Thursday, 20 December 2018

Feeding strategy for 2019

         Lack of energy reserves is the primary reason of feeling cold during the race and not lack of warm clothing (unless you are an idiot and choose gear based on  minimum weight).
          If you have no fuel to generate heat then you will suffer.


        We need energy to compete in any race.
        This energy can come from two sources:   1. Food consumed during race.
                                                                                 2. Body energy reserves built up before race.

 Most of you tackling the Spine Race will have had Ultra experience. If you have completed a 100 mile race you will have taken on a fair amount of food during the race and may think that you have a good idea of how much you need to eat to complete an ultra

 When thinking of food requirements during the Spine you need to think back and remember the state of your appetite the day  and week after that long Ultra 

     Just how much did you eat and how hungry were you over that 24hrs? and next few days.
     I am willing to bet that you could eat anything put in front of you!

     The intense feelings of hunger indicate  the fact that you dug deep into your normal reserves and had in fact developed an energy deficit.
      The fact that you may not have been very hungry during the race could be because your hormonal system  effectively suppressed  hunger pains.
        Your body's  Fright or Flight Mechanism will have put immediate physical effort at the top of your body concerns and hunger would just get shoved to the back of the Que.
         The longer the race the greater energy deficit will build up . Some degree of regular feeding will help so on  staged ultra's where you stop feed and sleep at regular intervals you have a better chance of tipping up .

           This brings us back to the mental state of a Spine Runner. The clock is nearly always ticking so your stress hormones are kept at abnormally high levels diverting blood flow away from your digestive system. A relaxed runner will find it easier to eat.

       We all differ in how efficiently we burn our energy reserves . Some Athletes have spent considerable time modifying  their diet to increase reserves and burn efficiency.
      Faster runners spend less time between CP's and so have less of a fuelling problem.
      Post  Ultra Race we feel short of energy and take the  next day real easy. It may  take several days  to get back to eating normally . The thought of  running another ultra, well that was out of the question for a long time.
     OK Now consider the Spine.  After the  first 100miles you need to get back on your feet and face another 168 miles of high energy burn.
       If you create a large energy deficit in the first 100 miles you may never be able to recover and race the next 100.
      Attempting to   'fully' refuel  during a short break at a CP is almost impossible. 
      Your food consumption during the first 100 miles should be way higher than on a normal ultra.
      You may be in your comfort zone for the first 100 but that may not be a good thing.
      Many first time Spine racers slow down drastically  between CP2 And CP3.
     If you slow down to much you will not generate enough heat to keep warm . HYPOTHERMIA!
     Once you get cold one of the first systems to shut down is your bodies  ability to digest food! 
    The simple truth is that you have to eat and digest more whilst you are out on the Spine  course than you would over a similar distance in a shorter ultra.

   Your body will cope better with a steady intake of food from the off, rather than famine and binge.
    The standard Ultra format is to have a checkpoint at approx every 10 miles. 
    The act of arriving at a CP will remind you to eat and having food laid out ready will facilitate eating.
    The Spine is different . With Ultra distances between each CP it will require more will power and awareness from the runner to keep topping up.

      Many of you have will normally have  difficulty eating and running . The food will just sit in your stomach making fast progress out of the question.
      Time now to change the way you normally think.
      I talked in a previous post of the hard to believe concept that if you can maintain 20min mile pace  you will probably podium.  
       Moving at 20 min mile pace makes digesting food much easier. 
       To digest food its best to eat little and often. ( This is one probably one of the key factors that enabled Garry Morrison to finish the Spine 4 times .and counting!). However eating every 15 Min's as Garry does is not easy. I know it does not suit me. I eat less often but in larger quantities when I do eat.
        In  training for the Spine you need to consider training to eat on the move. How slow do you need to be moving to digest food and what will your stomach tolerate? 
        Leaving a CP or pub with an over filled stomach which slows you down is not a problem in the longer term. Ok you will may move slower at first , however in the long term food in your belly means you may need to consume less later that leg . Your average  speed over that leg will be greater.

         Your body will gradually adapt to increased food consumption as the race progresses. 

          It is probably true to say that by the time you reach the finish line your whole sleep , endocrine , appetite and  metabolic system will be set at totally different levels from what they were at the start .

