MONTANE SPINE FUSION - A 268 MILES (430K) BRUTAL ADVENTURE
Information about the race;
“Pennine hills” is a chain of hills from the middle of England to the border of Scotland.
A trekking route on these hills "Pennine Way” begins from "Edale" and ending at "Kirk Yetholm".
Pennine Way runs through 3 national parks on the route. Peak District National Park, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Northumberland National Park.
Peak District National Park It is the most visited national park after the Fuji national park in Japan. The number of visitors per day is over 1000 people.
The route is quite staying in northern latitudes (northern latitudes between Turkey 36-42).The race route is between 53 and 55 North latitudes. The end of the race is at the same latitude as Moscow. This is a place where there is a lot of difference day and night.
The race was first organized in 2012. The original "Montane Spine Race", which has been held since 2012, is held in January.
CPs could only be settled in settlements since there was no opportunity to set up CP in the open area in an environment with hard winter conditions in January. This means that the first CP is 76k, the second is 100k, the others are 60k average and 5 CP and 430km are completed.
Winter race is a very brutal race with cold temperatures of -30 degrees, 16 hours of night time, snowstorms, and far-too-distant CP ranges. Another cruelty is geography. The tree does not grow due to its geographical structure. 99% of the route does not have any trees. Everywhere is green but either pasture style or high-altitude vegetation-like greens. If this is the case, the temperature difference between night and day becomes very high when the first one is not covered by a tree. You can see the vapor of your breath in the night after a few hours while your brain is cooking in the 30 degree heat that is felt during the daytime. Yes, in June, you see the vapor of your breath at sea level. You see a temperature of zero. Secondly, there is nothing to stop the wind as there is not a tree. No seclusion. It passes by for all the winds of your body.
They started to do the summer version from your last crucible (2017) so that you can come to the Mediterranean babies like me without fear. The same route, the same race, with the same CP order, was a new race at the end of June instead of January.
It was a race I was following. When I saw that the summer version was made, I decided to skip the first year and join this year.
There is a map and a compass on the compulsory material list of the race. Because the track is not marked. Plates placed on the route say “Pennine Way ", but these plates are just enough for a familiar hiker. It's never enough for the ultra-runner. So you can not do this race without the handheld GPS.
My preparation process;
How to prepare for such a race? Nice question. Too many answers may be found, but it is not a question that can be answered in a real sense.
In the first step you have to lean on endurance. Both physical endurance and mental endurance.
Then you need to get lots of experience to solve porblems. You need to prepare yourself like how to go on a race, how to save yourself, how to solve a problem, how to find a solution. Because in a short race there is a low possibility of misfortune without experiencing a problem, but in a race like this you have to take care of all the bad situations you can experience. You will have problems. There is no escape from it. That's why you need to think about these more than your running workouts.
I participated in İznik Ultra 140k in April and Tahtali Ultra Sky 100k races in May for the preparations for this race. I tried to go to Mountain Uludağ quite occasionally.
And I tried to be mentally prepared.
Before reaching the race and before the race;
To reach the race place you have to fly to Manchester city first. Afterwards you have to understand the logic of the complex UK train network and get on the train to Edale.
The place called Edale was built to serve the starting point of the Pennine Way, a tiny village that only finds 15-20 buildings.
In this village there are 3 facilities in the form of restaurants. There is 1 tent camp. There is 1 caravan camp. I have a small grocery store. There are a few houses of national park officials. There is a place called Village Hall and it is the starting point of the race. That's all.
I stayed in the tent camp for what was the cheapest option.
The organization accepts a dropbag up to 20kg. This dropbag is reaching every CP and the finish. I fit all my gear, including my tent into this dropbag. When I hand in the dropbag on the race morning, I had no items left behind.
Dropbag delivery is complete. Start time is 08:00 on Saturday morning.
I had a nose surgery 5 days before the start, because of the nose that broke down as a result of the rage I experienced a week before the race. After surgery, my doctor gave me antibiotics to prevent infection and a report saying “rest and no work, no activity during 10 days”. I should have been resting during this race. I go out hoping that the weakness because of using antibiotics for a week will not cause a problem in the race. At start point my nose had still pains.
And the race starts;
When I started running with the excitement of the crowd at the start, I did not take much time to slow down because I went with 2 liters of water, a huge bag of 30 liters, along with other materials along with a heavy load.
There is cloudy, cold, hard and windy weather on race day.
The cold wind starts to grow in my stomach. This is not good news. My stomach that I am most confident in this race is that it should not have made me trouble.
I had fatty cookies with me that fatty food means long-term energy. The fatty food started to be slightly uncomfortable. The body, weakened by antibiotics, starts to manifest itself.
