Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Tackling the 2015 Spine Race (Spine Guide Part 7)

Its been several months since finishing the 2014 Spine Race.
I have read all the blogs I could find, trying to pick out any points I may have missed out from my previous Spine Race Guide Blogs.

One thing I have noticed is that the better trained Elite Runners appear to have a higher DNF rate than many of us less well trained runners.
 Possibly they can,t afford to trash their bodies especially their feet.

It could be that most of the Elite runners train for 100 mile races so they are in the same boat as the mortal runners once past CP 2.  This could be a factor but I suspect that the reasons are more complex.
        Over training could be a reason for the high Elite DNF rate.( The word "over training" is probably not appropriate for what I mean)

Negative Side Effects Of Standard Ultra Training.

       Clocking up the miles , Hill reps, High Intensity Training and all the other obvious Ultra Training methods will condition your body to run further and faster.
        Your body will physically become more efficient and your mind will accept what you are doing to your body as normal   THIS CAN BE A  PROBLEM
         Intensive training may reduce your ability to notice how far you are pushing your body.
         Elite runners train to push their bodies closer to their physical limits.
         The Spine Race is run in conditions where not noticing early how hungry, cold or tired you are can rapidly tip you into a potential DNF situation. Even if you become aware of what is happening you may have conditioned yourself to ignore how you are feeling. In a conventional race it is rare that the next CP is more than 3 hrs away. On the spine the next potential rest and recovery point could be 10 hrs away. Thats 10 hrs of cold, windy, wet, dark indistinct trail.
         I have mentioned in previous blogs that the "Man Up And Push On" attitude can at worst be dangerous and at other times it can put you in a situation where it will take you a long time to recover. There is no point pushing on to reach a CP at your planned time if you arrive too depleted or chilled to even eat .
         The Elite runners are in many ways more vulnerable than less well trained runners. They are by definition highly competitive and may well have lighter more stripped down kit . Their alarm warning  bells are set at a higher level. When an elite runners body starts to crash I suspect it happens faster than it does for some of us less fit slightly overweight runners.
         Once your body is operating in a depleted state it can take a surprisingly long time to recover. This is particularly true if you get chilled. On reaching the CP your blood supply will be set to regain the correct body core temperature. Your digestive system will get less blood supply and regaining sufficient food resupply to your body will get delayed. By not getting into depleted state in the first place you may reduce your CP turn round time by several hrs.
          The time taken loading up with sleep and food credits at the CP is at least as vital as your average moving speed on the trail .

   The Sleeping Issue.
          Another major factor could be the sleeping issue.
           Running all the way to CP2 with minimum sleep is a high risk strategy. Most who do this will have avoided pub food stops so could well be low on food as well as sleep. All of us who have run Ultras think about getting the miles in the bag while fresh. What we don,t think of is the sleep end energy deficit hole that we are creating in that same bag.

    It takes time to condition your body to cope with minimum sleep and to eat way more than you usually do.   The first few days of the Spine are all about setting up your body to be in good condition for the latter half of the race.

        I have said it before and the more I read of others blogs convinces me that : it,s how you act between the start and CP2 that will decide if you make it to the finish line. Pushing hard over this part of the course will  at best slow you up in the long run and at worst lead to a DNF.
        It is also  likely that runners slipped and fell  more often through moving to fast over the first few days than they did through tiredness in the latter part of the race.

  Training For The Spine Race.
        Most Ultra Runners have a very narrow approach to Spine Race Training.  There is nothing wrong with carrying on with how you would normally train for a long ultra but just upping your mileage is not what you need to be fully  trained for The Spine Race.
        You need to do some quality Spine specific training .
        Think about how the Spine differs from say a 100mile mountain ultra such as the L100 or UTMB.
        The  Spine Race weather   will so bad that  both L100 and UTMB would be canceled if faced with the same conditions.    You could well  be out there running day after day in conditions you would not normally dream of even going for a walk in .
        To train for this you need to go out in the most atrocious conditions you can. Better still go out and train on rough ground in the same conditions preferably on routs you have never run before.
        I should add that this sort of training is best done in company.

        If you train in hazardous conditions you should not do it solo. 

        Finding a training partner to accompany you in this lunacy could be difficult but remember you don,t need to run far or fast as its all about quality. A 5 mile lakeland  wet , foggy  night  run will train you better than ten 20 mile fast blasts in good conditions.

         This brings me to another point. Ideally you need to train on rough mountain trails and preferably on routs you have never run before. If you feel you have to be masochistic then by all means fill your pack with bricks.
         I believe it is well worth doing some training weekends in the Mountains. Drive up on Friday night after a hard weeks work and start your first run on the Friday night so you are knackered before you start. This is of course a big ask for a training partner so it may well be worth contacting other Spine Racers from your area. Use the" loading up of the faster runners pack" method to even up differing pace.
         If the weather forecast for a planned weekend is bad then you are in luck.
         Remember to put in some Bog Running Training.

         Remember  Spine Training is also about testing your gear.
        You do need to have spent at least one  night in your Tent or Bivi bag before the race! 
  That night should preferably be in the rain.  
        (I used my tent and bivi bag in pouring rain during the 2014 Spine Race) Its how I got enough sleep to finish well.
       If you don,t have sleeping in the rain properly sorted before the race then you won,t have control of   your sleeping strategy  during the race.  If you rely on  CP locations for sleeping then:
                           YOU WILL NOT BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN RACE!

        In depth quality training will put you back in control. 
        Making good progress is all about: Sleeping when you need to
                                                                Eating when you need to
                 If you are forced to delay either Sleeping or Eating you will slow up and become seriously more likely to become Hypothermic.

        Training by just running is the easy option. It is easier to justify to yourself and you can even put it on a spread sheet . Bragging about weekly mileage impresses others but it won,t do you much good.
        If you do the maths you will discover that race pace is far slower than you probably thought.
        Pavel who won in 2014 did so in 110 ish hrs. If you assume he spent about 20hrs at checkpoints and other stoppage time this makes his  actual  pace  when moving race pace 20 minute miles

        If you can maintain 20 minute miles you will probably podium! 
        The secret is probably training to move as energy efficiently as possible.  The key to this is nutrition and sleep management  rather than running.

        Take full advantage of the training courses offered by the Spine Team.
        The other type of fun training you should seriously consider is entering one or more Mountain Marathons . The LAMM The OMM or the RAB MM would all teach you far more valuable lessons on what you need for the Spine than any Ultra Race . The Saunders MM may also have a few places left. 

       One final thought--- Just entering The Spine Race  proves you are a bit of a nutter. Heading for the hills to run and camp in the rain will just goes to prove how insane you really are. 
       If anyone manages  to justify this behaviour to their  significant other then they really are ready to tackle The Spine Race.

      My next Blog will cover the Pennine Way trail itself and the conditions you may encounter in January on various sections of the course.  I shall also give advise on sections of the trail it,s worth a look at before the race, where you may get lost  and where you may need to make race decisions.

      I have been re-editing my earlier Spine Race Guide Blogs to include lessons I learnt in 2014.
      I guess the guide will never be finished as it,s the complexity of the Spine Race that interests me . I suspect I will learn new lessons every year. 
    My aim remains the same as when I started my first Blog: To write about  what  would I have wanted to know before I first tackled The Spine Race.

1 comment:

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