The Gragareth marshal is always so cheerful. Like!
The 50th Fellsman will go down in history. I'll cut to the chase. For the time ever, with many retirements through hypothermia, vomiting, sprains and one airlifted to hospital, the decision was taken to abandon the event at 01:41 on Sunday for the safety of participants and the staff due to extreme cold and wind chill. Having got through the final roadside checkpoint (Park Rash) with Kevin, Mike and Paul (the three other members of my night group) before the abandonment and been able to get a finish time, I can attest to the extreme conditions throughout. The decision by event organiser Suzanne Carter was absolutely the right one, and it also meant that everyone was off the hills safe and warm before the rain came. That was the bonus.
If it wasn't for the low temperature and gale it would have been a beautiful day and night, with sunshine by day, clear views and no cloud to plague the tops; but THAT WIND. It was already strong at lower altitudes by Saturday morning. It was gale force on the tops. It built up from there through the day and into the night.
Then there was the temperature. It was a beautiful warm spring day in the valleys if you could find complete shelter from the wind, but low ambient temperature combined with extreme wind chill made it challenging anywhere else. It could only get colder as dusk approached. Night-time was something else again.
Climbing to Ingleborough.
Naturally, everyone's times were slower than usual. Even Jez was around an hour slower than his record time of last year, which is proof of the tough conditions. He still won though. Well done Jez. Nicky Spinks was the female winner, to add yet another tough win to her long list. Ultra-running studs, the both of them.
My night-time grouping with Kevin, Mike and Paul could not have been better, with great camaraderie as always. They stayed strong, keeping up a strong walk / shuffle and occasional jog to the end (and they let me do the navigating, which was nigh on perfect even though I say so myself). Dawn was just beginning to break and the first blackbirds were beginning to sing as we descended into Grassington and finally out of THAT WIND. We collapsed onto the chairs at the finish and were immediately offered cups of tea by waitress service to begin the recovery process. What an event, what support, what organisation. The care and attention to detail shine through and we appreciate it so much. Thank you Suzanne and your army of willing, cheerful unpaid volunteers.
Our time of a little over 19:30 was very pleasing, when earlier as I'd been haemorrhaging time checkpoint by checkpoint, a sub-20 finish was beginning to look unachievable.
Because I finished the event later than usual and the abandonment meant that the orgainsers were ready to 'shut up shop' earlier than usual, I only managed 40 fitful winks before having to depart (too much talking to be done, which takes top priority of course). Luckily I made the car journey home safely without incident (to find the wheelie bins blown around the garden), after which I enjoyed 6 hours' sound sleep.
The killer turkey on the descent to Stonehouse.
Artengill Viaduct built in 1875.
From the top of Great Knoutberry.
As an interesting aside, all decency and decorum fall by the wayside on a challenging Ultra as all efforts are directed towards surviving the here and now and ensuring that you get to the finish in one piece:
- Burping, farting, grunting, groaning, sniffing and coughing (there seemed to be a lot of coughing) as you try to ingest that next gel to keep the engine fuelled while trying to run, hoping the slight nausea is because you want to burp and nothing more sinister.
- Cold wind that makes your eyes constantly water, rendering vision useless for that next technical descent off Ingleborough. Your eyes' drainage channels ensure that your nose streams constantly. A top lip that is constantly wet and having to be wiped for a day and a night can become quite sore. I became accustomed to the sight of the spray in my headtorch beam as I blew the drainage product from my top lip.
- Snot rocketing (more accurately, salt spraying) when constant sniffing and leaving shiny deposits on your gloves is no longer enough.
- Strong icy winds are perfect snot harvesters; they manufacture it for you then suck it out of you by the Bernoulli effect.
- I won't mention having a pee against a wall. Trying to find it with thickly gloved hands through multiple layers of life-maintaining technical attire was one thing, taking care to aim downwind was another, but having turbulence from the gale atomise it into thousands of droplets, some of which find their way back onto your face is a third thing I did not need. I think the saying is E-e-e-w-w.
Because so many were unable to get a finish time I don't see how Runfurther points can be awarded for this one. Only to award them to those who were quick enough to get a finish time before the abandonment will deny those who were not, while on the other hand it would be unfair to deny those hard-earned points, especially to winners Jez and Nicky. I'm sure the Runfurther team will sort something out that's fair.
Photographs are now uploaded! I'm afraid snapping stopped at dusk in the interests of survival.
Grough wrote a good report that really brings it home.
SportSunday were out taking their usual excellent crop of photographs.