Shivers Up and Down (because of) the Spine

Time is getting short.  The pre-race anxiety is kicking in.  Am I ready?  Am I forgetting something?  In eight weeks I will be toeing the starting line of the Spine Ultra, a 270 mile, seven day event in the north of England along the Pennine Way.  In January.  In the dark, cold and undoubtedly the wet.

While not paranoid I am experiencing a healthy dose of respect for this event.  Many DNF  and even from my perspective it appears to be a significant challenge.  There are many areas I am paying particular attention to and my past year’s training (and race schedule to some degree) have been in preparation.

The Weather:  I am not accustom to damp climates.  The desert I got down pat.  Mountains are where I live.  But all and all these places are relatively dry.  I do totally expect this will be an “uncomfortable” experience with regards to the elements.  Hopefully it will not be too bad and I will keep reminding myself I survived Orcas Island 100 last February (rain, snow, wind, cold, bog slogs, etc.) and Iceland in August/September  (wind, driving rain and some sub-freezing temperatures).  Heck, I can even reach back to the Salt Flats 100 in 2014 with its 100 year rain storm.  This is the big wild card!

Navigation:  Since this event does not have typical ultra race trail markings I am going to have to rely on my orienteering/rogaining skills.  This will be all the more challenging since at least half of the time on the trail it will be dark. Night orienteering is a challenge by itself.  If you are sleep deprived the possibility of mistakes greatly increases.  Fortunately you are required to have a full blown GPS unit which will come in handy to check progress and correct the inevitable mistake(s).  Just got to be sure to remember that wacky British “easting” and “northing” bit.   I envy those in country who have the home court advantage and are checking out the course prior.  I may be following you!

Sleep Management:  Us old guys need our rest.  I know the horrors of too little sleep.  I have seen the visions real as ever vanish with the blink of an eye.  A week of moving will take a toll so every effort must be made to get as much shut eye as possible without running down the race clock.  Balance will be key.  Hopefully I can manage 4-6 hours a 24 hour period.

Footwear: I am throwing all my eggs (feet) into the La Sportiva basket.  I have decided to go with the Crossover GTX waterproof shoe with built in gaiters.  These worked well in Iceland and with the proper socks I hope will suffice.  I have my normal size and one pair a half size larger to wear with various sock combinations.  Additionally I am taking along a pair of wader gravel guards (neoprene wraps) for additional gaiter like protection.

Clothing:  I must have laid out every bit of cold weather gear I own.  Base layers, vests, coats, socks, hats, numerous pairs of gloves, tights, waterproof socks, balaclavas, buffs, rain gear, socks.  I still don’t think I have enough.  Got to go buy some more socks.

Equipment: I am still finalizing some of my kit.  Gear such as my new race quilt will be going and I have full confidence in these items.  I have back ups for some critical pieces.  My pack and water systems are still undergoing scrutiny.  Some are even talking of snow shoes!?

Nutrition:  The good thing about this event is that there are no limits!  You can carry and eat all you want.  Any eating establishment along the way is fair game.  Check points will have food too.  You just got to keep shoveling it into your pie hole.

With all these worries there is one thing I am taking solace in; no matter what I do, it will happen.  Ready as I’ll every be.  Just need to be sure and pack my brain – run smart, run well!


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