Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spine training weekend

Had a really fun couple of days at The Spine training weekend near Hebden Bridge.

After a truly horrendous Friday rush hour drive, I arrived at Hebden Hey scout centre - last year's CP1 - to be met by a hearty welcome from Scott Gilmour (race director) and a big hug from Gary Morrison (last year's joint winner and one of my companions for my 3 day adventure last January). It was great to see them again - as well as many other familiar faces - Jonathan Zeffert, Philip Hayday-Brown, John Bamber, Stuart Westfield, Conrad Dickinson, Paul Shorrock. Lots of friendly but slightly apprehensive-looking new faces. It was also nice to finally meet Gary's wife, Vicky, who was supporting for the weekend.

The evening was mainly taken up by:
  1. Eating a la Gilmour - baked potatoes, cheese, baked beans, ham, rolls. Almost identical to CP's food in January - so good training!
  2. Chatting - reliving all  those memories and so much else to catch up on too! I could hardly get a word in edgeways (or was it the other way round)
  3. Navigation brief and a kit check
  4. Briefing on Saturday's route - the Mary Towneley Loop, mainly following the Pennine Bridleway in a 43 miles………..loop. Scott described the going as "brutal" - Britain's most brutal loop?
Then off to bed - bottom bunk near door - well, I'm a "mature" man! Except I couldn't sleep courtesy of Morrison's Value Coffee and Britain's most brutal mattress.

Woke early, finished off kit prep, settled on suitable clothing, breakfast, then off just after 7am. Brian Mullan joined us - he lives nearby. Walked a mile or so to the start of the loop where the compulsory photos were taken 

Then it was off, initially along the Pennine Way and it's renowned flagstones. We turned along the Pennine Bridleway after a few miles, where a couple of runners led on. I formed a group with Gary, Brian, Annabel Gates & Guido Huwiler, and we mulled over life as we ran. Gary had a similar plan for the day - to very much treat it as prep for The Spine race, and therefore it was very similar pace to Day 1 pace - ran flats and downs, walked all hills.

A lovely sunny day, superb views, great company - and people wonder why we run!

We met some of the support staff somewhere in the Forest of Rossendale - kit check, water re-fill and a bit of a natter! 

We set off a again and the miles rolled by. We were spotted by Scott and then had bottles re-filled again by Stuart, Ally & Amanda in Whitworth. Had some rocket fuel - peanut butter and jam sandwich! Found out I'd got a place in next year's GUCR!

Soon after this Gary, Brian and I dropped Annabel and Guido - and soon overtook one of the early pace-setters. This certainly wasn't a race - we simply stuck to a plan & pace - it was great to feel so fresh after 7-8 hours out. I was by now a very definite pole convert - brand new Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles were very nice indeed!

Eventually along the Rochdale Canal and, as it got dark, towards the familiar Stoodley Pike. Then it was the equally familiar trudge down towards Hebden Bridge, across the main road and up the Pennine Way back to Hebden Hey. This last bit really is a drag at the end of a long day - we all remembered it well from last year! Brian needed an emergency Fudge Bar - he hadn't had any breakfast and had under catered - bad admin, Brian!

We arrived back at just after 7pm after a 11.5 hour outing - all good time on feet. Somehow we were the first people back - I had thought there were initially 2 ahead and we had only overtaken 1?! As I said, not a race but a good, steady outing and I think we all felt remarkable fresh. A great day out - thoroughly enjoyed the company, old and new. 

Vicky had put together a veritable feast, but I had already decided to go home that evening - bath and own bed were calling! However, I did succumb to the vegetable soup which was superb. 

So a fun and well-organised training weekend. Thanks to all. 

Can't wait for the real thing in January - feeling very positive.

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