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Time out on Helvellyn and the Dodds

POSTED BY ANDREW BRAITHWAITE ON 2 JUNE 2016  •  PHOTO GALLERY →

Bank Holiday weekend and as you can guess, action packed, starting off with Burnley Lions 10K on Friday night. This was my first ever race two years ago, wasn’t particularly looking forward to it, been enjoying off road far more than the black stuff of late, but I need to claim some points back off Adrian Blackledge.

I paced myself well and passed Adrian going up Old Skipton Road on the second lap, just need to keep pushing so he doesn’t get me before the end. Coming down the last stretch of Castle Road I could hear the dreaded pounding of feet fast approaching. Neil Smith appeared at my side, hold on, hold on, he must of used a lot to catch me up like that, through the school gates and a massive push for the line. Managed to hold Neil at bay, finished in 43:25, 1½ minutes quicker than last year and 9 minutes quicker than first year, happy with that considering I haven’t been road running.

On Saturday I picked little Rosie up from a kiddies party in Foulridge at 1.00pm then hot footed it to Hutton Roof (Button Moon) through Gisburn. Past Settle traffic was a nightmare, don’t we love Appleby fair sitting behind a “traveller” doing slightly less than last night’s 10K pace! Pulled into the field at 2.26pm, have they closed registration? Four minutes to register, get changed and make my way to the line, didn’t even have time for a pee!

The weather was scorchingly hot with little breeze, probably warmer than last year! Set off at a steady pace, Macca from Wharfadale just in front, after the first climb we level out for some good running, Macca disappearing in the distance, I thought he was pushing a bit in this heat and he’s a big lad!

I settled into a steady stride, heat made all the worse with the glare of the limestone paths, feet pounding against the rocky floor, not even a muddy puddle in sight. I was starting to regret the choice of footwear, should have had trail shoes not Mudclaws. Half way round we got to the scree climb you can see from the M6 by Carnforth, steep, one of them that gets your calves the next morning! Had a little smile on my face as I caught Macca half way up stationary, hands on knees, staring at the floor.

Soldiering on over the brow, forcing myself into a run as others around were still walking, I remembered last year there was a water station at the road crossing, just hoped it was still there. Bingo, there it was! Quick few gulps then over the road for the long steady climb through the forest, pacing and racing paid off here, selected a low gear, head down and passed about 15 burnt out runners walking the climbs. Fast descent to the finish, feet were sore, toes throbbing, a river crossing would have been awesome at this stage, no luck just 300 yards of concrete track to the finish. Six seconds slower than last year, waited at the finish to clap in Macca and our very own fiery jack (John McDonald) then into the village hall for reward time, wall-to-wall homemade cakes!

Next destination Threlkeld Cricket Club for the highlight of the weekend, Helvellyn and the Dodds. Got parked up in the corner just as the game was finishing, barbecue on, glass filled and relax for the evening, quick bit of banter on Facebook, restricted myself to two bottles of wine with a big race tomorrow (took some doing). Around 10.30pm a big black Range Rover came hurtling into the car park. Two guys got out pulling buffs over their heads and head torches, quick march across “What’s happening guys?” (slightly slurred) “Bob Graham recce night section” was the reply. How interesting.

Up bright and early in the morning, big bowl of muesli and a couple of coffees, in registration at 9.55am and come away with the big number “1”. The lady did ask if I was up to carrying that number, saying it comes with a great burden, “I’ll try my best”. The day was warming up fast, so I was a bit gutted as I’d packed my Inov-8 bum bag and not my rucksack, damn, should have had the rucksack with 1 litre bladder and room for a bottle, instead had to make do with 500mm bottle, drank two bottles of water before the start and a nice big bacon and egg butty (John Whiteside declined).

Headed over to the start, chatting to a few Trawdeners, descent club turnout with eight of us there. The plan for today was start at the back, steady pace, enjoy the day, no Garmin, no phone, no Strava, just me and another 160 idiots out to do 15 miles and 4388ft of climb.

Off we went up a tarmac track through a couple of slopes then into the major climb of Clough Head, nearly 2000ft straight off, head down, arse up keep going! As I got to the top and looked down I thought that’s gonna be a brutal descent at the end of the race – little did I know! From here on it’s a nice undulating run over about five peaks, bit like a big dipper, partially on hard feet pounding paths.

I fell into a nice steady pace, chatting to a few people along the way, forcing myself to occasionally have a look round and enjoy the views. Almost a shame to be doing it as a run, probably be far nicer as a walk giving a bit of time to see the sights. In the distance I could see Dean Ralphson which gave me a spur on, passed him comfortably on a climb. Next on the horizon Adam Wallwork, passed him on a steady climb, legs were feeling fine considering the weekend’s previous activities and I thought the steady start had paid off.

