid the mud & puddles as there was just too many of them. Reaching Kinder Downfall, I knew I’d have a wet journey ahead as I had to cross the waterfall about 25mts further upstream than normal as the flow was pretty frisky. Coming off Kinder, the route through Mill Hill, Bleaklow Head to Torside reservoir was absolutely horrific. Flooded paths, streams that had become raging torrents & peat bogs made for an horrendous journey. Talking to the MRT team at Torside, they said it was some of the worst conditions underfoot they had seen in years. I made a mental note to myself “Footcare, footcare, footcare”. After the 2014 race my footcare is a priority & would be doubly so if the rest of the race was like this. Leaving Torside, I cracked on towards Black Hill & met up with Spine Veteran Dave Lee & two others just by Wassenden Head, we stayed together as a group for the next few miles. Glad we did as well, as just as we went across the A672 through the carpark towards the M62, I fell into a peat bog, not just any peat bog this bugger was deeper than I could reach down with my pole. I was floundering about like an upside down turtle slowly sinking into the bog when Dave & the others grabbed me by the straps of my pack & hauled me out. Bloody hell, thought my number was up there.
Soaked through & stinking of God knows what, we carried on towards The White House Pub & eventually the Hebden Bridge Checkpoint. MY CP strategy was to eat & then push on through to CP 2 but the mud on the first section had near broken me so I decided to grab some sleep. I got some food inside me first then headed off for a 90min kip, waking up & then getting some breakfast. Sorting out my feet I then cracked on alone towards Hawes & CP2.
Section two:- Hebden Bridge to Hawes
Making reasonable time I made it into Gargrave & the co-op for a can of coke & a pasty, sheer nectar when you’re hungry.. Next point was Malham Cove & heading up onto the moonscape, I picked up a couple of “Stragglers”, moving over the rocks, my new compatriots were questioning the nav, I just replied that I was going that way & left them to it, they came into CP 1.5 about 30mins after I did so they did follow in the end. The worst thing you can do is navigate by committee, just set your compass & crack on, you’ll know soon enough if you’ve gone wrong.
Next target for me was the cafe in Horton in Ribblesdale, I was looking forward to having breakfast in there. The weather was a lot kinder to me than in 2015 & I made great time up to Fountains Fell & that’s when it all started to go wrong. Going over Fountains was relatively easy but on the descent, I slipped & slid down about 30ft ripping something in my left hand side. I lay there thinking “Christ, that hurt” I slowly stood up & managed a sluggish crab like walk for a while. The DNF monster was now wide awake in my head as I crabbed my way towards Pen-Y-Ghent, slowly but surely though I started to walk a little straighter & an hour later I was at the scramble on Pen-Y-Ghent. Steeling myself as I don’t like heights I started up, I didn’t get too far as I slipped on something & then came crashing down again. I only fell about 10-12ft but I smacked myself on my already injured left side. The pain was pretty severe & I just lay there for a couple of moments checking that I hadn’t broken anything. I think my pack had probably taken the brunt of the impacts. Picking myself up again, I slowly made the ascent up the scramble & over the other side. My crab like walk had returned & was a lot worse, that DNF monster was now laughing at me & poking me in the side with every step. This was going to be a long night. I finally made it into the cafe & asked if there was a medic about. She gave me a quick exam & suggested that it may be best if I stopped there. Well, let’s not be hasty I said. Ok then, but I had to have a full checkup at Hawes. Deal!
I had my breakfast then moved on to Hawes, I wasn’t crabbing now but every slight slip & slide was painful & yes, there were bloody hundreds of them. Finally making it into Hawes, I dumped my kit & grabbed some food. I talked to the medics & told them about my fall, they said they were expecting me & I said that I’d get some sleep first then see them. Walking to my dorm I bumped into Peter Westfield who convinced me to see the medics before I went to sleep. Ok, off I went. So I had my first thorough exam & told the Dr exactly what happened & where the pain was. He said he had a slight concern over whether I’d broken a rib or damaged my spleen but double checked me over & told me to come back after my sleep.
Sleep done & I duly reported back to the medics for yet another examination, everything was ok but they told me that in order to continue the race I had to agree to regular checks at every roadhead or checkpoint that they decided to meet me at. This was a great opportunity, they were prepared to go out of their way to help me get to the finish line & I wasn’t going to turn them down. “Deal” I said & poked that DNF monster in the eye!
Giving me extra advice on managing the pain, & with the words “Don’t be afraid to press that button” they sent me on my way.
