Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A review of the Oxfam Trailtrekker - part 1

There was a briefing and meal organised for the Friday night at the school where we were due to start on the Saturday morning. With 350 teams competing, if you can call it competing, there were 4 start times, 6am, 7am, 8am, and 9am. Being that we were to come from Leeds we decided to go for a 9am start so our sleep wasn't limited. If we were camping at Aireville School as some people were I think we'd have likely gone for 6am.

Naturally the meal was a hefty pasta feast as we were carb loading for the 3 days prior to the walk. The briefings were at every hour from 6pm until 9pm, due to the volume of participants we wouldn't all have fit in the briefing room at the same time, 1400 people is a lot of folk. The briefing only reiterated the info we'd read in the booklets that were avalable online, what I hadn't realised though was that over the 100km we were to ascend the equivalent of Ben Nevis and Snowdon put together which is a fair challenge.

We were back in the morning for the breakfast that the Oxfam Trailtrekker had put on for us which was a fried breakfast and porridge. Apparently fried breakfast is good for slow release energy and is good for morale to kick off with. We'd been eating like pigs for a few days though, so much so that I was getting bored of eating, it was all for a purpose mind.

We got away at just after 9 and the walk took us through Aireville Park and along the canal to Gargrave my knee was starting to give me grief at quite an early stage, like within a couple of miles, which was quite disconcerting and I was wondering if it was gonna be my downfall. In fairness it was only 7 months since I'd had reconstructive surgery on my knee and i hadn't really given it time to settle down. I couldn't sack it off at such an early stage though. I couldn't quite get the cycling shorts in the right place either, I wasn't sure if washing them had compromised their integrity and I was altering them every few hundred yards, this too was starting to concern me, if I couldn't get this right now only a few miles in what would I be like at 40 or 50 miles, chafed the living daylights out of, that was what! Not good. All my work trying to prevent chafing would have been in vain.

The intention was to breeze through the first water stop, which we did only stopping for the loo and to get food out of our bags, which we ate on the move. I'd made stacks of peanut butter sandwiches and cheese and pickle sandwiches, I had bananas, cashews, haribos, tracker bars, boosts, and enough dextro's to sink a cruise liner. This was all to be washed down with whatever water i could carry and 16 bottles of lucozade sport (sports drinks are better as they have salt in to replace the salt you lose through sweating).

The first check point on the Trailtrekker (our support teams were allowed into check points but not into the water stops) was at Malham. At all stops, be it water stops or check points, there are devices whereby you carry a toggle on your wrist that you put into a slot and it recognises you as you check in. This has two main functions, one is so that friends and family can log on online and see where you are and the other is so that the organisers can track you for safety reasons and so that if you go missing along the hiking trail they can identify your last known position and search for you from there.

At Malham we had a quick sock change to keep the blisters at bay and restocked on food and were off again. This section we were faced with the ascent of Malham Cove which is a series of steps all the way up to the limestone pavement. My knees were really suffering here but I seemed to be suffering less with my groin so it appeared I'd managed to prevent chafing to a reasonable extent, there was still a long way to go though. For the major ascents I'd decided to use walking poles in an effort to conserve energy. There is a payoff with poles though I find, that your shoulders end up in pain. This ascent out of Malham was reasonable but that wasn't the end of it, we just kept on going up and up and up to about a height of 660 metres.  When we got to the top of Fountains Fell you get a great view of the back of Pen Y Gent but at the same time what goes up must come down. I don't like going down, or should I say that my knees don't like going down. Some of the other guys love going downhill and flew, I was on knee preservation so took it steady and in pain.

At the bottom of this hill was the next water stop where I had a coffee and used the loo. We took five minutes to patch up feet and blisters before we headed off. For some reason, I can only assume there was no phone reception for the check in units, the check in point was a few hundred metres down the road. We did this before we struck off on the hiking trail up and over the side of Pen Y Gent before we descended into Horton in Ribblesdale for the next check point.

Again our support crew were there, along with a surprise and incredibly morale boosting visit from my parents, and at 25 miles or thereabouts our feet were starting to suffer. We stuck pins in all the blisters that looked like they'd pop as my quest in how to prevent blisters had clearly failed and patched them up. I used blister plasters and taped them on with zinc oxide tape then put on fresh inner socks and outer socks. At this stage though, whilst sore, they were still bearable. We had hot soup, made for us by our support team again great for morale. With the same swift process of stocking back up with food that was now becoming a chore to eat but without fuel we're going nowhere.


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