Sunday, 5 January 2020

Avoiding the DNF

This short post lists a few of the ways you can DNF the spine and possibly other Ultra's.
I have put them into one post to get you all thinking about how easily your normal race  pre-conceptions can cause you to make mistakes .

To  DNF can be   AVIODABLE.

I will give you good advise but the issue here is that these issues can creep up on you slowly  and strike you down . They are all  Medically Related but require no medical expertise to avoid . Sometimes they will strike a large number of racers while others in the same race have no issues. Every year race conditions change and this will also affect your susceptibility to the DNF.

"It's never happened to me "
" That's not how I normally race "
"I prefer to use my normal kit "
"I know what I am Doing"
"If I do that I move SLOWER"

 All good rational thoughts but none of us have done every SPINE . 
 A DNF is the ultimate "Move Slower"

Senario 1

 Revise your thoughts on BLISTERS !

OK so you get blisters from running in ill-fitting shoes. So far so good .
 The longer you run the worse/more  blisters you get (partly true)
 Preventing blisters is better than cure. (fully agree)
 I know how to treat blisters ,its the same way as on a 100mile race WRONG!
 Compeed type blister plasters are a light, easy and quick blister fix in any race .TOTALLY WRONG!

The Spine is not any race . Before reading Peter Golds Challenger blog I would have said you can just about get away using Compeed Blister Plasters on the Challenger. You Can't!

Kit list says " Use your normal blister treatment system " (or at least it used to)

We all know that using Compeeds is easy : You wipe clean the area around the Blister , dry the skin ,peel the back of the plaster and press it in place . It usually sticks well , really well.

IT STICKS REALLY WELL and that's the problem . 
 The Spine lasts a really long time (even the challenger) . Even with the best dry socks and gaiters you still get warm damp crud next to your skin .
 Once a compeed is bonded on there is a slight ridge between it and your skin around the edge . This edge is also where there is an abrupt change between the normal stretchiness of your skin and skin backed with Compeed.  
  The net result is a ring of micro abrasion in an are of skin sheer. This is how you can  seed and form  a ring more blisters .
  Ok no problem ? The medics can sort it out at the next CP.
  Problem is step one to sort things out involves removing the Compeed.
 Guess what even the Spine Medics have no magic way of removing the original Compeed
  It has to be torn from the skin and this rips the skin surface off the original blister . 
  You now have a large area of skin removed from your foot and you have put your name down on the short list for getting an infection.

  Infection can be fought by: Keeping the wound dry and clean (non existent in Spine Footwear ).
                                              Taking Antibiotics .
                                              Relying on a strong healthy immune system.

Clean and dry is not an option and Antibiotics are worth avoiding . The real problem especially on the full spine is what is happening your first line of defence : your immune system .
        How To Compromise Your Immune System : 1 Don't get enough sleep.
                                                                                 2 Don't eat regular healthy meals.
                                                                                 3 Don't over exert your body .
                                                                                 4 Don't flood your body with fight /flight hormones (Cortisol and Adrenalin).
                                                                                  5 Don't get run down  or stressed by feeling you are not in full control of what is happening in your life .
                                                                                  6 Don't get cold or de-hydrated.

 Face it The Spine Can Totally Trash your immune System.

  There have been many  cases of infected blister wounds during the Spine . Racers usually insist on carrying on while taking Antibiotics but on several occasions runners have ended up in Hospital with Blood Poisoning.  
   Avoiding large area open wounds should be a priority .

   The Spine Medics have all been taught how to treat blisters by draining the with a sterile needle then bandaging with a small pad of mole skin fleece held in place by a web of Kinisio Tape .  Only a few of the Medics have used this method in anger before the race and for many this will be the first time they have done this . Some are more expert than others but all are expert by the time they repack Kirk Yetholm. 
    There have been incidents where inexperienced Medics have used Compeeds . Don't let them ! You will regret it .

     Treating Blisters with a long term view using Kinesio Tape , Sharp Scissors and Mole Skin Fleece takes time and the materials are bulkier and heavier than Compeeds. You are going to have to bight the Bullet and trust me on this one . Take some time to practise on your feet at home . Cutting the Kinesio tape  and applying it to your feet. is not easy.

  I have covered blister treatment in my Sleeping issues blog .

