WARNING: This blog contains pictures of very blistered feet. It’s not for the faint hearted, but then again neither is a 50 mile walk. If you are affected by any of the issues in this blog please donate to this very worthy cause, every penny counts towards improving the lives of disadvantaged children: http://www.justgiving.com/Applied-Language-solutions
The ALS Megahike team looking spritely at 4am
On a very wet June evening, whilst others I know were celebrating Midsummer’s Eve, a team of 6 from ALS (Applied Language Solutions) rolled up to a camp site near to Hollingworth Lake for the MEGAHIKE 2011. A 50 mile hike across some of the toughest walking countryside the UK has to offer, The Pennines. With a wide range of both bleak and breath taking scenery, The Pennines really are the “backbone” of England stretching from Derbyshire to Scotland.
Our evening began with some superb navigational skills from one of our support team, who took us 5 miles out of the way of the camp site before agreeing to turn round. We arrived to an already damp rugby field where a smattering of canvas had already sprung out of the ground and chose our pitch, close enough to the Porto loos to be able to rush over in the middle of the night. While pitching our tents the heavens opened but fortunately we did manage to get 3 out of the 4 complete before it got too bad. After completion we hurried over to the check in room to register our arrival. Team 001, Are “Oui” There Yet, were now registered and ready to go.
Dinner was served, a healthy portion of pie, chips and mushy peas, followed by a cup of tea. For some reason not even the Leffe I had in the tent was that appealing at this point in time, although I did manage to start, but not finish, one bottle during the strategy discussions.
With check point strategies agreed and projected checkpoint walking times set, we attempted to get some sleep, it was still raining heavily.
After approximately 2 ½ hours sleep we were up again and preparing for the day ahead. 3am breakfast, 4am briefing and at 4.44am the walk began.
Nick and Kris in high spirits despite the rain
We were fortunate enough to be in the top 5 leaving the start zone and were determined not to lose this position on the first leg so pushed on quite hard. At Check Point (CP)1, Blackstone Edge Reservoir, team ALS (Are “oui” there yet) were in pole position and feeling strong. A quick pit stop and still soaking wet we set off in 2nd position (the 2nd placed team just ran straight through to take the lead) and headed towards CP2.
This section was a long and tough 12 mile stretch, and again we kept up a massive pace (just over 5mph), overtaking the leaders very early on and maintaining a good lead. A 5 minute stop on route for some of us to tape up a couple of blisters and we slipped back into 3rd place. Marching on we caught up with the leaders again and pretty much played cat and mouse for the remainder of this leg.
At CP2, Clough Hole Car Park, we were 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Our support crew were blissfully unaware of our pending arrival until, in panic, the saw us climbing the hill towards it.
We were now heading for a 14 hour 30 finish time giving us a ½ hour contingency on our previously arranged 15 hour target. The CP took a little longer than originally planned due to some blistered feet repairs for Kris and some re-taping of both mine and Larua’s. However upon setting off, now firmly in 3rd place we were still 20 mins ahead of schedule and up for a real challenge. The weather was still quite wet but the temperature was rising as were the clouds so we were hoping for a dryer spell to the next CP.
During this leg Kris was feeling the pain, not only in his muscles and joints but his blisters on his feet were causing him to believe that he was stepping on razor blades each time. And upon arrival at CP3 we had lost a little time but were still on track for the 15 hour mark.
CP3, The Ram Inn, was our major time loss area for the first half, on arrival we had covered 27 miles of rain soaked muddy terrain and Kris’s feet knew about it. We had lunch (our planned 20 mins) but Kris decided he needed to visit St John’s. After over 40 minutes of treatment it was very apparent that he wouldn’t be able to continue and sadly we pressed on without him.
The 15 hour target was now a memory but to beat the sun we had to complete it in 17 hours so we pushed on once more. Leaving CP3, despite the hour and 15 minute stop, we were still in 3rd position and we were determined to defend it. A quick glance over the shoulder proved to be the incentive we needed to push on again, the 4th placed team were on our heels. A power walk up the hill and great pace on the up hill road section secured a commanding lead over them once again and we were well on our way to CP4 at Waterfoot.
Proof that a 50 mile trek is no walk in the park. Poor Nick, surely this effort deserves a charitable donation!?
Oh the pain!!!!! Poor Nick had used CP3 as a final sock change and unfortunately used relatively cheap sport socks to change into. He paid the price dearly. A misleading way marker caused us to endure a 2.5 mile detour and arrival at CP4, albeit still in 3rd position was the low point of the day.
45 minutes after arrival Nick’s feet had been tape up and we set off to complete the remaining 16 miles. 10 paces down the track and Nick admitted defeat and had to retire through injury. So Laura and I had to have a very difficult conversation with the marshals who eventually allowed us to chase down the teams in front of us so that we could join them for the final legs. (Although being able to finish as a team of two for safety reasons you have to merge with another team). Laura and I now had a daunting task ahead of us; we had just 6 miles to make up at least 11 minutes on the two teams in front of us on the hardest leg of the whole walk. The first 1 ½ miles were just purely up hill, followed by a quarry gully and we had no idea how far ahead the other teams were. When we emerged out of the quarry and approached the next slight hill, we saw an orange back pack. This gave us even more determination to power on and we picked up the pace even more. A few steps more and a second team appeared in view but they were even closer than the first…. we’d done it. All we had to do now was catch them both before the safety point. After a 10 minute speed march of nearing 6mph, Laura and I had caught both teams and arranged to be able to join them to go through the final check points. The next few miles to the finish line were obviously going to be a lot slower than Laura and I were used to but we were so pleased that they had agreed for us to join them.
CP5 at Watergrove Reservoir to the finish line was awesome, Steve, a member of our surrogate team, was hurting badly but we all took turns to pull him along and by 18 hours and 28 minute our mission was complete.
Joint 3rd place for Are “oui” there yet and a well earned beer.
Next year…. Sub 15 hours for sure