Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

9th April: Trainer Failure (CTS Exmoor 2017)

In the last entry I alluded to my trainers falling apart mid-race in the Exmoor CTS marathon last year... Well this is what happened.

I was pretty chuffed with the trainers LSS had bought me for Christmas: 2 pairs of Karrimor XTS. In appearance they looked like wannabe minimalist Inov8’s being low drop and consequently very flexible and also very comfortable... I was really enjoying wearing them and eager to get running I toed the line at the start of 2017's Endurancelife CTS Exmoor marathon under the blazing sun in temperatures already in the late teens at 9am.

It was about a mile in and on the climb up on to the cliffs of the shorter 7 mile loop that I felt a pinging sensation at the front of one of the trainers. I looked down and saw the sole had detached from the toe of one trainer... I thought nothing more of it, blundering on regardless.

Shortly afterwards I felt the other trainer ‘ping’ and sure enough that one had the sole separating from the upper. Bugger.

The start of the failure.
I carried on running but could feel my right trainer sole getting further and further separated from the upper and in real danger of total failure... 2 miles in and I’m looking at a DNF through footwear failure if I’m unlucky!

Crossing the moor I felt the sole catch on a rock and fold back under my foot. Looking down it had separated from the upper all the way back past the ball of my foot. I realised the other foot had peeled-back about 5cm and the was worsening. To get by I had to drastically alter my running style, pronouncedly heel-striking so as to try and preserve the trainers until I was back at the start. I looked like I was running whilst wearing flippers, with the soles making a slapping, clapping sound at me with every step, much to the amusement of those who were overtaking me.

Getting worse!
At 4 miles I reached the aid station and asked for gaffer tape to try and bind the soles to the uppers but they had none... It was going to be a long slow sole slapping 3 miles back to the start to try and get some tape from there.

I arrived at the start just as the half marathoners were being unleashed on the course and had to wait for 300 of them to run past before I could get in to the marquee. Inside I asked a Marshall for some gaffer tape and they refused to let me have some!.. I explained clearly why I needed some and reluctantly they found a roll and supervised me using it in case I used too much! Great, don’t you love being treated like a 3 year old!

It was all to no avail though as with the moisture of the ground soaked in to the trainer fabric, the glue would not adhere and the tape slipped off the front of the trainers, so I was faced with a choice: DNF or a walk to the van to change into my only other footwear: walking trainers... Half a mile up a 16% gradient hill and I was at the van contemplating chucking it all in, but after a can of red bull and a strong word with myself I put the walking trainers on and eventually rejoined the race having lost over 30 minutes with this on top of about another 20 from the enforced slow pace of the last 4 miles.

The trainers at the van.
A good race time was gone, but the sun was shining and with no pressure I would not suffer too much in the warmth from overheating via my exertion, so a leisurely bimble it was for the rest of the day surrounded by some cracking scenery!

The trainers were binned after a poor showing of just 150 miles and you know what, the other pair went at the same mileage which kind of explains why they were on sale in Sports Direct in the first place - I did not really trust the second pair for racing in after I had accumulated about 70 miles, can’t think why!.. Still combined both pairs of trainers were £30 for 300 miles, so not too bad on the money per mile stakes but frustrating as I was certainly not expecting a trainer failure mid race! Karrimor trainers seem to be a bit of a lottery - they either go for 700 miles a pair or 150, still at least they're cheap as trainers go when they do give-up early.

At least by means of compensation on a compromised race there was plenty of time for pictures of trail porn along the way without pressure for a decent finish and I maintained my 100% record of finishing my races rather than DNF'ing over footwear rather than something worthwhile like injury!

Certainly a real contrast on conditions from one year to the next when you look at the pics in the previous blog entry compared to this one... It was actually easier to run in the conditions this year as it was not too hot and maintaining a level body temperature was easy, unlike when these pics were took where the temperature had jumped over 10 degrees in one day making it difficult for everyone as consequently no-one was acclimated to running in 20 plus degrees temperature and strong sunshine!

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

8th April: Claggy Exmoor.

Having re-found my marathon mojo at the start of the month whilst running down a hill in a flurry of snow I was actually looking forward to today’s run rather than just enduring it.