This race is an out and back so at some stage the leaders will come hurtling past, the winner came past about five minutes in front of second place, wow, awesome! First Trawdener to pass was John Whiteside looking fairly comfortable (after reading his blog it could have been a brave face), next through Williamson and Dobson side-by-side looking strong and pushing hard, then Molly with a big beaming smile.

Last push up the last two tough climbs up Helvellyn, then we reached the top, arms in the air as I ran for the trig shouting “Number 1” to a big cheer from the marshals. Now just have to go all the way back, gulp, surely its mostly downhill?

By this time my feet were really sore, hmmm, should have had my trail shoes from yesterday on, I’d used two of my four gels on the way up and probably two thirds of my water – needed to spread the rest of my rations out for the journey back.

About half way back my fingertips and lips started going tingly, it’s happened previously on long hard races, so I wasn’t over concerned. I kept going at a steady pace, chatting to fellow men and in good spirits, on the climb up Great Dodd the tingling was getting worse with a bit of dizziness (worrying, not had this before) so I eased off a little I was down to one gel and no water.

Idiot, you have a Cadbury’s chocolate chip and raisin brunch bar (other makes are available) in your bag, I ate it as we climbed steady, reached the top and started running down, as my heart rate picked up the tingling got worse, back off a bit, back off. Used my last gel coming up Clough Head, chatting to two guys about Langdale as we came over the brow you could see the cricket club in the distance.

Now for the dreaded descent, the guy in the red top shot off like a rocket, after a 100 yards I passed the other runner who was struggling. Steady away, by now I had gone from fingers tingling to hands tingling about a third of the way down. I was going dizzy, ground to a stop, waited a minute, tried again, the same, sat down. The other runner came past “You okay buddy?” Fine, just need to rest a minute, then Dean came past, same question, same answer. Keep going I said, there’s plenty of others coming past, I’ll be fine.

The next two minutes were horrendous, arms and feet started going numb and tingly, working its way up my limbs to my core, my insides started feeling weird, next runner (Barlick) stopped, “You okay buddy?” reply “No, I need help, I’m not good” he got an energy bar out and passed it over. I struggled opening it, took a bite, just trying to chew it was a massive effort.

Familiar face was next on the scene, Adam Wallwork, another guy thrust a bag of Harribo sweets at me, I put my hand in the bag, I could see what it was doing but couldn’t feel anything, I managed to scoop up two sweets and get them in. I had no feeling I my hands and feet, could feel my heart palpitating, felt like my body was shutting down. I was pancaking, I hadn’t a clue what was happening or how it was going to end, I was expecting to have a massive heart attack in the next two minutes. If I were a religious sort I’d think the clouds were going to part and take me away!

A guy thrust a bottle with about an inch water in the bottom in front of me, I couldn’t grip the top to open it, my fingers wouldn’t work. My bum bag felt like it was strangling me, I started franticly trying to rip it off, my insides were churning. Another runner landed with a gel and some walkers with some water, I downed the gel and a couple of gulps of water – never mind Great Dodd or Watsons Dodd, I thought I was gonna end up Ken Dodd!

The general consensus from those around was to get me down to the track at the bottom of the hill, best place for a car or ambulance to get me. Adam and another guy in a green shirt hoisted me up with an arm over each shoulder. As I stood my feet touched the floor, I panicked, the numbness, somebody had swapped my feet for two concrete blocks, I dropped back to the floor. Second attempt, hoisted in the air, ready to go.

Around 160 people probably hated every bit of that descent that day, my two Herculean fell runners at each side ran down the remaining 1000ft of descent with a 12 stone bloke draped between, feet barely touching the floor. I was breathing erratically, heart palpitating, my numb hands flopped over their shoulders. Adam was urging me to take deep breaths and get some oxygen in my blood.

As we descended the sugars and gels must have kicked in and feeling gradually returned to my hands and feet, subsiding to the usual tingling. By the time we reached the field I was able to jog unaided down the tarmac track to the finish, as me and Adam jogged side by side, emotions were running into overtime, tears streaming down my cheeks as I crossed the line and thanked my saviours (getting a bit emotional typing this).

Had a quiet evening with friends in Silverdale, more barbeque and a few beers, quietly contemplating how much worse I could have become without the energy bar, gel and Haribos, who knows?!

So what have we learnt from this weekend’s experience? Despite all the rumours I’m not invincible, nearly but not quite, a combination of booze, race-on-race and heat, it will catch up with you.

Monday, gave Bowley a miss, ran up Pendle in the evening and glad to report everything in good working order. Not to be disheartened, I’ve just filled in my entry and cheque for the Borrowdale fell race, there’ll be better preparation for that one.

Another big thanks to Adam Wallwork and the guy with the green top!

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