Section three:- Hawes to Middleton
Leaving Hawes, I made reasonable time over Great Shunner Fell & onto Thwaite, I was moving slower than I wanted to but I was staying warm & I’d estimated that I’d hit the checkpoints within time. Entering Thwaite, a young lady “Lisa” I think her name was, came running up the road asking if I wanted a tea or coffee, crikey, yes please a coffee would be lovely & off she went. I sat on the wooden seats in the village & she came running back. She was avidly following the race & was up making tea or coffee for any runner that went through. It’s people like Lisa that can really make a race. Drinking my coffee & moving off it was then round to the foot smashing Kisdon Side, this section destroyed my feet a couple of years ago so it’s always nice to know that’s coming…
Made it easily through the side, moving a lot slower than normal probably helped though & my feet were in really good shape coming out of it. Next stop is the sheep Byre just before Tan Hill I wanted to bivvy out in.
Damn, the byre had been cleaned out & I only had a couple of inches of straw on the floor, not the couple of feet I’d had the last time. No matter, out with the bivvy & a couple of hours kip are in order. Two hours later I’m up & moving on to Tan Hill & my next medical exam. I reached the pub a lot later than I hoped but due to the injury I was moving a lot slower than normal. Into the van & yep, on with the medical. Cue lots of prodding & poking & questions.
“Does this hurt?”
“Does this hurt?”
“Does this hurt?”
Yes, everything hurts if I’m honest, my left side is just agony to touch.
“Right, ok. Have you peed since the fall ?”
“Was it clear?”
Yes, I keep a check on that.
“Have you moved your bowels since the fall?”
No, is that a cause for concern?
“No, I just want you to check if there’s blood in there”.
Oh ok, shall I drop you a message if there is? I asked with a little grin…
“Err no, I’m good thanks, just let the Doctor know at the next aid station if there is”
Ah ok then.
Never thought you’d ask
The things the poor medics have to put up with.
Drinking my coffee, I mentally prepared myself for the bogs at Tan Hill, I’d had a pretty bad time there a few years ago & preparing for the worst was the best way I could get myself through it. As it happens, I went through relatively unscathed & with a slight spring in my step, a very painful spring but it was still there. Onto Middleton I strode.
Hitting the Middleton CP I was greeted by the marshals who directed me to take my wet kit off, & they took it away to be numbered & dried as best as possible. Brian the paramedic came up & told me that I was wanted for another exam. Jeez, I know I had to have them to stay in the race but I could I at least eat first. “No time” he said, “we need to make sure you’re ok” Off to the medical section & bloody hell fire, talk about a full workout, these chaps were tremendous, talked to me about the fall, took every test going, asked where it hurt, on a scale of 1-10 what was it like, poked, prodded & poked again. Blood pressure & heart rate taken, both a little high for me.
Why’s that high I asked?
“It’s because you’re in a lot of pain, do you want to continue the race?”
F*ck yeah, course I do.
“Well we’re satisfied that you’re doing ok apart from the pain but it’s not our final decision to make. We’ve got to talk to our boss to see if you can go on”.
Bollocks! I thought, I’ve just come all the way to Middleton to get stopped by someone sitting in an office somewhere who doesn’t know the situation. Ok, remain calm Allan, let the Dr do his best.
“Get some sleep & we’ll let you know what happens”
Right, ok, but just to let you know, I’m not stopping until Kirk Yetholm.
“Don’t worry Allan, we can see you’re determined to get it done”.
Time for some food & then sleep, a couple of hours later & I was back eating & I grabbed the medic, what’s happening then?
“Ah, I’ve talked to the boss, & we’ve decided to let you carry on as long as you stay on top of your pain meds you’ll be fine”
BEST.NEWS.EVER. I nearly gave him a big sloppy kiss there & then. Scoffing down my food I quickly gathered my kit, got dressed, said goodbye to the medics, thanked them for their help &then buggered off out of the CP before anyone could change their mind.
Section four:-Middleton to Alston
Next big obstacle to cross is Cauldron Snout, I was a tad worried about the scramble up as my last attempt at a bit of “rock climbing” hadn’t exactly been entirely successful but coming up to it, I just pressed on as best I could. I was totally shattered at this time & the climb up was blinking painful to say the least, every stretch with my left arm & left leg just sending shooting pains everywhere & in the end I think I just hit a form of ZEN, total pain to the point that I just carried on. Hitting the top, I had a coffee with Ben Taylor & he said he was surprised I was still in after he saw me earlier, I told him so was I…
Next objective was Dufton & a little bivvy out in the orchard just outside the village. Always good to have goals, however, I was really dying on my arse at this point & crossing High Cup Nick I found myself sleepwalking a bit too close to the edge on a couple of occasions. Ah, sod it, I found a little hollow in the ground, sent the message “#91 Allan Rumbles Bivvying down for a couple of hours” & fell fast asleep.