Hanging around in the rain.
 The fun bus is still suffering from a severe case of engine-knack so I had to borrow LSS’s somewhat smaller motor to get down to Exmoor for the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series marathon. Driving in the darkness I arrived at the Hunters Lodge event base in Heddon Valley on the stroke of midnight having seen a first for me... A Polecat! Just a half mile from my destination and one ran along the side of the country lane towards me and stopped for me to get a good look as I drove past, which was awesome!

The initial climb to the cliff tops.
Sleeping on the back-seat of a hatch-back folded like a Swiss Army knife is not the most comfortable way to spend a night pre-race and when the rain starts battering down on the roof at 4am waking you then it just adds to the ‘fun’. Having only fitfully slept from when the rain started I went to register pretty-much as soon as I could, queuing in the rain and standing in mud that was getting deeper the more people walked over it.

Running through the clag.
At the briefing I managed a brief chat with Luke and also Gareth from my running club who had made the journey down to beast himself over the terrain. Shortly after we were all gathered around in the rain and were unleashed on to the course; a figure of 8 with a westerly loop of 7 miles run first before the easterly one of 20.

A brief clearance of the clag.
The weather report had been for heavy rain all day so we were all ready for a proper soaking, with everyone to a person in a waterproof girding themselves for a damp run to say the least... Which completely threw us all when we climbed up on to the cliff-tops to find we were above the rain and just the occasional bit of low cloud and sea fog in front of us rolling up from the sea.

The stream-like path over the moors.
The air temperature was a comfortable 7 degrees or thereabouts so pretty soon everyone was overheating in their waterproofs, so like most of the field from halfway back I stopped in a sheltered spot and took mine off... But lost about 10 minutes trying to ease it into my already tightly packed camelbak so I could carry on, whilst everyone else scampered past me.

Expecting the hound of the Baskervilles to come galloping towards you.
Pretty much at the rear of the race I was now able to indulge in a rare spot of overtaking as I undulated my way along the coastal path to the furthest westerly point and the trek up on to the moors... The paths here were streams with all the rain and now being on the high exposed parts the fog was properly shrouding everything reducing visibility to around 20m... And that was about as good as it got for visibility for the next 20 miles!

Blair-Witchy woods.
The Exmoor route is a beautiful course of rugged wilderness and scenery, but today nowt of this was to be seen... I’ll say this for lack of visibility; it certainly heightens your sense of sound as you listen-out to try and figure what is around you; the sound of rodents in the undergrowth, the bleat of new born lambs somewhere distant, the gargle of a pheasant and the crash of a wave reminding you that nearby lies a cliff.

More limited visibility!
I meandered through the murk chatting with those whose paths I crossed: a couple of lads over from Jersey whose friend was really struggling in the mud through his trainers not being man-enough to cope, a Belgian expat who lives a mere 20 miles down the road from me, and eventually a lady from Devon who was getting back to trail marathons having had some bones in her foot fused!

As I hit the aid station at 17 miles having just worked my way through a bit of a ‘Blair Witch-y’ woods I saw Gareth already there trying to force himself to eat and suffering from the heavy going of the trail... We shared the next mile or so before we hit the long drag up on to the coastal path again where he disappeared off in front lost to the mist and I ploughed onwards alone.

Up on the coastal path on the descent to Lynmouth, I was able to see a sight you don't often see thanks to the conditions: the white line in the sea where the fresh water from the river estuary meets the salt water of the sea known as the 'salt wedge'.

The diagonal line of the 'salt wedge'.
Through Lynmouth we had to scale the path up to the cliff tops - part of it was blocked by a fallen tree you had to scramble under - I put my hand right onto a holly leaf doing this which was a shot of pain to the system. Once on the top it was a blast along the tarmaced path heading through the ‘Valley of the Rocks’ where I was able to have a relatively close encounter with some of the wild goats thanks to a brief gap in the fog, before it enveloped us once more and I battled on to the finish passing a lovely waterfall, crossing the line about 30 seconds after Gareth who it seemed I had been steadily reeling-in since he steamed up that hill.

A good hard workout today but not much in the way of trail-porn to picture and a whole world of difference from last year with its 20 degree heat and strong sunshine and thankfully today my trainers remained intact, unlike last year!

