February 2014

Spine: index

My main motivation for writing about my Spine race in excruciating detail was to process the experience, and get it out of my head. There’s way too much information here (in particular about the inner workings of my head) and it’s not an interesting/entertaining read. In fact it would probably be best left hidden away on my hard drive. But for me finishing the race was definitely a case of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. Not only did the 2012 and 2013 finishers demonstrate that it was possible, they shared a lot of information about what it took. So here, in case they’re useful for future entrants, are my Spine ramblings.

The other disclaimer is that this is my version of events. I’ve tried not to tell other people’s stories, in particular since my perception of things which happened might be very different from other people’s (and reality was probably something else again...). However, even for someone as independent/antisocial as me, it’s impossible to write about the race without mentioning other people. If I have got something wrong and/or offended someone, please let me know (ppzamg AT gmail.com) and I’ll try and do something about it.

The week before
Stage 1, a slow start
Stage 2, the long one
Stage 3, plodding on fumes
Stage 4, I wish I had a willy
Stage 5, the 1100 calorie brunch
Stage 6, the race for last orders
The aftermath

I’ve also (being one of the world’s biggest anal retentives) compiled a list of other people’s blogs:
Blog list

Spine: random musings


What does it take to finish the Spine race? (n.b. I’m talking here about finishing it, not racing it. The only thing I’ve ever raced was the three-legged race at primary school).

Well you definitely don’t need to be fast. My marathon PB is 4.18, fastest Fellsman time 21.47, and I’ve finished last at the Long Tour of Bradwell. Twice. In fact (having see the way they marched past me towards the end of my first two 100s) I’m guessing some of the speedier LDWA members could do it, without running a single step.

IMHO what it takes is some combination of preparation, (mental & physical) strength and pain. If you’re sufficiently strong and/or willing to suffer you can wing it on the preparation front. But for me spending several months focussing on the race, and spending time in the hills on similar terrain was essential.

Physically there’s definitely a bit of a luck-factor in how well your body holds up. However there are things you can do to minimise the likelihood of problems, in particular working out how to stop your feet blistering. And if your main goal is to finish, I’d definitely suggest thinking about whether it’s worth running (and risking a fall) on the slippery wet/icy flagstones.

What I struggled with most was the sleep deprivation. I don’t have problems running through a single night, but keeping going for a week on a handful of hours a night was another story. The problem is, this is something that’s hard to prepare for. Before doing another race like this I’d definitely look into techniques/strategies for sleeping more efficiently.

I’ve been asked lots of times how the Spine compares with other things I’ve done. The answer is nothing else comes close. It was far, far harder than any other race I’ve done. It’s hard to quantify, but (for someone slow like me whose goal is to finish comfortably within the time-limit) if the Spine is a 8 then Ironman (the most over-hyped thing in the Universe) is at most a 1, a flat 100 a 2 and a hilly 100 or GUCR a 3.

Spine blogs: 2014

link to main Spine race blog index

Spine Race
Mimi Anderson:
short, long, kit
Neil Bennett (including kit)
Ian Bowles
Paul Brant
Debbie Brupbacher
Neil Bryant
Ben Cox
Gary Dalton kit
Michael Frenz
Anne Green, kit
Damian Hall: 1, 2, kit
Guido Huwiler
Nick Mead, kit
Andy Mouncey
Dave Lee
Moses Lovestad, kit
Pavel Paloncy, kit
Steve Paul
Paul Radford
Alan Rumbles:
short, long, kit etc.
Charlie Sharpe
Charles Sproson

Spine Challenger
Mark Berry (?)
Rob Harper
Luke Latimer
Grant MacDonald
Sam Robson:
1, 2, kit
Glyn Rose:
1, 2, 3
Wayne Singleton

Support Crew
Joe Falkner:
training weekend, 1
Paul Shorrock
Stu Westfield

Ian Bowles’ series
Part 1
2. Sleep
3. Kit
4. Running
5. It’s all in the mind
6. Final thoughts
Tackling the 2015 Spine race
Staying on track
Energy levels
10. Race plan
11. Final thoughts 2015: don’t panic
12. PANIC?!!

2012 & 2013 blogs