Spine Race 2024 - Edale to Hebden Bridge

Lining up at the start I wasn't sure what to expect as in the lead up I had a dose of Covid followed by knee issues, resulting in having to ice my leg right up to the day preceding the event.  At kit check I've become accustomed to receiving a full kit review for the last three Spine races, but alas the fourth time was not meant to be and it was just a sample of a small selection of items.  As was usual it was all pretty straight forward and then it was just a case of relax as best as possible until the start the following day.

The race forecast was for it to be dry for the most part with the possibility of passing snow showers later on in the race.  However the main theme for the week was one of cold with it being predicted to be sub zero even in the day time, down to -10c in the more exposed sections with the potential of wind chill making it feel colder still.  This was fine by me as a cold dry Spine is preferable than to contend with a warm wet Spine.

At the off I tried to be more controlled than I have in the past, but I cant escape the fact that I'm a marathon specialist and I simply find it difficult to run any slower.  As a result I hovered off the back of the lead group towards Jacobs Ladder, eventually ending up in the middle of the lead pack because of gates and stiles with such a large group causing a bit of congestion.  At this early stage of the race Jack Scott was doing the leading and he was clearly very focused not really being in the mood to chat to anyone.

As Jacobs Ladder started I fell off from the back of the group as did a few others and I paced it in a way that felt sustainable.  Shortly after there is then the ascent to Kinder where I came across a really odd incident.  Eugeni had been dropped by the lead group and then I suddenly saw him turn around, take his poles out and give them to a passer by who was clearly very surprised at the unexpected gift.  I can only assume it was weight shedding but I did think it was an bit early for such a decision to be made.  I guess that he felt it was a necessary move to reattach to the lead group (perhaps he had spare poles if needed in his drop bag).

Somewhere on first day, possibly ascent to Kinder. c. Harshan Gill

As for me, as always I did my own thing and even though I was over a minute back around the climb to Kinder I clearly was going at a good pace having now attached to Eugeni for a short distance and by the time of getting to Snake Pass I was still only a little over a minute down from the lead group.  Thereafter I started to fall further back as it enters a section that is rougher on the feet and I just don't have the confidence or technical ability to traverse the terrain at any pace.  There were also sections that were particularly icy, the slabs in places were treacherous.  In some instances it was safer to run on the peat just off to the side, but a couple of times I fell in deeply over my knees if the ice didn't hold so it constantly felt like you were rolling the dice with it.

I arrived at Torside at 10.50am some 40 or so minutes up on last year and about 15 minutes up on the year prior to that.  I think some of this was accounted for by the firm under foot conditions, some down to better pacing but also some down to the decision to keep the poles in my bag unless necessary as I feel that although they aid stability it comes at the cost of pace.

The next sections were not hugely memorable, although I always find this first day one of, if not the hardest.  My theory is that you start at 100% with rapid energy depletion so towards the end of the day you feel pretty terrible.  The terrain is also probably one of the most technical with lots of very short and sharp ascents and descents that all take their toll.  After Hebden Bridge the energy depletion is much less severe as you are much nearer empty from that point on.  I felt that I was probably doing a bit better and less people were overtaking me this year and I was running sections deeper into the leg that I previously walked.  This was proven as in the last two years I had to switch on my head torch crossing the M62 and another time about 20 minutes prior to the White House.

Wessenden Head - starting to feel tired but still moving well.

This time it was still daylight up to about 30 minutes prior to Stoodley Pike so it was interesting to see sections in the daylight that look so much different in the dark.  There was then just the final sections in the lead up to Hebden Bridge that felt a little easier than last year, eventually arriving into the check point at about 6.50pm, about 25 minutes up on two years ago and a massive 1hr 45mins up on last year.  I decided not to make the mistake of only doing a sock change, and instead put on my bigger shoes at this early stage.  Last year I felt it was too early to move into bigger shoes and I paid for this mistake dearly, almost not making it into Hawes at all.  In total I was in the check point for about 35 minutes, about 10 longer than last year but there was no way I could have cut down on the time and I was straight back out by 7.25pm.

Somewhere on the first day - can't remember the name of the location.


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