         This is one reason  it takes so dam long to wind back down after the Spine.

         Spending all your efforts on back to back 30 mile training runs are fine and good but if the food is not in your system  during the race then no amount of fitness will stop you grinding to a halt. 

         Running out of energy  will have a marked effect on your mental energy.
         The Spine Race is a race completed or DNF.t by your mental state. 
         If you use you head then baring accidents you can make it to the finish line. It follows that you have to look after your head / mental state.  The less physical strain you put on your body the more you will free up mental energy to plan and make good decisions. 

           Feeding does not appear as a particularly high priority in Race Leaders Blogs as they only have to run for 5 days . Yet again the tail enders need more awareness of the issues and how to keep fuelled up.

             What Hill Food To Carry? 

             Race Rules state min 3000Kcals. Some of this should be emergency Hi Cal Dehydrated Food.
              I like to have some emergency food in reserve that I plan hopefully not to use : An Expedition foods dehydrated main meal and Porridge for breakfast plus a few snickers bars 3000 + Kcals in total. Over and above this I carry my hill fuel.
             The general consensus of opinion is that Energy jells are no use on longer Ultra,s
              Almost all runners trying to use high tech energy supplements as their main energy supply will fail to eat properly and end up DNF'ing.
              Even Challenger Racers have to keep their digestion system's running efficiently for over 40 hrs . Using High Cal ,Hi Tec lightweight foods will screw up your digestive system . 
             You may move faster on jells  for a while but you will probably DNF faster as well.
             The closest I come  to high tech  foods , is carrying Cliff Shot Blocks which I use as a snack not a main form of energy supply. (I have clear reasons why I use them which I discuss later)

              You need to choose food that you like rather than what you think you should eat.    

           The aim is to encourage yourself to keep eating.  The Fridge Raider Mentality

  Ask yourself . Did you ever get the munchies,.open the fridge and think : "Yum an energy Jell"?
                I  like to carry high fat and protein foods such as Cheese, Pies Canned fish Sausages and Boiled eggs.  Wraps ,pre loaded in plastic bags are easy to hold.

               I never pass up the opportunity to raid a pie shop or indulge in hot fish and chips
               My current favourite  is Wraps with plenty of re-fried beans and veggies.

                The resulting bad breath and farting may explain why I frequently run solo!

               MY FOOD PRIORITIES  ARE :
                                                                   DO I HAVE ENOUGH FOOD AND NOT !
                                                                   HOW MUCH   WEIGHT CAN I SAVE CARRYING LESS.

           Stimulant Foods

              Small snacks such as Pepperami , Baby bell Cheese  and extra strong mints can also help to keep you awake in the hours before dawn.

            I always try to avoid foods that give you a sugar rush and any Caffeinated product. You should try to iron out the peaks and resulting troughs in your energy levels.

           My general lack of fitness and poor gait means that I am a very inefficient energy converter and I will eat far more than other competitors during the race. It is not unusual for me to exit a CP carrying  well over 1Kg of hill food.
            Whatever your requirements you will find that you will have to eat extra food outside the CP,s
            Pubs ,Shop's and Cafe' foods  are allowed within the  race rules.
            I have made up a list of their locations and it may be worth marking them on your Maps.

Feeding Locations On The Course

           Stoping to eat will slow you up but running while hungry will slow you more .
           One of the most frustrating feelings is having to wait to be served . To avoid this try not to arrive at a feeding stop with a large crowd of runners. 


             There are very few shops on the course where you can buy food to carry in your pack.

           Food Shops have limited opening hours (you need to know these)

             If you intend to stop at a CP late in the day and sleep,  the nearby shops may be closed when you re-start and eventually pass them .


          Delays While Waiting To Be Served.

