Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Spine Race Guide Part 6. Final Thoughts.

     I am writing this on Wednesday evening so not long to go.
     Its to late to alter your prep for the race now but I have come up with a few thoughts that might help in the 2014 Spine.
    Firstly there is no avoiding the fact that all the rain will have saturated the course so unless we get a North USA big Freeze this race will be remembered as the Wet Feet Spin Year. The implications of that is most of us will have foot problems.
   The whole Trench foot / Blister issue should now be at the top  on every ones list of concerns. To be quite honest it is the one factor that really worries me . And yes that was me shopping for Sealskinz Socks in the local army surplus store £ 9.50 each and labelled as gortex(they look like Sealskinz to me). No idea if they will work but I shall give them a try.

      Blister Advice  As given to me from Anna Kropeliniki (Chief Spin Medic)
Think back to where  you usually get blisters. Hopefully you are using a tried and tested shoe that minimises the chances of friction with the skin. Two socks,Toe Socks or perhaps pre taping the areas of your feet that you know might give you problems. Use the method you are comfortable with. Its another case of knowing your own body.
  Prevention will always be better than cure.

 I have said in a previous blog that Blisters can be a DNF injury . I should explain that the main reason for this is the risk of infection. Most of us Ultra Runners regard blisters as something that we must just put up with until we get to the finish line. We usually take some time off the next day to look after our self.  The problem with The Spine is that the next day is yet more foot abuse! Instead of keeping our feet clean and dry we soak them in a warm moist bug breeding environment then bash the hell out of them!

   Spine Specific Blister Advice
   As soon as you get a hot spot on your feet you should apply tape and perhaps some padding. Try to avoid getting the edge of the tape in areas where there is friction between shoe and foot (you don't want the edges to roll up and rub or trap dirt.
   If you get a blister all is not lost . Clean the area then put a bit of padding just over the blister and hold it with Kinesio tape. Try not to burst the blister because as soon as you do infection can get in .
   The medics at the checkpoints might drain your blisters but they do this with sterile equipment after cleaning the area better than you could manage on the trail.
    At every checkpoint try to give your feet time to breath and dry. 
                                  As soon as you get in    1    clean your feet.
                                                                        2    dry your feet
                                                                        3     apply powder

                  These steps will help ward of damage.
                   In addition it always helps to elevate your feet.
                    Delay taping your feet until just before you leave the CP to give them a maximum chance to dry.  The above procedures will also help with trench foot.

     The medical team are masters at all these techniques . They can tape patches to your feet in ways you had not imagined . They will always be happy to help and it is always worth getting them to inspect your feet even if you think they are fine. The medics can spot the signs of impending problems sometimes before you can feel them.

    The second skin compeed type plasters can give you problems on the Spine . Once applied most runners leave them on so long the  dirt gets under the edges . This can lead to blisters around the original trouble spot. At this point the compeed will have to be removed and as we know they stick like shit to a blanket! It is incredibly difficult to remove the compeed  without tearing the skin and exposing you to infection.

    The above methods are that used by the Spine Medics but you may have your own tried and tested methods . Use what you know works best for you.

    Pay close attention to the advice from the medics at the pre race briefings and feel free to ask questions. The medical advice you get can and probably will save your race at some point.

    And Finally

   I have been re reading my original 2013 Race Report looking for inspiration to wrap up this series of Blogs. It suddenly occurred to me that there may be  way to neatly sum up the race. Everyone has a view on this : Is it a Race? is it an Expedition ? I think I can sum it up from a different angle which may be of use to runners feeling nervous about the race.

    The Spine Race can perhaps be thought of as a School or University . The course you have signed on to is a total immersion course . You will be learn lessons right from the start and continue to learn right up to the finish line when you Graduate. Even then you will only have Graduated from that years class.
      I am a Graduate of the Spine Class of 2013 but that's no guarantee that I will graduate this year.
    The Spine will teach you all you need, provided you are prepared to listen (and not sit at the back and play on your GPS).
       My Blogs , hopefully have given you some insight as to what to expect but the real learning experience starts on the first hill.
     Back in 2013  6 Runners left the Bellingham Checkpoint. They had about 235 miles of wear and tear on their bodies but they had all been paying attention to all the Spine had taught them over the previous days. All six runners were mentally way more capable of fighting there way through the coming storm. One knew enough to know that his decision to pull out was the right decision. The other  5 Graduated and finished the spine . I doubt that any of us could have coped with the blizzard on the Cheviots if we had faced it on day  one :fit, fresh but mentally out of our depth.

     To learn all the Spine has to teach; You need to stay open and keep looking around you. If you are not enjoying the views you are pushing to hard. Runners who like to isolate themselves from their surroundings by plugging into an I Player will just not learn what they need to finish The Spine. Its the Spirit of the Pennine Way In Winter that will give you the power to succeed .

     I just read that last bit back and I am not sure that I like what I have written . Perhaps what I am trying to say is:  You need to enjoy the whole experience and look froward to it rather than see The Spine as something you have to fight to finish.
        And with that I really must go and organise my kit.

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