Monday, 12 August 2013

A review of the Oxfam Trailtrekker - part 3

Now on painkillers we left for Conistone. I was in absolute agony here the blister I'd just treated on my right heel was killing me and my boot was rubbing on my left ankle. My stomach was still playing silly devils and my knee was giving me grief. I figured that we had about 7 hours to go if all went well, then it would all be over. The only saving grace that I didn't have to concern myself with chafing.

The light was just coming back here but it was still absolutely freezing, even with all the layers on with mittens and hat I couldn't get warm and we were some way into this section before I finally shed a layer.

It was also on this section of the hiking trail where questions were asked about the feasibility of completing. I'd stopped for a second and when I caught up with the other two guys they divulged that they thought they didn't have sufficient in the tank for another 30k's, I advised I'd come too far to sack it so I was going to plough on - likely with another team for safety reasons. One of the guys accepted the challenge and said he was with me. Dave was looking greener and greener by the minute. Not long later there was a tent giving warm punch laid on by Oxfam Trailtrekker, there was a steward here and a girl who was retiring. Dave took the opportunity and gracefully bowed out. Gutting that one of the blokes you've come so far with and has endured so much with you isn't able to continue with you. He was completely shot and had absolutely nothing left in him, he was hallucinating and didn't have the energy to keep his head upright any more. He later admitted he thought it was down to the fact he'd not eaten enough. We gave him a hug and left him in capable hands.

We headed through Kettlewell and on to Conistone. Our support team met us again, we weren't there long. We'd sacked off food now and were relying on dextro tablets, Kendal mint cake, lucozade sport and nurofen. I figured that we wouldn't have time to digest the food for it to work, plus I was so bored of eating. We just troughed sugar and high/fast energy stuffs to drive us on.

We were now only 21.5kms from home. I thought this wasn't far, I would normally not even be feeling any fatigue on this but after 80kms its a bit of a different matter. The climb out of Conistone was not an easy one either, well not at this stage in the game. Now every step was excruciating. I'd not changed my socks at the last stop thinking I could endure 20kms from here, after all it wasn't far, what an error. My feet felt massively bruised on the soles and the blisters were biting badly, the failure in my quest to prevent blisters was overwhelming. It was now a case of one foot in front of the other, I kept saying "inching ever closer" repeatedly to myself. This was fast becoming the most painful thing I'd ever done in my life. At the top of here the path leads you over moorland which was mud that had dried to be like uneven concrete which again isn't great for the soles of your feet. About halfway over the moorland though there is a section of about 100 metres of road. There was an ice cream man here giving all the Trailtrekker participants an ice cream, a great touch.

On the next section we were talking to some guys, I divulged the pain I was going through, they suggested I change my shoes, I told them I'd gone light and didn't have any, so they suggested socks, again - I'd gone light and didn't have any, one of the guys offered me a pair or his. My team mate had a pair which he let me use, this eased the pain and onwards we went. It was a nice gesture of the other chap though underlining the feeling of camaraderie that runs through all participants of the event. Before long we were onto the stretch into Hetton and the temperature was starting to soar as the sun was high in the sky.

It was uneven underfoot and was sore, I think the softest of marshmallows would have been met with a wince at this stage. The road into Hetton was like a Roman road and was as straight as a dye for as far as the eye can see, which wasn't great for morale, I found the best way to deal with it was to look at the floor as I trudged on.

At the end of this straight we turned right into Hetton and walked to the church where the water stop had been set up for us. I was running out of steam at 90 miles an hour now but this was the time to dig deep and find the resolve to get to the end, it was no distance now (comparatively) to get to the finish line.

The Oxfam Trailtrekker crew were amazing here though, they were all very chatty about nothing in particular trying to keep us all buoyant. As soon as we arrived they told us to sit down and take a load off our feet and asked us what we wanted. I asked for a coffee and a juice which were in my hands in no time, shortly followed by a tray of biscuits for us to help ourselves to. We were also asked if we had any bottles they could fill for us, I asked for my camelbak to be half filled as I didn't want to carry the extra weight. One of the support crew asked how many were left in our team and on discovering there were only 2 he told us to join another team in case one of us passed out en route to the finish line. Which we duly did (join another team, not pass out) but with refreshed fire in our bellies and the line so close we were now fuelling solely on Kendal mint cake and dextro's and were really pushing for the finish.

Coming out of Hetton we headed left through a stile and the hiking trail took us alongside the stream. Essentially we followed the stream all the way to Flasby where we went through a gate and took a left over the stream. The road went up the hill and passed a farm before the hill continued through a countryside field. We were now continuously chewing our way through Kendal mint cake and dextro's. The feet were still pretty painful but were numbed by the adrenaline of now being able to smell the finish line. The route continued through High Wood then into what was Crag Wood although this has now been felled.

Before long the uphill is done and its downhill all the way into Skipton although it still is about 3 miles or so to go. This slog whilst painful was endurable as the finishing line was lunging towards us. Before long we were heading over the overpass with Skipton in sight. We were marshaled through a housing estate and into Aireville Park. This truly was the last straight of was had been the toughest undertaking of my life both physically and mentally.

My wife and my teammates girlfriend appeared in the distance, cheering us along, what a welcome sight they were. My shoulders could take no more and I offloaded my pack onto my wife, it was as though my shoulder muscles were continuously being stabbed with red hot needles. A few yards later the hiking trail arrived at the school gates and were met by marshals and supporters. Our numbers were radioed it to someone, I had no idea who. As we rounded the corner onto the field the finish line came into sight and the cheers from the supporters became louder. We crossed the finish line, completing the Oxfam Trailtrekker, 100km (63.5 miles) in around 27 hours and 50 minutes mostly in pain of some description in some part of my body or other. What an achievement... We sat and had a couple of beers which never touched the sides. I said at the time never again but the following week we all met up for beers for a birthday and with the blisters healing and the sense of achievement sinking in we thought that knowing what we know now we could slaughter that time and those that didn't do it wanted to complete it. So that said - bring on the Oxfam Trailtrekker 2014.


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