Monday 3 June 2013

The Day of Reckoning

This post goes on a bit, but it's the last one, so indulge me a bit, would you ?

Well, where to start ? A somewhat fraught week one way and another and before I knew it,  Friday was upon us and we were on the way to Yorkshire, to try and walk 100 km in under 30 hours.

"We" being me, Norbert Slowgrove, Silent Assassin Ben Cooper, The FISH and Hamish. Not forgetting The Manc Midgit who was due meet us at Aireville School, Skipton, where we were going to camp on Friday night so we could be ready for the 06.00 start.

Unfortunately we were without Team Manager Ruddski who had a freak accident whilst on holiday in California and was unable attend due to two broken bones in his foot. When I spoke to him he was obviously really disappointed he was going to miss out on the weekend and it was impossible not to feel gutted for him after all the work he has put in over the last few months.

We arrived late afternoon and after we'd unpacked, registered, attended safety briefings, eaten and done a whole lot of other things it was time for bed. Bed I said, not necessarily sleep. I had the customary two or three hours before being woken up by Hamish snoring (who was two tents away) shortly before 03.00.

It was a beautiful cloudless morning and after breakfast and a (cold) shower it was soon 06.00 and we were off, the first section being the easiest and flattest, along the canal to Gargrave. Soon we were past Gargrave and heading towards Malham, the scenery changing slowly and becoming slightly more hilly. After failing to get the walkie talkies to work (User Error) we reached the first checkpoint at Malham where The FISH and Hamish had got the food out, the tea on and laid the table. Top work.

The real walk started after we left Malham and headed for Fountains Fell, a long (15 km) section and the hilliest of the whole walk. We went through some stunning scenery at this stage and even more importantly the sun continued to shine. A quick drink at Fountains Fell and we were off in the direction of Horton in Ribblesdale a short, but difficult downhill trek in the village where we again met The FISH and Hamish at Checkpoint 2. We had now completed 40km with no real problem. It was almost as if the real walk hadn't begun. How true that was.

So, on towards Cam Farm. Halfway through this section, an absolutely incredible "incident" occurred when one of our team had to attend to an, erm, emergency. Unfortunately, time was of the essence and the "incident" was carried out in full view of half a dozen women, who were, up until then, having a nice walk in the sun. We were pissing ourselves laughing, whilst at the same time being gobsmacked that he had absolutely no concern that he was in full view of innocent members of the public.

 The person in question demanded that I delete photos of this hideous display and not mention his name. I have already deleted the said photos and won't mention the Short Arse's name. I'm a man of my word.

Shortly before Cam Farm we were going really well, we could see the end of the section in the distance and we started a horrible, boggy descent, which, although it was only about 1 km long, had started giving me the very beginning of a couple of blisters. I was a bit concerned at this point, as this was the 50 km, half way point and I most definitely did not want my feet to start giving me problems. I applied some dressing which worked fantastically well and luckily they didn't develop into anything serious.

The barn at Cam Farm had a wood fired pizza oven which produced the most amazing pizzas you've ever eaten. Not something you expect in the arse end of nowhere.

By this time it was about 18.00 and despite having walked 50 km I felt fine and off we we were along a flat section along the river. We passed the Deepdale water stop and on to Buckden, the third Checkpoint and the 65 km mark. When we walked into Buckden it was dusk, just gone 22.00 and starting to get cold.

There seemed to be people everywhere, in the Food Hall, the First Aid tent, outside, everywhere. We all had a massage, which at the time felt great. However, as soon as I got up I started feeling sick and was shaking with cold.  I felt absolutely freezing.


We all piled into the van looking for our night gear, torches and change of clothes. This was the only point where I got wound up. Norbert was sitting in the back for what seemed like ages which meant I had to wait to get my clothes, etc. He seemed to be farting about for ages and quite frankly I felt like killing him, which in retrospect seems pathetic for such a small offence, but after 16 hours and 65 km of almost constant walking seemed an entirely reasonable thing to do. For once in my life I bit my tongue and sat in silence waiting for him to move. I'm glad I did.