Waking up, I descended into Dufton & met Tom Jones, we had a good chat about the timings over a cup of tea & a couple of egg rolls. I said that I felt comfortable with my speed & despite the pain I was still staying warm & keeping inside the cut-offs. Leaving Dufton, the next big push was to go over Cross Fell, but the reward was the Noodles at Johns Noodle bar in Gregs hut. It’s the little things that keep you going.
Gregs hut is manned by the & it isn’t lightly that I say this, the Spine legends that are Paul Shorrock & John Bamber & you are always assured a terrific welcome if you get that far into the race. Ascending the fells, the wind & weather got worse & worse but I was keeping warm & maintaining a slow but steady pace, up onto the top of Cross Fell & a couple of the SST were there to greet me. They double checked everything was ok & on I went, soon reaching Gregs Hut. I made it!
Entering the hut, I was greeted by the medic barking orders at me, kit off in that room, then get yourself in here to warm up & eat. Good man! I finally met up with John Bamber having not seen him all the race & we shook hands & started nattering like fish wives. Spine racer Peter Gold was asleep in the hut when I got there & he woke up when we were talking. He looked at me sternly & asked “Are you a racer?” Nah, not any more I said.
Tucking into my noodles with cup a soup mixture, I said how the cuisine had excelled itself again this year, trust me, nothing has ever tasted as nice as those noodles did then. Not wanting to overstay my welcome & very conscious of the cut-offs I ate & ran so to speak, making excellent time into Alston & CP 4.
Into the cp & again, a marshal asked for my kit, took it off me & away I went to see the medic, the usual questions about the pain, my med regime & if I felt I could go on. All the time the medics were stressing how important it was that if I got into trouble then not to hesitate in pressing the button. Food & sleep were again my priority & I managed to get an hour or so downtime. Getting ready to leave the marshal brought my kit out.
Err, these aren’t my trousers mate.
“They were on the hanger”
No, I had a pair of Berghaus goretex, these are happy shopper quality. Can you go get my trousers please.
He came back with another pair of troos, again, not mine. By this time I was starting to lose my cool a little. Surely, you numbered them when you took them off me & put them away with the rest of the kit.
“Yes I did”
So where are they then?
“Somebody must’ve taken them”
That was it, tiredness overtook me & I fair exploded at them, my temper was made slightly worse by another marshal asking if I had a spare pair. No mate, I usually don’t carry another pair of £150 trousers around with me on the off chance I’m going to get a pair lifted. F*ck this I thought & went into the kit room, no sign of my troos anywhere. Someone had actually taken them, unbelievable! Nothing to be done now, I went into the lost property section with the marshals & grabbed another pair of happy shopper leggings. I was not a happy man, I had the Cheviots coming up & I would have to traverse them in totally inadequate kit. Leaving the CP I told the marshals to get something sorted out & to have my trousers back to me by Greenhead. “There’s no marshals at Greenhead” I don’t fucking care, get them to me by then. It takes a lot to get Angry Allan out of his box on a race but when he’s out, he’s a bastard.
Section five:- Grumpy bollocks goes from Alston to Bellingham
Yomping down the road towards Bellingham, I thought I’d just ring the HQ & tell them, as I had lost trust in Alston CP & just wanted to make sure that they knew the situation & maybe they could track down the troos. Yep, they’d been informed & I had a good honk at them but I was tired & very pissed off about the situation. My race was already teetering on a knife edge & having shit kit crossing the Cheviot could finish me off.
Soon enough, I calmed down & concentrated on the job at hand & good job I did as well. This section was awful, mud everywhere, bogs, you name it, it had it. Thankfully I met up with a few other runners & chatting to them took my mind off Alston & we made reasonable progress towards Greenhead. Tiredness took again though, the combination of the race & being injured was really taking its toll on me now & just before Greenhead on Blenkinsopp common I bivvied out again. The field was flooded but I crushed down some reeds & bivvied on top of them. It was the warmest I had been all race & I truly didn’t want to get up 90minutes later. But, get up I did..
Meeting up with John the marshal (Le mans 24hr Scalextric fame) at the crossing of the A69 he said that a load of folk had bivvied down where he was the night previous & they had quite the party. Dammit, sounded like I missed a good laugh there. On passing Greenhead & up onto Hadrians Wall, I made steady progress, the pain in my side constantly there like an annoying little brother, painful but nothing you can do about it.
