Ten days on and I almost look normal again although I'm climbing up the walls from not being able to run (more on that later). Still a bit numb around the cheek but every day brings an improvement. Went back to work yesterday and it's good job that my eye is still seriously bloodshot (although it mysteriously swapped sides two days after the injury) else they wouldn't have believed I was injured.
I've just returned from seeing the maxillofacial consultant and we've agreed that I don't need corrective surgery as the bones don't appear to have been displaced much. The icing on the cake is that he said that I don't have to wait 6 weeks until I go running again (just to make sure it is not uncomfortable to run, which it still is unfortunately). Happy days!
So, back to the actual run. As usual I stayed in Bingley at Dave's house on the Friday night and managed to remember to take my drinks with me this time. My nutrition and hydration strategy was to stick with my Kendal Mint Cake nibbling for most of the way round topped up with a gel at roughly the Ribbleshead and Hill Inn checkpoints. Fluidwise I prepared two 500ml bottles for each of the aforementioned checkpoints. One bottle had energy drink and the other isotonic. The plan was to down the energy drink (as the two checkpoints are just before the Whernsdie and Ingleborough climbs respectively) and to top up the bottle that I carried in my belt with the isotonic which I would sip all the way round. This was especially important as the forecast was for 20 deg. C. It's not often you get to wear sunglasses on the 3 Peaks.
I was looking forward to this race. I'd had a couple of nightmare attempts in the previous two years, dropping out in the first year on Whernside after my shoes were too small with my orthotics in them (as well as screwing up my energy intake) and completing in the second year but only after spraining my ankle while descending Penyghent and practically hopping the next 20 miles. This year I was well prepared after spending many months running in the Peak District and managing to lose about 4kg in weight. I was looking to knock a good 30 minutes off last year's time. This would take me just outside 4 hours. So, I had to get up Whernside in 40 minutes. I managed it in 40:50 so still on target. The weather was warm hazy sunshine but there was a nice cool breeze which made it a lot more bearable.
Prior to the start I'd had a dilema as to which shoes to wear as the course was likely to be very dry (for the Pennines anyway). It was either the Speedcross 2s which had served me well in the Grindleford Gallop or the as yet untested (apart from a couple of short runs) XT wings. In the end I went with the XT Wings as I thought they'd be more comfortable especially on the mile or so of road leading up to Ribbleshead viaduct. This may have been a costly decision. I'd had to go up half a size from my normal Salomon shoe size and get a 13 as the 12.5s were a smidgeon too small. This resulted in there being too much play in the forefoot which kept moving around on uneven ground.
By the time I got to Ribbleshead I could feel a blister forming on my right little toe so I lost a couple of minutes trying to adjust the sock and shoe to relieve it. I also had a suprise with the drinks. They'd both settled and looked identical so I couldn't tell the difference between the energy and the isotonic, even after tasting them so I cut my loses and drank half of each and put the rest in my belt bottle. Then it was off up Whernside.
I was pleased with the approach to Whernside as I was able to run up paths I'd walked the previous year as can be seen in this video (look for the green shorts and white hat 40 seconds in.):
Once onto the steeper slopes it was back to walking for everyone. It was half way up Whernside that Dave overhauled me and disappeared up the slopes. He's a strong climber so I was expecting him to catch me (I knew I was a minute up on him at the top of Penyghent and the timing chip splits show me seven minutes up at Ribblehead but the video above, just after Ribbleshead, shows me three minutes ahead (Dave is No.214 at 3min 40sec in the video) so I lost some time on him messing about with my shoes and drinks. He was 3 minutes in front of me at the top of Whernside.) The final hands and knees drag up to the top seemed to go on a lot more than last year. I'd started cramping in my calf muscles as well (note to self: wear compression socks in big races) but felt fairly strong and ready to catch up a few who'd passed me going up. I checked in at the top at 2 hours 30 minutes. That left me 90 minutes to get over Ingleborough and down to Horton in Ribblesdale for a 4 hour finish (not likely considering it took me over 2 hours last year although I was a lot better prepared).
Last year I really struggled with the path along the top of Whernside. There are a lot of uneven and sharp rocks which made it difficult to run with a twisted ankle. This year I could run but was very wary of those rocks. I don't know what the geology of Whernside is but most paths tend to have flattened and smooth rocks but here they are arranged at all sorts of angles as if someone's gone out of their way to make it dangerous. So I was being extra careful on this section which makes it ironic that this is where I came to grief.