             Food service at CP's will be slower for any runner not leading the pack.
             CP staff will be falling over each other to help and feed  and pamper the front runners.
             As the later runners roll into CP's in larger numbers the demand for food can outstrip the limited kitchen facilities .  This can delay the speed of service (this is particularly true if large groups arrive together)

              Food Between CP's

             There are 4 main ways to re-fuel between CP's

             1 Pubs And Cafe's

             2 Solid food from shops and supermarkets

             3 Hot food cooked on your stove on the trail

             4 Cold food and snacks sourced from pre race or drop bag.


1Pubs and Cafe's
                              If your head is in race mode you will hate waiting to be served . An indoor hot food stop can be excrutianatly slow.  However if your body needs warming  and gear needs re-sorting then a Pub stop is the way to go . You need to consider not only how you feel on approaching a hot food oasis but also the gap from that point to the next good shelter.
                               It is worth mentioning that you may well be moving in groups . The loudest member of that group may well make the decision as to weather to stop or not . It is critical that you make your own decision even if it means splitting a group or travelling solo. If you are cold /hungry and ready to stop at the Pub then things will only get worse if you push on past.
                              The   opening hours of pub 's give you a short window . Most Cafe's have short serving hours in winter with the acceptation of two which open especially to harvest Spine Racer Trade. ( I shall give details later0

2 Solid Food from Shops . 
                               The  opening hours of the three supermarkets that you pass  can be longer than pubs or some caff's . Gargrave Coop and Alston Spar  have hot food cabinets.

3 Hot Food Cooked On The Trail.
                                  in Theory this is a faster way to get hot food inside you whenever you want . In practise to light up your burner and boil water takes time and a draft free place preferably where you can sit down . Even an enclosed Jet Boil system is slower in any wind but the main problem is that as soon as you stop your body will cool down rapidly without any external warmth.  Having practised this during the Spine and on Dartmoor I have found one part solution to the cooling problem . Foil blankets are light and can be used to wrap around you as you cook . Once used they cannot be re folded but can be scrunched op fairly small and put in a pouch for later use . ( Note this needs to be extra to the mandatory Bivi Bag on your kit list )
                                     In practise Cooking on the trail only really  pays off if you are inside a Bothy or shed .

4 Cold Food Sourced From Drop Bag / Resupply and carried with you .
                       The majority of food consumed outside the CP will have to be carried . Stopping to dig out food from your backpack should be avoided at all costs . You are in a race!!
 Psychologically few of us while racing  can bring ourselves to stop -take pack off -open -rumage - put pack back on then continue . What happens is that you will keep putting off the above actions until you are forced  to by  hunger . By that stage you will begin serious energy deficit. 
                         Carried food consumption requires planning . All the food should be to hand without breaking your stride . In practice this means it needs to be carried in your front pouch . This is why the vast majority of spine racers use a front pouch . (Think of it as one large Nose Bag !)
                          If your food is handy-appetising and preferably easy to eat with gloves on then you will keep ahead with your energy requirements. If actually getting your hands on your food means you  feel you are getting overtaken you probably won't eat.

               CP Food

               The choice and quality and portion size  of the food on offer varies each year.
                Fortunately Spine food was come a long way from the early days where at some CP's a single microwave was the only way of heating all  food and hot drinks (The Elf and Safety's banned even electric kettles)
               Generally you will be offered a main meal or breakfast  or possibly both.
               The CP's  sometimes operate on normal 24 hr clock. You may be unlucky to arrive at a CP when they are serving Breakfast when you would like a main meal.
               The CP staff try to be as accommodating as possible but planning to feed a bunch of grunting, demanding ,  Spine Racers on differing time clocks is an up hill struggle.
              At times  large batches of food are cooking and are not ready when you need to feed
              Remember  some of the CP staff may be as knackered as you!
               Even now there may be delays in serving you a main meal if there is a rush on.
              Having seen this happen at times in 2016 I would advise everyone to consider carrying simple packets of instant food such as Couscous in your drop bag. ( Blag the boiling water and eat  Couscous as a starter while waiting for your main meal.
              Portion size may be insufficient at times especially for tail enders who take longer to reach each CP and have  to make up for longer transit between CP gaps.
                Carry a few extra dehydrated meals in the drop bag so you can supplement CPfood if your hunger  is not satisfied. There will always be boiling water available.

      The CP's  do not provide sandwiches  or hill food  to take out  on the trail.

                 You may be able to steal the odd packet of crisps or biscuits but you should organise your own hill food.
                  I never generally have big  enough portions  at the CP's so have to top up with drop bag food   or food bought just before the CP.