Something I have really started to notice of late is that I seem to eat a fraction of what I used to on these races. Today I made it around on 2.5 energy bars and a couple of gels. I put this down to changing my drink to an electrolyte+carb one rather than the previously used electrolyte only. I suspect I’m getting a blast of energy now with every sip of fluid which is helping me a lot although I am not taking-on any more fluids as a consequence. Definitely a change for the better.

Gareth in both ruin & ecstasy in a matter of seconds.
Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

18th March: CTS Sussex - Marathon Mojo Relocated.

It has been a while, I thought you had hidden under a rock somewhere on the trails, skulking, lurking, proving nigh-on impossible to find for a fair few months as I slowly recover from plantar fasciitis and an accompanying loss of fitness… So good to once again feel the warm embrace of my marathon mojo!

The marathon field steaming off in front of me!
Fair to say I have not been feeling the love whilst marathoning of late, where a mere 2 weeks ago in the Steyning Stinger I struggled once more and lost heart in the claggy mud on the course. Although I was able to reconcile this with having run 4 miles, 10k and a half marathon over the previous 3 days - well I did not want to miss-out on having fun in the snow as its a once every 5 years occurrence down this way!

Chasing the horizon.
This morning I was fresh, feeling fruity having not really run for the last week and looking forward to the Endurancelife Sussex CTS marathon, even the fun-bus being in the garage with an engine knack so I could not do my normal trick of drive there the night before could not dampen my spirits.

Attempting to give some scale to the gradients we climbed.
Borrowing LSS’s car I awoke at sparrow’s fart and drove through the dawn to get to the event base at Birling Gap in the freezing cold conditions.

At least it wasn't muddy!
Walking to the marquee to register it was in to a bitingly cold wind, the kind that just rips any heat out of you. Whilst the car’s thermometer was reading -2C air temperature, the wind though was strong and Baltic which dropped the temperature to around -10C and by the time I’d walked the half mile into the sheltered gully where the marquee stood my fingers had frozen through my gloves. Returning to the car to shelter, mercifully with the wind at my back, I breakfasted, changed and awaited the briefing.

Approaching the last of the Seven Sisters.
The briefing had everyone huddled together like penguins for warmth in the marquee before heading to the start at the last possible moment and we were unleashed on the course.

The nature reserve below us.
With the wind at our backs we made our way up on to the ‘Seven Sisters’ and ran the rollercoaster of the hills to the nature reserve and headed inland, 4 miles ticked-off fairly quickly before a couple of minor climbs through the fields and woodlands that afforded shelter from the wind to the point hats and gloves were being removed to allow cooling as for the first time our bodies were able to properly warm-up. Through the first checkpoint and across a causeway and overlooking the chalk horse on a hillside you could feel the first small flakes of the forecast snow; there’s nothing quite like the sensation of a snowflake landing on your tongue and melting on it!

Horse chalk carving - apparently the result of a bet!
Traversing the causeway we hit the major climb of the day, 2.5 miles of almost continual ascent up onto the ridge that is the South Downs Way. We skirted around the feet of the Long Man of Wilmington - proof that our ancestors predicted people would run past here using ‘cheat-sticks’ or ‘wizard-staffs’ when they carved it into the chalk.

The Longman resplendent with his ultrarunning 'cheat-sticks'.
Once up on top the wind ripped into us and the snow, now bigger dry flakes, flew past us horizontally; gloves and hat were donned once more to protect from the elements… It was here as I topped-out and began to change from power-hike to run that I felt alive and full of enjoyment of what I was doing and really ‘in the moment’ as those into mindfulness would no-doubt say - I realised here that I had not looked at my watch for a good 4 miles as it really didn’t matter, I was drinking-in the atmosphere, the wilds of nature around me, savouring every step, hell even the climb up the hill had not seemed too bad compared to previous outings! As the plateau turned to descent over the next 3 miles I could feel I was running stronger than I had the last few months on a race-day… I also realised that at 2.5 hours of racing time had passed and I had not eaten anything beyond a handful of jelly babies at CP1, so on one of the climbs I chomped through an energy bar before arriving at CP2, grabbed another handful of jelly babies and started the mooch back to the coast.

The looming Beachy Head in the murk.
Today I did not seem to match the pace of anyone, so I was left to my own devices and to keep me company I donned my headphones to listen to the wittertainment of the Kermode and Mayo film review podcast (Hello to Jason Isaacs), in part something to drown the roar of the wind I knew I would soon be hearing for a good while!

