The noble sport of dot watching, for those who have never done this be warned it is addictive once you start.
A lot of ultra-races these days use trackers that while providing safety for the competitors also provide the basis for the addiction of dot watching the competitors during the race be it friends or club mates racing.
My spine race some might say started 2 years ago watching my friend Matt Neale during his spine race along with a few others I knew. My friend was going to help him out with some support during the second half of the race and as I was working not far from the A66 crossing of the Pennine way I was able to intercept him with a mug of hot coffee and some food to give him a boost after the Tan Hill bogs before the final 14 miles to the next CP at Middleton.
Seeing the race first hand and after talking to Matt and then reading a bit more into the race got my mental cogs turning. But as the longest race I had done at the time being only a 100 mile I reckoned I needed a bit of a warm up tester multiday event first to see how I would react. So, the plan was hatched to enter a multiday event during 2016 and some others with a focus of doing the spine in Jan 2017.
My training year started off in March with the Hardmoors 55 to get things going, this went well with a nice steady run and a strong finish with no injuries. The plan next was to do the Hardmoors 160 in May. This started off well utill a bad stomach and a mystery foot injury at 70 miles made me do the safe thing and withdraw, don’t make things worse and live to race another day.
My foot was soon back to normal and working well and was tested out with a 60 mile recce for my next race the 190 mile Northern Traverse at the end of May. The race went well and got me used to the multi day ultra with 40-50 miles being done each day (see race report here).
Next up was the UTLD 100 that did not quite go according to plan as I ended up making a silly nav error with my head down and then went over on my ankle about 6 times before i’d even got to Wasdale. So, this slowed me up untill about Ambleside where my second wind kicked in, even managing my normal sprint up the steps at the last CP. To which someone shouted that man needs to be drug tested as I ran past them at the top of the steps. So about 2 hrs slower than 2 years ago, but happy to finish strong, sub 30 maybe in 2018 for a goal.
The next thing on the list were some Pennine way recce days. I had walked the entire route about 8 years ago with a friend in 13 days with quite large packs and that went well then about 4 years ago did a section from Hebdon bridge to Dufton with Jane my wife. So I was quite happy with most of the route but thought some more recceing would be beneficial and allow me to test my kit out.
So at the beginning of September I did a four day recce from Edale to Dufton with a mixture of wild camping and YHA only walking during daylight hrs. This went well and firmed up a few bits where my memory was not so good so I would be happy not to have to use a map for the first 2 legs. The main point from the first recce was my OMM pack just did not agree with me and that I needed some better light weight waterproofs as my faithful Haglofs smock was failing now after four years of hard use.
The final race for 2016 was the Hardmoors 60 mid Sept only being a week after my recce I was happy with a 30min improvement over last year. But the main thing I noted was I was feeling more tired as i’d been up to a lot of big races and recce’s this year. So I decided to call it quits on any more races and instead focus on spine race preps.
The next recce came early in November starting in Hawes in the afternoon then spent a further 3 days going to Alston. While again all in daylight cross fell was a complete white out and covered in snow from half way up the fell so finding the path was fun. I ran into another spine racer doing a recce to Greg’s hut. Cross fell itself was just white so navigation was by bearing and some pacing and this got me spot on to the cairn up top and then to Greg’s hut and down to Alston.