                    Drop Bag Food Stocks

                  You start the Race with a 20Kg max drop bag ( It will be weighed!)
                   Hill food for the  CP1 to CP2 leg  needs to be in the bag .( Gargrave is the first opportunity to shop for extra food).
                   You always need spare food in  the drop  bag just in case you get out of synchronisation with Pub/shopping hours. Freeze dried meals are the most weight efficient option.
                    In previous years supported runners did not  have to worry , giving them a big advantage as support teams could spend precious time shopping for the racers.


  Planning Food Consumption 

(locations of food on course in order.)

         I have only listed food outlets close to the PW as I am well awaye that no one wants to deviate from the course and potentially loose time 
         FOR MOST RUNNERS IT IS at least  15 Long arduous  hrs until the CP1 Meal
         In order to finish The Spine Race you will have to consume way more food than that provided by the CP's

          You also need to note any opening/serving times .

             Start the race on a good breakfast. Don,t worry about a full stomach slowing you down at first ,you will reap the rewards later that day. (besides a slow climb of Jacobs ladder may prevent sweat build up)

           The White House Inn is  off limits in 2019 for all racers!! 

              The  White House management have got undeserved stick for this on Spine facebook posts. The White House  Inn is usually packed with normal Punters spending large amounts when they can find a table . Spine racers take up  seating space , spend bugger all and cover the place in mud .
                Having Spine Racers using the White House Inn probably  looses the place money .

                                 Burger Van at M62 crossing (the only hot food on leg one)

                         Now confirmed will be open for the 2019 Racers 
                         usually   open till 10pm for Challengers and Spine Racers.
                         He may possibly stay open longer but no Guarantee.
                         From the M62 to CP1 is a long way to go with no hot food inside you.
                         No real shelter in which to eat your food.
                Food --Main meal and breakfast available .
                This CP has been known to run short of food for tail end runners.
                Even if you don,t stop to sleep you need to eat as much as you can.

                        In 2018 there were Burgers available just before Ponden reservoir . Unfortunately the fast pace in 2018 meant that fewer than normal racers stoped at CP 1 and those that did passed Ponden  before the berger joint set up. The Cafe owners who run it may not do so in 2019 but their main Cafe will still probably be open and Signposted from the PW . The Cafe is aprox 250m off the course so few runners will be tempted to go and find it .
                 Jan  7 th 2019 update . Pondon Mill Cafe may open for the race but yet to be confirmed.


                 Lothersdale Pub. things are changing

                      The Spine is a major boost to sales and the Landlords used to  try  to  harvest your trade . (
                     Set up to harvest your trade during the race 2017
                     Hot butties available from 7am .
                     Main meals served 11am till late.
                     Bang on the trail and expecting Spine Racers!
                     Seats covered in cling film and extra mats on the floor.
                     Set price deal for Spine Racers now the Landlord has got his head around the idea.
                     Now part of Spine Tradition to drop in!

Breaking News  2019 : The Lothersdale Pub has changed hands and  may well be closed for re-furrb in Jan 2019 so may not be available . It is possible that Local Spine Supporters may provide water and hot drinks  outside the Pub but not hot food . 
                     For a good proportion of the runners this gap  in available hot food supply means that you will have to pack  extra hill food in your drop bag so you can collect and carry it from CP1.

               Abbots Harbour Cafe at end of canal section 2 miles  before Gargrave.

                       Pass under the A59 then come off canal at next road bridge and go left up road 50mtrs.
                       Looking for the extra trade. 
                       Cafe service will  be slower than raiding the Co Op in Gargrave  about 1hr further on so few runners stop at the Cafe.


                       Several pubs 

                       Co op food store with hot pies (On RHS 100 m down road just after the bridge)

 Do a virtual recce on google street finder before the race so you are confident in finding The Co op  during the race.

                       Co op 7am to 10pm with a Hot Pie stand !.faster runners tend to eat all the pies.
                       Coop is last food shop to stock up before CP1.5
                       The Co op may well be your last chance for food until Horton and that's a long way!


                          Several Pubs (I have never reached  there before they stopped serving evening food)
                          Not aware of any food shop but I think there is a cafe
                          The majority of  runners pass through Malham after closing time.

                      Malham Tarn

                           Bugger all except the kettle  (rehydrate a Hi Cal main meal in the warm)
                           BYO food.Max time of 30 mins to sit and eat in the warm.

