2017 Spine DNF — Part II

As I passed through the shrouded doorway into CP4 I felt a shiver down my spine. People stopped talking and all looked my way. Gawping at me and Dave. I smiled nervously. Dave’s front pouch drooped. I had entered the witches lair and there was no turning back.

The following narrative is as I remember my last day of the Spine. A tiny amount of artistic licence may have been applied for dramatic effects but do not detract from the facts. Names have been removed to avoid abdicating responsibility for my DNF.

“Name and number” the man behind the desk demanded. I responded in quick fashion and moved towards the check-in desk. The other two just stared at me.

“Right, I’ll get you a bed, I’ll do something else, something else and something else.”

“Sorry” I said, “I didn’t quite catch all that. I’m kind of tired and maybe a bit thick so more than one thing at a time is a bit too much.”

He looked at me and rolled his eyes. “OK, take a seat here with your drop bag and I’ll be back.” I sat and waited but he didn’t return. Ever. The next one was more friendly and gave me my bed number but I wanted to see the angels to take a look at my feet.

“Ah, the medics are this way, come along.” So I did, hobbling in my flipflops taking care as I went, down the steps, towards the kitchen and food area. She appeared.

“Hi” I said with as much happiness I could muster. “Would be you be able to take a look at my feet please?”


“Oh” I replied.

“You’ll need to remove all of that tape first, get a shower, let them dry, then come back to me.” I guess they don’t have angels in Manchester I thought to myself. Must have been a red.

I stood my ground and asked again but she wasn’t backing down in this tight corner of stairs and doorways. I turned around in the confined environment and as I did so I stubbed my left little toe against the bottom of the metal stairs. The air was blue. We all looked down at my feet. The metal had sliced across the end of the toe and the toe nail was at 45 degrees and blood was leaking from my toe mixing in with the blister fluid.

“That’s not good” she said.

“No shit” I said. “So can you take a look now?” I dared to enquire.

“Nope” she replied. “You still need to get showered and dried and then I’ll take a look.” And then she was gone. Like any chance of Champions League football.

I was slightly taken aback and lost for words but made my way to the showers, removed the tape off my feet and washed them with hibiscrub. A painful experience but it was a start. I then dried them off making sure I did not catch my now flappy toe nail.

I went back for food and saw Sarah Fuller who either smiled or grimaced at me. Cat lady was ready to leave Alston so I wished her well.

Having eaten I then made my way to my bed, set my alarm for 10:45, kept my flappy toenail uncovered, and closed my eyes. And slept. As usual I woke up before my alarm at 10:30 and went to the kit bag area. Bobby Cullen was there as usual. Bobby Cullen was always there. I think we grunted words of encouragement at each other. I then decided to have my extra 15 minutes and hobbled back to my bed. #idiot

My plan was to leave CP4 between 23:00 and 24:00. I awoke in a panic at 02:40!!! I made my way to the kit area and asked to see a medic now my feet were dry! They were asleep but while I was waiting I was provided porridge, tea and toast. The medic appeared but was somewhat junior and hadn’t done foot taping before.

“We haven’t got any needles left, is it OK if I use a safety pin?”

I almost choked on my porridge. “Err, I’d prefer not. You need to think of something else my friend.”

“OK” he replied “Let me go and wake up my supervisor”.

“If you can be as quick as you can please, this is a race and I’m a little late!”

Then there were two medics. Men medics. Not really angels. But they did their best and I was appreciative as we all were for all of the help and support. I was fed and taped and ready to go. I put on my Dexshell socks ready for some boggy trail and got packed. I eventually left CP4 around 03:30 (I think).

Greenhead here we come!

Having left CP4 last year with a trapped nerve in my back, walking like the Hunchback of Notre-Dame I was looking forward to skipping along the trail to Alston and beyond. But by the time I got to Alston my little toes felt like the medics were still squeezing them both and I was struggling to make forward progress. I was having to think hard about my dilemma. WTF was causing this level of pain. I had bigger boots and plenty of space to allow my feet to move. Maybe that was it, my feet were moving around too much. I tried tightening my boots but that didn’t help. I tried loosening my boots but that didn’t help. I tried screaming at my boots but that didn’t help. I asked Dave for ideas but he was a waste of time. Onwards I went at 2mph gritting my teeth watching the clock. Fuck. I was going to miss the cut-off!

Isaac’s fucking tea trail

This has to be the muddiest part of the PW. It’s only saving grace is that I swam through it in thick fog and only realised where I was when I’d actually got to the end. But seriously, can’t the farmer put some effing straw down or something. Or some used tea bags, they drink enough of the damn stuff. At least it took my mind off my toes for a while.