I fill the water in 25k time control point and continue. As you go on, my stomach starts to show itself more.
At 30k, when I vomit fatty cookies I had eaten, it was obvious that my stomach did not accept this food and would not accept it after that.
And there was no other kind of food with me or in my dropbag. I had a distance of 400k in the front of me and I had to find out how I could keep going without food. Even if my stomach refused to work, I had to run my mind. My experience has to work now.
I immediately switched to the energy saving mode. Because I needed to go maximum distance with minimum energy. That meant I had to lower the speed. This hunger also meant that due to low power, my body would become vulnerable to injuries.
In this state, I reached the time control point for 50k. Today, luck is for you. 50k time checkpoint next to a road-edge hostel-restaurant. I'm just eating something in this restaurant. I go out hoping that I can pass a 25k distance to the CP in front of me with what I eat.
Just after leaving the 50k, night arrived. With the arrival of the night, there is a very serious drop in temperature. I am now trying to save energy while I am in a cold climate where I can see my breath, the temperature I feel is below zero and I am not in a secluded place. The body is become cold while saving energy. When I reheat tmy body, my energy is wasted. Among these dilemmas, I was able to reach in 8 hours in the first CP of 76k, including the time I spent at restaurant at 50k.
In this part up to the first CP, the floor is mostly wet pastures. This area is often paved with stones, as these areas can be very boggy. These flat stones have the same effect as concrete in construction. It was not nice for the feet to go on a concrete ground with trail shoes till 76k. The blisters and foot floor throbbing began slightly.
I went to CP on Sunday morning at 2:00. I just had a little snack. I sleep for about an hour.I got up and snapped something again. And I got out of the CP like 04:00.
I went to 100k time control point after progressing in low energy mode for about 8 hours. I found a restaurant in the middle of the day when I arrived at 12:00. Their food was very nice.
I started to walk out of the meadows. Passing over the meadows relaxes the soles, but the meadows also absorb your stepping energy and it makes you slow. I keep on going in low energy mode to protect my energy.
Approximately 8 hours later I reached 130k CP1.5 at 18:30 on Sunday. There is no place to prepare food or any sleeping place here because of the reasons of logistics reasons. Only medical support and water supply can be done. That's why it’s called CP1.5.
Here my feet taped first time. I have lots of blisters. The amazing medic is blowing up the water bags of my blisters and making the tapes and I'm on my way again.
Till CP1.5's the land passes relatively well pastures and meadows, after CP1.5, the terrain become hilly and lots of uphills, downhills. I'm already hungry, and this situation comes out and becomes a unpleasant.
It's around 1 am on Monday morning. 13 hours ago food's energy I've eaten is already over and I'm still on my way. I have now become able to check whether the herbs and tree leaves in the roundabout are edible. The body has learned to travel with minimum energy but it is a great torment to take the path without energy.
I turn around a corner around 2 o'clock. And I see them. I forgot this time control point. The volunteers at the time control point of 150k come to look like angels who come out of the lights. I am approaching them immediately. They are very kind people. They gave me from their food.
I get some energy in 150k time control point and I am on my way to get the remaining 30k path in front of me.
The human brain is a very beautiful structure. He knows how to rule the body. And sometimes it can manage your body in a way other than what you want. He puts the needs of the body in vital importance and moves accordingly.
In the last 44 hours, I had not shown signs of insomnia when I only slept for 1 hour in CP1.Because hunger for the brain was more vital. Because I could not find food, he was pushing me in a way that I did not have energy. But I had some energy now. And?
Just after leaving 150k time control point, violent insomnia began to show itself.
From the tiny stones under my foot to the leaves of the surrounding trees, everything began to change shape. I started to see hundreds of small hallucinations around me. My conscience about to close knew they were dreams, but my brains could not stop seeing them. In this case, it was not possible to move forward and read my GPS.
I sat on a piece of wood I found there. It’s 3:00 am in the morning. The temperature is around zero. Staying still in this environment can be fatal, but I sat in the position of the “thinking man statue” to disperse the dreams in front of me and closed my eyes for a few minutes. I was shuddered by the chills. Stand up and keep going
About an hour later I started dreaming again. Thinking man statue position again. I got a little more conscious with closing the eyes for about 5 minutes and this was enough for me to CP2.
A little sloping, but a very long hill, progress on the stony land, under the hot temperature, my water was out and there was 1 hour to reach CP. Both hungry and thirsty, it seemed that the last mile would never end.
And I arrive at the CP around 10:00 on Monday morning. I ate some food right here. I sleept for about 3 hours and I ate some more food. The nurse renewed the bands on my feet. I've been to this point with Skechers Go Trail Ultra 4 shoes. At this point, the shoe on which my feet are swelling began to bite and disturb me. I wore my Hoka Speed Instinct shoes, my other shoes into my bag, and I set out because it was hard to grapple with shoe laces tightly clogged with dust and sweat.