                     Horton Cafe .

                         Expecting racers normally stays open all night.
                         Feed up, it's bloody miles to Haws! And much of the trail is high and exposed
.                        If you are in fast race mode then choose the set meal deal  (Choose this and you will get your food faster!)
                         Although this is not aCP there is usually Medic Help at the Cafe. 
                          Remember this place is a public Cafe ,it is doing you a favour staying open all hours .
                          Respect the place and other non racing members of the public .


                         Several pubs and food shops. Possibly a chippy (it may have been an hallucination)
                         Remember to Stock up before finding CP2 if it,s near dusk. 
                          THINK Will  all  the food shops be closed when you exit the CP?
                         Tackle Shunner Fell on a full Stomach.
                         Meal at the YHA CP but no takeaways except for the odd biscuit.
                         This is an out and back CP so you will pass the shops twice.
                         Before leaving CP try to find out if the  `Tan Hill Pub will stay open all night. You may want to modify your CP exit time to repack Tan Hill while it is still open. 

                     Tan Hill Pub

               Normal opening hours.
               Some years the bar has been open all night for racers. (Warm chips and an honesty box)
               Other years Pub closed at night but foyer open for Marshals to shelter in .
               Cold blustery location if you are locked outside in the dark.

                   Middleton + CP

                The Butchers  Deli  has some of the best  apple pies in the UK.
                Again it may well be worth stocking up on hill food.
                 Once past The  Middleton Food Shops there is no place on the trail to re-stock until  The Spar in Alston    
                 The CP is a long way past the shops but you re pass the shops to get back to the trail on leaving the CP.  (will they still be open later?)
                 Usual CP food available.
                 Less stressed atmosphere due to rising numbers of  DNF's after Haws.

                   Dufton. CP3.5 Village Hall

                    Pub and Cafe. 
                     Pub Open normal hours but has a history of not being very friendly to racers .
                    Don,t expect the Pub to go out of it's way to serve you food.
                    Village hall Kitchen and Kettle good for re hydrating food.
                     Your best bet is the Post Box Cafe may open 24 hrs (now confirmed )
                     Order your food before checking into the Cp to reduce any delays.
                     The Cafe is very pro Spine and now almost a mud stop off and eat place.

                    Gregs Hut.

                     Usually a tin of hot  pot noodles available.
                     You will always have to wait for the water to boil but it's worth it for the banter.
                      Beware bearded men offering you home made Chilly Sauce !( It will blow the  seal skin socks right off your feet.)
                     Eat all your noodles  !You are still hours from Alston
                     Real tradition to stop and eat noodles . (you have not done the proper Spine if you don't eat)

                      Gargill    (Shop and on RHS of green.)

                     Post Office Store.
                                                   Minute shop short  rather random opening hours.
                                                   Don,t bank on it being open when you pass.
                                                   Limited food but a good place to pick up your pension.
                       The Pub              Was closed for a time ,(May have re-opened) Has a To let son outside.

                      CP4 Alston YHA.

                              This  new for 2018 CP is very near the Alston SPAR Supermarket.
                               SPAR large  supermarket (linked to the petrol station open 7 to 11.
                               Less than 5 mins from the CP. (Scope it out on Viewfinder)
                               Again ask yourself:" Will it still the SPAR be open when I leave the CP?"
   If you eventually pass Bellingham at night this will be your last chance to shop before the finish!
                               Get a dried food meal for rehydrating later at " Honeystead Farm"

                        Alston town chip shop

                              Might be worth a visit to raise spirits  before you face Isacks F---ING TEA TRAIL  (a notorious shit fest of an experience if it is wet)


                            Pub and Cafe 300m off trail
 LOCATION: As soon as you cross the A69, climb the bank (following the PW signs)and you will find yourself at the end of a dirt road . (The PW is straight on  over this road) If you  go right along road and you arrive in Greenhead. Pub one side Caffe on the other.
                                Good reception at both places.
                                Go back up road to rejoin PW (don,t shortcut!).

                            Hadrians Wall
                                   Sod all places to eat (No wonder the Romans hated the place!)
                                   Fill water bottles at tap by toilets , no  clean water for 20+km 
                                   The one fast flowing stream crossing the trail is the outflow from a  still lake.

