The Spine

81 to 100 of 1,305 messages
22/01/2013 at 07:48

It was epic and such an amazing feeling to finish, especially after a DNF last year with severe hypothermia at 135 miles. Britain's most brutal race? Absolutely.

If you are considering entering this, please do not underestimate it. Don't read the info and think that looks good/fun. Trust me, it is brutal and will take you to places physically & mentally that you haven't been before (barring a few hardy individuals). This is not just a long ultra, not just 268 miles. It's 6/7 days of continuous trogging - managing sleep, food, the cold, your feet, trying not to lose focus but trying to make the right decisions, feeling so miserable, wanting to go home. It is tough and many will pull out in the first 2 days.

Not that I'm trying to put anyone off - I'm trying to add some realism. 

But if you do enter, you will experience camaraderie, team-spirit, a true feeling of adventure, being at one with nature, episodes of sheer happiness. And believe me, the joy of finishing is unparallelled in my sporting life. I love this race - it sucks you in, takes everything you have but gives back everything you could wish for. 

My wife Jenny, who is not a runner, does not get running, was part of the support team. She loved it, and will be part of the support team next year. She now gets why I do it. 

I am part of The Spine family - I will be back next year either competing or in the support team 



22/01/2013 at 18:23

 I agree totally with Rich. Especially :                                                                          I am part of The Spine family - I will be back next year either competing or in the support team  

Thats the way most of the Spiners feel about the race. If you enter you will get to meet most of us who  just won,t be able to stay away!!

23/01/2013 at 16:31

Kit that worked for me on the 2013 Spine Race  and why.

Conditions: 90% of time sub Zero Temps down to 65 mph -8c Blizards. I generate extreem heat and sweat in all running conditions but cool rapidly the moment I stop!

Sleeping bag -Marmot (down) hydrogen rated down to-5c .

 Bag Liner : Thermolite Reactor Extreem giving a 10+degree boost. The combination of the two gives you a range of +25c to -15c using only two items.

 Sleep mat: Thermarest Neoair (full length). 

 Down Jacket : Alpkit 900fill (not for running in but packs small and keeps you warm the moment you stop)

Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket with Propana/Isobutane cold weather gas. Ok its heavy but will melt snow fast and heat water for food fast (this proved to be vital during the race) Solid/meths stoves are not fast enough when you are close to going hyperthermic!

I used all the above when the shit hit the fan! Would have been in serious trouble without any one of them!

Tent: Terra Nova Laser . Used to camp out the second night and was able to stay warm and cook inside the tent . Set up on snow it was probably -5 that night. Could hear all the folks in bivi bags shivering around me. They saved 400g but got hardly any sleep! This they paid dearly for!

Bivi Bag : Alpkit Gortex only about£30 . I had this in my drop bag but never used it . In retrospect it would have been better to carry this on the last night with the 65mph winds. (the tent would have been useless.

Headtorch : LED Lensor H7  I carried two as on full 160 lumens they only last 5hrs with Duracell ultraAAA,s  . Once flat swap torches without having to fiddle with batteries. The H 7 also has a zoom function which can be usefu to spot the rail.(remember to mark your torch so it does not get mixed up at the CP,s) You also need three spare AAAs.

Shoes : Salomon XT wings 2 straight out of the box 1/2 size too large to fit 2prs of Ronhill all terrain wool blend sox. ( Same shoes all race grip worked fine all race without traction aids.)   Use whatever shoes never ever give you blisters and have good underfoot cushioning. Next time I may go up another size so I can use Sorbathane liners. The other advantage is that the extra sufrace area of your footprint will reduce the chance of breaking through the frost crust on the bogs. Try everything to keep your feet dry as long as possible!!!! Run lightly on bogs. I never used my spare Inovate 315s  the footprint is narrower and I would have continually broken hrough the Ice!

Sox Pete Bland allterrain + compression sox (till my feet swelled so I could not get them on. Seal Skinz won,t survive the pounding for long and leave your feet damp.

 Elastic Knee support bandage . Parked on my ankle and only slid up on my knee on steep hard descents. Your knees will take a pounding but don,t wear this in place all the time . Slide it up and down your leg . If nothing else you feel you are in charge and not letting the trail take charge of you. Head games really matter on the Spine!