After tucking in to a hot meal we were off at about 22.30 into total darkness on a long (15 km) section ending at Conistone. The iPods were plugged in, the head torches switched on and we were off at a steady pace which increased as we got into our stride. We started overtaking one team after another and at this stage I felt so good it was almost unreal. In the middle of the Dales, under a clear, star laden sky in the dead of  night, with the likes of Rage Against The Machine, The Clash and Californian psychedelic stoner rockers Wooden Shjips blasting in my ears, it was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. I felt like I could go on forever at this stage.

After stopping to help a walker who had been deserted by his team and was unable to walk and could only just about string a sentence together, we continued on our way, through Kettlewell and up a long steep ascent. Little did we know that in these five or ten minutes things things would start to change. Most definitely for the worse.

Shortly before Conistone, Andy's ankle started to give him a real problem, Norbert's blisters had got worse and he was looking decidedly the worse for wear and The Silent Assassin had damaged his knee, though at this stage he did not realise how badly. At 03.00 we entered Checkpoint 4, the 80 km mark. Quite frankly it looked and felt like a military field hospital, with people layed up, some dropping out and First Aiders running around everywhere.

The Dr inspected TSA's knee and announced that if he continued he risked permanent damage. I just remember Ben saying, in disbelief,  "I can't, Ive just walked 80 km". He clearly wanted to carry on, but it would have been madness to do so, so he was persuaded to stop. I said something crap like "Well done" but what can you say to someone who has to drop out after having walked for 21 hours and but for the injury would have completed the whole thing ?

A Dr was also talking to Andy about his ankle, which had been heavily strapped and was clearly causing him pain. He was in two minds whether to go on, but with TSA withdrawing, we were down to three. I think he felt duty bound to give it a go, although at this stage I don't think he believed himself he'd be able to finish.

Norbert's feet were giving him problems and he had to get them freshly dressed by a medic. You can see from the photo that at this stage he'd started to deteriorate quite badly. He was beginning to look, in technical terms, totally smegged out.
We had another walker, a young lad called Andy from Crewe join us at this stage, as all his mates had thrown in the towel, so off we set for the final 20 km. Dawn was breaking, another beautiful day, although at this stage it was still very cold. The pace was slow, very slow.

We were heading for the final water stop, at 90 km, in the village of Hetton. I still felt fine, luckily the feet were not causing any problems and apart from a few aches and pains, everything was better than could possibly be expected. This section seemed to take forever and as we finally entered Hetton, the signs, for Norbert especially, did not look good.

I got to the water stop a bit ahead of them both and started videoing them coming in. It was apparent that they didn't even see me, despite me being right in front of them, such was their state. We tucked in to biscuits, cake, tea, everything. Then Norbert started falling asleep whist drinking. Then he started loading his rucksack with bottles of water, despite having a 3 litre Camelbak full of it. "What are you doing ?" I said. " I need water" he replied. I told him he'd got plenty and took the extra bottles out. He was beginning to lose it.

With another 10 km to go I was seriously concerned he would collapse at some stage, as he seemed to be retreating into himself. At least with Andy it was just ( sorry Andy, not "Just " but you know what I mean.) physical pain.

Into the last 10 km and the pace is so slow I've seen mourners at a funeral move quicker. It's down to a shuffle and every few hundred yards there's a stile and each one seems bigger than the last. I felt helpless watching the two of them in their own worlds, unable to help, iPods on, face contorted in pain. I know I shouldn't say it, but I have to admit I was a bit jarred off every time someone overtook us. I know it's not a race, but at 80 km we were flying and now , due to injuries, it was totally different.

"This is the last hill. After that it's downhill all the way" I said. And every time we get over the top it continues upwards. Again and again. "4 km" to go says the bloke at the makeshift tea stop. A very, very long 4 km down into Skipton. "1 km" to go says a marshall and although it's a bloody long 1 km I don't give two monkey's whatsits because I know we're going to make it.

