It’s that time of year again…let the tracking begin!
Firstly, apologies for the definite lack of blog posts in the last while. I have quite a few half written posts which I must get around to finishing. Like so much else going a bit awry these days I’m blaming Brexit. So much to keep up with, and no increase in the number of hours in the day to allow for it. Something had to give.
I’ve previewed the Spine Race on a few occasions before, and written a few blog posts describing the race itself. Rather than repeat myself I’ll let you read those to pick up all the basic details. In this post I’ll just concentrate on the specifics of this year’s upcoming event.
Course and Kit
There were a few diversions last year on the course. Most of these have been eliminated for this year, so the course is almost fully the Pennine Way itself. The main exception is an allowed diversion past Padon hill approaching Byrness on the last leg of the race. The kit requirements are almost all the same, with the exception of a beefed up specification for the Roll Mat. I had been getting away with using the in-built mat in my OMM 32L backpack, but this no longer meets the requirements. So a little extra weight will be transported around the course this year.
Anyone who thinks an accurate weather forecast is possible before the race has started is delusional. Anything could happen over the 4 or 5 days of the race. As usual, we’ll have to be prepared for whatever could get thrown at us, with the probable exception of a heatwave (In complete contrast to my last race, the Oman UTMB). At the moment it is looking like classic UK/Ireland hill weather… Not too cold, but murky. That’s potentially awkward racing conditions which could be hard to get the optimal balance of clothing between overheating and potential hypothermia.
There’s no point in pretending otherwise… I’ll be aiming to win this year. But then, this has always been the case. I haven’t any major issues coming into the race, but you never know exactly what shape you’re in until reality starts biting in the race itself.
There are three or four notable absences from the Spine Race this year. Pavel will not be there. I’ve no doubt we’ll be hearing of other adventures from him later in the year. He has been an iconic presence in the race over many years, and he’ll be missed. Another recent winner, Tom Hollins, is also notable by his absence.
Jim Mann will be competing in the Spine Challenger. Given the speed he made it out on the challenger course last year, whilst presumably pacing for the full Spine which he was competing in, he’s my very firm favourite to take the win in that race. He was i looking like being the easy winner last year when injury took him out of the race. Similarly Carol Morgan is also doing some speedwork by competing in the Challenger, and looks to be the favourite for the female category (Come on the Irish!).
That still leaves plenty of interest in the Spine Race itself. The most obvious first mention goes to Eugeni Rosello Sole. Eugeni has won the race in the past, and is always one of the fastest runners on the course. His usual race tactic is to stick with Pavel for as long as possible. That’s probably as much to do with conversation as anything else. Of course he hasn’t got that option this year, so it will be interesting to see how he goes. My Spanish is considerably worse than his English, so I won’t be a useful Pavel substitute for him!
There is a reasonable chance the race could be won outright by a female this year, as Jasmin Paris is competing. She is a phenomenal athlete. Her record speaks for itself. Her Bob Graham Round time is my particular favourite of hers. She’s also the current British fell running champion. She will be one of the fastest runners in the race for sure. This will be her first non-stop multi-day race, so it will be interesting to see how she will adapt. It makes it hard to predict how she will compete as a result. If all goes well its possible she could break the course record and win. Needless to say I definitely expect that Jasmin will win the female category.
Another runner who looks to have an excellent past record in shorter events is Jayson Cavill. Plenty of wins and fast results of note, including multiple wins at the Lakeland 50. I can’t see any results for longer races for him though, so again its hard to predict how well he will adapt to multi-day non-stop racing. If he turns out to be a natural at this then he should be a strong contender.
My teammate from the last adventure race I competed in, Thure Kjaer, is competing in the Spine for the first time. He has a hard-earned PTL finish from last year. He’s got the skill set required to get around the course and deal with the specific challenges of the Spine. We count him as being a honouary Irishman! It’ll be interesting to see how well he does. I’m expecting him to go very well indeed. Thure will be huge addition to the race itself.
There are also runners like John Knapp and Matt Neale who have enough experience and pace to give themselves a good chance to get on the podium, especially if the likes of me start making big mistakes.
As usual, the live tracking should be excellent, and is available at http://live.thespinerace.com/. The main race website is here. I expect the usual high standard of reporting will be available on their facebook feed, hopefully along with video updates.
See you on the other side!