The Trigger 2014

On Sunday 12th of January 4 Meltham runners attempted The Trigger race from Marsden to Edale. Here is Jeff Miller’s account of his race and how when your last your still a winner. As Kipling famously wrote:-

“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’”

Like Elvis and Bjork it only needs the one name to conjure up a thousand myths…but seriously, how hard can it be?  Steve ran it last year and said never again, but he’s signed up again so there must be something going on…Andy and Christian are keen too and I really enjoy running with them, so…

Let’s break it down –

Marsden to Black Hill – been there a hundred times, it’s a Sunday run classic…

Black Hill to Crowden – only half the Crowden Horseshoe – easy…

Crowden to Snake Pass via Bleaklow – Looks steep at first on the map, but once you’re up there it must be plain sailing…

Snake Pass to Edale – Practically the Pennine Way, so how hard can that be…

My mind was made up, application in and recce runs booked – it’s Trigger time!

 

I arrive at 7.45am Sunday 14th to the Marsden Cricket Club and the throng is good, plenty of people, all looking fitter than me, and although it’s cold, the weather looks clear.  I meet up with Andy and Nick before kit check and picking up my number, 56. I’ve written some split times on my hand, but keeping it to myself that I’m aiming for 5 hours. Plenty of chatter as time passes, Christian arrives and we see Steve apparently cutting it fine for check in, or maybe just more experienced!  Feeling good, we all start to congregate outside for a bit of a warm up (not too much, there’s plenty of miles to go) when we get a final safety briefing, herded to a hole in a fence and then we’re off!

A precession snake down to the reservoirs, where we spot the ever enthusiastic Tina cheering us all on, I wave back, happy-go-lucky…the weather has turned warm and I tuck away my hat as we keep a good pace up to Wessenden Head.  I try a cheeky short cut at the Head, bursting up the grassy left instead of the normal path, but it backfires as the pack dive across the moorland instead of heading up to the road and I find myself stuck in style queue, before leaping a barbed wire fence and charging up to the road.

Black Hill was a big concern for ice, but to be honest it was much better than expected, and even the tight ups and downs were not too bad despite still being packed in.  Once we started the main drag up to the top I caught up with Christian and we nattered a bit to the first Check Point, before heading off the PW to find a quick line straight down the middle.  As I was settling into my own pace (only 5 minutes off sub 5 hour target time) and letting Christian go off in front, I spotted Steve following a fantastic line over the tops and picking up loads of places.  I knew that I was slower on the big descents, so I slipped into a good rhythm and before long was through the valley and speeding along a fairly decent path to Crowden.  A nice little detour through some trees instead of a car park, a wave to Nick, and I was over the road and through Check Point 2.  Only a couple of minutes behind Steve and Christian and pretty much on pace target, I was feeling good enough to slow down for a swig of drink, and then up to the foot of Lawrence Edges…

…where I made a massive mistake.

 

I had recce’d this a few times and found a nice line under the pylons, still tough, but looked to bring me round to Bleaklow quicker.  I had mentioned this to Steve ages ago and he told me I was wrong, and to follow up the fence line, super steep, but the traditional line.  As I approached the dry stone wall I can see everyone, clue: EVERYONE, following the fence line; but not me…I stick to my guns and head, all alone, to my own line.  I can see runners above me, but I’m still sure that by attacking my line I will cut them off and meet up with the pack at Bleaklow.  As I climb I can feel the temperature dropping, and the wind increasing and when I reach the tops there it is – snow.  Not masses, but enough to change the look of everything from previous trips, so compass out, head SSW and away.  But it’s tough, really tough.  The ground is horrible, cold, claggy and deceptive, and the air temperature has really dropped.  The blue skies we left at Wessenden are a memory, this is like a different day, and I’m here all alone, cold and wishing I’d stayed with the pack.  I carry on for about twenty minutes before I first spy the fence that will put me on course for Bleaklow, but I’ve lost a lot of energy and the cold has gotten into my legs with the first twinges of cold cramps….over the fence and push onto the summit where I take a Jelly Baby from a very cheery Mountain Rescue man who tells me I’m doing just fine and the pack aren’t that far in front.  I look out to High shelf though and see no pack, so nothing left but to carry on and see where I end up, although for some reason I struggle to find the line and start zig zagging a bit, which is when Andy Lang comes bouncing past with words of encouragement.  With his bright red coat I have a clear reference, but what’s with the legs?  No gas??? Already????