Climbing into the snow flurry born on the wind.
The CTS Sussex marathon course is one of 2 loops centred on Birling Gap, so returning to the start point you know there’s a foray to Eastbourne over the cliffs of Beachy Head then back along the ridge of the South Downs; a slightly shorter loop than this first one just completed… As we homed-in on the coast and left the shelter of the woods behind at 16 miles, we were hit by the blast of the wind once more and the realisation that there was 10k of this to contend with; a good hour plus of exposure to it and battling the teeth of a near gale that bit ferociously with its icy fangs… The wind was hitting my left cheek hard and relentlessly and in a couple of minutes it was frozen, stinging in pain through the cold onslaught till it became numb before I could soon no longer feel it. Fortunately I had a buff around my neck as well as the one acting as a hat so I pulled it up over my cheeks, which was a first for me; having to run with my whole face covered through cold! I had my safety specs on so as not to be blinded by the flying snowflakes hitting my eyes and allowing me to keep my head up and see where I was running without the water on my eyes freezing, which was far better than people who I was passing with their hoods up and heads down staring at their feet so as not to have their eyes battered.

A rare selfie!

Dropping down to Birling Gap straight away we had the climb up the side of Beachy Head, watching the steady stream of 10k and half marathon racers coming towards us all looking exhausted, pained and battered by the cold wind; thousands yard stares on their faces as they concentrated solely on a finish and getting warm again. This mooch over the wide grassy slopes was great fun, leaning in to the wind on the way up the hills, then feeling the wind drop as you hit the bottom of the troughs.

Beachy Head and the lighthouse.
Once we reached the edge of Eastbourne and the final checkpoint we had the turn for home, the final 10k up on the ridge overlooking the coast with the wind mercifully at our backs. This assistance and the hard ground under foot made short work of the next few miles and the teasing approach to the finish where within sight of it you are led away for a final 2 mile loop… I had the music on shuffle at this point and was singing to myself - mercifully there was no-one around me to hear that I can’t carry a tune in a bucket as I belted out some Del Amitri amongst others, the final half mile accompanied by the Prodigy’s ‘Charly’ which made me cross the finish line with a bit of a boogie: big fish, little fish, cardboard box style!

A little more sheltered from the elements as Eastbourne approaches.
Not wanting to hang a round I made my way back to the car ASAP and got driving home as I had arranged to watch the last of the 6 Nations games in the pub with friends accompanied by as much filth I could eat off the pub-grub menu.

Today the course was an iron fist in a velvet glove; plenty of genuinely runnable sections and stunning views but combined with the bitter cold and wind it packed a mighty punch! I loved it - My neighbourino Pini insists that the harder the conditions are the more I take a perverse enjoyment out of the races and the better I do - he certainly has a point as its good to wear a finish with tough conditions as a badge of honour. More than anything though I’m just relieved to have found my marathon mojo again - yes the foot is still uncomfortable and not fully recovered, but now I seem to be able to get some pace going and I have hopes of getting myself ready for ultra season and the biggest challenge so far of the Lakeland 100.

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

Friday, 29 December 2017

18th September: Village running.

Hook, the village in Hampshire where I live, has always had an open to all-comers annual village ‘Hook Fun Run’ of 10 miles, 10k and 1.5 miles… Every evening those who live here can bare witness to people out by themselves jogging circuits of the central block (a 1.5 mile loop). There is a thriving kids football club, the men’s football club is one of the strongest in the local area and the village has recently set-up its own rugby and cycling clubs and can even claim to have raised an international class runner in Charlotte Purdue, so there are plenty of active people here interested in their fitness, but until now no running club!

Those in the village who organise the Fun Run wondered why this was the case, so having chatted amongst themselves they approached some people they thought would be like-minded on this matter to ascertain if there was an interest in having one.

Soon some posters appeared around the village mentioning a public meeting in one of the village halls and those who had previously run the Fun Run and lived in the village received an email informing them of the meeting… Neighbourino Pini had seen these, as had Moose, so the three of us all decided to trundle along to offer our support.

The car park at the Elizabeth Hall was approaching full. Looking in to the main hall there was a group of people sitting in a circle, none of which looked to be typical running types judging by their size (says 15 stone of idiot in an unironic manner), then I noticed the signage and realised it was the local branch of ‘fat-fighters’ meeting (“Dust. It's actually very low in fat. You can have as much dust as you like.”)

