Montane Summer Spine Race

Race Reports

Report by Greg Jones

Well my Spine Race started well …. With 178km (108 miles) of bony trails ahead of me the plan was to take it slow and steady and eat lots – about 6000 calories per day. And that all worked really well, I was hitting my target pace about right and munching my way through the calories and the miles were clicking by. A few of the normal niggles now and again but it felt like a promising start.

But as the miles racked up, so did the messages from my little toe and by 40km it was clear that something bad was happening down there. I took a look. My feet were a very odd shade of purple but far more concerning – my little toe had developed two sizeable blisters making it about twice it’s original size. I’d taken the precaution of taping up my feet before the race, with my toes neatly wrapped up. ‘No blisters were going to get between that lot’ … I thought. But these blisters had formed underneath the tape. I didn’t know that was even possible, but there you go. With few options at my disposal – I applied more tape and pressed on. ‘Just 138km to go’.

Aside from that, the first day went well and after 15 hours on the go I arrived at the first checkpoint at 74km (46 miles). Not long after arriving a thunderous storm rolled in and, very pleased to be inside, I got a bowl of something (?) hot to eat, a medic brutalised my blisters and I lay down for four hours. My feet were grateful for the rest but no sleep unfortunately.

At 5am I headed back out into heavy rain, a little tired but feeling good and moving well. And after a few hours the rain moved on and we were left with a beautiful sunny day. I treated myself to a glorious 10 minute power nap – just lying in the long grass in the middle of nowhere with the sun on my face and my bare feet in the air.

But another storm was on its way. I picked up the pace hoping to get as far as I could before it arrived. We got an impressive display of bangs, flashes and torrential rain.

So with all that going on, and perhaps a bit too much chit-chat, I somehow forgot to eat for a while and as I reached Gargrave, it seems that everything caught up with me all at once. My energy seemed to drain away in a matter of minutes. And with perfect timing the safety team (maybe a little bit too gleefully) informed us that another 5 hours of heavy rain would be upon us shortly. I went in to the Co-Op to restock for the next leg but it was so so so cold in there I left empty handed and retreated to the warmest place I could find, which just happened to be a pub.

I’d hit that ultra runner’s low. I knew I would at some point but it snuck up on me so quickly. I wasn’t thinking very clearly and just couldn’t find a plan that would get me through the night, through the coming storm and through the remaining 50km. At that point I should have called Race HQ and told them I was going to rest up for a few hours. I had plenty of time in hand and a good feed and rest would probably have turned things around but I was struggling to think a full sentence at that point and the thought just didn’t come to me. But with my fuddled head I called HQ to let them know I was done, and with that, my race was over.

126km (78 miles) and 35+ hours on the move. Very pleased to have achieved what I did … but obviously disappointed not to make it to the end. Maybe next time ? (I can’t believe I’m contemplated doing it again. Already?) But I learned so much and with a few tweaks to my kit and my new found wisdom … Well we’ll see.

Kudos to the 38 competitors that completed the full 178km (28 to 59 hours). And to the 30 others that had to retire but gave it their all.

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