Up through Check Point 3 we turn to see Snake Pass on the horizon, but again with the snow the line is hard to find and by the time my feet touch back on the PW Andy has gone on before me.  I grit in, knowing that my mates are at Check Point 4, and it’s not too long before I hear their encouraging cheers.  I try to push through, but no more gears so I pull up at the gate and am treated to cake and a magnificent cup of hot sugar water.  This both helps and makes me realise just how cold it has become.  I’m 45 minutes behind schedule and 20 minutes behind Christian and Steve, so my LE line really hurt…but hey, crack on, over half way and the worst of the climbing done, although I’m so engrossed in my hot water I need Nick to give me a polite nudge to get on with it!

Over the road and onto Mill Hill, 30 mins tops and we’re flying…but no.  Two things hit and hit hard – the PW flagstones are like polished glass and I’m struck hard with cramps in both legs, slowing me down to little more than jogging, whilst looking up at the clouds and mist descending rapidly around me.  Andy’s red beacon jacket disappears into the mist and I am alone again, struggling to get a rhythm and it takes forever to get to the final big climb up to the last Check Point.  I know where they should be, and I can hear their radios crackling away about idiot Fell Runners no doubt, but I don’t see them until I’m all but on top of them.  I have lost both contact lenses by now, but the visibility is getting quite serious.  I take words of encouragement and head back down to the PW, which took seemingly forever to refind, and set about for Kinder Downfall.  The path was clear, thankfully, because I’m down to 20ft tops for visibility, no other runners and eerily quiet…

As I reach the river itself I stop to get my compass out when from behind another runner appears, who is also suffering from cramp and energy loss.  We stop for a quick drink and energy bar before ploughing up river, which was realistically running through thin ice that breaks under foot and leaves you frozen solid from shin down.  Happy to see the big cairn, I know we are on the way in, but now what?  Visibility down to a few feet at best, no chance of picking out visual landmarks that had been stored from previous recce’s, and the bogs treacherous.  We try and pick a line, aiming SE all the way when I go knee deep with my right leg and shin deep with my left.  I must have looked terrified as Daz reassured me he wouldn’t leave without me, and I set about digging my legs out, as no amount of pulling would free them.  Officially miserable now, we keep plodding SE, but it’s just not happening, nothing looks right, visibility is really concerning and it’s just starting to darken…and then we come across a river.  Have we circled back to the Kinder??  Surely not, but Daz suddenly wants to follow it North!  No, North is bad, North can only be bad…keep pushing south!  So we agree to follow the river south and see where we come out, when suddenly Daz recognises where we are…at the top of Grinds Brook.  I take assurance he is right, but he then explains that we will have to descend a waterfall that really people only ever climb up…I remind him at this point that I really can’t see too well, and he reminds me that it’s getting dark!  We scrambled down as fast as we could, and found a path that Daz reaffirms will take us to Edale…and when we passed through a gate I had never been happier – ‘Civilisation’ I said as we passed through, Daz laughed and we both agreed we would not die today…when suddenly my emergency phone rang.  People were worried, but I explained where we were and who I was with and that we were maybe 30 mins from the finish line.  A burst of adrenaline helped us run back into Edale where the Meltham contingent where waiting for my safe return.  With much back slapping, and some well needed water and energy bar from Andy and Christian I had crossed the line in 7hrs 14, over 2 hours over target time, and  last of the Meltham runners.

The tea and jacket spud were as much of a blur as my eyesight, which was like looking through tissue paper, when we heard the last runners were in and accounted for (so at least I wasn’t last!).  Bundled into a car and home for bath, soup and Sherlock, by the end of which my eyesight had thankfully started to clear (I later discovered that at least three other runners were struck by the same blurring of vision).

So, let’s not quibble – the Trigger is tough.  Physically and mentally that is one heck of a race, but as I type this up two days after, with achy knees, bruised feet and (still) dry eyes, I would do it again…it’s addictive.  If you break it down it is simply so much bigger than the sum of its parts, but also the smallest of decisions will have the biggest consequences – stick with the pack!!!

See you on the start line….