Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Change of Tack

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed a change to my blog – not only the design and picture but also the header.

What started out essentially as a training diary with race reports, has metamorphosed into something far more personal, and at times, quite an insight into my psyche. More of an ongoing journey than a single trip.

I started this blog when I got a confirmed place for this year’s MdS, but in the last 2 years my ultra-running, outlook and goals have changed so much that it now feels completely wrong to have a blog that focuses on the MdS. In truth, even though the race is this April, I have barely given it any thought. Apart from sorting out kit, there is little to do – training is ongoing, and mainly in the bag.

If any race were to head up this blog it would be The Spine. This race is now, in running terms, my spiritual home. It has opened my eyes to a whole world of adventure, and a whole new level of human endeavour and endurance. I am proud to have undertaken this race, proud to have come back and finished it, and proud to be part of The Spine family – a certified Spiner!

In the 1990’s I was a triathlete and competed in several Ironman races. At the time, these were pretty “out there” – extreme and for certified madmen (and women). Then running an ultramarathon – 40 or 50 miles – was extreme. My Dad who thinks (well knows!) I’m crazy now refers to these as “short races”. Races such as The Spine, Tor des Geants and many others are pushing the limits further.

I love to be outside in the wild and all around I see more adventures to be had. Stage races, continuous races, personal adventures – I’d love to run the Camino de Santiago or do one of the routes across the Pyrenees one day – there is so much to do!

So this blog will continue to follow my journey.

Happiness ain’t at the end of the road
Happiness IS the road............(or trail!)

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Spine 2013 – my kit list

This post is a bit less emotional than the last one!

This is by no means a definitive list or the perfect set-up, but it seemed to work for me this year.

I wouldn’t change very much, but some Windstopper gloves might have been handy (excuse the pun)

I only weigh 66 kg wet through so reducing weight is more critical to me than if I weighed 85kg. This is the major reason for much of my kit choice and definitely for my choice between tent & bivvy. Please remember, though, that kit is very personal - for example, some will prefer a tent an be prepared to carry a bit more weight.


1. Shoes
a. Salomon Cross Spikes - I ran the first day in Cross Spikes expecting more ice, but by the end of the day could really feel where the studs were on my soles, so changed to ordinary Speedcross.
b. Salomon Speedcross 3 CS - Really comfortable and had minimal foot problems. Went from size 8 to 9 for the final stage.

2. Socks
a. Hilly X-Static, my usual sock
b. X-Socks Sky Run

3. Gaiters – Raidlight Mini-Running gaiters

4. Legs
a. 2XU compression shorts – always run in these
b. Marmot Power Stretch Pant – returning from 2012, really comfortable
c. Underarmour Coldwear legging – these are my usual cold weather (non-Spine) leggings. Wore these under the Marmots later in the race.
d. Montane Atomic DT 2.0 Pants – I love these shell pants. Incredibly warm when it got really cold and the wind got up. Easy to run in.

5. Upper body base layer
a. Helly Hansen Merino Wool Long Sleeve Ice Crew
b. Patagonia Mens Merino 2 Zip Neck Longsleeve
c. Helly Hansen Long Sleeve Merino Wool Blend "Freeze" Half Zip
d. Gore Air shortsleeve shirt – a nice, warm t-shirt
Started with HH Crew and Gore T-shirt, then added Patagonia top in-between, then added HH Freeze between the 2 LS layers. Worked for me – I feel the cold.

6. Upper body insulation layers
a. Montane Fireball Smock (Pertex - 240g) – Even the small size is big-ish on me, so plenty of room for layers underneath
b. First Ascent Downlight jacket (390 g) – for when it got really cold. Jenny bought me this In USA in 2011. Nice bit of kit
c. PHD Midwinter Minimus Vest – not used

7. Upper body shells
a. Marmot Essence jacket (170g)
b. Montane Slipstream jacket (65g)
c. OMM Kamleika Smock (290g)

Starting layers
Middle-race layers
Maximal layers
Helly Ice crew
HH Ice Crew
HH Ice Crew
Gore t-shirt
Patagonia LS merino
HH Freeze half zip
Marmot Essence jacket
Gore t-shirt
Patagonia LS merino

Montane Slipstream
Gore t-shirt

Montane Fireball Smock
Montane Slipstream

Marmot Essence jacket
Marmot Essence jacket

First Ascent Down Jacket

Montane Fireball Smock

OMM Kamleika Smock

8. Gloves
a. Outdoor Design silk liners
b. Mammut Thermostretch gloves
c. Extremities Tuff Bags – windproof, waterproof over-mitt – a last minute addition to my kit, these performed superbly and retained some use of hands
d. Marmot Expedition Mitt – exchanged Tuff bags for these when it got really cold. Brilliantly warm, but not much use of fingers when wearing!

9. Hats
a. Buff
b. Nike Dri-Fit running hat
c. Mammut Wind Stopper Beanie
d. Jacket hoods

10. Other
a. Kahtoohla microspikes – didn’t use much but superb when needed
b. Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles - indispensible

Compulsory Kit

1. Rucksack
a. INOV-8 Race Pac 32 (632g) – used this last year, supremely comfortable
b. INOV-8 Race Pac 2 (110g) – frontpack, indispensible addition to last year’s kit making food, GPS, phone readily accessible

2.  Sleeping system
a. PHD Minim 500 Down with Drishell Sleeping Bag (800g) in Pod Airstream Lite compression stuff sac (75g)
b.  Roll mat – in rucksack
c.   Marmot Alpinist Bivy (397g)

3. Cooking system
a. MSR pocket rocket (86g)
b. Esbit 0.75L Titanium pot (106g)
c. Isopro fuel (110g)
d. Lighter
e.     Titanium spork

4. Food
a. Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
b. Trail mix
c. Energy/cereal bars
d. Chocolate bars
e. Sweeties

5. Water
a. 2 x Camelbak Podium waterbottles
b. High5 Zero electrolyte tablets

6. Navigation
a. Garmin GPSMAP 62S (260g) – came preloaded with 1:50000 OS mapping. Great bit of kit, easy to use.
b. Silva compass
c. Harvey Pennine Way maps

7. Head torch with spare batteries
a. Petzl Nao (187g) – lost my trusty headtorch at the training day, perfect excuse to get one of these beauties. Programmable, I had it on a custom setting ensuring it lasted at least 14 hours. It never ran out on me. USB recharging.
b. Also carried a spare lightweight Petzl headtorch for emergencies

8. Whistle – on rucksack

9. Knife - Victorinox Classic SD

10. Medical kit – as per kit list

11. iPhone

12. Other essential kit
a. Toilet paper
b. Cash and a card
c. Positivity crib sheet

Starting pack weight - just over 5kg, excluding water
1. Compulsory kit as above
2. Food inc. sandwiches
3. Montane Atomic overtrousers
4. Montane Fireball smock
5. OMM Kamleika
6. Marmot beanie
7. Spare socks

As the race went on, I wore more kit, and carried more kit and food.