2023 Spine Race Preview

After dropping out of the 2022 Spine Race just north of Dufton and then a further failed attempt on Day 1 at the Summer Spine, I could be forgiven in thinking that I never want to do this race again.  Indeed this was my initial thinking.  The Winter Spine though is a special race and there is something there that just sucks you back in.

All smiles at the start of 2022 Winter Spine.

In the last 12 months there is no denying that I'm nowhere near as fit as I once was.  A significant back issue and fatherhood have both resulted in much reduced volume and for the most part of the year little or no intensity.  A by product of all this has been a weight gain of almost a stone, albeit I was probably too lean at my peak.  None of this is conducive to Spine performance, perhaps excepting getting used to the sleep deprivation caused by having a newborn!

In recent weeks I've started to do more volume and intensity so the base fitness is there, but just before Christmas I've managed to strain a ligament that runs down the side of my leg affecting my knee.  At the time of writing this post with a week ago I've had to ease right off as I'm still struggling to move pain free so at this stage I'm just hoping for the best come race day.  I have no doubt that overall I'm much slower as the numbers don't lie but this is only one of several skills needed and with a different approach, mindset and understanding what went wrong previously I feel that this time I have a better chance of completing the race.  All it takes though is one slip, trip or fall and its all over; something that I seem very prone to!  The simplest thing to do would be to just power hike the race from the outset, but this is just not me.  

The common denominator for both previously failed attempts was rolling my ankles badly, in fact at the Summer Spine it was after just 4 miles in.  Although I limped on to CP1 at Hebden Bridge, it was clear that I was in no condition to continue.  In fact many people upon sight of my ankle were surprised that I had continued for as long as I did.  Although I didn't roll my ankle quite as badly around the same location in the Winter Spine, it killed my pace and ultimately led to other foot and leg problems much later on in the race.  This time I will be wearing an ankle brace that will restrict the amount of roll and in testing it seems to work, though I remain nervous about whether this will cause problems elsewhere in my leg later on in a race of this length.  Time will tell.

State of my ankle from Summer Spine after rolling it at Kinder Scout and then running on it a further 40 or so miles to Hebden Bridge.

I will also change my approach to pacing, particularly on the first day to Hebden Bridge.  Last time, frankly I went too hard too early and rolled my ankle on the rough terrain.  Next time the plan is to run the bits that work to my strengths, but from Jacobs Ladder to the flagstones before Snake Pass I will slow down to walking pace to reduce the likelihood and impact of further slips, trips and falls at such an early stage of the race and conserve some energy in the process.  It I pace it a bit more smartly there is still every chance of arriving at Hebden Bridge within sight of my 2021 arrival time of 7.20pm.

Finally, I believe I can approach checkpoint management better than I did last time.  In particular at CP1 I faffed about for best part of 1hr 40 mins and ended up leaving around 9pm, not knowing whether to rest, refuel etc. and the end result was a huge amount of time lost.  I'm hoping I can therefore be in and out before 9pm all being well, even if I arrive at the CP a little later than last year.  Whilst I held my relative position at further CP's, I believe there are still marginal gains to be had there too so am hopeful that at the very least my progress will be the same, if not better than last time.

Overall, in a race of this length I won't be a contender and have no interest in race position this time round.  The goal is to just complete and to the best of my ability and try and put previous demons to bed!


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