                            Honeystead Farm. GR: NY 815773

                                  Follow Spine Pit Stop Signs.
                                  Dry Farm outbuilding on the  PW trail
                                  A real life saver of an Oasis in bad weather.
                                  Comfy Chairs ,Snacks ,Kettle and   Fridge. (no substantial food )
                                  Shelter and Relief when you will most need it                                        
                                 This place is an old farm shed. The owners are very generous to walkers.
                                  Honesty box SO PUT SOME DOSH IN IT!

                            Bellingham CP5

                                          In deep snow conditions CP5 to the finish line could take up to 24 hrs ! (Do you have enough hill food ? CP5.5 is a good meal but strictly rationed.)
                                          Cp is 1Km short of the Co-op in town.
                                          Good Bakery in Bellingham next to Co-Op 
                                          Seriously take into account stocking up on hill food now as this is your last chance to  buy and carry extra food before the Finish Line.
                                           Ask yourself will the Co op still be open if I sleep at the CP first  .

     IF I AM SHORT OF FOOD I WILL SHOP IN BELLINGHAM CP THEN WALK BACK TO SLEEP IN THE CP. (two extra 2 Km is a small price to pay for a well fed runner heading for potentially the hardest part of the course!) 

                             The Forrest Lodge, Byrness   CP5.5

Note this place was up for sale in 2018 so may not be serving food in 2019

                          Soup and Sausage and Mash   ( + veggie option).

                                 No second helpings.

                          The best and most Spine Orientated  CP food on the whole course in 2016! 

Once out of Byrness there is no good running water so fill all your bottles at CP5

I would strongly advise everyone that the long high level haul between Byrness and the finish line Is one of the most energy sapping parts of the course . Your bodily energy reserves will be virtually gone so you need to have plenty of food still remaining as you leave Bellingham . There are no shops or pubs in Bryness and you may not pass the Bellingham Shops during opening times .

You probably need to have re stocked your drop bag with a surplus of food before leaving the Alston CP. This takes planning so don't just try to wing it as you can potentially loose out big time . If we get snow then the final Cheviot section is where It tends to build up . It is not unusual to be reduced to a 1Km per hr crawl for hours if post holing along the Cheviots in deep snow and the burns a phenomenal amount of energy.
 This running out of food /energy can even effect the race leaders . I believe Simon Gfeller who came second in 2018 ran short of food over the Cheviots.

                            THE FINISH LINE

                                Food in the Pub Is Good.
                                A few snacks available in village hall.

            Psychological Boost From Eating.

           I like food and during the race I use this fact to keep my spirits up . Low energy reserves will depress mood and alertness especially in the hours before dawn.
           The distraction of feeding myself can take my mind off my other troubles.
           It is possible at times to feed yourself awake.
           The use of drugs such as caffeinted foods or PRO PLUS will give a short term boost but if your reserves are really low then the trough after the boost can be catastrophic. I regard this sort of action as loosing control my race .
            Loosing Control is only a short step away from the DNF.
            I do have one unconventional crude trick to shock my body back awake and this is to suck on a sachet of brown source Stolen from a take away on the drive to Edale. It is disgusting but for me it can work.

          Choosing Hill Food With A Focus On Your Speed.

          Sorry I am not talking about carrying less heavy food.
The Idea Is to choose Food that is easy to access.

          At any point during the race you will have to expend energy multi tasking.
          A sprinter only really has one task:To Sprint.
           A Spine Racer can be swamped by multiple tasks. Eating is one of them.
           Even the process of chewing will slow you up to some extent.
           Locating ,opening,inspecting,getting in your mouth ,chewing ,swallowing then stowing all the food wrappers will all loose you ground.
            Pre planning will help. Start with stowing: that front pouch should be a nose bag full of food.

            Remove all surplus wrappers

              : Take Baby Bell mini Cheeses  as an example : They come in a string bag -----DITCH,
                                                                                           Ccellophane red wrapper---DITCH 
                                                                                           The red wax case ----retain so the cheese does not become contaminated. (it is possible to eat the wax and crap it out later!)