I thought of the irony of those living in the village looking to lose weight had all driven a mile or less to get to their meeting and clogged-up the car park, as I moved down the corridor to the smallest of the small meeting rooms right at the very end, which was already heaving… All the seats were taken and people were standing around the sides of the room with all the bodies raising the temperature inside to a stifle. Soon the kitchen next to the room was opened and the serving-hatch lifted to fit more people and allow them to see what was happening. Moose, Pini and myself took station in the doorway to the corridor as it had a little bit of a draught and allowed those who wanted to be closer to the action to do so.

As we stood there waiting for the start, Moose took the piss out of Pini and my sartorial choices: Pini had arrived wearing his tee from the Costa Rica marathon and I was wearing my Lakeland 50 shirt - leading to Moose accusing us of ‘bollock waving’ over our choices as he just wore a polo shirt rather than anything marking one of his Iron Man/ ultra marathons or assorted triathlons!

Soon we were joined in the doorway by a guy called Steve wearing a finishers shirt for a triathlon who had also seen the notification of the meeting and was interested to find out how many others in the village were like-minded.

Lou, who had convened the meeting called it to order, and you could tell she was a little overwhelmed by the response from the village. Lou admitted she had expected and hoped a handful of people would attend to get things moving and had never dreamed that she’d be sharing a packed room and more with the 70 plus folks who had crammed-in!

Straight away it was plain to see for Lou that there was definitely an interest in the village to set-up a running club and those of us present all filled-out a sheet of contact details and what we are looking for in one and any assistance we were able/ willing to offer in its formation or running (no pun intended).

After a sweaty hour and a bit in the room, the meeting closed with the idea of a follow-up in the near future to get things moving on a formal basis… In the meantime those of us on Facebook were pointed in the direction of a page that had been set-up for the club and away we went off into the warm dusk… Moose, Pini, Steve and myself opting to walk to the nearest pub for a few beers and a chat outside as the evening was still young.

Fair play to Lou for going out on a voyage in to the unknown by calling the meeting and getting everyone there… It just goes to show how there really was an untapped demand in the village for a running club and who knows what the interest expressed tonight will lead to, even if only half the people there follow-up on their initial attendance.

Watch this space to see what happens.

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

28th August: South Downs & Out

Following on from previous exploits of the circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight and the crossing of Devon from coast to coast, this year Dean, Rob, Stu and myself had chosen for our cycling exploits a traverse of the South Downs Way.

Rather than doing the full 100 miles in one day we decided to do it over 2 with an overnight stop booked at a pub in Steyning - roughly halfway, to break-up the journey and not put too much pressure on ourselves.

Convening stupidly early on the platform of Basingstoke station, we headed to Winchester for the start… As we left Basingstoke, the clouds began to darken and by the time we hit Winchester the rain had started… Freewheeling down the hill we stopped in a McDonalds, introducing Dean to the delights of the only thing worth eating on their menu: a sausage & egg McMuffin, which he had somehow avoided tasting in his 40 years on the planet.

Show us the way Alfred!
Once breakfasted on stodge we made our way to the statue of King Alfred and posed for our before pic in the absolute deluge then rode the first couple of miles of tarmac to the trail head and the start of the journey - all soaked to the skin before we had even left the sprawl of Winchester and hit proper trail.

Grim grey drizzle.
On the trail we found in the peeing rain that even here, the very edge of the downs, the ground was churning-up into a very sticky clay-based mud that was gumming-up running gear on the bikes and even with them being loaded and shod with nobbly off-road tyres we were struggling for any traction climbing!

The view would be improved without the clouds!
Finding the first plateau we were overtaken by a group doing the same as us and another couple of riders who were just having fun on the stage to Queen Elizabeth Country Park - they all wished us well before disappearing off down the misty drizzly hill before us… The hill taking us past the site of the recent ‘Boomtown’ festival that a week later was still being cleared-up.

Lightening skies.
It was pretty miserable going in the rain, all of us soaked to the skin already - it was nearly impossible to cycle at speed as glasses were being hammered with the rain and steaming-up and if you did not use them you could only squint to stop flying mud, gravel and the driving rain hitting your eyes.