Back to the toes

Having got back onto firm ground my mind was back onto my toes so upon entering Slaggyford I found the village bench and sat down. Off with the boots and socks to inspect my feet but nothing obvious. Lovely little old lady came for a chat and offered me a cup of tea which I had to decline and explained that time was not on my side and my feet were fucked. She wished me well while her dog had a shit next to Dave.

The church has a drinking water tap which gave me a chance to top up my water before I got going, and give Dave a precautionary wash. Then going I got, slowly as ever.

Eureka I screamed at last!

Stopping yet again but just before the bog march across to Greenhead I eventually worked it out. My Dexshell socks were bunching up at the front of my boots and turning up the pressure on my toes hence the pain. I was so happy I took them both off and made hand puppets and had a weird conversation with myself and my Dexshell socks about how I was going to burn them on a very hot fire when I got home. They just looked back at me blankly in disbelief but I advised them this was no idle threat and their days were numbered. I shoved them both roughly (very roughly) into Dave’s outer mesh so they could shiver in silence. Meanwhile, Phil Clarke sneaked up on me from behind claiming to be last man. I stopped to let him get ahead.

“Not now motherfucker” I thought to myself.

“Not now Phil” I said jokingly, full of the joys of winter now I had feet that worked.

Don’t get me wrong, my feet were still very painful from my blisters but they were more of a 5 than a 10 so by comparison the earlier the pain was non-existent.

Using my intergalactic super ballistic Garmin GPS I was on navigation duty and made my way across to Greenhead with Phil taking his route and me taking mine (which was of course the right one) and before we knew it, we were at the A66 safety CP and were duly checked in at around 13:36, 1 hour past the advisory time for leaving Greenhead. And here ensued conversation and the Greenhead cafe and routes.

Basically, if we wanted to go to the cafe from the A66 crossing John advised us that we would have to return to the PW at the same point to re-join the PW. I decided it would waste too much time so got on my way for a quick game of golf. Over the course I went, descending down to the main road leading into Greenhead, where I had to conduct yet another foot maintenance session hopefully for the last time. I was only wearing liner socks at this point now that the Dexshells had been sentenced to a slow death.

Stuart Smith appeared at the gate with some additional advisory cut-off details that I theoretically took note of.

Leave Greenhead by 12:36. Leave Bellingham CP by 03:00.

I was already 1.5 hours past the first advisory time so decided to nip into Greenhead cafe and join Phil. WTF was I thinking?

After some very nice food, served at a nice leisurely pace and a quick sitting snooze (I can’t deny this as I’m caught on camera Episode 8) I thought I better get on my way. The time was now 14:40 and I needed to get a wiggle on.

“You need to go back to the A66” John reminded Phil. “You have to enjoy the mud and the golf course like everyone else.”

“You also need to go back the way you came” Stuart reminded me. I was a bit fuzzy from my sleep. His message came in and was jumbled up.

I have to go back the way I came, back up to the A66, back over all of the mud and the golf course.

Then they were all gone. I shook my head. Why did I need to go back? I didn’t get it. To make things worse I missed the turn off and had to make a detour along the road. As I got back to the gate at the bottom of the hill Dave told me to turn left but Stuart had told me to turn right. I headed back to the A66 chuntering to myself about how this was all wrong, didn’t make sense, but on I must go. Dave was telling me to turn around, Dexshell L and R were pissing themselves. I was totally confused. Then, as the A66 loomed ahead I realised what Stuart had meant.

You need to go back to the PW at the back of the houses, which is about 5 mins away, and get back on there.

I couldn’t believe my stupidity. I had paid the price big time for going to the cafe. I made my way back to Greenhead (again) over the golf course (again) and exactly 1 hour after leaving Greenhead I was back exactly where I had started. I had lost a whole hour getting nowhere but using a lot of vital energy. FFS you idiot. It was now 15:40 and I had 12 hours to travel 22 miles to Bellingham and get in and out of CP5 and back on the trail to Bryness. At 2mph this was theoretically possible but I’d be needing some sleep somewhere plus I’d need some angels to work on my feet. It was tight. But I wasn’t giving up and with a bit of luck, which I was due, I could make it.

Up until this point, I had no physical injuries (feet aside), was mentally strong (apart from sleep deprivation and sock puppets) and had not started to hate the PW (apart from a few gates maybe). So cursing myself for being a navigation twat, I got my head down and headed in the right direction to make the most of the dwindling daylight and limited hours to get to Bellingham.

To be continued (again)

An old wall, a bit of forest track and some shitty crags, surely that is possible in 12 hours? Find out more tomorrow!

As the first bit of wall loomed I saw the size of challenge. I’d be lucky to get up them at all let alone maintain 2.0mph average speed for 12 hours. Things were not looking good.

The final 12 hours will be out very soon. And in one final post. Hang in there; I had to!

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