            You can move faster by not having to unwrap the various layers.
            This is one small example but the principle can be applied to everything you eat.
           Opening wrapping should be easy but for much of the race you will be wearing gloves . You may have to stow the gloves even  in order to hold a packet of food.
           Wrappers that can be opened with your teeth lead to less faffing.
           It may be worth taking food out of original wrappers and putting it in ziplock freezer bags.
           Avoid sweats that get sticky when wet .
           Try to keep your front pouch nose bag reasonably clean and organised.

              Part of your race prep should be practising eating on the move.

               Time lost  while eating may appear trivial . You will probably not appreciate it's effects  unless another runner is in range . While  you eat, they will move faster than you .  This is not always a problem but from a mental viewpoint you may well put of eating in order to maintain your own pace.        Delaying eating  may well  bight you in the ass later when your lack of food really damages your pace.

Staying in charge of your race is all about taking control of all the factors affecting your efficiency.
           Your race  training should include working out how to eat on the hoof.

                                YOU SHOULD DO.

               Reasons  why I use Cliff Shot blocks. Mountain Berry Flavour( Caffeine free)

            They can be stowed in pockets of my pouch with one end sticking out.
             I can tug them out of the pocket wearing Mittens.
             I can open them with my teeth.
             Once open they do not leek goo.
             I can squeeze them into my mouth one block at a time with Mitts still on.
             I can re -stow them without looking down.
             They are easy to share with other runners.

            The Dedicated Rubbish Bag.

                     A long time ago I was issued with a Velcro attached  dedicated rubbish string pouch at the start of the UTMB.  It has been astonishingly useful in saving time separating used food wrappings from live ready to eat food. 
                    Customise the front strap of your pack by hanging an easy to get at pouch on the strap.
                     All to often runners expect to buy a pack that does everything . 
                     Each race you do is different so get out that needle and thread and get customising!
                     Somewhere on the front of your pack system there is room for a rubbish bag.

         When reading various Spine Blogs you have to take into account who wrote them .
         A tail end Spine Finisher will have to survive fur perhaps 3 days longer than the winner and this has to be reflected in every approach to the race .
         I have said before that I am a very inefficient runner and this probably extends to the way I burn up my energy reserves. My Spine Food Consumption is extreme :Probably over 10,000Kcals per day by the end of the race. It takes me some time to wind myself up to this level of gluttony,but it works for me .

       Dealing With Extreme Cold.(and how this can impact your food consumption)

         I have covered  the issue of water turning into ice above.
         Your Snickers Bars can also freeze solid.
         It is highly likely that at some point during the race you may have to deal with extreme cold conditions.
           It is not just a matter of wearing more layers , you need to try to plan further in advance.
           Everything ,and I mean everything is harder if the temp falls below-5 and you have wind chill to deal with.

           The subject of gloves needs considerable thought . In particular gloves V Mitts.

            In theory having gloves gives you more manual dexterity to use your maps ,GPS controls and access your food. The reality is that if it is well below freezing the gloves you need will be padded and cumbersome .
             Bulky  gloves  will be fine for holding poles and perhaps a map and GPS but if you need to press the correct button  on the GPS or refold a map  or unwrap food , you will have to take your gloves off.
           Gloves have a larger surface area than Mitts so weight for weight a Mitt will always be warmer. I find mitts are also easier to take on and off.
            Strangly the worst combination can be glove liners inside Mitts. This works ok for warmth but the problem comes when you need to take them off. You can,t easily get your fingers back into a glove that is inside a Mitt. 
             What tends to happen is that you have to stow your Mitts while you get your liner gloves back on . The whole process can be fiddly and you will need to place your Mitts in a safe place while getting your liners sorted.  You effectively have to take your gloves off twice.

            A Mitt liner can sometimes be left inside the outer Mitt making getting your hands out for fine dexterity work faster and easier.
            The other advantage is that it is easier to put hand warmers inside Mitts.
            I have found that the touch screen of a Garmin Oregon GPS if set up correctly can be  activated and viewed using the top of running pole to prod the screen.