As readers of this blog will know, I make up for my poor hill climping ability with an above average downhill speed. So, I was picking up speed along the slight downhill along the Whernside top ridge (hoping to haul Dave back in before the climb up Ingleborough) when I found myself flying through the air. It happened in an instant but I remember thinking that this was the last place I wanted to fall and being aware that this was going to hurt. I must have twisted as I came down as I landed on my right hand side and felt an almighty bang on the side of my face as if someone had hit me with a large hammer. I knew there and then that I'd fractured my cheek. I felt it break. I'm not sure why I tripped as I was being so careful. I can only think it is due to the cramp and/or the fact that my shoes were ever so sligthly too big, making it that bit easier to catch the toes on rocks. These are the offending rocks that I broke my cheek on.
I dragged myself off the path and put my hand to my face. It came away covered in blood. My right thigh and shoulder were badly grazed and bruised. Several runners stopped and one or two of them went back to the control tent on the summit where there were radio men and members of mountain/cave rescue teams (whoever you were guys, thanks). In the meantime an angel in a floppy pink hat descended on me.
For the next 40 minutes or so Kate, an Irish nurse who had been watching the race near to where I crashed, took care of me, stemming the blood, cleaning my face, making sure I didn't get cold, supplying me with drinks and even phoning my home so that I could tell Rosie what was happening. Kate also phoned Rosie when she found out where the air ambulance was taking me (but that's jumping ahead too far). Thanks Kate you were my rock (in the nicest possible sense).
Very quickly a couple of guys from the control area came down to see to me. There were from different rescue teams but both called Graham I think (I was a bit preocuupied to take notes unfortunately). They asked me if I could get myself off the mountain but I assured them that I couldn't so they called for an air ambulance. They put my waterproofs on me then wrapped me in a space blanket. They also massaged my legs and feet (I owe them a pint for that) as they were cramping badly now that I'd stopped. I asked one of the Grahams to make sure that Dave got my bumbag as it contained the key to my car else he would be a bit stuck.
That cool breeze turned into a very cold wind as I lay there so I got very cold and shivery. The whirring of the helicopter as it approached was one of the most welcome sounds I've heard in a long time. The air ambulance managed to land very nearby. The paramedics checked me over and, after several attempts to find a suitable vein gave me a morphine injection followed an antiemetic to stop me feeling sick (I think they should have doubled the dose). I was then wrapped up in a nice warm quilt and strapped onto their stretcher. As they lifted me I got a throat full of vomit and thought that I'd drown in it if was actually sick. They had to get me over a wall to get to the helicopter.
I'm afraid it sounded like the wall was pretty much demolished as they passed me over. It was only around 50 yards to the helicopter but the nearer I got the more sick I felt. They got my legs in the helicopter when I managed to break free of the straps and lean over the side of the stretcher to empty my stomach onto the grass. I remember thinking not to bother eating plums again before a race as they don't seem to digest much.
The stretcher, with me still on it, was placed in the well at the back of the helicopter. Even if I was in a fit state to want to look out of the window I'd have had to stretch to do so. Dave the paramedic fitted me with a pair of headphones so that I could hear him above the noise of the engine so I could hear the pilot commenting on the marvellous view of the Lake District. It took them 8 minutes to get me to Lancaster Royal Infirmary.
To wrap this up I was cleaned up, x-rayed and given a bed in the medical assessment unit. Their main concern was my low blood pressure (80/60) which is ironic considering my hypertension. While in the unit Dave turned up. I'd managed to take on lots of fluids and this seemed to help raise my pressure so they let me go at around 7:30 after promising to see my GP for a referral to a maxillofacial consultant.
After a night at Dave's I drove home on the Sunday, in time for Rosie's birthday on Monday. I got to see a maxillofacilist who confirmed that my cheek was fractured in three places. I had to then return to see him after the swelling had reduced, which is where this post started.
Finally, a great big thank you to all those who helped me. It's good to know that in those rare occassions in life when you really need to just let go and let others take over those people are there. My next big race is going to have to be sponsored for these wonderful rescue organisations I'm afraid so start saving!