After seeming like an eternity, although most likely only a couple of hours, the rain eased-off as the cloud began to lift and the humidity rose as lunchtime beckoned and we approached Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

Bouncing down the side of Butser Hill, at its foot we weaved through ranks of parked cars for a cycling event (how ironic) we stopped for a bite to eat on the other side of the A3 in the park’s visitor centre cafe.

Lunch in the sun and drying off.
Any hunger pangs sated we remounted our trusty steeds for the trek through the path, reversing the route of the South Downs Way Marathon I’ve been along a couple of times… I even stopped to photograph a sunbathing Red Admiral butterfly on the path.

Soon we were climbing again up on to the plateau of Harting Down, with its views for miles to the north. We stopped for a photo before carrying on - me taking a shot on the move of Rob in front as we reached the edge of the plateau and the descent off the down. I put the camera back in the pouch on my camelbak and let the bike take itself, overtaking the others as the speed increased to what must have been nudging 30 something mph. The further and faster down the hill I went, the grassy path began to become rutted with loose stones filling the ruts making going a bit unsteady with unsure grip, things still a bit greasy after the heavy rain of earlier - at least I could see the bottom was not far away as I bounced more pronouncedly over the stones in the ruts.

Following up the hill on to the down.
I found myself sitting there, with Dean talking to me, telling me to stay still as I felt him wrapping something tightly around my head, which I rapidly realised was a bandage, then the dawning realisation kicked in of ‘what the fuck has just happened?’… I realised I had no memory of the what how’s and why’s. I tried wracking my brain, thinking where am I, who am I, who are these people I’m with? I seemed to be looking through a grey filter. I could hear Stu calmly speaking on the phone… Then I saw the blood, plenty of blood everywhere, but I wasn’t in pain.

Posing on the top of the down.
Trying as hard as I could I just was not able to piece together what had happened. The last thing I remembered was stopping on top of the down for photos, then carrying on cycling. I knew the names of the people I was with, I knew who I was… I went to look at my watch but looked at my Garmin by mistake - I noticed it was still going so stopped-it. I checked the time and realised I did not know what the time was before I got here so it was pointless. There seemed to be some mud on the face of the Garmin, so I tried to rub it off but it would not budge before the realisation hit that it was two large gouges in the glass face of it.

Following Rob... A minute or 2 after this and it happened!
Dean was asking me questions, I was attempting to answer. The questions seemed irrelevant and confusing and irritated me as it was distracting me from figuring out and piecing together in my own mind WHAT THE FUCK HAS HAPPENED? I could hear what Stu was saying. He was talking calmly with the emergency services and began saying what he thought had happened, then Dean started to fill in gaps - “You’ve wiped-out quite badly, your ride’s over… We came down the hill and you were just lying there unconscious, fitting, with blood everywhere. The fits stopped fairly quickly, about 30 seconds but you were out for at least 3 minutes - we were all very worried”.

Blood, blood, plenty of blood.
I said to Dean that I was fine!.. There wasn’t any pain after all. I could tell from the blood that I must be in a mess, but I felt like I was in-tact with regards to ‘proper’ damage like broken bones. I’ve cut myself badly in crashes before and at work so I felt confident I would be fine, just a trip to A&E to get patched-up.

Plenty of claret spilt!
Think, think, think. I felt like Winnie the fucking Poo as I still tried as hard as I could to muster my grey matter and piece as much together as possible. Rob came over and took some pictures of me as I sat there as Dean finished binding my head. I stood-up and surveyed everything.

The cap was originally yellow!
My bike was a few metres back up the hill so I went to it to get my phone. The bike was absolutely fine. I took the phone out of the beam bag and said I’d better phone LSS & tell her what had happened. I told the others I’d make the call as its better she hears it from me rather than them, as the worst thing to hear is ‘there’s been an accident’ from someone else as it sets alarm bells ringing of ‘why aren’t they speaking to me?’… So I called and explained what had happened, that I’m fine except needing stitches, so don’t panic, but I will need to be collected from hospital. At this point I handed the phone to Rob or Dean, I can’t remember who and they carried on speaking to LSS, then my mind just crashed… All of a sudden I had an almighty brain fart and thought I’d better call LSS, but then realised I had just done so yet couldn’t remember anything I’d said… Man that must have been some impact as its properly shaken my brain about and reality hit - I’d had a very lucky escape. I went back to the bike and put my waterproof on to hold my body-heat in as I realised the adrenaline would be wearing-off and I may be going in to shock soon.

