Yesterday I, along with my husband and two friends, took part in the Spires and Steeples Challenge 2010.
See this post about it: http://splodzblogz.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/spires-and-steeples/
Wow what a day. And ouch how I hurt!
It was a very early start – we got the bus from Sleaford to Lincoln (put on by the organisers) at 7.30am. Once in Lincoln we walked to the Castle grounds where we picked up our numbers and wrist bands before waiting for the event to start. We got on our way at 8.40am, firstly walking down Steep Hill in Lincoln before making our way across the city and out on the tow path (which if you keep following takes you to Boston). It was a really foggy start, as can be quite normal in Lincolnshire, which meant we couldn’t see very far ahead. It was also very cold. The forecast was for a chilly but clear, still and dry day and within a couple of hours the fog had burnt off and we had glorious blue skies – the perfect weather for a stroll in the countryside.
Turning off the tow path we made our way across fields, through villages, over railways, over meadows and all sorts of other terrain. By 10.30am we were being overtaken by the trail runners who were really giving it some pace (they started at 9.30am) – wow how fit?!
The first checkpoint was at 6.5 miles and in Branston – it took us two hours to do the first quarter and we all felt pretty good. We had wristbands with our number on to hand in at each checkpoint so the marshalls knew when everyone was through each point. The whole point of the Spires and Steeples route, which is a way marked route open to the public and all year round, is that you pass many of the village churches between Lincoln and Sleaford. The scenery was gorgeous. But of course despite the popular myth that Lincolnshire is flat the route was definitely not, but it wasn’t too bad.
We were at the second checkpoint, which was also the half way point, by 12.30pm. This was pretty good as about an hour before I started to panic about the timing – but thankfully it turned out I’d mistaken one paragraph in the instructions all about fields for another paragraph also all about fields and we were further on than I realised. When we stopped this time we sat down to have some lunch, which was nice in the sunshine. Allister knew he had a blister or two so took his boots off to have a look… it turned out one was the biggest blister in the universe (even the St John’s person who saw it went “wow”!!). He had it covered and put his boots back on vowing to continue despite the soreness.
The checkpoints were now getting gradually closer together, and the walk was getting harder and harder. We reached Digby (at the 18.75 mile distance) and Allister was struggling so much with the pain that he had to pull out. He was really disappointed as it wasn’t his legs or mind that stopped him, but the fact that he had a blister the size of a pumpkin on his foot. The three of us continued, although things were getting very difficult. Ruskington came and went – we were just under 6 miles from the finish.
The deadline we had all day was that we had to be at the last checkpoint by 5.15pm because that is when it closed. We eventually got there at about 4.45pm and were quite near the back of the pack by then. We were all really struggling to keep going. But we did. That last 2/3 miles along the bank into Sleaford were excrutiating… the ground was uneven and the sun was starting to set meaning the temperature dropped. But we plodded on.
Finally at 6pm we crossed the finish. I was about 5 minutes ahead but only because I couldn’t face stopping for rests/stretches because I was really worried about my knees seizing up and packing up before the end. Mark and Bec finished right after me… and we were all quite emotional!
26.75 miles done in 9.5hours. What a challenge. I’m so pleased I did it.
This morning my legs and back ache, there is no doubt about that. My knees and ankles ache a lot and I definitely know I have muscles! Thankfully though it’s no more painful than I was expecting. I have the day off today which means my feet don’t have to be forced into shoes (they’re not swolen just achy!) and I can do things at my own pace. I’m jealous of the fitness of those trail runners as I’m sure they’re fine today!
Oh, and I must say how well I thought the event was organised. The marshalls were excellent, the staff on the checkpoints friendly, there were plenty of St John’s Ambulance around the route, and everyone was very helpful. The wrist band idea was great (I can imagine how the runners found this very useful as they wouldn’t have to stop at each checkpoint) and the water provided at each station was appreciated.
So the question is… do we do it again next year? Ask me next week when the aches and pains have gone!