To skip the scene-setting whinge, scroll down two paragraphs…
As many people who read this blog have probably gathered from the silence, I’m not competing in climbing any more. Unfortunately it’s not been exactly on my own terms, which is how I would’ve liked to go out, but that’s injuries for you.
However, I’ve started to dabble in a few other things over the last few months. Though I do actually prefer it, it’s strange showing up at an event and being completely unknown. Where a few people barely know your name, as opposed to hundreds knowing half of your life history (sometimes including what you had for breakfast last week). Though I miss competing a stupid amount, I’m happy with things the way they are. No pressure, no sponsors (not that they were ever anything other than supportive and unpressurising), no chance of coming even remotely close to winning, basically - no clue! Anyhow - life's changed to the point of being unrecognisable from even 6 months ago but I'm being bullied into keeping the blog going from a few different quarters, sooo.....
It’s the end of April and Winter’s flicking a final two fingers at what really should be Summer weather by now. By this stage I’ve been wildly rallying the poor car along this single track road for what seems like forever. According to the satnav, it doesn’t even exist and I’m cursing not leaving home a quarter hour earlier or possibly having considered bringing the correct OS map instead of the one ending twenty miles to the South. In fact, the only reason I know I’m probably in the right place is the clapped out Ford Escort I’m chasing has an FRA sticker on the back and a similarly (late) crazed driver behind the wheel.
Registration goes by in a flustered blur. S@*t, have a I got everything? Shorts or thermals?? Christ I'll freeze to death in shorts! I really need the Loo!! Am I even wearing shoes?! No time to warm-up, everyone’s at the start line… 3, 2, 1, GO!!! And relaaax. For 100 yards that is, then the pack swings off the road and out onto a rough, boggy trail leading up the hill that leads to the hill with the really big hill on top of it. I console myself with having already passed a few people (twice my age) before having to resort to a fast walk, then hands on knees, then a gasping, wheezing slog. Every now and then the angle relents enough to force myself into a pathetic jog only for it to be arrested after a few steps by ankle deep bog.
Towards the top the ground takes on a light dusting of snow with the aforementioned bog having given way to intermittent scree. The freeze seems to stabilise things a bit underfoot making upward progress marginally easier, not that the taste of blood in my mouth and what’s left of my screaming calves would have you think it. Suddenly the race leader appears from nowhere. I start doing that little dance you do when you don’t know which way someone’s going to go on the footpath, only this time there’s no footpath, and my fellow pedestrian is careering towards me far too quickly for my addled brain to react or for him to have any hope of stopping. He shoots by the cowering mess (me) thankfully avoiding a head on. It’s like getting lapped. How could they possibly have made the summit and be on the way back already? I hate this!
Somewhere in the freezing mist I stumble once around the summit cairn and catapult myself back towards the finish. To be honest, I couldn’t give a crap about the finish line any more. I’m vividly fantasizing about the king sized Mars bar that I’ve left sitting on the passenger seat and the dry clothes in the boot. But then suddenly - I’m. Actually. Flying.
Gravity has taken over. The wind’s blowing so hard and the intermittent hail stings my face to the point that I can’t so much see out of my eyes, more just make out shapes that I hope won’t slide from under my feet the moment I land on them. I just lean forwards and for the next 5k my legs are on auto pilot. I remove the psychotic grin that seems to have formed, stop scream-babbling at myself and generally pull it together only while I pass the small group of mountain rescue volunteers huddling by a fence halfway down.
Once over the style, mayhem is unleashed again and one by one I manage to pick off a few more victims (they can't hear me sneaking up behind them with all the wind :D ) presumably down to my youthful recklessness in descending rather than athletic ability. I hit the road and blast it for the finish, cross the line and carry straight on to the sheep pen wall in front, to quietly vom behind it.
37th. I want more NOW!!