The score marks of my tyres scratching for grip as they went sideways.
Trying to figure out what happened I looked back where the bike was and I could see scratch marks in the soft ground on the left side of the rut where the wheels had been at 45 degrees or more, scratching the ground for grip as it fell to the right… I could see a skid mark on the ground where I must have had my initial impact, then a second impact and the mahoosive pool of blood from where I had properly landed hard after these initial bounces… I looked at myself and the ground and could see what had happened and became aware that my right shoulder hurt. I ran my hand along it, but it ached - no sharp pain of a break in the bones, but I could see my collar bone was sticking-up at the end proud from my shoulder!

About 30 seconds after I regained consciousness.
As I flew off the bike Superman stylee I must have landed first on my right shoulder, then face, then left wrist, which was now throbbing with my thumb in proper pain as if I’d dislocated it then relocated it in rapid succession, before my head properly smacked-down on to the chalk knocking me sparko ready to be discovered by the others.

The Air Ambulance cometh.
Rob came over and said they were going to send an air ambulance to get me. Stu was still on the phone. I told him to tell the call handler that I’m ok to get to the road to meet an ambulance, there’s no point in wasting a valuable resource on me as I’m fine to get to a road on my own steam. I did the next most logical thing at the time as we waited instruction and took my camera and photographed what resembled a crime-scene after a stabbing.

No sense no feeling.
Soon you could hear the approaching slapping sound of the rotors of a low-flying helicopter and the dawning realisation that they were serious about sending the air ambulance. Soon it appeared low overhead and I waved at them to try and signal that I was fine as they would certainly realise I was the injured party what with being covered in blood and a large bandage on my head.

About to be chauffeured away.
They circled around a couple of times but there was no suitable landing spot nearby as the ground was too uneven or trees too close to any flat area. It was soon apparent that they would not be able to land, so the call-handler relayed to Stu asking could we get to a road - which we said we easily could, so with a bit of map reading it was agreed that we would make our way off the down to a certain point to rendezvous with an ordinary ambulance.

We gathered our stuff and began the descent off the down… The pain was starting to build now, from the battering of my shoulder and wrist and the throbbing sensation of the wounds on my head. I necked a couple of ibuprofen and paracetamol to reduce inflammation and dull the pain. Making our way we could hear the helicopter still flying, then the sound of the engine slowing as it must have found a place to land a little way away, before the engines were killed and the tranquility of the area was restored.

Coming off the down there was a couple of ambulances waiting at the end of a farm track for us, so I clambered aboard the nearest one to be assessed by the paramedics. Pretty soon another ambulance car pulled-up with the crew from the air ambulance.

I could see outside that Dean, Rob & Stu were chatting with all the paramedics carefully out of ear-shot from me as they obviously did not want me listening in to any of the gory details.

The doctor from the air ambulance came over and gave me an examination and agreed with me that I was essentially fine, just a bit banged-up… Because I had been recovered conscious and coherent it was decided not to send me to the QE in Portsmouth or to Southampton with its head trauma specialist unit, the nearest hospital in Chichester was going to be the one of choice.

With that I said goodbye to the guys who were in two minds about continuing, telling them just to carry on as there’s no point in ruining the rest of their ride because of my misfortune! And then the doors were shut and off we drove.

I was cleaned-up as we went by the paramedic, where it was realised with all the excitement I had also put a really good hole in my right forearm right between the bones where I must have landed on a rock that pierced the skin about an inch in length and about half an inch deep!

Courtesy of the nurse!
At the hospital I was taken straight in to ‘resusc’ where I was immediately met by the consultant in charge… He was expecting to be delivered an unconscious or delirious mess rather than someone who was smiling and joking whilst feeling foolish and a bit sorry for himself… It was under the bright lights I could now see out the corner of my eye that my nose really was not quite right!