I met up with Karl Shields marshalling along Hadrians Wall & he reminded not to miss the left turn as a couple already had, I told him I was looking for it about two miles before, blinking thing was still miles away… A cup of refreshing tea later & I was back on my way, a short stroll up the wall to the turn & back into the mud & quagmire again. Jeez, this stuff was just energy sapping. Head down & just keep going, I could smell the CP, I just needed to get there now. Through the forest & moors & I would be there. Seemed to be a lot further away than I remembered though & it took me an age to get there, but eventually I got to the Brown Rigg lodges. I was still inside the recommended cut off & so decided to get my head down for an hour. Have to say I was remarkably well looked after at Bellingham, I think I’m still eating the lump of cheese I was given to chew on with my dinner. Up & getting ready to leave & I had another quick check up & kit check to make sure I had everything to cross the Cheviot, Yeah everything apart from my sodding trousers I said.
Section five:- Bellingham to Kirk Yetholm
Setting off I made good time towards Byrness but found myself walking in circles when the fog came down suddenly. No mind, don’t panic & retrace my steps as best I could. Getting my GPS out I quickly found my way back on track & before I knew it, I was on the diversion through to Redesdale Forest & on my way to Byrness. Just before the junction of the forest I heard a car zooming up the road behind me, bloody hell, I thought, he’s shifting along, so I sped up a bit. Didn’t quite fancy getting run over this close to the finish. The car came screeching to a halt behind me & someone jumped out & called my name! Blimey, I’m famous….
It was Matt & Ellie from Summit Fever who had popped up to see how I was doing, one quick interview later I was on my way again. Byrness by noon was the target & I was well within that timescale.
Through the forest & I was treated to the most amazing sunrise, it was so good I even started to sing a little Opera, I can tell the drugs were working because for one, I don’t know any opera & two, I can’t bloody well sing. Still, it made for an interesting couple of hours. Into Byrness & I met up again with Peter, who asked how I was. Still good, still full of drugs & still going was my reply. I wanted to grab 30minutes sleep here but I was buzzing from that amazing sunrise so I had some food & then cracked on back down the path, up Byrness Hill & onto The Cheviots.
I was treated to amazing views for about the first 30 minutes on the trail & then the fog came in, visibility down to feet yet again. Sod it, gps straight out I wasn’t going to get lost this close to the finish. Head down to grind out the finish I was tripping along nicely to Hut 1. I treated myself to one of my expedition meals, the other one was for hut 2. A quick chat with the crew about that amazing sunrise & I was on my way again. The weather had socked in & it was freezing, after a few little slips I knew it was time to get the Microspikes out. Crikey, if it was this cold this side then it’ll be bloody awful after hut 2.
Missing my left turn I started to walk up to the Cheviot, I quickly realised my mistake though & backtracked, probably only added about 10minutes to my time though but enough to annoy. After the worlds worst descent I made the short climb to Hut 2. Just the Schil to do now & I would be home. Scoffing my 2nd expedition meal, I readied myself for the last section.
Up & onto the Schil, I stopped to phone my wife & told her where I was, yes she already knew, the tracker tells all doesn’t it. Ah ok, I won’t be too long then & headed off down to KY. Pushing along as fast as I could, snail like pace I made terrible time down to the town. I had a serious energy failure, nothing in the tank & I stopped leant on my poles & had a 10 min snooze. No sweets left for that quick sugar hit so I grabbed a pack of pro plus & took six to give me a quick energy boost! It worked, I was trotting down the lane when I saw the finish. I turned to the Japanese cameraman who had tracked me from hut 2 & said “Shall we run?” Yes, he nodded, let’s do it. So we ran, it wasn’t fast but felt like we were storming it. I could hear the crowd shouting & by heck, there was a big crowd there. It seemed to be getting bigger & louder as I approached & yes, they were shouting my name. Get in! I was loving it, I flew across the green & nearly came a cropper stepping onto the road. Making my way to the hotel I finally touched that wall. That last push had nearly broken me & I did swear a bit standing up. John Bamber gave me my medal & a massive hug for finishing, have to admit, I did hug back.
One shell shocked, tired but happy finisher.
Many thanks to all the crew & marshals on the race, without them there would be no event but my special thanks go to the Exile Medics team who went above & beyond in their duties to get me to the finish line.
Oh & the injury, my physio says it’s some tearing to the abdominal muscles & a groin strain. Amazing that it can hurt that much really.
Main points to remember:
Starting the Spine race with an injury. Not really a good idea.
Continuing the race after picking up another injury. Not really a good idea
Getting the job done. BEST FEELING EVER!
Final footnote, to the chap, I assume it was a chap who took my troos at the Alston CP, seriously, if you wanted them that badly you only had to ask. I would’ve given them to you. Keep them now & make good use of them, just next time ask. Oh, and I put your happy shopper pants back in the lost property.