Edited: 23/01/2013 at 16:43
23/01/2013 at 17:01

The rest of your gear will be more specific to you . All I can say is multi layers work but you must get them in the right order . Don,t put a down jacket under a gortex top, run, sweat and wonder why you have a saturated cold bag of wet feathers. I used a Montain jetstreem pertex top 70% of the time for wind stopping but max ventilation. My gortex top was hardly ever used. When It gets really cold and windy use the pertex under the gortex. ( I got up to 7 layers on my upper body the last night. I used everything in my pack that I had) Never ever start sweating : you must either change your pace or adjust your layers . You do have the time on this race to re layer . Youu don,t have the time to completly change soggy layers and carry excess weight to the next CP.

Eat Eat and eat again, Cafe,s Pubs The co op pie stand get troughing. Expect to triple your normal food intake by day 5! Start practicing early .(never feel hungry) You will be re programming your body to run/walk eat and hardlyever sleep. By day 5 your legs won,t hurt ,the only thing holding you back will be lack of food/sleep/ foot problems or bits of your body and mind breaking up!

Foot Care : As soon as you get to a CP locate the drying room/radiator/fire take out your shoe insole and start drying the shoes. The Spine Medics hate compeeds!!! Chances are if you self medecate  a blister with compeeds a second  blister may well develop under the outer adhesive part of the compeed. Compeed removal will rip off the new blister skin! The medics will re build your feet at every CP. Dry your feet at the CP then powder with talk to reduce the onset of Trench Foot. As the race progresses your immune system suffers and you may find that you have Athletes foot starting to develop. I may be worth using Athletes foot talk from the start but take a tube of cream just in case.

Gloves: 1 craft running gloves with pertex flap mit   2 Gortex overmits. 3 Thick polertec fleece gloves worn under gortex mits.

 Gortex gaiters .+ Inovate marino wool debris sox. 

Underarmour coldgear tights and long sleeved top. Rab polastop fleece top.

Navigation: GPS ETrex Hcx just about ok with waypoints but has no detail base map so not much use at night if you are trying to push hard. If you can beg borrow or steal a GPS with a !:50000 or better still !:25000 base map showing the pennine way . with this you should never stray more than 2m from the trail. (Garmin Oregon or similar) Note batteries go flat fast in the cold and there were many cases of GPS failure!!. The most expensive new NiCad batteries proved particularly unreliable. Duracell Ultra proved most reliable.

Don,t get lazy early in the race by joining a group with only one person navigating out front. This is a good time to use your map and compass to cross check the navigator. Treat the first part of the race as one long intense navigation course. Chances are two days later you may be on your own and your GPS will fail  !!!!!  You need to be able to use map and compass.

Maps :Harveys 1:40000 are ok but not for fast accurate navigation. I used !:25000 OS maps which I could nav on faster than a GPS in daylight (however I am an Orienteer)

  Finally keep focused on the point of the whole race : that lousy T Shirt

Ps someone took the  official bell away from the  pennine way finish. I believe  for repair . We were gutted  (no bloody bell to ring after all that effort !). Another reason to come back in 2014.

Edited: 23/01/2013 at 19:10
23/01/2013 at 22:01

Ian, thanks that's really useful, in particular the athletes foot treatment (I'd never have thought of that).

I was actually pretty cosy in my bivy bag on the 2nd night, although that was probably thanks to my slightly bulky -10 comfort rated sleeping bag.


PSC    pirate
24/01/2013 at 07:19
Fascinating kit blog, thx Ian. This racing/survival lark ain't cheap is it!
24/01/2013 at 08:04
Ian much obliged for all that, it answers a good deal of the questions I had, did you weigh your pack before you started the race at all? And bearing in mind how much you must have been wearing/carrying how much did you actually run?
24/01/2013 at 18:50

Lirish Never did weigh my pack but was probably about 7kg . Bear in mind that as I run hot I have most of my clothing in my pack rather than on my body. As I am 6f 2ins and fairly solid I don,t get too hung up on pack weight . I have never been a racing snake and take the view that 60mile+ races are more about moving at your sustainable pace. The food issue is vital on the spine and again perhaps I am not typical. I would set out from most CPs with two large jacket potatoes a couple of pies and perhaps 300g of cheese. I would probably consume 1.5kg solid food over the next10 hrs .topping up at pubs /cafes where I could. You must eat food you really like.

I take the view that I have never come back from the pub felt hungry and thought "wow an energy gell Just what I fancy". Cliff shock blocks however I would snack on. So thats what goes in my pack together with 9bars and Mule Bars.