I spent about 5 hours in the CP to make a little recovery. There were long plains in the next part, and the stone pavement roads in these plains continued to beat my feet.
I arrived at 200k time point around 21:00 on Monday evening. There was another restaurant here. I ate some food here again and continued the journey.
Although the next part from 200k point is relatively flat, there are high altitude vegetation in these parts. The stone pavement was not made because there were not many swamps, but the floor was too soft. The grass floor that you press on is falling in at least 5 cm. Under the grass, you can see that it is a very soft ground under the grass. This floor sucks your energy too much. The energy of each step is absorbed by this ground and your speed drops seriously.
I arrive at 230k CP3 exhausted around 6:30 am on Tuesday morning because of my energy that has been sucked by the soft ground.
I eat something again and sleep for 3 hours here. I get up and have a little snack again and I'm refreshing the bands on the feet. My left foot was now inflamed. And I'm on my way
There is no stone floor pavement or soft floor as much as 270k time control point from here. Either trail or dirt road. After a long path along a river, the path goes through a small waterfall and then into dirt road.
I arrive at the 270k time check point on Tuesday evening around 7:00 p.m. I do not get the chance to get proper food at this restaurant. I can only find french fries. I'm going to eat some french fries and head for the next 30k in the hope that this french fries will take care of me.
After this point, there are famous triple hills. Come out, the endless hills. I'm on the top at midnight. I was singing at summit in a state of starvation.
After the hills, a long downhill. I hit my feet to the stones many times while downhill. The fingernails of my left foot are now moving and inflaming.
There is a Hut on downhill route. I was planning to rest some at that Hut. But when I go in a runner was already sleeping there. I cause to wake my friend up. I am sorry my dear friend. When I couldn’t stay there, I kept going.
And again, I get to 300k CP4 around 6am on a Wednesday morning in a hunger fascination.
I'm eating some food here again. I slept for 4 hours. I get up and put the tapes on my feet up. The left foot thumb is both inflamed and painful. In the blistered part of the right foot middle finger, the water explodes and the skin on the blister teared out, so the finger flesh starts to come into contact with the sock at every step. To receive painful signals from both my right and left fingers keep me alive.
I see a market right next to the CP. This is a turning point for me, a moment of salvation. Because there are no restaurants in the time check points after this CP. With the CP meal, I cannot make progress until the next CP. I bought some snacks from here and put some of them into my backpack for between CP4 and CP5 and put some of them into my dropbag for between CP5 and Finish.
After this point there will be no energy problems but it is not possible to raise my tempo with the fatigue created by the 300km low energy generation and the fatigue caused by the distance.
I'm passing the 330k time control point around 20:00 on Wednesday evening. I am walking through the curb-piercing stone pavement, which absorbs the energy-absorbing soft ground.
I arrive at 360k CP5 around 7am on Thursday morning. I'm having some food. I sleep for 4 hours. I'm refreshing tapes on the feet. I worry about how I will go for the last 70km with the pain of the left foot of my head with the inflamed nail pain and the pain of the middle finger of the right toe. That bizarre smiley photo I put on Facebook is shot here. It is a smile of pain.
Hoka's shoes shredded. The edges were opened. So I take them out and put them in the dropbag and I go back to Skechers.
And I'm going out. I'm passing through a relatively easily route and reached the 390k time control point, like 22:00 on Thursday evening.
Feet, calves, bruises ... I get pain signals from every point. I'm moving forward to go a little, to relax a little.
And in a down pit I see 419k the last time control point. The 500 m steep descent can only be done in 15 minutes. Because at every step, the left foot toe nail goes to the front and touches the shoe and the pain hit my brain.
I arrive time control point at 08:00 on Friday morning. I'm telling Medic about my situation. The painkillers which I took do not help much anymore. The Medic is saved my life here officially. She gave me a little white pill. This painkiller named codeine quickly cut down all the aches. I tighten the laces of my shoes so much that I will have pain in my ankle throat. Because my fingers shall not touch my shoe.
I'm out. Now the last 11k. A volunteer from this time control point comes with me. He's concerned about me if something happens to me. So my situation was not very welcoming.
I could only reach the finish line like 11:16 on Friday afternoon by taking only the last 11k in 3 hours.
I thank Peter Gold, Peter Hutchinson, Nicki Lygo, Maxine Lock, John Bamber, Philip Hayday, Andrew Pearson, James Bartlett, and other amazing spine team people who I cannot remember their names.
And I thank amazing Exile Medics people. This was the best organized race which I ever run. You are all awesome.