Just before we enter the school where the finish line is, I stop Andy and say "You can come out now". He knows exactly what I mean. He's been "in the zone" for 20 km, detached from everyone and everything, his only concern being putting one foot in front of another. He is one hard, gritty little fecker.

Norbert is so drained he can't or can't be bothered to speak. He's also been in his own world, possibly in a different way to Andy. It appeared to me he was almost unconscious whilst walking at some times. He tells me later he was hallucinating at times and that he has seen things moving in the bushes (no, not Short Arse having a crap). I take my hat off to them, an almost super human effort by them both.

Round the corner and we're greeted by cheering crowds and applause and it's over. 101 km in 28 hours 7 minutes. I don't know what I felt really, deep satisfaction mostly I suppose. I can say confidently that it was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had.

The organisation by Oxfam was absolutely superb, as were the hundreds of volunteers all of which were very friendly and helpful.

I really feel for Ben though, having to pack it in at 80 km after all that effort. He was a great bloke to have on the team, always positive and upbeat.

Hamish and The FISH did a fantastic job as Support Team, two of them when there should have been three or four (that's another story), putting up tents, driving, taking stuff out, putting it away, again, again and again. Thanks fellas, you did a great job, as did The Mighty Ruddski, organising things for months before being forced to miss out.

Now I reckon that we could beat 28 hours 7 minutes.......

Andy's Thoughts on Trailtrekker

Most people, including me, when they agree to do something expect the least and fear the worst.
When the Essex Johnny Depp nee Ade Edmoson first asked me if I wanted to join him and two others in taking a 'stroll' in June 2013, my immediate thought was that 'a walk in the hills of Yorkshire', can't you bit a bit more adventurous & imaginative?

Move on six months or so later and there we were the Four Muscaqueers (my sons name for four 'blokes' sharing a tent) and the 'Odd Couple' Hamish & Fish, the support team of support teams, making camp in a school field in Skipton anticipating a 100KM walk starting at 6.00 am the following morning.

Digressing ever so slightly, the noise from the Big Bang (if anybody could have heard it?) would have been of the magnitude where eardrums would have been shattered and any 'normal' sense of hearing would have been hindered for months later......try sharing a tent with Hamish and his snoring. It's the closest anybody will ever get to 'The Big Bang Noise'!

A 4.30am start and the sight of our glorious leaders (Kim Jung Il - nee Gale) naked frame trying to get clean in the coldest shower this side of Wormwod Scrubs (good job he didn't drop the soap) was enough to make me realise that the challenge ahead wasn't the worst thing I was ever going to encounter in my lifetime!

6.00am (in the Big Brother Diary Room) the time had come - The Strolling Bones, the months of organisation, the anticipation, the 'toned & finely tuned Boner athletes (and me)' are on their way...........

How does someone adequately describe a 100KM walk across some of the most idyllic and picturesque countryside this side of Braintree. It's simple, you can't!

It is almost  impossible to put into words the emotions, the pain, the enjoyment, the distress, the sense of euphoria, that I had............. when I had the most tumultuous dump ever on the top of a hill, in the middle of nowhere, watched by my 'team mates' and a team of girls (including Blondie, not Debbie Harry).

Pictures are-supposedly out there, I'm not sure? When you've got to go, you've got to go?

3.30 (ish) in the Big Brother diary room........DayLight is starting to penetrate over the glorious peaks of the North, the pain of the last 80 KM's is starting to penetrate our bodies and souls.

Our glorious leader (General 'Stormin Norman' Light) has managed to come through the night time ordeals with the freshness and exuberance of someone who has just been for a walk to the shops for his copy of The Daily Mail!

Unfortunately his team hasn't faired as well, The Silent Assasin has been shown the red card by an over cautious Medic, the Manc Midget has decided that a week in Magaluf would be a more exiting option than another step across the moors and The Norb is probably thinking of putting something mildly toxic in Gale's next cuppa?