         Issue 2 Wind .

To be more precise Wind Blindness. 
I have covered this in previous blogs but every year runners risk their eyesight during the Spine 

2015 was the year of Wind Blindness. 
It's  potential significance was not appreciated by the Competitors or the Race Directors.
During that race about 10 runners were delayed at CP1 with at least one runner ending up in hospital. Many more runners were effected but due to wind direction they carried on with only one eye still working properly. Tall runners are more susceptible especially if already  de-hydrated.

  Wind Blindness is caused by wind fanning the eye surface drying the outer layers . The body fights this drying process by causing the eyes to water. Depending on wind direction one eye is normally dried  out faster than the other . 
 Ordinary specs can screen the eyes,  reducing the drying effect ,however if they are not the fully wrap around design specs can accelerate drying in one eye due to the venturi effect.

  Wearing wrap around goggles in high wind conditions will prevent wind blindness.
   Because this condition is seldom encountered and only occurs during long periods of high wind exposure runners don't use goggles .
    Not having goggles handy and misting up problems will also deter users .
    The most scary thing about wind Blindness is that it creeps up on you during daylight and the damage to your vision only manifests itself at night when you try to run by torch light. (Your vision totally fogs up with bright rings around any source of illumination.
     I Have had this during a race called the Fellsman . The wind was a strong  and dry  I ignored my watering eyes until dusk when a group of us switched on our head torches . Two out of four had wind blindness . Mine was so bad I could not see my feet and had to stumble on to the next CP holding the pack on the runner in front . I don't mind admitting that it scared the Crap out of me .(and yes I DNF't).

  Watering eyes is the flashing red  light on your dashboard telling you to put your Goggles on!

      There is no instant cure for Wind Blindness . Eye drops don't really help . The remedy is good body hydration and a long sleep with your eyes firmly closed . There have been very few medical papers published on the subject but there is one account detailing the experience of a runner admitted into a hospital with this condition after taking part in an obscure British race called The Spine.

      Issue 3 not spending enough time horizontal !

   This one may not be totally avoidable for all runners but we can all reduce the chances of issues by remembering to keep our feet up . That sounds easy but hey ,why worry . Have you ever had really bad foot swelling issues? 
   Facebook posts just before most Ultra's bang on about wearing over sized shoes cos your feet swell.
   Most uf us probably  only go up 1/2 a size bigger than a normal training shoe. The shoe stays on our feet all race and feels a bit tight when we eventually take it off but who cares.

   The issue during the Spine is Chronic Swelling .
   Like many medical issues this will not strike everyone . Surprisingly one trigger is de-hydration. If you don't drink enough bits of your body (especially the lower parts will swell)
    When it comes to feet one strategy is to keep your shoes on . This acts as a compression bandage. 
     Many of the lead runners try to keep their shoes on as much as possible . They may stay in the boot room and get the CP Staff to wait on them . (this behaviour from the staff only applies to the leaders . Once the mob arrives the runners have to do what they are told .)
     The amount of swelling is also affected by the ratio of sleeping horizontally to standing or sitting with your feet on the ground .
      One often forgotten factor is halting the race . If the race is stopped the competitors get longer sleep and a better chance to re-hydrate.
      Swollen feet is always more of an issue on milder years when the race is not halted.
      Whenever you stop elevate your feet .
       Even when eating get your feet up .
       When sleeping put a pillow under your feet .

     The tail enders will have the worst problems as they are racing for longer.

      Swollen feet is lesson  an issue in staged races with fixed sleep stops although hydration in desert races can cause issues .
       On an average year every ones foot swells at least one size during the race . In selecting  your starting shoe size you can test for this before the race by just checking you can cram your foot into the shoe one size smaller than your Edale Shoe.  Most vets tend to have a second shoe one size larger again in their drop bag . 
       Several times I have witnessed runners removing laces or taking a knife to their shoes in the later stage of the race in order to force the shoe over swollen feet.
        Wearing compression socks while sleeping at CP's may help but this may not be possible if you want max foot ventilation for blister problems.

       Elevating Feet at CP's is frequently forgotten so why not remind each other.
       Some of the worst swelling occurs at the finish line pub. We all forget to elevate once the race is over . Alcohol won't help either.  
      Your get me home shoes may well need to be clown size!

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