    Getting dehydrated will reduce your pace dramatically.
    Although the race is held in cold conditions you will still need to stay well hydrated.
     In low humidity freezing conditions you loose a large  amount of water just breathing.
     Staying Hydrated is not always easy. Fresh clean water is available at times on the course but is far from dependable.
     From past experience I can tell you that the road head Marshals supply very little water and it all gets given to the front runners!
    Sorry we have run out is a common  and unwelcome response.
    The tail endears will have to use streams. and whatever source they can find.
     If taking from streams use fast flowing water.
     Some people take filters but as far as I am aware they don,t end up using them as it takes up far to much time.
     Avoid filling up with water from the outflow streams of large ponds. The pond/lake water is often suspect.
      Farm field run off water is also suspect.

      Kit list says ability to carry 2l. most of us start with only 600ml then fill up after reaching high ground . 

      My personal choice is to use water bottles as they are faster to fill and I hate demand valve tubes.

             Some parts of the course such as the CHEVIOTS and Hadrians wall provide few water sources  especially if snow is on the ground. you need to fill up at CP5.5 and 4.

           Bladders sandwiched between your back and backpack contents tend not to freeze . The actual hydration hose can be led through your shoulder strap and insulated but the main problem you will encounter is the bight valve freezing up so it needs to be tucked inside your jacket.
           Personally I don't like bladders as I hate the bight valves and the bladders themselves take so long to fill .

             Water bottles are easier to fill but they do need insulating as they tend to be stored virtually in the open .
              Again it is the bight valve and top of the bottle that tends to freeze first .
              Insulating bottles and storing them on the outside of your gear can sometimes not be enough . Back in the early Spines 2012 and 2013 runners found themselves carrying unusable blocks of ice up the course even with insulation. The only real way to keep your water bottle contents liquid is to use your body to keep it warm . A ridged full bottle next to your skin is going to be uncomfortable so it may be worth taking at least one soft water bottle .


     Note For  Spectators  And Road Head Marshals.

       There is never enough clean water available on the course so anyone attending road heads can help by having a 5+ltr drum of water (savers supermarket brand) available for any passing racer to top up with water. Tap water is fine ,we are not fussy.
          Please ask any race visitors to carry extra water for racers!

              Carrying 800g of ice along the course does nothing for your moral. You can,t ditch the ice as it won,t come out of the bottles which you will need later.
               Probably the only way to prevent water from freezing in bottles in temps below -5c with wind  is to carry soft bottles in your base layers (workout if this impossible before the race . Is it comfortable ? do they bang about and bruise you.
                It may be worth filling sealed bottle with hot water and packing it deep in your pack wrapped in well insulated garments.
               If you use electrolytes they may help to  reduce water freezing point so experiment now with
 samples in your freezer.
                It is possible to tuck a lighter fuelled hand warmer such as that made by ZIPPO along side a water bottle to keep it liquid ( I have managed to keep a Zippo hand warmer running for 18 hrs on one fill).

           MELTING SNOW
            It takes as much gas to melt snow as it does to boil water (Snow ---Boiling 2X gas  consumption.
            During  the TEFT,s  stop in hut 2 on the cheviots we used up 4 gas cylinders to produce about 1l of boiling water and 2l of melted water to drink!   And it took hours.)

 Bonus Hot Drinks For Challenger Racers

      In 2016 the local Mountain rescue teams attended several road heads supplying Hot Drinks and water. This may well happen again in 2017 but it is part of the support  for the mountain rescue teams competing . Now we have split starts they will probably not be around for the Spine Racers starting on the next day.


          It is possible ,and for some  desirable to train your body to make better use of it,s reserves.
          I have often referred  to the importance of "Running Your Own Race". Eoin Kieth uses the term :Staying in Control . Control is the key to avoiding the DNF and improving your race position.

           Eoin The 2016 Race winner  takes a very different approach to nutrition on Ultra,s . It certainly works for him but I do't think I have the self discipline to copy his long term nutrition strategy. His blog is well worth a read:

  I should say that I have no medical training but did study Physiology a long long time ago.  Its what happens to the body on extreme races that particularly fascinates me.

  Several books have been written on ultras.
 I particularly like Dr Mike Strouds "Survival of the fittest"    This book gets right into the guts of what you could face during the race . Mike Stroud has accompanied Sir Ranulpf Feinnes on many of his expeditions . His insights on expeditions in extreme cold are particularly interesting and relevant to what you may face on the Spine.





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