How fast : Walk up to Kinder Scout then Jog/walk most of day one and two. Day 3 more walk than jog but mostly dependent on the softness of the ground. The fact that we were slow trying not to break through ice capped bogs probably helped us not to go too fast.Day 4/5 your body starts to work more efficiently. Gaining ground is more about your CP transitions and how little sleep you can operate on . At least once I got into a bed intending 5hrs sleep but found my head was buzzing so got out of bed and back on the trail asap. Most overtaking happens due to out of sink sleep cycles. Day 6 I was totally flying (13min miles) This was as I was determined to catch the Germans ahead of me and had he power in my legs.    Last Day started grouped up and moving at fast marching pace until the snow got too deep then (10k in 7hrs!) . The last 10 miles was all about fighting through the snow again including some sections crawling over the top of drifts on hands and knees using running poles flat on the surface to prevent your upper body breaking through the snow.

The bottom line is that you will get faster.

PSC Yes the kit does all add up but its all kit we use on Mountain marathons and as such I have gathered it over several years. The best training for the spine I recon must be Mountain Marathons.

24/01/2013 at 20:31
Ian thanks very much for typing up such a comprehensive report, I'm very tempted to enter now and worry about the logistics after but I'm going to hold off a little longer just to be sure it's something I really want to do. I'm going to have a wander around the blogosphere and see what other race reports I can find
27/01/2013 at 08:50

For anyone's who's interested - here's my race report


27/01/2013 at 14:09
Rich incredible report, it really does portray what you and all the other competitors went through out there, well done indeed
27/01/2013 at 15:14

Love the race report Rich


27/01/2013 at 21:43
Thanks all
29/01/2013 at 18:42
Well I've read and re read this thread half a dozen times now, I found every relevant blog post out the and devoured them, I've pored over the maps and google earth and perused the Spine website until I know every work contained.
I have just one more question.
How the feck do I persuade my wife to let me spend the best part of ??1500 on doing this properly?
29/01/2013 at 21:09

Its not somethign you can get past a woman easily.   Im single and thinking could i justify this!

29/01/2013 at 21:52
Where did you get 1500 quid from?!? And I'm assuming you are not just looking at one-off costs as I would think certain clothing could be reused
29/01/2013 at 21:59
Entry fee ??350, adequate sleeping bag minimum ??300, decent Gps loaded with 1:25000 maps ??300-400, lightweight tent if I chose to go that way ??350-400 for something like the terra nova laser class, new rucksack capable of carrying said kit etc etc
29/01/2013 at 23:05
Oh ... Well we can knock that down quite a bit especially as there is 11months to go. I agree you get what you pay for but still quite a while to look for bargains.

For example I picked up a new Oregon 550t for 150 on eBay so still has a warranty. You can use OSM mapping on it for free or OS service for 30?? pa. and you'll bound to use for other events. eBay is also pretty good for finding a tent a better home from someone whose used it the once. Etc etc etc

I think the beauty of this is that the race is still in its infancy so nice to be one of the first
29/01/2013 at 23:55

Keep looking on Ebay for gear and try posting for second hand tents on the MM forums. 

 Better still join an orienteering club (this will teach you running navigation) Find yourself a Mountain Marathon partner at the O club (many orienteers do MMs) Enter the RAB , OMM. SLMM  or Low AlpineMM  (really good Spine training) Its not just the nav but also the overnight camping practice with back to back training carrying 6k packs        .Somewhere along the line you will find someone who will lend you a MM tent and possibly sleeping and cooking gear.

Orienteering is also one of the few running sports that is family friendly. The majority of Spine Finishers were orienteers and I believe  this was also the same on the Dragons Back Race. 

One thing I will say Is that in order to get a place on the Spine you will have to enter the moment entries go on line.

One extra bit of kit I forgot to add is Running poles . I use Mountain King Trail Blaze.    Without running poles the numerous technical descents will destroy your knees and you won,t be able to move in deep snow.

PSC    pirate
30/01/2013 at 07:20

Rich, great blog. 

I keep getting drawn back to this thread, not because I could even think about entering, but there is some wierd fascination with you peeps that have completed this (whether in full or part) - it's got to be one of the most bonkers events out there, but I simply love the Pennine Way.  For the moment though I am going to stick to LDWA!!!!


81 to 100 of 1,305 messages
Previously bookmarked threads are now visible in "Followed Threads". You can also manage notifications on these threads from the "Forum Settings" section of your profile settings page to prevent being sent an email when a reply is made.
Forum Jump