Only 20 km's to doesn't sound far? It might as well be in a Galaxy Far,Far,away?

On a warm sunny day (which it was) what could be nicer than a pleasant walk to Skipton? Maybe having molten lava poured onto your extremities? Maybe listening to all of Genesis back catalogue? Meeting Kevin Webster's Dad in a remote cafe in Kettlewell? Showing your hairy backside to a bunch of total strangers?

All of the above sound more appealing than that last 20 km's of this particular trek?

If it wasn't for our illustrious leader (Lord Light of Thorrington) and his amazing powers of motivation, duration, and pure stubbornness, there wouldn't be have been a 'happy ending' to The Story of the Bones.
If only he could transfer this energy and enthusiasm to selling fans, the world would be his lobster?

Single handedly he dragged the remaining two boners over the finishing line, not a small feat considering Norbert's ever increasing girth!

What a weekend.......

Next time someone asks you to take up a challenge, expect the worst, the least is inextricably better! Don't assume that a walk in the countryside is anything but imaginative or adventurous!

More importantly never let an Ade Edmonson 'look a likey' press gang you into doing anything, except maybe meeting him for a slap up breakfast at The Jubilee cafe.

Long live the bones, long live the odd couple, long live the Ruddski and long live life!

Jamie's Thoughts On Trailtrekker

Looking back on TT conjures a combination of the most extreme emotions and feelings I think I have ever felt, a true sense of satisfaction & relief.  Those 28 hours will live with me forever.

Starting from the original acceptance of the 'challenge' laid down by El Capitano Light, I don't think I truly gave this experience the respect it deserved.  We all approached the training with gusto & enthusiasm knowing preparation was the key to it all, but NOTHING prepares you for what your mind and body goes through during those painful, low and desperate hours.

I can honestly say I would, or could not have achieved what we did without the great support of my Team, an ensemble of legends elect who stepped up and put it all on the line with me for those hideous 28 hours.  Something only they can appreciate, with what we all went through, the amazing laughs (some front page story headlines too), the pain, the suffering & agony, I will never forget it.

Something strange happens to you when you compete in a team endurance event that is like nothing I have felt before, the knowledge that the fella to each side of you is suffering, hurting & allowing that chink of doubt to creep into their thoughts, but knowing they won't quit so you sure as hell won't either:

To El Capitano Light.  I could have killed you around the 24 hour mark, but my god, you are the only reason I crossed the line.  I cannot thank you enough.  Glad we did it together.  Excuse the garbled mutterings for the last 2 hours, I was officially off the reservation.

To the Crazed Manc Migit.  My friend, you are the grittiest, most stubborn fighter I have ever met.  You are a legend of unbound limits in my eyes.  The last 20k we 'walked' together summed up the whole event perfectly in my eyes - By any means possible, cross the damn line.

To the Silent Assassin.  You are possibly the most depressing man to walk 100k with I could imagine.  Like a machine.  Always happy.  Always upbeat.  Like a walk in the park.  Do you how hard that is to take when im in agony?!  That last check point will stick in my mind for a long time, you did the right thing, I know you didn't think so at the time, but you did. Much like Window, i am in awe of your mental strength.

To the Fish & Hamish.  You fellas gave us so much, and I am so pleased you were there for us, just seeing your ugly mugs at each checkpoint gave me such a lift to carry on. From the bottom of my heart, thanks chaps.

Finally, Ruddski.  Struck down by such a freak (yet unfortunately hilarious) event, I wanted to say that your organisation, planning and forethought made the weekend go so smoothly.  I was gutted you couldn't be there, but the foundations you provided for us meant that you were with when we crossed the line.  Cheers.

Finally, I leave you with 2 simple words.  NEVER AGAIN.

Slowgrove, Out.

Ben's Thoughts On Trailtrekker

We await TSA's thoughts