Not even 2 weeks into 2017 and the possibly my most challenging race of the year is looming large! Once again I’m heading back to compete in the Spine Race.
This year the shorter (fun run!) challenger race (Probably the hardest 100 mile race in the UK, but often referred to as “the short race” in context) is starting on Saturday, and the full Spine race is starting on Sunday. This has allowed a larger number of entries to be accepted in both races. It also means my race experience is now offset by one day in terms of days of week (a concept that will become alien to me once the race starts).
Winning this race last year was a fantastic experience, and one that I’m very proud of. Of course now this sets my own level of expectation pretty high, and demands high standards of myself. I will of course be going back to try and win again. But I’m under no illusions that this will be anything but easy. The entry for this year is even stronger than last year.
My two main rivals from last year, Pavel and Eugene, are both back competing again. They are also both past winners of the race (twice in Pavel’s case). I expect them both to be very competitive. Pavel has no weaknesses when it comes to the Spine. He has the full skillset required to compete and win. His strong adventure racing and navigating background ensure he can handle anything the race is likely to throw at him.
Eugene is possibly the fastest pure runner in the race. He also seems to manage to always have the smallest backpack. He hasn’t managed to last the full length of the last two Spine races, and had to withdraw due to either injury or extreme fatigue. His speed makes him one to watch, especially if he is still at the head of the field approaching the end of the race.
As for myself… well I’ve obviously got a big target on my back as the current champion and record holder. Preparations have gone well and I don’t have any pre-race excuses for underperforming. I’ve continued to endeavour to learn from last year’s race (and all of last year’s other races), and tweak my race plans here and there. I’ve also obtained a few new items of gear where it has been possible to improve on last year’s set-up. I’ll detail this in my post race gear review.
As well as the old hands there will be a few first timers in the Spine who are likely to be contenders. The winner of the Challenger race from last year is stepping up to the full Spine. His winning time last year was impressive, so he is likely to be a front-runner if he can keep that up when he steps up to the longer distance.
There are a few other runners whose past records look like they have potential. For me the far and away stand out contender is Johan Steene from Sweden. He has a few big race wins under his belt, including the Vol State run. His 24 hour time and Spartathlon times are quite similar to mine. Being scandinavian (and having got through 3 laps of the Barkley) no doubt he is a good navigator who can handle winter conditions.
John Knapp who finished a good second in the Northern Traverse is also lined up. He seemed to get stronger towards the end of that race, so the Spine could work well for him. No doubt there are a few more who’ll be out to put in a big performance. All will become clearer as the race progresses.
All the packing is complete, the weather has been watched as far as possible, and all that remains to make way to the Edale for the kit check, briefing, and the small matter of starting the race at 8am on Sunday morning.
As usual with the Spine we’ll all be carrying trackers, so you can watch the race unfold from the comfort of your armchair!