The consultant mentioned that when they get the call for an MTB accident on the South Downs Way they fear the worse - most times aside from tearing of the flesh its missing teeth, broken limbs, jaw, rib injuries and a lack of consciousness. He said the unit had been put on stand-by as all they had heard was an MTB crash, loss of consciousness, head injury and the air ambulance was needed, so this set-off a lot of red flags and he was being pressured from his boss to ensure a ‘satisfactory outcome’, so he was pleased to see that I wasn’t as bad as it could have been… I could see on the whiteboard in big red writing detailing all the patients which one was me…

Bruising starting after only a couple of hours.
After an initial triage, it was fairly obvious what was wrong with me - although they were very concerned about my head, so I was wheeled-off for an MRI scan on it, which came-back all clear… I was not allowed to get myself off the gurney and on to a trolley, it was insisted that I be lifted, but once there was shown to be no swelling on the brain or bleeds they allowed me to move myself around.

With the extent of my facial injuries they decided they would not risk stitching them up in the A&E as they wanted my ‘good looks’ to be restored as much as possible and the A&E doctors skill levels were good for stitching a sack of spuds together, not something as fine or intricate as a face, so they wanted to wait for a maxillofacial surgeon to become available to do the work.

Now the wait began… The nurse on duty loved a bit of gore and came up to me asking if I had a camera and was I on Facebook as my face was ‘proper messed-up’ so she could memorialise it for me before she cleaned it up.

As she tried to remove all the dried blood that was caking it, she was having to pull-out bits of grass and grit that had congealed in to the wounds. Unfortunately some of it was a bit stubborn so she had to get the scissors and cut away some grass and flaps of skin that were hanging-off that had been identified as unable to be saved by stitching back in place - I sat there and took it all, all the pokes and prods without flinching. She kept asking if it hurt and I kept saying ‘no’ before she told me to stop being macho and say if it hurts, so I told her about my old footy injury on my forehead that had split down to the skull and had wrecked my nerve endings so I don’t really feel pain around there through not having functioning nerves, not through any perverse form of bravado!

Up close & personal!
Soon LSS arrived and saw me - and insisted on sitting on my right side and slightly behind so she did not have to look at my gore-fest of a face!.. After a couple of hours more of waiting I was wheeled-off to be sewn back together - a grand total of 44 stitches, of which 20 were internal to hold everything back together. The hole in my arm was butterflied and packed with a massive gauze bandage - I was told to leave it for a week before changing the dressing to allow the hole to properly scab over.

Cleaned-up well after all!
Eventually we were all done and in darkness and shivering through shock, hunger and tiredness I was able to be driven home!

There’s a post script to all this as well:

Just after leaving me the guys continued on to Steyning for the evening along the road for the most path… Just as they approached the first road they heard the sound of an almighty bang and found when they reached the road a car had just crashed at speed into trees, the elderly driver slumped bloodied and moaning in the driver’s seat. The car behind had stopped to see what they could do but did not know where they were, so the guys had to phone for ANOTHER ambulance as they had a GPS location! The 3 cyclists of the apocalypse!

On the train back to London after finishing his ride on the Sunday, Stu got chatting to a couple of guys travelling with their MTB’s - it turned-out they were half an hour behind us on the Saturday and the lead rider of their pack fell at the same spot I did. When he picked himself off the floor he saw the blood everywhere around him, panicked as he checked himself all over for injuries but could find none - asking his compadres then they arrived o see where he was cut and they confirmed he was fine, much to their bemusement over how so much fresh blood was on the floor! So maybe it wasn't crap bike handling skills if others found issue on the same part of the trail.

Simply put with this accident. If I was not wearing a helmet I would have been dead and if I had not been wearing a £10 pair of sunnies that took the impact of my face then I would have had to have had my face re-built with having fractured eye sockets and cheek bones - yes the impact of the glasses nearly severed my nose, splitting the skin all the way down to the bone (although not breaking the bone) but I’ll take this for a spectacular wipe-out over what could have been any day - I’m pretty lucky it seems with crashes at speed having walked away from this and having flown & barrel rolling a car off a motorway at 70 with just cuts and bruises… Combine this with having been in earshot of 3 terrorist bombs in my life I’ll probably go in a very mundane manner such as being hit by a bus!

Impact damage on the glasses!
A bit of scuffing.
A big thanks goes to the NHS for putting 15 stone of idiot back together in no time with minimal fuss and also to Dean, Rob & Stu for safely getting me off the trail and to the ambulance, for the first-aid given and the use of photos of me.

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Ride far.