With 1 week to go before I join up to 100 other Spine racers the question that I ask myself repeatedly is:
Have I done enough training?
The perfectionist in me is saying “no way – nowhere near enough”
The rational part of me is saying “you couldn’t have done anything didfferent so go with the flow”
Other racers have posted their pre race training schedule with weekly goals hit and plenty of miles covered – which is great for those who were in a position to do that, meanwhile the rest of us who can’t get every weekend off or are working long hours during the week must do whatever we can when we can and that is what it was like for me – squeezing in long walks in between “stuff” My longest walk which was done in December was a Yorkshire 3 Peaks double, twice round the gruelling route with a sneeky extra 2kms thrown in for good measure (I wondered off the route and ignored my instinct to check my gps) a total distance of 50 miles and importantly some superb hills, the ups and downs of Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in bad weather whilst uncomfortable at times is perfect Spine training.
The biggest concern I had was how my right leg would cope after the long distances, historically it has been painful the day after which has been of some concern however I was delighted to report that after the Y3P double I actually felt quite strong and could have gone further, I threw in a 3 hour sleep then got up and again felt good. That was my last long trek… ideally I would have done another circular and I would also aim to do two doubles back to back should I do it again.
Equipment has been a trial and error experience with a lot of money unwisely spent, especially on overhyped footwear and wet weather protection clothing that was far from living up their claims of being “waterproof and breathable” I won’t name those brands and products here as they did provide me with a full refund however it is frustrating when big named brands churn out very expensive products that does not live up to the marketing claims.
Shoes / Footwear – I stopped wearing boots for long distance treks years ago and tend to go for lightweight Salomon type shoes, the one’s that I have settled on are the Speedcross 3 non Gore Tex. Gore Tex shoes are useless once water is in the shoe, the water can’t escape, the shoe now weighs so much more and given much of the Spine race forces the racers to trek through swamp boggy marshland means feet will get wet, so good footwear management is essential, changing shoes, swapping socks, taping feet up and even using waterproof socks helps – I use Sealskinz type socks and different sports tape (super sticky stuff) for the areas I tend to get blisters.
Rest and recovery – one of the key reasons so many drop out and are labelled as Did Not Finish or DNF (Of 80 racers in 2016 only 22 finished) is that the racers are spent, utterly exhausted and in a place whereby they are putting their lives and those of others at risk because they have gone beyond their ability to be cohearent and clear minded, from those I have spoken with the first few days are essential in staying somewhat refreshed – sleep deprivation from not sleeping the night before (anxiety. nerves etc) and being unable to sleep in the checkpoints due to the noise and disruption from other racers, this means if a racer is to drive on by day 3 having covered 140 miles in grim weather it will play havoc with the ability to focus, combined with the aches and pains from such demanding conditions and distance covered means it’s a certain game over – race end, or as spiners know it…. the dreaded DNF
With 1 week to go it’s time now for rest, sensible food, final packing and kit check nothing else that I can do at this stage in regards to fitness – it is almost show time, nervous yes, excited yes, somewhat worried – little bit – but keen and raring to go….